June 30, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


Gov. Chris Christie calls for Republican Party rebranding (MAGGIE HABERMAN & BEN SMITH, 6/30/10, Politico)

Christie, a darling of conservatives after staring down Democrats over the budget and tax cuts, demonstrated his own distinct brand of conservatism over a breakfast interview. Without naming names, the seven-year former federal prosecutor took a shot at politicians who simply resort to “demagoguery” on controversial - and complex - topics such as illegal immigration. [...]

Like other Republicans nationally, Christie said he views Obama as an “ally” on education reform and in the push to force the teachers’ union to make changes. The idea of Christie, a rising GOP star who won despite the White House’s best efforts to defeat him in 2009, and Obama as collaborators isn’t as incongruous as it seems—many Democrats privately acknowledge that Obama’s push for “Race to the Top” funding created a climate in which unions are no longer a protected political class.

“What I’ve said to folks is, we’re at a unique moment in history where you have conservative Republican governors …who’s never been able to get traction against the teachers union, but now you’ve got a Democratic president and (his) Secretary of Education” talking the same talk, he said.

On the hot-button topic of immigration reform, he said he has long declined to “demagogue” the issue as a former U.S. Attorney, because “I come from law enforcement and it’s not an easy issue.”

But he did intimate that he thinks stringent state-by-state laws – such as in Arizona – are the wrong approach, and added, “I think President Obama doesn’t do this at his own risk because it’s affecting the economy in the country…to me, I think the president’s really gotta show the leadership on this.”

“This is a federal problem, it’s gotta have a federal fix,” he said. “I’m not really comfortable with state law enforcement having a big role.”

He said that without border security, enforcement of existing laws and a “clear” path to legalization for immigrants, there would never be a fix.

You can hear the nativists falling off the bandwagon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


The Real Palestinian Revolution (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 6/30/10, NY Times)

The expansion of the Al-Quds Index is part of a broader set of changes initiated in the West Bank in the last few years under the leadership of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the former World Bank economist who has unleashed a real Palestinian “revolution.” It is a revolution based on building Palestinian capacity and institutions not just resisting Israeli occupation, on the theory that if the Palestinians can build a real economy, a professional security force and an effective, transparent government bureaucracy it will eventually become impossible for Israel to deny the Palestinians a state in the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

“I have to admit, we, the private sector, have changed,” said Hulileh. “The mood used to be all the time to complain and say there is nothing we can do. And then the politicians were trying to create this atmosphere of resistance — resistance meant no development under occupation.”

Fayyad and his boss, President Mahmoud Abbas, changed that. Now the mood, said Hulileh, is that improving the Palestinian economy “is what will enable you to resist and be steadfast. Fayyad said to us: ‘You, the business community, are not responsible for ending occupation. You are responsible for employing people and getting ready for the state. And that means you have to be part of the global world, to export and import, so when the state will come you will not have a garbage yard. You will be ready.’ ”

Meeting in his Ramallah office two weeks ago, I found Fayyad upbeat. The economist-turned-politician seems more comfortable mixing with his constituents in the West Bank, where he has quietly built his popularity by delivering water wells, new schools — so there are no more double shifts — and a waste-water treatment facility. The most senior Israeli military people told me the new security force that Fayyad has built is the real deal — real enough that Israel has taken down most of the checkpoints inside the West Bank. So internal commerce and investment are starting to flow, and even some Gazans are moving there. “We may not be too far from a point of inflection,” Fayyad said to me.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Trade And Immigration Are Not Separate Issues: Legislative attempts to restrict skilled workers from entering the U.S. could violate key international trade agreements. (Stuart Anderson, 06.30.10, Forbes)

As President Barack Obama attempts to jumpstart immigration legislation, a new controversy is brewing. The reason is many people assume trade and immigration are separate issues. They’re not. Even in the U.S. Congress and at federal agencies, few officials realize that under a trade pact signed by the U.S. government in 1994, the U.S. risks trade retaliation if it fails to admit, within certain limitations, high-skilled foreign nationals to work in America. This 1994 trade pact stands like a roadblock on the highway for members of Congress who seek to enact new curbs on foreign-born professionals, researchers and scientists. Will influential U.S. senators attempt to run it? [...]

Sen. Bernard Sanders. I-Vt., recently attempted to attach his anti-immigration bill, S. 2804, as an amendment to tax legislation. The Sanders bill goes well beyond the job-specific layoff restrictions in the U.S. commitments under the GATS. It would prohibit any new work visa (and even the termination of existing ones) if during the previous 12 months a company filed a layoff notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. For larger companies, closing down an unprofitable facility with 50 or more employees can easily trigger such a notice.

Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have also produced legislation, S. 887, which would institute a variety of changes to H-1B and L-1 visa law. It would require a higher wage to be paid to H-1B and L-1 visa holders than under current law, issue new rules on H-1Bs and layoffs, and prohibit new H-1B and L-1 visas for employers with more than 50 percent of their workforce in H-1B or L-1 status.

Enforcement mechanisms of trade treaties exist to save us from our basest impulses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Obama orders flags lowered for Byrd (AP, 6/30/10) —

President Barack Obama has ordered flags at the White House and other federal buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


6 simple steps to really fix Wall Street (Allan Sloan, May 5, 2010, Fortune)

1. Demand more skin in the game. Any reform plan worth its salt should greatly increase capital requirements -- the amount of money that stockholders have at risk, relative to an institution's assets -- for financial institutions. This is what people mean when they talk about reducing leverage. Lower leverage would make institutions less likely to fail, and any bailout of them less expensive.

Our most recent financial crisis, in which a relative handful of U.S. mortgages metastasized into a worldwide financial cancer, started with loans in which borrowers had nothing or almost nothing at risk. Neither did the companies that made the loans and sold them to other companies that bundled them, turned them into securities, and sold the securities to investors. At the end, these players walked away at little or no cost to themselves from the mess they had created, and stuck investors -- and society as a whole -- with a huge cost.

The fix? First, require any institution that turns loans into securities to keep at least 5% of each issue in its portfolio. Second, require a cash down payment from the homebuyer's own resources of at least 10% for any mortgage that's sold as part of a security or package of loans. (Lenders could make and hold lower-down-payment loans, but not sell them as securities.) [...]

2. Increase the Fear Factor. If any financial institution fails or needs extraordinary help from the government, the government should be able to claw back five years' worth of stock grants, options profits, and cash salaries and bonuses in excess of $1 million a year. That would apply to the 10 top executives, current and former, with a five-year look-back period. It would also apply to board members, present and past. (People brought in by regulators for rescues that ultimately fail would be clawback-exempt.) Anyone subject to the clawback would be permanently barred from executive positions or board seats at any institution that has federal deposit insurance or SIPC protection for brokerage customers. This provision would give executives and directors a huge incentive to make sure institutions they supervise don't take on excessive risk.

3. Expose derivatives to the light of day. Warren Buffett famously called derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction." My colleague Carol Loomis somewhat less famously calls them "the risk that won't go away." They're both right. Simply put, derivatives are contracts whose value is derived from the value of an underlying asset. They were once relatively simple, socially useful things -- instruments that allowed a farmer to lock in the price he'd get for his wheat or an airline to know how much it would pay for jet fuel. But over the years the derivatives market has morphed into a huge, monstrous game consisting of speculation piled on speculation piled on speculation. At the end of last year there were $30.4 trillion of credit default swaps outstanding -- almost as much as the entire U.S. debt market -- according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. There were also $426.8 trillion of interest rate derivatives outstanding. A lot of this is double (or triple or quadruple) counting, but any way you look at it, the numbers are scary.

The market is essentially a vast black box in which no one ever knows who's got what obligations outstanding. So when problems began appearing in mid-2007, fear froze the financial system because many big institutions didn't know who was solvent and who wasn't. Regulators, lenders, and stockholders couldn't tell either.

The widely agreed-upon fix is for derivatives to be handled by clearinghouses that guarantee payment and require collateral to be posted, and for them to be traded on exchanges. That way regulators, creditors, and regular investors can see the price at which the market values them. Derivatives players wouldn't have to worry as much about whether the "counterparties" on the other side of their contracts could make good on their obligations, thus solving much of the too-interconnected-to-be-allowed-to-fail problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


The Senate: Big GOP Comeback, But a Majority? (Bob Benenson, CQ-Roll Call)

It was just a year ago that a Minnesota court declared Al Franken the winner of the state’s contested 2008 election and gave his party a theoretical “filibuster-proof” 60-seat majority. So the fact that it’s even a possibility — although still rather slim — that the Republicans could reclaim Senate control is a sign of how sharply the political pendulum has swung back. Having already pushed the Democrats back to 59 with Scott P. Brown ’s January special-election win in Massachusetts, the GOP is currently favored to take Democratic seats in North Dakota, Delaware and Arkansas, is running tossup bids to take seats in Illinois (President Barack Obama ’s old spot), Nevada (Majority Leader Harry Reid under the gun), Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania, and beyond that is in the hunt to take as many as four other Democratic seats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Architecture’s Modern Marvels: When V.F. asked 52 experts to choose the five most important works of architecture created since 1980, they named a staggering 132 different structures. Here are the top 21, in order of popularity. (Vanity Fair, June 30, 2010)

What they ought to do is compare those 52 experts to 52 real people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Obama the Edsel: Focus groups indicate independents are souring on Obama quickly. (Jim Geraghty, 6/30/10, National Review)

Earlier this month, Resurgent Republic — an independent public-opinion-research group headed by former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie — conducted focus groups in five key House districts, measuring how independent voters and, separately, self-identified tea-party members felt about the direction of the country.

Bad news for President Obama and congressional Democrats is common these days, but these results unveiled Tuesday are simply dismal. Asked to compare Obama to a car, one Iowan chose an Edsel: “Something that had a lot of hype, but failed to live up to expectations.” Another older man described Obama as “a wrecked Ferrari, something that looked great to many people, but was now ruined.”

“In August 2009, [our focus groups found] there was a wait-and-see attitude towards the president. That has changed,” summarized Gillespie. “There is not only growing concern about spending, debt and the direction of economy but creeping doubts about the president’s leadership abilities, which is probably a more troublesome concern to the White House and the president’s supporters.”

Independents said that the manner in which President Obama responded to the oil spill made them more apprehensive about what would happen should a terrorist attack or foreign-policy crisis occur.

...the film version of which was so wretched that it ruined an entire summer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Warning Signs for Obama in Bellwether Ohio (Bruce Drake, 6/30/10, Politics Daily)

Obama won the state in 2008 with 51.4 percent of the vote to John McCain's 46.8 percent, but right now, 49 percent of Ohio voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing while 45 percent approve, with 6 percent undecided. Obama was also in negative territory in Quinnipiac's three previous polls this year. Independents currently disapprove by 53 percent to 40 percent, with 7 percent undecided. In 2008, independents supported Obama by 52 percent to 44 percent with 4 percent not revealing for whom they voted, according to exit polls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


'Pocket Full Of Soul' Explores The Harmonica's History (NPR, 6/27/10)

Pocket Full of Soul is built around the history of the blues harmonica before and after Little Walter, a legendary player and — Lampert says — a genius. He compares Walter's impact on the harmonica to Frank Sinatra's impact on singing. Harp player Magic Dick of The J. Geils Band says he agrees that Walter was revolutionary.

"Before Little Walter, blues harmonica was more of a folk instrument," he says. "Little Walter had the sonic conception of playing it through an amplifier."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Don't mention the mockingbird!: The reclusive novelist who wrote the classic novel that mesmerised 40 million readers (Sharon Churcher, 27th June 2010, Daily Mail)

Only now, towards the end of her days, has Harper returned to live in a sheltered housing complex in her childhood home town of Monroeville.

I went to Alabama in an attempt to answer the great mystery of why she – like that other American literary legend J. D. Salinger, who died in January – should have spent almost half a century in silence.

Her friends agree to introduce me to her on one condition: that I make no mention of ‘The Book’, as people here refer to it.

Based on a few gnomic utterances over the years, many literary commentators have attributed Harper’s solitary life and subsequent failure to publish another book to her alarm at the tidal wave of praise for her Mockingbird, in which the racial bigotry of the South is witnessed through the eyes of a little girl, Scout.

Others have suggested that perhaps she only had one great book in her, and that she knew that every subsequent attempt would be regarded as a disappointment.

But according to confidants, many of whom have known her since childhood, what Harper has really found a burden is her enduring sadness about the book’s underlying themes.

They say that while To Kill A Mockingbird is ostensibly a courtroom thriller – in which Scout’s compassionate and principled lawyer father Atticus Finch defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman – Harper drew on deeply painful family secrets to create her protagonists.

Furthermore, her liberal views on race were extremely unpopular in her native Deep South. Indeed many in her own family were unhappy with the tone of her book.

‘I’m not a psychologist, but there’s a lot of Nelle in that book,’ said 87-year-old George Thomas Jones, a retired businessman who has known Harper and her family since she was a girl.

‘People say the publicity the book got turned her into a recluse but publicity didn’t ruin her life: I don’t think Nelle’s ever been a real happy person.’

Mr Jones said that Harper’s father Amasa Coleman Lee, a former newspaper editor, lawyer and state senator who was clearly the model for Atticus Finch, was ‘a real genteel man, who listened more than he talked .  .  . but he sure didn’t show much affection.

'I used to caddy for him on the local golf course. He was so formal that he would wear a heavy three-piece suit, shirt, tie and stout shoes to play golf, even in the heat of the summer.’

In an episode that foreshadows the compassionate and fiercely moral hero Atticus, played by Gregory Peck in the movie, Harper’s father had defended two black men charged with murder in a celebrated case in 1919.

After they were convicted and hanged, he never practised again. But unlike the fictional Finch, Mr Lee was a staunch segregationist who supported the harsh ‘Jim Crow’ laws of the American South.

In the novel, Scout lives in fear of a ‘malevolent phantom’, a psychologically disturbed neighbour called Boo Radley, who ultimately saves her life.

While it is clear that the character is in part based on a reclusive neighbour, in reality, it was Harper’s mother Frances who was the source of much terror and unhappiness.

Suffering from depression and violent mood swings, friends in the close-knit Alabama town say that Frances allegedly twice tried to drown her daughter in the bath. As a result, perhaps, the young Harper was regarded as a difficult and aggressive child who would think nothing of punching other children who annoyed her.

‘When you passed by the Lee house, Mrs Lee would be sitting in a swing with just a stone face,’ said Mr Jones, ‘looking dead ahead, emotionless.’

Other neighbours recalled she would sometimes shout nonsensical invective at passers-by. [...]

Harper’s biographer, the American academic Charles Shields, said that her mother Frances was descended from slave-owners who had farmed cotton around Monroeville, where they built a stately plantation house.

In her younger days, Frances was considered a brilliant pianist, but by the time Harper was born in 1926, she seemed to have lost all interest in life due to depression.

Harper’s older sister, Alice – who, remarkably at 98, still practises law in an office above a Monroeville bank – said: ‘My mother was a highly nervous person but it was no problem. There was nothing abnormal.’

Alice is still close to Harper and helps handle her financial affairs. I asked whether her sister ever regretted writing the book. ‘I don’t think she has any regrets,’ Alice replied with a frown. ‘But we talk about the book only in relation to business.’

The young Harper once dreamed of becoming a lawyer like both her father and sister. But she was diverted from that path by her lifelong friendship with Truman Capote, the author of Breakfast At Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, who was a childhood neighbour much like Dill, Scout’s best friend in Mockingbird.

The young Capote had already begun to work on stories. ‘I convinced [Harper] she ought to write too,’ he said later. ‘She didn’t really want to but I held her to it.’

Writing did not come easily to Harper. Sometimes she would labour for a dozen hours before finishing a single page. But it was her only life.

Her mannish haircuts and hatred of make-up led to speculation that she was a lesbian. However, Mr Shields believes she was just shy and, like Charlotte Bronte, had an unrequited crush on a married man, her literary agent Maurice Crain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Gogol Bordello: Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen, 6/28/10, NPR)

f you watch this video and don't get to the part where Eugene Hutz is dancing on the desks, then you've missed the most rollicking and insane Tiny Desk Concert of all time.

I've seen Gogol Bordello at a nightclub, and its live show is a gypsy punk circus, complete with a high-wire act. So when the band arrived at the modest NPR Music offices, I wanted to make sure we were covered technically; I figured they'd move around and wind up singing far away from our microphones. I asked Sergey Ryabtsev — Gogol Bordello's Russian-born violinist — if he thought bandleader Eugene Hutz might wind up dancing on my desk. With a huge smile and a large shot glass of vodka in hand, he said, "Don't worry about it!"

By the third song, Hutz was sitting with the NPR crew in an office chair, singing his ode to alcohol. By the fourth, he was jumping from desktop to desktop, singing and dancing.

June 29, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Palestinian boycott of Israeli settlement goods starts to bite: Campaign to clear supermarket shelves of West Bank settlement wares forces Israeli factories to cut production (Harriet Sherwood, 6/29/10, guardian.co.uk)

"The objective is to ensure the Palestinian market is free of Israeli settlement produce by the end of this year," the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, said at the launch of the Store to Store campaign at the Alameen supermarket.

A team of volunteers will inspect 66,000 stores across the West Bank in the coming weeks, awarding certificates and window stickers to those free of settlement produce. [...]

The pro-boycott campaigners are careful to draw a distinction between produce from West Bank settlements, which are illegal under international law, and produce originating from within Israel. The latter will continue to be sold in Palestinian shops.

The campaign has been attacked by Israeli politicians, businesses and commentators. "The Palestinians are opposing economic peace and are taking steps that in the end hurt themselves," the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said last month.

The West Bank market is worth around $200m (£133m) a year to Israeli businesses. But some settlement factories sell about 30% of their output to the Palestinian market, and the boycott is already having an impact on them.

Seventeen factories in Mishor Adumim, a large industrial estate between East Jerusalem and Jericho, have reportedly closed since the boycott campaign began. Some settlement factories are reported to be considering moving back into Israel.

Palestinian terrorism was good for Israel, turning it into the victim. But just as the American South, the Raj, and the Boers all folded in the face of civil disobedience, boycotts and the like, so too is recent Palestinian strategy a threat that is backfooting Israel. And, of course, the big enchilada would be Palestinian rejection of the two-state solution, acceptance of Eretz Israel, and a demand for full rights as Israeli citizens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


The Networker: Afghanistan’s first media mogul (Ken Auletta, 7/05/10, The New Yorker)

“Saad is the nexus of everything going through Kabul,” Tom Freston, a co-founder of MTV and a member of Moby’s board, says. “Besides the television business, he knows every foreign correspondent.” Mohseni collects business cards compulsively, placing them in the clear plastic sleeves of a loose-leaf book. “He’s a great networker,” Freston continues. “He’s got this contagious personality.”

Mohseni’s company owns Tolo TV and Arman radio, the country’s most popular TV and radio networks. It also owns a music-recording company, a second TV network, an advertising agency, a television and movie production company, the magazine Afghan Scene, and two Internet cafés. Next month, it expects to launch Tolo News, a twenty-four-hour satellite news channel. In 2009, it partnered with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to create the Farsi1 satellite network, which packages entertainment programs in Dubai and beams them from England into Iran. In fact, Mohseni has been called the Rupert Murdoch of Afghanistan, and though the comparison is extravagant, it gives a sense of his influence and ambition.

In Afghanistan the old media are still new. Under the Taliban television was banned and the single, state-run radio station was dominated by calls to prayer and religious chants. Seventy to eighty per cent of the population is illiterate, so the dominant media are radio and broadcast television; it is estimated that eight out of ten Afghans own a radio and four out of ten own a TV. Though there are no independent ratings agencies in Afghanistan, Moby estimates that Tolo attracts fifty-four per cent of the audience and Arman thirty-seven per cent. Mohseni owns and manages the company with his brothers, Zaid and Jahid, and his sister, Wajma, but he serves as the company’s public face. “Saad is the talker in the family,” Jahid Mohseni says. “He’s a great salesman. He can sell without anyone thinking he’s selling.” [...]

Mohseni has been denounced as “un-Islamic” by fundamentalists for allowing women to appear alongside men on his radio and TV networks, for showing Indian soap operas featuring unveiled women, and for allowing women to compete with men on one of Tolo TV’s hit shows, “Afghan Star.” He’s been threatened with arrest, because his journalists aggressively report on government incompetence, vote fraud, and rampant corruption. He has been called a Zionist in Iran and an Iranian sympathizer in Afghanistan. He has been accused by authorities in Tehran of subverting moral values. He is implacably opposed to the Taliban and staunchly pro-American, provoking accusations that he’s an American agent. And his outspoken criticism of Pakistan for treating Afghanistan as “a satellite state” enrages Pakistani officials. But Engel says that Mohseni’s candor is “valuable in a place as full of rumors and half-truths as Kabul.” The American investment banker Joseph Ravitch, a friend of Mohseni, says that he is ultimately a “mix of capitalist and do-gooder.” [...]

Although Saad Mohseni is a mogul in Afghanistan, compared with media companies in the developed world his operation is a pushcart. Moby’s audience is clustered in Kabul and a few other major cities, where electricity is more reliably available. The Afghan private sector is still in its infancy; the country’s gross domestic product is only eleven billion dollars. His biggest advertisers, six Afghan banks and four mobile-phone companies, pay a top price of five hundred dollars for a thirty-second ad. (A similar ad on the Super Bowl sells for about six thousand times that rate.) Mohseni makes sales calls himself. He will not provide precise figures, but says that Moby’s revenues are in the twenty-million-dollar range and are growing fifty to seventy per cent annually; it is now modestly profitable. The company employs seven hundred people in Afghanistan and forty in its offices in Dubai. Mohseni complains that government-subsidized services like the BBC and Voice of America hijack his reporters, because he can’t afford to match their salaries.

Still, an estimated one-third to one-half of the population of Afghanistan watched a Presidential debate last August on Tolo TV, and cameras from Tolo have been repeatedly banned from parliament and the government ministries after the network broadcast stories of government ineptness or wrongdoing. Its news programs exposed stuffed ballot boxes and other examples of fraud in the August Presidential election. Mark Thompson, the director-general of the BBC, visited Mohseni in late March, and told me, “Our guys tell me that Tolo news blew them away. In this entire region, no one else is doing this kind of work. That’s on TV. On radio, they also blew them away.”

Moby’s entertainment programs may have an even greater impact, particularly in urban areas. The status of women in Afghanistan is being transformed by the media. Young girls watch soap operas and assert themselves at home, or refuse to wear burkas or accept arranged marriages. Tolo’s life-style shows have introduced boys and girls to modern fashions and hair styles, and to modern standards of personal hygiene. Forty per cent of Moby’s employees are women, and Mohseni believes that, when his radio and TV stations placed women on the same set with men, “the format allowed people to think a woman can have a conversation with a man. Maybe women have views. And maybe women are smart. It elevated women to an equal status with men. And it allowed men not to be so judgmental of women.”

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, describes the tension between Mohseni’s values and those of Afghan traditionalists: “The country is highly illiterate, highly religious, and highly traditional. And Saad is appealing to and creating a new young group of people in the urban areas. There’s a brilliance to what he’s doing, but it’s also risky. It’s a drama. I can’t imagine any other country in the world where it would be played out with this much intensity.”

This helps to explain the influx of American capital. Aside from the Mohseni family, the biggest contributor to construction costs for Arman radio and Tolo TV was the U.S. Agency for International Development. A portion of Moby’s advertising budget comes from foreign governments and N.G.O.s; recruitment ads for the Afghan Army and police are designed by Lapis, Moby’s ad agency, and paid for by the U.S. through the Afghan government.

Mohseni insists that there is only one such sponsor, the International Security Assistance Force, among Tolo’s top fifteen advertisers. But without the U.S. government’s financing for infrastructure Moby would not exist. (The State Department has budgeted seventy-two million dollars this fiscal year for “communications and public diplomacy” in Afghanistan.) U.S.A.I.D. sponsors “On the Road,” a weekly reality show. The show, which airs Saturday nights on Tolo, is hosted by an affable twenty-two-year-old named Mujeeb Arez, who travels through Afghanistan by jeep—often on highways freshly paved by U.S.A.I.D. funds—talking with residents and exploring local customs, delicacies, and indigenous commerce. (In areas where it is too dangerous to travel by jeep, U.S.A.I.D. has supplied a helicopter to ferry the crew.) Mohseni is quick to point out that U.S.A.I.D. sponsors only this one half-hour program out of a hundred and twelve hours of weekly prime-time programming on his two TV channels. Next season, however, the State Department will pay for another program, about “cops who may be tempted by bribes but don’t take them,” David Ensor, the director of communications and public diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, says. A major reason for the Karzai government’s unpopularity is the perception that corruption is condoned, particularly among the police. The show, Ensor explains, is meant to help recruit police by demonstrating “that cops can be heroes.” [...]

After the fall of the Taliban, Mohseni and his brothers turned their attention to Afghanistan, starting a company they called Moby Capital. The country was devastated by three decades of war and lacked the basic infrastructure—electricity, water, sanitation services—to support a business. But Mohseni and Zaid flew to Kabul in February, 2002, and held meetings, including one with the new minister of information and culture, who said that radio licenses were available. “I always liked the media, because you can really influence people, particularly younger people,” Mohseni says.

But to start an FM radio station would require half a million dollars, and the Mohsenis at that time could put up only three hundred thousand. Still, Mohseni mentioned his interest to his friend Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author. Rashid was having dinner a few days later with Andrew Natsios, the administrator of U.S.A.I.D., and said that he would pitch the idea of investing. Rashid recalls, “I told Natsios about this great Australian who wanted to rebuild Afghanistan and spend his own money.” He was impressed that all the siblings were willing to leave Australia and set up a business. “They were ready to ditch everything, unlike most expats who wanted to visit for six months,” he says.

The U.S. has a long history of funding foreign media to further its policy aims. During the Cold War, the C.I.A. secretly funded Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, which were beamed into the Soviet Bloc. In Afghanistan (as in Iraq), the State Department and U.S.A.I.D. have openly supported independent media, in the hope of uniting the country. U.S.A.I.D. officials eventually met with the Mohsenis and agreed to invest two hundred and twenty-eight thousand dollars in building the infrastructure for a radio network.

Over the next few years, the Mohseni family invested an additional million dollars. They spent nine thousand dollars per month on staff and took no salary themselves. Arman would be the first privately owned radio station in the country. Under the Taliban, all musical performances and TV were banned, as were cricket matches and independently reported news. Aside from some daring citizens who listened to shortwave radio, there was only state-owned radio, Voice of Sharia. “Everything you take for granted in the West”—electricity, computers and people who know how to use them, transmitters, announcers trained in speaking into a microphone, a music library, transportation, security—“we had to supply ourselves,” Mohseni says.

Arman went on the air in April, 2003, with a crew of twenty people. Mohseni filled in as a radio voice, and his driver became a traffic reporter. Among their first employees was Massood Sanjer, who had been the English news broadcaster for Voice of Sharia. At seventeen years old, with a beard and a turban, he had read the news for fifteen minutes each night, earning ten dollars a month. Sanjer, who is now thirty-two and clean-shaven, recalls, “It was a tough job. Making a mistake could cost you jail. It was Taliban news: ‘Mullah Omar announced today . . .’ ” He was hired, at fifty times his old salary, to be the voice of Arman radio. From 9 A.M. to noon, five days a week, he played Shakira and Madonna, mixed with Afghan and Bollywood movie music. The station did not offer religious programs. “Most people believe they don’t have to hear about religion on the radio,” Mohseni told a reporter in 2003.

Under the Taliban, Afghan women had been barred from work and school and could not leave the house without a male relative. “We had male and female disk jockeys talking to each other in light banter,” Wajma Mohseni recalls. “The government issued warnings. They said, ‘You can’t have this kind of station.’ They threatened to shut us down.” Sanjer wound up running Arman radio, and today co-hosts a variety show each morning with a woman known as Sima. Fearful of becoming a target, she declines to give her last name or to be photographed. “She’s very popular,” he says. “Wherever I go, people say, ‘Is she beautiful? What’s she like?’ ” Arman is now on twenty-four hours a day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Immigrants Defend the Flag while Left-Wing Germans Tear it Down: With Germany celebrating as its football team advances through the World Cup, the flag is flying everywhere in the country. But as one German of Lebanese descent has found out, not everyone in the country is a fan of the patriotic display. His giant German flag keeps getting torn down -- apparently by left-wing activists. (Kevin Hagen, 6/29/10, Der Spiegel)

A small stocky man with short black hair, Bassal, 39, leans over the counter. "We celebrate every football game out on the street. This is our own small 'fan mile,'" he says, referring to the specially designated areas set aside for football fans to watch games in the city.

"We have hung little German flags outside for years," Bassal explains. But this year, he and his cousins decided they would do something different. They placed a special order with a textile company, and soon a giant German flag worth €500 ($616) was hanging on the outside of the building where Bassal's store is located. Measuring 22 meters tall and 5 meters wide (72 feet by 16 feet), the over-sized banner covers five stories. For Bassal, a German with Lebanese roots, the flag is a symbol of cultural integration. "We live in Germany and we also belong to Germany," he explains.

Outside, a girl glances up as she walks by. "That's totally cool," she says, catching sight of the giant piece of fabric. But not everyone is happy about the monument to national pride over Bassal's store.

Over the past few weeks, ever since the start of the football World Cup, the neighborhood has been the scene of what local media are calling the "Neukölln flag fight." Left-wing activists have called on sympathizers to destroy the German flags which can be seen everywhere, arguing that they are a symbol of German nationalism. There has been a rash of thefts of small flags attached to car windows. Some of those who decorated their vehicles with flags say they now only display the flags when they are actually driving their cars. [...]

Bassal himself simply cannot understand why all the protests are coming from the German side. "For the fascists, we are foreigners and for the anarchists, we are ..." He pauses a moment. "Actually, I have no idea what we are to them." [...]

"We won't let them take away our beautiful Germany, the one we have in our hearts," Bassal explains and bangs on the glass counter again. He was born here, he has always lived here and he feels like a proper German, he says.

"We have to get away from calling these people foreigners," agrees customer Manuel Hornauer. The 19-year-old student has come to the store to look at electronic devices but stays to hear about the giant flag in detail. "It is super when they are so integrated."

There is also a positive side to the so-called "flag flight," Safter Cinar, the spokesperson for the Turkish Federation in Berlin, told the Berlin-based daily Berliner Morgenpost. The fact that the immigrant population is so proud of their German flags, and the German football team, is a good sign of integration, he said.

Because 11 out of the 23 players on the German national side come from immigrant families, it is easier to identify with them, Cinar argues. Talented players like Tunisian-German midfielder Sami Khedira and play-maker Mesut Özil, a German of Turkish descent, "show that the children of immigrants have a chance here," Cinar says.

As for the fact that many of the German flags in Neukölln appear alongside Turkish flags, Cinar sees this as a positive thing. "One does not cancel the other out," he concludes.

Rooting for a team led by Poles and Turks is their Jackie Robinson moment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


World Cup Fascism Update (Dennis Hale, 6/29/10, Political Mavens)_

[W]ith the exception of Great Britain in 1966, by a disputed goal in overtime against Germany, every World Cup champion since the beginning of competition in 1930 has had a fascist government at some time in its history. [...]

Today, Paraguay plays Japan, and Spain will play Portugal. I give Japan a pass on the fascist question, since it is stretching things a bit to define the Japanese military government of the 30’s and 40’s as a “fascist” regime. But Paraguay, Spain, and Portugal are well within the definition, so things are looking good for a continuation of the tradition. In the quarterfinals on July 2 and July 3, Argentina will play Germany; Uruguay will play Ghana; and the Netherlands will play Brazil. If the tradition continues, Uruguay will defeat Ghana, and Brazil will defeat the Netherlands — although on occasion non-fascist regimes have made it to the semi-finals, only to have their hopes dashed.

It's more inaccurate to call the Nazi regime fascist than the Japanese.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


Arizona's illegal immigrants departure affecting businesses (Daniel González, Jun. 29, 2010, The Arizona Republic)

"It's basically running us out of business," said Rollie Rankin, 62, of Peoria, who owns several apartment buildings in Surprise, including the one where Sanchez and Ramirez lived with their children. Most of his renters are from Mexico, though Rankin does not ask about their immigration status.

Rankin said seven families have moved since Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 on April 23. The families told Rankin they were leaving because of the law. Four of the families moved to Pennsylvania, among them Sanchez and Ramirez and their three children. Another family moved to Tennessee. Two other families moved to Mexico, Rankin said.

"People are scared," said Rankin, who opposes the law. "They have had enough of the crackdown. Back in the old days, it was a wink and a nod; there was tacit approval that they were here. Now, it's an open attack." [...]

Analysts say the flight of illegal immigrants also could lead to a loss of sales tax and other revenue. And their departure is hurting the apartment complexes and stores where they live and shop.

Latinos represent a huge and fast-growing market. About one in three people in Arizona is Latino, and about 40 percent are 17 or younger. In Arizona, Latinos accounted for 16 percent of all purchases in the state, or $31 billion in spending, according to a report by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Rankin said he is having trouble renting the empty apartments because many families are waiting to see if the law survives legal challenges. If the law takes effect on July 29, he expects more families to move out.

Rankin said the law comes just as the housing market was starting to improve. He bought seven four-unit buildings in 2001. He lost one building to foreclosure in May and another at the beginning of June. He fears he will lose more buildings if he keeps losing renters and can't pay the mortgage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Top Republican: Raise Social Security's retirement age to 70 (Michael O'Brien - 06/29/10, The Hill)

A Republican-held Congress might look to raise the retirement age to 70, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested Monday.

Boehner, the top Republican lawmaker in the House, said raising the retirement age by five years, indexing benefits to the rate of inflation and means-testing benefits would make the massive entitlement program more solvent.

...if you also get rid of the tax cap you make it so solvent there is no reason to reform it.

How to Trim the Deficit by 1.2 Trillion (Jon Greenberg, June 28, 2010, NHPR)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Wrong Track Distress (BOB HERBERT, 6/28/10, NY Times)

It’s getting harder and harder for most Americans, looking honestly at the state of the nation, to see the glass as half full. And that’s why the public opinion polls contain nothing but bad news for Barack Obama and the Democrats.

The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the war in Afghanistan and, above all, the continuing epidemic of joblessness have pushed the nation into a funk. All the crowing in the world about the administration’s legislative accomplishments — last year’s stimulus package, this year’s health care reform, etc. — is not enough to lift the gloom.

Mr. Obama and the Democrats have wasted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity handed to them in the 2008 election.

It's hardly fair to blame Mr. Obama, who after all wanted little or nothing to do with the Democrats' historic opportunity, content just to have added a line to his resume.

And most of their problems trace from seizing it. Mr. Obama spent millions demonizing John McCain as someone who would make changes to health care, like taxing some plans. The congressional party somehow then interpreted his victory as a mandate to change health care. How was their "accomplishment" ever going to anything but harm them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Indian-Americans lead US bust of Russian spy ring (Chidanand Rajghatta, 6/29/10, TNN)

When Indian attention and affection began turning from Soviet Russia to the United States in the aftermath of the Cold War, few could have anticipated the role a growing Indian diaspora in America would have in the three-way ties. In an unusual twist to the relationship, it turns out that two Indian-Americans have a lead function in the US bust of a Russian spy ring that suggests that Cold War type espionage is alive and ticking.

Here are the charges in the stunning case, according to an FBI affidavit filed by Special Agent Amit Kachhia-Patel (the first of Indian-American involved in the case) before the office of the US. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who happens to be Preet Bharara (the second Indian in a prosecuting role): In an operation lasting many years, nearly a dozen Russian undercover agents burrowed themselves deep in US society, including becoming naturalized citizens, having family and children, and pursuing the American Dream, on a commission to spy for Moscow. The prolonged effort included gleaning information about US nuclear weapons research, Congressional politics, and changes in CIA personnel. [...]

Most of the alleged agents were paired as couples who lead typical suburban American lives, including buying homes and having children. They went by names such as Richard and Cynthia Murphy, Anna Chapman, Donald Heathfield etc., and lived in suburbs such as Rosslyn and Arlington, outside Washington DC, and as far away as Boston and Seattle. One couple even argued with their handlers over buying homes in the US, maintaining that it was necessary to fulfill their role as typical Americans who pride themselves on home ownership.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Obama Owes Bush an Apology: The “Come Home America” president is in full nation-building mode now. (Mona Charen, 6/29/10, National Review)

By turning to the architect of the Iraq surge, Gen. David Petraeus, to save the war in Afghanistan, President Obama is acknowledging — if only implicitly — that he was quite wrong about the Iraq surge and that President Bush was right.

But what remains of the rest of his critique about President Bush’s war in Iraq?

Our Bush Lite archives grow voluminous.

Speaking of which, CIA Retains Controversial Security Firm in Afghanistan (NATHAN HODGE, 6/28/10, WSJ)

The Central Intelligence Agency has retained a controversial, private security firm to provide security services in Afghanistan, the agency's director confirmed.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, appearing on ABC News's "This Week" on Sunday, said the agency had awarded Xe Services LLC -- the company formerly known as Blackwater -- a contract to protect its installations in Afghanistan. The contract, reported by the Washington Post to be worth $100 million, is in addition to a separate contract Xe has with the State Department to protect U.S. officials in the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


‘Tectonic shift’ in Jewish Americans’ opinion of Obama (Caroline May, 6/29.10, The Daily Caller)

McLaughlin & Associates, a national polling company, recently released the “National Survey of Jewish Voters” which reported that while Jewish voters favored Obama 78 percent to 12 percent in the 2008 presidential exit polls, currently, “only 42 percent of voters would re-elect him, while the plurality (46 percent) would consider voting for someone else.”

Ed Koch, former New York mayor, campaigned for Obama in the 2008 presidential election but told The Daily Caller that he believes the Obama presidency represents a very serious problem for supporters of Israel.

“His campaign promises and image as a friend to Israel during the election were one thing, his actions have been very different,” Koch said. Koch does not believe he was misguided during the campaign, but rather that the president’s views had shifted, the first indication of which, Koch noted, was the Obama’s Cairo speech. “The No. 1 problem I see with Obama is that he is not willing to stand up to Islamic terrorism, he conveys weakness and his Israel policy is a subset of that failure.” Despite his frustrations, Koch was coy on whether he would support Obama in the future: “It depends on who was running.”

Bingo! It will be an Evangelical and Christophobia is the new anti-Semitism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


NJ hiker rescued from NH mountain by 1800s railway (AP, June 29th, 2010)

New Hampshire state police contacted the Fish and Game department Monday evening about the hiker, on Gulf Side Trail on Mount Washington.

Personnel from the Appalachian Mountain Club hiked down to examine him and determined he needed to be carried out.

Fish and Game officials realized the trail intersected the Cog Railway, a 19th-century system using rails with teeth and trains with cog wheels. Railway officials agreed to help in the rescue.

Rescuers went up Mount Washington on the railway and took the hiker back down on it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Farewell to all that jazz: We are drifting away from America's only original contribution to Western music. (Thomas C. Reeves, 29 June 2010, MercatorNet)

Jazz is America's only original contribution to the music of Western civilization. For most of the past century it moved audiences here and all across the globe, sold countless millions of records, tapes, and CDs, and was regularly featured on radio and television. Today it has practically disappeared. The remnants, with a few exceptions, barely resemble the greatness that once reigned in the jazz world.

Jazz fans, aging and always a tiny minority of the culture, depend on recordings from the past to feed their musical taste. They cringe a lot at the low-talent and uncreative music that now wholly dominate the media and the lives of virtually all young people. For the true jazz fan, every trip to a public place requires ear plugs, and the half-time program at the Super Bowl is torture.

Jazz is an art form that emphasizes "swinging" rhythms (listen to the music to define and feel the varieties of "swing"), often unique chord patterns, and, above all, improvisation. The latter word means that a musician playing a jazz solo is free to construct patterns of music that follow the chords and rhythms of a given tune or theme, often a popular song from the "golden age" of American popular music, the 1930s and 1940s.

The demands of modern jazz are formidable, especially the solo work. College jazz bands today can sometimes soar and swing and exhibit power and subtlety in compliance with a good arrangement. But when it comes time to play solos... well, that is best left to a relatively few first-class professional musicians who sometimes serve as "guest stars" on campus.

It was jazz's misfortune to come along at the moment that art was becoming a matter of theory rather than of beauty so it had only a brief Golden Age before becoming self-indulgent and incoherent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 AM


The Unemployment Insurance Crisis (Alex Brill, June 29, 2010, The American)

With an unemployment rate near 10 percent, the media has focused on Congress’s inability to renew extended unemployment benefits. This recently expired federal law gave unemployed workers up to 73 weeks of federally funded benefits beyond the typical 26 weeks provided by states. As a consequence of the extenders bill stalling in the Senate, more than 1.25 million unemployed workers have stopped receiving benefits.

But this legislative gridlock is not the only problem facing the unemployment benefits system. An overlooked fiscal crisis looms: the depletion of the trust funds out of which states pay unemployment benefits. As of June 24, unemployment insurance (UI) trust funds in 30 states and the Virgin Islands were insolvent, requiring loans from the federal government totaling over $38 billion. The Department of Labor expects that as many as 40 states will require federal loans in fiscal 2013, with borrowing totaling $93 billion. This amount is above and beyond the $130 billion in additional federal spending on unemployment benefits in the current economic cycle.

Thus the need for personal unemployment accounts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 AM


Mavis Staples: 'If he can preach it, we can sing it'
(Brad Frenette, 6/25/10, National Post)

“We had a unique sound. My sisters and I realized that we were singing gospel songs, but Pops was playing blues on the guitar. He learned guitar from [the Delta bluesman] Charlie Patton down in Mississippi.”

Before long, that sound would take the Staples from singing at their local church to recording their debut album. Uncloudy Day was released in 1959 on Vivian Carter’s pre-Motown record company Vee-Jay Records, and became the first gospel record to sell a million copies. Their popularity blossomed, and they toured across the United States and a few years later, found themselves an audience with a man who would alter the course of their career, and music.

“One Sunday morning we happened to be in Montgomery, Alabama,” Staples recalls. “And we didn’t have to sing until that night.”

Pops asked his daughters to come with him to come with them to the morning service at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where a young reverend named Dr Martin Luther King Jr was about to deliver a sermon.

“We were ushered in and seated. Someone let Dr. King know that we were in the service. He acknowledged us...and said he hoped we enjoy the service. And well - we enjoyed the service!”

Afterward, Dr. King met with the family, and his words left an impression on the Staples patriarch, who then called a family meeting.

“[Pops] said: I like this man’s message. And I think that if he can preach it, we can sing it. We began writing freedom songs and protest songs. We joined the movement.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


Elena Kagan and the Supreme Triangulations of Barack Obama (Stephen J. Fortunato Jr., 6/29/10, In These Times)

[I]t’s worth questioning [the] suitability by way of analogy. Would a responsible board of directors at a hospital place in charge of surgery a physician who had never wielded a scalpel in an operating room? Would a competent city council appoint someone who had never fought fires to be fire chief? The obvious answers are “No,” and “No.”

...you can show Mr. Fortunato how obvious it was that Barack Obama was unsuited to be chief executive.

June 28, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Hillary Clinton: Accidental Supply-Sider: She's right about Brazil's growth. She's wrong about its tax rates. (STEVE FORBES, 6/28/10, Forbes)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ... went on to praise Brazil as the tax holy grail for the rest of the world: "Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western Hemisphere and guess what—it's growing like crazy." At first blush those kinds of words must make her neosocialist boss, President Obama, jump for joy. But is the secretary of state actually a supply-side subversive?

Take a look at Brazil's income tax rates—they are lower than ours. The highest rate is a mere 27.5%, far below our top federal rate of 35%, which, given the complexity of our tax code, is actually closer to 38%. Moreover, that exaction will climb to almost 43% come January.

Isn't Brazil's success an example of what Ronald Reagan and other tax cutters have always claimed: Lower rates generate more economic activity, which, in turn, generates more government revenue?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


What Scientists Think About Religion (Elaine Howard Ecklund, Ph.D., June 28, 2010, Huffington Post)

From 2005 to 2008, I surveyed nearly 1,700 natural and social scientists on their views about religion, spirituality and ethics and spoke with 275 of them in depth in their offices and laboratories. It turns out that nearly 50 percent of scientists identify with a religious label, and nearly one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month. While many scientists are completely secular, my survey results show that elite scientists are also sitting in the pews of our nation's churches, temples and mosques.

Of the atheist and agnostic scientists I had in-depth conversations with, more than 30 percent considered themselves atheists; however, less than six percent of these were actively working against religion. Many atheist and agnostic scientists even think key mysteries about the world can be best understood spiritually, and some attend houses of worship, completely comfortable with religion as moral training for their children and an alternative form of community. If religious people better understood the full range of atheistic practice -- and the way that it interfaces with religion for some -- they might be less likely to hold negative attitudes toward nonreligious scientists. The truth is that many atheist scientists have no desire to denigrate religion or religious people.

In fact, about one-fifth of the atheist scientists I spoke with say they consider themselves "spiritual atheists." Perhaps their stories are the most interesting. One chemist I talked with does not believe in God, yet she says she craves a sense of something beyond herself that provides a feeling of purpose and meaning and a moral compass.

Something's name is God.

N.B.: Richard Hofstadter struggled with the difference between American regard for scientists and contempt for intellectuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


PM draws on monarchists in hunt for next Gov. Gen. (Jennifer Ditchburn, 6/28/10, The Canadian Press)

Ardent monarchists close to Stephen Harper are helping to pick the next Governor General, who is likely to be more of a Buckingham booster than recent representatives of the Queen, insiders say.

Conservative sources say Ray Novak, the prime minister’s principal secretary, and Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen, have been involved in the search. They say both men are strong supporters of Canada’s links to the monarchy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:22 PM


Brown outpolls Kerry, Obama: Most popular official in survey; For incumbents, message is mixed (Matt Viser and Frank Phillips, June 28, 2010, Boston Globe)

US Senator Scott Brown, who only months ago was a little-known figure even within the tiny band of Republicans in the state Senate, not only catapulted to national stature with his upset US Senate victory, but is today the most popular officeholder in Massachusetts, according to a Boston Globe poll.

After less than five months in Washington, Brown outpolls such Democratic stalwarts as President Obama and US Senator John F. Kerry in popularity, the poll indicates. He gets high marks not only from Republicans, but even a plurality of Democrats views him favorably.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Reasons to be hopeful about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan (Michael O'Hanlon, June 26, 2010, Washington Post)

Several recent critiques paint only part of the picture, and they are often more wrong than right unless they are presented with greater nuance. Consider:

-- The "Kandahar offensive" is delayed. This complaint is strange: The U.S. troop buildup remains slightly ahead of schedule (95,000 soldiers are in Afghanistan, an increase of nearly 30,000 this year), and a major offensive in the classic sense was never promised in Kandahar. Some tactical operations there may be rescheduled this summer as U.S. reinforcements arrive -- but there is no fundamental deviation from the plan, which is to create a "rising tide of security" in Gen. Stanley McChrystal's still-relevant words.

-- Marja is a mess. The U.S. military erred in raising expectations about its big February operation in Marja, a midsize town in Helmand province where violence remains too high and Afghan governance too weak. But the trend in Helmand, where we have added a number of forces since 2009, is encouraging. Even Marja is slowly progressing. The military needs to do a better job documenting this progress. The province is in better shape than a year ago in terms of the return of commerce and agriculture and the reduction in violence against citizens.

-- There aren't enough trainers for Afghan security forces. Our allies have not quite met their promises, or our expectations, for additional trainers. But allies have deployed more than 5,000 additional combat troops this year, exceeding the pace expected. The number of U.S. trainers has risen, and the number of Afghan officers graduating from training has more than doubled since last year. Growth trajectories for the Afghan army and police remain on schedule. Perhaps most important, nearly 85 percent of Afghan army units are "partnered" with coalition units -- meaning that they plan, patrol, train and fight together. This is one of Gen. McChrystal's many positive legacies. In southern and eastern Afghanistan last month I saw many signs of the Afghan army's willingness to fight. The number of key districts where security conditions are at least tolerable, if not yet good, is up modestly. [...]

There are indeed weaknesses in U.S. strategy, including problems with the Afghan police and an inadequate plan to fight corruption. Gen. David Petraeus and military and civilian leaders should focus on these and other matters. But on balance, we have many assets and strengths in Afghanistan -- and better-than-even odds of leaving behind a reasonably stable place if we persevere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


Oliver Stone’s Latin America (LARRY ROHTER, 6/26/10, NY Times)

Unlike his movies about American presidents, the 78-minute “South of the Border” is meant to be a documentary, and therefore to be held to different standards. But it is plagued by the same issues of accuracy that critics have raised about his movies, dating back to “JFK.” Taken together, the mistakes, misstatements and missing details could undermine Mr. Stone’s glowing portrait of Mr. Chávez.

Mr. Stone’s problems in the film begin early on, with his account of Mr. Chávez’s rise. As “South of the Border” portrays it, Mr. Chávez’s main opponent in his initial run for president in 1998 was “a 6-foot-1-inch blond former Miss Universe” named Irene Sáez, and thus “the contest becomes known as the Beauty and the Beast” election.

But Mr. Chávez’s main opponent then was not Ms. Sáez, who finished third, with less than 3 percent of the vote. It was Henrique Salas Romer, a bland former state governor who won 40 percent of the vote.

When this and several other discrepancies were pointed out to Mr. Stone in the interview, his attitudes varied. “I’m sorry about that, and I apologize,” he said about the 1998 election. But he also complained of “nitpicking” and “splitting hairs” and said that it was not his intention to make either a program for C-Span or engage in what he called “a cruel and brutal” Mike Wallace-style interrogation of Mr. Chávez that the BBC broadcast this month.

“We are dealing with a big picture, and we don’t stop to go into a lot of the criticism and details of each country,” he said.[...]

Tariq Ali, the British-Pakistani historian and commentator who helped write the screenplay, added: “It’s hardly a secret that we support the other side. It’s an opinionated documentary.”

...Mr. Stone is just a fellow-traveler with a camera.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


Populism, American Style: HENRY OLSEN, National Affairs)

Our view of classical populism is shaped by both the warnings of philosophers and the experiences of some democracies, ancient and modern. In the Politics, Aristotle defines a demagogic democracy as one in which "the decrees of the assembly override the law" and a popular faction "takes the superior share in the government as a prize of victory." The people's leader, the demagogue, incites them to pursue such despotism through extravagant rhetoric, playing on the people's basest desires and fears. The result is laid out ominously in Plato's Republic: The people — "an obedient mob" — "set up one man as their special leader...and make him grow great." The masses take the property of the wealthy to redistribute it among themselves; the people's enemies, meanwhile, are charged with crimes and banished from the city (or worse). The Athenian philosophers were not merely theorizing such scenarios: Their city had lived through them, during the reigns of the 5th century B.C. demagogues Alcibiades and Cleon.

Though classic populism has varied according to time and place, it has generally taken the form of a morality play in four acts. In the first act, the masses come to feel like powerless victims, left helpless against the onslaught of an oppressive "other." In the second act, often following a crisis, that "other" is defined by a popular leader as an implacable enemy — one who has no concern for the welfare of the people, and whose actions are motivated by selfishness and greed. In the third, the leader proposes a solution: The people must use their numerical advantage to seize control of the state. In the final act, that power is used to take back from the enemy that which rightfully belongs to the people, without regard for the enemy's consent or rights.

This basic outline has been followed by regimes throughout history — from the demagogueries of the ancient Greek democrats, to the modern forms of communism, fascism, and socialism. The enemy can be economic (like capitalists or aristocrats), racial (as the Jews were for the Nazis), religious (as with sects in Lebanon or Iraq), or foreign (think Hugo Chávez's denunciations of America). The circumstances of each case differ greatly, of course, but the pattern remains the same: The "victim" seeks to vanquish the "victor," to take what is rightfully his, and to do unto the other what has allegedly been done unto him. When the drama is finally over, the rule of the people has given way to the rule of a despot.

Such a pattern was among the evils James Madison sought to contain through the Constitution. His great fear, as he put it in Federalist No. 49, was that "the passions,...not the reason, of the public would sit in judgment." If this were permitted, Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, "the influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame"; the American republic, he believed, should be designed to keep such conflagrations in check.

Madison assumed that Americans would be tempted to demand classical populism; the challenge was to reduce the ability of the government to supply it. In this sense, his creation has clearly worked: America has never had a classically populist regime. More interesting, however, is the fact that — contrary to Madison's assumption — the demand for such populism has always been fairly low in America. As it turns out, Americans have tended not to launch large-scale quasi-democratic movements in the classical-populist mold. And when such movements have arisen, they have generally not done well at election time — and so have never come close to enacting their agendas.

The relative absence of these movements has always puzzled European and Marxist social scientists, who have struggled to explain why America — in this respect virtually unique in the Western world — never formed a significant socialist or communist party. After all, economic mobility isn't that different in the United States than in Europe. Inequality is worse. Why, then, haven't Americans clamored to overthrow the powerful? What is the matter with Kansas?

The answer is to be found in the American soul, shaped as it has surely been by Madison's system. Americans are a self-governing people through and through, and American populism reflects the American passion for self-determination. That passion certainly leads some Americans to respond powerfully against overbearing elites, and so causes some populist movements to form. But it has also often allowed these responses to be channeled in constructive directions — keeping our politics in balance, and over time giving rise to enduring political coalitions.

In looking at some key populist episodes in our history, then, one finds a pattern that should ease the worries of those now concerned about a politics of resentment. It is also a pattern that offers some crucial guidance for the instigators and cheerleaders of today's populist movement. [...]

Because he led the Union through the Civil War, saved the American experiment, and ended slavery, Abraham Lincoln is generally thought of today as a unifying statesman — not a populist. (Indeed, he staunchly opposed the populist "Know Nothing" movement that sought to curb immigration in his day.) But Lincoln's career nonetheless illustrates the character and strengths of some peculiarly American-populist ideas — ideas that he absorbed during his 20 years' war with the Democratic populists who dominated Illinois politics, and which he later applied as a candidate and as president.

Lincoln ran his 1858 and 1860 campaigns using well-honed populist techniques. He championed the free white people of the North — honest citizens seeking to reclaim America and preserve its ideals for future generations. The people's adversaries, meanwhile, were identified as Southern slaveholders and their Northern co-conspirators. (Lincoln even alleged that his great rival, Stephen Douglas, was engaged in a blatant conspiracy with Supreme Court chief justice Roger Taney, President James Buchanan, and former president Franklin Pierce to bring slavery to the North and to revoke each state's power to abolish the practice in its jurisdiction.) In Lincoln's campaign narrative, justice could be achieved only by removing these adversaries from power; failure to do so would place the American republic in jeopardy.

Classical populism would have rounded out this litany by offering some obvious remedies — chief among them the repossession of the Southern elites' property, and the curtailment of their rights. This, indeed, was the platform of the abolitionists, and many (including William Lloyd Garrison) denounced Lincoln for his failure to adopt it.

But Lincoln rejected the classical-populist temptation, and held to a different course — one that enabled his Republican Party to sweep to victory a mere six years after its founding. Lincoln argued that as wrong as slavery was, Southerners should not be deprived of their human property without compensation. While abolitionists argued that the Constitution was a pact with the devil because it implicitly tolerated slavery, Lincoln argued that respect for the Constitution was essential to American liberty. His approach, therefore, was to limit the spread of slavery — not to launch an extraconstitutional crusade to abolish slavery everywhere in an attempt to assuage Northerners' sense of justice.

Beyond the slavery question, Lincoln's Republicans also advanced economic policies designed to let the average American better himself. The first GOP Congress created land-grant colleges in the states to research agricultural productivity, passed a Homestead Act that gave federal land to settlers who improved it, and provided public assistance for building a transcontinental railroad. Each program enlarged the reach of the federal government, but each was designed to give the individual the means — access to knowledge, land, and transportation — by which to advance himself.

Just convert those FHA loans into Homestead grants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


A new model of welfare would work with the grain of our relationships: Labour missed its chance to redesign the welfare state. Now it's the coalition that is talking about mutualism and civic participation (Madeleine Bunting, 6/28/10, guardian.co.uk)

[T]his kind of radical redesign of services needs upfront state investment. Given the enthusiasm of the coalition last week for cost-cutting, it's hard to see how they could make space to invest in this kind of longer-term dividend. But it's exactly this kind of smart thinking that is so badly needed to avert some of the devastating social costs of cuts.

It starts from the premise that those who use a service must be involved in its design. The differences in status and authority between the professionals who run the service and those who use it have to be broken down. In another project designed with Participle for families with chronic problems in Swindon, it was the families who selected the teams of police, social workers and housing officers who would work with them on their plans to turn their lives around. The scheme is already saving considerable money and helping people back into work.

The irony is that back in 1948 Sir William Beveridge, the great architect of the welfare state, worried that there were flaws in his designs, that there was not sufficient "room, opportunity and encouragement for voluntary action in seeking new ways of social advance … services of a kind which often money cannot buy". He was concerned that services were orientated around need, making the citizen a passive recipient rather than an active participant. Power has always been in the hands of the professionals who operate the gateway (doctors, social workers and the like) and an increasing proportion of resources have been devoted to the gateway – assessing eligibility for the elderly, for example.

Now a number of people are thinking of how you implement Beveridge's prescient insights. Last week, the study Radical Efficiency (subtitled Different, better, lower-cost public services) offered examples from all over the world. David Halpern's new book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations, sees networks of human relationships as crucial and that public services are most effective when they work with the grain of them, rather than ignore them. He suggests currencies of care credits, such as the Japanese have developed to cope with their dramatically ageing population. In Japan, if you live a long way away from your parents, you care for an elderly person nearby and earn credits to be exchanged for care of your parents.

Halpern worked in Downing Street under Tony Blair, and now he is returning to advise the coalition's new champion of the Big Society, Lord Nat Wei. Among those who have been developing these ideas over the last few years is bewilderment that Labour missed a major opportunity to redesign the welfare state. It was too beholden to the idea of the state as the agent of change, using clunky, centralising levers of coercion, such as targets to urge on improvements in public services that have had only patchy success in areas such as welfare and social services. Now they realise with astonishment that the coalition has parked its tanks on traditional Labour territory, talking of mutualism, civic renewal and participation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


Of course traditional architecture is better: Any fair-minded person should ask themselves why this creative, dedicated, and invaluable public servant is subjected to so much captious denigration (Bruce Anderson, 6/28/10, Independent)

On Hyde Park Corner in London there stands Apsley House, the residence of the Dukes of Wellington, also known as No 1 London. Just down the road, on Knightsbridge, there is a new apartment block named One Hyde Park, a genuflection to its illustrious predecessor. The name is the only resemblance.

Apsley House's harmonious proportions have pleased the eye for more than two centuries. One Hyde Park proves that it is not necessary to use prominent concrete to create a brutalist building. With mere glass and steel, its architect, Richard Rogers, has achieved the triumph of ugliness. One Hyde Park deserves to be high on the shortlist for the most hideous building in cental London. It is owned by the Candy brothers, who also have an interest in the site of the former Chelsea Barracks. They commissioned Lord Rogers to design more flats.

Lord Rogers has form. He is famous for the Millennium Dome – the most absurd building in London: perhaps, indeed, of all time – and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Cultured, clever, patriotic, Georges Pompidou was an outstanding figure and a worthy successor to De Gaulle. His early death was doubly regrettable: ridiculously premature, it created fresh ridicule by enabling that vain, posturing ninny Giscard d'Estaing to become President of France. That was bad enough. It is a further disgrace that Pompidou's memorial should be much the ugliest building in central Paris.

Prince Charles has now saved London from another instalment of ugliness. Objecting to Lord Rogers's brutalist designs, he persuaded the Qatari royal family to withdraw their support. Last week, a judge described the Prince of Wales's intervention as "unwelcome". Unwelcome to whom? Unwelcome, certainly, to those who wish to inflict renewed vandalism upon London's cityscape. But the judge's comments will seem incomprehensible to anyone who wishes to save London from even more aesthetic depredation. To those who love London, the Prince's intervention could not have been more welcome.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


Supreme Court Rules That Gun Rights Apply to Local Laws (ADAM LIPTAK, 6/28/10, NY Times)

The important point was a broad one, Justice Alito wrote: that the Second Amendment, like other provisions of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing fundamental rights, must be applied to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. [...]

The Second Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, originally restricted only the power of the federal government. The Supreme Court later ruled that most, but not all, of the protections of the Bill of Rights applied to the power of the states as well, under the due-process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in the wake of the Civil War.

And so, after 70 years of defending the Constitution from judges, the putative conservatives on the Court now assert their own power to rewrite it willy-nilly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Robert Byrd's health and Joe Manchin's ambition: The governor who would make the appointment wants the seat for himself (Steve Kornacki, 6/27/10, Salon)

The man who will make any appointment wants the seat for himself -- but has also ruled out appointing himself to it. That would be Joe Manchin, a 62-year-old Democrat who has been West Virginia's governor since 2005. Manchin is quite ambitious and has let it be known in West Virginia that he has national aspirations. Earlier this year, he formed his own PAC for national political activity -- Country Roads PAC -- and he's slated to become the chairman of the National Governors Association later this summer. But he's slated to be term-limited out of the governorship in 2012, so maneuvering his way into Byrd's seat is probably Manchin's only way of retaining his political viability and furthering those national aspirations.

The assumption, then, is that Manchin would simply appoint a placeholder to the seat, someone to keep it warm until he can run for it himself. (He has said that he wouldn't appoint himself.) His popularity is high (he was re-elected with nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2008) and he'd be favored against any Republican.

This is where the issue of timing comes in; if Byrd were to die or give up the seat in the next few days, Manchin and his Democratic allies in the state might have some wiggle room in deciding when the seat is officially declared vacant. In other words, Manchin could potentially get to decide whether he wants to run this fall, or if he'd rather wait until 2012.

Even though this fall figures to be rough for Democrats, it's probably a better time for Manchin to run. He's plenty popular now and, thanks to his cultural conservatism and staunch defense of the state's coal industry, he's separated himself enough from Barack Obama and the national Democratic label that he'd probably be fine. And his presence in a special election this fall would probably scare off the strongest potential Republican, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. But if Manchin has to wait two years to run, circumstances could change. (Also, if Manchin for some reason decided not to run in a special election this year, Capito could very conceivably win the race -- and then build up enough strength to fend off Manchin in a '12 race.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


Obama's Latino Backlash: Hispanic voters are peeved about the president’s inaction on immigration reform. Just ask Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who tells Bryan Curtis, “Obama broke a promise. It’s that simple.” (Bryan Curtis, 6/28/10, Daily Beast)

The one-year deadline expired in January, and Ramos went on the warpath. Armed with a new book, A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto, Ramos is the most prominent Hispanic voice inside or outside of politics to blast away at Obama for not keeping his word. “I believed him and millions of Latinos believed him,” Ramos said by phone from Miami.

“The fact is,” Ramos continues, his voice angry but restrained, “at this point, we can say Barack Obama broke a promise. It’s that simple. … We might have to wait years because that promise wasn’t kept.”

The silver-haired man delivering those words is the kind of critic the White House would be wise to pay attention to. For those who watch Spanish-language TV, Ramos is like an amalgam of Brian Williams and Keith Olbermann, though with more gravitas than either; Stephen Colbert once called Ramos “the most trusted name in news that I can’t understand.” Noticiero Univision, Ramos’ nightly newscast, draws an average of more than 2 million viewers. Ramos is a conduit between his Latino audience and politicians eager to schmooze with it. In 2007, when presidential candidates of both parties participated in the first debates broadcast exclusively in Spanish, it was Ramos and his Noticiero co-anchor, María Elena Salinas, who grilled them.

But Ramos, who is 52, is not merely a handsome face searching for airtime. “He’s not a pretty-boy, clothes-horse kind of anchor,” says Henry Cisneros, who was president of Univision from 1997 to 2000. Ramos is also a pungent editorialist, and stumping for immigration reform—what he calls the “new frontier in civil rights”—is his obsession. Night after night, speaking in Spanish, Ramos is a parallel universe Lou Dobbs.

...when the Evangelical at the top of the GOP ticket will support "reform."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Can bacon save the world? (S.E. Cupp, June 28th, 2010, Daily Caller)

After recently reading about an artist who created multi-colored bacon in the New York Daily News, I made a discovery that changed my life: There’s a website called BaconToday.com, which offers “Daily Updates on the World of Sweet, Sweet Bacon.” There you can find sweet treats, like maple bacon ice cream, or read about a bacon marriage proposal. Think no one’s dumb enough to get a bacon tattoo? You’re wrong, and BaconToday.com has the photo. Or buy the Bacon Freak cookbook (subtitle: “Bacon is Meat Candy”). And when the rest of the media is stuck on the goings on at BP and in Afghanistan, only BaconToday.com will give you the story that San Francisco is trying to make Mondays meatless. Oh, the horror.

In today’s world of soy-latte-macrobiotic-vegetarian political correctness, it’s refreshing to see there’s someone out there who isn’t afraid to celebrate the salty, fatty, meaty goodness of bacon with childlike wonder. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m partial to eating things that once had parents…and I do so almost exclusively. So I sent out a tweet imploring the man behind Bacon Today to get in touch with me…he didn’t, but I hunted him down online, as I’m wont to do. Here’s my sweet, sweet bacony interview with James Loosbrock, the man, the myth, the bacon legend, who thinks bacon might actually save the world. Do I smell a Pulitzer? No wait, that’s just bacon.

S.E. CUPP: What led you to start a website celebrating all things bacon? You got a beef against pigs or something? Is this a pig jihad?

James Loosbrock: One word: it’s bacon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 AM


Let’s Cut Defense Spending: The War Is Making You Poor Act makes sense for American taxpayers. (E.D. Kain, 6/28/10, National Review)

Democratic congressman Alan Grayson has proposed a new bill sure to ruffle a few feathers: HR 5353, “The War Is Making You Poor Act,” which would carve out $159 billion of pork from the defense budget and give 90 percent of that money back to taxpayers. The remaining 10 percent would go toward trimming the national debt.

For fiscal conservatives, this should be a welcome piece of legislation. In fact, judging by the many reactions around the Web, it might actually be a semi-popular, bipartisan bill that would at once cut back the national debt and put more tax dollars in Americans’ pockets. Republicans have a chance to lead this effort in the Senate.

Indeed, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn is talking about scaling back the defense budget, signaling what may be the beginning of a sea change in congressional attitudes toward spending on national defense. America already spends far more than the rest of the developed world on its national security. Trimming some pork from that figure would not leave Americans defenseless.

...but it's currently twice what we should be spending in peacetime, so as we withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan there are huge cuts to be made..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 AM


Pelosi's Problematic Polls: The high-profile speaker has lost favor with the public--including with moderate Democrats. (Karlyn Bowman, 06.28.10, Forbes)

In another recent Gallup question, 50% favored Congress repealing "all or much" of the health care legislation passed earlier this year, and 45% were opposed. In a late May Pew poll, 39% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate this fall that supported the health care bill, but almost as many, 35%, said they would be less likely to do so. Republicans, who by every poll measure are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this fall, were especially emboldened: 74% of them said say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who voted for the bill.

Americans also aren't feeling very good about their own financial situations, and they don't think the stimulus bill Pelosi pushed through Congress has worked. A new Pew poll found that 60% say it had not helped the job situation, while only one-third said it had.

Pelosi represents one of the most liberal congressional districts in the country. Her politics reflect the sentiments of her district, and not those of the rest of the country. According to Gallup, in the past two years, Americans have become "increasingly likely to describe the Democratic Party's views as 'too liberal' and less likely to say its views are 'about right.'" In Gallup's latest poll from May, 49%, a near record, called the party too liberal.

The influential Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported this week on growing tensions between the "liberal speaker from San Francisco and her inner circle and moderate members who sense an 'electoral tidal' wave coming their way" in November. As the first female speaker, Pelosi is unusually prominent. She's much better known that her counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid. She's become a lightning rod, and polls on Pelosi give good reason for Democrats to be nervous about November.

...but for the possibility that's redundant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 AM


Why China has reason to worry: The People's Republic may look to be doing well economically, but there are many potholes in the road ahead (Jonathan Fenby, 6/27/10, guardian.co.uk)

[I]t may seem perverse to argue that the leadership in Beijing is worried right now. But worried it is – to the point at which China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, says his country "will make sure it maintains a sense of crisis". The China bulls might look at that sentence and wonder what Wen is talking about. Even if growth drops in the second half of this year it will still be at 8% or above. After a dip in April, the trade surplus ballooned again in May.

The worry is that after three decades of amazing growth, China's model forged in the 1980s is running out time. The new leaders who will take over from Hu and prime minister Wen Jiabao in 2012 have shown awareness of that in a recently circulated internal document. Their roadmap to 2022, when there will be another leadership change, is sensible and would raise China to an economic level somewhere around that of the US. But if the destinations are clear, the road to them is filled with potholes.

Short term, say to 2012, Beijing faces a tricky task of combining tightening with expansion. It needs to mop up the flood of liquidity and slow down the hectic rise in property prices.

It has to bring the economy back from the runaway 12% growth reported early this year to a sustainable level of around 8% which would create sufficient jobs, keep the population happy and underpin the Communist party's claim to be the only force that can ensure material progress. It needs to rein-in industries whose excess output adds to the perennial problem of over-capacity, but without creating mass unemployment. It needs to guard against inflation and boost wages.

Longer term, the challenges that have appeared over the last three decades get even more challenging – widening wealth disparities, air, land and water pollution, corruption,. land rights, labour movement, backward capital markets, freedom of expression, the relationship between Beijing and the provinces. Three decades on, China needs a new shake-up on the scale of that initiated by Deng.

...exchanging freedom for a GDP per capita under $7k. Their declining demographics and inability to either maintain their current regime or the territory they currently claim mean they face massive upheavals that will come while they are still that undeveloped, pretty much unprecedented for an Empire..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 AM


Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92 (ADAM CLYMER, 6/28/10, NY Times)

Mr. Byrd served 51 years in the Senate, longer than anyone in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. He held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tem.

But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”

...that he managed to keep them at the bottom via his methods despite 5 decades of power?

June 27, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


England vs. Germany in World Cup round of 16 (Steven Goff, 6/27/10, Washington Post)

The sleepy city of Bloemfontein has made preparations for its biggest event ever, most importantly relaxing alcohol regulations so the English and German fans can enjoy a beer or two.

The two sides have played in numerous big matches, with England taking a 4-2 win in the 1966 World Cup final and Germany (well, West Germany) knocking out the champions with an extra-time win in the quarterfinals four years later. West Germany also defeated the Three Lions in the 1990 semifinals, on penalty kicks, and also scored a penalty-kick win in the 1996 European Championship semifinals (the tournament was held in England).

The Germans are exploiting the fatal weakness that the US exposed but refused to exploit--you can destroy England by running right through the middle of its "defense." And it's amazing that after several years of Capello the English still end up with six guys surrounding the ball on the 18 yard line. Lampard and Gerrard just can't play together and Defoe is useless.

On the other hand, Germany doesn't even pretend to defend. They have to attack.

This one could end 6-5 even with the disallowed goal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


How the USA got it so wrong against Ghana: Tactical decisions cost the USA team dearly in this World Cup, and they could not make up for those to beat a solid Ghana team. (Mark Sappenfield, June 27, 2010, CS Monitor)

[T]here is no doubting that Ghana is a team that the USA could – and maybe should – beat with some regularity. And in that fact lies the USA’s disappointment.

Never in four World Cup 2010 matches could the USA summon for 90 minutes the defensive team effort that it summoned in last year’s 2-0 win over then-world No. 1 Spain. [...]

[F]or the third consecutive match, midfielder Benny Feilhaber replaced an ineffective forward, in this instance, Robbie Findley.

Feilhaber’s range of passing and ability to retain possession were crucial.

Yet, perhaps more important was how his introduction changed the shape of the USA on the field.

More than anything else, it allowed the USA players to take control of the game.

In short, Feilhaber gave the USA a platform from which it could be more flexible and inventive, making it harder for Slovenia and then Algeria and then Ghana to know where key USA players would be, while at the same time providing more defensive rigidity.

...but it is the case that the US central defense was never the same after Gooch got injured against Costa Rice last October. On the other hand, no one can figure out why Coach Bradley doesn't start Feilhaber and it could effectively cost him the job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


U.S. to repatriate Guantanamo detainee to Yemen after judge orders him to be released (Peter Finn, 6/26/10, Washington Post)

The Obama administration has decided to repatriate to Yemen a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after he was ordered released by a federal judge who cited overwhelming evidence that the detainee had been held illegally for more than eight years by the United States, administration officials said.

In January, President Obama suspended the transfer of any detainees to Yemen because of concerns about the security situation in that country. But the case of Mohammed Odaini, who was 17 when he was picked up in Pakistan in 2002, has forced the administration to partially lift its suspension.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Theater of the absurd (MIKE ALLEN & GLENN THRUSH, 6/27/10, Politico)

On Wednesday, the same day President Barack Obama ousted his humiliated Afghanistan commander, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs walked into the Oval Office with more grim news: The cap on the gushing oil in the Gulf had been dislodged.

“What?” Obama replied incredulously. “Well, why did it do that?” A remotely operated vehicle had knocked the cap right off, he was told, leaving oil rushing out as furiously as ever.

“Let me get this straight,” Obama later told senior adviser David Axelrod. “A robot knocked off the Top Hat? Come on, guys. Are you kidding me?"

Welcome to what one exhausted adviser calls the “theater of the absurd,” where a White House is whipsawed by wild, almost unimaginable events that threaten to reshape the public perception of the Obama presidency at every turn. [...]

[P]rivately, Obama advisers talk of being prisoners to uncontrollable events and deeply uncertain about how all of this will play out.

It is simply unacceptable for a president to portray himself as a victim of events rather than taking a leadership role in dealing with them, it's what separated Jimmy Carter's nearly excellent Malaise Speech from one that Ronald Reagan would have given.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Want to protect the poor? Then give them jobs: Most people who are 'forced’ into minimum wage jobs move quite quickly up the earnings ladder (Janet Daley, 26 Jun 2010, Daily Telegraph)

Can anyone still believe that the largely catastrophic consequences of Big State solutions to poverty, to housing shortages, to unemployment, to educational disadvantage, have been pure coincidence?

The effect of government housing programmes is a perfect case. Council housing – with its class‑ghetto implications – always seemed to me to be a pernicious social phenomenon, reinforcing social divisions and encouraging passivity. Not only were people told where they would live, but they were often forbidden to make changes to – or take responsibility for – their own homes. But now, in areas where unemployment has become endemic, council estates have become social death-traps.

As Iain Duncan Smith points out in our interview with him today, the security of tenure of the council tenant means that he dare not risk moving to another area of the country – or even to the far side of his own city – to seek employment for fear of losing his housing rights. So we have large swaths of unemployed people tied like serfs to the land, in workless communities, doomed to a hopeless future in which no one in their everyday acquaintance is in paid employment.

This is a grotesque state of affairs that was born out of good intentions, but by now it should be clear why it has come to this pass: when the state creates a mass, collectivist solution to a problem, it ends up treating people as categories (“the poor”, “the deprived”, “the homeless”) rather than as individuals who are ultimately going to have to determine their own fate.

Mr Duncan Smith speaks of introducing mechanisms for “portability” and “flexibility” in housing provision, which is another way of saying that we must create routes for people to escape from the monolithic state solution in which they are imprisoned.

The council estate is a way of encasing people in a bricks-and-mortar embodiment of government policy, but benefit dependency is a more all-encompassing form of incarceration from which it can be virtually impossible to break free. The scandal of welfare dependency as a way of life is now so well-established that there is no need to rehearse its depressing facts again.

But we must be clear that we have not got to where we are by accident. It is the basic premise of Big State thinking that has produced the monstrous edifice that we know as the benefits trap: the idea that “the poor” are a fixed and immutable section of society who must be “protected”. Sadly, what “protecting the poor” generally amounts to in practice is “protecting poverty” – which is to say, preserving it. Welfare dependency creates huge disincentives to entering employment because few jobs at entry level can offer a competitive package of payments and support equivalent to the benefits system. [...]

The tragic inevitability of government intervention is that when you create a permanent agency to deal with a problem it has an inherent tendency to make the problem itself permanent. This is not only for self-serving reasons – to justify its own continued existence – but because it prefers to deal in fixed entities such as poverty, deprivation, or educational inequality, rather than to view the infinite range of human possibilities and personal circumstances as a dynamic, ever-changing spectrum in which individual vagaries matter more than any total result.

It's the Shirky Principle: "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."

It's why the most terrifying prospect of the Third Way to the Left is that it might prove effective, offering the poor a permanent way out of poverty and empowering them directly, instead of their bureaucratic caretakers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Incompetence catches Obama (SHERMAN FREDERICK, 6/27/10, Las Vegas Review Journal)

Make it official: Everything Barack Obama touches turns to mush. Not because he wants to screw up everything, but because he's simply in over his head as president of the United States.

He is the quintessential wrong guy at the wrong time, and the events of last week provided another exclamation point to that sentence. [...]

[L]eadership can't be faked for long.

If the Gulf doesn't prove it for you, then consider the president's first official act as president -- the signing of an executive order to close the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.

With the stroke of a pen, he looked the part of a leader, fulfilling a campaign promise. But now, some 17 months later, Gitmo remains open. Why? Because leadership is more than looking the part. It's hard work. It's resolve. It's sacrifice. It is making things happen.

As we now find, looking the part on economic recovery, Gulf oil spill relief or even something as relatively simple as closing one detention facility doesn't actually fix the economy, plug the hole or solve the sticky problem of indefinite detention of enemy combatants in the war on terror.

President Obama is long on talking about these things but short on the skills to get them done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Conservatives need to change their tune on pop music (Mark Judge, 6/27/10, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Lady Gaga is no Madonna. That some conservatives are comparing the two performers is yet another sign of the pop-culture (and even religious) illiteracy of the right. I myself am a conservative, and it always demoralizes me when people on the right fumble the ball on popular culture, particularly in the field of pop music.

Robert Bork once referred to the industrial gloom freaks Nine Inch Nails as rap. Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt tried to postpone a Beach Boys Fourth of July concert, thinking that the somnolent surfers would cause trouble. And, despite how much I've begged and pleaded, the Weekly Standard and National Review will not cover pop music, which I consider a beautiful form of spiritual art.

Now, taking a lead from Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, everyone is comparing Gaga to Madonna. To me Madonna will always be a mediocre talent, but one of her better songs is "Like a Prayer," which came out in 1986. Many conservative culture warriors wrongly considered the video for "Like a Prayer" blasphemous, and are now juxtaposing it with a new video by pop star Gaga. In the video for her song "Alejandro," Gaga is dressed in a red latex nun costume. She swallows a rosary and is depicted in scenes of sadomasochistic sex and Nazi marching troops. As night follows day, conservatives went nuts. Donohue called Lady Gaga a "Madonna wannabe." The rest of the right-wing photosphere fell into place.

They will miss a crucial fact: Madonna's video for "Like a Prayer" is an intelligent and even devout meditation on grace, love, and conscience. Lady Gaga's is lazy trash.

Indeed, conservatives ought to understand that all great rock music is conservative. How better illustrate the point than with a songstress celebrating Nazi opposition to Christianity?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Gillard rejects Rudd's 'big Australia' (BONNY SYMONS-BROWN, June 27, 2010, AAP)

"I don't believe in a big Australia," she told the Nine Network on Sunday.

"Kevin Rudd indicated that he had a view about a big Australia. I'm indicating a different approach.

"I think we want an Australia that is sustainable." [...]

To reflect her take on the issue, Population Minister Tony Burke will now be the minister for sustainable population. [...]

[M]s Gillard's position has been broadly welcomed.

Entrepreneur Dick Smith said she had taken a commonsense approach to the difficult issue.

"The world has too many people," he told AAP.

"I think (her position) is in the right direction, but it will be very difficult to have sustainable population - that is going to be a challenge."

Whatever else you may have thought of Third Way leaders from the Left--like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair--it would sound jarring to hear them say something as nihilistic as that there are too many people in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


English conquers all: A somewhat sanitized, sometimes one-sided study of how a language climbed to the top of the heap (Amanda Katz, June 27, 2010, Boston Globe)

McCrum, best known as coauthor of the book and PBS series “The Story of English,’’ begins at the beginning: with the successive Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman invasions of the future England. These invaders gradually built a language that, by the 16th century, developed a kind of hybrid vigor. To a sturdy Germanic grammar and domestic vocabulary, it added Latin and French terms to fill out the scientific, professional, and cultural registers. (McCrum provides neat examples of how, as a result, English contains synonyms such as go, depart and exit, respectively derived from Old English, French, and Latin.) McCrum nicely summarizes this complex history from its earliest roots to the introduction of the printing press and later to the dawn of the American empire. Flexible and expansive, backed by one and then two aggressive nations, English conquered and thrived. [...]

McCrum’s enthusiasm for Globish is such that his book sometimes feels like a corporate history, full of platitudes and true-ish detail but with little attention to the downsides or bigger implications of the business. He does make the rare concession that “[t]hose who want to characterize Globish as a kind of benign virus . . . must also acknowledge its imperial and colonial past.” But he more often insists that it has “long ago [left] the imperial hang-up behind.” He fails to substantiate that claim and seems oblivious to the experience of those colonized or invaded by the English — in the United States, Canada, Australia, India, parts of Africa. He writes, for example: “Apart from the Aborigines, an estimated 300,000 in 1788, Australia was an apparently empty continent.” Much like Great Britain, which is today entirely uninhabited. Except for the Brits.

This blind boosterism extends into the present. Globish “will, for the most part, leave local languages unscathed,” he writes. To the contrary, some linguists project that half the world’s languages will disappear by 2100 — in large part because of encroachment by English.

By denying this, McCrum recuses himself from nearly all important questions about the English lingua franca. Access to the language is associated with prosperity and global connection — so what should we do about the trade-off with linguistic diversity? If most English speakers are nonnatives, who controls “proper” English? Will new languages splinter off, or, in constant global conversation, will we converge on a new idiom — a genuine Globish? What might we gain? What might we lose?

Since McCrum believes that everyone wins when you teach the world to sing in English (to paraphrase Coca-Cola’s classic soft-imperial slogan), “Globish’’ is stuck outside the debate. He dismisses doubters with a quotation from The Sunday Times: “to be born an English-speaker is to win one of the top prizes in life’s lottery. And this can be said without a hint of triumphalism, sexism, racism, without annoying anybody much except the French.”

I appreciate the prize, but I’m with the French. As linguist Claude Hagège writes, “Whatever argument we give, the death threat that weighs upon languages today takes the guise of English. And I wager that the wisest Anglophones would not, in fact, wish for a world with only one language.” English is a beautiful language, true. But every language represents a marvelous solution to the problem of putting our world into words. When one disappears, an irreplaceable cultural logic vanishes as well.

While Mr. McCrum ought to be more honest about the fact that globalization (which is nothing more than universal Anglofication) is destroying other cultures and replacing them with our own, Ms Katz ought accept the reality that inferior cultures are losing out to the superior one (arguably, one of the only Cultures).

And, of course, the multiplicity of human languages has never been considered a boon but always a tragedy and a hindrance to human development, imposed by a jealous God:

The Tower of Babel
1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.

4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Anglofication is just a matter of tikkun olam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Economists stymied as reality bears little resemblance to theories (Robert J. Samuelson, 6/26/10 The Washington Post)

[I]n Europe, financial limits have bitten. Greece's huge debt resulted in a steep rise of interest rates. Germany and Britain are debating plans to cut their deficits to avoid Greece's fate.

That's lunacy, writes Martin Wolf, chief economic commentator for the Financial Times. Concerted austerity may destroy the recovery. Exactly, echoes Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who argues that the U.S. economy needs more stimulus and bigger deficits. "Penny- pinching at a time like this . . .," he writes, "endangers the nation's future."

Not so, counters Harvard economist Ken Rogoff. President Barack Obama's stimulus package may have "helped calm the panic" in 2009, but boosting spending now raises "the risk of having a debt crisis down the road."

Indeed, some economists believe that budget cutbacks can stimulate economic growth under some circumstances. A study by economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna found that budget cutbacks in wealthy countries often had an expansionary effect when spending reductions were emphasized.

Like textbook Keynesianism, "monetarism" has also suffered in its explanatory power. This theory holds that big injections of money into the banking system by the Federal Reserve should lead to higher lending, higher spending and — if large enough — inflation. Well, since the summer of 2008, the Fed has provided about $1 trillion of reserves to banks, and none of these things has happened. Inflation remains tame, and outstanding bank loans have dropped more than $200 billion in the past year. Banks are sitting on massive excess reserves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


The Two Faces of the Tea Party: Rick Santelli, Glenn Beck, and the future of the populist insurgency. (Matthew Continetti, June 28, 2010, Weekly Standard)

As a student in the exciting new field of Tea Party Studies, I’ve noticed that no one agrees on what the Tea Party actually is. Is the anti-Obama, anti-big government movement simply AstroTurf fabricated by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks? Is it a bunch of Birthers, Birchers, conspiracists, and white power misfits? Is it a strictly economic phenomenon—the inevitable result of high and persistent unemployment? Or are the Tea Partiers nothing more than indulgent Boomers who combine 1960s social libertarianism with 1980s laissez-faire economics? Does the Tea Party draw on longstanding American constitutional, political, and economic traditions, eddies of thought that one can trace back to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson? Or is it of a more recent vintage: Are the Tea Partiers simply the same folks who once were called Reagan Democrats and Perotistas?

All of the above. [...]

But there are also signs that the Tea Party is in the middle of a tumultuous adolescence. Its activists haven’t had much to say, for example, on the topic of the big banks. A recent Washington Post poll showed it losing support. Divisions between Tea Party factions split the conservative vote in GOP primaries in Nevada and Virginia, and threaten the unity of purpose that marks successful activist campaigns. The Tea Party may have guaranteed that Marco Rubio will be the GOP Senate nominee in Florida, but there is a chance that Charlie Crist’s independent campaign will make this a Pyrrhic victory. There is the palpable anxiety among sympathizers that if the Tea Party did gain power, it would be unable to shape its diverse sentiments into a programmatic agenda.

Most important, Tea Party rhetoric has become a double-edged sword. Some of the movement’s ideas are simply too radical for the public. One of the hottest controversies in some Tea Party circles is whether to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment, which allows for the direct election of senators. Part of the reason the Republican candidate lost in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District was that he supported the Fair Tax, which would abolish the tax code and replace it with a consumption tax. Rand Paul may have won the Republican Senate nomination in Kentucky, but he quickly had to walk back statements opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Sharron Angle, the Republican Senate nominee in Nevada, has had to explain what she meant when she said that Social Security and Medicare ought to be “phased out.” Rick Barber, a Republican candidate for Congress in Alabama, opens his latest ad with the words, “I’d impeach him,” and closes it with a man dressed in Revolutionary War garb saying menacingly, “Gather. Your. Armies.”

Now, any large political movement is going to have its share of people who push the ideological envelope. It’s going to have some cranks who break the rules of political decorum. In times of economic crisis and political ferment, tempers are going to become heated. And even liberals have to acknowledge that the Tea Party, despite the wild charges thrown against it, has shunned violence and racism.

Nevertheless, while most Americans disapprove of the Obama Democrats, they do not back a full-scale revolt against the government. They do not support the abolition of the welfare state. They may want to repeal Obama-care, but they do not want to repeal the 20th century.

The Tea Party’s movements and currents, its successes and setbacks, have revealed the dual nature of conservative populism. There is one tendency that tries, in Wilfred M. McClay’s evocative phrase, “to restore and preserve a less regimented, less status-stratified, less school-sorted, more open-ended America.” But there is also another tendency, one that believes the government is so corrupt, the constitutional system so perverted, that only radical solutions will save America from certain doom.

The first tendency is forward-looking, optimistic, and comfortable in contemporary America. The second tendency looks to the distant past, feels not just pessimistic but apocalyptic, and always sees the powerful conspiring against the powerless. And while it is possible to distinguish between the two tendencies, they nonetheless overlap in many places. They are different parts of the same creature. One part, however, is more attractive to outsiders than the other. In our future-oriented, optimistic American polity, the first tendency has limitless appeal. The second does not.

The Tea Party, like the Roman god Janus, has two faces. One looks to the future. The other looks to the past. One wants to repair deformities in the American political structure and move on. The other is ready to scrap the whole thing and restore a lost Eden.

They are the faces, in other words, of the cable TV stars who are arguably the Tea Party’s two founders: Rick Santelli and Glenn Beck. [...]

What bothered Santelli was that Obama’s proposals made neither moral nor intellectual sense. “You can’t buy your way into prosperity,” he said. “And if the multiplier that all of these Washington economists are selling us is over one, then we never have to worry about the economy again. The government should spend a trillion dollars an hour because we’ll get $1.5 trillion back.” To Santelli, such an idea was plainly absurd. It takes the silent majority to recognize that spending, debt, and subsidies for the undeserving do not create a prosperous future.

This is the same mix of symbols, allusions, and issues that conservatives have deployed for decades. This is the same impulse as the one behind the tax revolt in the 1970s, behind Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan’s critique of the welfare state in the 1980s, behind Newt Gingrich’s Opportunity Society rhetoric in the 1990s. The language of fiscal responsibility, individual initiative, self-discipline, and market competition is embedded in the conservative movement and the Republican grassroots. It’s a political language squarely in the mainstream. Large majorities of voters have embraced it in the past. They are likely to embrace it again.

What Santelli did not say was just as important. His speech contained no conspiracy theories. He did not rant against “the system.” He did not say that Obama is an illegitimate president. He did not say that Obama is a socialist. Instead, he said (perhaps slightly sarcastically) that White House adviser Lawrence Summers is “a great economist.” On March 2, 2009, he wrote, “I hope that the president and the final stimulus plan succeed,” and, “I love my country and hope that the current administration succeeds in fixing the complicated economic and social issues our country now faces.”

These are not the words of a conspiracy theorist. They are not the words of someone who believes the government is fundamentally corrupt. They are the words of a man who is worried about America’s future, but who thinks the right mix of policy and leadership can cure the nation’s ills. They are the words of a forward-looking, optimistic, free-market populist. [...]

This intellectual journey has led Beck to some disturbing conclusions. Whereas Rick Santelli says the housing plan and the stimulus aren’t sensible, Beck says the Obama administration is the culmination of 100 years of unconstitutional governance. On the “We Surround Them” episode, Beck said, “The system has been perverted and it has to be restored.” In between bouts of weeping, he asked, “What happened to the country that loved the underdog and stood up for the little guy?” That country, he implied, is vanishing before our eyes. In Beck’s world, politics is less about issues than it is about “us” versus “them.” We may have them surrounded. But “we can’t trust anyone.” [...]

By attacking progressivism, Beck is taking on a big idea. He is forcing people to question their assumptions. He is introducing new thinkers to the reading public. But he is also engaging in a line of inquiry that—interesting though it may sometimes be—is tangential to the political realities of our day. And his intellectual inquiries have a purpose: to foster the perception that a benighted American public is being preyed upon by an internationalist conspiracy.

So, the difference between communism and progressivism, Beck argued at CPAC, is “revolution” or “evolution.” In other words, the difference between communism and progressivism is one of means not ends. “There is no difference,” he said, “except one requires a gun and the other does it slowly.”

“Socialism and fascism,” the author writes in Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, “have been on the rise for two administrations now.” Beck’s book Arguing with Idiots contains a list of the “Top Ten Bastards of All Time,” on which Pol Pot (No. 10), Adolf Hitler (No. 6), and Pontius Pilate (No. 4) all rank lower than FDR (No. 3) and Woodrow Wilson (No. 1). In Glenn Beck’s Common Sense Beck writes, “With a few notable exceptions, our political leaders have become nothing more than parasites who feed off our sweat and blood.” [...]

Read and watch enough Glenn Beck, and you realize that he is not only introducing new authors and ideas into public life, he is reintroducing old ideas. Some very old ideas. The notion that America’s leaders are indistinguishable from America’s enemies has a long and sorry history. In the 1950s it led Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society, to proclaim that President Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer. For this, William F. Buckley Jr. famously denounced Welch and severed the Birchers’ ties to mainstream conservatism. The group was ostracized for decades.

But not everyone denounced Welch. One author, the Mormon autodidact W. Cleon Skousen, continued to support the Birchers as he penned books on politics and the American founding. And Skousen continued to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that American political, social, and economic elites were working with the Communists to foist a world government on the United States.

Glenn Beck is a Skousenite. During the “We Surround Them” program, he urged his audience to read Skousen’s 5000 Year Leap (1981), for which he has written a foreword, and The Real George Washington (1991). “The 5000 Year Leap is essential to understanding why our Founders built this Republic the way they did,” the author writes in Glenn Beck’s Common Sense. More controversially, Beck has recommended Skousen’s Naked Communist (1958) and Naked Capitalist (1970), which lay out the writer’s paranoid scenarios in detail. The latter book, for example, draws on Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope (1966), which argues that the history of the 20th century is the product of secret societies in conflict. “Carroll Quigley laid open the plan in Tragedy and Hope,” says a character in Beck’s new novel, The Overton Window. “The only hope to avoid the tragedy of war was to bind together the economies of the world to foster global stability and peace.”

For Beck, conspiracy theories are not aberrations. They are central to his worldview. They are the natural consequence of assuming that the world hangs by a thread, and that everyone is out to get you. On his television program, Beck promised to “find out what’s true and what’s not with the FEMA concentration camps”—referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a federal bureaucracy that chiefly funnels relief funds to victims of natural disasters, and is more commonly (and accurately) thought of as punchless. Beck later acknowledged that his staff could not find any evidence for such camps.

Beck has urged his viewers to read The Coming Insurrection, an impenetrable political tract by a French Marxist group called The Invisible Committee that has no clear relationship to U.S. politics (or to reality). In Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, the author writes that “efforts are now also being made to empower the State to retain, test, and research the blood and DNA of newborn babies.” The plot of The Overton Window is one big conspiracy theory in which the United States government, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and the Trilateral Commission are all plotting an antidemocratic coup. It is a fever-dream that Oliver Stone would envy. “Who needs a list when they can monitor you whenever they want?” says one of the book’s characters at a fictional Tea Party rally. “You’ve all heard of that ‘Digital Angel’ device that can be implanted under your skin, right? They say it’s to store medical information and for the safety of children and Alzheimer’s patients.” Scary stuff. But also fantastical. In an author’s note, Beck says his novel is not fiction but “faction”—“completely fictional books with plots rooted in fact.” Which “facts” are those?

Conspiracism is only one reason Beck’s populism is self-limiting. Another is that its attitude toward government is radically adversarial. The American electorate may have turned against Obama liberalism, but it has no appetite for ending the New Deal, much less the FDA. Nor is it true that both parties are equally corrupted by the progressive “cancer.” There always has been a wing of the Republican party hostile to progressivism, stretching back to William Howard Taft’s nomination over Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.

Nor is it as easy to distinguish the “State” from the people, as Beck might imagine. Americans do not live in Russia or Germany or China. Socialism and communism never were mass movements in our politics. Our constitutional machinery and democratic ethos continue to operate as checks on state power. For evidence, look no further than the Tea Party.

....if the Right even understood that there is a choice between Goldwater and Reagan and that the former was not an echo of the latter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Expectation mounts as Argentina take on Mexico (Sam Kelly, 6/26/10, When Saturday Comes)

Having thought before the tournament of playing four centre backs across the defence in a bid to provide stability, Maradona used Jonás Gutiérrez – a left midfielder at Newcastle United – as a right-back in the first two group games. When I was a small child I once tried to get my cat to sit, stay, walk to heel and so on, with predictably poor results. For all I know, I might be a superb dog trainer. Diego Maradona, equally, might be an undiscovered expert in defensive coaching – but Jonás simply isn't a defender. Nicolás Otamendi is, though, so the young Vélez Sarsfield centre-back (who will probably be sold to AC Milan after the World Cup) who played at right-back against Greece in the last group game, will keep his place.

The more bizarre choice on Maradona's part will probably be the dropping of Seba Verón – who completed only one pass fewer than the entire Greek team put together on Tuesday – for Ángel di María, who played very poorly in the first game against Nigeria and fairly unremarkably in the second against South Korea. The added pace this will bring to the midfield will be welcome against a Mexican side who are better marshalled than Argentina's group stage opponents, but Verón's guile could well be called on later in the game.

The whole country, though, is still waiting with bated breath for Lionel Messi's first goal of this World Cup.

...but there's nothing crazy about interchanging players, especially at non-premium positions.

Mexico looking for respect -- and revenge -- as Argentina looms: In the run-up to Sunday's World Cup game, the focus has been on unbeaten Argentina and its star, Lionel Messi. But Mexico wants to prove that it's not just a soccer also-ran, and to avenge its 2006 loss to the Argentines. (Kevin Baxter, June 27, 2010, LA Times)

"It's Argentina. So what?" Rafael Marquez said in Spanish. "We can beat them."

For Marquez, this match is personal. The 31-year-old defender, playing in his third World Cup, saw the last one end in a second-round loss to Argentina in extra time. Four years later he still hasn't gotten over it.

"I have a thorn in my side from [that]," said Marquez, one of eight members of this year's Mexican team who also played in the 2006 World Cup. "I'm going through one of the best moments of my soccer life and my professional life. And I want to enjoy it.

"This is going to be my last World Cup and we have to take advantage of this game. We're just a step away from history."

That's because a victory would send Mexico on to the quarterfinals for just the third time – and for the first time since current coach Javier Aguirre played for the national team.

"It's an opportunity to change the history, to transcend it and go forward," said goalkeeper Oscar Perez who, at 37, is playing in his last World Cup as well. "Javier has given us the tools to win and we're going to try to carry it out."

Doing that, however, is likely to require a delicate balancing act. Under Aguirre, Mexico has played a dynamic game in which its midfielders and most of its defenders push forward on the offensive end. That has left it open to counterattacks, though, and with Messi leading a speedy front line that also features Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain, Mexico could find itself playing right into Argentina's hands.

Which is why Argentine midfielder Maxi Rodriguez, who scored the winning goal against Mexico in 2006, believes Aguirre will change styles Sunday. The Mexicans, meanwhile, say it's just a matter of being careful.

"We intend to take good care of the ball. And when we don't have it we have to try to get it back as soon as possible," midfielder Gerardo Torrado said.

They'll have to try to score, too, something Mexico has had trouble doing despite its aggressive style. El Tri has just three goals in this World Cup, one of which came on a penalty kick. And with Arsenal striker Carlos Vela slowed with a hamstring problem, the Mexican attack could be hamstrung even further.

June 26, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


There is no ‘good’ communist (Jeff Jacoby, June 23, 2010, Boston Globe)

IF JOSÉ Saramago, the Portuguese writer who died on Friday at 87, had been an unrepentant Nazi for the last four decades, he would never have won international acclaim or received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. Leading publishers would never have brought out his books, his works would not have been translated into more than 20 languages, and the head of Portugal’s government would never have said on his death — as Prime Minister José Sócrates did say last week — that he was “one of our great cultural figures and his disappearance has left our culture poorer.’’

But Saramago wasn’t a Nazi, he was a communist. And not just a nominal communist, as his obituaries pointed out, but an “unabashed’’ (Washington Post), “unflinching’’ (AP), “unfaltering’’ (New York Times) true believer. A member since 1969 of Portugal’s hardline Communist Party, Saramago called himself a “hormonal communist’’ who in all the years since had “found nothing better.’’ Yet far from rendering him a pariah, Saramago’s communist loyalties have been treated as little more than a roguish idiosyncrasy. Without a hint of irony, AP’s obituary quoted a comment Saramago made in 1998: “People used to say about me, ‘He’s good but he’s a communist.’ Now they say, ‘He’s a communist but he’s good.’ ’’

But the idea that good people can be devoted communists is grotesque. The two categories are mutually exclusive. There was a time, perhaps, when dedication to communism could be absolved as misplaced idealism or naiveté, but that day is long past. After Auschwitz and Babi Yar, only a moral cripple could be a committed Nazi. By the same token, there are no good and decent communists — not after the Gulag Archipelago and the Cambodian killing fields and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.’’ Not after the testimonies of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Armando Valladares and Dith Pran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Asamoah Gyan strike puts Ghana in the last eight: USA 1-2 Ghana (aet) (Paul Wilson, 6/26/10, guardian.co.uk)

The USA almost scored at the start of the second half, only to be foiled by Kingson's best save yet. A Donovan cross from the right had John Mensah in trouble, and though Jozy Altidore could not shoot himself he moved the ball on to Benny Feilhaber, only for the goalkeeper to leave his line quickly and decisively to smother the shot.

Boateng turned Donovan after a good Ghanaian move and put his shot over the bar, before the oddly quiet Asamoah Gyan sent a long shot wide, and the Africans had cause to regret their inability to put the game to bed when the USA equalised just past the hour. They could also regret some sloppy defending too. Dempsey appeared to be blocked by John Mensah but he cheekily nutmegged the centre-back and made his way into the penalty area, obliging Jonathan Mensah to come across with a poorly timed cover tackle. Donovan stroked the penalty in off a post, Jonathan Mensah collected a booking that will put him out of the quarter-final.

By the final quarter the Americans seemed to have Ghana's measure. For most of the second half, the USA employed the patient, probing style that served them so well in their last game. They were enjoying the best chances as normal time began to run out and looked the side most likely to see out extra time without mishap, yet in almost a repeat of the opening strike, they were hit early by a Ghana goal of surprising force. If Bocanegra thought he could muscle Gyan out of the way when a high ball came down, he was mistaken. Gyan stayed on his feet and accelerated away, giving Howard a feeling of deja vu as he beat him in a manner similar to Boateng's earlier strike.

That bit about seeing time out without a mishap was the problem. Our best defense is our attack and we should have just gone for the win in regulation. Jozy was taken down with what should have been a penalty kick and hung yellows on two other guys within a few minutes in the 2nd half. But once he was taken out and there was no Gooch the corners in extra time were aimless in the absence of their inviting targets. As for Bocanegra and Demerit, the less said the better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


World Cup: In U.S.-Ghana match, the past and the future will play roles: For the Americans, it's a chance to put 2006's knockout loss behind them and to 'do something very special.' (Grahame L. Jones, June 25, 2010, LA Times)

On Saturday night in Rustenburg, the teams square off again, this time in the knockout stage -- it's win or go home -- with a place in the quarterfinals on the line. First, however, the ghosts of 2006 have to be banished.

The ill-tempered game in Nuremburg was decided in 10 frantic minutes at the end of the first half.

Ghana had taken the lead midway through the half. The U.S. lost captain and playmaker Claudio Reyna to injury five minutes before the half ended but still managed to tie the score on Dempsey's goal off a Beasley cross three minutes later.

Two minutes into injury time at the end of the half, Onyewu and Ghana forward Razak Pimpong clashed over the ball, German referee Markus Merk ruled that Onyewu had committed a foul and Ghana scored the game-winner on the resulting penalty kick.

The controversial penalty is still a sore point with the U.S., and Donovan, for one, can't shake the memory.

"That was not a good day, for me or for the team," he said. "What I remember most personally is my tentativeness and the immediate feeling afterwards of the finality of it and how disappointing that was."

Michael Essien was a towering figure on Ghana's 2006 team but is missing this World Cup due to injury. Even so, Donovan said the Black Stars present a formidable challenge.

"I've been impressed with them," he said. "I thought they would struggle a little bit without Essien, but I think they've looked very good and they're going to be very difficult to play against. Like a lot of African teams, they're fairly unpredictable sometimes, so that could be a plus or a minus."

With the Ivory Coast having been eliminated on Friday, Ghana is Africa's last standard-bearer in the tournament, something that is likely to swing neutral fans in the Black Stars' direction.

...not only is our group one we should come out of but this game in particular should be easy.

Ghana is supposed to be a rising squad thanks to the talent coming in from their youth team, but for now they're just inexperienced, not especially well-organized, and have no offense (both their goals--they scored only two--came on penalty kicks.)

Hopefully they're reading their own press and think they can out-muscle us and score, because we'll annihilate them on the counter attack and Jozy Altidore will foul two of their defenders out of the game by himself (the number of cards he's drawn on defenders in the tournament so far is the most under-reported story going.)

Look for a 3-0 final--the same score by which we beat the best African side (Egypt) on South African soil in the Confederations Cup last year--with Ghana down to 9 men by the end.


Indeed, this match-up is easy enough that if the medical staff believes Gooch Onyewu can recover fully over the next two weeks then he should start and play himself into game shape. However, if that timetable is unrealistic then Carlos Bocanegra, who did a much better job of staying with his defensive partner, Jay DeMerit, should obviously get the nod.

Maurice Edu was rather unimpressive in his start against Algeria and as Michael Bradley assumes more of an offensive role it's comforting to have the defense-minded Ricardo Clark paired with him.

And it's long past time to acknowledge that Clint Dempsey is a completely different--and better--player when you push him forward. Just pair him with Jozy, bring Benny Feilhaber into the midfield, and save Herculez Gomez for a shot of energy in the 2nd half. Hopefully Bradley and Feilhaber can not only provide service to the front two but find Landon Donovan more consistently so that he doesn't disappear as he had for nearly the entire 2nd half against Algeria.

How Good Is Michael Bradley? The Stats Say Very Good (JEFF Z. KLEIN, 6/25/10, NY Times)

Even though most soccer commentators and fans pay little attention to stats, they are there, as Tom Dunmore of the Pitch Invasion blog outlines here, and no less a personage than Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger says he relies heavily on statistical data.

That said, FIFA’s own stats for this World Cup show that Bradley is an unstoppable midfield machine.

That sense you have that Bradley is everywhere, all the time? He has run 35.56 kilometers in the Americans’ three group-stage games, or just more than 22 miles; only three players at the tournament have covered more distance (Gerardo Torrado of Mexico at 35.86, Sami Khedira of Germany at 35.87 and An Yong-hak of North Korea at 36.22).

That impression you have that Bradley is always pushing forward when the Americans are attacking? He’s 12th in the tournament in distance covered while his team is in possession (13.52 kilometers) — more, for example, than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

That feeling you’ve got that Bradley is always a threat to win the ball? He’s tied for second in the tournament at tackles made to gain possession (four), and tied for fourth at “recovered balls” (six).

He and Jozy Altidore had the best games of their careers against Algeria. If they're coming into their own we are a contender for the Cup. But Bradley got a lot of help from how far off him the Algerians played.

[One of the strange things to watch was how often he worked give-and-go's with teammates who didn't get the ball back to him. He plays in the German league where they love that play but he'll have to teach it to the other Americans.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


The Price of Secrecy: Billions (Siobhan Gorman, 6/25/10, Washington Post)

Secrecy, it turns out, isn’t cheap. The government and industry spent nearly $10 billion last year to keep government secrets secret, according to the Information Security Oversight Office.

The $9.93 billion total was a modest increase over the $9.85 billion spent in 2008. Not surprisingly, there’s been a sharp increase in spending on classifying information since 2001, when the total was $5.48 billion.

Nearly half of the 2009 costs went to securing the computer networks that store classified information. The cost of physically securing sensitive information, managing the data, and paying people to handle it each cost more than $1 billion.

...but the waste of information. The fewer eyeballs you have on the data the less likely you are to utilize it well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


World Cup: U.S. Coach Bob Bradley is a steely leader: He has won over the team's players with his knowledge and game preparation, even if he hasn't been a public relations marvel. (Grahame L. Jones, June 25, 2010, LA Times)

There are no rumblings of discontent among the players and U.S. Soccer seems more than pleased with what the gaunt, shaven-headed and icy-eyed man from Montclair, N.J., has achieved.

His players, perhaps doubters at first, are now among his staunchest allies.

"Bob has a very distinct way of doing things and some people like it and some don't," Landon Donovan said the other day at the U.S. base camp.

"I think it's taken a long time for a lot of us to wrap our heads around what exactly Bob wanted from us, and now we all understand why he put us through some of the things he put us through and why he challenged us the way he did.

"He could see the big picture from the beginning, while a lot of us were shortsighted."

Instilling self-belief in his players and belief in the system has been crucial to Bradley's success.

So, too, has been his willingness to study the sport in depth. Very few Americans watch as much soccer as Bradley does. He intently studies the game at the highest level, and knows the quirks and foibles of the leading characters, whether players or coaches.

"I think he's right up there with the best coaches in terms of tactics," U.S. forward Jozy Altidore said. "I haven't been in a game where I haven't been well-prepared going into it. He analyzes the opponent really well, the key players, what they do, their tendencies. I think he does a great job in that respect."

...he needs to do two big things: first, watch other sports--basketball, football, and hockey--to see how they utilize space; and, two, watch soccer games with the best coaches from those other sports--Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Norm Chow, Monte Kiffen, Tex Winter, Pete Carrill, Jacques Lemaire--so they can show him how to analyze the field, strategy and tactics free of the clutter of soccer's stultified traditional methods.

There's no fluff with Bob Bradley (Wayne Drehs, 7/09/10, ESPN.com)

Ask him something probing about himself and Bradley won't ramble that he is too competitive or intense. Instead, silence fills the room. Thirty seconds. A minute. Ninety seconds. Two minutes.


"Growing up," he says, "things ... "

He stops. Twenty-eight more seconds go by.

"Umm," he continues. "Probably that I could ... "

He stops again.

He is this way with everything in life. Every movement, action, decision -- it is all scripted, all with a purpose. With Bradley, there is no fluff. His personality mirrors his chiseled face. There are no extra chins, no puffy cheeks. The veins bulging on the side of his temples carry blood to and from the brain. The piercing blue eyes recessed in his head slice through any and all incoming B.S. And every single neuron that fires does so with one purpose: To simply be the best. At everything.

He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink and doesn't put unhealthy food in his 52-year-old body. His handshake is firm, his stare ultra-serious. He refers to his brutally honest one-on-one meetings with players not as face-to-face but rather man-to-man. Intense, focused, driven. Yes. All of it. It's as if he graduated from West Point.

"He strikes people like a force of nature," says Princeton religion professor Jeffrey Stout, who met Bradley at the Ivy League school more than three decades ago. "There are other people who care about the truth, who are intense, who understand what it means to be a man and build a team. There are other people who care about their players and their families and the communities in which they live.

"But I can't think of anybody who cares as relentlessly and passionately as he does. There just aren't many people like him."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


What the unions hate (NY Post, June 26, 2010)

State test scores this week showed 100 percent of eighth-graders in the Harlem Village Academies achieved proficiency in science and social studies.

By contrast, in Harlem's traditional public schools, only 35 percent of eighth-graders made the grade in science, and 22 percent in social studies.

This continues a trend: New York charters -- public schools that operate free of union work rules and bureaucratic mandates -- are wildly outperforming their traditional counterparts in student test scores, graduation rates, college acceptances and other measures.

Not every charter in New York produces results on a par with the Harlem Village Academies.

But most are giving kids what too few traditional public schools are providing -- a real chance at an academic future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


Out of line: An insubordinate general. A soccer mutiny. Why hierarchy matters, even in an egalitarian world. (Drake Bennett, June 27, 2010, Boston Globe)

The two events were not, of course, equal in global import. One was a drama on a sports team, the other may alter the course of a war. But both caught the attention of the world as they unfolded. And for all the distinctive political and cultural strands that each separately touched on, they both triggered an immediate and visceral sense that certain widely understood rules of appropriate behavior had been violated. Notably, in all of the commentary that swirled up around the two scandals, it was virtually impossible to find voices rooting for the rebellious underdogs, for the “runaway general” or the soccer players who turned on their coach.

What was at stake in each was a very basic idea: deference to the social hierarchy. Where people stand on the social ladder is a fact that governs all sorts of daily interactions, as well as how we build organizations, police one another’s behavior, and understand our own identity. It’s also something that social scientists are taking an increasing interest in. Talk of hierarchy or social rank may sound antiquated, especially in countries like America and France that each had its own revolution two centuries ago to overthrow an aristocratic political and social order. If all men are created equal, then thinking and talking about rank seems pernicious, a recipe for inflated egos on the one hand or crippled self-esteem on the other.

But psychologists who study status and power in social settings — and a growing number are — have found that human beings, in surprising ways, actually seem to thrive on a sense of social hierarchy, and rely on it. In certain settings, having a clear hierarchy makes us more comfortable, more productive, and happier, even when our own place in it is an inferior one. In one intriguing finding, NBA basketball teams on which large salary differentials separate the stars from the utility players actually play better and more selflessly than their more egalitarian rivals.

“Status is such an important regulating force on people’s behavior, hierarchy solves so many problems of conflict and coordination in groups,” says Adam Galinsky, a psychologist at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who did the research on social hierarchies on basketball teams. “In order to perform effectively, you often need to have some pattern of deference.”

We in the Anglosphere correctly understand that God created all men as moral equals, while the continent has moved from disaster to disaster trying to force material equality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


For United States, Mission Accomplished; Now What? (JEFFREY MARCUS, 6/26/10, NY Times)

[T]he Americans are emboldened by their success, and spirited by the support they have here and at home. They players are confident that, in a single elimination tournament, they can beat any team in the world on any given day. Saturday against Ghana, the Americans’ motivation isn’t respectability it’s posterity.

“It’s not a failure if we don’t win Saturday,” Landon Donovan said. “But there is such a massive opportunity to do something so much more special.”

Last summer, after the United States defeated Spain the Confederations Cup semifinal, some called it the most important victory in the team’s history. After the win over Algeria, Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, said a new benchmark had been set.

Of course, it would be a failure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


The Unengaged President: Obama’s lack of interest in the world is evident in his handling of the oil spill and the Afghan War. (Mark Steyn, 6/25/10, National Review)

Stanley McChrystal is a liberal who voted for Obama and banned Fox News from his HQ TV. Which may at least partly explain how he became the first U.S. general to be lost in combat while giving an interview to Rolling Stone: They’ll be studying that one in war colleges around the world for decades. The executives of BP were unable to vote for Obama, being, as we now know, the most sinister duplicitous bunch of shifty Brits to pitch up offshore since the War of 1812. But, in their “Beyond Petroleum” marketing and beyond, they signed on to every modish nostrum of the eco-Left. Their recently retired chairman, Lord Browne, was one of the most prominent promoters of cap-and-trade. BP was the Democrats’ favorite oil company. They were to Obama what Total Fina Elf was to Saddam.

But what do McChrystal’s and BP’s defenestration tell us about the president of the United States? Barack Obama is a thin-skinned man and, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, White House aides indicated that what angered the president most about the Rolling Stone piece was “a McChrystal aide saying that McChrystal had thought that Obama was not engaged when they first met last year.” If finding Obama “not engaged” is now a firing offense, who among us is safe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 AM


Taliban leader killed in women's clothes (AFP, June 26, 2010)

A SENIOR Taliban commander disguised in women's clothes was killed by Afghan and international forces when he fired on troops trying to catch him south of Kabul.

NATO and Afghan security forces cornered Ghulam Sakhi at a compound in Logar province's Puli Alam district, and called for women and children to leave the building, a coalition statement said.

"As they were exiting, Sakhi came out with the group disguised in women's attire and pulled out a pistol and a grenade and shot at the security force," the statement by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 AM


U.S. soccer battles Ghana in city where World Cup journey began (Steven Goff, 6/26/10, Washington Post)

The U.S.-Ghana survivor will face Uruguay or South Korea in a quarterfinal next Friday at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.

At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Ghana's Black Stars prevented the United States from advancing to the round of 16 with a 2-1 victory in the group finale.

"You certainly have moments when you think we are capable, if we continue to build on the successes so far, we can go to the end," Bradley said.

The Americans' best finish in the modern era was eight years ago, when they reached the quarterfinals before losing to Germany, 1-0. Entering this year's tournament, they were considered the second-best team in the group (behind England) but hardly a threat to make a deep run.

Along the way, however, they have earned credibility for an unshakable spirit and ability to generate goals in the closing moments.

"During the last half-hour [of matches], they really increase the rhythm, the tempo and the speed," Ghana Coach Milovan Rajevac said. "Until the final whistle, you never know how to deal with America."

In the process, the U.S. team might have finally begun to change the perception that it is strictly a blue-collar bunch.

"We have shown in these games the ability to move the ball quickly, intelligently," Bradley said. "We have some individual players who have made the kind of special plays that you need to go far in a tournament or win championships.

"We've never, in any way, believed that all you need to do is put on your work clothes. We do think it is important to have the ability to work hard and also be smart, disciplined, creative in the right moment. We are a team that tries to put all those things together."

The ITV and Match of the Day analysts have been particularly impressed by both the character the team has shown and the nearly unique willingness to chase a win in that 3rd game. Too many other teams just play to not lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Dominated to death in a 'dungeon': Body of motor racing boss found after session with S&M torturer (Fay Schlesinger, 26th June 2010, Daily Mail)

A British motor racing chief died after a sadomasochistic sex session with a woman claiming to be 'Europe's most perverted dominatrix', police have said.

Robin Mortimer, 58, was found dead at the villa of the self-styled torturer Mistress Lucrezia in a hamlet in Belgium on Tuesday.

The married father of one had paid £600 to be 'punished' by two leather-clad women in a medieval-style 'dungeon', it was claimed.

June 25, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


Across From White House, Coffee With Lobbyists (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 6/24/10, NY Times)

Here at the Caribou on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few other nearby coffee shops, White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists — members of the same industry that President Obama has derided for what he calls its “outsized influence” in the capital.

On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control — and their impact on the lobbyists’ corporate clients.

But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors’ log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the “most transparent presidential administration in history.”

The off-site meetings, lobbyists say, reveal a disconnect between the Obama administration’s public rhetoric — with Mr. Obama himself frequently thrashing big industries’ “battalions” of lobbyists as enemies of reform — and the administration’s continuing, private dealings with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


The realism of seeking democracy in Iran (Leon Wieseltier, June 25, 2010, Washington Post)

In a false and heartless June 21 op-ed column, "The fantasy of an Iranian revolution," Fareed Zakaria demonstrated -- again -- that he is the consummate spokesman for the shibboleths of the White House and for the smooth new worldliness, the at-the-highest-levels impatience with democracy and human rights as central objectives of our foreign policy, that now characterize advanced liberal thinking about America's role in the world.

Zakaria expressed alarm that an excessive American concern for the resistance in Iran will lead us to war. He said he has found proof of such danger in "The Iranian Resistance and Us," a piece by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that was published on the Web site of (we are so bad!) the New Republic this month. Zakaria said the article proves that as president McCain "would have tried to overthrow the government of Iran" because of his desire to "unleash America's full moral power" against the regime. This is outrageous. McCain's piece called on the United States "to support Iran's people in changing the character of their government -- peacefully, politically, on their own terms, in their own ways." Is even this a liberal heresy? McCain did call for targeted sanctions, ferocious sanctions, against Iran's human rights abusers. Is ferocity against even such villains too much to ask, too lacking in empathy and engagement? Who, precisely, is planning Operation Iranian Freedom? It is the paradoxical failure of Zakaria's imagination that he conflates moral power with military power, democratization with shock and awe. He is yet another liberal whose worldview seems forever fixed by George W. Bush.

....but that W was just exercising that power. The Left and Right are isolationist, so they have to deny even the existence of that morality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Weigel and the Post (Ben Smith, 6/25/10, Politico)

The current flap over Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel has its roots in a fact that suprised me when I learned of it earlier this year: The Post appears to have hired Weigel, a liberal blogger, under the false impression that he's a conservative. The new controversy over the revelation that he's liberal is primarily the Post's fault, not his, except to the degree that he allowed the paper's brass to put him in an unsustainable position. [...]

There's a broader debate in journalism right now over whether reporters should strive for neutrality at all, or whether they should bring their own views and experiences into their writing. The Post's Klein, Weigel, and Greg Sargent (along with the fired Dan Froomkin) are the latter model, along with those at newer outlets from TPM to the Breitbart empire. Most of the rest of the Post's political reporters, and most of us at POLITICO, are the former. My personal view is that ideological and neutral journalism can flourish side by side, each going places the other is unwelcome, and each correcting for the other's weaknesses. (And neutral reporters don't have to be allergic to ideology: I'm on Journolist, Klein's off-record listserv; I also get in on private conservative conversations when they'll have me.)

But there's no sign the Post really thought this through. Even as old-timers rankled at the new hires, the paper -- scrambling for relevance on the Internet -- seems not to have considered what the buzzy personnel moves would mean for the paper's longstanding principles of detachment and neutrality in reporting.

One thing nobody argues is that publications should misrepresent and misidentify their own reporters. The Post set Weigel up for a fall, and themselves for embarrassment, and that's what they got today.

...but we actually don't think there's room in any form of journalistic forum for employees who wish harm to or death upon their political rivals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM

INAPPROPRIATE FRIDAY (some listeners may take offense, all will have trouble ridding their head of the tune...):

Her new one made NPR's Best Summer tunes:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


World Cup brings Mexican flags back to streets of Los Angeles: After years of relative political banishment, the red, white and green flags are flying in a display of cultural pride. Some find their symbolism less inflammatory in the context of sports, not politics. (Hector Becerra, 6/24/10, Los Angeles Times)

Concerned that the Mexican flag carried the wrong message, Mexican American political leaders and other activists launched a largely successful effort to have people at public events, particularly protest marches, wave the American flag, believing it to be a better symbol for their case.

But with the World Cup in full swing, Haro proudly has affixed his Mexican flag to his Toyota RAV4 and cheered for the team of his parents. The American flag is fine for politics, he said, but this is soccer.

"My allegiance is to America, no doubt about it, and I'd think I wouldn't have to prove it," said Haro, a 25-year-old utility worker. "But when I wave the Mexican flag for soccer, it's strictly cultural. It's showing I'm proud of my Mexican background."

After years of being downplayed at large political rallies that regularly punctuated the L.A. landscape, the World Cup has given the Mexican flag some of its big event presence back.

The red, white and green banners hang from cars on the freeway, wave inside countless bars and eateries during games and are even held proudly by cyclists riding through downtown L.A.

With the Mexican team having survived preliminary rounds and scheduled to play Sunday against Argentina in the Round of 16, fan loyalty — and flags — are likely to be at a highly visible peak.

A Mexico vs. US final might be the highest rated television program in human history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 AM


U.S. – Algeria: ESPN’s Highest-Rated and Most-Watched Soccer Telecast (Bill Gorman, 6/24/10, TV by the Numbers)

The game ranked as the highest-rated program of the day on any network among M18-34 and M18-49. [...]

U.S. – Algeria Sets Records for ESPN Digital Platforms

ESPN3.com – The U.S. vs. Algeria game marked a milestone for online video, logging the largest U.S. audience ever for a sports event on the web. It attracted nearly 1.1 million unique viewers with an average time spent viewing of 43 minutes. The match also averaged 328,000 viewers per minute in its live coverage. When combined with the concurrent England vs. Slovenia match, ESPN3.com reached its peak point of viewing at around 11:30 a.m. ET when 513,000 viewers were watching each minute.

For the four World Cup matches on June 23, ESPN3.com captured 1.4 million viewers who watched for 84 million total minutes. Through 14 days of World Cup coverage (June 10-23), five million viewers have watched the World Cup on ESPN3.com and consumed more than 9.2 million total hours.

ESPN.com & ESPNSoccernet.com – ESPNsoccernet.com set an all-time record Wednesday with more visits than any day in its history. On June 23, ESPN.com World Cup content generated 8.8 million visits and 33.3 million page views. To date, the site has had 68.7 million visits and 239.3 million page views of World Cup coverage.

Additionally, GameCast for the U.S. vs. Algeria match reached one million visitors who spent 10.1 million total minutes watching the match. ESPN.com also logged a record day of delivering live scoring updates to fans. The site peaked at 1.7 million concurrent users, beating its previous record by 42 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 AM


Are the Tories set to ditch their immigration cap?: Coalition announces review of unworkable immigration policy (George Eaton, 25 June 2010, New Statesman)

It looks the Tories may finally have realised that their plan to impose a cap on immigration from outside the EU is neither desirable nor workable.

Today's Financial Times reports that the policy is under review amid new evidence that it will damage the British economy and an incipient cabinet revolt.

George Osborne's new budgetary watchdog, the Office for Budget Reponsibility (OBR), recently cut its forecast for "trend growth" from 2.75 per cent to 2 per cent from 2014 onwards, primarily because it fears Britain's labour force will not be large enough to sustain it. The conclusion was clear: we need more babies or more immigrants.

Likewise, the next president will run on getting tough on immigration then pass amnesty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 AM


Sixty Years in Dodgers’ Booth, and Scully Is Still in Awe (TYLER KEPNER, 6/25/10, NY Times)

The Yankees won the World Series in 1936, when Vin Scully became a baseball fan. Yet Scully, born in the Bronx, did not root for the winning team. He felt sorry for the losers.

“What happened was, I was 9 years old, and I was walking home from my grammar school in Washington Heights, and there was a Chinese laundry,” Scully recalled this week, in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth before a game.

“And the Chinese laundryman had the line score on a piece of paper on the window of the laundry. I don’t know what number game it was, but the Yankees beat the Giants and they scored in double figures. I mean, they just crushed them. And here is this 9-year-old, knowing nothing, and visibly, I can see it, I stopped and looked at the line score and my first thought was, ‘Oh, those poor Giants.’ And that’s why I became a Giant fan.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


Europe budget cutters outpace U.S. (Patrice Hill, 6/24/10, Washington Times)

U.S. political leaders like to talk about cutting budget deficits even while they are adding to them.

But European leaders from Britain to Greece, under the gun of a withering financial crisis, are actually proposing and carrying out drastic and unprecedented cuts in everything from hallowed state pension programs to green-energy projects, provoking the kind of public backlash that inspires fear in U.S. politicians.

The sharp contrast between talk and action on the two sides of the Atlantic has become a source of growing friction as world leaders meet in Canada to hash out plans for dealing with the economic problems left in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


Against Well-designed Reputation Systems (An Argument for Community Patent) (Clay Shirky , 1/29/07, Many 2 Many)

As David Weinberger noted in his talk The Unspoken of Groups, clarity is violence in social settings. You don’t get 1789 without living through 1788; successful constitutions, which necessarily create clarity, are typically ratified only after a group has come to a degree of informal cohesion, and is thus able to absorb some of the violence of clarity, in order to get its benefits. The desire to participate in a system that constrains freedom of action in support of group goals typically requires that the participants have at least seen, and possibly lived through, the difficulties of unfettered systems, while at the same time building up their sense of membership or shared goals in the group as a whole. Otherwise, adoption of a system whose goal is precisely to constrain its participants can seem too onerous to be worthwhile. (Again, contrast the US Constitution with the Articles of Confederation.)

Or, as Jefferson put it in the Kentucky Resolutions:
In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

June 24, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Pakistan Is Said to Pursue a Foothold in Afghanistan (Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Carlotta Gall, 6/24/10, NY Times)

Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power sharing arrangement.

In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.

Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. In a sign of the shift in momentum, the two Pakistani officials were next scheduled to visit Kabul on Monday, according to Afghan TV.

Despite General McChrystal’s 11 visits to General Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making the Pakistani moves even more worrisome for the United States, said an American official involved in the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan deliberations.

“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the American official said.

Though encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that the United States will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington’s prime objective in the war — denying Al Qaeda a haven.

It also provides another indication of how Pakistan, ostensibly an American ally, has worked many opposing sides in the war to safeguard its ultimate interest in having an Afghanistan that is pliable and free of the influence of its main strategic obsession, its more powerful neighbor, India.

The Haqqani network has long been Pakistan’s crucial anti-India asset and has remained virtually untouched by Pakistani forces in their redoubt inside Pakistan, in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, even as the Americans have pressed Pakistan for an offensive against it.

Darn journalists, they never stay in the bag.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


John F. Kennedy's Political Legacy: A look back at the first Catholic U.S. president's 1960 campaign, and his speech in Houston that opened a door to politicians who find it advantageous to ignore Church teaching (Russell Shaw, 7/04/10, Our Sunday Visitor)

A key architect of that remarkable performance was a journalist named John Cogley. At the time an editor of the Catholic magazine Commonweal, Cogley later became a religion writer for The New York Times and covered the Second Vatican Council. Eventually, he left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal Church.

The address he crafted for Kennedy skillfully raised and rejected a series of straw men, as when Kennedy declared his belief in an America “where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source.” The situation described was hardly likely to arise in any case, and the way of describing it suggested, without quite saying, that Church teaching is only “instructions.”

Even more important for the future, the candidate repeatedly returned to the idea that religion is a private matter with no bearing upon the decisions of public officials.

“I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair … and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation,” Kennedy said. Personal convictions would be his guide, and “whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”

Some listeners reacted uneasily to the suggestion that national interest, not morality, should govern presidential decision-making. Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, the prominent American theologian of church and state whose views were influential at Vatican II, declared the candidate’s radical privatizing of religion to be “idiocy.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Stem Cells Shown to Restore Sight To Eyes Damaged By Burns (Laurie J. Schmidt, 06.24.2010, Popular Science)

A long-term study by Italian researchers shows that stem cells can help restore vision in eyes that have been blinded by burns. Moreover, the restored vision remained stable over 10 years.

Patients whose eyes have suffered heat or chemical burns typically experience severe damage to the cornea -- the thin, transparent front of the eye that refracts light and contributes most of the eye's focusing ability. The Italian technique uses stem cells taken from the limbus, the border between the cornea and the white of the eye, to cultivate a graft of healthy cells in a lab.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Stock Exchange Halts For American Soccer Team (Darren Rovell, 6/24/10, CNBC)

Volume at the New York Stock Exchange at 11:30 a.m. ET, as the US-Algeria game was in its 72nd minute — tied at 0-0 — was at 347.6 million shares, 32 percent lower that its 10-day moving average at this hour.

Trading didn’t seriously pick up again until after Landon Donovan scored his goal in stoppage time at approximately 11:49 a.m. ET.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


Harry Reid’s son Rory omits last name from campaign website, advertisement (Daily Caller, 6/24/10)

Rory Reid, the son of Senate majority leader Harry Reid, has been careful to distance himself from his unpopular father in his campaign to be Nevada’s next governor.

In his first campaign advertisement, he omits all mention of his last name and opts instead to encourage voters to support “Rory.”

The biography section of Rory’s website also does not mention that he is Reid’s son. The banner at the top of the site simply says “Rory 2010.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 AM


How McChrystal sabotaged counterinsurgency (Mark Benjamin, 6/23/10, Salon)

The counterinsurgency manual authored by Crane and Petraeus puts particular emphasis on coordinating closely with civilian entities, like the State Department. "Commanders must be familiar with other U.S. government organizations and aware of the capabilities they can provide ... Commanders and civilian leaders of U.S. government organizations should collaboratively plan and coordinate actions to avoid conflict or duplication of effort," it says. "There is no way for military leaders to assert command over all elements -- nor should they try to do so."

The Rolling Stone piece shows in excruciating detail how McChrystal ignored the strategy's emphasis on close collaboration with civilian colleagues. He and his coterie displayed open disdain for Vice President Joe Biden (Who?" McChrystal joked, while aides called him "Bite me"), U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke (McChrystal mocked his e-mail), National Security Advisor Jim Jones (aides called him a "clown"), and "some French minister" who represents one of the only countries in the world still willing to dedicate forces to the effort (an aide described McChrystal's meeting with the minister as "fucking gay").

"Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time period he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict," Michael Hastings summarized in his piece.

President Obama has now wasted a year with McChrystal spearheading the counterinsurgency effort while ignoring vital elements of the doctrine. That leaves McChrystal's replacement, David Petraeus, with only a year to maneuver before the United States begins removing troops from that country in July 2011.

Crane says he is relieved that Obama has picked Petraeus to take over in Afghanistan, though worried that he may only have a year to maneuver in an extremely difficult, complex situation. "He is the best. I would not put anything past that man," Crane said about Petraeus. "And unlike the nincompoops that seem to be around McChrystal, Petraeus has the best around him."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 AM


Volcker and Derivatives (WSJ, 6/23/10)

As early as today, House and Senate negotiators may agree on a Volcker Rule, limiting the risks big banks can take in trading for their own account, as well as a separate set of rules regulating the derivatives trades banks can do on behalf of clients. America doesn't need both.

A Volcker Rule won't be easy to implement but it makes policy sense: limit the opportunities for banks to speculate with federally insured deposits. Combined with high capital standards, this won't lead to perfect outcomes—we're talking about regulation, after all—but it would once again draw a risk-taking line that was crossed too often in 2008.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 AM

With walnuts, create different kind of pesto (Joe Gray, 6/23/10, Tribune Newspapers)

Adapted from "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy."

2 cups walnut halves or pieces, toasted

2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cups ricotta, preferably fresh, drained

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated grana padano or Parmesan, plus more for passing

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 pound fettuccine

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 Heat a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, put the walnuts and garlic in a food processor; pulse until the nuts are chopped into tiny bits (but don't grind them to a powder). Scrape the mixture into a large bowl; stir in the ricotta, oil, grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper to taste until blended.

2 Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, about 12 minutes; drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Drop pasta into the bowl with the pesto; dot pasta with dollops of the butter. Toss until pasta is coated with the pesto; if it is too thick, loosen it with a bit of the reserved pasta water as you toss.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 AM


Reduced overtime stymies Border Patrol (Jerry Seper, 6/23/10, Washington Times)

The U.S. Border Patrol has quietly reduced its current force of available agents along the U.S.-Mexico border by cutting the overtime hours they can work even as the Obama administration is asking Congress for hundreds of millions of dollars to hire 1,000 new agents, and Congress and the public are clamoring for beefed-up border security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 AM


In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That (CATHERINE RAMPELL, 6/23/10, NY Times)

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

But it’s not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 AM


USA vs. Algeria at World Cup: Landon Donovan's goal means Americans advance (Steven Goff, 6/24/10, Washington Post)

"There are times," U.S. Coach Bob Bradley admitted later, "that you just say maybe it's not our night."

Twelve seconds made it their night, 12 seconds to move the ball from one end of Loftus Versfeld Stadium to the other and provide one of the most extraordinary and dramatic endings in the national team's 94-year history. [...]

Wednesday's outcome added another gripping chapter to the 2010 U.S. story. In the opener, the Americans benefited from a goalkeeping blunder and used a courageous defensive effort in the second half to tie England, 1-1. Six days later against Slovenia, they erased a two-goal halftime deficit and had an apparent go-ahead goal in the 85th minute nullified by an unexplained foul call.

And against Algeria, after failing to capitalize on abundant opportunities and surviving a couple of scares, the Americans traversed the length of the field to score at the beginning of the four minutes added to regulation time (compensation for injuries and other delays).

Tim Howard saved Rafik Saifi's header and tossed an outlet pass to Donovan in stride at midfield. Donovan accelerated into the open field before touching the ball to Jozy Altidore on the right side of the penalty area.

Altidore drove a cross toward Clint Dempsey, who met the ball at almost the same time as charging goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi.

"I couldn't chip it over the keeper, so I just tried to hit it under him, hit it hard," Dempsey said.

M'Bolhi got in the way, deflecting the ball away from the net but into the path of Donovan, who coolly one-timed a low shot into the left corner, touching off a mass celebration in the corner and hysterical reaction among the thousands of U.S. supporters in the crowd.

"I didn't know if [Altidore] was going to play it across the goal or cut it back to me," said Donovan, the program's career scoring leader with 44 goals in 126 matches. "Once he played it in front of the goal, I kept my run going. When it popped off the goalie, I picked up [my pace] a little."

June 23, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Obama and the Woes of the Democrats: The president's low ratings mean he can't lift his party by campaigning. (KARL ROVE, 6/23/10, WSJ)

Though twice as many Republican Senate seats are being contested in November, state-by-state surveys show if the election were today, 49 Democrats and 43 Republicans are poised to win. Eight races are too close to call, but Republicans lead in five.

House races are historically much more difficult to predict. But the NPR survey found in the 30 Democrat seats considered most at risk, the GOP leads 48% to 39%. This nine-point margin points to Republican winning virtually all 30 seats. In the next tier of most vulnerable Democratic districts, Republicans lead 47% to 45%, meaning the GOP could take many of those 30 seats. By comparison, in the 10 Republican districts thought at risk, Republicans lead 53% to 37%. Republicans should hold virtually all of those.

It will take a net of 10 Senate and 40 House seats for the GOP to win control of the legislative branches. These are big numbers—but they are within reach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Prosecutor: Al Gore was focus of sex crime inquiry in Portland (Maxine Bernstein, 6/23/10, The Oregonian)

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office confirmed today that a woman who alleged unwanted sexual contact by Al Gore reported it to police in 2006, and the prosecutor’s office was briefed by the Portland Police Bureau in late 2006 and January 2007.

“We were told the woman was not willing to be interviewed by the Portland Police Bureau and did not want a criminal investigation to proceed,’’ Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said, in a prepared statement.

Today, as the National Enquirer reported that it had interviewed a Portland masseuse who complained of unwanted sexual contact by the former vice president at the Hotel Lucia on Oct. 24, 2006, the district attorney’s office was notified that the Portland Police Bureau had conducted a further investigation of the allegation in 2009.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


Gillard becomes first female PM (AAP, 6/24/10)

Julia Gillard has become Australia's first female Prime Minister after Kevin Rudd stood down as Labor Party leader.

"The next Labor prime minister and the first female prime minister of this country will be Julia Gillard," caucus returning officer Michael Forshaw told reporters after emerging from a party room meeting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Study: Devout are less stressed than non-believers (Leanne Larmondin, 6/23/10, Religion News Service)

The study found that those who were religious or claimed belief in God "showed low levels of distress-related neural activity" when they learned of their test errors, compared with nonbelievers.

By contrast, atheists demonstrated a "heightened neural response" and reacted more defensively when they learned of their errors, wrote the study's lead author, Michael Inzlicht, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

Inzlicht and co-author Alexa Tullett added, "Thinking about one's religion, consciously or otherwise, acts as a bulwark against defensive reactions to errors; it muffles the cortical alarm bell."

The authors note that many "varieties of belief" -- not just religion -- can produce a similar calming dynamic as long as it provides "meaning and structure" to one's life.

"If thinking about religion leads people to react to their errors with less distress and defensiveness ... in the long run, this effect may translate to religious people living their lives with greater equanimity than nonreligious people, being better able to cope with the pressures of living in a sometimes-hostile world."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Petraeus: Then and Now (Jonathan Karl, June 23, 2010, ABC News)

Back in September 2007, when moveon.org attacked General David Petraeus as “General Betray Us,” the Senate passed a resolution to express “full support” for Petraeus and to “strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.”

The resolution passed 72 to 25.

The list of “NO” votes reads like a who’s who of Democratic power players: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, the entire Democratic leadership of the Senate (Reid, Durbin, Schumer, Murray) and the current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (Levin).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


U.S. Beats Algeria by Peppering Goal (Carl Bialik, 6/23/10, WSJ)

The U.S. earned its 1-0 victory over Algeria on Wednesday before Landon Donovan’s goal in extra time, and not just because a goal was waved off in the first half on a highly questionable offsides call. The Americans had 10 shots on Algeria’s goal that weren’t waved off, compared to just four for Algeria — continuing a welcome trend for U.S. backers in which their team has ranked among the most active in the World Cup inputting shots on target. That marks a break from the U.S.’s disastrous 2006 World Cup, when it ranked last in shots on goal per game, according to FIFA.

The U.S.’s 10 shots tied for fifth-most of any team in the first 40 games of the tournament. Portugal had the most in a game, with 13 shots on goal, seven of them scores, against North Korea. The seven teams other than the U.S. to shoot on target 10 times or more in a game all scored at least twice, and averaged 3.3 goals per game.

...few decent central defenders, shaky goalies, and teams conceding the middle of the field so they can defend the back, why wouldn't you shoot more?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


El Salvador president under fire (Alex Renderos, 6/24/10, The Los Angeles Times)

When Mauricio Funes took office a year ago as El Salvador's first leftist president, he promised to "reinvent" the impoverished, polarized nation.

"The Salvadoran people asked for change, and change starts now," he proclaimed in his inaugural speech. His election was greeted with high expectations and celebration by many Salvadorans who had long felt disenfranchised.

A year later, Funes faces an avalanche of criticism, from opponents and supporters alike, over broken promises, corrupt management and a failure to halt rising violence that threatens to turn the nation into "a criminal state."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


US wins game, group _ and a whole lot of new fans (NANCY ARMOUR | Published: 06/23/10, AP)

[T]o become a major player in the U.S. sports scene, to generate the kind of interest the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball do, soccer needs some kind of watershed moment.

South Africa is it.

The wall-to-wall TV coverage on ABC and ESPN — unprecedented in the United States — helps. So, too, does having a team filled with friendly, likable, humble guys. (Note to France: This is how a national team should act, not that dribbling soap opera you sent to South Africa.) [...]

The Americans knew they had to win or they were going home, and they played with a scrappiness that is uniquely American. They banged balls off the posts and sent the Algerian goalkeeper diving to block shots. They hustled from end to end, taking shots and shutting down Algeria’s counterattacks. They even shed blood, with Clint Dempsey sporting a busted lip afterward.

But when 90 minutes were over, it was still tied at zero. Had the game ended like that, the Americans may as well have lost.

“We all believed we were going to win this game,” Jozy Altidore said. “No other result would have worked for us.”

Less than a minute into injury time, Howard made a spectacular save and fed the ball to Donovan. He sent a long pass from about midfield to Altidore, whose shot on the breakaway was tipped by Dempsey into Algerian goalkeeper Rais Bolihi. Donovan — who might have given Usain Bolt a run for his money with his full-throttle sprint to the front — got the rebound and tapped it in, setting off raucous celebrations.

Donovan belly-flopped into the corner, and his teammates quickly dogpiled on top of him. Chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” thundered through the stadium.

The reaction back home is even more telling, however. The fans who made the long, expensive trip to South Africa are going to be fans regardless of where the Americans finish here.

It’s the folks just discovering the allure of the beautiful game that matter. People who played hooky from work to watch the game at a bar exchanged hugs and high-fives. Screams of elation were heard on suburban streets. Twitter and Facebook were flooded with celebratory posts.

“I’d be surprised if we didn’t make a few more fans tonight,” Donovan said, a smile playing on his lips. “My guess is Saturday is going to be a pretty cool occasion for our country.”

That’s when the Americans play Ghana in the next round, the first knockout stage. With no work to get in the way and a viewer-friendly kickoff time (the game starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT), expect ratings even higher than the blockbuster numbers ESPN and ABC have already seen.

The local top 40 station that we have on at work was not only giving updates but doing so over piped in vuvezela noise and the instructors (Dartmouth players) at our youngest's baseball camp gave them scores during the day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


The longest tennis match ever – and it's still going (Peter Walker, 6/23/10, guardian.co.uk)

Somewhere around five hours into the final set of the longest game of tennis ever seen in the professional game, with an increasingly sunburned crowd leaning on the metal barriers of court 18 for support, Sue Barker summed up the mood for TV viewers: "Is this match ever going to end?"

Apparently not. Tonight, France's Nicolas Mahut and John Isner from the US, two of the lesser known names on the men's singles circuit, remained deadlocked on two sets each and both with 59 games in the longest fifth set ever, of the longest tennis match ever.

Over nine hours in length, with more than six hours of it the absurdly epic final set, it remains unclear which player will crack first, both holding serve continuously in the final set, but it was Mahut who implored the officials to take the players off shortly after 9pm as he could no longer clearly see the ball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


U.S.-Algeria World Cup Match May Have Set Internet Traffic Record (Clay Dillow, 06.23.2010, Popular Science)

Just how breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly awesome was Landon Donovan’s 91st-minute goal in today’s win-or-go-home U.S.-Algeria World Cup game? It was definitely significant enough to temporarily overwhelm Twitter. And it just might have been the single biggest driver of Internet traffic ever.

Over at Mashable the editors were monitoring new traffic across the Web via Akamai’s Net Usage Index, a traffic meter that keeps real time tabs on how many visitors per minute are landing on more than 100 major news sites. In the minutes after Donovan’s game-clinching, elimination-defying goal during added stoppage time, Web traffic spiked to 11.2 million visitors per minute, eclipsing even the 2008 U.S. presidential election as measured by the viewers per minute metric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


Obama relieves McChrystal of his duties (Michael D. Shear, William Branigin and Ernesto Londoño, 6/23/10, Washington Post)

President Obama removed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan on Wednesday, moving quickly to restore the unity of his administration's war effort after the general and his top aides disparaged civilian leaders in an explosive magazine article.

Obama named Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and currently the head of the U.S. Central Command, to replace McChrystal and urged the Senate to confirm him promptly.

...that it's a relief when the President does the only thing he could do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


The South American Juggernauts (Carl Bialik, 6/22/10, WSJ)

South America, which sent two of its five World Cup teams through to the knockout stage on Tuesday, is dominating the tournament’s early stages like no other continent has since the World Cup field expanded to 32 teams in 1998.

Uruguay and Argentina won their matches on Tuesday by a combined score of 3-0, bringing South America’s overall record to a remarkable 10 wins and two draws in 12 matches. Brazil has joined those two teams in the second round, and Chile and Paraguay also would advance with at least a draw in their final matches. (They could also conceivably go through with losses.) In the 12 games, South American teams have outscored opponents by a combined 21-4, never conceding more than a goal. It’s possible that the continent will emerge from the first round undefeated in 15 games — Paraguay is vastly superior to its final opponent, plucky New Zealand; Brazil is ranked slightly higher than its opponent, Portugal; and Chile, while not quite the equal of Spain, will be focusing on defense, a strong point for the side, as it aims for a draw. Remarkably, all five times could even win their groups. Chile and Brazil would join Uruguay and Argentina as group winners with mere draws, while Paraguay wins its group with a win and could win with a draw. That scenario would mean five South American teams got one of the 32 World Cup finals berths, and all five won one of the eight groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


The True Story of American Soccer: From The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. (Dave Eggers, June 9, 2010, Slate)

The beauty of soccer for very young people is that, to create a simulacrum of the game, it requires very little skill. There is no other sport that can bear such incompetence. With soccer, 22 kids can be running around, most of them aimlessly, or picking weeds by the sidelines, or crying for no apparent reason, and yet the game can have the general appearance of an actual soccer match. If there are three or four coordinated kids among the 22 flailing bodies, there will actually be dribbling, a few legal throw-ins, and a couple of times when the ball stretches the back of the net. It will be soccer, more or less.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


An American Style Is Born (JESSE PENNINGTON, 6/22/10, NY Times)

When Landon Donovan rifled a shot right at and over the Slovenian keeper — in the soccer equivalent of chicken — I couldn’t help thinking as I played the goal over and over that, well, it seemed like such an American thing to do.

A striker, or winger, operates as a kind of maverick on the field and certainly has the option to attack the keeper directly. But the law of angles dictates that this path yields the least fruit. With such proximity, the keeper cuts off the angle almost entirely, reducing the scoring opportunity to something out of the N.H.L., where the window for a goal is minuscule and shrinking. That is why a striker, if he has the ball at the edge of the field to the right or left of the goal, will typically pass the ball into the box, dumping it off like a Jason Kidd alley-oop in the hope that a member of his squadron is there to pummel it home on a wider target. Countless soccer drills embed this impulse until it becomes rote. Players use a shake, a wiggle to buy a fraction of time, and then pass into the middle. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred this is what the Spanish, the English, or the Dutch will do. Furthermore, a forward is also taught to shoot low. Donovan ignored that too.

That’s why it seemed like such a quintessentially American moment. The orthodoxy of the game was shredded, in one blissful and bold moment, in favor of cowboy logic. A kind of American impatience with custom and formality brought forth a different sensibility, a bit more roguish one.

Not only are central defenders these days pretty awful, but three of the 6 best goalies in the Cup are on our team and there's nothing more obvious than the idea that you should exploit the infinite space above the shoulders instead of aiming at the clutter and de facto limitation of space from the waist down to the ground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 AM


Obama the Isolationist?: America’s global influence is visibly and voluntarily shrinking because of Obama’s foreign policy. (Tony Blankley, 6/23/10, National Review)

Is it possible for an American president to accidentally carry out an isolationist foreign policy? That odd question crossed my mind last week as I talked with various foreign-policy experts about the Middle East, Russia, and Afghanistan. Judging by his words and his travels, there can be no doubt that President Obama intends to be anything but an isolationist president. He proudly called himself a citizen of the world while in Berlin during the campaign. He has gone out of his way to travel the world, speak to the world, and reach out for the favorable judgment of all the peoples of the world.

And yet, wherever one looks, one sees American influence visibly and voluntarily shrinking. Consider three world hot spots: the Middle East, Russia and its near abroad, and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Whether you talk to Jew or Arab, Turk or Kurd, Sunni or Shiite, the de-Americanization of Middle East policy is the emerging factor to be reckoned with. The uncertainty of the American trumpet, the indecisiveness of the American hand, and the modesty of the American goals are freeing the strong and forcing the weak to prepare to fend for themselves. American ineffectiveness (under both George W. Bush and Mr. Obama) in the face of Iran’s nuclear quest drives nuclear-acquisition plans throughout that unstable zone.

...of the variety that fears we will be contaminated by contact with the outside world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 AM


Why McChrystal Has to Go: It is intolerable for military officers to mock senior political officials, including ambassadors and the vice president. (Eliot A. Cohen, 6/23/10, WSJ)

Gen. Stanley McChrystal is a hero—a selfless, fearless and inspiring soldier. He is also something of a military genius. In Iraq, as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003-2008, he created an extraordinary military operation.

His command center—a vast open hall resembling the floor of a trading exchange—put long-haired civilian geeks next to wiry commandos, and together they uncovered, analyzed, pooled and acted on information that enabled soldiers to launch successful operations at a moment's notice. They did so in ways that only a few years ago would have required weeks of preparation and rehearsal. He is one of the fathers of victory in Iraq, because his organization dismantled the leadership of al Qaeda there. Few Americans know, or will know, how well he has served this country—and as a shrewd, humane commander, not merely a lethal one.

President Obama should, nonetheless, fire him.

June 22, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


Rand Paul flips, seeks money from bailout senators (BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press)

Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul is seeking fundraising help from GOP lawmakers who voted for the massive 2008 financial bailout, flip-flopping on a campaign promise to shun those lawmakers.

The libertarian-leaning Paul, who condemns taxpayer-backed bailouts of the private sector, will benefit from a Thursday night fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, D.C. Nine of 12 GOP senators listed on the invitation voted for the $700 billion bank bailout in 2008. Tickets to the event went for $1,000 per person, with sponsorships up to $5,000 per group.

During the primary, Paul pledged not to accept contributions from any senator who had voted for the financial bailout. That promise was included on his campaign website at the time but has since been removed.

...that no one should take anything he says seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Obama's MacArthur Moment: The president should make ''McChrystal clear'' that there is a heavy price to pay for disrespecting the commander-in-chief. (Dan Gerstein, 06.22.10, Forbes)

Obama could quickly change that dynamic by using today's meeting with his trouble-making general to make "McChrystal clear" who is in charge--and that there will be a heavy price for disrespecting the president. That means not accepting the general's resignation--it was reported late Tuesday that McChrystal had offered to resign--but affirmatively firing him. In some cases that may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it matters here who does what. And the commander-in-chief should leave no doubt he is taking action, by making the formal announcement after their meeting that McChrystal is being relieved of his command.

But Obama should not stop there. The worst of the quotes in the Rolling Stone piece came from McChrystal's staff, not the general. That suggests a larger problem with the command climate in that office, which implicates McChrystal but also goes beyond him. To address that larger problem, and hold the officers who made disparaging remarks about Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor James Jones responsible, Obama should direct Defense Secretary Robert Gates to launch an investigation via Central Command. If that inquiry finds violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including obvious instances of conduct unbecoming an officer, then those staff officers should be publicly relieved of duty and (where appropriate) court-martialed.

...to be left in the hands of the UR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM

CLASSIC! (via Greg Hlatky):

Joan Hinton, Physicist Who Chose China Over Atom Bomb, Is Dead at 88 (WILLIAM GRIMES, 6/11/.10, NY Times)

Ms. Hinton was recruited for the Manhattan Project in February 1944 while still a graduate student in physics at the University of Wisconsin. At the secret laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M., where she worked with Enrico Fermi, she was assigned to a team that built two reactors for testing enriched uranium and plutonium.

When the first atom bomb was detonated near Alamogordo, N.M., on July 16, 1945, she and a colleague, riding a motorcycle, dodged Army jeep patrols and hid near a small hill about 25 miles from the blast point to witness the event.

“We first felt the heat on our faces, then we saw what looked like a sea of light,” she told The South China Morning Post in 2008. “It was gradually sucked into an awful purple glow that went up and up into a mushroom cloud. It looked beautiful as it lit up the morning sun.”

Ms. Hinton thought that the bomb would be used for a demonstration explosion to force a Japanese surrender. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she became an outspoken peace activist. She sent the mayors of every major city in the United States a small glass case filled with glassified desert sand and a note asking whether they wanted their cities to suffer the same fate.

In 1948, alarmed at the emerging cold war, she gave up physics and left the United States for China, then in the throes of a Communist revolution she wholeheartedly admired. “I did not want to spend my life figuring out how to kill people,” she told National Public Radio in 2002. “I wanted to figure out how to let people have a better life, not a worse life.”

How many people did the PRC kill during the 60 years she supported it? Over a hundred million?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


Stoicism Is Just So Yesterday: a review of Marcus Aurelius: A Life, by Frank McLynn (Emily Colette Wilkinson, 06/14/10, In Character)

Between the hyper-intellectual abstractions of university philosophers and the calculating, materialistic schemes of self-help gurus, lies another philosophy. This is the philosophy of the ancients, of Marcus Aurelius. It is a practice that intends to help individuals answer life's great metaphysical questions in both material and spiritual terms: What is my place is the world, the cosmos? What is the purpose of existence? How do I live a good life? What is happiness and how do I achieve it?

Marcus Aurelius' contribution to this philosophy has come to be known simply as the Meditations, though the title Marcus gave the work-more a private collection of self-examinations and moral exercises than a systematic philosophy or spiritual autobiography intended for publication-was "The matters addressed to himself." And it is as much a model of moral self-examination as a demonstration of Stoic principles. The work's subtitles suggest that Marcus wrote some portion of the text during Rome's Marcommanic wars, a long, brutal series of military campaigns prompted by the invasions of barbarian German tribes on the northern boarders of the Roman Empire during the 160's.

These wars occupied most of the last two decades of Marcus' reign as emperor (160's and 170's), but to read the Meditations, you would not imagine them to be the writings of a man encamped in barbarian lands in the midst of war, nor of a man commanding the largest army ever assembled on the frontier of the Roman empire, nor of a man whose empire and army were in the grip of the Antonine plague (believed now to have been smallpox or measles, possibly both), that lasted from 165-180 and killed, by some estimates as many as 18 million people, including, in 180, Marcus himself (notwithstanding Ridley Scott's fanciful version of Marcus Aurelius' death in Gladiator-smothered by his son, the psychotic future emperor Commodus). The Meditations' lack of political or worldly anguish and anxiety is a mark of the philosophy they profess: Stoicism.

As McLynn explains, our modern conception of Stoicism consists mainly in colloquial expressions such as "be a man," "take what's coming to you," "roll with the punches," and "make the best of it." Such expressions communicate the Stoic insistence on acceptance and steadfastness in the face of whatever life presents, no matter how calamitous. One of the most famous lines from the Meditations is, "Remain ever the same, in the throes of pain, on the loss of a child, during a lingering illness" and many modern readers, including McLynn, find the Stoic creed-that virtue is the only good and the source of happiness and that we should train ourselves to rise above emotional, physical, and material concerns-inhuman, even monstrous.

It is one of the curious features of McLynn's biography that he is openly hostile his subject's philosophy: "A more priggish, inhuman, killjoy and generally repulsive doctrine would be hard to imagine," he writes at the beginning of a caricatured exposition of the precepts of Marcus Aurelius' Stoic predecessor Epictetus. And in an appendix on Stoicism, McLynn contends that "one could just as well derive this cracker-barrel philosophy from the maxims of old-fashioned tea chests."

This authorial frankness certainly makes for entertaining reading. Many a scholarly pose of objectivity belies an unprofessed agenda and it's to McLynn's credit that he lets his readers know exactly what he thinks about Stoicism (little of it good) and everything else that makes its way into his sweeping, highly readable account of Marcus and his age (though the lay reader might find herself nodding a bit at the book's extensive accounts of military campaigns and other extra-biographical digressions, while readers familiar with classical scholarship may be annoyed with McLynn for not offering his conclusions with a bit more circumspection. Classical scholarship deals in fragmentary, uncertain evidence but McLynn never lets on that much of what he presents as foregone can only be tentative).

Putting aside the charm of this curmudgeonly bombast, though, McLynn's hostility to the animating intellectual ethos of his subject's life seems something of a failure. Certainly, Stoicism, like most of the world's other great philosophies and religions, has its logical inconsistencies, and it insists on a grim, difficult worldview. Marcus' creed held that virtue was its own reward and the only life goal worth pursuing. On the Stoic view, we have no power to determine whether we'll be rich or poor, famous or infamous, sick or healthy, but we can control whether or not we are good. Thus, life's pleasures and pains-poverty, disease, fame, death-become "indifferents" to the Stoics-i.e. matters that have no direct bearing on our moral wellbeing and so are irrelevant. As a Stoic, I might be poor and sick and my family might die, but none of this hurts me because it does not impair my ability to be good, which consists in working for the good of my fellow human beings.

Oddly enough, modernity has offered up one great Stoic, Tom Wolfe

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


The French Dejection: The sordid details behind the collapse and mutiny of France's national soccer team. (Mathieu Grégoire and Olivier Monod, June 22, 2010, Slate)

Have the French players lost all sense of reality?

The revolt's leaders don't seem to understand that their behavior is shocking. When the players went on strike to protest Anelka's dismissal, they explained in a letter that they realized they were "role-models for children." Seeing how far they are from that role right now, the players are either displaying utter cynicism or the worst case of naïveté ever. "I don't think they're aware of the disastrous image they have in France or the rest of the world," explains Gregory Schneider, the French daily Libération's correspondent in South Africa.

Not all players involved in the dissent should be looked at equally. There are leaders in the group, and there are followers. Federation Secretary Henri Monteil tells La Charente Libre that "some players went to see Domenech in his room. They were crying. They were saying they regretted what was going on. Young players. I can't give you names. In any case, the three or four leaders are aging players, who will never again play the World Cup."

The weeping ones are the heroes of the tale?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


Obama builds on Bush success to help the homeless: The Bush administration focused mainly on the chronically homeless, whose numbers have dropped 30 percent since 2006. An Obama plan wisely builds on that foundation to help more of the homeless, such as families and veterans. (CS Monitor, 6/22/10)

Now, President Obama seeks to extend the housing-first principle to other groups, such as veterans and families. “Stable housing is the foundation upon which people build their lives,” the strategy says. Without that, “it is next to impossible to achieve good health, positive educational outcomes, or reach one’s economic potential.”

It also carries on the collaborative philosophy, in which public and private groups, from job training organizations to health and human services, work with each other. Theoretically, these many players are supposed to keep housing front and center as the starting place for their help – to prevent homelessness, and then to rapidly return people to housing when they lose it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Russ Feingold Faces Tight Wisconsin Senate Race with GOP Newcomer (Bruce Drake, 6/22/10, Politics Daily)

Three-term Democrat Russ Feingold finds himself locked in a statistical tie with Republican newcomer Ron Johnson in Wisconsin's Senate race, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted June 21.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


Does Barack Obama want to be president? (Roger L Simon, 6/21/10, PJM)

Ever since viewing his depressing and disconnected “energy” speech last week, I have been mulling whether Barack Obama actually wants to be president anymore. That was an address given by a man who looked very much like he didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to continue. He appeared slumped and worn, as if he aged eighteen years in eighteen months. His demeanor was oddly distracted.

I am not being metaphorical here — I am quite serious. The more I have thought about this, the more I am convinced Barack Obama no longer wishes to be president.

He never wanted to be president, just to be able to add a lone to his resume, that's why he ran on nothing and has done nothing. It makes the Right's hysteria over his totalitarianism especially hilarious because he doesn't even want to exercise any of the power that actually came with the job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


Khomeini's Long Shadow: How A Quiet Revolution in Shiism Could Resolve the Crisis in Iran (Mohamad Bazzi, June 21, 2010, Foreign Affairs)

For many Shiite Muslims, whose religion was born of rebellion, last year's popular uprising in Iran was just the latest in a centuries-long struggle against injustice and tyranny. Now, as the clerical regime consolidates its grip on power a year after the tainted reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran remains torn by what seems to be a hopeless conflict between Islam and democracy. But the 2009 unrest and violent crackdown in Iran were actually battles in a larger war that has been raging for centuries within Shiism -- a war over who should rule the faithful, and how. There is a more moderate, democratic vision of Shiism -- one that has been stifled ever since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution -- that could ultimately resolve the current conflict.

Shiite clerics have long debated their role in politics. The "quietist" school -- rooted in the sect's tradition of seeking to avoid confrontation with powerful rulers -- argues against direct engagement in political matters. The more activist school emphasizes the martyrdom of Shiism's founding figure, Imam Hussein, who advocated rebellion and confrontation. But even within the activist school, there is a debate over the extent of clerical power.

The model of absolute rule that dominates Iran today is just one of several competing doctrines within the Shiite clergy. Wilayat al-faqih (velayat-e faqih in Farsi), or "guardianship of the jurist," triumphed under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 revolution. He modeled his doctrine on the concept of absolute rule exercised by the Prophet Muhammad and his successors in the early days of Islam. Khomeini's charisma and political skill overshadowed the more moderate vision of Shiism emanating from the Iraqi city of Najaf. By eclipsing the Najaf school, Khomeini succeeded in combining the role of Shiite theologian with that of political leader of the global Muslim community.

But contrary to popular perception, many Shiite clerics have long opposed Khomeini's vision of an all-powerful supreme leader. They do not want to seize political power directly, whether in Iran, Iraq, or elsewhere. One faction believes that a group of senior clerics should rule by consensus, while another camp argues that leadership should be left to politicians who are devout but not necessarily clerics. The dominant Shiite theological school in Najaf, for example, rejects Khomeini's model. At its heart, the argument is over competing visions of Shiism's essence. Should the faith be defined by a diverse group of scholars living at seminaries and engaging in esoteric theological debates, or should it follow the tradition of absolute political and religious leadership advocated by Khomeini? The outcome of this debate will have profound consequences for Shiites in countries stretching from Lebanon to Pakistan, and especially for the futures of Iran and Iraq. [...]

Until the nineteenth century, the quietist school of Shiism prevailed: most Shiite clerics steered clear of politics, and Shiites who lived under Ottoman rule in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere did not challenge the dominant Sunni regime. The concept of wilayat al-faqih dates back to the early nineteenth century, but Khomeini reinterpreted it in 1970 while he was exiled in Najaf. In a series of lectures, he grappled with the question of how to create an Islamic state without the Mahdi, the hidden 12th imam whom Shiites regard as infallible and the last rightful successor to the prophet. (Most Shiites believe that their Mahdi vanished in 874, remains in hiding, and will eventually return, like Jesus, to render final judgment on humanity.) Until the 12th imam's return, Khomeini argued, a divinely anointed senior cleric should rule in his stead.

Khomeini's innovation was dismissed by other theologians who argued that absolute authority granted to the supreme leader (rahbar in Farsi) goes against the traditional system for choosing a leader in Shiite society. The writings of the Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (the father-in-law of the contemporary Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr) inspired the drafters of a new Iranian constitution in 1979. But Baqir Sadr, who was executed by Saddam Hussein's regime in 1980, had proposed a more democratic form of Islamic governance that requires the consent of the faithful and a consensus among Shiite clerics in choosing the preeminent religious leader. "The leader emerged historically through a long process in which followers professed allegiance, as well as through peer recognition," writes Chibli Mallat, a Lebanese scholar and leading authority on Shiism. "There is a wide discrepancy between the traditional way in which Shiite society chose a religious leader and the way it is done under the Iranian constitution."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Dems won’t pass budget in 2010 (Jared Allen, 06/22/10, The Hill)

The House has never failed to pass an annual budget resolution since the current budget rules were put into place in 1974. [...]

The nation’s debt and budget deficits — and what to do about them — are the theme of Hoyer’s speech.

It’s also the issue that’s destroying what’s left of the Democrats’ jobs agenda as centrist Democrats have balked at the price tag of such measures.

For weeks, Democratic leaders have tried to strike a deal on the budget, which is a non-binding resolution, but to no avail.

The talks triggered splits in the Democratic Caucus, alienating conservative Democrats from their liberal colleagues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Democrats spend big to lure Obama's minority and young voters back to the polls (Karen Tumulty, 6/20/10, Washington Post)

As political gambles go, it's a big and risky one: $50 million to test the proposition that the Democratic Party's outreach to new voters that helped make Barack Obama president can work in an election where his name is not on the ballot.

The standard rule of midterm elections is that only the most reliable voters show up at the polls, so both parties have traditionally focused on the unglamorous and conventional work that turns out their bases. But this year, the Democrats are doubling down on registering and motivating newer voters -- especially the 15 million heavily minority and young, who made it to the polls for the first time in the last presidential election. [...]

There does not seem to be a similar effort within the GOP. A spokesman would not discuss its operations and scoffed at the bet that Democrats are making this year. "When that announcement was made, it just wasn't taken very credibly," says Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye. "Those voters just aren't going to be there this time."

He's not alone in thinking that.

Some veteran Democratic Party operatives are also skeptical that the $50 million investment will pay off -- except, perhaps, in keeping the grassroots operation alive for Obama's reelection bid two years from now. Some even suggest that the president's team has put his long-term interests ahead of his party's immediate struggle for survival.

"I have zero confidence that they're heading in the right direction here," says one longtime Democratic organizer who didn't want to be quoted by name criticizing his party's major midterm election initiative. Added another: "I think they're going to come in for a very rude awakening. It's going to be brutal."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


President Obama's enigmatic intellectualism (Richard Cohen, June 22, 2010, Washinton Post)

It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama's foreign policy is no heart at all. It consists instead of a series of challenges -- of problems that need fixing, not wrongs that need to be righted. As Winston Churchill once said of a certain pudding, Obama's approach to foreign affairs lacks theme. So, it seems, does the man himself.

For instance, it's not clear that Obama is appalled by China's appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.

This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?

...the abyss isn't interested.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


Blow Up the Well to Save the Gulf (CHRISTOPHER BROWNFIELD, 6/22/10, NY Times)

Upon detonating several tons of explosives, a pressure wave of hundreds of thousands of pounds per square inch would spread outward in the same way that light spreads from a tubular fluorescent bulb, evenly and far. Such a sidelong explosion would implode the oil well upstream of the leak by crushing it under a layer of impermeable rock, much as stepping on a garden hose stops the stream of water.

It’s true that the primary blast of a conventional explosion is less effective underwater than on land because of the intense back-pressure that muffles the shock wave. But as a submariner who studied the detonation of torpedoes, I learned that an underwater explosion also creates rapid follow-on shockwaves. In this case, the expansion and collapse of explosive gases inside the hole would act like a hydraulic jackhammer, further pulverizing the rock.

The idea of detonating the well already has serious advocates. A few people have even called for using a nuclear device to plug the well, as the Soviet Union has done several times. But that would be overkill. Smartly placed conventional explosives could achieve the same results, and avoid setting an unacceptable international precedent for the “peaceful” use of nuclear weapons.

At best, a conventional demolition would seal the leaking well completely and permanently without damaging the oil reservoir. At worst, oil might seep through a tortuous flow-path that would complicate long-term cleanup efforts. But given the size and makeup of the geological structures between the seabed and the reservoir, it’s virtually inconceivable that an explosive could blast a bigger hole than already exists and release even more oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


Cameron Bets on Growth From Austerity as U.S. Delays (Simon Kennedy and Rich Miller, 6/22/10, Bloomberg)

World leaders from the U.K.’s David Cameron to Naoto Kan of Japan are betting they can deliver fiscal austerity without derailing economic prosperity. History suggests they may be right.

Governments have proven they can spur expansion by focusing their belt-tightening on spending cuts rather than tax increases, according to studies by Harvard University professor Alberto Alesina and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists Kevin Daly and Ben Broadbent.

“There have been mountains of evidence in which cutting government spending has been associated with increases in growth, but people still don’t quite get it,” Alesina said in an interview. He made a presentation to European finance chiefs on the topic during their April meeting in Madrid.

...the supposed pragmatist-in-chief can't do what works because it violates party ideology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 AM


Texas Dems Grapple With Their Own Alvin Greene (HILARY HYLTON, 6/22/10, TIME)

[Surprise Democratic primary winner, congressional nominee Kesha] Rogers, 33, told TIME she is a "full time political activist" in the Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement, a recruiting arm of the LaRouche political organization that is active on many college campuses. The LYM espouses LaRouche opposition to free trade and "globalism" (the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund) and it also calls for a return to a humanist classical education, emphasizing the works of Plato and Leibnitz. On her professional looking campaign website, kesharogers.com, she touts the LaRouche political philosophy - a mix of support for the economic policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the impeachment of President Obama - and calls Obama a "London and Wall Street backed puppet" whose policies will destroy the Democratic Party. During the campaign, she was photographed carrying an oversized portrait of the President with a Hitler-style moustache penciled on his lip.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 AM


Top allied commander apologizes for magazine profile (Ernesto Londoño, 6/21/10, Washington Post)

McChrystal and some of his senior advisors are quoted criticizing top administration officials, at times in starkly derisive terms. An anonymous McChrystal aide is quoted calling national security adviser James Jones a "clown."

Referring to Richard Holbrooke, Obama's senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, one McChrystal aide is quoted saying: "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."

On one occasion, McChrystal appears to react with exasperation when he receives an e-mail from Holbrooke, saying, "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don't even want to read it."

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, a retired three-star general, isn't spared. Referring to a leaked cable from Eikenberry that expressed concerns about the trustworthiness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, McChrystal is quoted as having said: "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.'"

Whereas the point of the entire piece is to cover the General's flank for the history books.

Way to act like a French soccer player.

June 21, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Republicans' Midterm Voting Enthusiasm Tops Prior Years: Relative enthusiasm advantage for GOP over Democrats largest in Gallup history dating to 1994 (Jeffrey M. Jones, 6/21/10, Gallup)

An average of 59% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have said they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year compared with past elections, the highest average Gallup has found in a midterm election year for either party since the question was first asked in 1994.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


DIA to open new counterintelligence records unit (Jeff Stein, 6/15/10, Washington Post)

The Defense Intelligence Agency wants to open a new repository for information about individuals and groups in what appears to be a successor to a controversial counterintelligence program that was disbanded in 2008.

The new Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records section will be housed in DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, or DCHC, formed after the demise of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, according to an announcement that appeared Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The "activity" was disbanded, but evidently not its records database, which seems to be headed to the new unit. [...]

"It’s a little hard to tell what this is exactly, but we do know that DIA took over 'offensive counterintelligence' for the DoD once CIFA was abandoned," said Mike German, a former FBI Special Agent who is now policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. "It therefore makes sense that this new DIA data base would be collecting the same types of information that CIFA collected improperly, so Americans should be just as concerned."

The Defense Department has also started collecting Suspicious Activity Reports, German pointed out, "which they share with federal, state and local law enforcement through the FBI eGuardian system."

Tuesday’s announcement in the Federal Register was vague about the kinds of intelligence the new records center will hold.

It said that it would hold information on “individuals involved in, or of interest to, DoD intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counter-narcotic operations or analytical projects as well as individuals involved in foreign intelligence and/or training activities.”

Supreme Court Upholds Law Barring 'Material Support' for Terror Groups: Critics Argue Nonviolent Advice to Terror Groups Protected by First Amendment (ARIANE de VOGUE, June 21, 2010 , 6/21/10, ABC News)
Justice Stephen Breyer, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor in the dissenting opinion, took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"I believe application of the statute as the government interprets it would gravely and without adequate justification injure interests of the kind the First Amendment protects," said Breyer.

"The government has not made the strong showing necessary to justify under the First Amendment the criminal prosecution of those who engage in these activities. All the activities involve the communication and advocacy of political ideas and lawful means of achieving political ends," he said.

During oral arguments, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, had called the material support law a "vital weapon" in the fight against international terrorism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM


Nook Starts the Price War in E-Readers (BRAD STONE, 6/20/10, NY Times)

Today, Barnes & Noble started this round of price-cutting by dropping the price of the original Nook, with Wi-Fi and 3G wireless connectivity, to $199 from $259. It also introduced a new, Wi-Fi-only Nook at $149. That compares to the Amazon Kindle at $259 and the Sony Reader, whose least expensive version, the Pocket Edition, costs $169 and has no wireless connectivity at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


In theory, the election of the UR was supposed to provide a time of healing and allow otherwise sensible folk on the Left purge their systems of the BDS that had rendered them shrieking harridans. But Jacob Weisberg, who made a frequent fool of himself by quoting W as if he hadn't made sense, has turned now to "Palinisms," which the reader will generally have even more trouble finding fault with. For example, here's today's:

"Shoot, I must have lived such a doggoned sheltered life as a normal, independent American up there in the Last Frontier, schooled with only public education and a lowly state university degree, because obviously I haven't learned enough to dismiss common sense."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Rahm Emanuel expected to quit White House (Alex Spillius, 20 Jun 2010, Daily Telegraph)

"I would bet he will go after the midterms," said a leading Democratic consultant in Washington. "Nobody thinks it's working but they can't get rid of him – that would look awful. He needs the right sort of job to go to but the consensus is he'll go."

An official from the Bill Clinton era said that "no one will be surprised" if Mr Emanuel left after the midterm elections in November, when the Democratic party will battle to save its majorities in the house of representatives and the senate.

It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House.

His abrasive style has rubbed some people the wrong way, while there has been frustration among Mr Obama's closest advisers that he failed to deliver a smooth ride for the president's legislative programme that his background promised. [...]

There were sharp differences over health care reform, with Mr Emanuel arguing that public hostility about cost should have forced them into producing a scaled down package. Mr Obama and advisers including David Axelrod, the chief strategist, and Valerie Jarrett, a businesswoman and mentor from Chicago, decided to push through with grander legislation anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


How the U.S. Can Be Successful Against Algeria (Austin Lindberg, 6/19/10, Bleacher Report)

What Bradley can do is give his defenders more support from midfield. The U.S. has looked most composed when Michael Bradley is allowed to push forward and be relieved of some defensive responsibilities.

As exciting as the prospect of pairing Bradley with Benny Feilhaber or Jose Torres is, the fact is that leaves the U.S. defense exposed. When Bob Bradley has used Ricardo Clark, and at times Maurice Edu, the midfield appears much more purposeful at both end of the pitch.

It may not be pretty, but Ricardo Clark might well be the key that unlocks the U.S. midfield in this World Cup.

Second, Landon Donovan must get involved. Donovan has stepped up for the U.S. and has the swagger of a player ready to put his team on his shoulders. His time is now. The only question is, how can Bob Bradley get the most out of U.S. Soccer's crown jewel?

The best answer is flexibility. Bradley needs to field wingers and forwards who can be interchanged. Being able to interchange Donovan and Clint Dempsey on the left and the right has proven to be a valuable asset for the U.S.

The U.S. looked its most creative against Slovenia when Bradley allowed Donovan and Dempsey free reign alongside Altidore, while Maurice Edu anchored midfield with Feilhaber and Bradley distributing from central areas.

If you're goiung to move Bradley forward and have Edu and Clark in front of Onyewu and DeMerit then why play a back 4? Drop Bocanegra and play a front three of Donovan/Dempsey/Altidore with Bradley/Feilhaber distributing as forward midfielders then the defensive box behind them and Cherundolo as the other defender.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Crisis Economics (N. GREGORY MANKIW, Summer 2010, National Affairs)

Macroeconomists especially have good reason to be humble, for there is a great deal we do not know. Teaching the "Principles of Economics" course at Harvard — a full-year survey — I start each year with what we economists are confident is true, and then move to material that is less and less certain as the course progresses. We look first at supply and demand, the theory of comparative advantage, profit maximization, and marginal revenue equaling marginal cost — the premises that almost every economist shares and accepts. As the course goes on, we move from micro to macroeconomics: examining classical monetary theory, growth theory, and, at the very end of the year, the theory of business cycles. This is the topic we economists understand least of all: We are still deeply divided on the validity and utility of the basic Keynesian paradigm. But it is precisely the topic that government macroeconomists work on most, especially during times of recession.

Even as a believer in many aspects of Keynesian theory, I appreciate that one cannot approach this subject matter without showing some humility. Economics is a young science, and much of our knowledge is necessarily tentative. Humility need not result in resignation or fatalism; nor does it mean we can't make economic policy. But it should mean that we constantly test our assumptions and policies against real-world results. We should seek in retrospect the data we cannot have in advance, and use those data to improve both our understanding of the economy and the policies we put in place.

At first glance, the Obama administration would seem to be taking such an empirical approach. In an attempt to "know" as much as possible about the consequences of the stimulus bill, the administration has been compiling data to measure its effects. Indeed, the vaunted stimulus web site (recovery.gov) claims to provide state-level job-creation "data," reported to two decimals of accuracy.

In reality, however, this ostensible effort at transparency is actually the least credible part of the whole case for the 2009 stimulus bill. For one thing, the reporting errors involved in the data collection are enormous, as hardly anyone accurately fills out the government's questionnaires about the jobs "saved or created" with stimulus money. Some employers, for instance, have counted money used to provide pay raises to existing employees as "creating" jobs. Thus the Wall Street Journal reported last November that the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency in Oregon had claimed to create 205 jobs with its $397,761 in stimulus money — spending less than $2,000 per "new" job.

The results of gathering economic data this way can be downright comical. A shoe-store owner in Kentucky who sold boots to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (for work on a project made possible by stimulus funds) claimed to have created nine jobs with $889 — a feat that would certainly make him the most efficient job creator in the country. The store owner apparently reasoned that he was creating one job for every pair of boots he sold the Army; after all, a soldier could not go to work on the project without a pair of boots. The episode received attention only because a reporter discovered the ridiculous claim, and the owner then asserted that he had been confused by the government form.

The administration has nevertheless accepted such reports, using them as the basis of their stimulus evaluations. But even if the reporting were perfectly correct, the exercise would still make little sense as a way of assessing the broader macroeconomic effects of the stimulus money. When we talk about the impact of government purchases on aggregate demand, and therefore on job creation, we must take into account an enormous number of "general equilibrium effects" — that is, the indirect effects that occur as one economic variable influences another, which in turn influences yet another, and so on. Such effects can be modeled and analyzed to some extent, but they cannot possibly be captured by crude job-creation surveys, or easily conveyed through administration web sites and talking points.

These general equilibrium effects are tremendously important to the economy — sometimes in positive ways, sometimes in negative. The positive effects are those that underlie the conventional Keynesian fiscal-policy multipliers: Higher government spending leads to higher incomes for some people, which causes higher consumption, and therefore higher incomes yet again, such that the effect cascades and multiplies. Economists can certainly track some of these effects, but the "data" on recovery.gov cannot possibly account for them.

The negative effects are even more challenging to trace. For example, if people observe the government issuing substantial debt (required to finance a stimulus), they may anticipate higher future taxes and therefore cut back on their current consumption. Increased government borrowing may also drive up long-term interest rates, which could make it difficult for people to borrow money and could therefore reduce spending today. Obviously, recovery.gov has no way to take account of these consequences, either.

So even if recipients of stimulus funding filled out their government reports reliably and correctly, the data they provided would not accurately describe the effects of the stimulus on job creation. Nor would data about job creation by itself actually resolve the underlying question about the administration's economic-recovery effort: whether it was right to pursue a spending-heavy stimulus plan, instead of one focused more on tax cuts.


Addressing this question requires not only data about the past year or two, but also analysis of some key assumptions at the core of the administration's approach to fiscal policy. In particular, that approach seems to take for granted that the question in choosing between spending and tax cuts is which would have the greater multiplier effect, and that the answer to that question is spending rather than tax cuts.

The first assumption overlooks an important difference between spending and tax cuts in the context of economic stimulus. When the government is seeking to revive its sick patient — the economy — time is of the essence. And time must be considered in any analysis of multipliers and other economic effects of stimulus policy. Chief among these considerations is whether government can spend money both quickly and wisely.

Many of us can draw on our own experiences in addressing that question. Anyone familiar with government projects even at the municipal level knows that the process is usually prolonged and onerous. Even if the design phase is managed well, the project is built efficiently, and the end product proves to be of good use to the community — all big "ifs" — the time involved in debating project proposals, securing approval from citizens and local boards, planning the design, hiring contractors, and completing the construction often stretches to years. Cram the process into a dramatically shortened time frame, and the likelihood that the project will be an example of "wise" government spending diminishes significantly. Expand the scope of the government spending from town planning to national fiscal policy, and the likelihood shrinks even further.

This is not just a matter of government waste, but also a question of whether money spent under such circumstances actually helps the economy grow in a way that best enhances citizens' well-being. Whenever public money is involved, it is important to ask whether the spending will produce something society needs, or wants, to improve the general economic climate. Money spent on a new road that allows farmers to get their products to market faster and in better condition, for instance, creates more value than money spent building a "bridge to nowhere," even if both projects create the same number of construction jobs.

To look at it another way: If a person pays his neighbor $100 to dig a hole in his backyard and then fill it up again, and the neighbor hires him to do the same, government statisticians will report that the economy has created two jobs and that the gross domestic product has risen by $200. But it is unlikely that, having wasted all that time digging and filling, either person is better off — economically or otherwise. Each person's net financial gain is zero, and all anyone has to show for the effort is a patch of fresh dirt in the backyard, which is unlikely to improve anyone's standard of living.

Private individuals don't usually spend their money on things they don't want or need. So when money is kept in the hands of citizens, and transactions take place in the private sector, there is less cause to worry about inefficient spending. The same cannot always be said of government. This means that government spending designed to stimulate the economy must first be subjected to serious cost-benefit analysis, which is hard to do in a big rush. Not all government spending is created equal — and rushed spending is, in many important ways, likely to be less efficient and less useful than spending that is carefully planned.

...but as personalized government stimulus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 AM


The Agony of the Liberals (ROSS DOUTHAT, 6/20/10, NY Times)

As Tyler Cowen wrote last week: “advocates of fiscal stimulus make it sound as simple as solving an undergraduate homework problem and ... sometimes genuinely do not realize how much the rest of the world, including politicians, views them as simply being very convinced by their own theory.” Nor do they acknowledge how much risk those same politicians have already taken on (with the first stimulus, the health care bill, and much else besides) in the name of theoretical propositions, while reaping little for their efforts save an ever-grimmer fiscal picture.

But it’s here, with the looming fiscal crisis, that the more legitimate liberal fear comes in. Liberals had hoped that Obama’s election marked the beginning of a long progressive era — a new New Deal, a greater Great Society. Instead, from the West Coast to Western Europe, the welfare state is in crisis everywhere they look. The future suddenly seems to belong to austerity and retrenchment — and even, perhaps, to conservatism.

In this environment, the rage against Obama for not doing more, now, faster, becomes at least somewhat understandable. It’s not that he hasn’t done a great deal for liberals during his 18 months in office. It’s that liberalism itself may be running out of time.

We're headed for a reverse 1992, in which the GOP takeover will be credited for an economic revival with which it has little to do, just as all Bill Clinton had to do was sit back and reap the Peace Dividend that Reagan/Bush handed him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 AM


Obama's energy pipe dreams (Robert J. Samuelson, June 21, 2010, Washington Post)

Just once, it would be nice if a president would level with Americans on energy. Barack Obama isn't that president. [...]

Unless we shut down the economy, we need fossil fuels. More efficient light bulbs, energy-saving appliances, cars with higher gas mileage may all dampen energy use. But offsetting these savings will be more people (391 million vs. 305 million), more households (147 million vs. 113 million), more vehicles (297 million vs. 231 million) and a bigger economy (almost double in size). Although wind, solar and biomass are assumed to grow as much as 10 times faster than overall energy use, they provide only 11 percent of supply in 2035, up from 5 percent in 2008. [...]

The outlines of a pragmatic energy policy are clear. A gradually increasing tax on oil or carbon would nudge people toward more energy-efficient products, including cars. Any tax should be part of a budget program that includes major spending cuts. This is a better approach than the confusing cap-and-trade proposals -- embraced by the House and the administration -- that would inevitably be riddled with exceptions and preferences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 AM


Five governor's races could indicate GOP success in 2012 (Chris Cillizza, 6/21/10, Washington Post)

The roots of a Republican political renaissance in 2012 lie in the Rust Belt.

That swath of manufacturing- based states in the Midwest -- Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan -- with tentacles that reach as far east as Pennsylvania, has been the epicenter of the economic difficulties in the country over the past few years.

Each state is hosting a competitive gubernatorial race this fall. Republicans argue that a clean sweep (or close to it) would immediately change the electoral calculus heading into the nationwide redistricting in 2011 and President Obama's reelection race in 2012.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 AM


Colleagues cool to John Kerry on energy (DARREN SAMUELSOHN & MANU RAJU, 6/21/10, Politico)

The Massachusetts Democrat is making his pitch with an almost religious fervor, pushing a message that’s equal parts saving the planet, national security and the economy. Many of his colleagues have been impressed by Kerry’s expertise and his passion in trying to push through caps on carbon when others would prefer to move onto a more limited, energy-only bill.

Yet it’s that same zeal that is making some swing-vote Democrats cringe at the thought of negotiating with someone they fear is tone-deaf to the political realities of their respective states — particularly in a difficult midterm elections year.

Kerry’s style, said Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), is akin to being “pursued by a suitor, just as boys pursue girls.” [...]

“He’s so obsessed,” said one wavering Democratic senator who has been pursued by Kerry. “Clearly, it’s all climate, all the time with him.”

June 20, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


...PJ is now blogging at PerfectHealthDiet.com

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Global Grain Surplus Sows Trouble (SCOTT KILMAN, 6/20/10, WSJ)

Some traders and economists are speculating that if the U.S. and world economies don't heat up soon, surpluses could turn into price-depressing gluts. While cheap grain is good news for consumers and livestock producers, excessive supplies increase a government's cost for farm subsidies and tend to ignite trade fights between the big farming powers.

This tension is growing partly because many of the farmers in the U.S. Midwest who were plagued by rainy growing seasons in recent years are having few problems so far this year.

Although the corn harvest is months away, farmer Clay Mitchell of Buckingham, Iowa, is preparing his storage bins for what's shaping up as a record-large crop. The corn plants are already as tall as his chest, helped by a warm spring that permitted early planting, followed by well-timed summer rains.

"So far, this has been the best growing season ever," says the 37-year-old newlywed, who planted 1,600 acres of corn.

In some northern Texas towns, the unfolding wheat harvest is so big that farmers delivering grain to local elevators in recent weeks have had to wait all day in long lines of trucks. Some elevators are so full that wheat is being stored in cotton warehouses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Rubicon taps into the conspiracy TV treasure trove (Ryan Lattanzio, 6/15/10, SF Bay Guardian)

Series creator and writer Jason Horwitch makes Rubicon feel strangely familiar and entirely American in linking Will to September 11. The hysteria—and paranoia—of post-9/11 America is deftly portrayed in the passing of suspicious notes, mysterious phone calls, and train crashes. These tropes might feel tired elsewhere, but here they are fresh and rather chilling. Quickly we realize Will would probably dig something like that YouTube viral documentary sensation Zeitgeist.

Rubicon is a thriller steeped in a paranoid urban milieu -- the city is the devil’s playground and it’s best to keep your head in the sand. Yet Will Travers, the kind of guy who shares tea and secrets with strangers after dark, is obsessed by the unexplained deaths of his code-cracking cohorts and isn’t willing to stay shut up about it.

Despite subtle, tightly-wound character development, Rubicon's pilot feels like watching a show for the first time in the middle of its season. There’s little to learn from the pilot, but its ambiguity is in the sly interest of bating the audience to come back. What you can see is promising, yet what exactly the series is about remains unclear. So far, it seems to focus on over-educated, conspiracy-crazed geeks who love intrigue and find espionage in the same way you might find shapes in the clouds: they're there if you’re looking for them.

Regardless of its opacity (and that’s always a good thing in the end, right Lost fans?), Rubicon is poised to be another sparkling gem in the dark trove of AMC treasures that have made recent cable so fascinating and so...adult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


England divided: how Terry tried to organise coup against Capello: Chelsea man sought to take advantage of Italian's weakness after dismal Algeria draw (Sam Wallace, 21 June 2010, Independent)

By the end of an hour he had promised personally to challenge Fabio Capello in last night's team meeting and revealed how he had insisted to the Italian's backroom staff that the players should be allowed to relax with a beer after the draw with Algeria. As Terry's comments filtered back almost immediately to his team-mates just a few hundred yards away in their hotel there was disbelief.

The players were astonished that Terry, never the most popular man in the camp, had revealed private details about the team. That he had positioned himself as the man to rescue England by taking on Capello, when most of the squad feel that Terry is as much to blame for some of the problems, invoked anger and dismay in the players.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:28 PM


Israel agrees to ease Gaza blockade (Harriet Sherwood, 6/20/10, guardian.co.uk)

Israel today agreed to a significant easing of its blockade of Gaza following pressure from the international community in the aftermath of its deadly interception of boats attempting to break the siege earlier this month.

A government statement said steps toward the relaxation of the policy will be implemented "as quickly as possible" following a meeting of Israel's security cabinet.

The crucial issue of whether commercial goods will be allowed into Gaza to allow the crippled legitimate economy to recover was not addressed in the statements. Decisions were still pending, according to an Israeli official.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


UK Osborne Names Labour's Hutton To Head Pension Commission (WSJ, 6/20/10)

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne Sunday said a cabinet minister in the former Labour Party government will head a new Independent Pensions Commission that will find ways to cut the cost of providing retirement benefits to public-sector workers.

Speaking to the BBC two days before his emergency budget, Osborne said John Hutton will make a preliminary report in September, and a full set of recommendations in time for the spring budget next year.

Hutton was a close ally of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and served as secretary of state for work and pensions in Blair's last government. His recruitment is a coup for the Conservative-led coalition government, which has traditionally been viewed as hostile to the public sector on ideological grounds, and therefore feared by public-sector workers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


World Cup 2010: France refuse to train in support for exiled Anelka (Associated Press, Sunday 20 June 2010 )

France's chaotic World Cup descended towards a full-scale player revolt this afternoon after the players refused to train in a show of support for the exiled Nicolas Anelka, prompting the national team director Jean-Louis Valentin to quit in disgust.

The team arrived at training today but a few minutes after taking the field fitness coach Robert Duverne stormed away, throwing his accreditation badge to the ground, apparently after an argument with team captain Patrice Evra.

The players then left the training ground and boarded the team bus, in which they had a meeting with Domenech behind closed curtains.

The France squad then released a statement which read: "All players in the France squad without exception want to declare their opposition to the decision taken by the French Football Federation to exclude Nicolas Anelka from the squad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


NJ city leading way in crime-fighting technology (DAVID PORTER, 6/20/10, Associated Press)

This city of 65,000 has fought one of the nation's highest crime rates in recent years with an arsenal of high-tech gadgets, from gunshot detection systems to software that can sift and analyze crime data almost instantaneously.

The results have been startling: Violent crime in East Orange has fallen by more than two-thirds since 2003, according to state police statistics.

Yet even with its crime rate plummeting, the city is going a step further by becoming the first in the country to combine those systems with sensors, sometimes called "smart cameras," that can be programmed to identify crimes as they unfold. East Orange police say the overall system can trim response time to mere seconds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Why Cristiano Ronaldo is failing as Portugal captain: Too often the captain sets a bad example for his players and the armband is perhaps affecting his performances (Thomas Wood, 6/20/10, guardian.co.uk)

Portugal nil, Ivory Coast nil. Eleven minutes gone and Cristiano Ronaldo dances past two Ivorians before unleashing a 35‑yard drive which clatters off the post. Eight minutes later Ronaldo is felled by Guy Demel before quickly returning to his feet and getting involved in a foul‑mouthed tussle with the Ivorian and receiving an early yellow card for his troubles. It is another 37 minutes before we see Ronaldo again.

Brilliance and controversy are not unfamiliar to the young Madeirense, yet he is undoubtedly the best player of a generation. When the vice‑president of the Portuguese FA passed away in 2007 his dying wish had been to make the "kid" captain. Luiz Felipe Scolari obliged and the then 22‑year‑old walked out with the armband to face Brazil on a cold night in February. In July 2008 Carlos Queiroz made the choice permanent.

Cafes, bars and taxis up and down the country were at odds with this selection: on the one hand, his brilliance lights up games with dribbles and free‑kicks; on the other, he is selfish and hotheaded.

...a perfect captain, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Obama's oil disaster (Linda Chavez, 6/20/10, Washington Examiner)

The night he locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama predicted that generations hence, people would look back on the historic day as "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." At the time, his words reeked of hubris. Today, they look positively delusional.

President Obama can't stop the oil leak in the Gulf, but he can and should be held accountable for the inept government response to cleaning it up and mitigating its worst effects on the shoreline.

But for ideology he could have stopped the leak.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


An American Manifesto, Why I Don't Like Soccer (Adam Wuerl , 6/18/10, Bleacher Report)

[S]occer is boring--not because there's no scoring but because nothing else happens either. In soccer goals are the only measurement of success. Baseball has runs, bases, outs, strikes, and balls. The game might be tied, but loaded bases let you know to perk up. Football has multiple ways to score plus field position, down, and distance. Even hockey has the the penalty box, the offensive zone, and offsides .

These systems aren't just complicated rules; they create a narrative that helps fans to appreciate a game by providing a framework that turns a sequence of events into a story. You wouldn't describe a baseball game by listing how many runs were scored in each inning; instead, you'd start by saying it was a pitching dual then describe the key strike outs, double plays, and over-the-fence grabs. These tangible, memorable events become anchor points in the story . Similarly, a football game could be a battle of field position fought in the trenches or a wild west shootout.

What is soccer's narrative? For 90-ish minutes the ball goes back and forth. The game often ends nil-nil. Lame. Without an intermediate measure of success soccer has no narrative. Things may happen while the seconds tick away on a secret clock but because they rarely result in a tangible objective--much less a goal--the events are meaningless. A good game has build-up and catharsis tied to the story. Without a narrative to drive an emotional ebb and flow, soccer f ans have one of two choices: remain detached (enter America), or artificially amp up their excitement and stay crazed the entire game (enter everyone else).

Soccer also has a nasty habit of stopping suddenly. Just as a player makes a run a foul is called or the keeper grabs the ball , throwing a wet towel on any building excitement . Even a corner kick usually results in a goal kick or another corner. Staying excited for two hours about nothing of importance hardly seems worth the effort.

Until soccer is willing to experiment with ways to improve itself, it will never woo the American fan. [...]

Restrict offsides to an offensive zone, say midfield or some new line. Or, treat the 18-yard box like the key in basketball: limit how many players can be in it and for how long.

Not only would adopting an NHL style offsides line lead to fewer stoppages just as attacks are building but adopting a goal crease would force teams to shoot rather than just try bundling the ball into the goal. And shots produce saves. A more continuous flow of action, more shots and more saves will render the sorts of narrative Mr. Wuerl and the rest of America wants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 AM


Why Mexico Will Be Big Contenders By The Next World Cup (Tom Kelly, 6/18/10, Bleacher Report)

At the start of the tournament, Javier Aguirre's side had the tough task of facing the South Africans. Facing the home team in the first match is a terrible handicap because no team has ever beaten the home side in the first match, ever. Many teams come close, like Mexico who did everything but win in the match against South Africa. They then went on to earn three points against a French side who have been devastatingly bad in the whole of the Tournament. The Mexicans still aren't big contenders right now, but they look set to pass through the group stages like they did in 2006. And it's my belief they'll do even better than that in 2014.

This isn't just a hunch. It's all about talent-the exact thing Mexico's young up-and-comers are brimming with (so much so they have been dubbed Mexico's "Golden Generation"). This generation probably had it's biggest achievement when they won the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship but also achieved a Quarter-Final place, where they narrowly lost to eventual winners Argentina in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

A number of players from this "Golden Generation" have made their way onto the national Mexican team for the World Cup. Giovanni dos Santos was crowned second and third best player in each of these tournaments respectfully and has offered some great play for professional club sides Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Galatasaray S.K. Already a big player in the Mexico squad, he like many of his friends from the national youth squads, Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Pablo Barrera, Hector Moreno and Guillermo Ochoa (who was voted 11th best goalkeeper in the world in 2008 by the way) , is already a player who is showing his craft, skill and talent are worthy of a World Cup game. In four years time, these players will also have the benefit of one more important trait, and that trait is experience. With a number of these players signing to big European clubs, they will gain invaluable experience in some of the toughest competitions in the world that they can bring back to El Tri for the toughest competition in the world.

No two teammates have dominated play more than Dod Santos and Salcido.

June 19, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


World Cup 2010: France's Nicolas Anelka 'insulted' Raymond Domenech (Associated Press, 19 June 2010)

Reports that Nicolas Anelka launched an expletive-filled tirade at his coach Raymond Domenech have highlighted mounting tension within France's World Cup squad. L'Equipe reported today that Anelka insulted Domenech at half-time during France's 2-0 defeat by Mexico on Thursday when the coach offered him some tactical advice. Anelka was replaced by André-Pierre Gignac.

The latest reports of a rift follow newspaper allegations that the midfielder Yoann Gourcuff is an unpopular figure in the squad and that the defender William Gallas is upset with Domenech for giving the captaincy to Patrice Evra. [...]

Jérémy Toulalan, one of only a few players to speak after the Mexico match, fears that the team is now a collection of individual talents with no teamwork.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Steak with Potatoes: Celebrate the return of Top Chef with head judge Tom Colicchio's take on this staple in the all-new Esquire Recipes for Men database (Tom Colicchio, 6/17/10, Esquire)

* 1 lb hanger steak
* Coarse salt and ground black pepper
* 1 tbsp canola oil
* 3 tbsp unsalted butter
* 6 sprigs thyme
* 4 oz thickly sliced smoked bacon (four slices), diced
* 10 oz fingerling potatoes (Note: If the fingerling potatoes are pinkie-sized, halve them lengthwise. Larger fingerlings should be cut widthwise into 1/2-inch round slices.)
* 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch)
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar


1. Place 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat. Season hanger steak with salt and pepper. Add canola oil to very hot skillet, and when it is almost smoking (the surface will start to shimmer), sear meat for 4 minutes on each side.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low (letting pan cool down a bit) and add butter and 3 sprigs of thyme. (The pan must cool down before you add the butter or it will sizzle and burn on contact.) Using a spoon, baste steak with butter for 2 to 3 minutes, flipping it once halfway through to cook it evenly. (The temperature for a medium-rare steak is about 135 degrees.)

3. Remove meat from skillet and set aside. Discard all fat and thyme from skillet. (Wipe clean with paper towel.) Over medium heat, cook bacon to render fat and slightly crisp meat, about 5 minutes. Nestle in potatoes (cut-side down if using horizontal version) and cook until crisp and golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn potatoes and continue cooking until crisp tender, another 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Add onion and remaining thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion caramelizes and potatoes are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Lower heat and add garlic, and when you can smell its aroma, add balsamic vinegar and reduce, about 3 minutes.

To serve: Carve hanger steak into 3/4-inch slices and return to skillet, arranging atop vegetables.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


Ta-Ta, Taliban? (Ron Moreau, 6/18/10, NEWSWEEK)

Under intense U.S. pressure to drive deeper into the jihadist havens of North and South Waziristan, Pakistan is trying to clear the area its own way. The country's military chiefs dread the losses their troops would suffer against entrenched militants in the tribal badlands, but something has to be done, if only to stop the erosion of public support for the government. While American drone attacks have been effective in killing dozens of militants, many Pakistanis deeply resent the strikes as an affront to Pakistani sovereignty, and they despise their government for allowing them.

Priority No. 1 in South Waziristan is the bloodthirsty Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, whose guerrillas and suicide bombers use the region as a staging area for attacks on both U.S. and Pakistani targets. Two Pakistani tribal and two Afghan Taliban sources, who asked not to be named for safety's sake, say Islamabad has turned to Mullah Nazir, a powerful Waziri tribal warlord who fights U.S. troops inside Afghanistan but (unlike Mehsud) maintains a peace deal with Pakistani security forces. Recently, a council of tribal elders led by Nazir issued a firm June 12 deadline for Mehsud's men to get out, saying they endangered everyone around them by attracting U.S. drone strikes. In the past, Nazir and his fighters have been known to have killed scores of Uzbek jihadists who ignored similar warnings. As of June 18, there was no word on whether Mehsud's men had taken the hint.

North Waziristan poses a different problem. Pakistan's security chiefs have been close friends with Jalaluddin Haqqani since his days as a mujahedin leader in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Now his son Sirajuddin runs one of Afghanistan's most effective insurgent groups from his stronghold in North Waziristan—and the Americans want him gone.

Just declare Waziristan a nation and require them to control their own territory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Mitch Daniels, Genial Jeremiah (Michael Gerson, 6/19/10, Washington Post)

Daniels' clarification on Mexico City shows his realism. But his continued insistence on the idea of a truce shows his stubbornness -- a defining characteristic. "If there were a WMD attack, death would come to straights and gays, pro-life and pro-choice," he told me. "If the country goes broke, it would ruin the American dream for everyone. We are in this together. Whatever our honest disagreements on other questions, might we set them aside long enough to do some very difficult things without which we will be a different, lesser country?"

This is the paradox of Mitch Daniels: He is a uniter with an apocalyptic message, a genial Jeremiah. "I start with a premise that not everyone agrees with -- that the republic is threatened as it has not been before, if you don't count the Soviet nuclear threat. ... It is the arithmetic of debt. If unaddressed, it makes national failure a certainty. Beyond some point, you can't come back."

Daniels' appeal is not ideological; it is mathematical. The passions aroused by ideology, in his view, hamper the ability of political adults to deal rationally with disturbing budget numbers. But if Daniels de-emphasizes ideology, he elevates moral virtues such as thrift, realism and humility. The vivid contrast to President Obama's expansive, undisciplined, expensive public ambitions has elevated Daniels to prominence.

This is not a pose. I was a colleague of Daniels when he was director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It was his job to say "no" to splendid policy proposals, which he did with good-humored enthusiasm. Raining on parades was both a profession and a hobby.

There is a reason why OMB is not a typical steppingstone to high political office; the same reason that accountants generally don't become sex symbols. But Daniels became a highly successful Indiana governor, combining a motorcycle-driving, pork-tenderloin-eating populism with courageous budget cutting, a solid record of job creation and a reputation for competence. If responsibility and austerity are now sexy, Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are centerfolds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Where's the culture in our football? (Howard Jacobson, 6/19/10, Independent)

Call me hasty, call me foolhardy – for I write this the night before England kick off against Algeria – but don't call me unpatriotic. I make this prophetic pronouncement with great sadness. But make it I must. We are not going to win the World Cup. [...]

My own view is that no quotation is ever wasted, no example of another's philosophy or fortitude without its inspirational effect. And a brain stored with the wisdom of the ages must be more advantageous than a brain stored with nothing, if only in the sense that there's more to head the ball into the net with.

But this isn't exactly the educatedness I'm talking about. I mean educated in the sense of possessing the sophistication and intelligence intrinsic to your game. I mean educated in the science and the beauty of the thing you're doing.

Thus, Shane Warne was an educated bowler. And thus the Germans, when we watched them think and slink their way past Australia the other day, were educated footballers. I can see why Beckenbauer was dismissive of the English game: all kick and rush, he called it. He could have been more cruelly dismissive still. He could have called it all kick and rush and then fall over. Since that's not the Italian game, we must assume that Fabio Capello has resorted to it because he knows now that's all we're good at, Wayne Rooney
excepted. "Half bison, half viper" was how the film director Werner Herzog described Rooney at a public event in London last year. Not what the audience expected to hear – a great German film director waxing lyrical about a great English footballer who I'd make a stab at guessing didn't know much about his films.

Reciprocated or not, Werner Herzog's admiration for Rooney was as passionate as it was surprising. And he spoke the truth. Rooney assuredly does combine a viperish intelligence with a bison's brutality, so long as his team-mates are skilled sufficiently in the art of passing to get the ball to him; but when there is nothing to be viperishly intelligent about, because no ball's come within 20 yards of his boot, he is reduced, as who wouldn't be, to brute bison. It could turn out to be the tragedy of this World Cup, not to say the tragedy of Rooney's career – that men of little talent deny him the service his genius requires.

Could turn out to be? Will turn out to be. "O sorrow, sorrow!" But enough of that.

We've written here before that one of the great mistakes of the NASL and the MLS is that they never packaged their leagues the way the EPL does, with a Match of the Day program, which just shows one long highlight clip of the "best" game played that week and progressively shorter versions of the other games as they get more unwatchable. The host of the flagship Saturday night program is Gary Lineker, a prolific striker who may be the greatest English goal scorer in World Cup history. Commentary is often offered by Alan Schearer, one of Lineker's few peers as a striker and a former England World Cup captain.

Last night--where they were joined by Lee Dixon, a defender on the great Arsenal teams of the turn of the century--the telecast resembled Walter Cronkite reporting the JFK shooting. The futility of the English effort (or lack of same) and the misuse of Gerrard and Rooney, in particular, caused them obvious physical pain, not to mention emotional distress. And at one point in the "highlight" package, when cameras cut to a child in the stands wearing his England gear and looking bewildered by what he was watching, the play-by-play guy said something to the effect of: Get used to it son, you've years more agony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Gulf War Three (Mark Steyn, 6/18/10, National Review)

His speech on oil was no better or worse than his speech on race. Yet the Obammyboppers who once squealed with delight are weary of last year’s boy band. At the end of the big Oval Office address, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and the rest of the MSNBC gang jeered the president. For a bewildered Obama, it must have felt like his Ceausescu balcony moment. Had they caught up with him in the White House parking lot, they’d have put him up against the wall and clubbed him to a pulp with Matthews’s no longer tingling leg.

For the first time I felt a wee bit sorry for the poor fellow. What had he done to so enrage his full supporting chorus? In the Washington Post, the reaction of longtime Obammysoxer Eugene Robinson was headlined “Obama Disappoints From The Beginning Of His Speech.”

So what? He always “disappoints.” What would have been startling would have been if he hadn’t “disappointed.” His eve-of-election rally for Martha Coakley “disappointed” the Massachusetts electorate so much they gave Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican. His speech for Chicago’s Olympic bid “disappointed” the Oslo committee so much they gave the games to Pyonyang, or Ouagadougou, or any city offering to build a stadium with electrical outlets incompatible with Obama’s prompter. Be honest, guys, his inaugural address “disappointed,” too, didn’t it? Oh, in those days you still did your best to make the case for it. “He carries us from meditative bead to meditative bead, and invites us to contemplate,” wrote Stanley Fish in the New York Times. “There is a technical term for this kind of writing — parataxis, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the placing of propositions or clauses one after the other without indicating . . . the relation of co-ordination or subordination between them.’”

Gotcha. To a fool, His Majesty’s new clothes appear absolutely invisible. But, to a wise man, the placing of buttons and pockets without indicating the relation of co-ordination is a fascinating exercise in parataxical couture.

Ah, but the key is that the wise man sees that there are clothes, however funky, there's just no emperor to fill them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Prepare Yourselves for Speaker Boehner (William Galston, 6/18/10, New Republic)

A closer look at the data helps explain these results. In the 70 battleground districts, likely voters are much more likely to believe that the country is on the wrong track than are voters nationally. Fully 49 percent in Tier 1 and 46 percent in Tier 2 self-identify as conservatives, and Obama’s approval stands at only 40 percent in both tiers. By 59 to 35 in Tier 1 and 56 to 39 in Tier 2, voters endorse the proposition that “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.” (They still blame Bush more than Obama for the state of the economy, however.) In the 60 Democratic districts, only 37 percent of Democrats say that they are very enthusiastic about voting in this year’s election, versus 62 percent for Republicans. While a surge among independents boosted Democrats in 2006 and 2008, this year that key group is breaking for Republicans 50 to 29 in Tier 1 and 51 to 34 in Tier 2. And most discouraging of all for Democrats: Greenberg tested a number of different themes and arguments Democrats might use against Republicans this fall, and not one worked well enough to turn the tide.

Exhibit C: In a survey out earlier this week, Gallup researchers looked at the voters’ broad assessment of the major political parties. They asked (as they have done from time to time), “In general, do you think the political views of the Democratic Party are too conservative, too liberal, or about right?” In 2008, 50 percent said “about right” versus 39 percent “too liberal.” Today, the reverse is the case: 49 percent say “too liberal” and only 38 percent “about right.” During that same period, the share of the electorate assessing Republicans as too conservative has fallen from 43 to 40 percent, while the share seeing them as about right has risen from 38 to 41 percent. Among independents, the share seeing Democrats as too liberal has risen from 40 to 52 percent, versus a decrease from 43 to only 33 percent seeing them as about right.

Democrats must face the fact that much of the legislation that seems both necessary and proper to them looks quite different to the portion of the electorate that holds the balance of political power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur: The president is well-intentioned but can't walk the walk on the world stage (Mortimer B. Zuckerman, June 18, 2010, US News)

[A] critical mass of influential people in world affairs who once held high hopes for the president have begun to wonder whether they misjudged the man. They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West. Obama feels, fairly enough, that America must be contrite in its dealings with the Muslim world. But he has failed to address the religious intolerance, failing economies, tribalism, and gender apartheid that together contribute to jihadist extremism. This was startling and clear when he chose not to publicly support the Iranians who went to the streets in opposition to their oppressive government, based on a judgment that our support might be counterproductive. Yet, he reaches out instead to the likes of Bashar Assad of Syria, Iran's agent in the Arab world, sending our ambassador back to Syria even as it continues to rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon and expands its role in the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance.

The underlying issue is that the Arab world has different estimates on how to deal with an aggressive, expansionist Iran. The Arabs believe you do not deal with Iran with the open hand of a handshake but with the clenched fist of power. Arab leaders fear an Iran proceeding full steam with its nuclear weapons program on top of its programs to develop intermediate-range ballistic missiles. All the while centrifuges keep spinning in Iran, and Arab leaders ask whether Iran will be emboldened by what they interpret as American weakness and faltering willpower. They did not see Obama or his administration as understanding the region, where naiveté is interpreted as a weakness of character, as amateurism, and as proof of the absence of the tough stuff of which leaders are made. (That's why many Arab leaders were appalled at the decision to have a civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York. After 9/11, many of them had engaged in secret counterterrorism activities under the umbrella of an American promise that these activities would never be made public; now they feared that this would be the exact consequence of an open trial.)

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


FIFA and the Drawing of Lots: A Brief History (JEFF Z. KLEIN, 6/19/10, NY Times)

If England and the United States tie their respective games next Wednesday, and the English score two more goals in their game than the Americans do in theirs, both teams will be dead even in the Group C table. According to FIFA regulations, the two will have to draw lots to see who advances and who goes home.

Has that ever happened in a major international tournament?

Yes. In 1954 in Rome, a 14-year-old boy named Luigi Franco Gemma drew lots — a ball, actually — to determine whether Turkey or Spain would go to the World Cup.

The US has a lot of cleaning up to do to get soccer to the point where it is decided by the play of the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Jose Saramago, Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature, Dies at 87 (Jim Silver, 6/18/10, Business Week)

Saramago, the only Portuguese winner of the literary prize, was 60 before he wrote most of the novels for which he was honored, having worked as a car mechanic, civil servant, production manager in a publishing company and newspaper editor before becoming a full-time writer.

He joined the Portuguese Communist Party in 1969, during a dictatorship that had outlawed the party, and was a contentious figure in the nation’s public life.

After a military-led government with Communist participation took power in 1974, Saramago the next year became deputy director of a leading newspaper, Diario de Noticias, where opponents on the staff said he helped impose pro- government news coverage. He was fired after a November 1975 confrontation that reduced the Communists’ role in the government.

In 1991, the government blocked the nomination of his novel, “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ,” for a European literary prize, calling it offensive to Catholics. In the book, Saramago portrays a Jesus who has sex with Mary Magdalene and is a pawn in a power struggle between God and the Devil. The government’s decision prompted him and his wife, Spanish journalist Pilar del Rio, to leave Portugal for Spain’s Canary Islands, where he lived for the rest of his life. [...]

After winning the Nobel, Saramago, though still living in Spain, was feted in his home country. A publisher named a literary award for young writers after him, and the city of Beja in southern Portugal put his name on its municipal library.

Still, he didn’t win universal affection from the Portuguese, many of whom hadn’t read his work, partly because of its difficult style, Almeida Rodrigues said.

“The Portuguese find him somewhat arrogant,” she said. “Portuguese who are outstanding tend to be recognized more outside the country than at home.”

...because the books suck?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


The Surprising Toll of Sleep Deprivation: How skimping on rest affects your brain, your hormones, and your heart. (Lawrence J. Epstein, 6/18/10, NEWSWEEK)

Adults typically need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to feel fully rested and function at their best. However, Americans are getting less sleep than they did in the past. A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that Americans averaged 6.9 hours of sleep per night, which represents a drop of about two hours per night since the 19th century, one hour per night over the past 50 years, and about 15 to 25 minutes per night just since 2001.

Unfortunately, we are not very good at perceiving the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania restricted volunteers to less than six hours in bed per night for two weeks. The volunteers perceived only a small increase in sleepiness and thought they were functioning relatively normally. However, formal testing showed that their cognitive abilities and reaction times progressively declined during the two weeks. By the end of the two-week test, they were as impaired as subjects who had been awake continuously for 48 hours.

Moreover, cognitive and mood problems may not be the only consequences of too little sleep. Researchers at the University of Chicago have shown that too little sleep changes the body's secretion of some hormones. The changes promote appetite, reduce the sensation of feeling full after a meal, and alter the body's response to sugar intake—changes that can promote weight gain and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Since then, multiple epidemiological studies have shown that people who chronically get too little sleep are at greater risk of being overweight and developing diabetes.

June 18, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


N. Korea lifts restrictions on private markets to prevent famine (Chico Harlan, 6/18/10, Washington Post )

Bowing to reality, the North Korean government has lifted all restrictions on private markets -- a last-resort option for a leadership desperate to prevent its people from starving.

In recent weeks, according to North Korea observers and defector groups with sources in the country, Kim Jong Il's government admitted its inability to solve the current food shortage and encouraged its people to rely on private markets for the purchase of goods. Though the policy reversal will not alter daily patterns -- North Koreans have depended on such markets for more than 15 years -- the latest order from Pyongyang abandons a key pillar of a central, planned economy.

With November's currency revaluation, Kim wiped out his citizens' personal savings and struck a blow against the private food distribution system sustaining his country. The latest policy switch, though, stands as an acknowledgment that the currency move was a failure and that only capitalist-style trading can prevent widespread famine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


The World at Play: Soccer Takes on Globalization: The game offers lessons for managing movement of talented professionals around the world (Branko Milanovic, 15 June 2010, Yale Global)

For many of the billion spectators who watch the soccer World Cup opening in Rustenburg, South Africa, the word “globalization” may have come to mind. From advertisers to spectators, soccer embodies globalization like no other sport. And for players, soccer embodies globalization like no other profession.

The market for professional soccer players is, by far, the most globalized labor market. A Nigerian or Brazilian soccer player can get a job more easily in Europe or Japan than a skilled surgeon or engineer. Out of some 2,600 professional players in the five top European leagues – England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – almost 800 are expatriates, defined as those born and recruited in a county different from the one where they play, according to data published by Professional Football Players Observatory for the last soccer season.

The market for professional soccer players is, by far, the most globalized labor market.

Globalization of the world’s most popular game is responsible for two developments:

The first one cannot be easily quantified, but most observers agree that the quality of the game has improved: players have greater physical stamina, with better ball control and technique.

Rules limiting foreign players, Bosman argued and won, were in flagrant violation of EU freedom-of-movement and non-discrimination labor laws.

But also, global mobility of labor combined with a capitalist system, in which the richest clubs can buy the best players without salary caps or other limits, concentrates quality more than ever before. A handful of richest soccer teams buy the best players and collect the most trophies, thus boosting their popularity, developing an international fan base, selling more jerseys and advertisements, adding to their coffers and, in turn, buying better players.

The gap between the top clubs and the rest has widened in key Europeans leagues. During the last 15 years, all English soccer championships but one were won by the so-called “Big Four”: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. The concentration is greater in Italy: Only once during the last 20 years has a non top-four club won the Italian Serie A. It’s no surprise that the top four Italian clubs, like the top four English clubs, are on the list of the 20 richest clubs in the world. In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona shared 17 out of the last 20 championships. In Germany, 13 out of the last 16 championships were won by two clubs.

Winners of the European Champions League are consistently from a narrowing circle of top, richest clubs. The Champions league is played annually, and over a five-year period, there theoretically could be 40 different teams in the quarter-finals. In the mid-1970s, that number was around 30. Since then, every successive five-year period produced a smaller number of teams, with only 21 in the period ending in 2010. The day could come when the same eight teams play in the quarterfinals, year in and year out – a trifle boring indeed.

At the club level, globalization combined with commercialization produces better quality of the game and greater concentration of winning clubs.

At the club level, globalization combined with commercialization thus produces two outcomes: better quality of the game, which is tantamount, in economics, to greater output; and greater concentration of winning clubs, which is tantamount to greater inequality.

One of the problems that the lesser clubs in the EPL run into is chasing the model of the bigger clubs without the resources to do so effectively. It leaves a huge Moneyballesque gap for teams to pursue a different model and take advantage of undervalued resources. In the current game there seem to be two main pools of such: youngsters and Americans (other than Brazilians and Argentines).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


Brazilian football has moved from poetry into prose (Simon Kuper, June 19 2010, Financial Times)

Jogo bonito with its dribbles, tricks and goals was the product of a particular era. It’s now gone forever. To expect its return is like waiting for the revival of Byzantine art.

Jogo bonito climaxed in 1970 when Brazil won its third World Cup. Brazilians have been trying to catch up with tactically more advanced western Europe ever since. Often they have achieved dourness. At their best, in the World Cup of 2002, they have found synthesis: European grit with moments of Brazilian beauty. In 2006 they attempted a bit more jogo bonito. They fielded five great dribblers, not all of them slender workaholics, and lost in the quarter-final. That buried jogo bonito.

It lives on only in people’s heads. At kick-off on Tuesday, flashlights popped around the stands: Brazil have become an experience, a tribute act, as much as a football team. What spoiled the experience was the match. Only Robinho, whose muttonchop beard evoked Abraham Lincoln, had licence to dribble. His job was to play jogo bonito. His teammates’ job was to back him with dour western European football, which is the new international style. Even the North Koreans and New Zealanders have learnt it. They have gone from incompetence to hyperorganisation. Brazil have gone from brilliance to hyperorganisation.

Blaming Dunga for this is silly. Eleven-man jogo bonito is simply no longer feasible. You could dribble in the 1960s, when the average player ran perhaps 4km a game. If you beat a defender then you were usually free, because his colleagues hadn’t come across to back him up. If he dispossessed you it didn’t matter much, as his team then took forever to move the ball forward. You could assemble your defence at leisure.

Here in South Africa, players run perhaps 10km a game. A beaten defender will tackle you again a second later, and he probably has two teammates covering him. Even the Brazilians of 1970 would struggle to dribble against today’s North Korea. Defenders here have memorised opponents’ tricks from DVDs. And teams now break instantly on winning the ball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


The Goal That Wasn’t (Joe Posnanski, June 18th, 2010)

I thought about her Friday morning as I watched the United States soccer team put together one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of the World Cup. I thought about her and all those people in America who were watching world class soccer more or less for the first time.

And I was thinking just what an overmatched referee named Koman Coulibaly cost us all.

Understand: This was Nolan Ryan’s seventh no-hitter. This was Jerry West’s 60-foot shot. This was Montana to Clark in the end zone. This was Bobby Orr’s flying goal. This was the young Tiger Woods at Augusta. This was all those things multiplied several times because this was happening on the giant stage, in the world’s biggest sporting event. A team does not come back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to win in the World Cup. It doesn’t happen. It had NEVER happened. In soccer at the World Cup level — with its impossible mix of passion and fury and consequence and vuvuzelas — each goal is a minor miracle. Two goals is something like insurmountable, especially when a team has shut you out for an entire half.

Slovenia dominated a shaken U.S. team for an entire half. The American players looked tentative … frightened even. It was hard for a half to believe that America was the favorite coming in. In basketball, coaches talk a lot about those 50-50 balls — the loose balls or rebounds that could go to either team. These 50-50 balls are at the core of soccer, at the heart of winning. And Slovenia was getting to all of them.

Then came the second half … and a Landon Donovan goal for the ages. He dribbled toward the net a sharp angle and when got close he rifled a shot at about a 75-degree angle — not quite straight up, but close enough. The ball smacked into the top of the net — the first clean American goal of the World Cup. And that was the goal that changed the complexion of the match. The U.S. intensity level jumped up even higher. Of course, intensity does not make goals — world class goals still need a combination of timing and skill and luck and something wordless. But the U.S. team just kept playing at this spectacular level. It would take another 34 minutes of that before Michael Bradley, the coach’s son, would race in to the box after Jozy Altidore’s header and deflect the ball into net for what soccer fans like to call “the equalizer.” I tend to think we should try to fit “the equalizer” into our baseball lexicon as well — it’s just better than “tying run.”

Getting the tie was something close to miraculous. But, of course, you know by now that this should not have ended in a tie. Because four minutes later, Donovan’s free kick was cracked into the goal by teammate Maurice Edu, a beautiful play that should have given the United States a 3-2 lead … and, surely, a 3-2 victory. This comeback would have been the greatest achievement in American soccer since America’s famous 1950 victory over England. And, in many ways, it would have been even better because, frankly, there was a whole lot of fluke in the 1950 victory. That was a generally weak team (the U.S. would be outscored 8-3 in their final two games) playing way over its head for one day.

There was no fluke in this comeback. The United States team, facing all those sports death cliches — back against the wall, everything to lose, on the brink, all of them — played a magnificent half of soccer and had done something transcendent. Yes, this was Nolan Ryan’s seventh no hitter … you didn’t have to know soccer, appreciate soccer, understand soccer or even like soccer to be in the moment.

Only the winning goal was disallowed by Koman Coulibaly. And nobody knew why. Nobody. They showed the replay on television again and again … there was clearly no offside on the play. There was no foul — and if there was any foul it had to be on Slovenia. There was nothing to call. There was nothing but a brilliant goal. But the brilliant goal was disallowed anyway. Donovan would say after the game that the players asked Coulibaly for the simplest thing: Just tell them the call. Just tell they WHY he had disallowed the goal. Donovan would say that Coulibaly refused.

When you are watching a sport you don’t often watch, things happen that you don’t quite understand. Why didn’t that play count? Oh, the offensive lineman was holding. Why was that basket disallowed? Oh, that guy was standing in the lane for three seconds. Why was that home run taken away? Oh, the umpire said it went foul. This happens in every sport.

But what made Coulibali’s Call-of-Folly so maddening is that even soccer experts could not tell us why it happened. Even an honest bad call — even Jim Joyce’s imperfect game call, for instance — is something digestible. He thought the guy was safe. OK. But this … what did he see? What mistake was made? Can a referee simply disallow a goal for fuzzy reasons only he seems to know?

The world has grown used to the foggy quirks of soccer — extra time, diving, stretchers for players who immediately run back out on the pitch, calls made without explanation. But most of us are not used to these things. And, for so many, this was a lousy introduction to the fog.

...but the fact of the matter is that for the US under Bob Bradley this was pretty much a routine game.

Thanks largely to the refs, the US was on the verge of elimination in the Confederations Cup lalmost exactly one year ago, but then... U.S. headed to semis (AP, 6/21/09)

Outplayed by Italy and Brazil, the U.S. soccer team once again was on the verge of first-round elimination from a big international tournament.

To reach the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, the Americans needed to beat Egypt by at least three goals while the world champion Italians lost to Brazil by at least three.

Astronomical odds, right?

Well, advance they did.

Charlie Davies scored in the 21st minute and Michael Bradley -- the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley -- connected in the 63rd to get a Father's Day goal for the second straight year. Clint Dempsey then broke a nine-month international scoreless streak in the 71st, giving the United States an improbable 3-0 victory Sunday night.

And in a game played simultaneously, Brazil scored three times in the first half to defeat Italy 3-0.

...and, in the final game of World Cup qualifying, when we basically only playing to defend our record on hoime spoil, U.S. Takes Top Spot In CONCACAF (US Soccer, Oct. 14, 2009)
With a berth to the 2010 FIFA World Cup already secured, the U.S. Men’s National Team took care of one last piece of business during its 10th and final game of CONCACAF Qualifying, mounting a furious comeback that finished with just 10 players on the field while earning a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica on a rainy night at RFK Stadium.

The draw, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 26,243 fans, coupled with Mexico’s 2-2 tie against Trinidad & Tobago, gave the USA first place in the group. The USA finished the Hexagonal with a total of 20 points, ahead of Mexico (19) and Honduras (16), who finished above Costa Rica (16) on goal differential. Costa Rica was just 30 seconds away from finishing in third place in the group and earning an automatic berth into the World Cup when Jonathan Bornstein scored off a header from a corner kick by Robbie Rogers in the 95th minute to tie the match.

The USA had fallen behind 2-0 midway through the first half, but launched a fierce comeback that included a 72nd minute goal from Michael Bradley, who finished a rebound of a Landon Donovan shot, and then came Bornstein’s dramatic header with the final seconds ticking away.

The USA was reduced to 10 men for the last seven minutes of the game, plus five minutes of stoppage time, after defender Oguchi Onyewu went down in the Costa Rican penalty box with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, suffered while he was backpedaling after a corner kick. He had to be stretchered off and, as the USA already had used all three of its allowed substitutes, the Americans played a man down the rest of the way.

...and, of course, in the first game of this Cup we just shrugged off an early gift to England and would have won going away but for a lack of ambition on the part of the coach.

Over time we'll develop a proper regality and win easy games easily, but in the meantime the Cardiac Kid act makes for decent drama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


...haven't seen a story on it yet, but I think the possibility now exists that if the Brits and Yanks both beat Algeria and the Brits and Slovenes tie then at least one of the teams that advances to the next round--from a group including the smallest nation in the Cup, the largest country, and the land where the game was invented--will be determined by a coin flip. No, seriously....

Will the Americans Advance? (JEFF Z. KLEIN, 6/18/10, NY Times)

If the Americans draw with Algeria, they will have 3 points. In that case, they could advance only if Slovenia beats England, or if England draws with Slovenia by a low score. If England draws with Slovenia while the United States draws with Algeria, and England scores two more goals in their draw than the Americans score in theirs, they will have identical records. In that case, lots will be drawn to determine which team advances to the knockout phase.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


Vatican calls ‘Blues Brothers’ a ‘Catholic classic’: Comedy joins ‘The Passion of The Christ’ among recommended films (Eric J. Lyman, 6/17/10, Hollywood Reporter )

When Jake and Elwood Blues, the protagonists in John Landis' cult classic “The Blues Brothers,” claimed they were on a mission from God, the Catholic Church apparently took them at their word.

On the 30th anniversary of the film's release, “L'Osservatore Romano,” the Vatican's official newspaper, called the film a “Catholic classic” and said it should be recommended viewing for Catholics everywhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


US fight back to draw with Slovenia (Reuters, June 18. 2010)

But Landon Donovan scored a brilliant individual goal three minutes after the break and, as the Americans poured forwards, Michael Bradley, son of coach Bob Bradley, grabbed an equaliser eight minutes from time.

The United States got the ball in the net five minutes from the end through Maurice Edu but it was controversially disallowed by the referee who spotted an apparent infringement by the American.

"I still don't know why the goal was disallowed," an angry Bradley, who remonstrated with the Malian official at the end of the match, said. "Nobody knows at this moment."

...but Bob Bradley is getting exactly what he deserves for playing for draws against teams we should beat.

The disallowed goal, by the way, perfectly illustrates why the offsides rule is stupid and why there should be an NHL style goal crease. On every single set play it is a completely arbitrary matter whether the ref whistles play dead or not because there are infractions by both sides on all of them.

Landon Donovan starts USA fightback against Slovenia (Sean Ingle, 6/18/10, guardian.co.uk)

It was clear the USA had to change things and the coach, Bradley, did so at half-time, bringing Torres and Findley off, and Edu and Benny Feilhaber on.

Immediately Donovan seized on a mistake, ran into the box and shot from close range. Handanovic seemed to flinch as the bullet went past his head and high into the back of the net.

Suddenly the large US support was revitalised and the chants of "USA! USA!" were heard above out the tuneless lament of the vuvuzelas. The chances continued to come. Onyewu missed a free-kick by inches; Altidore breezed past Marko Suler only to hesitate on the edge of the box, allowing the Slovenian defender to recover before, a few minutes later, hitting a slapshot straight at Handanovic.

The pressure was building and Slovenia resorted to increasingly desperate measures to break up USA's rhythm. First Suler was booked for barging over Altidore outside the penalty box. Then, three minutes later, Andraz Kirm joined him in the book after a trip on Steve Cherundolo. And Bojan Jokic also saw yellow after going through Donovan.

U.S. vs. Slovenia Ends in Controversial Tie (MATTHEW FUTTERMAN, 6/18/10, WSJ)
For 45 minutes, Team U.S.A. was out-hustled, out-muscled and out-thought by a sturdy and determined Slovenian team that rarely bent and never broke at Ellis Park. The Slovenians brought a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead into the locker room that, if it stood, would have been a major embarrassment for a team drawn from the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet. Slovenia has fewer inhabitants than Brooklyn.

But U.S. coach Bob Bradley sent his most offensive lineup onto the pitch for the second half, moving stars Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan up to the front line to mount an all-or-nothing attack that would likely determine his fate as the titular head of American soccer.

By the end of the game Mr. Bradley and Team U.S.A had lived to fight another day. Its 2-2 draw on clutch goals from Mr. Donovan and Michael Bradley, the coach's son, salvaged not only the legitimacy of U.S. soccer but its chances to advance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


Congress Showboaters Revel in Hayward Humiliation (Matthew Lynn, 6/18/10, Bloomberg)

As he appeared before members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday to testify on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, [BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward] must have known he would have more chance of walking out of a Stalinist show trial with a full acquittal than he did of emerging back into the Washington daylight with his reputation enhanced.

By the time the hearing finished, it was clear that no one was going to emerge with any credit from this undignified charade. In reality, Hayward should never have agreed to appear before this posturing lynch mob. The committee members showed zero interest in getting to the real causes of the environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf. Instead they were content to score cheap points with a domestic political audience.

There are real political issues to be debated here. How dependent should we be on oil? What risks is society prepared to take to drill for it? How much responsibility for safety rests with companies, and how much with regulators?

The lawmakers weren’t interested in discussing any of that. All they managed to accomplish was to highlight Hayward’s main failing: lack of the necessary verve and aplomb to turn the conversation around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


The PIIGS Who Fell to Earth: James C. Bennett, former UPI correspondent and author of The Anglosphere Challenge, imagines Angela Merkel calling a few of her closest friends in the highest offices about the financial crisis engulfing the governments of Europe. (James C. Bennett, 6/18/10, PJM)

…we now bring you the video released by the German chancellor.

“My fellow German citizens, fellow Europeans, and fellow citizens of the planet. The continuing financial crisis has forced the German Federal Republic, acting on a consensus of all major parties, to take the following emergency measures. Effective at 2400 hours on September 3rd, which is to say midnight tonight, the German Federal Republic withdraws from its participation in the European Monetary Union and from its membership in the European Central Bank., effective immediately. The euro is no longer the official currency of the German Federal Republic. We are introducing, again effective immediately, a new national currency which will be called the New Deutschmark. The New Deutschmark will be valued initially at a rate of one NDM for one euro, but of course it will be allowed to float freely henceforth on international money markets. All debts and contracts denominated in euros will be deemed to be denominated in NDM under German law; all bank accounts in Germany denominated in euros will be automatically converted to NDM at a one-to-one rate. For the next thirty days, all euro notes bearing serial numbers denoting issuance in Germany can be exchanged for NDM notes at a one-to-one ratio; all other euro notes will be exchanged at the prevailing international rate. We have distributed large supplies of the new NDM notes to most major banks, and they will be available for withdrawal no later than Tuesday, and perhaps some before. As you can see, they are the same size and color as their euro equivalents, so that they may be used in vending machines.

“Of course, as Germany will no longer participate in the European Central Bank, staring immediately, our members of its Board will withdraw. It is welcome to remain in Frankfurt, but we understand that it may choose to relocate, in which it will receive every assistance from us. We will, of course, expect the prompt return of our contribution to its reserves.

“This news undoubtedly comes as a surprise to most. You must understand that it was not possible to announce this news in advance. If we had permitted any period, no matter how short, to remain between the announcement that we would withdraw from EMU, and the actual withdrawal, speculators would drive down the value of the euro and all German assets denominated in that currency would lose substantial value. There is no good reason why such losses should be suffered. Furthermore, it is a fact that another major Eurozone nation had threatened a withdrawal from EMU in the course of a negotiation a few months ago. This was alarming to us, as the first nation to leave will suffer the least damage. We could not take the chance that another would be first to leave, exposing us to more risk.

“We of course remain firm in our membership of the European Union and fully committed to the European project. Other EU member nations, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden have participated fully in the EU without having been part of the euro experiment, and we, like them, will support EMU from the outside. We believe this action is the best available solution to the current crisis, as without our participation, and possibly without that of several other nations, the remaining Eurozone members will find a fiscal policy appropriate to their economic needs, and the currency’s value on the international market will serve as a boost to their export industries and tourism trade, easing economic adjustment. As the rates adjust, their existing international debt, which will remain denominated in Euros, will prove easier and easier to service and repay without external assistance.

“Thank you, and good night.”

The announcer, still appearing stunned, looked down at his desk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


That ’30s Feeling (PAUL KRUGMAN, 6/18/10, NY Times)

Many economists, myself included, regard this turn to austerity as a huge mistake. It raises memories of 1937, when F.D.R.’s premature attempt to balance the budget helped plunge a recovering economy back into severe recession. And here in Germany, a few scholars see parallels to the policies of Heinrich Brüning, the chancellor from 1930 to 1932, whose devotion to financial orthodoxy ended up sealing the doom of the Weimar Republic.

But despite these warnings, the deficit hawks are prevailing in most places — and nowhere more than here, where the government has pledged 80 billion euros, almost $100 billion, in tax increases and spending cuts even though the economy continues to operate far below capacity.

...there'd have been no Depression. Chairman Bernanke has rates covered, now the UR just has to offer cuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


They lacked a finishing touch (Gary Washburn, June 18, 2010, Boston Globe)

While the Celtics blamed themselves and the Lakers’ execution down the stretch for the collapse, one Celtic in particular had an issue with the officiating. After the game, Wallace, sporting a white T-shirt with his sneakers and headphones resting on the floor beside him, stood outside the officials’ locker room waiting to speak with Dan Crawford.

Wallace fouled out in that pivotal fourth quarter. He attempted to take a charge on Bryant after Gasol chased down an offensive rebound. Earlier, he was called for a loose ball foul on Gasol. Of course Wallace disagreed with both calls and the free throw disparity was not lost on Rivers.

“I thought the lack of size at the end of the day was the difference in the game,’’ he said. “I thought our guys battled down there, but 23-8, you know, on offensive rebounds, and then the 37-17 discrepancy in free throws, that makes it almost impossible to overcome.’’

...the dependence on marketing individual stars instead means that you can't afford for your employees--the officials--to allow those stars to lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


The Darkness at the Heart of Labour (Gerry Hassan, 18 June 2010, Open Democracy)

What does all this say about Labour and the New Labour era? To many it is assumed to be an era – which whatever its rights and wrongs – that is now over. The curtain can be drawn on some of its worst excesses: Iraq, 90 days detention, ID cards and the DNA database. To some it is ‘Back to the Future’ of the warm certainties of Old Labour and the party as the sole vehicle of progressive politics.

This is dangerous, delusional and wrong and was put into context when I undertook a recorded podcast for The Scotsman with John McTernan (you can listen here), who until recently worked as an adviser to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, and before that in No 10 Downing Street for Tony Blair.

McTernan thinks New Labour were "totally successful" as a political project; his assessment of this is that David Cameron has ended up imitating New Labour and accepting much of the legacy of the Blair era. Any major failings during the last thirteen years were about Brown "the man and not the project", and Brown’s limitations as a leader in his period as Prime Minister.

Labour’s defeat one month ago could have been avoided – if Brown had been replaced after he saved the banks – by David Miliband. McTernan actually said that if this had occurred Labour would have won the election and David Miliband would be sitting in No 10 as we speak. His proof for this was the contention that "the moment Brown resigned Labour’s poll ratings went up from 28% to 34%".

In this world according to McTernan there is no need for Labour to engage in any healing or addressing the wounds and bruises inflicted on it by the New Labour era. Three election victories; the decade of Blair; ten years of growth: it is a triumphalist era the equivalent of Thatcher cut short by an ungrateful party which mowed down the most successful leader in its history.

...and David Cameron cast himself as the Blairite in the race, so the next Labour PM will be the one who convinces England that he's more Third Way than the Tory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Plucky Belgium is leading the way. Today Flanders, tomorrow Scotland: However much Euro-enthusiasts wish it were otherwise, the craving for lower-tier self-rule refuses to die (Simon Jenkins, 6/17/10, guardian.co.uk)

Since the 1980s Flanders and Wallonia have been given ever more devolution, as has the French-speaking Brussels enclave within Flanders. Each round has yielded a desire for more. Over the past two decades Belgium has ceded to Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels services such as health, education, development, agriculture, even foreign trade treaties. Only taxation and social security are national, and these are the proximate cause of Flemings' anger, since their taxes pour south to finance Wallonia's "social dependents".

During the election Wallonia's socialist leader, Elio di Rupo, ignored Europe's economic crisis by calling for ever more transfers from Flanders, for higher state spending on health and pensions and for price controls on food. Belgium is thus a microcosm of the EU, a treaty state in which political entities claim resources by territorial negotiation. The result was inevitable. Just as German taxpayers are finally fed up with subsidising Greek pensioners, so Flemings are fed up with subsidising Walloons.

In these circumstances Belgium's elite has looked to supranational bodies such as Nato and the EU for its status, even as statehood disintegrates beneath its feet. Despite being the battlefield for Europe's wars throughout history, Belgians have no enemies other than themselves. Why should they be expected to cohabit in coalitions that notoriously take months to form and weeks to collapse?

However much Euro-enthusiasts wish it were otherwise, the craving for lower tier self-government refuses to die. Indeed, it is booming. In Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, even the UK, concession after concession is made to devolutionary sentiment. It is made with a patronising nod at the parish-pump quaintness of separatist leaders, dubbed populist, extremist or right-wing, never just democratic.

To the Economist, de Wever is a "populist bruiser". To the Times, his success has "potentially disastrous implications" for Europe. Similar language is used of the Italians' Northern League, Scotland's nationalists and Spain's Catalans. No one says why. To modern Eurocrats, localists are merely below the salt.

Countries dissolve when the political logic that held them together dissolves. There is no reason why an independent Flanders should not be as resilient as Slovakia, Slovenia, Ireland or the Baltic states. Bigness is no guarantee of prosperity, usually the opposite. Big statism is a hangover from 20th-century imperialism and the needs of perpetual war. It is now claimed for globalisation, but as that draws power away from democratic institutions, so the self-governing urge claws it back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 AM


The Jewish Religious Conflict Tearing at Israel (Matthew Kalman, Jun. 17, 2010, TIME)

The parents at the center of Thursday's drama, followers of Rabbi Shmuel Berzovsky who leads the tiny Slonimer Hasidic sect, chose two weeks in jail rather than sending their daughters to the Beis Yaakov school near their homes in the religious West Bank settlement of Emanuel. Their reason? At the school, the Ashkenazi kids would mingle with religious Mizrahi kids, some of whom come from more secular extended families and therefore, say the Slonimers, could expose their sheltered daughters to unwanted influences from the wider world. And their imprisonment was the culmination of a two-year battle between the ultra-Orthodox sect, which effectively controls the school, and Israel's secular Supreme Court. Before the Beis Yaakov controversy, few people had heard of the Slonimer, named for the town in Belarus where their first rabbi lived 200 years ago, and the sect's internal power struggle between rival leaders in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. But the fight over the schoolgirls has united the tiny group and transformed it into the latest torchbearers of a festering feud between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular establishment.

Thursday's demonstration was the largest in Jerusalem since ultra-Orthodox protesters gathered in similar numbers in 1999 in a show of strength against the supposed antireligious bias of Israel's Supreme Court. A decade on, the gap between the two entities is wider than ever, with running debates over such issues as the power of religious courts, state subsidies for religious students, religious exemption from military service and access to public roads on the Sabbath.(How the Sephardim gained political clout in Israel.)

In August 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that a separate stream created in Beis Yaakov school two years ago for the Slonim amounted to "rampant discrimination" against the rest of the pupils, who are 95% Mizrahi. The court ordered the school, which is financed by the state, to remove the physical barriers and integrate the classes. For six months, the parents defied the court. When the barriers finally came down, 43 families removed their daughters and then sent them to another state-funded school in Bnei Brak, an hour's drive away. But parents are not allowed to move their kids from one school to another in the middle of a school year without permission from the education authorities, and their departure left the Beis Yaakov school with too few kids to be viable.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the parents must return their daughters to the now desegregated school by Thursday or report to jail.

The open defiance of the parents led opposition leader Tzipi Livni to wonder aloud about the future of the rule of law in Israel and the deafening silence of government ministers scared of offending ultra-Orthodox parties that hold the balance of power. "I have heard that there is a group of people who have said ahead of time that they refuse to accept a Supreme Court decision," Livni told supporters this week. "There is no room for such declarations in a democratic state. I am not a fan of the Supreme Court's involvement in all issues, but when the political and state leadership does not accept decisions based on the values of the state of Israel, the Supreme Court has no choice."

Israel's other demographic challenge (Tim Franks, 9/03/07, BBC News).

The Haredim live in a world apart from modern, westernised West Jerusalem, devoting their lives to the study of Jewish law and thought, practising what they see as the purest form of Judaism.

It is widely accepted that Palestinian population growth in Israel and the occupied territories is a major strategic issue for Israel.

But the proportion of ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews is also growing, approximately three times as fast as the rest of the population.

In a country where every 18-year-old Jew is supposed to join the army - and which has faced six major conflicts with its neighbours and battled two Palestinian uprisings - that Haredi population growth poses some urgent questions.

The ultra-orthodox do not face compulsory conscription; they are exempted from national service in order to continue their religious studies.

Once it was a tiny minority which took that route; now they account for more than 10% of draft-age Israeli Jews. By 2019, the government forecasts they will constitute almost one in four.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid represents a constituency in Israel that asks whether Haredi behaviour is not in fact undermining the Jewish state.

"I have nothing against them because they are religious," says Mr Lapid. "I very much oppose the fact that they don't serve in the army. They represent God in God's country, but don't defend God's country".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Senate liberals threaten rebellion on energy bill (Alexander Bolton, 06/17/10, The Hill)

Liberal Democrats in the Senate are threatening to vote against energy legislation if it does not address global climate change.

After watching centrist Democrats and Republicans shrink the 2009 economic stimulus package, strip the public option from healthcare reform and slice a pending package of safety-net program extensions, liberal senators are reaching the limits of their patience. [...]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to include provisions to address the Gulf oil spill and strengthen regulation of deepwater drilling to the energy legislation, but Reid on Thursday declined to commit to including climate change provisions in the bill.

They're right on this one, but are they really going to kill the entire bill if they don't get their way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 AM


The Great Anglo-American Spat: British public opinion was wildly in favor of candidate Obama. President Obama is proving to be something else again. (Victor Davis Hanson, 6/17/10, National Review)

[T]wo ancillary considerations perhaps explain why the British are especially upset at these real and hyped slights.

One is embarrassment, and the second a sort of fear.

First, in 2008 the British public heavily invested in candidate Obama as a long-awaited social-democratic anti-Bush. Four years earlier, in 2004, the British media had closely followed the American presidential election, with some commentators haughtily berating the voters of Ohio for giving Bush the margin of victory — as if one swing state that went conservative was responsible for ensuring a continuance of global discord. In this regard, the boorish and untrue slur against George Bush’s supposed lack of interest in reading, offered earlier this month by the new court jester, Paul McCartney, as a sort of toady tip to a smiling Obama, is par for the course rather than a clumsy divot.

In 2008, the British public and press both bought, hook, line, and sinker, the reset-button promises of Barack Obama to be a listener. They welcomed a sort of elegant post-racial Wilsonian multilateralist — and, better yet, a progressive who did not drawl or offend like the pink, tongue-tied bore of old, Jimmy Carter. And so the damn-Bush/praise-Obama chorus sang on in Britain.

That the supposed yokel “Yo, Blair!” George W. Bush was strongly pro-British and that he cared deeply about his partnership with Tony Blair (who often had more influence on Bush than vice versa) were conveniently ignored. Indeed, the British were embarrassed by Bush’s fondness for Blair and for the U.K. in general, as if he were some sort of Walmart Velcro that just wouldn’t come unstuck.

Now, of course, the British have got what they wanted, and they are beginning to rue it. They fear that they have been had. And in a way, they most certainly have.

All of which brings us to our second consideration, the suspicion among some Brits that the Obama hostility is not so much the clumsiness of a raw rookie as it is the logical expression of our first “Pacific president,” who feels no special affinity with Europe or reverence for the Western tradition — and thus especially no love for our colonial mother, Britain.

...it did serve as sufficient warning that they didn't make the Australian mistake of electing their own UR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 AM

AND SO IT BEGINS... (via The Other Brother)

Quantifying the Performance of Individual Players in a Team Activity (Jordi Duch1,2,3, Joshua S. Waitzman1, Luís A. Nunes Amaral1,2,4*, 1 Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States of America, 2 Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States of America, 3 Department of Computer Science and Mathematics, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain, 4 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States of America, PLoS ONE)


Teamwork is a fundamental aspect of many human activities, from business to art and from sports to science. Recent research suggest that team work is of crucial importance to cutting-edge scientific research, but little is known about how teamwork leads to greater creativity. Indeed, for many team activities, it is not even clear how to assign credit to individual team members. Remarkably, at least in the context of sports, there is usually a broad consensus on who are the top performers and on what qualifies as an outstanding performance.
Methodology/Principal Findings

In order to determine how individual features can be quantified, and as a test bed for other team-based human activities, we analyze the performance of players in the European Cup 2008 soccer tournament. We develop a network approach that provides a powerful quantification of the contributions of individual players and of overall team performance. [...]

Soccer is widely viewed as the most popular sport world-wide. Soccer is also one of the most difficult sports to analyze quantitatively due to the complexity of the play and to the nearly uninterrupted flow of the ball during the match. Indeed, unlike baseball or basketball, for which there is a wealth of statistical performance data detailing how each player contributes to the final result, in soccer it is not trivial to define quantitative measures of an individual's contribution. Moreover, because soccer scores tend to be low, simple statistics such as number of assists, number of shots or number of goals only rarely provide a reliable measure of a player's true impact on the match's outcome. Instead, the real measure of the performance of a player is “hidden” in the plays of a team: a player can have tremendous impact by winning the ball from the other team or by passing to a teammate who then makes an assist.

Similarly to many other team activities, this type of information required to quantify in detail the role of a team member on team performance is not usually gathered and analyzed in a systematic way (for exceptions see [7], [8]). In the case of soccer, while the assignment of the credit is usually purely based on the subjective views of commentators and spectators, there typically exists a strong consensus on the quality of team play or of individual performances.

Methods Top

The Euro Cup tournament is second only to the World Cup in terms of general interest, attracting millions of spectators and widespread media coverage. The 2008 tournament was unusual in the amount of statistical information that was collected and published online (see http://euro2008.uefa.com). This wealth of information enabled us to develop a new approach to quantify the performance of players and teams inspired by methods from social network analysis [9], [10].

To capture the influence of a given player on a match, we construct a directed network of “ball flow” among the players of a team. In this network, nodes represent players and arcs are weighted according to the number of passes successfully completed between two players. We also incorporate shooting information by including two non-player nodes, “shots to goal” and “shots wide”. A player's node is connected to these two nodes by arcs weighted according to the number of shots. We refer to the resulting networks as “flow networks”, and we build networks for the two teams in every match of the tournament.

In order to obtain performance information, we start with the observation that a soccer team moves the ball with the opponent's goal in mind, keeping possession and shooting when the opportunity arises. A player's passing accuracy, which represents the fraction of passes initiated by a player that reach a teammate, and his shooting accuracy, which accounts for the fraction of shots that do not miss the goal, describe the capability of a player to move the ball towards the opponent's goal (Figs. 1A and 1B).

June 17, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


At least $800M spent for 53-mile border fence (SUZANNE GAMBOA, 6/17/10, Associated Press)

Taxpayers have shelled out at least $15.1 million per mile for 53 miles of "virtual fence" built to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, more than 12 times the original estimate.

The federal government set aside $833 million for the fence of cameras, sensors and other barriers in 2007, and the vast majority of that money, at least $800 million, has been spent on a sliver, in Arizona, of the nearly 2,000-mile southern border. About $20.9 million has been used on the northern border.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


GOP's Whitman courts Latinos, re-states opposition to AZ law (CNN, June 17th, 2010)

The Republican who wants to be the next governor of California has a message for the state's Latinos: "Meg Whitman es una candidata diferente."

Translation: "Meg Whitman is a different kind of candidate."

The former eBay CEO released two Spanish-language television ads as part of a calculated courting of the state's 13.5 million+ Hispanics.

"She is the Republican who opposes the Arizona law…" an announcer says in one of the ads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


It’s Been a Lot of Fun: a review of Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens (David Runciman, 6/17/10, London Review of Books)

What he most resembles, to an almost uncanny degree, is a particular kind of political romantic, as described by Carl Schmitt in his 1919 book Political Romanticism. Schmitt was ostensibly writing about German romanticism at the turn of the 19th century (the intellectual movement that flourished between Rousseau and Hegel) but his real targets were the revolutionary romantics of his own time, including two of Hitchens’s Trotskyite heroes, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. For Schmitt, political romantics are driven not by the quest for pseudo-religious certainty, but by the search for excitement, for the romance of what he calls ‘the occasion’. They want something, anything, to happen, so that they can feel themselves to be at the heart of things. As a result, political romantics often lead complicated double lives, moving between different versions of themselves, experimenting with alternative personae. ‘Reversing one’s position between several realities and playing them off against one another belongs to the nature of the romantic situation,’ Schmitt writes. Political romantics are ostensibly self-sufficient yet also have a desperate need for human comradeship. ‘In every romantic we can find examples of anarchistic self-confidence as well as an excessive need for sociability. He is just as easily moved by altruistic feelings, by pity and sympathy, as by presumptuous snobbery.’ Romantics loathe abuses of power, but invariably end up worshipping power itself, sometimes indiscriminately: ‘The caliph of Baghdad is no less romantic than the patriarch of Jerusalem. Here everything can be substituted for everything else.’ Above all, in place of God they substitute themselves. ‘As long as the romantic believed he was himself the transcendental ego, he did not have to be troubled by the question of the true cause: he was himself the creator of the world in which he lived.’

All of this sounds a lot like Christopher Hitchens. In Hitch-22 he makes much of his ability to move between different worlds, as when an undergraduate at Oxford, where he was sometimes Chris, the socialist agitator on the picket lines, and sometimes Christopher, dinner-jacketed sampler of the high life. In both roles he fitted right in: he was, in his own words, John Bunyan’s ‘Mr Facing-both-ways’. He is intensely, almost insanely sociable. He discovered at an early age that being able to perform as a public speaker meant that ‘you need never dine or sleep alone.’ Early on, he mainly chose to sleep with boys (and throughout his life he seems to have preferred to dine with men). He discovered girls relatively late, while at Oxford, but eventually found one who seemed to fit the bill:

I was actually a bit more confident on the platform than I was in the sack, and I can remember losing my virginity – a bit later than most of my peers, I suspect – with a girl who, inviting me to tea at one of the then-segregated female colleges, allowed me to notice that her walls were covered with photographs taken of me by an unseen cameraman who’d followed my public career. Since apparently I could do no wrong with this young lady …

Losing your virginity to a woman who has already constructed a shrine in your honour: what could be more transcendentally egotistical than that?

Schmitt says that one of the characteristics of political romantics is that they lack a gift for real music, and try instead to develop the rhythms of their life ‘out of historical, philosophical, theological or some other scientific material, an intellectual music for a political programme’. Hitchens makes much of the fact that he is not at all musical, and lacks confidence in his aesthetic judgments (something that attracts him to his great friend Martin Amis is that Amis has no problem telling him what sorts of book he should like). But Hitchens has complete confidence in his political judgments, which are robust, intensely felt and invariably propped up by vast amounts of selective reading. He has been, in his own words, ‘a consistent anti-totalitarian’, though he admits that this means ‘one might have to expose oneself to steadily mounting contradictions.’ He has had to adjust himself, intellectually and geographically, to his growing taste for the United States and his sense of its power to do good in the world. He moved to the US – first to New York, then Washington – in 1981. In 2007 he became an American citizen. In between he has identified himself with a wide variety of causes, in which the common theme has been a desire to take on the evil-doers, from Henry Kissinger to Mother Teresa to Bill Clinton to Saddam Hussein. The United States is a great country for political romantics because there is always something going on. There are almost limitless occasions on which to display yourself.

But what’s wrong with a bit of political romanticism? Schmitt says that the problem is it produces only gesture politics, and that ‘the romantic wants to be productive without being active.’ Hitchens has certainly been productive, generating 1000-plus words of always usable, sometimes sparkling copy every day, no matter how much he might have drunk the night before. He also loves a good gesture. His swearing-in ceremony as a US citizen was specially arranged to suit his sense of its importance, presided over by Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush’s appointee as head of the Department of Homeland Security, and conducted on Jefferson’s birthday at the Jefferson Memorial. ‘There was a very stiff breeze blowing across the Tidal Basin,’ Hitchens recalls, ‘but it served to give a real smack and crackle to the Stars and Stripes that Chertoff’s people had brought along.’ Another flag might have cost him his life in Beirut in the spring of 2009.

Walking along Hamra Street, the still fashionable boulevard of the city, I suddenly saw a swastika poster. This, I needed no telling, was the symbol of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party … I took out my pen to deface the offending display … I managed a four-letter word or so before being grabbed very hard from behind. A weaselly but wiry little tough guy kept hold of my jacket while speed-dialling for backup with his other hand … There were suddenly gaunt-looking creeps everywhere, with wolfish expressions on their faces. I had, without knowing it, disfigured a poster that commemorated one of their ‘martyrs’.

Hitchens got a ‘kicking and a smacking’, but escaped more or less intact. He subsequently discovered that ‘the last man in trouble on this block – a Sunni Arab journalist who had only tried to photograph the swastika flags – was still in hospital after three months’ intensive care.’

Sometimes political gestures exact a heavy toll. But sometimes they make no difference at all. Hitchens establishes his romantic revolutionary credentials early on in the book by remarking that:

Official Britain may have its Valhalla of heroes and statesmen and conquerors and empire-builders, but we know that the highest point ever reached by European civilisation was in the city of Basel in 1912, when the leaders of the socialist parties of all countries met to co-ordinate an opposition to the coming world war. The names of real heroes like Jean Jaurès and Karl Liebknecht make the figures of Asquith and Churchill and Lloyd George seem like pygmies.

This is precisely the kind of romanticism Schmitt was writing about; indeed the Basel conference may have been one of the specific instances he had in mind. To celebrate an event that failed entirely to achieve its objectives, that merely allowed its participants to feel they had done what they could and had cut a good figure on the platform, to say that European civilisation reached its peak at the moment when it exposed its impotence in the face of the coming catastrophe: that is what it means to prefer the occasion to the outcome.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


For the Lib-Cons, this is an excuse to shrink the state: Next week the deficit hawks will have a field day, but Labour needs to shift ground if it's going to be a real opposition (Seumas Milne, 6/16/10, guardian.co.uk)

The lemmings are heading for the cliff, and there seems to be no stopping them now. Cuts mania has got Britain's coalition in its grip, and next week's emergency budget promises to be a field day for the deficit hawks. For weeks we have been softened up with the drumbeat of debt, orchestrated by a media – including the BBC – which endlessly repeats as fact the catechism that the deficit is a mortal threat and cuts the only way out.

Whatever the evidence or the arguments, the answer is always the same. So now we're primed for higher taxes, weighted towards the poorest through increased VAT; a Liberal Democrat-led attack on "gold-plated" public sector pensions, which average £4,000 a year in local government and £6,000 in the health service; and the prospect of a scythe through public services that has already taken chunks out of free school meals and support for the young unemployed. [...]

What's become clearer is that for the Lib-Con leaders and their strongest supporters, the deficit is an ideal excuse to do something they were determined to do in any case: shrink the state. This week Spectator editor Fraser Nelson complained that better borrowing figures risked undermining the case for cuts, which should be pushed through "come what may". What is driving the Tory thirst for cuts above all is classic small-state Thatcherism sailing under a phoney flag of necessity.

If the vision of the two parties becomes growing the state vs. shrinking it the Tories are in for a long stay in power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Swiss strategy vs. Spain was made in America (Steven Goff, 6/17/10, Washington Post)

Drawing from strategy implemented by the Americans against the Spanish at the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year, Hitzfeld devised a plan that conceded possession, clogged the middle of the park and counterattacked rapidly.

"We saw how the Americans played against Spain with a lot of interest," Hitzfeld said. "You know that if you are going to have a chance against [Spain] you need to do certain things very well. The USA did not try to do everything. They accepted the fact that Spain has pace and width and simply made sure they kept the center of defense as tight as they could. It is not a perfect system, but it was a very interesting tactic and it worked."

Bradley/Clark/Onyewu/DeMerit/Howard works. Altidore/Dempsey/Donovan works. Cherundolo was terrific last game. Now we just need a midfielder who can hold onto and distribute the ball from the middle of the field and a fullback who is either bloody-minded on defense or capable of rushing the ball and passing it into the box (there don't seem to be any who can do both, which is what we should develop in coming years).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Environmentalists as Battered Spouses: Greens keep returning to their abuser after another promise to do good, but nothing in President Obama’s oil spill speech should offer them any hope that the administration is really going to change. (Steven F. Hayward, June 17, 2010, American)

Word around town before the oil spill was that environmentalists were ready to swallow additional offshore drilling and new nuclear power subsidies to gain Republican votes for the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill. They had been told by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to shut up and fall in line, you green mother-earth frog-lovers—or something close to that. There’s no way environmentalists would have accepted this deal had Bush been president or a Republican Congress proposed the compromise package. In fact, during the Bush years environmentalists said they would oppose any cap-and-trade scheme that allocated the emission permits for free, demanding instead (and quite soundly I might add) that most or all be auctioned instead. But when the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill gave away 90 percent of the initial emissions allowances for free, the environmental establishment (with a few notable exceptions such as Greenpeace) said. . . nothing.

Eric Pooley’s new book, The Climate War (currently excerpted on Slate.com) offers even more evidence that environmentalists can be pushed around by Democrats with virtual impunity. As Pooley reports, from the earliest days of the Obama presidency, White House support for a cap on carbon emissions “has been all talk—and even the talk tends to get watered down.” Pooley quotes an unnamed White House insider: “You had this incredible green Cabinet of really committed people, but the only thing that really matters is what the president says—so everyone was trying to get words into his mouth. And Rahm was trying to keep the words out of his mouth. It was just a chronic pattern of infighting.”

The greenies in the White House (and Al Gore on the outside) pressed hard for Obama to make a more serious effort. “But then there were the Washington operatives on the political and economic teams who did not want to waste a bunch of bullets on some weirdo green crusade when the polling numbers weren’t there, and it would be a bloody battle to take that hill. They said, ‘Let’s go take some other hill.’”

Pooley adds this additional detail:

When corporate and environmental leaders from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership went to the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing for a late spring 2009 meeting with Emanuel, they could see that he didn’t much care about climate change. What he cared about was winning—acquiring and maintaining presidential power over an eight-year arc. Climate and energy were agenda items to him, pieces on a legislative chessboard; he was willing to play them only in ways that enhanced Obama’s larger objectives. He saw no point in squandering capital on a lost cause. (Emphasis added.)

Pooley’s bottom line: “The chief of staff was an obstacle to climate action.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Obama disappoints from the beginning of his speech (Eugene Robinson, 6/17/10, Washington Post)

Less than a minute into President Obama’s Oval Office address, my heart sank. For the umpteenth time since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began, an anxious nation was informed that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a Nobel Prize. Obama’s speech pretty much went down hill from there.

...who's left on it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty: In the 1990s, Paul Romer revolutionized economics. In the aughts, he became rich as a software entrepreneur. Now he’s trying to help the poorest countries grow rich—by convincing them to establish foreign-run “charter cities” within their borders. Romer’s idea is unconventional, even neo-colonial—the best analogy is Britain’s historic lease of Hong Kong. And against all odds, he just might make it happen. (Sebastian Mallaby, The Atlantic)

Halfway through the 12th century, and a long time before economists began pondering how to turn poor places into rich ones, the Germanic prince Henry the Lion set out to create a merchant’s mecca on the lawless Baltic coast. It was an ambitious project, a bit like trying to build a new Chicago in modern Congo or Iraq. Northern Germany was plagued by what today’s development gurus might delicately call a “bad-governance equilibrium,” its townships frequently sacked by Slavic marauders such as the formidable pirate Niclot the Obotrite. But Henry was not a mouse. He seized control of a fledgling town called Lübeck, had Niclot beheaded on the battlefield, and arranged for Lübeck to become the seat of a diocese. A grand rectangular market was laid out at the center of the town; all that was missing was the merchants.

To attract that missing ingredient to his city, Henry hit on an idea that has enjoyed a sort of comeback lately. He devised a charter for Lübeck, a set of “most honorable civic rights,” calculating that a city with light regulation and fair laws would attract investment easily. The stultifying feudal hierarchy was cast aside; an autonomous council of local burgesses would govern Lübeck. Onerous taxes and trade restrictions were ruled out; merchants who settled in Lübeck would be exempt from duties and customs throughout Henry the Lion’s lands, which stretched south as far as Bavaria. The residents of Lübeck were promised fair treatment before the law and an independent mint that would shelter them from confiscatory inflation. With this bill of rights in place, Henry dispatched messengers to Russia, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Merchants who liked the sound of his charter were invited to migrate to Lübeck.

The plan worked. Immigrants soon began arriving in force, and Lübeck became the leading entrepôt for the budding Baltic Sea trade route, which eventually extended as far west as London and Bruges and as far east as Novgorod, in Russia. Hundreds of oaken cogs—ships powered by a single square sail—entered Lübeck’s harbor every year, their hulls bursting with Flemish cloth, Russian fur, and German salt. In less than a century, Lübeck went from a backwater to the most populous and prosperous town in northern Europe. “In medieval urban history there is hardly another example of a success so sudden and so brilliant,” writes the historian Philippe Dollinger.

Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than Lübeck’s wealth was the influence of its charter. As trade routes lengthened, new cities mushroomed all along the Baltic shore, and rather than develop a legal code from scratch, the next wave of city fathers copied Lübeck’s charter, importing its political and economic liberties. The early imitators included the nearby cities of Rostock and Danzig, but the charter was eventually adopted as far afield as Riga and Tallinn, the capitals of modern Latvia and Estonia. The medieval world had stumbled upon a formula for creating order out of chaos and prosperity amid backwardness. Lübeck ultimately became the seat of the Hanseatic League, an economic alliance of 200 cities that lasted nearly half a millennium.

Fast-forward several centuries, and Henry the Lion’s would-be heir is Paul Romer, a gentle economist at Stanford University. Elegant, bespectacled, geekishly curious in a boyish way, Romer is not the kind of person you might picture armed with a two-handed flanged mace, cutting down Slavic marauders. But he is bent on cutting down an adversary almost as resistant: the conventional approach to development in poor countries. Rather than betting that aid dollars can beat poverty, Romer is peddling a radical vision: that dysfunctional nations can kick-start their own development by creating new cities with new rules—Lübeck-style centers of progress that Romer calls “charter cities.” By building urban oases of technocratic sanity, struggling nations could attract investment and jobs; private capital would flood in and foreign aid would not be needed. And since Henry the Lion is not on hand to establish these new cities, Romer looks to the chief source of legitimate coercion that exists today—the governments that preside over the world’s more successful countries. To launch new charter cities, he says, poor countries should lease chunks of territory to enlightened foreign powers, which would take charge as though presiding over some imperial protectorate. Romer’s prescription is not merely neo-medieval, in other words. It is also neo-colonial.

That is the sense in which globalization is a form of Anglo-American imperialism. But it's dang benign, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 AM


Will attacking full-backs win the competition?: The last four winners relied on marauding defenders but is a tactical change under way in South Africa? (Jonathan Wilson, 6/17/10, The Guardian)

Before making any judgment on the importance of full-backs, though, it first must be established why that correlation between attacking full-backs and success exists. This is a subject I've dealt with in greater detail before, but essentially it comes down to the point Jack Charlton made after the 1994 World Cup, that when a back four meets a team playing 4-4-2 or 3-5-2, the full-backs are the players who tend to have the most space in front of them, and thus the most time on the ball, and the most opportunities to make relatively risk-free runs into unexpected areas.

Increasingly, though, teams are not playing 4-4-2, and so the advantage Charlton highlighted no longer exists. When a back four plays a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, the full-back no longer has space in front of him, but a winger. That complicates matters for an attacking full-back. If he is playing an attacking wide player, then he can effectively fight fire with fire – as, for instance Roberto Carlos did against David Beckham when Real Madrid beat Manchester United 3-1 at the Bernabéu in 2003, or Michael Essien against Cristiano Ronaldo in the final hour plus extra-time of the Champions League final in 2008.

That, though, is a risk: Theo Walcott didn't just score a hat-trick in Zagreb in 2008, he destroyed Croatia's entire left side by making Danijel Pranjic, a full-back so attacking he usually plays in midfield, try to defend. So it may be safer for even an attacking full-back to sit deep and try to absorb the threat, as Ashley Cole did against Ronaldo in Euro 2004. If they are going to sit back, then it probably makes more sense for the full-back to be a naturally defensive player (Arsenal's Lee Dixon on Newcastle's David Ginola in a League Cup tie in January 1996, Manchester United's Gary Neville on Arsenal's José Antonio Reyes in October 2004) in which case the hegemony of the attacking full-back may be over.

That's not to say that the attacking full-back is outmoded, but that they are not such an advantage as they once were. If that is so, then the likes of Argentina and Holland may not be so hindered by their lack of attacking full-backs as it seemed they might be. There is always the chance in tournaments that a team reverting to a formation that seems thoroughly outdated will shock the opposition by setting them a problem they have forgotten how to solve. It worked for Greece when Otto Rehhagel reintroduced man-marking at Euro 2004, and it may be that a back four of essentially defensive players is such a novelty that opponents struggle against Diego Maradona's Argentina.

...that there are so few great central defenders these days that almost no one can afford to waste one on the outside of their formation. Lee Dixon, for example, would start at center back on this England squad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Red India’s Last Stand (Sanjay Kumar, June 17, 2010, The Diplomat)

[C]hange in Kolkata is most visible on the political front, and there’s clear evidence of the crumbling of the old order. Thirty four years of Left rule is on its way out if the new political flags and views of the people I’ve spoken with are anything to go by.

My visit to Kolkata came just after the Trinamool Congress' landslide victory over the Left in the Kolkata municipal elections. The once ubiquitous red flags were barely anywhere to be seen, with green ones instead adorning the streets I saw as I travelled around the city.

Even the mood of the people was different. During my earlier visit, it was difficult to talk about any party except those from the Left. This time my driver, Dipu Das, lapped up my questions about the election, saying ‘We want change now. Enough of the communist rules.’

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


Financially, We're All Conservatives Now (Philip Moeller, June 16, 2010, US News)

Northwestern Mutual highlighted six "resounding" financial realities that emerged from its study:

1) Squeezing dollars is the new norm. Three-fourths of Americans favor investments that are safe, steady, and secure, and which are geared to their long-term needs. Investment guarantees and lower risk were also favored by large majorities. [...]

3) The tortoise will win the race, not the hare. Among people who do have financial plans for the future (that includes you, right?), 75 percent have extended the time frames for realizing their financial goals, and more than 80 percent of those 35 and older have done so. [...]

5) Even young people get it. Younger people have shifted toward saving more to a greater degree than people nearing retirement. Of course, part of the reason for this may be that they feel they have no choice, as the older generation will plow through Social Security reserves and leave nothing behind.

6) Women are more conservative then men. By margins of 10 to 15 percentage points depending on the question, women seek more safety and security from investments, as well as guaranteed returns and lower risk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 AM


Sharron Angle’s political makeover (Jon Ralston, June 16, 2010, Las Vegas Sun)

I may have been wrong about Sharron Angle. And that may be very bad news for Harry Reid.

I assumed Angle would resist attempts by skittish national Republicans to moderate her views, or at least frame them more palatably for a general election. Strong tea is fine for a primary, but decaf is much preferred for the general.

But this is Sharron Angle, whose conservative bona fides are unquestioned and whose career has been marked by attracting a hard-core following on the right because of her strict adherence to a certain mantra and by what has seemed to be her abiding sincerity. I have suggested the middle was not a place on her political map and that any guide to her election as U.S. senator would have only roads on the right.

But judging by what is wafting back from the much-hyped Ms.-Angle-Goes-to-Washington trip, she is submitting to a makeover that, if not Capraesque, is at least Scott Brown-like (indeed, she has some of the Massachusetts Miracle’s handlers). And if she can feint toward the middle on issues that might have alienated her from independent voters — or at least massage them in a non-L. Ron Hubbard way — Reid, despite his Angle Marginalization Plan, may be the one consigned to the fringe.

She may be a nutter, but it's hard to call her a conservative ideologue given that she became a Democrat for Reagan's second term and at least dabbled with Scientology..

June 16, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Israel’s Sex-Segregated Buses Riding High (Nathan Jeffay, June 16, 2010, The Forward)

The 322 is the only autobus mehadrin running to and from Tel Aviv. The phrase autobus mehadrin, a new addition to the Israeli lexicon in the last decade, literally means beautified bus. It refers to a route that meets Haredi standards of modesty: Men sit at the front and women at the back.

Critics say that these routes — around 60 in number — are anything but beautiful. They claim that the segregation they practice is religious coercion at its worst because if non-haredim refuse to comply with the separation of the sexes, violence sometimes results.

It's only offensive if the Arab does it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Floating Above the Chaos : Obama seized the crisis, all right. But he praised people we've lost confidence in—and proved anew that the president doesn’t know much about management. (Tina Brown, 6/16/10, Daily Beast)

The speech made me no less uneasy about the grotesque spaghetti of the org charts for BP and the government cleanup effort: both of which have terrifyingly unclear chains of command. Obama did a riff about all the challenges America has faced and overcome. “The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet,” he said. “You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.”

But Obama’s speech begged the question of why, if America always pushes its bounds to what it can do, 57 days into it the Gulf clean-up is still in such head-scratching chaos.

...when we could just use a Soviet method to stop the leak.

U.S. reconsiders Dutch offer to supply oil skimmers (John Ryden, 6/12/10, Examiner)

The U.S. Government has apparently reconsidered a Dutch offer to supply 4 oil skimmers. These are large arms that are attached to oil tankers that pump oil and water from the surface of the ocean into the tanker. Water pumped into the tanker will settle to the bottom of the tanker and is then pumped back into the ocean to make room for more oil. Each system will collect 5,000 tons of oil each day.

One ton of oil is about 7.3 barrels. 5,000 tons per day is 36,500 barrels per day. 4 skimmers have a capacity of 146,000 barrels per day. That is much greater than the high end estimate of the leak. The skimmers work best in calm water, which is the usual condition this time of year in the gulf.

These systems were developed by the Dutch as a safety system in case of oil spills from either wells or tankers. The Dutch have off shore oil development and also import oil in tankers. Their economy, just like ours, runs on oil. They understand that the production and use of oil has dangers and they wanted to be ready to cope with problems like spills. The Dutch system has been used successfully in Europe.

The Dutch offered to fly their skimmer arm systems to the Gulf 3 days after the oil spill started. The offer was apparently turned down because EPA regulations do not allow water with oil to be pumped back into the ocean. If all the oily water was retained in the tanker, the capacity of the system would be greatly diminished because most of what is pumped into the tanker is sea water.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


Obama’s Gulf War III (Victor Davis Hanson, 6/16/10, PJM)

That old meany goddess Nemesis is at work again, causing havoc nearly in the identical spot as Katrina (but of course)— focusing on the young technocrat who so loudly blamed the “incompetence” of Bush during the New Orleans mess. Now our Oedipus is reduced to raging in his halls against BP, with thousands of hard-working Louisianans and other Gulfers the losers for this divine reminder about the wages of hubris. [...]

Much has been made that the MSNBC and left-wing punditry crowd are turning on Obama, especially after last night’s non-speech. Sorry, I don’t quite believe they adjudicate Obama on competency, since the spill speech was no worse than the pathetic “I could no more disown Rev. Wright” riff of yesteryear, one that gave them a collective tingle.

Instead, Obama is now 42% to 48% in most polls, not soaring to 65% or demolishing Hillary. In other words, if right now Obama were still beloved, his former hagiographers would find a way to turn his Gulf performance into another ‘”I wasn’t there all that much at Trinity” excuse. But Obama, whom they all so invested in, is the most polarizing figure since Nixon, and has the unique ability to destroy liberalism for a generation: lose the House and maybe even the Senate; turn the public off on government, divide the country over health care, cap-and-trade, race, and amnesty; and completely discredit a shamelessly partisan media.

No, the sudden damning of Obama’s leadership is a symptom that Obama is turning radioactive, and not even Chris Matthews wants to be the last zealot in Washington crafting yet another narrative of how brilliant and tingly a soon-to-be 30% president “really” is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 PM


Do Englishmen Still Have To Show Up For Longbow Practice?: According to medieval archery law, they do. (Kevin Underhill, 06.16.10, Forbes)

It is clear that there were laws requiring archery practice dating back to at least the 13th century. The motive was to make sure England had enough men trained to use the longbow, which for centuries was a crucial weapon for the English. (The most famous example is Agincourt, a battle that Henry V won in 1415 and is still going on about.)

The training requirement was usually combined with prohibitions on other kinds of games and sports so that people would focus on archery instead of, for example, "tennis, football, [quoits], dice" and other "games inappropriate." The point was not so much to condemn games as to make sure they did not get in the way of longbow training. In other words, they saw nothing morally wrong with tennis, it's just that it is hard to kill a French knight with a tennis ball, no matter how good your serve is.

In 1511 the requirement was expanded by "An Act concerning Shooting in Long Bows," even though by then the importance of the bow was declining. This law provided that "All sorts of men under the age of 40 Years shall have bows and arrows" and practice using them. The playing of games continued, however, and in 1541 the law was expanded yet again by "An Act for the Maintenance of Artillery, and debarring unlawful Games," the preamble to which declares that said games were believed to be the "Cause of the Decay of Archery" skills in England (There was another very important cause by then, namely guns--or, more specifically, bullets--but games always seem to get blamed for social problems.)

The archery requirement was extended to all men under age 60, and the list of banned games was expanded. As before, though, these restrictions did not apply to the aristocracy. They tended to become knights, not archers, plus they had the God-given right to play games if they liked. According to them, that is, not God.

At least some of this was still on the books well into the 19th century, but was probably repealed during the reign of Queen Victoria.

A vast improvement on the 2nd Amendment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Sharing Liberally: a review of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky (Evgeny Morozov, 6/16/10, Boston Review)

The main argument of Cognitive Surplus rests on a striking analogy. Just as gin helped the British to smooth out the brutal consequences of the Industrial Revolution, the Internet is helping us to deal more constructively with the abundance of free time generated by modern economies.

Shirky argues that free time became a problem after the end of WWII, as Western economies grew more automated and more prosperous. Heavy consumption of television provided an initial solution. Gin, that “critical lubricant that eased our transition from one kind of society to another,” gave way to the sitcom.

More recently TV viewing has given way to the Internet. Shirky argues that much of today’s online culture—including videos of toilet-flushing cats and Wikipedia editors wasting 19,000 (!) words on an argument about whether the neologism “malamanteau” belongs on the site—is much better than television. Better because, while sitcoms give us couch potatoes, the Internet nudges us toward creative work.

That said, Cognitive Surplus is not a celebration of digital creativity along the lines of Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman or Lawrence Lessig’s “remix culture.” Shirky instead focuses on the sharing aspect of online creation: we are, he asserts, by nature social, so the Internet, unlike television, lets us be who we really are. “No one would create a lolcat to keep for themselves,” Shirky argues, referring to the bête noire of Internet-bashers, the humorous photos of cats spiced up with funny and provocative captions. “Cognitive surplus” is what results when we multiply our constantly expanding free time by the tremendous power of the Internet to enable us do more with less, and to do it together with others.

Arguments about infinite digital opportunities for doing good have been a commonplace of cyber-utopians since the mid-1990s. But Shirky is a populist, not a utopian. His only benchmark of success is the relative standing of “us” against dominant institutions and, in particular, against the mind-numbing, brain-damaging, creativity-suppressing beast that is the traditional media.

For Shirky, doing anything online beats the passivity nurtured by the traditional media. The argument is beautiful in its simplicity: “the real gap is between doing nothing and doing something, and someone making lolcats has bridged that gap,” for “the stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act.”

To drive that point home, he proposes a thought experiment: while Americans spend 200 billion hours a year watching television, the whole of humanity spent something like 100 million hours to create Wikipedia (or, at least, its 2008 version). Thus, even a tiny change in our TV watching habits can lead to significant social gains. Not every Internet project would become a Wikipedia—lolcats are still currency of the day—but Shirky urges us to keep trying.

...is the excess of leisure time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


Terry Branstad Leads Chet Culver for Iowa Governor by 26 Points (Bruce Drake, 6/16/10, Politics Daily)

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who served four terms in the office between 1983 and 1999, has come out of the gate after winning the GOP gubernatorial nomination with a 57 percent to 31 percent lead over Democratic incumbent Chet Culver, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted June 14. [...]

Branstad is seen favorably by 61 percent of voters while 24 percent regard him unfavorably, with 6 percent not sure. [...]

Fifty-eight percent disapprove of the job Culver is doing as governor while 41 percent approve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Obama's address: grand setting, weak policies (Michael Gerson, 6/16/10, Washington Post)

The setting of the Oval Office creates an expectation of decisive executive action. It recalls memories of President Dwight Eisenhower dispatching federal troops to Little Rock or President John F. Kennedy announcing the naval "quarantine" of Cuba. This speech will not be confused with those precedents. Obama urges others to take action, kibitzes with corporate executives, shifts some government personnel and signals the start of a review process. A crisis is met with a study. The action verbs in this speech have somehow gone missing. It is all rather limp and weak.

Doesn't Mr. Gerson get that for the UR the act of speaking to us was his decisive action?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:47 PM


Guns and Free Speech: The NRA sells out to Democrats on the First Amendment. (WSJ, 6/16/10)

The campaign finance bill, sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Chris Van Hollen, is the Democratic response to the Supreme Court's January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which restored the First Amendment right of corporations, unions and nonprofits to make independent campaign expenditures. At the time, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre called Citizens United "a defeat for arrogant elitists who wanted to carve out free speech as a privilege for themselves and deny it to the rest of us."

Look who's arrogant and elitist now. Under the Schumer-Van Hollen bill, political speech would be bound up with new restrictions, including special burdens on government contractors and corporations that have a certain level of foreign ownership or received TARP funds. The bill also includes disclosure rules designed to hit corporations, requiring CEOs to appear to "approve this message" the way politicians do, and for groups to identify their donors. Except for the NRA.

Under the NRA carve-out in the House bill, the new rules won't apply to any organizations that have been around for more than 10 years, have more than a million members and receive less than 15% of their funding from corporate donors. That fits the NRA nicely, though as best we can figure, everyone else, from the Sierra Club to Planned Parenthood, fails to qualify. So much for defending the little guy against the fat cats.

..to believe the NRA is anything other more a Beltway bureaucracy interested only in themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Obama’s disappointing speech (Clive Crook, 6/16/10, Financial Times)

I agree with much of the instant TV commentary: Obama’s address was surprisingly bad. He and his people made such a big deal of it–Oval Office and all–then when it arrived there was no there there. Nothing new. Hard facts were sparse, and in every case already well-known. I expected some new information. I expected at least a detailed, authoritative account of what was being done, and who was in charge of what. I thought there would be a more precise statement of what was being demanded of BP. He gave us none of this.

Then it got worse, with a lame, formulaic, campaign-style call for a clean energy policy.

...would have been a good speech.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


In a Maryland rematch, Ehrlich landing punches: Ex-GOP governor tied with O'Malley (David Eldridge, 6/15/10, Washington Times)

On paper, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley should be cruising to re-election this fall, with a relatively strong state economy, a rising profile in the Democratic Party and a Republican opponent he soundly defeated four years ago.

So why, in a blue state on President Obama's northern flank, does the Democratic incumbent suddenly find himself locked in a dead heat in his rematch with his GOP rival, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.?

With both men ramping up their campaign appearances across the state, Rasmussen Reports released an eye-opening poll Thursday that showed Mr. Ehrlich, who has been steadily eating into Mr. O'Malley's edge in the polls, pulling even with the governor, 45 percent to 45 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Obama's uncertain 'battle plan' (GLENN THRUSH, 6/16/10, Politico)

[B]y raising the stakes so high — and framing the environmental crisis as a “battle” and a “siege” — he underscored the threat the spill poses not only to the Gulf but to his own credibility as president after nine weeks of failure, criticism and frustration.

“We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes,” said Obama, delivering the first Oval Office energy speech since Jimmy Carter addressed the country during an OPEC boycott 31 years ago.

The problem for Obama – 58 days into the biggest test of leadership he’s yet faced as president – is that the oil is still gushing, Gulf leaders are still grousing and the Senate is still deadlocked over climate change legislation.

Even a great speech wouldn’t have changed all that – and this wasn’t one of Obama’s best speeches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Ronaldo wins man of match in rough opener (DENNIS PASSA, 06/16/10, AP)

Queiroz praised Ronaldo for setting an example as captain and for his overall contribution.

FIFA statistics from the match supported the coach’s assessment. Ronaldo played the entire match, directed one of his three shots on target, and completed 21 of 35 passes.

Ronaldo, who scored 26 goals for Real Madrid this season but has not scored for Portugal since a 1-0 win over Finland in February 2009, admitted he was frustrated throughout the match.

There's no better example of why America will revolutionize the game. Those numbers gave him the lowest percentage of passes completed of any player on the field and yet they are supposed to show he was the best player in the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Wishy-washy Obama missed an opportunity: Americans can feel robber barons making off with the country, but the president failed to tell it like it is (Robert Reich, 6/15/10, Salon)

The man who electrified the nation with his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 2004 put it to sleep tonight. President Obama's address to the nation from the Oval Office was, to be frank, vapid. If you watched with the sound off you might have thought he was giving a lecture on the history of the Interstate Highway System. He didn't have to be angry but he had at least to show passion and conviction. It is, after all, the worst environmental crisis in the history of the nation.

With the sound on, his words hung in the air with all the force of a fundraiser for your local public access TV station. Everything seemed to be in the passive tense. He had authorized deepwater drilling because he "was assured" it was safe. But who assured him? How does he feel about being so brazenly misled? He said he wanted to "understand" why that was mistaken. Understand? He's the president of the United States and it was a major decision. Isn't he determined to find out how his advisors could have been so terribly wrong?

...it's not like anyone is listening to him anymore anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


England were scared of USA – Dempsey (World Soccer, 6/15/10)

Clint Dempsey believes England’s players were scared of USA when the two teams drew 1-1 in Rustenburg on Saturday.

Dempsey, who scored the equaliser, said: “Honestly it seemed during the game that they were dealing with a lot of pressure.

“I don’t know why that is, you could just sense it a little bit. Even though they did score early, when we came back and we equalised, they just seemed edgy. They really did."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Israeli cabinet considers easing Gaza blockade (BBC, 16 June 2010)

Israel's security cabinet is meeting to discuss a possible easing of the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The meeting comes after the Middle East envoy Tony Blair said he was confident Israeli leaders would agree to a partial lifting of the blockade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


NPR Poll Shows Trouble For Battleground Dems (Reid Wilson, 6/15/10, Hotline)

The poll, conducted for NPR by Dem firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies, shows just 41% of voters prefer the Dem candidate in Nov., while 49% favor the GOP candidate. More troubling for Dems, in the 30 most competitive Dem-held districts, voters favor the GOP candidate by a 48%-39% margin.

Those districts include 12 Dem-held open seats and 18 incumbents, including many freshmen and sophomore legislators swept into power with the help of Dem waves in '06 and '08. And those legislators won't be able to claim that generic ballots don't capture their true popularity; GQRR and POS named the Dem and GOP candidates in the race, rather than asking whether voters favored a generic, unnamed contender from either party.

While Pres. Obama was a help to those Dems in '08, he won't be this year; the survey found just 40% approve of Obama's job performance in the most competitive Dem districts, while 53% disapprove.

As GOPers eye big gains across the country, the poll shows just how big the actual playing field is.

Because 1994 is pretty recent, we tend to think that this political season looks familiar, but those of us old enough will recall that no one was predicting a GOP takeover in even September of that year, nevermind June. Both 1980 and 1994 featured a series of upsets that nobody, or almost nobody, saw coming. So the think to start thinking about for this cycle is not the races we already know to be more competitive than initially expected--like that for Russ Feingold's and Barbara Boxer's seats--but the ones that still aren't thought to be at risk: like Pat Leahy's and Ron Wyden's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 AM


Deflection Point: What Obama's speech on the BP oil spill was lacking. (John Dickerson, June 15, 2010, Slate)

Maybe the call for a heroic moment of command is too much to ask for. Still, the president made the situation worse for himself. The use of the language of war created the imbalance. He talked of a "battle" and "siege," but like all the other times when war has been misused—the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the economic war Joe Biden declared last year—the action taken didn't match the words used to describe the menace. Prudent, methodical, and secure … Wait a minute. There's a war going on. Shouldn't we be doing something more? [...]

During the health care debate, supporters of the public option learned how to spot a presidential endorsement that was no endorsement at all. Though the president claimed to support the idea, there was no oomph in his voice. He's matching that strategy on this issue. He sounds like he'll take just about anything, a recognition perhaps of how tough a comprehensive bill would be in this election year.

The driving force in the guy's life is to find the love he didn't get from his parents, he's not going to take away our car keys.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 AM


North Koreans Shorter Than South Koreans (John Lyons, 6/15/10, WSJ)

North Korea’s national team players are about two inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts, notes Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, providing an interesting statement about the nutritional downsides of Stalinist dictatorships. [...]

A comparison by Folha sportswriters showed that the average height of the South Korean team is 1.825 meters, or around 6-foot 1-inch, compared to 1.78 meters, or around 5-foot 11-inches, for North Korea. South Korea has 17 players over 6-feet-tall, compared to eight for North Korea.

What’s more, North Korea’s height average is lifted by the presence of players such as the 6-foot-tall striker Jong Tae-se, one of the taller players on the team. Mr. Jong was born to South Korean parents in Japan, where he spent his youth.

South and North Korea –- technically still at war — are participating in the same World Cup for the first time since the 1950s, when their economic models sharply diverged. Unable to feed itself properly, Communist North Korea rations food. South Korea, with a gross domestic product dozens of times bigger than in the North, doesn’t.

“The Brazilian national team’s first adversary in the World Cup is an example of what nutrition can do to the bio-type of people,” the Brazilian paper noted.

...only the Germans play with more discipline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 AM


Soccer Done Right (Richard A. Epstein, 06.14.10, Forbes)

Soccer officials took one step in the right direction by making a win worth three points and a draw only one in a conscious effort to open up the game. That sensible change, however, did not go far enough. Soccer should borrow from basketball and ice hockey to fix the glitches in its own rules. Two areas need special attention: scoring and penalties. These two rule changes are not unrelated. Rather, they would work in tandem to improve the game. [...]

Soccer instantly becomes a much better game when it awards two points for a goal and one point for a penalty shot. It should take its cue from basketball, which awards one point for a free throw awarded after a foul. But it also awards two points for any field goal from inside the arc: In an inspired refinement, teams earn three points for field goals beyond the arc. [...]

[S]occer should follow the ice hockey approach to penalties, after correcting for the difference in team size (six players for hockey vs. 11 for soccer) and game length (60 minutes for ice hockey vs. 90 minutes for soccer).

Here is how it works. In hockey a minor infraction sidelines the player for two minutes for an instant short-term advantage that doesn't come with a yellow card. If there is a second infraction by a team, part of it is served concurrently with the previous penalty until the first player returns to the ice. If the other team commits a minor penalty when it is ahead, its player goes off the ice as well. In hockey there can be periods of play where the teams are six to five, six to four, five to five, five to four, even four to four. Obviously the first situation is the most common, and that advantage ends once a goal is scored. But the reduction in play opens up the rink and increases the likelihood for score for a goal that is now, remember, worth two points.

The biggest problem is actually the offsides rule, which should be modeled after hockey's. Give the goalie a real crease, one which the opposing side is not allowed to enter, and install "blue lines" around the 30 yard mark that the ball must cross prior to any of the offensive players, but that once it does the entire offensive side remains onsides until the defense clears the ball. This gets rid of the stoppages of play at the precise moment that the attack is building and removes the temptation for teams to try to exploit the offsides rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 AM


French raise retirement age to 62 (BBC, 16 June 2010)

The move is likely to be met with stiff resistance from labour unions, however.

Demonstrations against raising the retirement age were seen even before the measure was formally announced, with more strikes and protests expected in the coming months.

But Mr Woerth said it was time for France to follow the lead of other European countries in addressing it deficit.

"All our European partners have done this by working longer. We cannot avoid joining this movement," he said.

That's a start, but barely.

June 15, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM


Rand Paul's ophthalmology certification not recognized by national clearinghouse (Joseph Gerth, 6/14/10, courier-journal.com)

U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul says he is a "board-certified" ophthalmologist -- even though the national clearinghouse for such certifications says he hasn't been for the past five years.

Rand Paul, who practices in Bowling Green, says he is certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology, a group that he incorporated in 1999 and that he heads.

But that entity is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, which works with the American Medical Association to approve such specialty boards.

What the hey, Jimmy Carter called himself a nuclear physicist because he'd studied physics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Good ol' Gooch (Luke Cyphers and Doug McIntyre, 6/15/10, ESPN)

What's clear now, though, is that Bradley made the right choice in picking Onyewu and sticking with him against England. Onyewu got caught in no-man's land on Steven Gerrard's goal four minutes into the match, and Heskey created problems for the U.S. defense much of the evening. But as the game wore on, Onyewu's size and physicality began to wear on England. His second half was better than his first. "As far as Gooch getting better," Bradley said, "I would agree with that."

Onyewu fought Heskey to a standstill in the second half, smothered the 6-7 Crouch after he came on late in the match, and provided valuable help on Rooney just as Rooney began to see the ball.

Onyewu proved he was ready all the way back in the 59th minute. England's Shaun Wright-Phillips played a diagonal pass upfield from deep inside his own half to Heskey, who was well-covered with his back to goal and thus wisely let it run to a streaking Rooney. The England striker isolated Gooch one-on-one 50 yards from the American net, and took off on one of his patented scoring sprints. But Onyewu's GPS-perfect positioning meant his ample body was already in front of Rooney, and he easily won the race against the lighting-quick Englishman to calmly knock the ball away from danger. "That was a test for the damaged knee," noted commentator Martin Tyler on ABC's broadcast. "When you get exposed like that in the open field, it's very difficult," added color man John Harkes. "He used his pace to stay with Rooney."

All along, Onyewu has said he'd be ready, and even before he'd played a full match, he was showing signs of his old self, with a good second half against Turkey.

If he and DeMerit--with Michael Bradley and either Ricardo Clark or Edu/Torres--can return to the form of the Confederations Cup, the defensive square in front of goal makes us a formidable squad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Al Gore had affair with Larry David's ex-wife, 'An Inconvenient Truth' producer Laurie David: report (Helen Kennedy, 6/14/10, NY DAILY NEWS)

Al Gore's surprising split from wife Tipper was prompted by an affair he was having with Larry David's environmental activist wife, Star magazine reports.

The tabloid weekly says the environment-friendly ex-veep and the comedian's ex have been involved for two years.

Talk about two people who deserve to be stuck with each other...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


An expansionary Budget? (Chris Dillow, 6/15/10, Investors Chronicle)

In 1981 chancellor Geoffrey Howe cut government borrowing to the horror of Keynesian economists, but - to their consternation - the economy subsequently recovered.

This was not an isolated instance. Gabriele Giudice, Alessandro Turrini and Jan in't Veld, three economists at the European Commission, looked at 49 episodes of fiscal tightening in Europe between 1970 and 2002 and found that "roughly half turn out to be expansionary". Denmark, Ireland and Spain in the mid-80s and Italy in the early 90s all cut government borrowing heavily, for example, and found their economies grew quickly thereafter.

"In some cases, fiscal contractions can be expansionary," concluded Alberto Alesina of Harvard University and Roberto Perotti of Milan's Bocconi University in a paper in the 1990s which did so much to undermine the Keynesian orthodoxy.

This was especially likely, they said, if the fiscal tightening consisted more of cutting spending than raising taxes - which is exactly what Mr Osborne has promised to do. In a more recent paper co-authored with Wellesley College's Silvia Ardagna, Mr Alesina has found that "the composition of the fiscal adjustment, more than its size, matters for growth".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


Databases Loaded: The latest frontier of statistical research in baseball—and the newest front in the Yankees vs. Red Sox arms race—is defense. And it’s yielding some surprising insights about which players are worth their salaries. (Will Leitch, Apr 18, 2010, New York Magazine)

Dewan has long known “errors” were an insufficient defensive barometer, but he also thought other companies, including his old company Stats, weren’t even getting the more nuanced details right. Dewan has each of his scouts note not only where the ball was hit but also its type (grounder, fly ball, line drive, or “fliner”) and an estimate of its speed (on a scale of “slow” to “hard”). He says he has quantified the exact lengths of time a ball that is hit to the gaps between the center-fielder and the right- and left-fielders needs to be in the air so that almost every outfielder will catch it (six seconds) and so that almost none will (three seconds). The goal is to figure out what balls certain players get to and others don’t. A fly ball hit to center in Citi Field might look something like this:

Vector 187 degrees. 290 feet.
Medium. Fliner.

At the end of the season, Dewan has a complete log of every fliner hit in the major leagues to each of roughly 3,000 zones. He can see which center-fielders caught the most and which caught the least. And using that information for every tiny zone of the field, he can tell you how every player in baseball plays his position relative to everyone else. It’s an extremely structured method of collating subjective judgments. Dewan and company published their results in a 2009 book called The Fielding Bible: Vol. II, which features two proprietary statistics: Plus/Minus and Runs Saved. Plus/Minus is the exact number, tabulated on a play-by-play basis, of plays a defender makes above or below the league average fielder at that position. Thus, at shortstop, Jack Wilson has a Plus/Minus of +32: He made 32 more plays than the average shortstop. That’s transposed into the Runs Saved number, which is the number of actual runs prevented by the fielder; for Wilson, it’s 27, the best in the game at his position. (The process of converting Plus/Minus to Runs Saved is too complicated to explain here, but it’s laid out in Dewan’s book in not-incomprehensible language.) And though no one will confirm it on the record, it is widely believed that Plus/Minus and Runs Saved—thanks to Dewan’s professional connection to Bill James, who now works for the Red Sox—served as the foundation of the Sox’ off-season moves.

The major free-agent acquisitions of everyday players by the Red Sox were not particularly major, at least by the nuclear terms to which we have grown accustomed. The Sox added third-baseman Adrian Beltre, shortstop Marco Scutaro, and center-fielder Mike Cameron. If you’ve heard of all three of them, you’re probably a pretty big baseball fan. None is a regular All-Star or a major offensive force: Beltre hit only eight homers last season, and Cameron is 37 years old and has hit over .270 only once in his career.

What they do well, though, better than almost anyone else in baseball, is play defense. In 2009, Beltre made 26 more plays than the average third-baseman, saving 21 runs, good for third best in baseball at the hot corner. Last year’s primary Sox third-baseman, Mike Lowell, made 23 fewer plays than the average, costing his team eighteen runs. Right there, at one position, that’s a 49-play-above-average improvement, with 39 more runs saved. The generally accepted sabermetric formula is that ten runs saved (with the glove) or created (with the bat) equals one win. With one position switch, the Red Sox might have made a four-game improvement before Beltre takes a single swing of the bat. You can do the same math in center field: Cameron saved three runs last year with the Brewers, while Jacoby Ellsbury, who is moving from center to left this year, cost his team nine: a twelve-run difference, one win. Ellsbury’s shift to left? As a left-fielder two years ago, he saved his team five runs in only 36 games started; 2009 left-fielder (and new Met) Jason Bay cost the Sox two last year. There’s at least another win right there. At shortstop, Scutaro saved twelve runs for the Blue Jays last year; the Sox’ revolving shortstops cost their team nineteen. Three more wins there. The Red Sox have dramatically improved their team’s chances of catching the Yankees without having to shell out nine-figure, decadelong contracts. “In the old days, and even some people today, you’d look at the Red Sox off-season moves and say, ‘They clearly lost more on offense than they gained on defense,’ ” Dewan says. “Now we’re able to measure it, and tell just how much more they gained.”

The Yankees have the exact same idea about defense. They actually made one huge improvement before last season: Mark Teixeira might have tied for the American League lead in homers last year, but just as crucially, he saved twelve more runs (per Dewan) than the lumbering Jason Giambi, which translates to a full win. This off-season, the team decided not to bid for free-agent left-fielders Bay and Matt Holliday, choosing instead to use Brett Gardner to replace Johnny Damon in left field and acquiring the bargain contract of Curtis Granderson via trade to play center. Damon was one run worse than the average left-fielder on defense last year, while Gardner saved nine runs in his limited time in center. Left field is easier to play than center, so Gardner should be even better there, a vast improvement over Damon. Meanwhile, Granderson will probably be substantially better than the Gardner–Melky Cabrera platoon in center. Overall, the Yankees’ outfield defense should be at least two wins better this year, while on offense Granderson will likely match if not exceed the offensive production lost by the departure of Damon. What’s more, he makes only $9 million a year, which is $7.5 million less than Bay and $8 million less than Holliday. All told, using Gardner and Granderson is a way to keep up the defensive improvements of last year—Dewan says the Yanks improved by 41 runs in 2009, amounting to four wins—without costing anything significant on offense or the bottom line. The Yankees and Sox, baseball’s titans of profligate spending—of $50 million bidding wars for players like Daisuke Matsuzaka—are now locked in an equally intense battle to see who can be more subtly ingenious and fiscally responsible.

Regardless of who they hire as the next coach, the US Soccer Federation should hire John Dewan and Bill James now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


How’d we lose Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon? (Richard Grenell, 06/15/10, Daily Caller)

After 17 months of diplomacy, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was only able to get 12 of the 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council to vote to place increased sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that previous Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”. Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own poor performance look better isn’t factual. After so much hype about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy engagement strategy, the Obama UN resolution was remarkably weak, took too long to get and received less support than Bush’s team got in producing FIVE Security Council resolutions on Iran.

The President and I are the same age, so I know he's old enough to recall how Carterism worked out (failed to work) last time. So what other conclusion can we draw but that he honestly believed that the force of his own Obamaness would render a different result this time?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Obama is too friendly with tyrants (Saad Eddin Ibrahim, June 15, 2010, Washington Post)

When a billboard appeared outside a small Minnesota town early this year showing a picture of George W. Bush and the words "Miss me yet?" the irony was not lost on many in the Arab world. Most Americans may not miss Bush, but a growing number of people in the Middle East do. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remain unpopular in the region, but his ardent support for democracy was heartening to Arabs living under stalled autocracies. Reform activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere felt empowered to press for greater freedoms during the Bush years. Unfortunately, Bush's strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama's retreat on this critical issue. [...]

Democracy and human rights advocates in the Middle East listened with great anticipation to Obama's speech in Cairo. Today, Egyptians are not just disappointed but stunned by what appears to be outright promotion of autocracy in their country. What is needed now is a loud and clear message from the United States and the global community of democracies that the Egyptian people deserve free, fair and transparent elections. Congress is considering a resolution to that effect for Uganda. Such a resolution for Egypt is critical given the immense U.S. support for Egypt. Just as we hope for a clear U.S. signal on democracy promotion, we must hope that the Obama administration will cease its coddling of dictators.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


We'll host a World Cup contest via the Seattle Times--you just pick winners for each game:

To join our friends' group, first sign up for the contest at


Then, after you log in, click on the "My Groups" tab, and then click on "Join a Private Group" and submit the following:

Your Group Name: BroJudd
Your Password: ericjulia

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


Chicken Quesadilla Pie (Recipe from "The Best Simple Recipes" America's Test Kitchen, 06/15/2010)

1 flour tortilla (10 inches, burrito size)

1 rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/3 cup jarred pickled jalapeños, drained and chopped

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 9-inch pie plate. Press tortilla into prepared pie plate and spray lightly with vegetable oil spray.

2. Toss chicken, cilantro, jalapeños, 1 cup cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in bowl until combined. Spread filling over tortilla.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in bowl until smooth.

4. Slowly pour over filling, then sprinkle with remaining cheese.

5. Bake until surface is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 AM


Sestak silence worries Pa. officials (SHIRA TOEPLITZ, 6/15/10, Politico)

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter.

All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

...if he shuts up until the Fall?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


Insurgents Now Turn to Establishment (NAFTALI BENDAVID, 6/14/10, WSJ)

Sharron Angle won the Republican nomination for a Senate seat from Nevada largely because she wasn't the choice of people like Sen. John Cornyn, the Texan who coordinates the GOP's Senate campaigns.

But on Tuesday, Ms. Angle, who surged to victory on an anti-establishment message, is scheduled to meet with Mr. Cornyn in Washington to discuss how they can work together. On Wednesday, she will appear at a weekly meeting hosted by Americans for Tax Reform, a long-standing gathering point for conservatives from Congress, the GOP and lobbying and activist groups.

During their primary races, a number of nominees in both parties stressed their opposition to the Washington establishment. Now, as they face general elections, they are turning to that same establishment for help, prompting their political opponents to accuse them of playing politics as usual.

Ms Angle is a sufficient example of why the intial storyline was so silly anyway--the supposed insurgent has been a Republican legislator and politician since the '90s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 AM


Inside Scientology: A Times Special Report: No kids allowed (Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, 6/13/10, St. Petersburg Times

Laura Dieckman was just 12 when her parents let her leave home to work full time for Scientology's religious order, the Sea Organization. At 16, she married a co-worker. At 17, she was pregnant.

She was excited to start a family, but she said Sea Org supervisors pressured her to have an abortion. She was back at work the following day.

Claire Headley joined at 16, married at 17 and was pregnant at 19. She said Sea Org supervisors threatened strenuous physical work and repeated interrogations if she didn't end her pregnancy. She, too, was back at work the next day.

Two years later she had a second abortion, this time while working for the church in Clearwater.

A St. Petersburg Times investigation found their experiences were not unique. More than a dozen women said the culture in the Sea Org pushed them or women they knew to have abortions, in many cases, abortions they did not want.

Some said colleagues and supervisors pressured them to abort their pregnancies and remain productive workers without the distraction of raising children. Terminating a pregnancy and staying on the job affirmed one's commitment to the all-important work of saving the planet.

"You just have a way of thinking,'' said Sunny Pereira, who was 15 when she entered the order. ''It all has to do with the Sea Org and what we're trying to accomplish. Everything that is a distraction is scorned.''

According to those speaking out, women who didn't schedule abortions were shunned by fellow Sea Org members, called "degraded beings'' and taunted for being "out ethics,'' straying from the order's ethical code.

Some were isolated, assigned manual labor and interrogated until they agreed to abortions, said church defectors, including men whose wives got abortions.

June 14, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


The Hezbollah Problem: To defang Iran, and help Lebanon and Israel, we must demilitarize Hezbollah. Which means we'll have to talk to them. (Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson, Summer 2010, Democracy)

Hezbollah evolved as a state-sponsored, distinctly anti-Israeli organization—first as a military instrument of Syria, and then as Iran’s strategic asset. When the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was expelled from Jordan in 1975, it moved into Lebanon and spurred the growing Muslim majority to challenge the Maronite Christian government. The Muslim-Christian civil war ensued. Damascus exploited the resulting instability to take military control of Lebanon—which Syria considered its territory—in the hope of threatening Israel on its northern border and retaking the Golan Heights. Supporting the Christian government, Israel intervened with air attacks in 1976 and, in March 1978, invaded Lebanon to provide a more effective deterrent. Shortly thereafter, Israel withdrew. After four more years of cross-border hostilities, Israel invaded again, this time with some 80,000 troops. Israel quickly routed the PLO and Syrian troops in the southern part of the country, and maintained its presence to deter further PLO and Syrian attacks. In 1983, Hezbollah arose as an anti-Israeli splinter group of Amal, an existing Shi’ite organization. Unable to confront Israel militarily, Syria nurtured Hezbollah, which became the most effective military force against Israel in Lebanon.

Simultaneously, the Shi’ite population was growing. According to estimates—hotly disputed among non-Shi’ite Lebanese parties—Shi’ites constituted 40 percent of Lebanon’s population by the late 1990s. Hezbollah increasingly drew the support of Iran, Syria’s ally, which enlisted the group as its militant Shi’ite and anti-Israeli proxy in the Arab world. Hezbollah’s military effectiveness in drawing Israeli blood eventually afforded it political domination of South Beirut and south Lebanon. Hezbollah enhanced its appeal by refraining from fighting other Lebanese factions during the civil war, by its incorruptibility, and through charity and community involvement. The organization became the leading proponent of an Islamic republic in Lebanon. As a consequence, despite growing domestic opposition to Hezbollah’s armed status, some members of Hezbollah still consider armed hostility toward a common foe—Israel—the linchpin of Lebanon’s security, if not its raison d’être. Hezbollah characterizes Israel’s 2000 strategic withdrawal from south Lebanon as a defeat at Hezbollah’s hands. Last January, spurning international diplomacy, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem proclaimed: “We do not need reassurances from anyone on behalf of Israel. What reassures us are our arms, our preparedness, and our readiness, and if Israel is planning any action, it knows the level of the response. This is what reassures us and nothing else.”

Hezbollah’s core comprises several thousand activists, but, as evidenced by its political success, its broader popular support is orders of magnitude higher. Its highest governing body is the 17-member Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council, which since 1992 has been led by Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah made his revolutionary bones as a Hezbollah guerrilla commander in the 1980s; his religious education and personal charisma elevated him to overall leadership. Nasrallah is also chairman of the Jihad Council, the organization’s military decision-making body, which is one step below the Consultative Council in the organizational hierarchy. Hezbollah’s organizational structure is essentially top-down, and its political and military dimensions are unified both structurally and in the person of Nasrallah. Accordingly, Hezbollah is not especially susceptible to deep splits along strategic or tactical lines. The Consultative Council also has formal links to Iran’s Supreme Leader (currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and informal ties to the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Hezbollah’s domestic political legitimacy, however, rests not only on its Iranian and Syrian connections and its coercive power in the region, but also on its benevolent presence in Lebanon. While generally corrupt and dysfunctional Lebanese governments have been ineffectual welfare providers for decades, an efficient, incorruptible Hezbollah has furnished schools, medical assistance, and food for Lebanese people—mainly Shi’ites—in need. Although Iran initially subsidized Hezbollah’s welfare operations, since the 1990s it has consolidated a domestic support base, placing Hezbollah-flagged charity boxes, depicting cupped hands, in public areas throughout southern Lebanon. If the United States is to launch an effective initiative for demilitarization, it will need to make a compelling case to Hezbollah’s constituency as well as the more pragmatic members of its leadership. Even for such improbable efforts, there is hopeful precedent.

Northern Ireland: A Rough Parallel

Like the United States, the United Kingdom has an interest in Middle Eastern stability. And the United Kingdom has enjoyed some success in dealing openly with the political representatives of a dangerous and effective terrorist group. Its favorable disposition toward talking with Sinn Fein, the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s political wing, ultimately persuaded the IRA to relinquish its weapons and end its armed struggle against British sovereignty in Northern Ireland. Hezbollah’s strategic circumstances, of course, are far more complicated than the IRA’s. In exchange for Iran and Syria’s vital and longstanding material and political support, Hezbollah has served as their geopolitical agent for confronting Israel. The IRA, by contrast, was not directly answerable to any outside sovereign backer (though much of its arsenal came from Libya). Furthermore, the IRA’s substantive argument that it needed weapons to defend Northern Irish Catholics from Protestant unionist and British abuses had largely dissolved by 1997, whereas the threat Israel poses to Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon is arguably greater now, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, than it was before. But as a comprehensive RAND study published this year noted: “Beyond Hezbollah’s own interest in achieving a certain degree of independence from Iran, a perception of independence is important for its own internal struggle for legitimacy.” Is it possible that this consideration trumps Hezbollah’s traditional imperative of armed confrontation with Israel?

The parallels between the Hezbollah and IRA cases are not trivial or incidental. Like Hezbollah, the IRA was popular with an oppressed ethnic minority, had valorized violent resistance and martyrdom, had real political ambitions for which violence and accommodation were both useful, and had a torturous relationship with the foreign power—in the IRA’s case, the United Kingdom, which defended the interests of its own client community in Northern Ireland by suppressing the IRA at great cost. Also similarly to Hezbollah, the IRA had ostensibly separate political and military wings that in reality were umbilically linked. Sinn Fein leaders insisted publicly that they had no control over the IRA, and the British government often chose not to challenge the charade of separation in order to encourage the IRA’s interest in non-violent politics and to allow Sinn Fein leaders a swaggering disingenuousness that appealed to their supporters. In fact, those leaders were also IRA men who continuously sat on the IRA Army Council—just as the membership of Hezbollah’s Consultative Council and Jihad Council substantially overlap.

Within the IRA too, individual viewpoints ranged from militantly hardline to guardedly conciliatory. And, as the IRA’s unilateral cease-fire in August 1994 and its backslide to violence with the February 1996 bombing of London’s Canary Wharf showed, the relative influence of the more militant faction versus the more political one shifted with circumstances. Contrary to the public understanding that Sinn Fein itself hoped to engender, then, there was never any Chinese Wall between the military and political wings of the Irish republican movement; instead, there was a spectrum of views as to what role Sinn Fein might play in Northern Irish governance, with some members of the movement very tentatively willing to entertain the possibility of participating in a demilitarization program if it would improve Sinn Fein’s political fortunes. (Those who disagreed radically with the movement’s overall shift toward the political simply left to join rejectionist splinter groups that have merged and remained marginalized.)

Decommissioning in Northern Ireland did, eventually, take place—due in considerable part to London’s willingness to seize the opportunity presented by the IRA’s initial cease-fire in 1994, which eventually gave those IRA members who did support a strategic shift toward non-violent politics sufficient cover and encouragement to gain decisive favor within the Irish republican movement. While the implementation of the disarmament provisions of the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been agonizingly fraught, the UK ultimately advanced the IRA’s decommissioning through a delicate combination of dogged negotiation, inducements that reminded the IRA that its political gains were perishable, and careful pragmatism. By 2006, Sinn Fein had become the second most powerful party in Northern Ireland, convincing the IRA that the strategy of the ballot box was superior to that of the Armalite. The group did away with its weapons, and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, improbably but apparently in earnest, became deputy first minister of the devolved government.

It's the dirty little secret that neither they nor we can acknowledge--Hezbollah and America are natural allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 PM


Obama's Doublespeak on Iran: Extending Hands or Clenching Fists? (Esam Al-Amin, 6/14/10, Global Research)

As promised, Obama sent two separate letters on April 20 to Lula and Erdogan detailing the US parameters of a possible deal. He wrote that his proposal represented “a detailed explanation” of his perspective and offered “a suggestion of a way ahead.” He said that his offer was based on the proposal put forth by former IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei, which he characterized in the letter as “fair and balanced,” and would enable “both sides to gain trust and confidence.”

In his letter, Obama detailed four conditions for any resolution to be satisfactory to the US. The first condition was “Iran’s agreement to transfer 1,200 kg of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country.” He emphasized that this condition was essential and non-negotiable.

Second, he demonstrated his willingness to be “flexible and creative in order to build mutual confidence” by agreeing “to support and facilitate action on proposal that would provide Iran nuclear fuel using uranium enriched by Iran,” a crucial demand by Iran which it has always insisted was its right under the NPT treaty.

Third, Obama offered his acceptance to the compromise suggested by the IAEA last November by allowing “Iran to ship its 1,200 kg of LEU to a third country,” suggesting Turkey as the designated country. He went further by offering assurance to Iran that its fuel would be held “in escrow” in Turkey “as a guarantee during the fuel production process that Iran would get back its uranium if we failed to deliver the fuel.”

His final condition was that Iran has to convey to the IAEA in writing its “constructive commitment to engagement through official channels.”

Armed with the concrete American conditions and after receiving a positive response to negotiate, conveyed to Davtoglo by the Iranian leadership, the foreign minister of Brazil Celso Amorim flew to Iran a week later on April 27, to prepare for a state visit by Lula to hammer out a final agreement based on the American proposal.

The Brazilian president arrived in Tehran on May 15 and was joined by the Turkish prime minister the following day. In an 18-hour negotiation marathon session, the two world leaders impressed on the Iranian leadership the significance of accepting all four parameters outlined in Obama’s letter.

On May 17, an agreement based on the American and IAEA proposals was signed by the foreign ministers of all three countries. A week later Iran submitted an official letter to the IAEA acknowledging the pact and stating its intention to transfer its LEU to Turkey within one month once the plan was accepted.

To the complete surprise of Brazil and Turkey, the White House and the State Department dismissed the deal out of hand within 24 hours, rejecting the same principles outlined in Obama’s letter.

How many promotions has the UR had since he crossed the Peter Principle threshold at Harvard Law Review?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


‘Six new Protestant churches are opening every day’: There are between 50 million and 100 million Christians in China — and their number is increasing rapidly (John R. Pritchard, 6/11/10, Times of London)

In Mao’s China, however, these independent churches were as unwelcome as the mission-founded churches. All were in effect disbanded. The remnants of the old western denominations were funnelled into a Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), using the slogan which the NCC had made its aspiration back in 1922. Those who wanted no truck with the TSPM were harshly penalised. For example Elder Li, a gracious and still hard-working old pastor whom I met in Wuhan a while ago, spent 25 years in solitary confinement. By the end of the 1950s, 20,000 Protestant churches had been closed and fewer than 100 remained open in the whole of China. The Cultural Revolution was merely the final straw.

The final curtain was in fact no more than a long intermission. Since the early 1980s Protestant churches, with or without buildings, have been opening or re-opening at the rate of at least six a day. From about a million baptised half a century ago, numbers have risen to a total estimated at anywhere between 50 and 100 million. The China Christian Council, with a restored TSPM, claims 20 million of these, but now the indigenous, independent groups represent the majority. One or two of the older bodies have been co-opted by the TSPM, but new networks a-plenty, preferring to remain unregistered, have arrived on the scene.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Why Can't Kyrgyz and Uzbeks Get Along? (Brian Palmer, June 14, 2010, Slate)

The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan erupted in riots over the weekend, as ethnic Kyrgyz mobs attacked Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh. The fighting diminished Monday, but armed Kyrgyz gangs still roam the city. Violence is common in the ethnically divided south. What are the two groups fighting about?

Money. Southern Kyrgyzstan is an economically depressed region, with an average annual income of less than half the national average of $2,150. There is a perception that the city's Uzbeks are significantly more prosperous than their Kyrgyz neighbors and have gotten that way through unscrupulous business practices. While there are no hard data to back up this belief, the perception alone has turned the area into a tinderbox. The slightest sparks—economic downturns, changes in government, or rumors of an inter-ethnic crime—have sent armed gangs of unemployed Kyrgyz youth into the streets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


Dems' finance report shows lagging donations (PHILIP ELLIOTT, 6/14/10, The Associated Press)

House Democratic lawmakers are holding onto their campaign cash despite pleas from the campaign committee for money to help the party, a reflection of the nervousness among incumbents.

Only 16 of the 254 members of the Democratic caucus have paid their full obligation to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. Of those, dozens have outstanding balances of at least $125,000. Lawmakers in unexpectedly tight re-election campaigns and those who could face serious challenges are keeping their dollars in their accounts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM


Suit shows what's wrong with California schools (Ben Boychuk,Bruno Behrend, June 11, 2010, SF Chronicle)

Frustrated by some tough budget years, California public school officials want a court to declare the state's Byzantine school finance system unconstitutional. The stated goal of the lawsuit is to circumvent lawmakers (and reality) by asking a judge to force billions of dollars in unaffordable education spending increases.

But the system isn't "unconstitutional" so much as unworkable. The way to achieve an equitable and affordable public school system in the Golden State isn't more funding to prop up a bloated bureaucracy. The answer is to fund all children equally by letting the funding follow the child. The answer is choice.

This is hardly a radical idea. Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, for example, offer tax credits to corporations and individuals who finance scholarships for children from low-income families. Even Sweden lets families choose the school they want, public or private, backed by a tax-subsidized scholarship.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM


U.S. hopes to maintain control (Luke Cyphers, 6/14/10, ESPN)

The most surprising statistic from the U.S.-England match? This one: The Yanks possessed the ball 53 percent of the time in the first half.

It's almost an article of faith, a faith based on history, that against the top teams in the world, the U.S. won't hold the ball more than its opponent for any length of time. And indeed, the Americans reverted to form in the second half, so that by the end of the match England enjoyed a 54-46 possession advantage.

Who's doing what and what does it mean to his team's chances? Insider's Rumor Central has the answers.

But the Americans' patience and control in the first half was a huge factor in the 1-1 draw in Rustenburg on Saturday. Rather than panic after Steven Gerrard's goal in the fourth minute, the U.S. kept the ball for long stretches, giving itself scoring opportunities on set pieces before Clint Dempsey's "Blunder Strike" on Robert Green in the 40th minute. "I thought especially in that period after the goal, our ball movement to get to certain spots on the field was quite good," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley.

Said Dempsey, "We kept possession well, we created chances and we put them under a lot of pressure. When we do keep the ball, we create chances. We've just got to be confident and calm on the ball. When we do that, good things can happen."

...if Bob Bradley understands that the ability to maintain possession of the ball is a defensive skill and that, therefore, three of his ostensibly offensive subs--Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu and Jose Francisco Torres--might actually be preferable to the supposedly more defense-oriented guys ahead of them--Ricardo Clark and Carlos Bocanegra--and should be playing more even if he's determined to be negative. It is unforgivable that he decided not to just put a prostrate England away on Saturday and settled for a draw instead. This back page from the Post shows exactly what's wrong with such a mindset:

The tie was a defeat against a team we had beat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


The rise and rise of the Champagne Malthusians: spiked’s editor joined the population-control lobby in a posh church in London as they quaffed ‘luxury’ drinks and fretted about overbreeding. (Brendan O’Neill, 6/14/10, spiked)

The similarities and differences between the Malthusian Ball 80 years ago and last week’s luxury beer-drenched ‘debate’ are striking. The key similarity is that both the old tiara-wearing Malthusians and the tiara-less ones today can only understand humanity’s problems in biological terms. Lacking any grasp of how society works - or more to the point how it doesn’t work sometimes - they instead see all crises as the fault of individual licentiousness and breeding. And possessed of such a deep pessimism that they can only conceive of mankind as pillager of the Earth rather than creator of things and ideas, they have a childlike view of the planet as a larder of limited resources that we are greedily hoovering up.

Then and now, the fatal flaw of Malthusianism is that it views social problems, like poverty and unemployment, as failings on the part of the individual. So it’s not because economic affairs are badly organised that some people are unemployed – it’s because some dozy women 18 years ago had too many children and now their newly adult sons and daughters are competing for jobs in an overcrowded market. It’s not because society has skewed priorities that some people around the world go hungry – it’s because very poor African women have too many kids (five-ish, compared to 1.9 in the UK) and these little black babies’ demand for food outstrips how much food exists.

Obsessed with the idea of limited resources and the insatiable greed of men, Malthusians’ only solution is to save resources by reducing the number of men. A progressive possessed of a social outlook looks at the problems facing mankind and says (in a nutshell) ‘we need more stuff’ – a Malthusian looks at them and says ‘we need fewer people’. Their belief that all the world’s problems are caused by there being Too Many People has not only been proved unfounded again and again (we have continually discovered new and improved ways to make and distribute resources), but it also inevitably makes them misanthropic. Those who think human numbers can continue rising should remember that ‘unremitting growth is the doctrine of the cancer cell’, said Professor John Guillebaud in St Pancras Church, capturing well the Malthusians’ view of humanity as a virus on Gaia’s person.

Yet there are differences, too, between yesteryear’s Malthusians and today’s. For a start they no longer refer to themselves as Malthusians. The only person who used the M-word during last week’s debate was me, much to the irritation of the 200, er, Malthusians. They’re extremely careful about what they say. Where the May 1933 edition of Birth Control Review, which reported on that year’s Malthusian Ball, openly said that ‘to get a strong and healthy nation it is essential that we breed from the right stocks’ (1), today’s Malthusians won’t even utter the phrase ‘population control’. ‘Can we all agree not to use those two words’, said Professor Guillebaud. ‘Because this is not about control.’

‘Helping the poor’, ‘female empowerment’, ‘choice’ – today’s Malthusians sound more like feminists than imperialists. Yet there’s something creepily disingenuous in their use of the language of rights. The Malthusians’ adoption of a PC lingo is a cynical attempt to overcome some massive historic embarrassments. Late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Malthusianism was tightly tied up with Empire, eugenics, even with Nazism. The discrediting of those racist projects dealt a heavy blow to the population-control lobby and its ideas about superior races and inferior over-breeders (the Malthusian Ball was designed to raise funds to help ‘develop interest in birth control in the Far East, especially India’) (2). In the mid- to late twentieth century, redfaced Malthusians desperate to distance themselves from their super-shady past started to talk about ‘family planning’ rather than ‘population control’, ‘female empowerment in the developing world’ rather than ‘spreading the propaganda and practice of birth control among the nations that most need it’ (as the 1933 Birth Control Review more honestly put it).

Yet beneath the PC veneer, there lurk many of the same ideas, and much of the same disingenuousness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Can Obama Regain the Backing of Big Business? (Mark Halperin, Jun. 14, 2010, TIME)

Like Bill Clinton in 1992, candidate Obama had stronger-than-usual support as a Democrat from both Wall Street and Main Street business leaders. Now, amid both the endgame of the struggle for financial regulation and the Gulf oil crisis, the President's alienation from the top level of the private sector leaves him weakened with Congress and the public, and as a political force.

Governing during a period of serial global and national challenges of almost unprecedented scale — to which he has largely responded with government action of unprecedented scale — Obama was bound to make enemies in some camps from which he drew support in 2008. Labor unions, journalists, independents, antiwar activists and liberals are just some of the groups that have more or less turned on the man in whom they once invested so many hopes. But it is the apparent break with Big Business that is at once most pronounced and, at the moment, potentially most consequential.

The view of many of the nation's best-compensated executives is that Obama knows little or nothing about the importance of the free market or how it works.

All you need to know about Mr. Obama and economics is that his one great moment came when he supported W's solution to the credit crisis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


Migration: development on the move (Alex Glennie, 14 June 2010, OpenDemocracy)

On average, more than half of the migrants from the countries studied sent money home and in countries like Jamaica a third of all households receive some remittances. These funds can make a real difference to the lives of recipients. In Colombia for example, households that receive remittances are 12 per cent less likely to be below the national poverty line than those who do not. Alisi Tuqa, a Fijian migrant who blogged for the ippr project, observes that ‘indirectly, my family in Fiji have also benefitted through remittances and items we sent back home; our Fiji home which we had bought is being rented; and we have had family come visit us in New Caledonia without worrying about having to pay for a hotel when here’.

It is often suggested that receiving money from relatives abroad might make people in households with absent migrants less likely to work. The data collected in this research project indicates that on average, remittances do not have a significant effect on labour force participation or unemployment levels. Though return migrants tend to have a greater chance of being unemployed than expected for people with similar characteristics for the first 12 months after return, they then adjust and this risk dissipates. Meanwhile, in Georgia and Jamaica, having an absent migrant reduces the likelihood that anyone in the household is unemployed by more than 35 per cent.

Migration also has significant social impacts – both positive and negative – on households. We found that in some countries, households with absent or returned migrants and remittances increased their spending on education and health. Households in Ghana with absent migrants, for example, spend US$107 more per year on education than those without – a considerable sum in light of the fact that the World Bank’s estimate of average annual per capita income in Ghana is US$670. In Jamaica, each additional returned migrant in a household increases healthcare spending by more than 50 per cent. These benefits are in addition to what the migrants themselves gain by being able to access education and health services abroad. Monika Trajanoska, a young migrant from Macedonia describes her experience of studying abroad as having ‘opened a lot of doors, such as by allowing me to continue my studies with a scholarship at a postgraduate level’.

However, the evidence suggests that in some countries such as Jamaica, and possibly in Ghana and Macedonia, migration may be leading to an overall drop in the numbers of skilled professionals to a degree that cannot be compensated for by the more beneficial effects of immigration, return and remittances. But 'brain drain' does not seem to be occurring uniformly across all developing countries. In Vietnam, Georgia and Colombia, the data suggests that these countries may now have more skilled people than they otherwise would have had, had no one been able to migrate. Although causality is difficult to determine here, there is evidence to suggest that migration can act as an incentive for individuals to acquire educational qualifications or skills that they otherwise would not have had, when they observe family members and friends benefiting financially and socially from having moved abroad.

The Development on the Move study also produced some interesting findings about the gender impacts of migration. For instance, more than 70 per cent of migrants from each case study country said that as a result of their experiences, they were more committed to achieving gender equality in their country of origin. However, these changes in attitudes do not necessarily seem to translate into changes in behaviour. While there is less evidence on this than on some of the other impacts, none of it suggests that migration is changing who – men or women – undertakes household tasks such as childcare, home repairs or cooking. In some countries, men who have migrated and returned actually appear to be less likely to engage in tasks traditionally thought of as being ‘female’.

Most migrants leave their countries of origin because they do not have the opportunity to achieve their goals at home. But while migration is improving the lives of many people in developing countries, these changes tend to be incremental rather than transformational. In short, migration cannot be relied upon to act as a substitute for national development strategies. As Maria Latorre, a Colombian who lived and worked in the UK for a few years before returning home, puts it, remittances are ‘just a short-term solution for poverty in a country like Colombia. Migration is a good option for those with scarce opportunities but governments should not depend on that. Migration must be a choice rather than a forced action’.

However, at both the individual and household levels, migration appears to be an important way of improving people’s lives, which suggests that policymakers should not view it primarily as a ‘problem’, at least from a development perspective.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


Big Bad John singer Jimmy Dean dies at 81 (BBC, 14 June 2010)

Jimmy Dean, the country singer who had a big hit with Big Bad John, has died at the age of 81.

The Life, Death and Rebirth of ‘Big Bad John’ (DAVE ITZKOFF, 6/14/10, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 AM


Garnett's all-around game boosts Celtics (Howard Ulman, 6/14/10, AP)

Kevin Garnett scored, rebounded, blocked shots and shouted directions to teammates.

Steal the ball? He did that, too. Five times.

Garnett's best all-around performance of the NBA finals lacked one memorable gesture. Boston's emotional leader didn't kiss the leprechaun symbol at center court the way he did two years ago moments after the Celtics won their 17th championship.

But his brilliance in their 92-86 win over the Lakers on Sunday night helped the Celtics move one win away from their 18th title even though the clincher will have to come in Los Angeles.

...of how KG's intensity elevates his teammates while Kobe's affect sinks his.

June 13, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


U.S. Discovers Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan (JAMES RISEN, 6/13/10, NY Times)

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

...it's all theirs, which is why we are the unique imperial power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM


The bright side of wrong: Our tendency to err is also what makes us smart. Here's what we'd gain from embracing it (Kathryn Schulz, June 13, 2010, Boston Globe)

Being wrong, we feel, signals something terrible about us. The Italian cognitive scientist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini summed up this sentiment nicely. We err, he wrote, because of “inattention, distraction, lack of interest, poor preparation, genuine stupidity, timidity, braggadocio, emotional imbalance,...ideological, racial, social or chauvinistic prejudices, as well as aggressive or prevaricatory instincts.” In this view — and it is the common one — our errors are evidence of our gravest social, intellectual, and moral failings.

Of all the things we’re wrong about, this view of error might well top the list. As ashamed as we may feel of our mistakes, they are not a byproduct of all that’s worst about being human. On the contrary: They’re a byproduct of all that’s best about us. We don’t get things wrong because we are uninformed and lazy and stupid and evil. We get things wrong because we get things right. The more scientists understand about cognitive functioning, the more it becomes clear that our capacity to err is utterly inextricable from what makes the human brain so swift, adaptable, and intelligent.

Misunderstanding our mistakes in this way — seeing them as evidence of flaws and an indictment of our overall worth — exacts a steep toll on us, in private and public life alike. Doing so encourages us to deny our own errors and despise ourselves for making them. It permits us to treat those we regard as wrong with condescension or cruelty. It encourages us to make business and political leaders of those who refuse to entertain the possibility that they are mistaken. And it impedes our efforts to prevent errors in domains, such as medicine and aviation, where we truly cannot afford to get things wrong.

If we hope to avoid those outcomes, we need to stop treating errors like the bedbugs of the intellect — an appalling and embarrassing nuisance we try to pretend out of existence. What’s called for is a new way of thinking about wrongness, one that recognizes that our fallibility is part and parcel of our brilliance. If we can achieve that, we will be better able to avoid our costliest mistakes, own up to those we make, and reduce the conflict in our lives by dealing more openly and generously with both other people’s errors and our own.

The Brights, after all, think you can reason your way out of error and into truth, whereas we Dims believe in a God who screws up regularly in the Bible, nevermind the fallibility of His pitiful creations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


'Even the Regime Hates the Regime': Don't be fooled by Tehran's show of strength. The revolutionary rot runs deep. (KARIM SADJADPOUR, JUNE 11, 2010, Foreign Policy)

In meetings, especially with Western officials, Iranian officials would parrot the party line. But in private conversations, out of earshot of their bosses, a different narrative could often be heard. A former Iranian ambassador in Asia once confided to me over dinner in Paris that as "naive" young revolutionaries, he and his friends had grossly underestimated how difficult it would be to govern Iran and satisfy its fickle population. "We didn't appreciate at the time," I was surprised to hear him say, "the enormous challenges the shah had to deal with."

I used to recount these tales to a friend of mine, a devout, American-educated professor of political science at Tehran University who ran in government circles. He would smile and recount for me his own stories. "Everyone hates the regime," he told me once, only half-jokingly. "Even the regime hates the regime."

The revolutionary slogans that once inspired a generation of Iranians have become banal background noise for a population born predominantly after the revolution. Amid the bustle of a Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran several years back, I saw a rumpled, 50-something man furiously pumping his fist up and down and chanting something unintelligible. No one seemed to pay any attention to him. As he passed me, his words became clearer:

"Marg bar Amrika peechgooshtee sadt toman! Marg bar Amrika peechgooshtee sadt toman!"

"Death-to-America screwdrivers, 100 toman! Death-to-America screwdrivers, 100 toman!"

I was curious to check out his merchandise -- cheaply priced, anti-imperialist household tools -- so I flagged him down. Sensing his first sale, his eyes lit up.

"How many do you want?" he asked enthusiastically. He had a basket of at least 30. I grabbed one and took a closer look. Turning the screwdriver in my hand, I searched in vain for the words "Death to America."

"Where is the 'Death to America'?" I asked.

He shot me a puzzled look. "You want one with 'Death to America' written on it?"

"Isn't that what you said?"

"That was just an advertisement!" he explained to me with a wave of the hand, incredulous at my naiveté. "I said, 'Death to America! Screwdrivers for 100 toman!'" Two altogether separate sentences, he argued. The small crowd we had attracted shared his incredulity and verified that there indeed had been a pause between the two phrases.

"Come back next week," he said. "Perhaps I'll have some for you then." (Sharia has not yet replaced the laws of supply and demand in Iran.)

Many close observers of Iran confess to being baffled at the country's complex politics, its internal contradictions, its cultural nuances. How is it, many wonder, that a system that has profoundly underperformed for three decades could remain in power?

The leaders of the opposition Green Movement are no doubt pondering this question today. At the height of last year's unrest, they had hoped to recruit Iran's disaffected officialdom and traditional classes. Some joined last summer, but many watched, and continue to watch, from the sidelines. "They wanted to see the Green Movement succeed," said my friend, the university professor. "But they won't make a move until things are really on the verge of change. They're afraid."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Flemish separatists' win puts coalition on hold: Party that wants to split Belgium won a parliamentary election, a result that could complicate efforts to form a coalition that can deliver reforms of the state (Reuters, Sunday 13 June 2010)

A party that wants to split Belgium won a parliamentary election tonight, a result that could complicate efforts to form a coalition that can deliver reforms of the state and tight budgetary control. Projections and early results showed the Flemish separatist N-VA (New Flemish Alliance), which advocates the gradual dissolution of Belgium, was to be the largest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and the country. [...[]

Even if he does win the most votes, N-VA leader Bart De Wever will not be able to start devolving powers to the regions immediately.

The electoral system – effectively two elections with separate parties seeking votes from French-speakers and the majority Dutch-speakers – means at least four parties will be needed to form a governing coalition.

Parties from the poorer French-speaking regions are nervous about any form of devolution, seeing it as a step towards the break-up of the country, which they oppose.

This is the first federal election from which a party advocating the end of Belgium could emerge the winner, although the N-VA were allies of the Christian Democrats in 2007.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Protecting the Obama brand: The president's recent political missteps raise questions about what he's doing for -or to- the Democratic Party (Joan Walsh, 6/13/10, Salon)

Two stories about President Obama this weekend pushed my growing unease with his recent moves into full-blown anxiety. They come on the heels of Tim Dickinson's devastating Rolling Stone piece laying out concrete problems with Obama's response to the BP oil spill – from delays in cleaning up the Minerals Management Service, distrusting scientists who correctly reported the spill was much bigger than BP said, waiting more than a week to declare the crisis "an Oil Spill of National Significance," which corralled new services. Maybe the most damning, to me, section of Dickinson's piece comes when he quotes the president proudly announcing he'd reversed his stand against offshore oil drilling "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills," the president said. "They are technologically very advanced." Dickenson notes: "Eighteen days later, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon rig went off like a bomb."

Of the weekend's worrisome Obama stories, the first was Politico's Roger Simon's interview with Obama, published in full today, in which his self-defense about how he's handled the BP oil disaster sounded whiny and juvenile, and raised big questions about whether he's capable of fighting the battles he needs to enter and win to move the country forward. The other was Matt Bai's President in Chief?" in the New York Times Magazine, which showed that Obama and his team seem more focused on protecting the "brand" that they believe galvanized millions of new voters, young voters and independents in 2008, to potentially realign American politics, than with helping Democrats hold the House and Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


U.S. scores second-highest first-round World Cup rating (Michael Hiestand, 6/13/10, USA TODAY)

ABC's game coverage, which began at 2:30 p.m. ET, drew a 9.0 overnight.

...a soccer game just bested the SEC Title Game (which doesn't get shown on Univision).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


Pension Plan or Ponzi Scheme? (Kurt Brouwer, 6/12/10, Fundmastery Blog)

Staggering under the weight of overgenerous benefits, faulty investment assumptions and deficient cash contributions, public employee pension plans are a mess. So, of course, one would think those in charge are resolutely taking steps to dig their way out of the mess they are in, right? Wrong. Now, the New York state public pension plan has apparently subscribed to the strategies of the late Charles Ponzi. Ponzi fashioned a classic fraud in which he fooled investors by paying outsized returns for early investors with capital contributed by later investors. I had thought this had reached a peak with the infamous Bernard Madoff scheme in which many billions of dollars were lost, but now there is a new claimant to the title of Ponzi Perfection — The State of New York. This report from the New York Times tells the tale [emphasis added]:

Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund.

And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare’s character Polonius give this financial advice, ‘Neither a borrower, nor a lender be…’ Now, in the case of the New York state public employee pension plan, it will be borrowing from and lending to itself. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


World Cup: Slovenia vs. Algeria: Slovenia's victory puts it atop Group C ahead of U.S. and England (AP, June 13, 2010)

Robert Koren scored a late goal Sunday to give Slovenia a 1-0 win over 10-man Algeria in the teams' tournament opener, putting the World Cup's smallest nation — population 2 million, about the size of Houston — ahead of the United States and England in Group C.

The Slovenian captain struck a long-range shot that Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi misjudged and allowed to bounce into the net after deflecting off his arm in the 79th minute at Polokwane, South Africa.

"I was just lucky to see it go in like that," Koren said.

Algerian Coach Rabah Saadane said the new World Cup ball was a challenge for goalkeepers.

"Everyone saw what happened with the ball, and what happened yesterday with England's goalkeeper," Saadane said. "You have to adjust to the flight of the ball."

Only in soccer would coaches not have figured out yet that they need to change their game plans (only kidding) and shoot from range at every opportunity.

But this result drives home what an appalling decision Bob Bradley made yesterday ion not putting England to the sword when they were helpless. The American squad has a notorious tendency to play down to the level of our competition--as yesterday--and squander wins. If we do that against Slovenia and/or Algeria we risk going home with nothing to show for the result he was so happy to settle for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


World Cup draws record ratings for Univision: Spanish-language network gets 5.4 million viewers (The Hollywood Reporter, June 13, 2010)

Univision said Sunday that its broadcast of the opening match of the soccer World Cup featuring Mexico against hosts South Africa brought in record ratings for a first-day game in the tournament, and its overall opening day coverage nearly doubled the average ratings for the 2006 Cup.

Citing Nielsen data, the Spanish-language network said it delivered an average of 4 million total viewers ages 2-plus for the opening day and 5.4 million for the first game. It said ESPN reached 2.6 million for the latter. [...]

Univision said its UnivisionFutbol.com's free live streaming offer also saw record results.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Where does the Coalition stand on the new ideological map? (Stuart White, 9 June 2010, Open Democracy: Our Kingdom)

In the original article, I identified four currents of thought:

(1) Left communitarianism: ‘We need a social vision that acknowledges and celebrates our interdependence. This will emphasise solidarity and mutuality against the atomistic individualism of the right. We need to tackle economic equality and restate the case for ambitious collective action, while also recalling that social democracy begins, not with the state, but in the everyday cooperation of civil society. The market must be kept firmly in its place, which is not in the public sector.’

(2) Left republicanism: ‘The task of progressive politics is radically to disperse power and opportunity and to build a participatory and deliberative form of democratic politics. This requires restructuring the state so that individuals participate more directly in decision-making. It requires the cultivation of a grass-roots social-movement politics. It also requires a new politics of ownership, one that seeks both to widen individual asset ownership and to democratise the control of capital.’

(3) Centre republicanism: ‘The task of progressive politics is radically to disperse power and opportunity. This requires restructuring the state in a much more decentralised direction; individual empowerment in public services; a wider distribution of assets; and a stronger policy of protecting - indeed, expanding - civil liberties and lifestyle freedom. The left should get over its fixation on high taxation of labour income and put more emphasis on taxing unearned wealth and environmental bads.’

(4) Right communitarianism: ‘The urgent task is to fill the moral vacuum created by a combination of neo-liberalism in the economy and lifestyle liberalism in society. This requires that we rebuild a strongly moralistic civil society to meet social needs that neither the free market nor the conventional welfare state can meet. To this end, we must build a new political and economic localism. We must ‘recapitalise the poor’ in order to empower them to crawl out from under the welfare state, and the welfare state itself must be cut back.’

The Coalition

The Coalition government can be seen, I think, as drawing on – without in any way being reducible to - right communitarian and centre republican currents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Saudi Muslim Religious Council Condemns Terrorism (David Ignatius, 6/13/10, Washington Post)

[A] powerful and so far largely unreported denunciation of terrorism emerged last month from Saudi Arabia's top religious leadership, known as the "Council of Senior Ulema."

The Saudi fatwa is a tough condemnation of terror, and of the underground network that finances it. It has impressed senior U.S. military commanders and intelligence officers, who were initially surprised when it came out. One sent me a translation of the fatwa, and Saudi officials provided some helpful background.

"There is no gray area here," said a senior Saudi official. "Once it has come out like this, from the most senior religious body in the kingdom, it's hard for a lesser religious authority to justify violence."

The fatwa already seems to have had some impact: "Negative reaction from extremists online shows that they see this as a threat that needs to be responded to," says one senior U.S. official.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee says New York must learn from her groundbreaking union deal (Michelle Rhee, June 13th 2010, NY Daily News)

The D.C. contract includes many provisions that were once considered "sacred cows," but as it turns out, were wholly embraced by our teachers. These include:

- Individual pay for individual performance. Our agreement gives the district the ability to implement a pay for performance system - paid for with private money, and voluntary for teachers - that recognizes and rewards our most highly effective teachers for their individual accomplishments in raising student achievement.

- Seniority. When a school undergoes a budget reduction and a layoff is necessary, that decision is made based on performance, not seniority, and it's one that teachers themselves are engaged in making.

- Mutual consent. A teacher cannot be placed at a school unless the teacher and the school principal agree. Moreover, if there are teachers who cannot find a "mutual consent placement," they are moved out of the system.

- The end of tenure as a "job for life." If a teacher is rated as "ineffective," she is immediately terminated from the system. If rated "minimally effective," he has a freeze on his pay raise and after two years is terminated. Further, teachers cannot grieve their ratings, they can only grieve procedural errors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Labour is on the verge of a disastrous, and false, shift to the left (Ian Kirby, 6/13/10, News of the World)

WOULD-BE Labour leaders last night queued up to say they would raise taxes if they got back into power.

In an extremely significant head to head that was largely ignored because of the World Cup, all five potential leaders queued up to say they would tax more and carry on spending, as if the current £163 BILLION deficit didn't exist!! [...]

The most significant thing about yesterday's hustings is not the fact that they pledged to raise taxes - it was a hustings held by the leftie Compass Group after all, it was the fact that NONE of the candidates were prepared to admit they had carried on spending while Rome burned.

In 10 days George Osborne will present his Emergency Budget, and it is hard to see from yesterday;s offerings who, from the Labour benches, could come up with a better or more realistic alternative to large spending cuts.

Until the Labour candidates start to analyse what went wrong with the economy, and begin to develop an alternative model all of them are doing a great job of preparing Labour for a long period in Opposition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Immigrants' contribution to entrepreneurialism revealed: Restricting visas to key professions would stifle growth, study shows (Jamie Doward, 6/13/10, The Observer)

Using information from a variety of sources, Experian, the data analysis company, has built up a database of nearly half a million entrepreneurs – company directors, partners in professional practices and sole traders – in the largest mapping exercise of its kind.

The sectors in which the entrepreneurs work are then identified, while their names are cross-referenced to a database with information relating to a billion individuals from around the world, allowing for their cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds to be established.

The resulting groups were then given a figure – where 100 indicates the UK average. Anything higher than around 120 indicates that an ethnic group is significantly over-represented in a particular entrepreneurial field.

In general, the research found that people of non-white British origin were hugely over-represented in medical practices (a figure of 235), dental practices (215), dispensing chemists (253) and the wholesale of pharmaceutical products (241).

People of English origin scored 101.2 on the index, hardly above the average, while the Scottish scored 95.5 and the Welsh 90.4 – both below the average.

And every single plumber is Polish...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Public employee unions on the defensive (Peter Scheer, June 13, 2010, SF Chronicle)

So far has the zeitgeist shifted against them that on one recent weekend, government employees were the butt of a "Saturday Night Live" skit, and the next day, a New York Times Magazine cover article proclaimed "The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand."

Public unions' traditional strength - the ability to finance their members' rising pay and benefits through tax increases - has become a liability. Although private-sector unions always have had to worry that consumers will resist rising prices for their goods, public sector unions have benefited from the fact that taxpayers can't choose - they are, in effect, "captive consumers."

At some point, however, voters turn resentful as they sense that:

-- They are underwriting, through their taxes, a level of salary and benefits for government employment that is better than what they and their families have.

-- Government services, from schools to the Department of Motor Vehicles, are not good enough - not for the citizen individually nor the public generally - to justify the high and escalating cost.

We are at that point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Isn’t It Ironic? (MAUREEN DOWD, 6/13/10, NY Times)

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

The two men running the White House have very different relationships with the press; one is warm and one is frosty.

One’s relationship is more JFK, and one’s has self-pitying echoes of Nixon.

The UR does have that creepy Nixonian air of being thoroughly uncomfortable at all times in all situations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran (Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Sarah Baxter, 5/05, 10, Times of London)

The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad’s director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.

The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials.

“The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia,” a diplomatic source said last week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Tim Howard status unclear for 2nd World Cup game (Steven Goff, 6/13/10, Washington Post)

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who made several excellent stops in the 1-1 draw with England on Saturday night, will undergo further evaluation later Sunday to assess a rib injury suffered in the first half.

Howard remained in the match after the collision with forward Emile Heskey but was in considerable pain and received a cortisone shot at halftime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


The Year of the (Pro-Life) Woman (RAMESH PONNURU, June 11, 2010, NY Times)

The Gallup organization recently concluded that “abortion polling since the mid-1970s finds few remarkable distinctions between men’s and women’s views on the legality of abortion.” It has found that 48 percent of American women consider themselves pro-life, while 45 percent consider themselves pro-choice.

There are many millions of pro-life women, but there are only 13 in the House. The Senate has no pro-life women. Even Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who votes with pro-lifers on many issues, says she favors Roe v. Wade. All of the women who have served on the Supreme Court have supported Roe, too.

Pro-life women have not even found representation among Republican first ladies, all of whom in the post-Roe era have been pro-choice. One reason that Sarah Palin’s nomination for vice president in 2008 was so immediately polarizing is that she instantly became the most prominent pro-life woman American politics has ever produced.

Sarah Palin is about to get some company. Two pro-life women won Republican nominations for the Senate this week. A Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle, and the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina are running for the Senate from Nevada and California, respectively.

A third pro-life woman, Susana Martinez, became the party’s nominee for governor of New Mexico, and a fourth, Nikki Haley, a South Carolina state legislator, is expected to be a gubernatorial nominee in her state. If they win their primaries, Kelly Ayotte, the former attorney general of New Hampshire, and Jane Norton, the former lieutenant governor of Colorado, will also be pro-life Senate candidates in November.

...which is, after all, a security issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


The 5 Must-Read Books on Soccer : With World Cup kicking off this weekend, The Daily Beast selects the books you must read to have a chance of understanding the fever gripping the world. (Joshua Robinson, 6/13/10, Daily Beast)

4. Soccernomics By Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

When England inevitably gets eliminated in some tragic quarterfinal penalty shootout, the country may plunge into a summer-long depression. But Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski won’t be surprised. In fact, according to their counterintuitive economic analysis, England will have once again overachieved at the World Cup. Based on factors like population and wealth, they explain that there really isn’t much reason for countries like England and France to expect to do well at international tournaments. Meanwhile, they argue that countries like the United States and China are destined to become the next great superpowers of soccer. Even for the longtime fans who may disagree with the arguments—like the baseball purists who bristle at the mention of Moneyball—Soccernomics provides a slew of talking points for the World Cup.

The big takeaway from Soccernomics, which explicitly tried to be Moneyball for soccer, is how few metrics even exist for analyzing the game. Take a look at the freely available stats you can get on every major league baseball player--we'll pick Kyle Davies--then check out the entirety of the stats offered at the Premiere League site, which--we kid you not--is so thin it sorts players in Tallest and Shortest order. It's an interesting enough read but ultimately just shows why Americans will revolutionize the game once we apply our analytical methods to it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


U.S. negates England's midfield (Jonathan Wilson, 6/12/10, SI)

The Gerrard-Lampard axis in the middle of a four-man midfield never really convinces, because the two are too similar, both preferring to attack the opposition box than defend their own. That certainly wasn't England's biggest worry, but its inadequacy perhaps was a (minor) contributory factor in Dempsey's goal. Again and again when the two have played together, England have been vulnerable to players attacking the hole that tends to emerge in front of the back four when there is no natural holder, and although Gerrard almost got back to cover, it was from precisely that weak spot that Dempsey struck the decisive shot.

The bigger worry about the center, though, was that Gerrard and Lampard were never fully able to impose themselves on Michael Bradley, who had an excellent night, and Ricardo Clark. Gerrard and Lampard are the more talented, but that advantage was cancelled out by the USA's fight. Capello spoke afterwards of being delighted to see "the English spirit," but it's hard to know what he meant by that.

This was, as it was always going to be, a dogged game between two athletic teams who operate in similar shapes.

And that, of course, is what makes Barry's injury such a frustration for England. If he were there, he could play alongside Lampard with Gerrard to the left, breaking the natural lines of 4-4-2 into something approximating to a 4-2-3-1. There is always a tendency with England for players to remain stolidly in position, but Gerrard on the left will always cut infield. That creates a vacuum that both encourages Wayne Rooney to pull left, and Ashley Cole to push forward from left back, and so England are almost kicked into movement despite themselves. Without that, they become very static.

Rooney also had a quiet night, which was partly down to the excellence of Oguchi Onyewu. When England's 4-2-3-1 was functioning at its best, about a year ago, Rooney was operating at Manchester United either as a second striker or as a wide player. More recently United have used him as an out-and-out striker, and he appeared to take that position conditioning into Saturday's game. In the first half, he played far higher up the field than he used to, so he was often up alongside Emile Heskey rather than playing off him. The result again was to make England more static; when they did get a player breaking form deep, as Gerrard ran on for Heskey to lay him in, England scored.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Ridley Scott's Robin Hood: Railing against the no-good tax-and-spend Nottingham elite (Karina Longworth, May 11 2010, Village Voice)

The film Scott ended up making is called Robin Hood, the sheriff's role is minimal, and Crowe plays only the title character, whose ability to mobilize commoners with empty, anti-government rhetoric equating taxation with slavery is posited as a virtue. It is an old-fashioned adventure epic produced with state-of-the-art cosmetics, lined with mild romantic farce, and weighed down by overly simplistic, quasi-populist dialogue. Instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood preaches about "liberty" and the rights of the individual as he wanders a countryside populated chiefly by Englishpersons bled dry by government greed. Conservatives will never again be able to complain that Hollywood ignores their interests, but the driving agenda behind the Nottingham makeover was most likely economic: Robin Hood is, above all, a boilerplate origin story, finely engineered to set up a franchise.

Pity the poor Left, which had fooled themselves into believing it's a story about economic redistribution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


In bold move, Colorado alters teacher tenure rules (Colleen Slevin, 6/12/10, Associated Press)

Colorado is changing the rules for how teachers earn and keep the sweeping job protections known as tenure, linking student performance to job security despite outcry from teacher unions that have steadfastly defended the system for decades.

Many education reform advocates consider tenure to be one of the biggest obstacles to improving America's schools because it makes removing mediocre or even incompetent teachers difficult.

Colorado's legislature changed tenure rules despite opposition from the state's largest teacher's union, a longtime ally of majority Democrats. Gov. Bill Ritter, also a Democrat, signed the bill into law last month.

And if even Democrats aren't defending folks as popular as teachers, imagine what reforms we can foist on more typical government bureaucrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Want To Get Faster, Smarter? Sleep 10 Hours (Allison Aubrey, 6/07/10, NPR)

A study from researchers at Stanford University finds that extra hours of sleep at night can help improve football players' performance on drills such as the 40-yard dash and the 20-yard shuttle.

"The goal was to aim for 10 hours of sleep per night," says Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic. At the beginning of the season, Mah found that the players had moderate levels of daytime fatigue, even though they thought they were getting enough rest at night. Seven players were included in the study.

It's not easy to convince college students to add hours of sleep to their schedules each day. "It's a lot to ask," Mah says, but throughout the season she was able to document a significant extension of nighttime sleep.

Early in the season, the players' average 40-yard dash time was 4.99 seconds. But after six weeks of extra ZZZs, the average time dropped one-tenth of a second — to 4.89 seconds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


One Myth, Many Pakistans (ALI SETHI, 6/11/10, NY Times)

FOR many Pakistanis, the deaths of more than 80 members of the Ahmadi religious sect in mosque attacks two weeks ago raised questions of the nation’s future. For me, it recalled a command from my schoolboy past: “Write a Note on the Two-Nation Theory.”

It was a way of scoring easy points on the history exam, and of using new emotions and impressive-sounding words. I began my answer like this:

The Two-Nation Theory is the Theory that holds that the Hindus and Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent are Two Distinct and Separate Nations. It is a Theory that is supported by Numerous Facts and Figures. During the War of Independence of 1857 the Muslim rulers of India were defeated by the British. Suddenly the Hindus, who had always held a grudge against the Muslims for conquering them, began to collaborate with the new British rulers. They joined British schools, worked in British offices and began to make large amounts of money, while the Muslims, who were Discriminated Against, became poorer and poorer. It was now Undisputable that the Hindus and the Muslims were Two Distinct and Separate Nations, and it was becoming necessary for the Muslims to demand a Distinct and Separate Homeland for themselves in the Indian Subcontinent.

To that point, my “note” had only built up the atmosphere of mistrust and hostility between Hindus and Muslims. It had yet to give examples of the Distinctness and Separateness of the two communities (such as that Hindus worshipped the cow but Muslims ate it), of Hindu betrayals and conspiracies (they wanted Hindi, not Urdu, to be the national language). And it had still to name and praise the saddened Muslim clerics, reformers and poets who had first noted these “undisputable” differences.

I got points for every mini-note that I stretched into a full page, which was valid if it gave one important date and one important name, each highlighted for the benefit of the teacher. This was because the teacher couldn’t really read English, and could award points only to answers that carefully showcased their Facts and Figures.

After the exam I would go home. Here the Two-Nation Theory fell apart. I was part-Shiite (my mother’s family), part-Sunni (my father’s family) and part-nothing (neither of my parents was sectarian). There were other things: the dark-skinned man who swabbed the floors of the house was a Christian; the jovial, foul-mouthed, red-haired old woman who visited my grandmother every few months was rumored to be an Ahmadi. (It was a small group, I had been told, that considered itself Muslim but had been outlawed by the government.)

But even more than these visible religious variations, I was more aware of things like caste and money: my mother’s family was upper caste, claiming a magical blood bond with the Prophet Muhammad, and owned large tracts of land in the countryside. My father’s relatives, however, were undisguised converts from Hinduism who had fled their villages long ago and now lived in the city, where they were always running out of money, working in government offices and selling homemade furniture and gambling (and losing) on the stock market.

The Two-Nation Theory allowed only for the simple categories of Hindu and Muslim, one for India and the other for Pakistan; it had no room for inner complications like Shiite and Sunni and Christian and Ahmadi. (I had yet to learn that more than a million Hindus still lived in Pakistan.) It also required the abolition of magical blood claims and landholdings and stock markets, so that our personalities and situations could be determined purely by our religious beliefs.

But I knew that things weren’t really like that.

The theory is weaker than the tribalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Maturity key in draw with England (Luke Cyphers, 6/12/10, ESPN)

The Yanks' central defenders and midfielders took the middle away from England's Wayne Rooney. The world-class forward didn't touch the ball for the game's first 17 minutes, and didn't touch it in the box for the first 70. Meanwhile, Dempsey and Landon Donovan helped out with the Three Lions' speedy wingers and worked to possess the ball when they could.

Mostly, though, the Yanks didn't panic. They'd been down in CONCACAF qualifiers last year against Costa Rica, El Salvador (both home and away), and Honduras and came back to get a result every time. [...]

At the same time, they closed down Rooney, which coach Bob Bradley kept saying was the key to stopping England. Central defender Jay DeMerit shadowed Rooney all night, tracking him back to the halfway line at times, while midfielders Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark harassed him anytime he got the ball.

"We watched a lot of tape on Rooney and we know he's a big key to their team," Donovan said. "You don't really completely stop a guy like that, you just hope to keep his touches limited. We did a good job of closing that space he likes to come into in front of the back four."

Added Bocanegra, "I thought Jay did really well to get on Rooney and not let him turn. Our midfielders did well to come back and close the space."

Clark says it was a matter of "cutting off passing lanes to him and making sure he was getting closed down when he got the ball."

The U.S. offensive stars did their part, too, on England speedsters Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon. "I know in front of me Landon and Clint did a fantastic job coming over and helping with Lennon, because his pace was ridiculous," Bocanegra said. "It was difficult for me to stay with him one on one, so those guys did lots of running. The midfielders did dirty work for us."

And you could devote so much attention to Rooney because Heskey is not going to score even if the ball gets to him. Crouch would have been a different kettle of fish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Labor 'plotting' to ditch Kevin Rudd and make Julia Gillard leader (Simon Kearney, 6/13/10, The Sunday Telegraph)

SENIOR Labor MPs says the leadership is Julia Gillard's for the taking before the election - if she wants it.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's control of the party has entered a treacherous phase, with Cabinet ministers and backbenchers canvassing the idea of changing leaders before this year's federal election.

As Ms Gillard was forced yesterday to publicly deny she wanted the top job, Labor MPs described Mr Rudd as a "leader under fire" and said his prime ministership was "terminal".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


The Hero Who Vanished (Alexander Wolff, 3/08/10, Sports Illustrated)

The men running at Joe Gaetjens wanted to grab him and make him theirs. Terrified, Gaetjens and other members of the 1950 U.S. World Cup team at first looked to flee, not realizing that the mob wanted only to hoist them on its shoulders.

After the Americans defeated England 1--0 that June evening in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, there seemed to be nothing but beautiful horizons before soccer in the U.S., and before Gaetjens himself, a Haitian émigré who had played the game, studied accounting and worked as a dishwasher in New York City before scoring the lone goal in perhaps the greatest upset in World Cup history.

Thirty-seven minutes into a first-round match in which no one gave the Americans a chance, Walter Bahr of the U.S. sent a shot toward the far post, shoulder high, from about 25 yards on the right side. As English goalkeeper Bert Williams moved to his right, he kept the ball in his sights for what looked to be a routine save. That's when Gaetjens laid himself out in a dive around the penalty spot.

Flouting the buttoned-up ethos of postwar America, Gaetjens liked his jersey loose-fitting and untucked, with his socks shoved down around his ankles. Relatives and former teammates remember him as a carefree, gregarious bon vivant. Whether they're playing dice or putting money on a fighting cock, it's characteristic of Haitians to double down on even a remote chance of the big payoff. Gaetjens made the goalmouth a stage for what Haitians call l'esprit magique, a determination to court the long shot.

If Gaetjens had struck the ball square with his forehead, it would have caromed harmlessly toward the corner flag. Instead, only grazing his head, the ball took off as if with a mind of its own. Williams didn't have a chance. When the goal stood up after another 53 breathless minutes, the 15,000 or so fans at Independência Stadium, their numbers swollen as word spread of the brewing upset, gloried in the humiliation of Brazil's great rival, the team then regarded as the world's best.

A year later Bobby Thomson would hit a home run for the New York Giants that provincial U.S. sportswriters popularized as the Shot Heard 'Round the World. But Gaetjens's goal truly was a broadside with global reverberations, even if only one U.S. journalist, Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, made the trip to Belo, paying his own way at that. The newspapers burned by fans in the stands to celebrate the Americans' victory could have symbolized the way news of the achievement would go up in smoke back home.

One afternoon in Port-au-Prince 14 years later, other men wanted to grab Joe Gaetjens and make him theirs. Only this time it was no delirious mob sprinting toward him. There were only two of them, both Tontons Macoute, the hard men of Haitian dictator François (Papa Doc) Duvalier. They walked up to Gaetjens as he pulled to a stop in his car. Then they took him to a place from which he never returned.

June 12, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


Blame England's Robert Green if you want, but Capello needs to raise his game too (Piers Morgan, 13th June 2010, Daily Mail)

I honestly can’t believe we drew with the Americans. Soccer is a complete non-sport in the US. It ranks somewhere below tiddlywinks in their national competitive psyche.

I’ve now got to go back there for the rest of the summer and face a barrage of taunts from people who don’t know their offside from their backside, but who do know they stuck one up the Brits at their own game.

And there’s no excuse, I’m afraid. England were poor last night. Wayne Rooney, until the last few minutes, played far too deep and was totally ineffective as a result. As did Ashley Cole, who barely launched a single attacking run.

And going back to foresight, Ledley King (of whom I wrote after Mexico: ‘I’m very worried by the populist hero, Ledley King, though. He didn’t play well and I think his persistent injuries make him a liability we don’t need to risk’) confirmed my worst fears about his fitness.

James Milner was exactly how he was against Mexico, when I observed: ‘He was totally ineffectual, suggesting he’s not as good against a fast, technically brilliant young foreign side like Mexico as he is against an average Premier League team.’

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


World Cup Group C: England 1 USA 1 (Paul Wilson at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 6/12/10, guardian.co.uk

Although Green will inevitably carry the can for this disappointment, in truth it was not a great England performance, just a great start. The American goal may have been a fluke, yet it came about because England were defending too deep and allowing their opponents to take pot shots. Far too little was seen of England's attacking players – Capello even turned to Peter Crouch before the end – to place all the blame on the goalkeeper.

Capello, true to his word, had kept everyone guessing right up to the last minute with his line-up, though there were no real surprises once it was understood that the Italian was not about to mess around with the system and selections that had proved so successful in qualifying on the basis of late claims made in inconsequential friendlies. So Green retained his place as goalkeeper after all, just as Capello had promised. James Milner, who has consistently appeared in competitive games for Capello, was preferred on the left wing to Joe Cole, who has not. And Emile Heskey, on the back of three Premier League goals last season, was invited to resume as Wayne Rooney's gofer.

...but he made a series of unforced errors: (1) starting Green over Joe Hart; (2) starting Heskey over Crouch; (3) worst of all, starting two injured players who couldn't even make it to the 2nd half, King and Milner; and (4) trying to get away with Carragher in central defense, a spot even his club couldn't use him in. There is also though the ongoing problem for England in that their best players are so similar that they end up crowding one another out of the picture.

England always asks why can't Gerrard play with Lampard but to that mix you almost have to add Rooney. They all want to play directly in front of goal but outside the 18 yard box and that obviously can't work (especially with the immobile Heskey a few yards in front of them).

In qualifying Capello made some hay by pulling Lampard back a bit, pushing Gerrard forward a little and Rooney a lot, so that they were stacked rather than packed and Gerrard and Rooney seemed to really enjoy finding each other with passes. And if they got better wide play--from Glen Johnson and Lennon or Wright-Philips (or whoever)--it would at least open enough space in front of goal that they could spread out a little into separate shooting lanes. But you'd barely know that Lampard was in South Africa today and after a lively start Gerrard went fairly quiet, while they didn't start finding Rooney until very late in the game (too late). Rooney did, typically, set up the first goal with a pass from over 20 yards out--not exactly where you expect your striker to matter from. It has to be a problem that even after an entire season of qualifying their coach still hasn't solved the fundamental conundrum of this squad.

For all the individual talent that they field, inept goal tending, weak defense, and awkward attack is a bad recipe for World Cup success.

For the Americans on the other hand, the coaching decisions were a decidedly mixed bag. On the plus side, Bradley got 90 generally good minutes from his central defenders whose fitness was a worry, and Jozy only got tired late and mostly from blowing by Carragher who should have been fouled out trying to cover him. Cherundolo was terrific in place of Spector, who'd been a regular in qualifying, and Bocanegra played as well as anyone was going to in that 4th spot.

But neither Findley nor Clark had much of a game and he was very slow to make any substitutions and made curious ones when he did--Buddle and Holden for Findley and Altidore. Herculez Gomez has been positively talismanic and had he helped cop a winner in this one it would have given the team a sublime confidence when he came on going forward in the tournament. As a general matter Bradley was just too cautious, content with a draw in a game that screamed for us to try and win. One more run at Carragher and he would have gotten his second yellow (he really should have for challenges on both Jozy and Findley). Plus their goalie had just made an epic flub and demanded to be tested as often as possible.

The broader issue for him was the difficulty the defense had keeping a coherent shape in front of goal. We are extremely hard to break down when Onyewu/DeMerit/Bradley/Clark form a kind of box in front of goal, but today we got beat on an easy drive through the middle, with Clark losing Gerrard. That needs to be tightened up by Friday and it would be nice to see if Edu or Torres can do the job defensively since they can both provide better connection from the back to the front on attack than Ricardo Clark can. Michael Bradley deserves mention for being maybe the best all around player on the field today.

One final positive: it remains to be seen if this was just a function of the specific officiating crew and/or letting too physical teams have at, but it was very nearly an accomplishment that we didn't have anyone sent off. That plagued us last year in Africa and if the refs call us tight it takes away a big part of our game.

The crew was very good with one caveat: they somewhat punished our honesty. Had Altidore gone down on the run that ended up with a ball off the framework then Carragher would have been sent off. If you want forwards to stay upright instead of diving then you need to reward them with the calls when they do. Also there were a number of high and spikes up challenges--Gerrard and Carragher again--that would even have been straight red cards if the opposing player had been injured but weren't called that way since there was no serious injury. The standard for fouls ought not be the degree of damage done anymore than it should be whether the opponent shrugs off the challenge and keeps going. That the exact same fouls will likely be punished more harshly against the more conniving sides--wait until you see Cristiano Ronaldo flop and roll--makes the officiating entirely too arbitrary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM


Let's try and consolidate match comments here and we;ll keep the comment thread going during the game (it loads faster than the blog entries do.)

If anyone predicts the final score right we've got books to give away.

We're calling it US 2 England 1

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Donovan vs. Rooney, By the Numbers (Matthew Futterman, 6/12/10, WSJ)

Coincidentally, Rooney’s performance in European qualifying and Donovan’s in the Confederations Cup last year in South Africa have some striking similarities. Rooney averaged 57 touches per game to Donovan’s 60. Rooney completed 78% of his passes to Donovan’s 75%. Rooney converted 26% of his scoring chances to Donovan’s 33%.

...is that they ought not be so similar, since Rooney plays striker but Donovan a wing position. It's really a testament to their versatility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


Elderly man found in compromising position with vacuum, faces charges (Jennifer Thomas, 6/12/10, azfamily.com)

Following a three-week investigation, Payson police detectives arrested a 94-year-old man for public sexual indecency, aggravated assault and child molestation.

The investigation began after it was alleged that Dale Warren Graham was found in a garage that did not belong to him with a running vacuum cleaner attached to the front of his pants, according to Payson Police Chief Donald Engler.

...to tell us that Dyson Ball upright vacuum is a description rather than an instruction?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


The GOP's new hue (Jonathan Martin, June 11, 2010, Politico)

There has never been a non-white female governor in the nation’s history—yet the GOP could elect two in November. New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, an Hispanic, won her party’s nomination last month and South Carolina’s Haley, who got just under half the vote in her primary Tuesday and is the heavy favorite in a runoff later this month.

In the West, where Democrats made significant inroads in the last two election cycles, aside from Martinez Republicans have nominated a pair of women to run for governor and Senate in California, a woman to run for the Senate and an Hispanic to run for governor in Nevada, and there are competitive female gubernatorial and Senate candidates in Arizona and Colorado. In Hawaii Lt Gov. Duke Aiona, who is of Chinese, Portuguese and native Hawaiian descent, is running for governor.

In Florida, 39-year-old Cuban-American Senate hopeful Marco Rubio became such a hit among conservatives that he forced a once-popular governor out of the party and is already being talked about as having a place on a future national ticket.

And after lacking a single black Republican in Congress since 2003, Republicans are fielding a number of African-American House candidate—including one, Tim Scott of South Carolina, who would be the first Deep South black Republican since Reconstruction.

"Our party is going to be lead by younger and more diverse elected officials," crowed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who lent his support to a number of the candidates, in an email. "They are united in embracing a rollback of government’s power, American entrepreneurial capitalism and a zeal for reform."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


England vs. USA World Cup 2010: Why the Yanks could pull off a shocker: The English team is one of the favorites to win it all, but the Americans are now good enough to give the Brits a true test in today's England vs. USA World Cup 2010 match. (Mark Sappenfield, June 12, 2010, CS Monitor)

The script suggests England will be too much for the US. The hallmark of England since Italian coach Fabio Capello took control two years ago has been consistency. The team simply no longer loses games it should win. And the US game is one it should win.

On talent alone, there is no comparison. The Americans have no one remotely as accomplished as English defender John Terry or midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. And under Capello's direction, forward Wayne Rooney has fulfilled his promise as one of best players in the world.

A bulldog in shinguards, Rooney is at once indefatigable, ornery, and sublime, combining a boxer's jaw with an artist's mind. While Lampard and Gerrard paint the field with straight lines, bearing down on goal as though on railroad tracks, Rooney probes and prods, as much a creator as a thunderous finisher.

...of Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney is that they basically all ought to play the same position (deep forward or forward midfielder). That's why Lampard and Gerrard have historically not played well together, though Rooney is so good that he does well just accepting service from Gerrard. With these three clumped together in the middle, along with the even slower Emile Heskey, England would be going at our strength--central defense in front of the goal. Michael Bradley will have a field day and gioven the propensity of Gerrard and Rooney to implode when frustrated he might foul both of them out by himself.

It would make more sense for them to start Peter Crouch instead of Heskey, pull Lampard back some distance and tell him to shoot often from range and depend on Aaron Lennon and Glenn Johnson to serve balls into the middle from out as wide as they can get or play for corners. That puts America's ability to get a head on the ball to the test, one we failed miserably against Australia last week. In particular, it's a bet that Onyewu and Altidore aren't healthy enough to dominate the air in front of the box as they did in the Confederations Cup.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Prune and Grow (DAVID BROOKS, 6/12/10, NY Times)

Some theorists will tell you that if governments shift their emphasis to deficit cutting, they risk sending the world back into recession. There are some reasons to think this is so, but events tell a more complicated story.

Alberto Alesina of Harvard has surveyed the history of debt reduction. He’s found that, in many cases, large and decisive deficit reduction policies were followed by increases in growth, not recessions. Countries that reduced debt viewed the future with more confidence. The political leaders who ordered the painful cuts were often returned to office. As Alesina put it in a recent paper, “in several episodes, spending cuts adopted to reduce deficits have been associated with economic expansions rather than recessions.”

This was true in Europe and the U.S. in the 1990s, and in many other cases before. In a separate study, Italian economists Francesco Giavazzi and Marco Pagano looked at the way Ireland and Denmark sharply cut debt in the 1980s. Once again, lower deficits led to higher growth.

So the challenge for the U.S. in the years ahead is to consolidate intelligently. That means reducing deficits while at the same time making the welfare state more efficient, boosting innovation in areas like energy, and spending more money on growth-enhancing sectors like infrastructure.

That’s a tough balancing act.

...it certainly makes sense that dealing with it improves people's view of their country, even if it otherwise has no or even a deleterious economic effect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Self-Destruction in Illinois: Democrats melt down in Obama’s home state. (Fred Barnes, June 21, 2010, Weekly Standard)

Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called “a deep blue state.” But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.

Democrats have been hit by a perfect storm, mostly of their own making. Illinois rivals California and New York as a fiscal and economic basket case. Democratic misrule has reached epic proportions, with the school districts, vendors, and doctors who treat Medicaid patients going unpaid for months. Unfunded state liabilities are mounting. And on top of all that, the trial of impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich, already dominating the news, is expected to continue for months.

“Who would have guessed two years ago that Illinois would be in play,” says veteran Republican official Pat Durante. “Thank you, Democrats, for screwing things up.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


The Civil War Brewing Among Democrats: Republicans aren’t the only ones tearing their contemporaries apart. As liberal activists slam President Obama and Nancy Pelosi for being too centrist—and moderate Democrats struggle in polls—a movement is under way to expose and dethrone “Democrats in Name Only.” (John Avlon, 6/12/10, Daily Beast)

We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. What’s gotten far less attention is the still emerging ideological blood-sport of DINO hunting—but it’s a fever that’s catching among the activist class.

After all, Lincoln wasn’t the only Dem in a tough fight with the left this week. Hawkish California Congresswoman Jane Harman was under fire from progressive candidate Mary Winograd in her primary, arguing along the same lines that dispatched Joe Lieberman in 2006. Even Nancy Pelosi found herself heckled by “progressive” protesters at America’s Future Now!, for being insufficiently liberal when it came to health care—a concept that would make many a conservative’s head spin.

The attacks serve as a reminder of the through-the-looking glass political era we’re living in, in which conservatives are convinced that President Obama is a socialist, while liberals call him a corporate sellout. The right trades anecdotes about Obama’s intentional undermining of the War on Terror, while the left accuses him of callously continuing the Bush administration’s War on Terror policies. These narratives are logically incompatible, and yet they’re simultaneously dominating the national debate. All the while, incumbent Democrats decline in the polls.

...is that Republican primary fights are between two candidates who can win--one more ideologically pure than the other who has crossover appeal so would win more easily--while Democratic primary fights are between a candidate who may be barely acceptable to the electorate and one who's unacceptable. Thus, Arlen Spector would have been easily re-elected as a Republican, but Pat Toomey will win instead, though in a more difficult race than necessary for the party. Blanche Lincoln, on the other hand, will lose, though more narrowly than a creature of the unions would have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


World Cup 2010: USA will need speed and discipline to beat England: Expect Bob Bradley to keep things tight in the first half tonight, while he looks for weaknesses in Fabio Capello's side (Matthew Tomaszewicz, 12 June 2010, The Guardian))

Amazingly, the catalyst of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea remains the most identifiable figure on the team today. With that said, the way in which Landon Donovan plays the game – reliant on the skill and guile of others to make his own game shine – embodies the manner in which the USA play as a team ... on most days. Lacking any soccer equivalent to Michael Jordan, the USA focus on team play and cohesion. Will unity, and a resolve not to make mistakes, be enough to break down one of powerhouses of the international game?

Kick-off is set for 2.30pm Eastern Time in the States and up until the line-ups are revealed Bob Bradley's strategy will remain the same as always. Predictability was a trait closely associated with Coach Bradley through qualifying that has changed through the tune-up phase. What hasn't changed is the knukles-down approach of Bradley who can be heard during practices barking at his troops to take the intensity up.

"C'mon move!" "Be sharper!"

Bradley's teams can best described through the traits his son Michael, one of the team's central midfielders, exhibits on the pitch. "Junior" Bradley is a relentless ball-hawker in central midfield who abounds with energy from the opening whistle to the close. He tackles hard, moves the ball quickly – though sometimes off-target – and rarely gives up on a play. Skilled in possession or an offensive tactician he is not.

You could say the same about the Yanks' game. Perhaps the only advantage the Yanks' have – beyond an individual moment of brilliance from Fulham's Clint Dempsey – is speed, specifically speed on the counter.

The great conundrum facing Bradley, and every media hound attempting to predict how Bradley will deploy his team, is when to unleash Donovan with Robbie Findley – a poor man's Jermain Defoe – in front of him. Will Bradley start the game with the pacey combination of Findley-Donovan-Steve Cherundolo on the right of the pitch or will he wait to bring that grouping together until after England has tired? [...]

Expect Bradley to attempt to "steal" the game. It is rather academic to talk about the US "going for a draw" or "seeking a win". The strategy will be dictated by by game circumstance more than anything else. If the US is up 2-0 and they were playing for the draw, well, then what?

Perhaps a better thing to focus on is the USA's style of play, and you just need to look at three pivotal recent games to see an identifiable pattern. Against the Mexicans in August, the Hondurans in October and the Dutch – in a friendly – in March, Bob's playbook was a tale of two halves.

The first halves of these games were case studies in "defend, resist, and capitalise if opportunities somehow present themselves". The game against Mexico at the Azteca was the onlyone where the USA knocked in a first-half goal and the play was both extraordinary and brilliant, but not indicative of the gameplan that half. Donovan took a pass in traffic and slipped it through perfectly to Charlie Davies, who just beat the offside flag.

That's it – the USA's only first-half goal in any of these matches. For a solid majority of the time, Bradley elected to camp back, defend his goal and only take opportunities that didn't require his team to lose their shape.

Expect more of the same against England. It's why you won't see a Jose Torres deployed in the first half. It's also why Bradley commented in his press conference last week that the front line, in essence, should have been "sharper" with its chances against Turkey – though possessions provided the only scripted offence for the half. You can be sure that Jozy Altidore was one player Coach Bradley was talking about in that statement because his theoretical ability to maintain possession. Altidore is certainly a player that Bradley didn't want to see missing pitch time this week.

...that the team really only shines when circumstances force Coach Bradley to move Dempsey forward into the attack. We just don't hold possession well enough to play as defensively as he'd like. It's why we blew leads against Mexico in qualifying and to win the Confederations Cup against Brazil. Our best defense is to always be going forward and to trust the central defense, central midfielders and goalie to provide the cover. It seems fair to say that the two most important factors in today's game are the health of Gooch Onyewu and that we not score an early goal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Simon Heffer applauds a fine defence of conservative thinking in The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope by Roger Scruton (Simon Heffer, 12 Jun 2010, Daily Telegraph)

One of the more elegant, and accurate, answers to the question “why are you a Tory?” is “because I am a pessimist”. Tories do not believe in the perfectibility of the human condition. They deal with human nature as it is. Despite often having a determined individualism, they recognise the superior wisdom of institutions and the lessons of tradition. That, in essence, is what Roger Scruton’s latest book is about.

It does what it says on the cover: it describes how useful pessimism as a cast of mind is in times when we appear to be ruled by people under the spell of various fallacies of false hope. Worse than that, the effect of other people’s optimism (and I, like Scruton, use that term in a wider than usual sense) on the rest of us is often negative and sometimes downright destructive.

He takes us through various fallacies of false hope, showing how they cause damage. One is the “born free” fallacy, which began with Rousseau. As Scruton says: “We are not born free. Freedom is something we acquire. And we acquire it through obedience.”

...the conservatism in politics is an effect. All the Long War boils down to is those who followed Descartes and Locke vs those in the line of Hume and Scruton. The central fact of the Anglosphere is its permanent skepticism about Reason.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


The World Takes the Field
: As the U.S. faces the U.K. at the World Cup, audiences will tune in to watch a sport that levels superpowers and lifts up the Third World. Tunku Varadarajan on our only truly global game (Tunku Varadarajan, 6/12/10, Daily Beast)

Of all the team games that are played in the world, only one—soccer—is irrefutably universal (and yes, that includes Arizona, where Hispanics, legal or otherwise, are known to play something they call “futbol”). Every other team game—the noble cricket, the actuarial baseball, the brutal rugby, the cartoon-costumed American football, the primitive ice hockey, the invigorating field hockey, the carcass-strewn buzkashi, the absurd kabaddi, the pseudo-aristocratic polo—is peculiar to a country, a region, a language group, or an ex-colonial context. Every other team game, however spellbinding or brutal, graceful or epic, rule-bound or free-for-all, lacks that transcendental ingredient of symphonic, globally comprehensible, non-pedantic vigor that soccer possesses. This factor, I wager, entitles soccer to be ranked among the 10 greatest inventions in human history, alongside (in no particular order) fire, money, electricity, the wheel, wine, the flush toilet, bikinis, democracy, and the Internet. It is certainly (along with the sedentary chess) the foremost ludic—or play-themed—invention of mankind. (I am, here, treating sex not as an invention but as the acting out of an instinct.) So as soccer unfurls on our televisions—whether on Univision, with its operatic, deep-lunged, fast-talking, unembarrassable commentators who live for the moment when they can scream “gooooooooooool,” or on ESPN, with its coolly English and Scottish bank of commentators (the inept American commentators having been cut from the cast, gracias a Dios!)—it behooves Americans to take a modest, humble backseat, and spend a whole month learning about the arts and methods of a glorious game, and of the countries that play it.

It's a peculiar sort of genius, but by removing hands from the game you nullify co-ordination as a factor and elite skills as a factor and make it accessible to everyone. And since the basic equipment is so cheap you at least nullify wealth if not actually favoring the poor, who would play a better game if they could afford to.

But even at that America has a series of advantages that are making us a world power in the game: (1) the size and speed of even our third rate athletes, given the pool we have to draw from; (2) a deep understanding of games like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey all of which utilize space, positioning, and strategy better and the mathematics and technological prowess to analyze what happens on the field; (3) our famous tendency towards local organization which has grown the game at the youth level with unmatched speed; and (4) in a game where players are notoriously fragile psychologically and tend to crumble under enormous national pressure, a sustained lack of passion about the sport which leaves our players with little to lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Belgians vote on future, united country in doubt (ROBERT WIELAARD, 06/12/10, AP)

Belgium’s 6.5 million Dutch and 4 million French-speakers are locked in an unhappy, quarrelsome union, and voters in a general election Sunday might well proscribe a political divorce.

A mainstream Flemish party that is expected to do well is invoking the concept of irreconcilable differences to seek a separation and, in time, take the country’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region into the European Union as a separate country.

...you don't have to worry about how it affects the children, since there none.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


The Very Model of a Modern Major Generalist: Like most multiculturalists’, Obama’s ideological worldview doesn’t depend on anything so tedious as actually viewing the world. (Mark Steyn, 6/12/10, National Review)

[A] couple of years back, Michael Ignatieff, a professor at Harvard and previously a BBC late-night intellectual telly host, returned to his native land of Canada in order to become prime minister, and to that end got himself elected as leader of the Liberal party. And, as is the fashion nowadays, he cranked out a quickie tome laying out his political “vision.” Having spent his entire adult life abroad, he was aware that some of the natives were uncertain about his commitment to the land of his birth. So he was careful to issue a sort of pledge of a kind of allegiance, explaining that writing a book about Canada had “deepened my attachment to the place on earth that, if I needed one, I would call home.”

Gee, that’s awfully big of you. As John Robson commented in the Ottawa Citizen: “I’m worried that a man so postmodern he doesn’t need a home wants to lead my country. Why? Is it quaint? An interesting sociological experiment?”

Indeed. But there’s a lot of it about. Many Americans are beginning to pick up the strange vibe that, for Barack Obama, governing America is “an interesting sociological experiment,” too. He would doubtless agree that the United States is “the place on earth that, if I needed one, I would call home.” But he doesn’t, not really: It is hard to imagine Obama wandering along to watch a Memorial Day or Fourth of July parade until the job required him to. That’s not to say he’s un-American or anti-American, but merely that he’s beyond all that. Way beyond. He’s the first president to give off the pronounced whiff that he’s condescending to the job — that it’s really too small for him and he’s just killing time until something more commensurate with his stature comes along.

You can see why that image would have appealed to Post-911/Post-Katrina/Credit Crunch Americans. But there's a problem with the image, of course--the one Kipling identified in Man Who Would Be King--what happens when the poor rubes realize the guy they've made their leader isn't a superior being?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Random Acts of Science: a review of QUANTUM: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality By Manjit Kumar (GRAHAM FARMELO, 6/13/10, NY Times Book Review)

In his lively new book, “Quantum,” the science writer Manjit Kumar cites a poll about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, taken among physicists at a conference in 1999. Of the 90 respondents, only four said they accepted the standard interpretation taught in every undergraduate physics course in the world. Thirty favored a modern interpretation, laid out in 1957 by the Princeton theoretician Hugh Everett III, while 50 ticked the box labeled “none of the above or undecided.” Almost a century after a few physicists first set out the basic theory, quantum mechanics is still a work in progress.

Which is what separates scientists from Darwinists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


England beware a steadily advancing USA (Ian Plenderleith, 6/12/10, When Saturday Comes)

When the US play defensively – a necessity for any limited side at this level – it is said to reflect Bradley’s typically dour tactics. Yet when they score thrillingly on the counter-attack, usually through the Donovan-Dempsey-Altidore axis, then poor old Bob rarely gets much credit. The US rode their luck in that 2-0 win over Spain last June that ended the Spaniards’ 35-game unbeaten stretch, yet it remains Spain’s only defeat in the past three years and is proof that the US have the savvy and the work ethic to surprise top sides. [...]

Satirical rag The Onion this week duly rehashed its default angle that football is a minority sport in the US loved only by irksome snobs, but that notion is out of date by at least a decade or two. Almost everybody in the US is aware of the World Cup this time around, and most are intrigued by the prospect of Saturday’s game. Casual fans no longer think that the US team will be worthy of attention only when they become world champions. Knowledge of the global game is expanding as rapidly as the game itself, played by millions of Americans of both sexes. If any further motivation to do well in South Africa was needed, it would be to smack down once and for all the persistent, condescending European and South American view that the Yanks don’t know anything about football.

That condescension masks a fear that the long-term potential of the US is to become a world football power, backed by its wealth, infrastructure, growing professionalism and steady improvements in its coaching philosophies. The current US team lacks the depth at international level to be a likely contender this time around, but whereas England are constantly encumbered by a millstone (1966), the US are motivated by milestones that mark stealthy progress. Looking beyond the irrelevant focus on the fluke of 1950 and its one-off rematch 60 years later, the US football project is perfectly placed to advance.

...you'd pick us to win it. But if Altidore, Onyewu and Demerit can't play at the level they did in the Confederations cup it's more difficult. Unfortunately, England's injuries improve their team, removing Rio Ferdinand and David James. On Match of the Day last night though they said that Capello is expected to start Emile Heskey over Peter Crouch which is a gift.

June 11, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


The Declining Human Footprint (Wendell Cox, 06/11/2010, New Geography)

There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.

Even with less land, agriculture's performance has been stunning. According to US Department of Agriculture data, US farm output rose 160% between 1950 and 2008. Productivity per acre rose 260%. In particular , California's farms – often cited as victims of sprawl – have done quite well. Between 1960 and 2004 (Note 2), the state's agricultural productivity rose 2.3% annually and 3.0% per acre. By comparison national agricultural productivity rose less over the same period at 1.7% overall and 2.2% per acre.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, from 1990 to 2004 (latest data), California's agricultural production rose 32% and on less farm land. [...]

The human footprint, as measured by the total urban and agricultural land has been declining for decades, both in the nation and California, where the greatest growth has occurred (Figure 1 & 2). The same is also true of Europe (EU-15), Canada and Australia, where all of the urbanization since the beginning of time does not equal the agricultural land recently taken out of production. Even in Japan, the human footprint has been reduced. It may be surprising, but human habitation and food production has returned considerable amounts of land to a more natural state in recent decades, while America's urban areas were welcoming 99% of all growth since 1950.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


The President Said What, Now?: President Obama is probably the last guy you’d think would introduce “ass” into the mainstream political discourse. It’s like Spock barking that he's ready to “knock boots" with the Klingons. (James Lileks, 6/11/10, PJM)

The gross reductive identification of race with gangster culture is permitted for Mr. Maher, since he holds approved views on a variety of other issues, just as Helen Thomas’ nasty spews were okay because she was a Trailblazing Doyenne who had the correct ideas about tax rates and war and premature extraction of fetuses from the womb. But at the heart of Maher’s image of authentic blackness is part of the leftist creed: the trivial niceties of civilization are a barrier to the most important goal of human endeavor, self-expression. Lenny died for your sins. The hero isn’t the man who invents the traffic signal, it’s Ratso Rizzo who crosses against the light, bangs on a hood of a car that dares to nose into the intersection, and yells “I’m walkin’ here!”

One can make too much of these things — something I hope to be proving before your very eyes — and one must admit there are precedents. Churchill’s “V” was something of a vulgarism — up yours Adolf, was how people read the gesture. (He didn’t know the extra meaning, some allege.) Bush the Elder employed the A-word in a post-game wrap-up of his Ferraro debate; speaking to longshoremen, he said he “tried to kick a little ass” the previous night, and it came off as wincingly inauthentic, like a preppy attempting a soul-brother handshake. For all we know Bush was a cusser supreme, but his image was such that you imagined him saying “Oh golly gumdrops heck it all!” when his plane was shot down. Privately, Clinton was probably a blue-streak man; Bush the Latter, for all his piety, seemed like a fellow who’d rip out a tart Texas cuss. Cheney, we know, could bark out an effenheimer if the moment called for it.

But the key word is “privately,” and here’s where the sophomoric charge of hypocrisy comes in. If someone swears in private but sticks to mild oaths in public, they’re a hypocrite, and that makes some people channel their Holden Caulfield: phony! So when the president finally let some steam leak out from his exquisitely calibrated first-class temperament, he was being real. He was being authentic.

Even then, it seemed utterly false.

In defense of the UR, I swear a lot at work too, so I get it out of my system since we don't swear in front of the kids. Then again, our jobs differ....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


A Rising Urgency in Israel for a Gaza Shift (ETHAN BRONNER, 6/10/10, NY Times)

Three years after Israel and Egypt imposed an embargo on this tormented Palestinian strip, shutting down its economy, a consensus has emerged that the attempt to weaken the governing party, Hamas, and drive it from power has failed.

In the days since an Israeli naval takeover of a flotilla trying to break the siege turned deadly, that consensus has taken on added urgency, with world powers, anti-Hamas Palestinians in Gaza and some senior Israeli officials advocating a shift.

In its three years in power, Hamas has taken control of not only security, education and the justice system but also the economy, by regulating and taxing an extensive smuggling tunnel system from Egypt. In the process, the traditional and largely pro-Western business community has been sidelined.

This may be about to change.

“We need to build a legitimate private sector in Gaza as a strong counterweight to extremism,” Tony Blair, who serves as the international community’s liaison to the Palestinians, said in an interview. The views of Mr. Blair, a former prime minister of Britain, reflected those of the Obama administration as well. “To end up with a Gaza that is dependent on tunnels and foreign aid is not a good idea,” he said.

Businesspeople in Gaza say that by closing down legitimate commerce, Israel has helped Hamas tighten its domination. And by allowing in food for shops but not goods needed for industry, Israel is helping keep Gaza a welfare society, the sort of place where extremism can flourish.

Israel has so much invested emotionally in the idea that it is special because it is the democracy in the area that it can't tolerate the idea of others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


Without White House muscle, treaties left in limbo (John B. Bellinger III, June 11, 2010, Washington Post)

Despite the presence of 59 Democrats, the Senate has approved only one treaty (a tax agreement with France) during the 112th Congress. The Obama administration must make more vigorous efforts with respect to the many important treaties awaiting Senate approval.

Although the Bush administration was criticized for its alleged lack of respect for international law, it had a particularly good record on seeking and obtaining treaty approvals. It secured Senate advice and consent for 163 treaties from 2001 to 2009. These included 20 treaties during the administration's first two years and a record 90 treaties during its last two years -- more treaties approved by the Senate than during any single previous Congress in U.S. history.

Treaties approved by the Senate during the Bush years included more than a hundred bilateral agreements on such diverse subjects as the protection of polar bears in the Arctic and the return of stolen automobiles from Honduras. There were more than two dozen multilateral conventions on human rights, environmental and marine protection, arms control, nuclear proliferation, cybercrime and sports anti-doping rules. And senior Bush officials testified in favor of treaties restricting the involvement of children in armed conflicts, protecting the ozone layer and creating a marine preserve in the Caribbean.

I testified in support of five treaties on the law of war that had languished before the Senate for years, including agreements prohibiting the use of incendiary weapons (such as napalm) and blinding lasers, attacks on cultural property in wartime and pacts requiring the cleanup of unexploded ordnance after a war. The Senate approved all five in September 2008.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 AM


Cantor wants GOP focus on spending (MIKE ALLEN & JAKE SHERMAN, 6/10/10, Politico)

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor will kick off a personal drive Friday to rebrand the GOP as "a party that gets it” and would focus on spending — not ideology — if Republicans win a House majority in November. [...]

“The president missed the opportunity to galvanize the entire nation behind him,” Cantor says in his prepared remarks. Referencing conservative complaints about excessive government intervention, he continues: “His agenda and his rhetoric have revived a discredited idea imploding before our eyes in Europe.”


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Two Teams, One Cup
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

[Double entendre intended, have at it.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?: Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics. (DANIEL B. KLEIN, 6/08/10, WSJ)

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101. [...]

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 AM


Sen. Coburn Tackles Runaway Defense Spending (Josh Barro, 6/08/10, Real Clear Markets)

The largest driver of the long-term federal budget gap is entitlement spending that is slated to grow faster than the economy. But a second key driver -- growth in security spending -- often gets short shrift. That national security is important does not mean that the Pentagon should be exempt from fiscal oversight or off the table when we talk about balancing the federal budget. This is especially true because higher defense spending does not always make us safer.

From the end of the Vietnam War through the end of the Cold War, national defense spending typically ran between 5% and 6% of GDP. With the Soviet threat eliminated, the "Peace Dividend" allowed a reduction in defense spending as a share of the economy, bottoming out at 3% of GDP in 1999 and 2000. This restraint was one of the key drivers of the budget surpluses of the Clinton-Gingrich era.

But since the September 11 attacks, the trend has reversed. In 2010, defense spending will again reach 4.9% of GDP, the same level as in 1980. About half of this increase has been driven by specific costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rest by growth in base military spending faster than economic growth. With deficits expected to run in the range of 4% of GDP over the next decade, a 2% of GDP rise in defense spending is a huge deal.

...there's no reason not to get it down to a normal peacetime 1-2%.

June 10, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM


Marine Techie: End Gulf Oil Spill With ‘Mother of All Bombs’ (Noah Shachtman, June 10, 2010, Wired)

Over the past decade, no one in the Corps has been more creative, more persistent and more migraine-inducing in his pursuit of warfighting gadgetry than Franz Gayl. Some of his ideas were rock-solid, like small spy drones and bomb-resistant trucks. Eventually, the Pentagon bought tens of thousands of the trucks, due in large part to his agitating and whistleblowing efforts.

Other concepts of his were more fringe: oribiting troop transports, super-strength exoskeletons, laser guns that could roast insurgents alive.

Now Gayl, a civilian scientist (semi-) employed by Quantico, may have come up with his most dramatic idea yet: Use a 21,000-pound megamunition to generate a king-sized shock wave that would force those leaking pipes on the seabed shut.

Deploying the GBU-43 MOAB — known as the “Massive Ordnance Air Burst” or “Mother of All Bombs” — would be “proven, safe and ‘green,’” Gayl tells our pal David Axe, of War Is Boring. The bomb consumes all its own fuel, after all. And it’s not a nuclear weapon, like the one the Russians allegedly used to shut down out-of-control wells.

...but from a Democratic perspective isn't there considerable benefit to showing the government can do something effectively and only it can?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


Police Taser Man Having Sex On His Lawn (Caleb Hannan, Jun. 8 2010, Seattle Weekly)

You might mistake a patch of poison ivy for a harmless shrub. Or, if you're like one particularly amorous couple in Olympia, your night of alfresco lovemaking might result in a trip to jail and a painful shocking sensation.

On Monday night, a Thurston County deputy was called to a home after neighbors complained of loud music. When he arrived, the cop found a man and woman naked in the front yard, zoinking in the zoysia.

When the deputy approached the woman screamed and ran. Which is the proper response when an officer of the law interrupts you mid-coitus.

The man, however, was less impressed. Still naked, he started yelling at the cop who'd interrupted Romance Time.

The man advanced on the cop. But lacking any weapons, or pockets to hide them in, he was easily overtaken with two shots from a Taser and put under arrest for third-degree assault.

...is that he wasn't getting his freak on with a sheep.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:47 PM


'Drilling' for oil with ... nuclear weapons? The US has done it. (Peter Grier, June 10, 2010, CS Monitor)

[H]ere’s something you might not know: The US once used nukes for the exact opposite purpose. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) exploded nuclear devices underground in Colorado and New Mexico, not to stop flows of petroleum, but to start them.

It’s true. Decades ago, the AEC (ancestor of today’s Department of Energy) was very big on the Plowshare Program, which studied ways of using nuclear blasts for peaceful purposes. Project Chariot, for instance, looked at using five hydrogen bombs to create a nice new 700-foot-deep artificial harbor at Cape Thompson, Alaska. Project Ditchdigger investigated the physics of using nukes to produce canals.

But it turned out that the most promising peaceful use of nuclear explosions was for the stimulation of natural-gas production.

...seems to have sent the UR into some kind of catatonic state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:41 PM


U.S. Household Net Worth Rises (JEFF BATER And LUCA DI LEO, 6/10/10, WSJ)

Household debt fell at a 2.5% annual rate to $13.54 trillion in the first quarter. The household sector's debt level, which includes both consumer credit and mortgage loans, remained at about 20% of total assets in the first quarter. The ratio is down from a peak of around 22.5% in the first quarter of 2009, but still well above a ratio of about 15% in the mid-1990s. [...]

The Fed report showed that U.S. households' total net worth, meantime, climbed 2%, to $54.57 trillion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM


World Cup Time: Two must-reads for soccer fans and neophytes. (Ashley Woodiwiss, 6/10/2010, Books & Culture)

If one wants a single book to better understand the meaning and significance of this particular World Cup, then Bloomfield's Africa United is the one. His book is clearly a one-off, written to capitalize on this historic moment of the World Cup coming to Africa. Having lived in Nairobi since 2006 as a correspondent for the UK's Independent, Bloomfield recounts his travels up and down the continent, "searching for the stories which put Africa's soccer in context." In Africa, he says, "soccer can rebuild a country, end a war or provide a beacon of light in time of despair," and he proceeds to persuade us that this claim is not mere hyperbole. The story of soccer in Africa thus contributes to what Bloomfield calls "Africa's economic, technological, and cultural renaissance," a promising trend "ignored in much of the West." Here then is a narrative counter to our standard, media-driven impressions. But only somewhat. For while there is hope, beauty, and possibility in Bloomfield's account, there are also the all-too-familiar themes of corruption, violence, and abuse. As he acknowledges, "soccer in Africa often reflects the political and cultural struggles that a country is experiencing." Thus, Bloomfield complicates our understanding of Africa rather than romanticizing it. His Africa feels real because of both the beauty and the corruption he finds there.

Each chapter in Africa United is a set-piece that involves a team or two (club or national), several characters around whom Bloomfield builds his story, and some riveting political and cultural analysis. Perhaps the most moving is his eighth chapter, which centers on the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone versus the Lone Stars of Liberia. At the outset we meet Moussa Manseray, who asks the author to simply call him Messi (after the Argentine striker Lionel Messi, arguably the current best player in the world). Like Messi, Manseray is fast and possesses great ball control. But now Bloomfield comes with the clincher: "There's one big difference between them, though. Moussa has only one leg." What has soccer done for Sierra Leone? It could not stop that country's civil war (though in Ivory Coast it could and did), but it could provide a source of play, passion, and purpose for the war's thousands of amputee victims. Soon after the fighting stopped, the first soccer team of amputees was formed. This was followed by five clubs and then the creation of a national amputee team. This has become a continent-wide movement, with Liberia winning the 2009 Africa Cup of Nations for Amputees. Like wheelchair basketballers in the United States, amputee footballers in Africa have enjoyed both social and psychological rewards from this civil society experience. Soccer's small step in national reconciliation is remarked upon by one player, Samuel Eastman, who confides to the author that he has no problem playing on the same team as former rebels. States Eastman, "If we can come together, then the whole country can come together."

It's in Bloomfield's final chapter, on South Africa, that we find the reason for the global appeal of this game. The words come from John "Shoes" Moshoeu, a black former player on the "rainbow" South Africa national team that won the 1996 African Cup, who describes what soccer meant for blacks under apartheid: "We could forget about everything and just play." Among human games, soccer possesses the most accessible possibility for such playful forgetfulness. For as Shoes goes on to explain:

You can play anywhere, anytime. You don't need specific equipment. You can get something round to kick about. For me, soccer is a poor man's sport. It has given a lot of people from underprivileged societies a lease of life. It was something that would make us happy.

What does the World Cup mean for Africa? A chance to show the world how happiness can still be found in the midst of misery. That's no small lesson to meditate upon while in relative comfort and security we watch the Super Eagles (Nigeria), the Indomitable Lions (Cameroon), the Black Stars (Ghana), the Elephants (Ivory Coast), the Desert Foxes (Algeria), and Bfana Bfana ("the boys," South Africa). The Cup in Africa? Yes, please.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Mr. Mimic: The extraordinary gifts and fleeting legacy of Sammy Davis, Jr. (John H. McWhorter, Spring 2010, City Journal)

[D]avis’s copycat essence prevented him from passing from personality to artist. David Denby once wrote in The New Yorker that “to become a movie star, an actor needs a certain density, a stubborn, immovable mass of being that an audience can rely on.” But as Fishgall observes, “there was no real Sammy”; Davis simply “became whatever people wanted him to be.”

Davis’s ill-fated television variety show in the mid-sixties was a case in point. A competent example of the genre of the period, the show had a hole in its middle, and it was Sammy himself. He had no individual essence to anchor the proceedings the way Dean Martin, with much less talent, could on his own variety show by just meandering out with a cigarette, a drink, and a grin. Sammy opens one episode singing an “Ol’ Man River” intended to be ruminative; it comes off instead as mannered. In a medley duet by Davis and Mel Tormé, only Tormé communicates something and comes off as a serious talent. In the same episode, we see Gordon MacRae singing through a head cold; his wife, Sheila, doing the worst imitation of Carol Channing in recorded history; and bug-eyed black comedian Timmie Rodgers doing a chitlin’-circuit act hinging on frequent interpolations of “Oh yeah!” Yet all these performers register more strongly than Davis, who seems more like a guest himself.

For Davis, performing was about the audience’s approval, nothing more.

...that he seems to be accidentally describing Barrack Obama here?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM

OPPOSITE! (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Saving Chevrolet Means Sending ‘Chevy’ to Dump (RICHARD S. CHANG, June 9, 2010, NY Times)

On Tuesday, G.M. sent a memo to Chevrolet employees at its Detroit headquarters, promoting the importance of “consistency” for the brand, which was the nation’s best-selling line of cars and trucks for more than half a century after World War II.

And one way to present a consistent brand message, the memo suggested, is to stop saying “Chevy,” though the word is one of the world’s best-known, longest-lived product nicknames.

“We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward,” said the memo, which was signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the G.M. division’s vice president for marketing.

“When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding,” the memo said. “Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”

How about changing the name to Chevy officially, since it suggests a level of intimacy between America and your brand? Any sensible company would kill for that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Let Them In: Opening America's borders is morally right, economically beneficial--and would even make America safer. (Philippe Legrain, 06.10.10, Forbes Magazine)

America should open its borders. Anyone who wants to immigrate to the U.S. should be allowed to, with the bare minimum of bureaucracy. Those already here illegally should be legalized. Open borders would make this country richer, more entrepreneurial--and more secure.

Critics object that lawbreaking illegals should not be rewarded. Yet for the most part these people's only crime is wanting to work hard to earn a better life for themselves and their children--the epitome of the American Dream. They do the jobs that most people spurn: pick fruit, wash dishes, pack meat. Without them America would grind to a halt. [...]

The case for free migration follows logically from that for free trade. Just as it's beneficial for goods and services to flow freely across borders, so, too, the people who produce them. Freer trade has made Americans much richer over the past 50 years; unfreezing labor flows could deliver vast gains over the next 50. According to some estimates, removing immigration controls could more than double the size of the world economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 AM


One striker or two? (When Saturday Comes, 6/10/10)

The level of knowledge saturation in the global game means no teams will be able to spring radical tactical surprises at the World Cup, but there is nonetheless likely to be plenty of diversity on show when it comes to formations. The 4-2-3-1 was the dominant shape in 2006 and will probably be so again in South Africa, with England, Brazil, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands among the sides predicted to adopt 4-2-3-1s or hybrids thereof.

France, however, are set to ditch their usual 4-2-3-1 for a 4-3-3, while Italy and Argentina are both believed to be flirting with the idea of a three-man defence. Chile are strong contenders to be the tournament's most pioneering team with the 3-3-1-3 system.

There is variety in the Premier League too, with champions Chelsea leading the way last season by flitting between a 4-1-2-1-2 (midfield diamond), a 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree and an ultra-attacking 4-3-3 over the course of the campaign. And yet, despite Sam Allardyce's belief that it has become "antiquated", the formation of reference for England's top clubs remains the hardy 4-4-2.

Amid the soul-searching sparked by England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008, the 4-4-2 was held up in some quarters as a symbol of the country's slavish devotion to an outmoded tactical formula. José Mourinho had already wreaked havoc in his first two seasons at Chelsea by deploying a counter-attacking 4-3-3 that gave his side numerical domination in the middle of the pitch, and seemed to emphasise the lack of tactical awareness in the English game. "There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop this," he said.

Jonathan Wilson has written that the logical conclusion of soccer evolution is a formation with no forward at all. The US can make hay by uninverting the pyramid, as we do when Dempsey and Donovan are technically positioned in midfield but thrust forward into the attack. Big clubs these days pretty nearly resent being attacked and tend to respond poorly, but the lesser ones are generally too fearful to do so. What do we have to lose?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


White House official: 'Organized labor just flushed $10 million down the toilet' (Ben Smith, 6/08/10, Politico)

A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration's sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama's candidate, in Arkansas.

"Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise," the official said. "If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November."

That should go over well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


Celtic and Sporting to play at Fenway on July 21 ((AP, 6/07/10)

Fresh off the NHL’s Winter Classic and a series of midseason concerts, Fenway Park will host a soccer match between Celtic FC of Scotland and Sporting CP of Portugal.

The Fenway Football Challenge will be July 21 at the home of the Boston Red Sox.

Celtic previously played at Fenway Park in 1931, when it was defeated by the New York Yankees of the American Soccer League.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


Al-Qaeda turns to mafia tactics (Saad al-Mosuli, 6/11/10, Asia Times)

This is Mosul, my home. Since 2003, I have worked as a reporter here, mainly for local newspapers. Stories of murder and abduction are part of my routine.

Al-Qaeda still thrives in my city, long after it was driven underground in other parts of the country. Once a pillar of the local insurgency, the group - also known as the Islamic State of Iraq - now operates as a mafia, funding itself through extortion and blackmail.

Though deeply unpopular, its reputation for ruthlessness has also made it very powerful. Unlike other insurgent groups, al-Qaeda never restricted itself to fighting the Americans. Right from the start, it showed it was ready to kill Iraqis too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 AM


'Whoomp!' There He Ain't! President Obama NOT in Tag Team's 1993 (There It Is) music video (Helen Kennedy, 6/10/10, NY DAILY NEWS)

The White House was forced to respond Wednesday to a conspiracy theory too silly for even the birthers: Did Barack Obama appear in the video for Tag Team's 1993 one-hit wonder "Whoomp! (There it is)"?

One minute into the 17-year-old video, someone in a Compton ball cap with large ears and a killer smile - looking very Obama-esque, in other words - grins up at the camera while talking on a big 1990s cell phone.

...and they used to play this at Bulls games in the day...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 AM


What are you looking at? (Luke Cyphers, June 14, 2010, ESPN The Magazine)

What's strange in Dempsey's case is that observers across the pond think he has absolutely nothing to answer for. British fans, coaches and media -- indeed soccer experts across Europe -- hold him in high regard. That's even more true after last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa, when Dempsey was named the tournament's third-best player, behind Brazilian superstars Kaká and Luís Fabiano.

Dempsey's stock kept soaring this past March. Just a week after returning from a two-month layoff to rehab a knee injury, he scored a wonder goal that propelled Fulham past legendary Italian club Juventus and into the quarterfinal of the Europa League, part of a run to the final that capped the greatest season in the Cottagers' 131-year history.

It may have been the greatest goal ever scored by an American in Europe. Funny thing is, it was Dempsey's second-most-important score for the club since he joined in 2007. His first Premiership goal, in a 1-0 victory in the season finale against Liverpool, saved Fulham's spot in the top league and earned the club some $60 million. "It was good for my first goal to mean so much," says Dempsey, who came to Fulham from MLS' New England Revolution on a $5 million transfer. "I paid back the club for my transfer fee. I wasn't in debt to them."

Come to think of it, Dempsey's almost always been money, whether playing for his club or his country. He was the only U.S. goal-scorer in the 2006 World Cup. In the Confederations Cup, he scored the crucial final goal in a 3-0 victory over Egypt that put the U.S. through to the semifinal. The next match, against Spain, a shocking 2-0 victory over the then-No. 1 team in the world, saw Dempsey assisting on Jozy Altidore's opening goal. Then he netted the backbreaking second goal, sneaking around noted defender Sergio Ramos, leaving the Real Madrid star in disbelief and the Spaniards' record-tying 35-match unbeaten streak in tatters. In the final against Brazil, Dempsey scored on a stylish sliding finish worthy of his opponents in the 3-2 loss.

His remarkable run didn't end in South Africa.Last September, during a tough World Cup qualifying stretch for the U.S., Dempsey scored a crucial equalizer in a 2-1 win against El Salvador, then helped set up Ricardo Clark's goal in a 1-0 road victory over Trinidad and Tobago. "I pride myself," he says, "on stepping up on big occasions."

And yet, a consistent chorus of media and fans continues to dress him down. In that Trinidad match, ESPN analyst John Harkes said Dempsey looked tired, even sick. Dempsey heard similar critiques during the Confederations Cup, especially after the U.S. lost its first two matches, to Italy and Brazil, and he hadn't scored in either. "People who aren't educated about the game are going to take whatever a commentator has to say as the complete truth," he says. "And that's not always the case. That's just their opinion."

But while Americans were busy lambasting him, the FIFA Technical Study Group, a selection of noted coaches and statistical analysts who critiqued every player in the Confederations Cup, lauded Dempsey's play -- singling out his effort by rewarding him with the Bronze Ball trophy. The irony is not lost on the player. "I was top three in the whole tournament in distance covered," he says. "You can question my effectiveness, but you can't question my heart and my effort."

Still, he manages to get past the attacks and welcomes fault-finding -- when it's backed by fact. "I'm respected by my teammates," he says. "And I'm respected by my coaches. That's why they keep me on the field. The criticism comes with the money we get paid."

His salary -- $3 million -- might mean more to Dempsey than to most in the Premier League. He likes working in England, but truthfully, he'd rather live in the States. "Off the pitch, the best thing about it is more money in your account," he says. "You go to Europe for the competition, for the soccer and for more financial stability for your family."

Dempsey had little financial security growing up in Nacogdoches, Texas. ("I'm from nowhere, man," he says.) His family lived in a trailer on his grandmother's property, while his dad worked on the railroad and his mom worked as a nurse.

In East Texas, soccer took a backseat to football and baseball. And in the Dempsey family, Clint took a backseat to his sister, Jennifer. Clint, four years younger, had shown enough promise to make a top youth soccer travel team in Dallas, three hours away. But Jennifer was a budding tennis star, winning tournaments around the region. Despite family sacrifices -- selling off a boat, forgoing vacations, skimping on new clothes -- the Dempseys couldn't afford to support both kids' sports dreams.

So Clint dropped out of the travel team so that Jennifer could pursue her tennis career. On the day before Thanksgiving, in 1995, the Dempseys' world changed forever. At 16, Jennifer collapsed and died of a brain aneurysm. "It was like a nightmare," Dempsey says. "Every day you'd wake up and say, 'Did that really happen?' "

The terrible saga explains a lot about Dempsey, and his fierce determination to fight his way up from Nacogdoches to a soccer scholarship at Furman, through MLS, to a spot on the national team and to success in England.

...he doesn't respond well when he's taken out of the attack.One would prefer that when he's asked to defend he do so as hard as he tries to score, but that's not who soccer players are.

Clint Dempsey's gunning for England, not a place in the history books (Simon Johnson, 10.06.10, Evening Standard)

Considering Dempsey is one of 10 players in the USA squad to have made an impact in the British game, it is perhaps surprising that many on these shores consider an opening win to be a full-gone conclusion.

Dempsey has impressed in a Fulham shirt ever since he joined from New England Revolution three years ago but then there are also creditable
performers like Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, West Ham defender Jonathan Spector and Glasgow Rangers duo Jonathan Spector and Maurice Edu.

The impact Landon Donovan made in an Everton shirt during a loan spell from LA Galaxy this season was also impressive, but the US team are
still not being taken too seriously among England supporters.

Dempsey is adamant the game on Saturday is not about proving them wrong though. He said: “Hopefully we will be able to change opinions but that's not the main goal — it is to do it for yourself and for your country, not for the people who don't believe in you."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Smuggled fags used to fund terrorism (Malaysian Insider, June 10, 2010)

June 9, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Pushovers no more, U.S. will contend at Cup: Team USA will push England in Group C and certainly advance to 2nd round (Noah Davis, 6/08/10, Goal.com)

"I don't even think getting to the second round is something that we should necessarily applaud," Alexi Lalas, a member of the 1994 and 1998 U.S. World Cup squad and ESPN commentator, told Goal.com earlier this year. "I think it's expected this time. I think if this team doesn't get out of this group, American soccer fans should be disappointed, and I would consider it a failure. That's a good situation to be in because not too long ago, people really didn't care. Now there are much higher expectations."

The growing faith in the U.S. squad stems from their recent successes.

At the Confederations Cup held in South Africa a year before the World Cup, the Americans defeated Spain en route to reaching their first-ever final of a FIFA tournament. Vincente del Bosque's La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) were on a world record 35-match unbeaten streak and held the world's No. 1 ranking. The U.S. defended as a cohesive unit, bending but never breaking, and counterattacked effectively in the 2-0 victory.

Though they would lose in the Confed Cup's last match to Brazil by a 3-2 scoreline, Bob Bradley's squad took a 2-0 lead into halftime. During the tournament, they proved to the world they can beat anyone on the right day.

The success in the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying — the U.S. finished first in their region — has fixed much of the damage done to the American reputation internationally from the poor showing during the 2006 World Cup.

The team has developed considerable depth since last year's successes, especially on the front-line, and some genuine playmakers have emerged--Torres, Holden, Edu, Findley. Even Tim Howard has settled down a bit and stopped outkicking his coverage. But the biggest difference between then and now isn't a good one--the central defender pairing of Onyewu and DeMerit, which was so solid then, has looked very shaky as both come back from injury. Compounding the problem is the injury to Jozy Altidore--who, for all the talk of how lazy he is in practice, did head away a fair number of balls in the defensive box--and the awful play of right back Jonathan Spector over the past 9 months. The 6' 4" Clarence Goodson almost has to start on defense just for his presence on balls in the air, especially against England and their 6' 7" forward, Peter Crouch. And Steve Cherundolo ought to start over Spector. Carlos Bocanegra will almost certainly start on the back line, but ought not.

A starting 11 that looked like this:

Altidore(Findley)/Buddle flanked by Donovan/Dempsey



would give us both a chance to drive right at England on offense and to defend set pieces, where we seem at most risk. It puts some guys in unusual positions, but Bob Bradley prides himself on the positional flexibility of his squad. Then you have a couple games to let some of the guys who've been struggling try to play themselves into form.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM


Obama's British Bias: The U.S. president seems displeased with Britain lately, and the recent BP disaster isn't helping matters.
(Quentin Letts, 06.09.10, Forbes)

There is not much nationalism in Britain about BP--or at least there wasn't until Barack Obama started chucking his weight around like some bar-brawl drunk, accentuating the Britishness of the (actually multinational) oil company and ranting about its chief executive, Tony Hayward.

Once again this president has left the impression that he dislikes us Brits. Forgive us if, increasingly, we wonder if it is time to reciprocate that ill-feeling. [...]

What's your problem, Mr. President? Still sore about perceived slights by the British colonialist against your East African forebears? Or is it the knowledge that the British are one of the few ethnic groups who have not bothered to establish a shrill grievance lobby in Washington D.C.?

We have been here before. There was that time the White House forgot to invite our Queen to some D-Day commemorations, even though she was the one head of state actually to have done some service during the Second World War (OK, it did not amount to much more than changing a few spark plugs on Bedford lorries, but at least she wore a trim uniform). There was the dumping of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill that used to adorn the Oval Office. There was the decision, at a U.N. meeting, to meet former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in, er, a kitchen. Lawyers tend to speak of a pattern of behavior. One does not have to be paranoid to detect that Obama's attitude to the British has been less than loving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Wrath Of Left Boils Over On Speaker Pelosi (DANA MILBANK, 6/09/10, IBD)

The celebrated San Francisco liberal took the stage to greet what should have been a friendly audience: the annual gathering of progressive activists organized by the Campaign for America's Future.

Instead, Pelosi was eaten by her own.

Just three minutes into her speech — right after she gave the triumphant news that "Change is here!" — two men stood up and spread out a large pink banner in front of the podium demanding "Stop Funding Israel Terror."

At that moment, a woman in a wheelchair named Carrie James began to scream from her table about 30 feet away: "I am not going to a nursing home!" At that cue, about 15 people in the crowd — who, like James, wore orange T-shirts demanding "Community Choice Act Now" — unfurled bedsheet banners and struck up a chant: "Our homes, not nursing homes!"

Bodyguards rushed forward and formed a six-person ring around Pelosi and the lectern. Leaders of the conference tried to take the speaker backstage until the disturbance could be quelled, but she brushed them off: "I'm not leaving. I'm not leaving," she said. "You have made your point. I'm going to give my speech over your voices."

And she did, for an excruciating half-hour. The hecklers screamed themselves hoarse, dominating Pelosi's speech.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


ACLU chief 'disgusted' with Obama (Josh Gerstein, 6/09/10, Politico)

The top official at the American Civil Liberties Union seems to be losing patience with President Barack Obama and his administration.

Speaking at a conference of liberal activists Wednesday morning, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero didn't mince his words about the administration's handling of civil liberties issues.

"I'm going to start provocatively ... I'm disgusted with this president," Romero told the America's Future Now breakout session, according to blogger Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake.com. [...]

Asked why he's so animated now, Romero said: "It’s 18 months and, if not now, when? ... Guantanamo is still not closed. Military commissions are still a mess. The administration still uses state secrets to shield themselves from litigation. There's no prosecution for criminal acts of the Bush administration. Surveillance powers put in place under the Patriot Act have been renewed. If there has been change in the civil liberties context, I frankly don't see it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


A Split In Dems' Anti-Free-Trade Bloc? (IBD, 6/08/10)

Free trade, long a bugbear of protectionist Democrats, has been dead ever since they took Congress in 2006. But as the economy stagnates and Democrats sink in the polls, signs of change are surfacing.

Last Friday, 39 members of Congress, more than half of them Democrats, called on President Obama to support the long-stalled Colombia free-trade pact awaiting a vote since 2006.

The letter asked the president to identify and resolve whatever problems he had with this market-opening treaty, submit it to Congress for a vote and show some leadership in standing up for it. "We believe the implementing legislation will have strong bipartisan support in Congress, and we stand ready to work with you to ensure its passage," the letter concluded.

The letter marks a significant shift for Democrats who've marched in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi against the Colombia treaty since 2008.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


The Alien in the White House: The distance between the president and the people is beginning to be revealed. (DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, 6/08/10, WSJ)

Those qualities to be expected in a president were never about rhetoric; Mr. Obama had proved himself a dab hand at that on the campaign trail. They were a matter of identification with the nation and to all that binds its people together in pride and allegiance. These are feelings held deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.

A great part of America now understands that this president's sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Flemish separatists prepare to shake Belgium up at polls (AFP, 6/08/10)

First confederalism, then independence, that's the main manifesto plank of the Flemish nationalists who look set to become the biggest party in Flanders at the general election on Sunday.

Last Sunday some 1,500 militants from the "nationalist and democratic" New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) held their last pre-election meeting in the velour seats of a theatre in central Ghent, the capital of East Flanders in Belgium's Dutch-speaking northern region.

Just days ahead of the elections they were in buoyant mood. The latest polls see their group coming out on top in Flanders with 26 percent of the popular vote.

Such a level of support for a party which openly advocates splitting from the poorer, French-speaking region of Wallonia to the south would be unprecedented.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Shaking the Federal Money Tree (Kevin Drum, May. 31, 2010, Mother Jones)

Lefty economists might generally believe that increasing spending is a more efficient way of stimulating consumption than reducing taxes, but they'd almost certainly accept a big tax cut as an almost-as-good substitute. And tax cuts have two big advantages over spending. On the substantive side, they work faster. Spending takes time to work its way through the economy, but a tax cut (for example, a payroll tax holiday) boosts the economy almost immediately. And on the political side it's quite doable. Republicans would be persuadable because they love tax cuts and Democrats would be persuadable because it would help the economy. For Obama, then, it would be the best of all worlds: a fast stimulus that gets bipartisan support, something that boosts the economy while dampening the inevitable criticism he'd get for blowing up the deficit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


Surprise SC Senate candidate has charge pending (MEG KINNARD, 6/09/10, AP)

South Carolina's surprise Democratic nominee to challenge U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint is facing a pending felony charge.

Court records show 32-year-old Alvin Greene was arrested in November and charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student. The felony charge carries up to five years in prison.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Democrat in Chief? (MATT BAI, 6/07/10, NY Times Magazine)

Unlike his predecessor and some of his own political allies, however, Obama has never betrayed much interest in building political empires. Obama ran on the notion of transcending partisan distinctions, rather than making them permanent, and the political identity that enabled him to draw millions of new voters into the process two years ago is both intensely personal and self-contained. It’s not clear that Obama can translate his appeal among disaffected voters into support for a party and its aging Washington establishment. Nor is it clear, as he looks ahead to 2012, how hard he’s going to try. [...]

Of the five living Americans who have served as president, Obama is the only one who never worked as some kind of party strategist. George H. W. Bush oversaw the Republican National Committee for a time, and his son, George W. Bush, played a pivotal role in the headquarters of his father’s failed re-election bid in 1992. Bill Clinton got his start in politics helping to run George McGovern’s campaign in Texas. Even Jimmy Carter, who was thought to disdain tactical politics, was the chairman of the Democratic Party’s national midterm campaign in 1974. These men rose through their party organizations (in Bush’s case, this was more about a famous name than it was about holding a series of jobs), and they were intimate with the relatively cozy world of organizers, donors and local power brokers, the few thousand activists who control the workings of a political party.

Obama did his door-to-door campaigning as a community organizer, but he never worked in party politics until he ran for office, and as a presidential aspirant he never bothered with trying to remake his party or modernize its message in the same way that Reagan (a spokesman for the conservative movement) or Clinton (a leader of the centrist New Democrats) did. Other than to assert (dubiously, perhaps) that he wasn’t a “triangulator” like the Clintons, Obama did not run against the party establishment, as other candidates had before, but with indifference toward it.

In this way, as in many others, Obama is emblematic of the generation that found its political consciousness in the years after Vietnam and Watergate, when the ruling classes of both parties lost their credibility. Carter, Clinton and George W. Bush were presidents rooted in their parties who went out of their way to cultivate outsider pedigrees. Obama, a good 15 years younger than our last two boomer presidents, is the opposite; he is a genuine outsider who spends a fair amount of energy reassuring Democrats that he really does care about the organization.

“Fundamentally, I just think he wants to be bigger than that,” says Cornell Belcher, who was one of Obama’s pollsters during the 2008 campaign. “It gets back to being a transformational leader. A party leader isn’t about transformation.”

Obama’s advisers have spoken of his brand, which is a stand-in for the party identity that defined other presidencies. Obama’s brand is about inclusivity, transcendence, a generational break from stale dogmas. Inevitably, Obama’s brand management runs up against the culture of his party. State activists are sometimes told their requests for the president to appear at a typical political event, in some ballroom with room dividers or at the local labor hall, aren’t going to fly. Aides know that if they bring that kind of thing to Obama, he’ll ask, “Can’t we do any better than that?” As a rule, Obama no longer speaks at the traditional Jefferson-Jackson dinners where state Democratic parties gather to raise money from the faithful. “For what?” a senior aide responded when I asked why. “To talk to the same people he already has?” Obama prefers venues, preferably outdoors or in large theaters, where he can reach voters who aren’t party regulars. He generally refuses to do “robo-calls,” those ubiquitous, recorded messages in which a politician asks you to go out and vote for the party. “He’s got a practical objection to them, which is that they’re irritating,” Axelrod explained to me.

He's so vested in being sui generis that he isn't anything.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


GOP's statehouse position strong (SHIRA TOEPLITZ, 6/9/10, Politico)

Republicans got their choice slate of candidates in Tuesday’s primary votes for governors, even though Democrats are still in a solid position to be competitive in the more than three dozen races to be decided this fall.

Republicans’ prospects were boosted by primary wins by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in California, former Gov. Terry Branstad in Iowa and, perhaps most of all, the loss of Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Nevada GOP primary to former Attorney General Brian Sandoval.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


My once-in-a-generation cut? The armed forces. All of them: We are safer than at any time since the Norman conquest. Yet £45bn is spent defending Britain against fantasy enemies (Simon Jenkins, 6/08/10, guardian.co.uk)

I say cut defence. I don't mean nibble at it or slice it. I mean cut it, all £45bn of it. George Osborne yesterday asked the nation "for once in a generation" to think the unthinkable, to offer not just percentage cuts but "whether government needs to provide certain public services at all".

What do we really get from the army, the navy and the air force beyond soldiers dying in distant wars and a tingle when the band marches by? Is the tingle worth £45bn, more than the total spent on schools? Why does Osborne "ringfence" defence when everyone knows its budget is a bankruptcy waiting to happen, when Labour ministers bought the wrong kit for wars that they insisted it fight?

Osborne cannot believe the armed forces are so vital or so efficient as to be excused the star chamber's "fundamental re-evaluation of their role".

...and, in the second, America's nuclear forces have them covered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


The Next Sparks for the Economy Could Surprise Us: Never mind real estate or consumer spending: The expansion of the mobile Internet or an oil spike-led boost in green energy spending may juice economic growth (Chris Farrell, 6/08/10, Business Week)

[A]s the seeds of economic revival may be sown in some unexpected places. By now you've probably heard of the "Black Swan." The provocative catchphrase comes from a best-selling book by author and investor Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A black swan is essentially an unpredictable outlier event that has a dramatic impact on the economy and society. It gives lie to the elegant quantitative and mathematical models most experts use to predict the future course of the financial markets and economy. It's almost comforting to know that the surprising twists of history can fool even the most highly regarded financial and academic eminences.

Black swans are popularly considered negative events, largely because the fearsome global credit crunch—missed by most mainstream forecasters—made many investors appreciate the phenomenon.

Yet there's nothing intrinsically bad about black swans. The unexpected can be positive. Case in point: Netscape.

The U.S. economy emerged sluggishly out of the recession of the early 1990s. It was a jobless recovery, with little sizzle. But the Silicon Valley startup Netscape—which popularized the Web browser that is now an essential part of everyday life—went public in 1995. The demand for the company's $28-a-share offering was so strong that shares shot up to $75 and closed at $58. The dot-com boom and the Internet Age were born that day—or at least a lot of people suddenly dreamed of creative opportunities and wealth creation.

In practice, a black swan is really just an opportunity to say "I told you so." The genuine black swans of the next economic boom aren't things like energy innovation, which we all know is coming, but something no one is even aware of yet unless from fiction, like the Internet in 1950.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


America Loves $occer: On the eve of the World Cup, soccer is riding a wave of popularity in the U.S. Corporate America is right behind (Brian Finkel, 6/08/10, Business Week)

It's easy to point to Major League Soccer research indicating that 90 million Americans identify themselves as soccer fans, or that the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Assn. lists soccer as the second-most-played team sport in the country. Or even that bars in Washington, D.C., will open at 7 a.m. so people can watch World Cup matches.

But to really appreciate the growth of soccer in America, follow the money at the Beautiful Game(s).

More than 25 billion sets of eyes worldwide are expected to watch the 64 World Cup matches. No country paid more for the tournament's TV rights than the red, white, and blue. ABC/ESPN and Univision put together a joint bid worth $425 million for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, marking the biggest TV deal in the 106-year history of the sport's governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The bid represented a 120 percent increase from the previous deals the U.S. had made to televise the tournament.

ESPN, the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports," is making the World Cup the network's top priority in 2010. More than 300 staffers are in South Africa geared up to produce 65 hours of live programming, including SportsCenter, the first time ESPN has ever had its flagship show broadcast live from a World Cup site.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Runyan's GOP primary run is good (JASON NARK, 6/09/10, Philadelphia Daily News)

AS AN NFL STAR, Jon Runyan had epic battles with New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan on Garden State turf at the Meadowlands.

As a rookie Republican candidate for Congress, though, he'll square off against a Harvard-educated incumbent who's been in the political game for more than 20 years.

Runyan, 36, of Mount Laurel, won the Republican nomination last night in his first foray into politics and will face first-term incumbent U.S. Rep. John Adler in November for the 3rd Congressional District in New Jersey. [...]

With the support of the GOP establishment, Runyan defeated Justin Murphy, 44, an attorney and "Reagan Republican" from Medford. Murphy, who had a strong showing in the 2008 district race, had support from many tea-party groups and the endorsement of the Inquirer.

Analysts say national eyes will focus on New Jersey to see whether Runyan can reclaim a seat the GOP once held for more than a century.

Despite lackluster fundraising during the placid primary, analysts say Runyan has an advantage in the conservative-leaning district and an extra push from an anti-incumbent sentiment sweeping the country. In November, New Jersey voters ousted Gov. Jon Corzine and elected tough-talking Chris Christie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 AM


Election Scorecard: Women and Big Money Win, Labor Takes Huge Hit (Jill Lawrence, 6/09/10, Politics Daily)

Biggest Losers:

Labor and the liberal netroots. Unions sank at least $7 million and untold volunteer hours into defeating Blanche Lincoln, who had disappointed them bitterly with her opposition to a public insurance option in the health reform bill and to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form unions. Rep. John Boozman is the Republican nominee and polls show him leading Lincoln by huge margins.

Politics Daily asked AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on Tuesday, before the polls closed, if the investment had been worth it. "Supporting people that support working people is always worth it. Opposing people that don't support working people is also not only worth it, but something that we're obligated to do," Trumka replied. Asked if the AFL-CIO would endorse Lincoln if she won, he replied, "That's a decision that our members on the ground make. I would feel highly surprised if they were to do that."

Later, after she won, Trumka said in a statement that while the outcome was not preferred, it was still a victory: "Taking a two-term incumbent in deep red Arkansas into a runoff, and coming within few thousand votes of her, is a virtually unprecedented achievement. If working families were able to accomplish this in Arkansas, imagine what they can achieve in other states," he said.

The netroots had were equally crestfallen. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, the Daily Kos blog and other activists had coaxed Halter into the race and raised more than $1.2 million for him at ActBlue.com. They were convinced, with backup from polling, that he'd be a a stronger candidate against Boozman than Lincoln. "Look for this to be a Republican pick-up in November," Barbara Morrill wrote Tuesday night at Daily Kos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 AM


Is the Tea Party Losing Its Strength?
(David Corn, 6/09/10, Politics Daily)

What a surprise: the Tea Party is not as popular as it once was. That was part of the news contained in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week. (The other hardly shocking and bad-for-Democrats news: only 29 percent are inclined to vote for their current representative in Congress.) Fifty percent of the respondents said they hold an "unfavorable impression" of this conservative, anti-Obama, anti-government movement -- an increase from 39 percent in March (when the health care reform slugfest was under way). Those with a favorable view dropped from 41 to 36 percent, and those folks with no opinion fell from 20 percent to 14 percent. Put this all together, and it appears that the more Americans see of the Tea Party, the less they like it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 AM


Latin Economic Power Conveys Clout: South America's Rebound Translates Into Greater Influence at International Monetary Fund, G-20 (PAULO PRADA, 6/09/10, WSJ)

In the past year, Latin American countries have wielded their economic heft to gain a stronger voice on the world stage. For instance, Brazil has been instrumental in leading a push to rejigger voting rights at the IMF, and has played a higher-profile role at G-20 and other global gatherings.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, in his third year at the helm of the fund, met recently with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Peruvian President Alan García, and ministers from nations including Mexico, Uruguay, and Bolivia.

He told the leaders, long plagued by crises that required IMF attention, that their new economic resilience gave them greater voice and persuasive power. After meeting with Brazil's president, Mr. Strauss-Kahn cited Mr. da Silva's standing with other global leaders—and the country's ascendant role in international commerce—as assets that could help convince peers that "we have to manage the global economy together."

Their relative economic health, he argued, could give Latin American countries not only greater traction in global markets, but also a bigger seat at the table as leaders seek to reorder the global economy. "It's much easier to push your agenda when you are in a position of strength," Mr. Strauss-Kahn said.

The welcome Mr. Strauss-Kahn received was a departure from what historically was an acrimonious relationship.

Mr. García, once a critic of the fund, joked in a speech in Lima that "the monetary fund has changed." He conceded that that he, Peru, and much of Latin America also had changed.

Because of its role as a financial fireman, the IMF in the past was often the lender of last resort for troubled public sectors in the region. As a condition of lending, it imposed strict economic criteria that were often perceived as invasive. Latin Americans for decades saw their onerous debts to the fund as an instrument of major economies to keep developing nations impoverished.

As economies in the region have improved, however, they paid off billions of dollars in loans and joined China and other developing nations in reforms that by next year are expected to overhaul the stake that smaller countries have in the IMF structure. Instead of rescue packages, countries including Colombia and Mexico are signing up for "flexible credit lines" that the fund began offering in 2009 to give countries with "strong track records" a fallback in case they are shaken by external crises. Brazil, which five years ago owed the fund $15.5 billion, not only paid the debt, but last year agreed to buy as much as $10 billion in IMF bonds to help it finance programs.

The reversal is leading many in Latin America to boast. After a discussion with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in Brasília, Guido Mantega, Brazil's finance minister, offered Europe a lesson in basic economics, saying the region should adopt reforms to enhance productivity and competitiveness. "Only growth generates the income necessary to pay debts," he lectured. Like Mr. García, he saluted the "new monetary fund" under the leadership of "a competent administrator."

Some leaders in the region still prompt raised eyebrows at the IMF and among economists and investors abroad, especially when it comes to market intervention and the independence of regulators. This year, Argentina's central-bank president resigned after resisting a government plan to tap $6.6 billion in foreign reserves to lower the national debt.

The IMF still has critics in the region, namely populist governments in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

...but it can buy you time to transition to one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 AM


June 8, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


The perverse magic of Stieg Larsson: How did the Swedish writer get away with turning sickening abuse into mass entertainment? (Lucy Smith, 8 June 2010, MercatorNet)

Larsson does not leave a single detail out of the torture and murder scenes, each one outdoing the previous in the nauseating imaginativeness of the sadist’s techniques. And the film is true to the book. There is one scene in which we see extremely graphic photos of victims kept by their killer -- not just a couple of them but a whole wall of photos of abused, mutilated and clearly sexually violated women. Surely the point could just as easily have been made with one or two examples; why the decision to draw out the scene so unnecessarily?

Both film and book left me with the feeling that, instead of having watched and read a crime thriller, I had been witness to the bizarre and disturbed fantasy life of a middle-aged man. Blomkvist is unquestionably Larsson’s idealized alter-ego, a roguish and handsome crusader for the truth and a defender of the weak. And this is exactly where the idealization occurs, where Blomkvist and Larsson part ways.

Larsson, in fact, is no crusader but a hypocrite who, while ostensibly condemning sexual violence and sexism, engages in their glorification in order to sell books. He spent his leisure time imagining more and more disturbing ways of torturing and killing people, because – by his own account – it was relaxing.

What kind of dishonest society do we live in, where in the mornings over our newspaper and coffee we express unqualified outrage at sexual violence, while in the evenings we spend our leisure time being entertained by it?

It will surprise no one that he was a communist who resented Sweden ceasing to be socialist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Should This Be the Last Generation? (PETER SINGER, 6/06/10, NY Times)

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.

Schopenhauer’s pessimism has had few defenders over the past two centuries, but one has recently emerged, in the South African philosopher David Benatar, author of a fine book with an arresting title: “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” One of Benatar’s arguments trades on something like the asymmetry noted earlier. To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.
illustrationErin Schell

Benatar also argues that human lives are, in general, much less good than we think they are. We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states. If we think that this is a tolerable state of affairs it is because we are, in Benatar’s view, victims of the illusion of pollyannaism. This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nonetheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.

Here is a thought experiment to test our attitudes to this view. Most thoughtful people are extremely concerned about climate change. Some stop eating meat, or flying abroad on vacation, in order to reduce their carbon footprint. But the people who will be most severely harmed by climate change have not yet been conceived. If there were to be no future generations, there would be much less for us to feel to guilty about.

So why don’t we make ourselves the last generation on earth? If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required — we could party our way into extinction!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 PM


The science of taking penalties is revealed (Steve Connor, 8 June 2010m Independent)

Scientists have some advice for England players in the event of a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup. Ignore the goalkeeper, pick a spot in the goal where you want the ball to go and aim your kick accordingly – preferably without falling over.

The advice for how to kick the perfect penalty may seem obvious but a study has shown that one of the biggest problems facing players in the high-anxiety situation of a shoot-out is the tendency of the penalty-takers to be distracted by looking at the goalkeeper.

The researchers found that when penalty-takers are tense they tend to look at the goalkeeper more than they would when they are relaxed. This leads them unwittingly to aim the ball into the arms of the opposing keeper.

And they wonder why Americans make so much fun of them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Gay sex spelled end of E.M. Forster's writing (Richard Brooks, 6/08/10, The Sunday Times)

THE enduring mystery of why E. M. Forster failed to write any novels beyond his mid-40s has been solved thanks to a secret cache of papers in which he confided his sexual desires.

The author did not write any novels between the publication in 1924 of A Passage To India, one of his best known works, and his death in 1970.

Now Forster's "sex diary", which had been locked away at his former lodgings at Cambridge University, indicates that his creative drive was curbed after he lost his virginity to a wounded soldier on an Egyptian beach when he was 38 and met his long-term lover - a married policeman - several years later.

The author felt he could not continue to write about the heterosexual, English middle-class themes with which he had made his name. "I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or rather published more, but sex prevented the latter," Forster wrote.

Passage is about someone freaking out after entering a dark cavern--it isn't heterosexual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


Could the spill restore Jindal as a GOP whiz kid? (KEVIN McGILL, 06/08/10, AP)

Since the drilling rig operated by BP PLC exploded in April and unleashed a gusher of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Jindal has taken pains to rattle off all the state is doing to keep the oil from ruining a way of life. He ticks off lists of projects, how much oil-soaking boom is being used, where barges are being sent.

He lambasts a Democratic administration’s response that he says hasn’t done enough to protect the state’s shores. His own response has resonated strongly with politicians and residents who generally have given him high approval ratings during his two years in office.

“The governor’s out there. The governor knows what’s going on,” said Buggy Vegas, owner of a marina and vacation cabins on Grand Isle, where the oil spill has all but killed tourism and canceled major fishing competitions.

“He’s doing an A-plus job,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who has complained that the Obama administration’s mitigation efforts were much too slow. “He’s attracting national attention to something that was, frankly, on the back burner of the administration.” [...]

Local officials, however, seem pleased with Jindal’s response. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is often at Jindal’s side, and Jefferson Parish Council member Chris Roberts said Jindal has shown keen interest in technical issues and problem-solving during various meetings with local officials.

Voters jaded by the response to Katrina helped Jindal win the governor’s office, and the oil spill could be the disaster that feeds his national ambitions — however unclear they may be. He’s made trips for fundraising and political speeches everywhere from California to New York, but flatly told a gathering of Republicans in March that he is not a candidate for president.

It could be months before it’s clear how well Jindal has handled this disaster. He guided the state through the devastation of hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, “but now, there’s a new sort of disaster, with a new set of parameters,” said Gary Clark, a political scientist at Dillard University.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


Ride Along with Mitch: Can the astonishing popularity of Indiana’s penny-pinching governor carry him to the White House in 2012? (Andrew Ferguson, June 14, 2010, Weekly Standard)

The Daniels family finally moved back to Indianapolis in 1987. He practiced law half-heartedly and became executive vice president and COO of the Hudson Institute, a think tank that had landed in Indianapolis after a series of financial setbacks. Daniels is widely credited with putting the institution back on its feet. “You do what a businessman does,” he told me when I asked about taking over Hudson. “You cut costs. You look for underperforming assets. You watch your spending. You find new markets for your services. We had a budget of $14 million. Even though it was nonprofit it was still like a small business. We had a bottom line.”

He also enjoyed the company he kept. “There were a lot of really smart, really interesting, really flaky people,” he said. Hudson placed him in the thick of the conservative intellectual counterculture of the 1980s. He dabbled in highbrow activism, joining the board of the human-rights group Freedom House and founding a pro-immigration group with the great economist Julian Simon. He still seeds his conversation with references to George Gilder, Thomas Sowell, Michael Novak, and, especially, Charles Murray, whose work, he says, demonstrated that big government liberalism—or statism, to use Daniels’s preferred term​—does more harm than good to the very people it was designed to help.

And it does this by smothering free enterprise, which works as the real engine of human innovation and betterment. “I’m enough of a Whig to know that government can create the conditions in which free markets can flourish,” he says. “Beyond that I get skeptical.” Daniels valorizes businesspeople, and he proved, by all accounts, to be an excellent businessman himself. Lilly hired him away from Hudson in 1990 to head its corporate affairs division. He rose rapidly through the corporate ranks—and unexpectedly, since Lilly was a notoriously inbred company, opening its top jobs only to people who had spent their whole careers there. He designed the company’s counterattacks on the Church of Scientology, which had launched a massive PR campaign against Prozac, a Lilly drug, in an effort to persuade Americans to drop their attachment to antidepressants and begin worshipping deceased science fiction writers. The campaign was so successful that the Lilly board of directors named Daniels head of the company’s North American operations, a multibillion-dollar business with more than 30,000 employees.

In 2000, George W. Bush, at Hubbard’s suggestion, named Daniels director of the Office of Management and Budget. “I never thought I’d go back to Washington,” he said, “but this was the one job I’d go back for. It’s the best job in government. Everything comes together right there.” Daniels left Lilly and liquidated all his stock options and other securities, for a payoff well over $20 million.

Bush called him the Blade, at least in public, and the first budget Daniels submitted was indeed restrained, in comparison with the Bush budgets that followed. With his excellent political sense Daniels fastened on a couple of gimmicks to illustrate his tight-fistedness. He tried to have his office voicemail system altered to play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” when callers were on hold, but had to settle for piping the song into the Government Printing Office location when congressional staff showed up to pick up their copy of the budget. At a Capitol Hill hearing, out of patience, he said he’d discovered the motto of Congress: “Don’t just stand there, spend something.”

Then came 9/11 and Iraq. In some quarters, Daniels is notorious for publicly declaring that the war in Iraq would cost no more than $60 billion, as a way (goes the theory) of solidifying political support. It’s a particularly egregious charge, reeking of toadyism. It won’t die, and it clearly rankles him.

“The facts are otherwise,” he told me, exasperated, when I mentioned it. “I thought we’d dispensed with this, but I guess not. I think we got it straightened out on Wikipedia at least. I got so sick of it I put together a whole file of stuff that lays out the facts.” Among the material is a background briefing Daniels gave reporters in April 2002, outlining Bush’s request for $74 billion to fight the war. “I said to the Pentagon, give us your assumptions. They talked about a six-month conflict, and we made our estimate on the basis of that.”

The briefing transcript bears this out. “This [budget request] will, to the best of our ability to estimate this, cover all costs from now to the end of the fiscal year,” Daniels said then. “Six months contemplates a conflict, a period of stabilization in Iraq, and the phased withdrawal of a large number of troops.”

He says now, “If someone had come to us and said, What will it cost to invade Iraq, beat the Iraqi Army and stay in Iraq for eight more years, we would have given a different answer. But that wasn’t the question.”

The invasion was over, and the war was just beginning, when Daniels went back to Indiana. For more than a year he’d been implored by Hubbard and others to challenge the sitting governor, though it’s clear he didn’t need a whole lot of imploring. To the press he was coy, saying in mid-2002 that he was focused exclusively on his present job, fulfilling his commitment to the president, and was entertaining no thoughts of running for governor. A year later he was in the RV, campaigning.

So is he going to run for president? I asked him at the end of a long dinner in a pleasant, not-too-expensive restaurant on the north side of Indianapolis, and he did what he’s been doing for a year whenever interviewers ask the inevitable question—pursed lips, followed by a half-smile, a slight shake of the head, and the recitation of a long string of phrases nearly identical to the ones he used eight years ago when he denied he was running for governor. He has no intention to run, but he’s leaving the door open, but right now he’s focusing on the commitment he made to the people of his state, but if no one else steps forward it’s something he might be forced to consider, but he doesn’t expect that to happen, but .  .  .

There are smart people in Indiana who think he won’t run​—that his demurrals are a ploy to better position himself as governor. “He can’t run [for governor] again, but you notice nobody here considers him a lame duck,” said John Ketzenberger, a veteran statehouse reporter. “He’s still a player in the minds of people here because he’s seen as a player on the national scene. He knows how to leverage that.”

At dinner Daniels admits as much. “Newt [Gingrich] told me, look, quit saying you’re not going to do this. If you don’t run, you don’t run. But say you’re leaving the door open, and the national press will pay a lot more attention to your viewpoint.”

In the past year he’s raised money and recruited candidates for this fall’s state races. Republicans have a good chance of winning both houses of the state legislature, giving the governor a free hand in the next legislative session when he resubmits a raft of reform ideas rejected by the Indiana house’s Democratic majority. The session begins in January and runs through April. One last, truncated legislative session, in 2012, will require much less of the governor’s attention. After next April, in other words, he’ll still be governor, but he’ll have more time on his hands.

Also over the last year, he’s been attending a series of small lunches and dinners arranged by consultants and fundraisers from Indiana and beyond, and his recent visits to Washington have been packed with TV appearances, press breakfasts, closed-door kibitzing, and fundraisers for his state political action committee. After 30 years of national political activity, he doesn’t need any introductions.

But he has yet to set foot in New Hampshire or Iowa, as other potential nominees have. So far his only scheduled campaign appearance out of state is in Ohio, at a rally for John Kasich, the Republican candidate for governor.

“I really don’t want to run,” he said again. “It’s very important this time around that the party get it right. It’s not going to be enough to be the un-Obama. We need to focus more on the What of the campaign than the Who.” When he describes the What, though, it sounds tailored for a particular Who.

“What we’ve seen in the past year, what I call shock-and-awe statism, has put the American experiment at risk,” he said. “For the first time in my life, the country faces survival-level issues.”

Those would be, along with “terrorism in a WMD world,” the national debt and the recurring federal deficits.

“There are things that I would advance as a candidate that the playbook says are folly—suicidal,” he said. “We’d have to fundamentally change all the welfare and entitlement programs. What Bush tried to do [in proposing private accounts for Social Security] was mild compared to what needs to be done. You have to have a completely new compact for people under a certain age, for Medicare and Social Security. You’re gonna have to dramatically cut spending across the whole government, including, by the way, national defense. When Bush arrived, we were spending $300 billion on national defense, and he thought that was plenty. Now it’s, what, $800 billion?”

Beyond the debt and the deficit, in Daniels’s telling, all other issues fade to comparative insignificance. He’s an agnostic on the science of global warming but says his views don’t matter. “I don’t know if the CO2 zealots are right,” he said. “But I don’t care, because we can’t afford to do what they want to do. Unless you want to go broke, in which case the world isn’t going to be any greener. Poor nations are never green.”

And then, he says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby -Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ--centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” It’s flourishing now with 315 mostly poor kids who pursue a classical education: Latin from third grade on, logic in middle school, rhetoric in eighth grade, an emphasis throughout on the treasures of Western Civilization. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he told me. His social-conservative credentials are solid.

But about that truce .  .  .

“He might be one guy who could get away with it,” said Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, who’s known Daniels since the 1980s. “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk. And in an acute situation, like the one we’re in now with the debt, he might get away with a truce for a year or two. But to be successful in office he’s going to have to show those folks he shares their vision.”

In 2008, Smith supported an amendment to the state constitution to codify marriage between a man and a woman. He asked for the governor’s support.

“I wish he’d been more vocal about it, but that’s not his way,” Smith said. “What he told me, and told the public, was ‘As a citizen I will go into the voting booth and vote for it eagerly. As governor, I don’t have a role in this. The legislature and the people amend the constitution.’   ”

A couple of his friends say the one thing that will keep Daniels from a presidential campaign is deference to his family.

...even his physical appearance--pale, bald, dwarf--makes him a stark contrast to the UR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD WHITE MEN (via Brandon Heathcotte):

SB 1070 backlash spurs Hispanics to join Democrats (Daniel González, Jun. 8, 2010, The Arizona Republic)

In the seven weeks since Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed Arizona's tough new immigration law, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Latinos registering to vote as Democrats, party officials say, jumping from about 100 a week before to 500 now.

Many of those registering are young Latino citizens whose parents may be undocumented.

"Before, it used to be hard," said Luis Heredia, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. "Now, they are just saying, 'Can you give me a form?' or, 'I am already registered, but I know someone who isn't.' "

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


To ESPN, knowledgeable US soccer fan not oxymoron (RACHEL COHEN, 06/08/10, AP)

ESPN is making a huge investment in World Cup coverage, paying $100 million for the rights to the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, based on the conviction that not only do Americans know the beautiful game, they want all they can get.

The 2006 tournament on ESPN and ABC drew the largest audiences for a World Cup outside the United States. But research afterward showed the network could do more to show fans it’s taking the sport seriously.

Now the network is trying to do just that, and to attract even more viewers, despite the time zone challenges of this year’s event in South Africa.

“The simple math of ratings, if you can take that audience and get them to watch for a longer period of time, it has the same effect as growing the number of viewers,” said Jed Drake, executive producer for ESPN’s World Cup coverage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


Spill reveals Obama's lack of executive experience (Byron York, June 8, 2010, Washington Examiner)

In mid-February 2008, fresh from winning a bunch of Super Tuesday primaries, Barack Obama granted an interview to "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Croft. "When you sit down and you look at [your] resume," Croft said to Obama, "there's no executive experience, and in fact, correct if I'm wrong, the only thing that you've actually run was the Harvard Law Review."

"Well, I've run my Senate office, and I've run this campaign," Obama said.

Seven months later, after receiving the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper. At the time, the news was dominated by Hurricane Gustav, which was headed toward New Orleans and threatening to become a Katrina-like disaster. "Some of your Republican critics have said you don't have the experience to handle a situation like this," Cooper said to Obama. "They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience. ..."

"Governor Palin's town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees," Obama answered. "We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years."

Obama ignored Palin's experience as governor of Alaska, which was considerably bigger than the Obama campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


Baptist leader Richard Land backs citizenship for illegal immigrants (Chris Echegaray, 6/08/10, THE TENNESSEAN)

When Nashville's Richard Land talks to Hispanic Southern Baptists this month, he'll tell them the denomination supports establishing a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants.

After borders are secure, he'll say, there needs to be a way for them to pay back taxes, take a civics course and get in line with others seeking legal status.

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, admits it's a message that will test some of the church's mainstream membership, but it's one that needs to be said.

"It's love your neighbor, do unto others," Land said. "This is a kingdom issue. They are disproportionately suffering because they are forced to remain in the shadows because of their illegal status."

Land's June 13 speech to the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches in Orlando, Fla., comes as the nation turns its attention to a new Arizona law that gives police the authority to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. On Thursday, President Barack Obama met with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to express his disapproval. The Tennessee House passed a resolution commending Arizona for protecting its legal residents.

Religious leaders are trying to find middle ground. Most illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic, a growing demographic with socially conservative views that could be tapped to increase churches' numbers.

"Do all agree with me? No," Land said. "But (Hispanics) are hard-wired to be social conservatives unless we drive them away. They are family oriented, religiously oriented and pro-marriage, pro-life ... tailor-made to be social conservatives."

That hard-wiring is a goodly portion of why the Left and Right don't want them legalized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Zuill Bailey: Tiny Desk Concert (Tom Huizenga, 6/04/10, NPR: Tiny Desk Concert)

There's something about the rich and resonant sound of the cello that connects with many people. Perhaps it's because the instrument is the closest, they say, to the human voice.

That was certainly true when Zuill Bailey picked up his cello to play this lovely impromptu concert behind Bob Boilen's desk, here at NPR Music's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Bailey doesn't play just any old cello. Yes, it is old — very old — but it's also special, built by the renowned Venetian maker Matteo Goffriller in 1693. That means Johann Sebastian Bach was all of 8 years old when Goffriller slapped on the final layer of shellac.

The instrument is unusually large, with a tawny orange hue, and one of only two Goffrillers which can boast an intricately carved Rosette under the fingerboard. And its sound? A full, round, burnished tone that pours forth with remarkable volume.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM

The National, Recorded Live In Concert: Hear A Special Daytime Show From Philadelphia (NPR, 6/08/10)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


U.S. no peacenik, global index says: Rated 85th of 149 countries (Jennifer Harper, 6/07/10, Washington Times)

America, land of peace? Forget about it.

The United States is just the 85th most peaceful nation on earth, according to the fourth annual Global Peace Index (GPI), a statistical ranking based on a spectrum of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators — from political stability and military expenditures to gun sales, violent crime and "respect for human rights."

The 85th position does not even rank the U.S. in the upper half in the 149-nation list, which was released Tuesday.

America can't be at peace while the march of liberty is still ongoing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


Japan: Land of the setting sun?: More than a decade's economic stagnation had virtually paralysed Japan. While remaining the world's second-largest economy, it watched China's rise with part anxiety and part greed. (Business Standard, 6/08/10)

Has the 'Land of the rising sun' become the 'land of a setting sun'? Nobody should write Japan off so easily. It is still the world's second-largest economy.

While China may grab that position sooner than later, Japan still invests more in R&D and new technology development than China.

Japan has been home to wide-ranging innovation, especially in energy and nano-technology.

However, Japan does require economic stimulation and political stability. Above all, Japan has to regain its self-confidence and reclaim its position as one of the most enterprising nations of our times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 AM


Helen Thomas went over the top, but why is she gagged in the land of the free? ()

As Michael Tomasky points out, it was her reference to Germany and Poland that did for her. It was, quite simply, a disgraceful, thoughtless and indefensible statement. She went way over the top.

So, despite her having issued an apology on her website, it was probably no real surprise that Hearst newspapers announced her immediate "retirement". She has had a long run, after all.

But it's the next bit of the story that concerns me. She was also dumped by her speaking agency, which issued a statement: "In light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East."

...then what you say must have consequences. Just as Ms Thomas is free to speak her mind we are all free to withdraw our business from her based on that speech. To argue that what you say can have no effect on how others interact with you is to say that speech has no value.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


The deflation dilemma: Rich countries must act to prevent prices from falling. That will cause problems for emerging economies (The Economist, Jun 3rd 2010)

In America, the euro area and Japan, deflation is either uncomfortably close or a painful reality, despite near-zero interest rates and other efforts by central banks. In the year to April core consumer prices rose by a mere 0.9% in America, the slowest pace in four decades. In the euro area they rose by 0.7%. And in Japan, which has battled falling prices for more than a decade, they fell by 1.5%.

Nor is there much reason to expect a sudden turnaround. Broad measures of money and credit growth are stagnant or shrinking in all three places. Unemployment is high and there are large gaps between the economies’ actual output and their potential. In the euro area, especially, austerity plans will further sap domestic demand. Thankfully, there is unlikely to be a sudden price plunge, not least because ordinary people still expect consumer prices to rise modestly, and these expectations of future inflation help anchor actual prices. But the short-term balance of pressures clearly points downward.

So, too, does the balance of risks. Deflation, if it becomes entrenched, is more dangerous than most forms of inflation. When prices fall consumers put off their purchases in anticipation of even greater bargains later, condemning the economy to a vicious cycle of weak spending and sliding prices. In heavily indebted economies falling prices would increase the real burden of consumers’ and governments’ debts.

...which will further reduce the only inflationary pressure that matters, that on wages. And there is no chance of altering the other factors that are contributing: technology, demographic decline, and free trade. But we've been in this deflationary epoch for 30 years now and there's no sign of consumerism slowing. It's good deflation, for us at any rate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 AM


Immigration Makes California Primary Races Tough for Republicans: Republican Candidates Try to Please Conservative Base without Sacrificing Electability in November (ALEX PEPPER, June 7, 2010, ABC News)

Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, who has consistently led Poizner in the polls, has sought to show that while she opposes the Arizona law, she is not weak on illegal immigration. In her own television advertising, she promises "to secure our border with absolutely no amnesty," as part of her effort to "save California."

This position, however, is a switch from the rhetoric she used in the earliest stages of her campaign. Back in November, Whitman told a largely Latino audience that she supported "comprehensive immigration reform." While the Whitman campaign now maintains that this referred to her plans for enhanced border security and a guest worker program, the phrase generally implies a path to legalization for illegal immigrants currently in the United States, and the campaign did not object to this characterization until the attacks from Poizner began.

The immigration debate could compromise Republicans' chances of winning in November. Hispanics compromise approximately 37 percent of California's population and candidates cannot afford to alienate Latino voters, large majorities of whom oppose the Arizona law and favor earned legalization.

The situation reminds some Californians of the controversy over Proposition 187, a ballot measure heavily promoted by former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and approved by voters in 1994, which would have prevented illegal immigrants from using public services such as health care and education. Although Wilson, now Whitman's campaign chairman, rode the initiative to reelection, constitutional challenges prevented it from ever taking effect and many observers have blamed the animosity engendered among Hispanics by the effort for Republican's electoral difficulties in the state in the years since.

The California Nurses Association began running Spanish-language ads last week on Los Angeles radio stations, tying Whitman to Wilson's immigration policies.

June 7, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


Poll: BP Oil Spill Response Rated Worse than Katrina (GARY LANGER, June 7, 2010, ABC News)

A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Gallup Poll: 6.2 Million Mexicans Dream of US Life: Three times more Chinese and Indians Desire the same (David Sabatini, 6/07/10, The Epoch Times)

President Obama’s approval rating is waning within the Latino community for not doing enough to promote comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. Yet a recent Gallup survey revealed that over 6 million Mexican adults expressed a desire to move permanently to the United States if given the opportunity.

The compelling number of people who wished to resettle in the United States represents almost half of the adult population of Mexico. [...]

China, India, Nigeria, and Brazil among others would send significantly more migrants to America than Mexico, according to the Gallup estimates. After telephone and face-to-face interviews with 347,713 adults in 148 countries between 2007 and 2009, Gallup estimated that approximately 22.9 million people would come from China, more than 17 million migrants would arrive from India, and 16.6 million from Nigeria if given the chance.

Countries such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Brazil would also send more migrants than Mexico, according to Gallup.

We have nothing like the housing stock that our population growth requires.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Foxconn Workers in China Say ‘Meaningless’ Life Sparks Suicides (Bloomberg News, 6/03/10)

Ah Wei has an explanation for Foxconn Technology Group Chairman Terry Gou as to why some of his workers are committing suicide at the company’s factory near the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

“Life is meaningless,” said Ah Wei, his fingernails stained black with the dust from the hundreds of mobile phones he has burnished over the course of a 12-hour overnight shift.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Rossi gains edge over Murray in updated poll (Kyung M. Song, 6/07/10, Seattle Times)

According to The Washington Poll, conducted annually by the University of Washington, registered Washington voters who were polled during the week of May 24 -- when Rossi finally made official his widely rumored candidacy for the U.S. Senate -- preferred Rossi over Murray 42 percent to 39 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


NYTimes learns the true meaning of "knocking boots" when it comes to Mickey Kaus (Carla Marinucci, June 07 2010, SF Gate)

Slate.com blogger Mickey Kaus, the challenger to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, gets credit for making the 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate race livelier, all right -- but how 'bout that Sunday New York Times story claiming Kaus has famously "knocked boots" with just about everyone in LA?

We don't know the definition in the Grey Lady newsroom, but -- ahem -- we can tell you what "knocking boots" means in the Bay Area (and the Urban Dictionary). And it ain't about the footwear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Egypt to keep open border with impoverished Gaza (SARAH EL DEEB, 7/07/10, Associated Press)

After three years of cooperating in the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Egypt said Monday that it will leave its border with the Palestinian territory open indefinitely for humanitarian aid and restricted travel.

With international pressure building to ease the blockade, an Egyptian security official said sealing off Hamas-ruled Gaza has only bred more militancy. [...]

"Egypt is the one that broke the blockade," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said. "We are not going to let the occupying power escape from its responsibilities."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Biden to campaign for Coons (DAVID CATANESE, 6/7/10, Politico)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


Pols turn on labor unions (MAGGIE HABERMAN & BEN SMITH, 6/6/10, Politico)

Spurred by state budget crunches and an angry public mood, Republican and some Democratic leaders are focusing with increasing intensity on public workers and the unions that represent them, casting them as overpaid obstacles to good government and demanding cuts in their often-generous benefits.

Unlike past battles over the high cost of labor, this time pitched battles over wages and pensions are being waged from Sacramento to Springfield to New York City and the conflict is marked by its bipartisan tone, with public employee unions emerging as an intransigent public enemy number one in cities and state capitals across the country.

They're the whipping boys for a new generation of governors who, thanks to a tanking economy and an assist from editorial boards, feel freer than ever to make political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


Israel and Outremer (ROSS DOUTHAT, 6/07/10, NY Times)

A decade ago, before the collapse of the peace process, the Israelis seemed to be faring better than Outremer on all three fronts. Their potent armed forces and nuclear deterrent more than offset the weakness of their geographic position. After decades of isolation, they had forged reasonably stable relationships with many regional powers — including Turkey, Jordan and Egypt — and an enduring bond with the world’s superpower, the United States. Their substantial Arab minority was better-treated and better-integrated than minority populations in almost any other Middle Eastern state. And they appeared to be disentangling themselves from the long-term occupation of a much larger Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ten years later, though, only the military advantage endures. Diplomatically and demographically, Israel increasingly faces the same problems that bedeviled the 12th-century kings of Jerusalem.

In the wake of the Gaza and Lebanon wars, and now the blockade-running fiasco, the Jewish state is as isolated on the world stage as it’s been since the dark Zionism-is-racism years of the 1970s. Meanwhile, its relationship with its Arab citizens is increasingly strained, the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank seems destined to continue indefinitely, and both Arab populations are growing so swiftly that Jews could soon be a minority west of the Jordan River.

Israel can probably live with diplomatic isolation so long as the American public remains staunchly on its side. But it will have a harder time surviving the demographic transformation of its territory. If the Jewish state can’t extricate itself from the West Bank, it may be forced to choose between the quasi-apartheid of a permanent occupation, and the dissolution that would likely follow from giving Palestinians a significant voice in Israel’s politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


Democrats Are Skipping Town Halls to Avoid Voter Rage (JEFF ZELENY, 6/06/10, NY Times)

Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts.

It was no scheduling accident.

With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.

And to reach thousands of constituents at a time, without the worry of being snared in an angry confrontation with voters, more lawmakers are also taking part in a fast-growing trend: the telephone town meeting, where chances are remote that a testy exchange will wind up on YouTube.

For incumbents of both parties facing challenging re-election bids, few things receive more scrutiny than how, when and where they interact with voters. Many members of Congress err on the side of being visible, but not too visible, and make only a few public appearances while they are back in their districts.

In New Hampshire, where open political meetings are deeply ingrained in the state’s traditions, Representative Carol Shea-Porter’s campaign Web site had this message for visitors: “No upcoming events scheduled. Please visit us again soon!”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 AM


Allen puts on historic shooting display: He sets record with eight treys (Bob Hohler, June 7, 2010, Boston Globe)

Three nights after Ray Allen sat helplessly foul-ridden on the Celtics bench while his teammates pursued an NBA title, Allen last night played the avenger, rising from basketball’s version of the canvas with such record-setting force that he changed the course of the championship series.

Pow. Allen all but KO’d the Lakers defense single-handedly as he struck for 32 points, including a Finals-record eight 3-pointers to power the Celtics to a series-tying 103-94 victory in Game 2 at a sold-out Staples Center.

It was a world title fight, as basketball audiences in 215 countries witnessed Allen’s televised masterwork. The game was broadcast in 41 languages, and you could all but imagine the superlatives tossed Allen’s way in every tongue from Togo to South Philly.

“He’s a master of his art,’’ Glen Davis said as the Celtics prepared to jet home in far better position than before Allen’s remarkable performance.

Allen’s eight treys, including seven in the first half, broke the record for the NBA Finals shared by himself, Scottie Pippen, and Kenny Smith.

David Stern couldn't afford a 2-0 series.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


Black Is Also a Color (Barry Schwabsky, June 21, 2010, The Nation)

Where most observers saw madness and aggression in Matisse's work, his one great early defender among the critics, Guillaume Apollinaire, saw a "Cartesian master." "We are not here in the presence of an extravagant or extremist undertaking," Apollinaire argued. "Matisse's art is eminently reasonable." The poet was being sly, knowing as he did that to be reasonable, or rather to put one's reason into practice, can be a most extreme undertaking.

There's a guy who didn't realize where the Age of Reason was headed, even after looking at the crappy art it was producing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


A New Kind of Drunkenness: The greatness of gin. (Troy Patterson, June 4, 2010, Slate)

Among the many moods of gin.Among the many moods of ginBarroom folklore conveys truths greater than verifiable fact could ever provide, so let's accept as reality that the most refreshing of summertime cocktails derives its name from the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. The hoax was a kind of guttersnipe hunt: The prankster would first lead the victim to think that a mystery man known as Tom Collins was spreading foul lies about him. With the victim on the hook, the prankster would then reveal that this scoundrel, Collins, could be found at one particular watering hole or another. The mark would then charge into the joint, demanding to see Tom Collins and ready to demand satisfaction—at which point the barkeep would present him with a tall, cool, good tart gin drink topped with fizz. The quaff must have been especially welcome after storming around town all day in pursuit of a phantom slanderer.

The legend of the hoax reflects gin's properties as a quickening zing on the palate, seriously mischievous. Gin comes to us from Holland, where the physician Franciscus Silvius began treating the body with this spirit in the 1600s. (The "Dutch courage" we commonly enjoy here is—like genever, its full-bodied cousin—flavored with juniper, coriander, and other botanicals, but we can discuss its particulars another time, perhaps over a herring platter.) In the 1700s, a craze for "Madame Geneva" swept England with such force as to generate statistics that defy belief. Iain Gately writes in Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol that by 1723, it was as if "every man, woman, and child in London knocked back more than a pint of gin per head per week." The lower classes bore the brunt of a resultant moral panic, as a tract by the novelist Henry Fielding indicates: "A new kind of drunkenness, unknown to our ancestors, is lately sprung up amongst us, which, if not put a stop to, will infallibly destroy a great part of the inferior people."

Let's chalk it up to the daze of mystery enshrouding so many quality drinking sessions that a gutter swill is now a respectable elixir.

Clay Shirky makes a reasonable argument that gin was just an earlier version of tv.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 AM


Conservatives should favor free immigration (Alejandro Reuss, June 4, 2010, The Progressive)

Conservatives who claim to defend individual liberty should favor free immigration.

Restrictions on immigration are big government intrusions on the rights of people to move, live and work where they please.

If conservatives really believe in small government, they should not favor border walls or patrols, workplace raids or deportations. In fact, they should call for the elimination of all restrictions on immigration.

...only for themself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 AM


Pelosi's Loss Could Be Obama's Gain: A pivot to the center (and re-election) would be easier without the House speaker. (Fred Barnes, 6/07/10, WSJ)

In Washington these days, President Obama is rumored to be hoping Republicans capture the House of Representatives in the midterm election in November. There's no evidence for this speculation, so far as I know, but it's hardly far-fetched. If Mr. Obama wants to avert a fiscal crisis and win re-election in 2012, he needs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be removed from her powerful post. A GOP takeover may be the only way.

Given the deficit-and-debt mess that Mr. Obama has on his hands, a Republican House would be a godsend. A Republican Senate would help, too. A Republican majority, should it materialize, could be counted on to pass significant cuts in domestic spending next year—cuts that Mrs. Pelosi and her allies in the House Democratic hierarchy would never countenance.

June 6, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Columnist denounced (Howard Kurtz, 6/06/10, Washington Post)

Helen Thomas has sparked a furor by declaring that Jews should abandon Israel. In a video posted last week on a site called RabbiLIVE.com, founded by a Long Island rabbi, the Hearst Newspapers columnist, who's covered the White House seemingly forever, tells an unidentified interviewer that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine."

Asked where they should go, Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, says: "Go home. Poland. Germany. And America and everywhere else."

In a statement, B'nai B'rith President Dennis Glick calls Thomas's remarks "contemptible," saying: "Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany -- site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history -- is beyond offensive."

Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischertold me that "Hearst should let her go. She should not get a pass for saying something so terrible and offensive."

Former Clinton White House aide Lanny Davis accused Thomas of "an anti-Semitic rant" and asked whether the White House Correspondents Association would yank her credentials "if she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 PM


Scotland refuse to back England in South Africa as survey reveals just 24 per cent will support Fabio Capello's side (Brian Marjoribanks, 7th June 2010, Daily Mail)

Less than a quarter of Scots will be supporting England at the forthcoming World Cup in South Africa.

The findings of a YouGov poll, commissioned for the Scottish Daily Mail and published in Sportsmail, reveal that only 24 per cent of those asked said they will be giving Fabio Capello's men their backing.

A further 24 per cent hope they do badly and will be actively supporting anyone but England, while 38 per cent did not care whether England do well or badly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


Goalkeepers will be England's weak link, claims Casillas (MASSIMO MARZOCCHI, 6/07/10, The Scotsman)

"None of the keepers have played even European Cup level, that's the highest level you can play at club level.

"And if you have never played in the top club competition in the world, you are going to find it hard to perform at the top international level in the world when even more eyes are on you.

"If you look at myself, Gigi Buffon of Italy and Julio Cesar of Brazil, we are keepers who've all won European Championships, World Cups and European Cups.

"At this level nerves play a big part and any mistake a goalkeeper makes is going to be scrutinised.

"It's not always about ability at the World Cup, it's about having been there before and knowing how to handle the big games."

England coach Fabio Capello has left England's fans guessing as to who his first-choice goalkeeper will be in South Africa, but Casillas believes he knows who will get the nod.

"I don't see that England coach Fabio Capello has any choice but to play Robert Green," he added.

"It doesn't matter if Joe Hart has more natural ability. To throw him into the World Cup with no experience would be crazy and Fabio is far more intelligent than that. He has stuck with Robert Green throughout the qualifying stages and that is the way I am sure it will stay."

...thanks to the injuries to James and Rio Ferdinand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM


Rush Limbaugh Wedding Features Elton John Performance (Ian Ritz, 6/06/10, Epoch Times)

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh, known for his firm right wing political views, wed for the fourth time. He got a little help from unlikely guest performer Elton John.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


GeekWeek Exclusive: World Cup 2010 Downloadable Viewing Guide (Big Daddy Wolf | Jun 6 2010, Geek Week)

With the "World's Greatest Sporting Event" about to start on June 11, 2010, we have created an easy to follow viewing guide showing you where and when you can see all 64 of the matches if you live in the USA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Donovan danger: The searing speed and will to win of Landon Donovan can hurt England on Saturday (David Moyes, 6/06/10, Times of London))

Landon Donovan arrived at Everton in January with a nice southern California tan and we laughed because when he left he was as white as me. Landon lost his colour on Merseyside but he gained a lot of friends and a lot of credit. And Everton gained — significantly. For the United States to have a good World Cup, they’ll need Landon to do well. He’s the one who can give them some special moments.

The players and staff at Everton took about 60 seconds of his debut to understand his value. He’s the kingpin of the American team, the closest thing his country have to a big soccer star, yet he has no ego. That was, perhaps, the biggest thing that struck you about him. You noticed it when he walked into the dressing room and you noticed it after about a minute of his first game for us, away to Arsenal. He was playing on our right. The ball got knocked down the line, Gael Clichy set off on the run and he turned and tracked Clichy, step for step, for 70 yards. At that point the lads said: “You’ll do for us, any day.” He showed exactly the team-oriented spirit we want at Everton, not to mention fantastic speed to stay with Clichy. He came off with cramp after 70 minutes because he’d worked so hard, and afterwards every player patted him on the back.

Landon epitomises the total-effort, team-focused American attitude that will confront England on Saturday. And there are also special elements in his game. Traditionally, USA sides are built on their players’ honesty and endeavour but the current one has two footballers, Landon and Clint Dempsey, who possess something of a different dimension.

...David Moyes would be a great choice for US National coach--though Tony Pulis, Martin O'Neill and Roy Hodgson would all do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Table soccer aims to be taken seriously as a sport: Table football or 'kicker' as it's often known as in Germany, is not just a pub game, but a serious sport. So competitive, that one professor has even made a robot that can challenge the best players. (Deutsche-Welle, 6/06/10)

Making the transition from pub player to professional player is something that 25 year old Thomas Hettich hopes to do. He started off playing for fun eight years ago, but is now president of the local table football club in Aidlingen, just outside Stuttgart.

"The basic moves you can learn in a few hours," Hettich told Deutsche Welle. "But to progress from a pub player to a professional, the concentration is higher, the control of the ball is higher, it's faster… To be perfect you need weeks, months, years."

TFC. Aidlingen play in the Baden-Wuerttemberg league, which is one of several regional leagues in Germany. The best teams in these leagues are promoted to the national league (or bundesliga). Unlike soccer, there is not the money in table soccer to have weekly matches, so these leagues are often decided at big tournaments during the year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


A massive sand storm hits a village in Golmud, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


'The Mighty Uke': A Musical Underdog Makes A Comeback (Susan Stamberg, June 4, 2010, NPR)

[A]s a new documentary demonstrates, the uke has made a comeback.

The Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog opens with shots of Hawaiian virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro — now 33 — in New York City wearing jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt, playing his ukulele with brilliance and brio. Director Tony Coleman describes Shimbukuro's technique as "ukulele shock and awe. He's an athletic performer, full of expression." Shimbukuro's mother handed him a ukulele when he was 4, and a little more than two decades later, his version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" went viral on YouTube.

A New Generation Of Players

Tony Coleman traveled with the documentary's producer, Margaret Meagher, in search of all kinds of artists who now play the instrument. They followed uke clubs and orchestras in the U.S., Canada and other places around the world. They found artists like Shimbukuro and Canadian virtuoso James Hill, who is also featured in the documentary. Hill grew up in Langley, British Columbia, where he began playing when he was 8 — though not necessarily by choice.

"When I got to grade 4, they just handed me a ukulele," he says. "It was part of your standard-issue kind of school equipment."

Hill adds that he thinks the little instrument creates community.

"When people come to a ukulele performance, more often than not they bring their ukuleles with them," he says. "And they'll sit there in the audience waiting for the moment where they are asked to join in. Contrast that with a symphony performance — nobody brings their oboe."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Soccer Conquers the World (Toby Miller, 5/30/10, The Chronicle Review)

One in every two people in the world is expected to watch the cup on television. Nike, McDonald's, and Coca-Cola—American brands all—see it as a much bigger deal than the Beijing Olympics, two years ago. Major sponsors are paying as much as $40-million for the privilege of associating with the event. Coke's biggest promotion ever includes a deal with YouTube whereby viewers from around the world will post their goal celebrations. Anheuser-Busch and Visa, too, are heavily involved: The Visa Match Planner is a cellphone application that provides scores, retail information, and opportunities to chat about the tournament.

It was not always so, among American advertisers, sports fans—or, until the 1990s, scholars. But soccer—make that football—has become big business in a globalized world. In the last World Cup, in 2006, Anheuser-Busch was famously ambushed, to use marketers' argot, by smarter foreign opposition. It had exclusive beer-promotion rights to the event, but a Dutch brewer circumvented that by giving thousands of branded lederhosen to Dutch fans in team colors. The intellectual-property regime has developed since then; World Cup lawyers now have obtained an injunction preventing Kulula, a South African airline, from advertising itself as "Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What."

MTV, which does not have the right to carry the games, will run spots around the world during the cup with the tag line: "We understand why you aren't watching MTV." ESPN Deportes, Disney's U.S. Spanish-language channel, doesn't have the rights, either, but it's dispatching 25 reporters to South Africa and is running a promotion called "90 minutos no son suficientes" (90 minutes aren't enough), troping the duration of matches to indicate the importance of background and synoptic material as well as play-by-play coverage. [...]

After the Communist-bloc revolutions overturned the state-socialist sports systems, the system of cultural labor destroyed the club and national teams that had been built up over decades. Within two years, Torpedo Moscow, for example, had sold 23 players to Western clubs; top talent was desperate to leave in search of higher pay and better quality of life. Home sides were left with cash balances to pay inflated wages to second-raters.

That gives us a clue to part of the reason for soccer's globalism: It is a major site of international mobility, via what could be called a New International Division of Cultural Labor, a concept that I have been using with collaborative research teams for 20 years to analyze both sports and the media. Players move because of several factors beyond talent and money. There is a clear link between imperial history and job destination in the case of Latin Americans going to Spain, Portugal, and Italy, or Africans playing in France, while cultural ties draw Scandinavians to Britain. A small labor aristocracy experiences genuine class mobility in financial terms, underpinned by a large reserve army of players. A Professional Football Players' Observatory tracks players' success and value and comes complete with an interactive online instrument to illustrate migration (eurofootplayers.org).

In the wealthy West, an even more significant soccer revolution was brewing after 1989, as the Belgian midfielder Jean-Marc Bosman appealed to the European Court of Justice against his suspension by the Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association for seeking an overseas transfer. The right to freedom of movement for European Union workers led the court to rule in Bosman's favor in 1995. That decision, opposing restriction on movement and upholding freedom of labor within the European Union, has prevented the imposition of quotas on foreign players. Immigration authorities' power to decide whether players from outside the EU have sufficiently rare and demonstrable skills to merit a work permit has become the only formal barrier to labor-market entry. Even those rules can be circumvented through the accelerated awarding of dual citizenship and the use of European nurseries to assimilate young players before their formal entry into the football labor market.

The essence of the decision was that soccer is a business like any other. The Belgian association had argued that perfect competition is impossible and undesirable in sport, since the very viability of soccer rests on a continuing number of equivalently strong clubs. The Court of Justice disagreed. That does not mean it rejected the notion that soccer has noneconomic, cultural aspects tied to regional and national identity—the latter was noted in the decision. It does mean that the court was suspicious of the association's claim without supporting evidence that culture is not a cloak for economic gain via anticompetitive conduct.

Facing the threat of fines from the European Commission, FIFA in 1996 discontinued rules restricting the number of foreigners who could play. Within a few months, cross-European player mobility increased sharply, and a talent gap between wealthy teams and also-rans widened. Top performers were able to command unheard-of salaries, increasing wage disparities, and top clubs dispensed with their youth-development policies. Widespread anxiety was expressed that clubs would buy teams rather than develop them. The EU seemed to stick to its view that soccer is a commodity like any other: Rules of competition applied to the sport, and its players were workers like any other, with the right to work for whom they pleased. Even as elite players celebrated their freedom, though, many also felt that they lacked a sufficiently powerful union to counter the organizational power of employers and administrators.

The globalization of soccer labor markets has also generated new forms of identity—one effect of which is to question the meaning and efficacy of nationalism.

It will be interesting to see if capitalism saves the game from itself. Consider that hoodlums have basically been priced out of modern stadiums, that the free flow of immigrants and removal of nationalist quotas means a fan's favorite player isn't particularly likely to share his own ethnicity, and that the massive importation of Latin Americans, Eastern Europeans, Africans and the like by the United States is bringing America into the center of the game from its far periphery, which will revolutionize the sport. Basically, Americans are being attracted to soccer because soccer has been Americanized, a process which will only accelerate going forward.

The Ideas guide to the World Cup: It’s not really about the soccer (Adam Grundey, June 6, 2010, Boston Globe)

[I]t’s still possible to appreciate what the rest of the world sees in the World Cup. Not by suddenly becoming a soccer fan — if you don’t have a taste for 0-0 ties, you may never really enjoy the game. We’re talking about the rest of the story: Once every four years, the World Cup gives the world a venue for settling old grudges, creating new ones, making grown men cry (fans and players alike), and generally exposing the mutual disdain and bad behavior that underlie our shared human experience. Plus, the fans dance afterward. What’s not to love?

Herewith, a guide to enjoying the World Cup without caring one bit about soccer.

Pick your antihero

Some of the sport’s biggest names are also some of the most odious individuals on the planet. Take Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo — blessed with lightning speed, tricky feet, and a venomous shot, he still prefers to spend much of his time trying to draw penalties by executing graceful swallow dives whenever anyone dares to attempt to take the ball off him. In between times, he can be seen strutting around the field, pouting furiously if his teammates fail to pass him the ball for more than a minute.

World Cup favourites Spain have finally added belief to brilliance: Euro 2008 transformed Spain from chronic underachievers to football's most formidable force (Sid Lowe, 6/06/10, guardian.co.uk)
From dark horse to fiery steed, Spain were changed for ever by Euro 2008. Thanks to Fernando Torres's goal against Germany and Cesc Fàbregas's penalty against Italy, la selección finally won a major tournament – and a new identity. A new mentality. This Time, England's 1982 song, could have been written for them. Declaring themselves favourites is nothing new but this time, more than any other time, Spaniards actually believe it. "If we'd said four years ago that Spain would win the European Championships and go into the World Cup with a real chance of winning it, you'd have said we were mad," Torres admits. "But not now." [...]

This generation of players is, quite simply, better than those before. Raúl is often declared the finest Spanish footballer ever, certainly their best goalscorer. Yet David Villa is now only seven behind him. Having played 46 games fewer. If Torres is fit, Fàbregas doesn't get in the side and few complain. Mikel Arteta never gets in the squad and no one has even noticed. As Thierry Henry puts it: "They have Villa and Torres; they have Xabi Alonso and Cesc, Iniesta and Xavi, and Silva. It's incredible."

Euro 2008 underlined the depth of talent and also enhanced it, changing perceptions, strengthening the selección. Without it, attitudes coming into South Africa would surely be very different. The chances too.

No one here will forget Torres putting the ball beyond Jens Lehmann. That goal on 29 June 2008 ended a 44-year wait. Spain, along with England, were the ultimate underachievers. Now England stand alone, contemplating a four-decade drought. But, says Torres, the moment Spain won Euro 2008 – the moment that not only changed their history but their future too – happened a week earlier, when Fàbregas's penalty beat Gianluigi Buffon in a shoot-out. That was the turning point.

World Cup 2010: The Young Guns (BILLY WITZ, 6/05/10, NY Times)
Group A: Javier Hernández

Mexico, 22, forward

Eighteen months ago, Hernández was struggling to get on the field for Chivas de Guadalajara, questioning whether he should give up on his career. Now, after taking the Mexican league by storm, Hernández, 22, has joined the vanguard of promising young Mexicans who have many thinking the country could advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1986. Known as Chicharito, or Little Pea, Hernández has the type of game — athletic, strong in the air and decisive in front of the goal — that translates well on the international stage. At least that is the feeling of Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson, who recently scooped up Hernández for next season.

Landon Donovan will be the main threat England must counter (Henry Winter, 6/06/10, Daily Telegraph)
For all Clint Dempsey's bright forays down the left and Edson Buddle's eye for goal, the Americans' real danger emanates from the quick feet and clever mind of Donovan.

The number of Everton shirts in the lively Ruimsig Stadium crowd were not solely present to pay homage to the Tims, Howard and Cahill. Donovan's 10-week midseason spell at Goodison Park had given the English first-hand experience of his calibre.

Two goals in 13 appearances told only half the story. Donovan gave Everton impetus at a critical stage of the year, his ability to settle so swiftly reflecting his footballing intelligence and team-mindedness.

He was named Everton's player of the month for January and genuine dismay swept Gwladys Street when Donovan's Major League Soccer loan period expired. Goodison had taken the hard-working American to its heart. [...]

Two goals in 13 appearances told only half the story. Donovan gave Everton impetus at a critical stage of the year, his ability to settle so swiftly reflecting his footballing intelligence and team-mindedness.

He was named Everton's player of the month for January and genuine dismay swept Gwladys Street when Donovan's Major League Soccer loan period expired. Goodison had taken the hard-working American to its heart.

World Cup a chance to enjoy soccer's subtleties (Bill Lyon, 6/06/10, Philly.com)
The World Cup has no equal in stirring passions and inflaming patriotic fervor.

So then, once every four years the Earth takes a timeout and spends a summer month held in thrall by the World Cup. That time has come 'round again, beginning Friday and running to July 11, and it is worth an emotional investment. It is an event to overshadow any Super Bowl, any World Series, even, perhaps, any Olympics.

The host for this one is South Africa. (Former President Bill Clinton is leading the U.S. bid to host the 2018 World Cup, or 2022.)

The land of Cape Town and Johannesburg, a land savaged by an AIDS epidemic and plagued by poverty, crime, and raging racial tensions, has mortgaged its future on this World Cup and what it might mean to a land so ravaged.

It has spent a reported $1.3 billion on 10 soccer stadiums, half of them new. The populace, at every turn, is urged to be on their better-than-best behavior. But there are sobering, foreboding forecasts at every turn - reports of prostitutes flying in from all over the continent and a U.S. State Department travel alert regarding heightened terrorist activity.

As for the United States, it is still not a power in the global game, and the consensus reckoning is that this team is not the best in the World Cup field of 32, nor is it the worst. The Americans open play Saturday against England.

There is some worry about the defense, but no doubt at all about the last line of that defense, the keeper, Tim Howard, who at 6-feet-3 is built along the lines of a tight end and was a star basketball player in high school in New Jersey.

His is an inspirational story, the stuff from which to weave dreams - he has Tourette syndrome, which induces involuntary jerks and rapid blinking, but despite this he has made himself into a stalwart goalie, good enough to play overseas in the Premier League.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Hero to zero Obama may not save the world after all (Gerald Warner, 6/06/10, The Scotsman)

TALK of the New Politics in Britain, at its most inflated, is understated compared to the millenarian, "Millions now living will never die" hysteria that swept the United States on 20 January, 2009, the day of Barack Obama's inauguration as President.

That was little more than 16 months ago, but it seems like another age. Never has any US politician's reputation crumbled so quickly.

Obama's position is beyond dire. According to Rasmussen's latest ratings, just 25 per cent of Americans "strongly approve" of Obama's performance, while 41 per cent "strongly disapprove". His presidential approval rating is -16. His ratings for honesty and for being firm and decisive have plummeted. Nor is this simply a backlash from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: as long ago as last November, Obama had reached a point where fewer than half of Americans thought he would make the right decisions for the country. Even then he had negative ratings on the economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, unemployment, illegal immigration, the federal budget deficit – and on health care, his supposed flagship policy.

What's to like?

...being elected editor of the Harvard Law Review isn't sufficient preparation for the job of Chief Execuitive of the USA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Wooden and Love (Joe Posnanski, June 5th, 2010)

[P]erhaps the most striking talent of John Wooden was his ability to put words to the wordless, to explain what we believe we already know — to make the ordinary transcendent. He never stopped trying to figure out what is real in all this. Take his famous pyramid of success. Wooden had worked up to come up with a very simple and satisfying expression of what success means. “Success,” he said and wrote, “is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

It’s all there, right? Success is a peace of mind. How do you get this peace of mind? How do you reach success? Well it comes from knowing that you tried as hard as you could try and did the very best you could with your life. Wooden had spent a lot of time thinking about success, a lot of time asking himself “What does it really mean?” When he came up with this definition, it sounded right to him. Yes. Success is peace of mind. Yes, the key is trying your best.

But, of course, even these things were too misty and blurred for John Wooden’s unshakeable curiosity. What does THAT mean? What does it mean to try your best? How does someone go about trying to become the best person he or she is capable of becoming? On John Wooden’s amazing website there is a series of fascinating interviews with him about life and love and his father and so on. Two of my favorite little videos come out of the direct questions: What were your strengths and weaknesses as a coach? John Wooden said that his biggest weakness was as a basketball strategist — he thought himself too stuck in his ways and not willing enough to change. And he said that in the early years of his career, he allowed things that were beyond his control (such as UCLA’s terrible practice facilities in those first 17 years) to affect him.

And when asked asked about his strengths he said that he really knew how to organize a practice, knew how to get the most out of the short time he and the team was given. He did this by reducing, constantly reducing, digging deeper and deeper until he reached the heart of the matter, the crux of things. So, when Wooden realized that his reduction of success was still too indistinct, he spent the next 14 years coming up with his pyramid of success. You’ve seen it. And it’s up at the top of this post.

Competitive greatness is at the top — that, to Wooden, is success. Competitive greatness. That’s where the peace of mind rests.

How do you get there? Wooden figured you needed to key things: Poise and Confidence. What is poise? Wooden said it was being true to yourself. Not getting rattled when faced with adversity. What is confidence? That self knowledge that Wooden believed was at the core of success, that belief that you have prepared all you can and are ready for whatever comes.

Well, wait, how do you develop poise and confidence? Wooden had three principles below: Condition, Skill and Team Spirit. Condition is that preparation, mentally and physically, for whatever you are trying to accomplish. You have to prepare; nothing great comes without preparation. Skill, Wooden said, is knowing what you’re doing and being able to do it fast and right. You have to develop that ability. Team spirit is that eagerness to sacrifice your own glory for something bigger. Wooden had originally used the word “willingness” in place of eagerness but did not think it was strong enough. You have to be eager to contribute to something larger.

There’s another layer below (Self Control … Alertness … Initiative … Intentness) and then another layer below that (Industriousness … Friendship … Loyalty … Cooperation … Enthusiasm). And when you dive into the pyramid, really study it, really see how one principle fits into another, how Wooden was saying that the willingness to work hard cannot lead to success without a sense of cooperation and how enthusiasm is naked without the ability to control your emotions, it’s then that maybe you can begin to see the genius of John Wooden. He did not ever rest, did not ever fall back on “oh, you know what I mean,” did not ever stop pushing through the fog.

The most often repeated cliche in sports, I suspect, is “You have to take it one day at a time.” Athletes, coaches, executives say those words again and again, each time as if it is something profound — take it one day at a time, take it one day at a time — and perhaps in those words IS something profound. Perhaps somewhere in those words, there is a secret to sports success, and life success, and happiness. But where? Most of us don’t think much about it. Wooden did.

“Be prepared and be honest,” John Wooden said. And also “Never lie, don’t whine.”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” he asked.

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team,” he said.

“When everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking,” he said.

“If you get yourself too engrossed in things over which you have control, it will adversely affect things over which you do have control,” he said.

“No one achieves; we’re all underachievers to one degree or another,” he said.

And so on and so on. See, John Wooden wasn’t interested in the simple notion that you have to take things one day at a time — he cared about HOW you take things one day at a time. He wasn’t interested in winning games — he wanted to build teams that played so well together that winning simply happened. From the days when he was young and shot free throws, one after another, in a small town in Indiana, John Wooden wasn’t interested in what life taught about basketball. He was interested in what basketball taught about life.

John Wooden: What the legendary coach got wrong about basketball. (Tommy Craggs, June 5, 2010, Slate)

It is another Wooden contribution, however, that I fear will endure. He has given us the basketball moralist, someone for whom the fundamentals are themselves a kind of faith. Wooden provided a framework for linking on-court play with virtue. A bounce pass is not just fundamentally sound, but somehow morally expedient; a missed dunk is a straight path to damnation. Leave aside some of the more repellent conclusions this might lead one to—it is simply a boring and blinkered way of watching a basketball game. This, ultimately, is John Wooden's legacy: He taught us to take a profane bit of beautiful exercise and turn it into church.

In other words, he made basketball about others rather than just the self.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Let's End American Dominance: an excerpt from The Icarus Syndrome (Peter Beinart, 6/05/10, Daily Beast)

What America needs today is a jubilant undertaker, someone—like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan—who can bury the hubris of the past while convincing Americans that we are witnessing a wedding, not a funeral. The hubris of dominance, like the hubris of reason and the hubris of toughness before it, has crashed against reality’s shoals. Woodrow Wilson could not make politics between nations resemble politics between Americans. Lyndon Johnson could not halt every communist advance. And we cannot make ourselves master of every important region on earth. We have learned that there are prices we cannot pay and burdens we cannot bear, and our adversaries have learned it too. We must ruthlessly accommodate ourselves to a world that has shown, once again, that it is not putty in our hands.

Demographics, culture and economics--nevermind military prowess--mean that we couldn't give up, nor even slow down the growth of, our dominance if we wanted to, but you can understand the desire of the Left and the Right to do so, and to eschew responsibility for our neighbors. But consider if, rather than an affluent white male American liberal, you were a North Korean, an Iranian, a Venezuelan, a Tibetan, a Chinese baby girl, an African girl of circumcision age, etc., etc., etc....would you think it was past time for America to stop remaking the world in our image?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Catching Perfection (YOGI BERRA , 5/22/98, NY Times)

As a catcher, you take responsibility for every pitch (except for the one that hits a batter in the back and starts a brawl -- that's just a pitcher losing his head). You have to know early on what's working for a pitcher. Larsen had a good fastball and curve and slider, just like Wells. Can you believe those guys came from the same high school? Anyway, Larsen threw 97 pitches and didn't shake me off once.

It's not always so easy, because pitchers think they're so smart all the time. You have to handle each one differently. You have to know which guys you holler at, which guys you just pet.

Allie Reynolds, even when he threw those two no-hitters in 1951, would try to get too cute with a big lead. Vic Raschi, you had to get on him. I'd yell at him, ''Pitching for 20 years and you still can't get the ball over.'' And he'd yell back, ''Get back behind the plate you . . .,'' finishing the sentence off with a word that can't be printed here.

Bob Turley was the opposite. He was a little wild, and I'd just pet him by saying, ''You're better than that.'' When Whitey Ford would throw those slow curves on 3-0, I'd lose it and let him hear about it. I'd really let him hear about it.

Larsen was a little different. You had to get on him a little bit. Remember that Ol' Gooney Bird -- that's what we called him -- had a good year for us and could throw with the best of them, but sometimes his mind wasn't in the game. In that same World Series, Casey Stengel pulled him in the second inning of Game 2 because he got behind a lot of those Dodger hitters and walked four batters. [...]

A perfect game is incredible, but one in the World Series is a miracle, and I'll always cherish it. Right after the game, I had Pete Sheehy, our equipment manager, bronze my catcher's mitt. It's one of my most treasured possessions, and it's going right in that museum they're building for me in Montclair. Like I said, perfect games kinda live forever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


The Wages of Sin is Laughter (Alexander Nemser, Agni)

[Joseph Mitchell] is concerned not only with his subjects’ relation to their physical surroundings but with the ways in which they conceive of their places in their own histories. Mitchell’s pieces are accordingly not only portraits but recordings as well. They are Olympic feats of listening and transcription, and the speeches they capture are littered with digressions, syntactical twists, and repetitions. “The Rivermen” contains a monologue of about a dozen pages on the techniques of shadfishing and “The Gypsy Women,” another late piece, is a nearly forty-page quoted disquisition on gypsy life in New York, including a play-by-play account of the bajour or wallet-switching con. Mitchell did not just shoot the breeze; he stuffed it and mounted it on the wall. In a sense, he was assembling a minor archive of oral histories. His work brings to mind the interviewing expeditions sanctioned by the Works Projects Administration in the 1930s, which collected the eyewitness accounts of men and women who had escaped slavery on the Underground Railroad, watched the Battle of Bull Run, or skinned buffalo with Buffalo Bill.


Mitchell’s first meeting with Joseph Gould took place at the Jefferson, “one of those big, roomy, jukeboxy diners,” which was already defunct by the time Mitchell’s profile of Gould was published. Gould was a homeless, toothless Harvard graduate who claimed to be writing a monumental prose work titled “The Oral History of Our Time,” which was to include, among other accounts, “summaries of innumerable Union Square and Columbus Circle harangues, testimonies given by converts at Salvation Army meetings, and the addled opinions of scores of park-bench oracles and gin-mill savants.” By his own account, dressing in the light of the red exit sign of the Bowery flophouse where he was staying, he would tiptoe out to the lobby to write down his memories of the previous evening’s conversations, proceeding to the genealogy room at the Public Library, a cafeteria in Times Square, and three round trips on the West Side subway, writing all the while. Every time Mitchell met Gould, the Oral History had grown. On one occasion, Gould claimed it was “‘approximately nine million two hundred and fifty-five thousand words long, or,’ he added, throwing his head back proudly, ‘about a dozen times as long as the Bible.’” Mitchell’s first profile of Gould appeared in The New Yorker in 1942.

Gould epitomizes the marginal figure of the Mitchell profile, the oddball, Socrates of the sidewalk, or weird world expert. Mitchell writes that he never saw him without thinking “of one of those men I used to puzzle over when I read the Bible as a child, who, for transgressions that seemed mysterious to me, had been ‘cast out.’” After writing his first profile of Gould, Mitchell kept up the acquaintance and later realized that the Oral History was a fabrication, that no such book existed except in Gould’s mind. The hundreds of dime-store notebooks Gould stashed with friends all over the city who believed in the existence of his work were, in fact, filled only with endless variations on a handful of subjects, including the death of his father from blood poisoning and an expedition of phrenological fieldwork on two Indian reservations that he made in his youth. In ceaselessly rewriting these few essays, Gould was in fact only recording his own history, not a chronicle of the streets as he proclaimed.

The experience inspired Mitchell to write a second, much longer, melancholy, even regretful profile of Gould, in which he told the complete story of his realization. “Joe Gould’s Secret,” published in 1965, is as much an auto-portrait as a portrait of Gould, and one of its most disturbing features is the gathering of details identifying one man with the other, down to Gould’s love of graveyards and his threadbare Brooks Brothers suits, Mitchell’s own trademark costume. Drawn into the coiling reiterations of Gould’s conversation, Mitchell finds himself featured in Gould’s conception of the past: “By knowing so much about his past, I had, in effect, I realized, become a part of his past. By talking to me, he could bring back his past, he could keep it alive.” The piece culminates in a reflection on Gould’s act in which Mitchell mourns Gould, appreciates him, rages at him, forgives him, and puzzles over him. He describes his plan for his own novel about the young reporter from North Carolina of which he never wrote a word, and the description rises into a vision of a street preacher preaching a scene of resurrection: “All seeds stand for resurrection and all eggs stand for resurrection. The Easter egg stands for resurrection. So do the eggs in the English sparrow’s nest up under the eaves in the ‘L’ station. So does the egg you have for breakfast. So does the caviar rich people eat. So does shad roe.” Although Mitchell remained as a staff writer for another thirty years, “Joe Gould’s Secret” was the last piece he published in The New Yorker.


Reflecting on the figure of Joe Gould, Mitchell later wrote, “Nowadays . . . when his name comes into my mind, it is followed instantly by another name—the name of Bartleby the Scrivener—and then I invariably recall Bartleby’s haunting, horrifyingly self-sufficient remark ‘I would prefer not to.’” In his comment Mitchell revealed the key not only to his depiction of Gould, or even to his pieces on the fixtures of the waterfront, but to a facet of the profile genre as a whole. In Melville’s short story, the narrator refers to Bartleby, an otherworldly scrivener or copyist on Wall Street, as “a bit of wreck in the mid Atlantic,” and later as “the last column of some ruined temple.” Figures from later New Yroker profiles like Henry Blanton, the “Last Cowboy” of Jane Kramer’s 1977 piece, like Henri Vaillancourt who makes bark canoes according to the age-old Indian method in John McPhee’s 1974 “Survival of the Bark Canoe,” like Mitchell’s George H. Hunter, are themselves like last columns, messages in bottles from past vessels on the sea.

Although the bulk of the pieces can rightfully be called profiles, The Bottom of the Harbor is really a meditation on transience and the rise and fall of fortune, not just in individual human lives, but in architecture, industries, and species. The structures in the book seem to bear the highwater mark left by the Flood. The lot where Sloppy Louie’s stands used to be underwater, and the implication throughout is that it will be again. One of the central images of the book comes from a boat captain who has “got the bottom of the harbor on the brain.” Over double bowls of oyster stew, the captain reports a dream in which New York Harbor has been “drained as dry as a bathtub when the plug is pulled.” The entire bottom is revealed, with “hundreds of ships of all kinds lying on their sides,” old wrecks full of worms, rusty anchors, old hawsers, stranded eels and a “skeleton standing waist-deep in a barrel of cement that the barrel had rotted off of.” In Mitchell’s pieces, history reveals itself in visions like this one, moments when sight into the depths is clear and the weight and variety of what is down there comes into view, or when the depths themselves come to the surface, as in Mitchell’s sight of a sea sturgeon rising out of the Hudson:

It was six or seven feet long, a big, full-grown sturgeon. It rose twice, and cleared the water both times, and I plainly saw its bristly snout and its shiny little eyes and its white belly and its glistening, greenish-yellow, bony-plated, crocodilian back and sides . . .

Why does no one write profiles like Mitchell anymore? Some claim that it is because people have lost the ability to really listen, that all the old buildings have been torn down, that no one writes about eccentrics anymore, that there are no genuine eccentrics left, only maniacs, liars, and showmen. Or that Mitchell wrote in a heroic age of writers. That the profile has become too psychological, too analytical, too aloof. That the relation between Americans and their work has soured and no one knows the history of his or her craft, and the world has become so ugly or complex or dispersed that things no longer mean what they used to. But the fact is, Mitchell was an unrepeatable phenomenon, a one-off uniquely attuned to the environments he sought out and recorded, and to the water he watched. It is not only that something particular has been lost, it is, as Mitchell himself showed, that something is always being lost, swallowed up by the ground, rolling away in a wave.

For Mitchell, the bottom of the harbor ultimately becomes an image of the past, of what is lost, of what remains mysterious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The deadly closing of the Israeli mind: The decline in Israel's reputation since the brutal attack on the Gaza flotilla is unlikely to influence the country's leaders (Ilan Pappé, 6/06/10, Independent)

Hamas, although the only government in the Arab world elected democratically by the people, has to be eliminated as a political as well as a military force. This is not only because it continues the struggle against the 40-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by launching primitive missiles into Israel – more often than not in retaliation to an Israel killing of its activists in the West Bank. But it is mainly due to its political opposition for the kind of "peace" Israel wants to impose on the Palestinians.

The forced peace is not negotiable as far as the Israeli political elite is concerned, and it offers the Palestinians a limited control and sovereignty in the Gaza Strip and in parts of the West Bank. The Palestinians are asked to give up their struggle for self-determination and liberation in return for the establishment of three small Bantustans under tight Israeli control and supervision.

The official thinking in Israel, therefore, is that Hamas is a formidable obstacle for the imposition of such a peace. And thus the declared strategy is straightforward: starving and strangulating into submission the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the densest space in the world.

The blockade imposed in 2006 is supposed to lead the Gazans to replace the current Palestinian government with one which would accept Israel's dictate – or at least would be part of the more dormant Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. In the meantime,Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and so the blockade became tighter. It included a ban of the most elementary commodities without which human beings find it difficult to survive. For want of food and medicine, for want of cement and petrol, the people of Gaza live in conditions that international bodies and agencies described as catastrophic and criminal.

...then Israel is going to have to accept Ariel Sharon's and let the Palestinians govern themselves.

June 5, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


Eric Zemmour provokes France’s elite with claims of national decline (Charles Bremner, 6/04/10, Times of London)

Eric Zemmour is earning fame and fortune charting his country’s decline, with his latest gloomy book Mélancolie Française flying off the shelves. [...]

The writer argues that France was destined for glory but everything went wrong when King Louis XIV lost to England. By inventing free trade and parliamentary democracy, the British outmanoeuvred the French on all fronts. “We always finish losing,” he said. “England managed to make out that Napoleon Bonaparte was the aggressor, when I believe that England was the aggressor.”

He said, however, that he admires Britain, and that he thinks that his ideas could be aired freely on the other side of the Channel.

British supremacy in the 19th century led to catastrophe, he said. “I profoundly believe that the English provoked the two world wars.” The US took up the role of global adversary, while Britain has concentrated on demolishing France in Europe, with the help of the French elite, he added.

The European Union was originally a French idea for controlling the continent, but British entry sabotaged the plan, he said. “When you talk to the Euro-enthusiast elite, they tell you ‘our adversary is England, they are stopping us uniting the continent, along with the Germans’.”

The thesis that lands Zemmour in the hottest water is his belief that France sealed its fate when it abandoned its tradition of assimilating immigrants, and embraced the concept of ethnic diversity. “French culture is not Muhammad,” he says. “It is François, it is Christian.”

The result is a new “barbarism”, with the emergence of Muslim ghettos that have broken away from society, he argues in his book. To back his thesis, he quotes Charles de Gaulle as saying that mixing Muslims and French Christians is “like blending oil and vinegar”.

He has the timeframe close, but it was following Descartes into Reason that began the French decline, an error the Anglosphere avoided. It's why France has no culture to assimilate immigrants to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Washington Asks: What to Do About Israel? (HELENE COOPER, 6/05/10, NY Times)

Some topics are so inflammatory that they are never discussed without first inserting a number of caveats. And so, when Anthony Cordesman, a foreign policy dignitary in this town’s think tank circuit, dropped an article on Wednesday headlined “Israel as a Strategic Liability,” he made sure to open with a plethora of qualifications. [...]

But once Mr. Cordesman had dispensed with what in the newspaper world is called the “to-be-sure” paragraphs, he laid out a dispassionate argument that has gained increased traction in Washington — both inside the Obama administration (including the Pentagon, White House and State Department) and outside, during forums, policy breakfasts, even a seder in Bethesda. Recent Israeli governments, particularly the one led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Cordesman argued, have ignored the national security concerns of its biggest benefactor, the United States, and instead have taken steps that damage American interests abroad.

“The depth of America’s moral commitment does not justify or excuse actions by an Israeli government that unnecessarily make Israel a strategic liability when it should remain an asset,” Mr. Cordesman wrote, in commentary for the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in strategy. “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States, as well as the United States to Israel, and that it become far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews.” [...]

Both President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have made the link in recent months between the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict and American security interests. During a press conference in April, Mr. Obama declared that conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure”; he drew an explicit tie between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

General Petraeus sounded a similar theme in Congressional testimony earlier this year, when he said that the lack of progress in the Middle East created a hostile environment for America. After a furor erupted, he said he wasn’t suggesting that soldiers were being put in harm’s way by American support for Israel, and he went to great lengths to point out the importance of America’s strategic partnership with Israel.

“But the status quo is unsustainable,” he said in an interview Friday.

...that a powerful portion of our moral obligation to any ally is that we counsel them to stop acting out of character with our shared ideals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Buddle’s 2 goals lead US over Australia 3-1 (RONALD BLUM, 06/05/10, AP)

Edson Buddle scored his first two international goals and Herculez Gomez added a third, leading the United States over Australia 3-1 Saturday in the Americans’ last warmup for their World Cup opener against England. [...]

Gomez, like Buddle a surprise pick for the World Cup roster, entered in the 82nd minute and scored from 8 yards in injury time off a pass from Landon Donovan. It was the second international goal for Gomez, who also scored against the Czech Republic last week.

It would be criminal not to start two guys scoring at their paces and one has to wonder why Jay DeMerit, who clearly can't be allowed to play in his current form, was left in for 90 minutes instead of giving other guys a look.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


John Wooden dies at 99; UCLA basketball coach won 10 national titles: Wooden's accomplishments during his 27-season tenure with the Bruins made him one of the greatest coaches in sports history. He also created the 'Pyramid of Success' motivational program. (Bill Dwyre and David Wharton, June 5, 2010, LA Times)

In 40 years of coaching high school and college, Wooden had only one losing season — his first. He finished with 885 wins and 203 losses, and his UCLA teams still hold an NCAA record for winning 88 consecutive games from 1971 through 1974.

The Bruins attained greatness during a golden age in Los Angeles sports. The Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale on the mound at newly built Dodger Stadium. The Lakers, with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, battled annually for the National Basketball Assn. championship. The USC football team, coached by John McKay, won several national titles.

But for all the success that local teams enjoyed, none could match UCLA for the sheer number of championships.

Wooden built his dynasty on simple precepts. He insisted that his squad be meticulously prepared and in top physical condition. No detail was overlooked. The first practice of each season, the coach would remind his players about pulling on socks smoothly and carefully lacing sneakers — there would be no excuse for debilitating blisters.

His workouts were so grueling that former players said they often were relieved to play in games.

In the 2005 book "Wooden on Leadership," guard Gail Goodrich recalled, "He believed that winning is a result of process, and he was a master of the process, of getting us to focus on what we were doing rather than the final score. One drill he had was to run a play over and over at full speed, but he wouldn't let us shoot the ball. He made us concentrate on what happened before the shot was taken, what happened to make it possible. He made us focus on execution. He built teams that knew how to execute."

Walton, in his book "Nothing but Net," wrote: "John Wooden was so intense during those practices. He never stopped moving, never stopped chattering away. Up and down the court he would pace, always barking out his pet little phrases."

Those phrases reflected another facet of Wooden's coaching style: He demanded crisp fundamentals and teamwork predicated on passing and cutting to the basket. He wanted his players to be smart, both on the court and in their lives away from the game.

Among Wooden's pithy maxims:

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."

"Flexibility is the key to stability."

"Be quick, but don't hurry."

This approach produced immediate results. Upon arriving in Westwood in 1948, Wooden inherited an underachieving team picked to finish last in the conference. Instead, the Bruins wound up with a 22-7 record. The next season, they won the conference championship.

Yet UCLA did not win a national title until Wooden's 16th season. To accomplish this, he had to do something that many coaches can't manage: He had to change. At the urging of assistant Jerry Norman, a former player added to the coaching staff in 1957, Wooden focused on defense and instituted a zone press that he had used infrequently since he was a high school coach. Norman also was energetic about recruiting, something for which Wooden had little appetite.

By the mid-1960s, the Bruins were so confident in their system that Wooden rarely bothered to scout opponents. He figured it was their job to stop the Bruins.

In the 1973 book "The Wizard of Westwood," longtime college coach Jerry Tarkanian told Dwight Chapin and Jeff Prugh, the authors of the book who both covered UCLA basketball for The Times, that Wooden "does a tremendous job of organizing and getting his teams ready to play. He makes very few adjustments during games. Other teams worry about what he's going to do — his press, his fast break. You're extremely conscious of them. They're hardly conscious of you at all."

Wooden was respected for more than just victories. The UCLA coach was equally revered for how his teams played the game — a style that reflected his personality. [...]

At Martinsville High School, Johnny Wooden — as he was known in those days — ran track, played baseball and became an all-state guard in basketball, leading his team to the state title in 1927. Most of the Big Ten Conference schools recruited him, Purdue winning out because of its academics and its renowned coach, Ward "Piggy" Lambert.

The Boilermakers played an aggressive, up-tempo style that suited Wooden, who became known as the "Indiana Rubber Man" for his tendency to bound around the court and dive for loose balls, then bounce back into the action. He was a three-time All-American and led the Boilermakers to their only national championship in 1932.

His senior year was noteworthy for two other reasons. Wooden won the conference Medal for Academic Achievement as an English major. Years later, he would place the honor among his favorites on a list that included induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Also in 1932, Wooden married his high school sweetheart, Nell Riley. He called her "the only girl I ever went with."


After graduation, Wooden played semi-professional basketball, barnstorming through the Midwest. He once made 134 consecutive free throws, earning a $100 bill from the team's owner, the first time he had ever seen currency so large.

But his principal occupation was as coach and English teacher at Dayton, Ky., High School, where he followed an initial 6-11 season with a more respectable 15-3 finish. After two years, he moved to South Bend, Ind., Central High and nurtured a string of winning teams.

During World War II, Wooden enlisted in the Navy to serve as a physical trainer for combat pilots. Upon his discharge in 1946, he took a job as athletic director and coach of the basketball and baseball teams at Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State University) in Terre Haute.

Again, his teams had winning seasons, but the young coach might best be remembered for a game his squad did not play. In his first season, Indiana State earned a spot in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Basketball tournament but was told that its lone black player, a reserve guard, was not welcome. Wooden declined the invitation.

The next season, the Sycamores, with a 27-7 record, were invited again. After discussions between Wooden and tournament officials, Clarence Walker became the first African American to compete in the postseason tournament.

Those two seasons at Indiana State — and a 44-15 record — were enough to attract interest from larger schools. It was good luck and bad weather that ultimately brought Wooden to the West Coast.

Both the University of Minnesota and UCLA sought to hire him, and he was partial to remaining in the Midwest. But Minnesota wanted him to retain the previous coach as an assistant; Wooden was set on bringing his own man. As negotiations continued, Wooden set a deadline for Minnesota to decide. When the deadline passed without the expected phone call from Minnesota, he accepted the UCLA offer. Hours later, Minnesota called to say that a heavy snowstorm had knocked out phone service. Administrators pleaded with him to back out of his agreement with UCLA.

Wooden insisted on keeping his word, even after he arrived on the Westwood campus and discovered why the program he was taking on had had only three winning seasons in the previous 17 years.

Here’s to John Wooden and a life well lived (TIM DAHLBERG, 06/04/10, AP)

“Learn as if you were going to live forever,” he would tell his players. “Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.”

John Wooden didn’t live forever. His tomorrow finally came Friday, when he quietly passed away just months before his 100th birthday.

The end came, fittingly enough, on the same UCLA campus where he tutored a player then known as Lew Alcindor. The same place he seemingly couldn’t lose with Bill Walton.

The place where he dispensed wisdom that his players remembered long after they had forgotten the X’s and O’s.

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player,” he would say. [...]

Walton was one of those with ability, and tons of it. The redhead was one of the greatest college players ever and the bedrock of the UCLA team in the early ’70s that won the 88 straight.

Walton was also very much an individual in a time of individualism. One day, during a break in the season, he showed up at practice with a wild, red beard, ready to play for a coach who didn’t allow facial hair.

“It’s my right,” he told Wooden.

“That’s good, Bill,” Wooden replied. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them. We’re going to miss you.”

John Wooden's life was a love letter (T.J. Simers, LA Times)
To say it is a sad day would be to risk meeting him again, and getting that look from John Wooden.

To say it is a time to be happy might not sound right, but you could hear the anticipation in his voice about this very day whenever he spoke about the chance to reunite with Nellie Riley, the love of his life.

He meant so much to so many, but it was the only girl he ever dated and then married who meant the most to him -- a love letter written from husband to wife on the 21st of every month to mark her death.

John Wooden's coaching legend started in Northern Kentucky: Dayton High player Ben Stull got Christmas cards from him 77 years later (Cincinnati.com, June 5, 2010)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


How many countries are there and what makes a nation?: World football's governing body FIFA has 208 member countries, the UN has 192 members. But how many countries are there really and what defines a nation? (Deutsche-Welle, 6/05/10)

According to the Montevideo Convention, which in 1933 set out the rules for defining a state, there are 203 nations worldwide. But that figure should be taken with a pinch of salt, said Momal-Vanian.

"Every student of international law knows about the Montevideo Convention, which says a country must fulfil four criteria for it to be a state: it must have a territory, a population, a government and the ability to enter into a relationship with other states."

The Convention doesn't say what nations this applies to, Momal-Vanian said, but pointed out that lists of countries are often created based on the text of the Convention.

The difference between 192 UN member states on the one hand and 203 or maybe even more on the other is politically explosive: Taiwan, Kosovo, Palestine, Somaliland, Western Sahara, Northern Iraq and Northern Cyprus – every one of those names stands for an unsolved political conflict. And all of these 'geographic entities' have at some point unilaterally declared their independence.

Marcelo Kohen, professor for International Law at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, said the international community was sceptical about these secessionist territories.

"You have many secessionist movements around the world, and they can proclaim independence, but this is nothing but words," he said.

The ever rising number is indicative of what a force for destabilization America has been in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


In defence of penalty shoot-outs (When Saturday Comes, 6/05/10)

And so the greatest game in the world will be decided by the lottery of a penalty shoot-out." The words of John Motson moments before England's penalty shoot-out defeat against West Germany at Italia 90. The perpetual myth is sure to be peddled this summer. That the penalty shoot-out is somehow football's equivalent of Russian roulette with journalists bemoaning that a game at this level should be decided in such a manner.

...using the shoot-out in meaningful games has to rank up there. It's like deciding the World Series with a homerun derby if Game 7 is tied.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


Europe's Democracy Deficit (Gary Younge, June 2, 2010, The Nation)

[E]urope's primary problem—the reason it has been lurching from crisis to crisis as the markets tank, the Greeks and Spaniards protest, and the Germans and French bicker—is not its fiscal deficit but its democratic deficit.

For the only thing more breathtaking than the scale and pace at which the EU has developed, from a small, tariff-free trading area to a twenty-seven-nation union with a common currency, court of human rights and central bank, is the lack of democracy that has gone with it. Go back to that imaginary North American superstate and imagine this—absolutely no direct democratic control over anything as an explicit feature of the system.

The president of the European Central Bank is appointed by democratically elected governments but is not accountable to them. The ECB publishes neither the minutes of its meetings nor its voting record and sets its inflation targets and interest rates without any democratic consultation. The European Parliament, the only directly elected component of the EU, cannot even initiate legislation, which explains why voter turnout in European Parliament elections has slumped by more than 30 percent in the past thirty years, with turnout last year at 43 percent. Whenever people vote no to a phase of integration—as Ireland did two years ago—the EU simply orders them to vote again until they produce the right result. Once they vote yes, there is no turning back.

In the good times most countries—with the exception of Denmark and the United Kingdom—traded democracy for prosperity and joined the euro. But in a crisis, that consensus of convenience breaks down, and there is no means of resolving disputes and deciding on a course of action. Whatever Americans think of the bailout or the stimulus package, their elected representatives have had their say. Many citizens protested; Congress members who displeased them have had to explain themselves. Given the influence of lobbyists and markets, one would not want to exaggerate the control the people have over their economic destiny. But, at least in the public arena, there is an aspiration to democracy.

In the EU, however, democracy is not always even a goal. So the essential problem is not that the Germans seek the kind of fiscal austerity that could stall a fragile recovery, or that the French prefer more stimulus, which might lead to inflation; it's that there is no democratic means of mediating that tension.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Thomas the Tank Engine: 65 and still running: As 'Thomas the Tank Engine' celebrates his 65th anniversary, a box of documents sheds new light on the train’s origins (Lorna Bradbury, 04 Jun 2010, Daily Telegraph)

Recently unearthed in the offices of the production company that makes the TV series, the box contains Awdry's original sketches, drawn on the back of old parish circulars in late 1944 or early 1945. He produced the sketches to guide the illustrators of his first book of stories, The Three Railway Engines. Wilbert, a railway obsessive and a stickler for accuracy, tried out two illustrators until one, E Reginald Dalby, finally found his approval. We can clearly see notes in what would seem to be Wilbert's hand stuck over the writing on the back of these sketches. "3 R Engines. Story 4. Page 5," reads one. "Fat Director [he became the Fat Controller in the third book] orders Henry to be released from tunnel," reads another.

There is the original manuscript of Edward's Day Out, the first story in the first book, in which Awdry's text appears on the left-hand pages and his sketches on the right. There are various promotional postcards, including one for the fifth book, Troublesome Engines (1950), by which time Thomas was a best-seller and a household name. And there are some early pop-ups, illustrated by Clive Spong, with paper engineering by Roy Laming, including the story Henry and the Elephant from Troublesome Engines.

Christopher Awdry, now 69, the measles-afflicted child for whom the stories were first conceived, is surprised at the contents of the box. [...]

Wilbert passed on his enthusiasm for storytelling to his son, who carried on the series from 1983, with his father's blessing, shortly after his own son was born. And Wilbert also passed on a deep love for the railways. Theirs is a family in which the mystery of steam trains looms large. Christopher's grandfather was a clergyman and a railway enthusiast, like Wilbert, whose interest in trains grew out of his visits to parishioners who worked on the railways. Christopher is a railway historian first and foremost, and both he and his father have always been keen that their stories remain accurate in railway terms.

Christopher says that neither he nor his father were surprised that children identify so strongly with the series. "A steam engine is the nearest thing to a human being that has actually been created by man," he says. "You can see all the moving parts. You can see all the smoke. In a way, it's more logical to give a steam train a name than an animal." These stories carry on appealing to fresh generations of children, despite the fact that they are so much of their time. They convey a safe, structured, deeply moralistic world, which may explain why autistic children particularly love them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Jews worldwide share genetic ties: But analysis also reveals close links to Palestinians and Italians. (Alla Katsnelson, Nature News)

Different communities of Jews around the world share more than just religious or cultural practices — they also have strong genetic commonalities, according to the largest genetic analysis of Jewish people to date.

But the study also found strong genetic ties to non-Jewish groups, with the closest genetic neighbours on the European side being Italians, and on the Middle Eastern side the Druze, Bedouin and Palestinians.

June 4, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Poll shows Rudd would lose election (AAP, 6/05/10)

A new poll shows that if an election were held today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would lose in his own backyard.

The Galaxy Poll, published in Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper on Saturday, says a backlash against Labor's super mining tax in Mr Rudd's home state could make him a one-term prime minister.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


Debriefing: Lawrence Wright on Gaza (Samantha Henig, 6/04/10, The New Yorker)

Wright discusses the recent Gaza developments in this week’s Out Loud podcast. He and I talked further about life in Gaza, whether the flotilla passengers were “Code Pink grandmas” or “Islamist radicals,” and better ways to run blockades. Edited excerpts follow.

When you were in Gaza, what was the public feeling about the blockade?

The whole black market was doing quite well, but the legitimate economy had been destroyed. There were no construction materials allowed into the country to rebuild, so essentially it looked like the day the war stopped. [...]

Do you think that Israel made a mistake by raiding the ship?

I thought it was a diplomatic catastrophe in so many ways. It’s alienated not only its close friends but its strategic allies, such as Turkey. Turkey was Israel’s best friend and best hope in the region, and this action has placed terrible strains on that relationship. Moreover, it has also created real strains with the U.S. Turkey has been positioned as a bridge between the Islamic region of the Middle East and the West, and as such it has played a very constructive role. Now that role may change to some extent, depending on Israel’s future actions. [...]

What do you think of America’s response so far?

I think it is confused and divided. The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pointing out that the Gaza situation is unsustainable, which is correct, but Vice-President Joe Biden is taking up the Israeli response.

The thing that is most frustrating to me about the Israeli-Palestinian issue is it’s not as hard a political problem as people like to say it is. If you look back at South African apartheid, on paper that was a much more difficult political problem to resolve. But given intense international pressure, the two sides did come to a resolution. It hasn’t succeeded brilliantly, but it’s better than the situation they had in the past, and it has allowed that country to still function. The despair that defeats all potential resolutions to this problem has got to be rooted out. That’s the first thing. This is a problem that can be resolved, given international commitment to resolving it, and honestly acknowledging the problems that both sides face.

You talk in your piece about the three-state solution.

One state, two states, or three states are all better solutions than the continuing Israeli occupation, which is not only degrading to Palestinians but has profound moral consequences for Israel as well.

That last is the most peculiar aspect of the whole circus, watching putative friends of Israel encourage the moral rot.

Captives: What really happened during the Israeli attacks? (Lawrence Wright, 11/09/09, The New Yorker)

Gaza is a place that Israel wishes it could ignore: the territory has long had the highest concentration of poverty, extremism, and hopelessness in the region. Gaza makes a mess of the idealized two-state solution because it is separated from the West Bank, the much larger Palestinian territory, not just physically but also culturally and politically. In 2005, the RAND Corporation proposed integrating a future Palestinian state with a high-speed rail and highway system that would connect the West Bank and Gaza. Former President Jimmy Carter told me that, in 2005, he and Ariel Sharon had agreed to promote a land swap between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would provide a corridor between the two halves of Palestine.

Such potential solutions have been poisoned by the frustration that both Israelis and West Bankers feel toward Gaza. The political distance between the two Palestinian entities has caused many Israelis to start talking of a three-state solution, rather than two. “Hamas in Gaza is a fact of life until further notice,” Yossi Alpher, a political consultant and a former Mossad officer, observed. “All our ideas about dealing with them have failed.” Shavit and other Israeli intellectuals have proposed that the Egyptians deed a portion of the Sinai to Gaza, to make the Strip more viable—“a semi-Dubai,” as Shavit terms it. The Egyptians have expressed no interest. “Egypt’s strategy for Gaza is to make sure it’s Israel’s problem,” Alpher said.

Hamas, which was founded in Gaza during the intifada of 1987, has come to embody the fears that many Israelis hold about the Palestinians. Its charter declares, “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad.” The document, which is in many respects absurd and reflects the intellectual isolation and conspiracy-fed atmosphere in Gaza at the time, cites the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the anti-Semitic forgery, and links Zionism to the Freemasons, the Lions Club, and “other spying groups” that aim “to violate consciences, to defeat virtues, and to annihilate Islam.” Part of the paradox of this conflict is that many Palestinians who firmly embrace the two-state solution have voted for Hamas.

In Restobar, Shavit pointed to a spot a few feet away. “In March, 2002, there was a beautiful twenty-five-year-old girl dead on the floor, right there,” he said. A suicide bomber had targeted the café, which was then called Moment. That month, eighty-three Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians. Jerusalem was in a panic. Shavit was living nearby at the time, and on the night of March 9th he heard the bomb explode.

Running to the café, he saw mutilated bodies scattered on the sidewalk. People had been blown across the street. The dead girl was lying near the doorway. Inside, at the bar, three young men were sitting upright on the stools, but they were all dead. “It was as if they were still drinking their beers,” Shavit recalled. Eleven Israelis died, and more than fifty were injured. Hamas proclaimed it a “brave attack” intended to “avenge the Israeli massacres against our people.”

The Hamas attacks derailed the peace process initiated by the Oslo accords and hardened many Israelis against the Palestinian cause. Photographs of Gazans celebrating the Moment bombing confirmed the dehumanized state of affairs. Gaza became “Hamastan” in the Israeli newspapers. In 2007, after Hamas solidified its control of Gaza, the Israeli government declared Gaza a “hostile entity,” and began enforcing a blockade on a population that was already impoverished, isolated, and traumatized by years of occupation.

Hamas was not weakened by the blockade. Instead, the collective punishment strengthened its argument that Israel wanted to eliminate the Palestinians. The only thing that Gaza has that Israel wants is Gilad Shalit, but Hamas says that it will not free him until Israel releases fourteen hundred individuals, four hundred and fifty of whom have been convicted of terrorist killings, including the men who planned the Moment bombing.

On June 25, 2007, several days after Hamas took over in Gaza, the captors of Gilad Shalit released an audio recording to prove that he was still alive. “It has been a year since I was captured and my health is deteriorating,” he said. “I am in need of prolonged hospitalization.” He urged the Israeli government to accept Hamas’s demands for his release: “Just as I have a mother and father, the thousands of Palestinian prisoners also have mothers and fathers—and their children must be returned to them.”

Gaza is a sea of children. The average woman there has 5.1 children, one of the highest birth rates in the world. More than half the population is eighteen or younger. “We love to reproduce,” Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, told me on a searingly hot July day, as hundreds of young boys in green caps shouted slogans at a Hamas summer camp. Hayya, a former professor of Islamic law, has six children; a seventh was killed by an Israeli bomb.

There is very little for children to do in Gaza. The Israeli blockade includes a ban on toys, so the only playthings available have been smuggled, at a premium, through tunnels from Egypt. Islamists have shut down all the movie theatres. Music is rare, except at weddings. Many of Gaza’s sports facilities have been destroyed by Israeli bombings, including the headquarters for the Palestinian Olympic team. Only one television station broadcasts from Gaza, Al Aqsa—a Hamas-backed channel that gained notice last year for a children’s show featuring a Mickey Mouse-like figure who was stabbed to death by an Israeli interrogator. The mouse was replaced by a talking bee, who died after being unable to cross into Egypt for medical treatment. The rabbit who followed the bee passed away in January, after being struck by shrapnel from an Israeli attack.

The main diversion for children is the beach, and on Fridays, after noon prayers, the shore is massed with families. Unlike the topaz waters off Tel Aviv, here the sea is murky, a consequence of twenty million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage that is dumped offshore every day. The main water-treatment plant is broken, and because of the blockade the spare parts that would fix it are unavailable. Fishermen with nets wade into the surf as kids romp in the stinking waves.

Israeli authorities maintain a list of about three dozen items that they permit into Gaza, but the list is closely kept and subject to change. Almost no construction materials—such as cement, glass, steel, or plastic pipe—have been allowed in, on the ground that such items could be used for building rockets or bunkers. While Hamas rocket builders and bomb-makers can smuggle everything they need through the secret tunnels, international aid organizations have to account for every brick or sack of flour. Operation Cast Lead—a three-week-long Israeli attack on Gaza, which began in December, 2008—has left Gaza in ruins. “Half a year after the conflict, we don’t have a single bag of cement and not a pane of glass,” John Ging, the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, told me in July. (Later that month, Israeli authorities announced that they would allow the U.N.R.W.A. a limited amount of steel and cement. Ging says that that has yet to happen.) Humanitarian supplies that suddenly have been struck from Israel’s list of approved items pile up in large storage warehouses outside the Kerem Shalom crossing, and international aid worth billions of dollars awaits delivery. “For the last two school years, Israeli officials have withheld paper for textbooks because, hypothetically, the paper might be hijacked by Hamas to print seditious materials,” Ging complained. (Paper was finally delivered this fall.) When John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Gaza in February of this year, he asked why pasta wasn’t allowed in. Soon, macaroni was passing through the checkpoints, but jam was taken off the list. According to Haaretz, the I.D.F. has calculated that a hundred and six truckloads of humanitarian relief are needed every day to sustain life for a million and a half people. But the number of trucks coming into Gaza has fallen as low as thirty-seven. Israeli government officials have told international aid officials that the aim is “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Obama secretly deploys US special forces to 75 countries across world (Tim Reid and Michael Evans, 6/05/10, Times of London)

President Obama has secretly implemented a huge increase in the number of US special forces carrying out search-and-destroy missions against al-Qaeda around the world, with American troops now operating in 75 countries.

The dramatic expansion in the use of special forces, which in their global span go far beyond the covert missions authorised by George W. Bush, reflects how aggressively the President is pursuing al-Qaeda behind his public rhetoric of global engagement and diplomacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


No one outside England thinks we’ve got a prayer: Rod Liddle wouldn’t risk more than a tenner on the team getting beyond the group stage in the football World Cup. The truth is, we usually perform more or less exactly as well as might be expected given the size of the country (Rod Liddle, 6/02/10, The Spectator)

Nobody outside of this country thinks that England stands a cat’s chance in hell of winning the association football World Cup, which is due to kick off in South Africa very shortly — if all the teams are not abducted upon arrival and shot. Almost to a man the leading foreign players and pundits predict a final between Brazil and Spain, and on the rare occasions there is a demurral from this assessment it is to mention the name of Argentina, squired by its porky coke-headed maniac of a boss, Diego Maradona, or somewhat less frequently, Holland (who always play lovely football and never win anything). England? Nope, not a chance. This isn’t because they hate us, the foreigners (although they probably do) — it simply hasn’t occurred to them that we might win the thing. They see a team with only one proven international class forward, the perpetually splenetic potato-headed kidult Wayne Rooney, an ageing and fragile back four which recourses habitually to violence when beaten for pace and, behind them, an embryonic catastrophe waiting to happen. It is a very long time since England had a goalkeeper on whom they could depend.

...was supposed to be that he'd strike so much fear into the players over who was going to get starting jobs and make the team that they'd all be driven to excel. But Fabio Capello appears hell-bent on starting the same old dreck. Terry and Ferdinand in central defense with James in goal will be a disaster. Upson/Dawson/Hart would at least give them a chance of not causing their own downfall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


US President Barack Obama postpones Australia visit (AFP, 6/04/10)

US President Barack Obama has postponed his trip to Australia and Indonesia - planned for later this month, an official says.

Mr Obama spoke to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to inform them of the development, a White House official said.

The way this guy lets events dictate his behavior is appalling in a supposed leader.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


The Conservatives and aid: Tough love: Last time the Conservatives were in government, there was not even a minister in cabinet with responsibility for international development (Editorial, 6/04/10, The Guardian)

Straddling the awkward cleavage between development as a moral imperative and development as a tool of foreign policy is only going to become more difficult in the harsh wind of austerity. Other players in the development sector are watching to make sure that the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on aid is not subverted by siphoning some off for projects that are less about ending poverty than promoting Britain's interests abroad. And yesterday's promise to observe the vague OECD criteria for what counts as aid spending is not reassuring. In opposition, the Tories used their conversion to the importance of aid as proof that they were nasty no more. It's a card that plays both ways.

...then you aren't following the moral imperative anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


White House is feeling weight of controversies surrounding oil spill, elections (Dan Balz, 6/03/10, Washington Post)

White House intervention in contested primaries has occurred during many presidencies and is rarely considered unusual or scandalous. What strikes Democratic allies of the White House is the administration's inability to keep its actions from blossoming into controversies and the evident lack of success by the president's advisers in working their will within the party.

"They don't have the leverage that past White House political operations have had," said one strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation candidly. "They've tried to influence these races and nobody's listening. . . . A sitting president who arguably still had some political capital to spend was not able to prevent some pretty divisive primaries."

When the UR appears in public you almost expect to be able to see the tethers that keep him from floating away.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Has the Supreme Court Decimated Miranda? (Adam Cohen, Jun. 03, 2010, TIME)

When is the right to remain silent not a right to remain silent? When you have to speak in order to claim it.

That is the bizarre paradox that the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, enshrined in the Constitution on Monday.

Van Thompkins, a criminal suspect, was not interested in talking to the police, and he never affirmatively waived his right to remain silent. But the court ruled that by not saying clearly that he was exercising his right to remain silent, he in fact forfeited the right — and that a one-word answer he gave late in the questioning could be used against him.

The ruling flies in the face of the court's long-standing insistence that a suspect can waive his rights only by affirmatively doing so.

The Court having made up Miranda can do with it as it will.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Israel Signals New Flexibility on Gaza Shipments (ISABEL KERSHNER, 6/03/10, NY Times)

While still insisting that its blockade of Gaza is essential to its security, the Israeli government is now shifting its position, “exploring new ways” of allowing goods to reach the coastal enclave, an Israeli official said Thursday. [...]

Gaza has been under an Israeli-led blockade since Hamas took full control of the territory in 2007.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 AM


Jobs flap seeps across Senate map (DAVID CATANESE, 6/4/10, Politico)

Blowback from White House attempts to dangle administration jobs in front of insurgent Democratic challengers is now threatening to burn candidates in some of the most competitive Senate contests in the nation, expanding the scope of damage well beyond the two states where the furor originated.

Unresolved questions surrounding Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in Colorado—and Republican attempts to provide accelerant to the incumbent protection flap—have suddenly forced Senate candidates in a handful of other states, including Arkansas, Illinois and Ohio, to respond to queries about possible White House involvement in their own races, throwing them off-message and on the defensive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 AM


Obama's Youth Brigade Burns Out: A crowd of twentysomething true believers followed Obama from the campaign into the administration. But 18 months in, the "Yes We Can" crowd has had enough. (Dayo Olopade, 6/04/10, Daily Beast)

The 18-month itch hits every administration. But this presidency is different. The young people working in the White House are supposed to be the truest of true believers. Countless postmortems attribute the Democratic Party’s 2008 success to a unique surge in “Barack the Vote” enthusiasm among 18- to 34-year olds. Many of these folks followed their political hero from the fields of Iowa into the White House—hoping to translate their dreams into policy, and build satisfying careers in the process.

A recent New York Times Magazine article focused on White House “twentysomethings” like Lesser, Levine, Jon Favreau, Reggie Love, and Samantha Tubman—and what they’re learning on the job. But as the campaign juggernaut settles into the grind of governing, many junior staff across the administration are heading for the exits, burned out and tired of life in the Obama bubble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


Wooden Reward: When legendary UCLA coach receives Medal of Freedom today, he can thank McCarter, who once challenged him (Bill Plaschke, July 23, 2003, LA Times)
He was the different one. He was the wild one.

Andre McCarter was that poor, misguided UCLA Bruin who loved behind-the-back passes and double-pump reverse layups and getting in your face.

During a time when his teammates thrived in the spotlight, he was the one Coach John Wooden would sit in the corner.

"You know how, if somebody has 10 children, there is always one of them who is a real pain in the butt?" McCarter said. "That kid was me."

He was publicly embarrassed. He was quietly benched. He was harangued and harnessed, his style abruptly changed, his attitude forcibly altered.

Since leaving UCLA after the 1976 season, Andre McCarter had been thinking of a way he could pay John Wooden back for all the trouble he caused.

Today, the country will see his answer.

Today, at the White House, Wooden will receive the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This was not an idea from President Bush. This did not come from a California senator or representative. This was not about lobbying efforts from the NCAA or UCLA.

Wooden is receiving the medal only as a result of a secret three-year campaign by a former player who collected letters, twisted arms, made calls and pushed forward when
everyone thought he would pull back.

A guy named Andre McCarter.

It happens to be an especially worthy group that's getting the Medal this year. Here's an essay about the kind of man John Wooden is, Coach John Wooden: "A Paragon Rising above the Madness" (Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated)
On Tuesday the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He'll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He'll say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again. Then he'll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He'll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack will be 180 letters high then, because Tuesday is 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.

There's never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. [...]

One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. "It's my right," he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. "That's good, Bill," Coach said. "I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We're going to miss you." Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.
[originally posted: 7/23/03]
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


When John Wooden worked magic on a golf course: The legendary UCLA basketball coach's feats include shooting a double eagle and a hole in one in the same round. (Bill Dwyre, January 26, 2010, LA Times)

Holes in one are commonplace by comparison. Pettersson has had nine, one on the tour, on No. 14 at Riviera at the 2004 Nissan Open, now the Northern Trust Open. Golf Digest rates the possibility of getting two holes in one in the same round as 67 million to 1, or about the same as O.J.'s DNA odds.

Golf Digest also lists something even more incredible: a golfer having a hole in one and a double eagle in the same round. It doesn't give odds, but just think in terms of double O.J., or maybe triple. Golf Digest says that feat has been reported as happening four times in history.

One of the four was by John Wooden.

It was 1947, and Wooden, 36, was soon to move to UCLA and change the course of the school's athletic history.

Although Golf Digest reports it as taking place at the Erskine Park Golf Course in South Bend, Ind., Wooden said Monday that it was at the Chain of Lakes course, now the South Bend Country Club.

"I used a four-iron for the hole in one," Wooden said from his home in Encino. "It was about 185 yards. Then I made the two on the par five on the back. Used a brassie."

A brassie was the rough equivalent of a two-wood.

Wooden said he kept the card and has it stored somewhere. He said he remembers the local paper running a little story the next day. He also retains his typical self-effacing humor about this feat.

"I shot a 77 that day," he said. "You go five under on two holes and a 77 doesn't look all that good."

[originally posted: 1/27/10]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


John Wooden: What I've Learned: It's that time of year again — the time that this legendary basketball coach dominated more than anyone. Look back at his wisdom on reputations, race, and winning it all. (Cal Fussman, Esquire)

They called me the India Rubber Man in high school because every time I went down on the court, I bounced right up. Now I've had my hip replaced, and my knees aren't any good. I'm old. I accept it. One of my great-granddaughters said, "Pa Pa, you drive like an old man." I said, "Well, honey, what am I?" [...]

I'll never adjust to the loss of Nellie. We were married for fifty-three years. No man ever had a finer wife. Prior to her loss, I had some fear of death. Now I have no fear. I look forward to seeing her again. [...]

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. [...]

My father gave me a two-dollar bill for my grade-school graduation and said, "Hold on to this and you'll never be broke." I still have it. A lot of times, that's all I've had. But I've never been broke.

The most I made coaching was $32,500. Maybe I didn't have a million-dollar contract like Shaquille O'Neal, but he'll never know what it was like to get a good meal for twenty-five cents.

I've been reading Steve Bisheff's biography and never realized how good a player he was.

A Paragon Rising above the Madness (Rick Reilly, March 14, 2000, Sports Illustrated)

On Tuesday the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He'll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He'll say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again. Then he'll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He'll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack will be 180 letters high then, because Tuesday is 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.

There's never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach.

[originally posted: 3/16/09]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


-ARTICLE: Coach Wooden guides Special Olympians: Legendary UCLA coach holds clinic with O.C. athletes, emphasizing team work and urging them to 'make the most' of life. (ERIC CARPENTER, 12/13/08, The Orange County Register)

Wooden, who is still recovering from a fall last winter that left him with a broken wrist and collarbone, said he was battling a cold – but he wouldn't miss the clinic.

"I've always had a special place in my heart for the special athletes," said Wooden, who was named NCAA Coach of the Year six times. "It's great to watch."

Former U.S. Olympian and 1960 gold-medal decathlon winner Rafer Johnson also sat on the sidelines, excited to watch Special Olympics have the chance to interact with Wooden.

"I'm so inspired seeing that image," said Johnson, a longtime supporter of Special Olympics. "These are athletes who spend a lot of time working on team development. And I can't think of a better opportunity for them than to learn from a coach who helped athletes of all backgrounds and abilities succeed as a team."

Wooden gathered with the players on the court and had one bit of advice – the same for the Special Olympians and the UCLA players.

"You are at an age where you will be our leaders," he said. "Make the most of it, young man. Make the most of it."

Steve Bisheff's recent biography of the great man, John Wooden: An American Treasure, is marvelous.

-INTERVIEW: Q&A with author of Wooden book (MARK SAXON, 12/10/08, OCREGISTER.COM)

Q. In your opinion, is there a greater coaching legacy in any sport than the one Wooden established?

A. I don’t think there is a greater coaching legacy in any sport, but I’m probably biased in that regard. Red Auerbach would be right there.Vince Lombardi comes to mind in football, but he didn’t really do it long enough. Maybe Paul Brown. He’d be close, too.

Q. If John Wooden and Dean Smith had exactly the same five players to coach whose team would win?

A. Again, I’d favor Wooden over anybody with the same five players. But Smith, I think, wouldn’t be the toughest one to coach against. Bobby Knight, as much as I dislike his bullying attitude, might be the one who would give Wooden the biggest challenge. The late Pete Newell and Coach K would have to be right there, too.

Q. Can you summarize his tactical teachings in a few sentences or is that impossible given their complexity?

A. His biggest thing tactically was fundamentals. His players were more sound fundamentally than players on any other team. I think that was the key to why he won so many close games, especially in the NCAA Tournament (a record 38 in a row!). At the end of games, other teams’ players had to think about what they were doing. UCLA’s players didn’t. They were so well drilled, they executed without hesitation. I believe that made a huge difference.

-REVIEW: New book on UCLA's Wooden a superb read (STEVE SCHOLFIELD, November 20, 2004, North County Times)
[I]t is a book about the life and times of the 94-year-old Wooden who is more successful today than when he was an All-American basketball player at Purdue and when he coached UCLA to an unprecedented 10 NCAA titles.

This is about one man's view of the world, a man so humble, so genuine, so family-oriented that we respect him not for what he did, but for who he is.

If you get anything out of this book, it is how to be a better human being.

Bisheff, one of the best sportswriters in the country, is a columnist for the Orange County Register.

This project started in May 2003 when Cumberland House Publishing wanted a book to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Wooden's first championship. Bisheff was recommended for the job. He's covered UCLA basketball for much of his 39 years as a writer.

"I was truly honored that he OK'd the project, and I have since talked to him and he liked the book," Bisheff said.

While there have been many books on Wooden's coaching and success strategies, this is the first book done exclusively on Wooden in more than 30 years.

The John Wooden dream team: Who were Wooden's best players? (MARK SAXON, The Orange County Register)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

[originally posted: 12/13/08]

June 3, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Is President Obama's Carter moment nearing? (David S. Broder, June 3, 2010, Washington Post)

[W]e have seen this movie before, and we know how it ends politically. Somebody else shows up and says he can fix this. Or end it. Or make it come out right.

This is why Democrats are right to be very nervous as this gulf incident drags on in its second month. We have endured about as much technical explanation of the rigors of deep-sea drilling as we can stand.

The chart talks demonstrating that we had figured out where the hostages were being held didn't do Carter a lick of good when voters were aching to see the captives walk into their families' arms.

Nothing is going to help Obama unless and until the engineers come up with a method for shutting down this gusher of pollution. He clearly couldn't prevent it, and he was slow in signaling its severity. But he owns it now, and until it is over, the man who aspired to be the next John Kennedy or maybe Franklin Roosevelt will have to hope he doesn't end up as Jimmy Carter.

...but I don't think any president aspires to be the next JFK.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


New Labour is dead. Long live new Labour: The new generation of leaders will move on from the term that defined us. But they must never abandon our ideas (Peter Mandelson, 6/03/10, Times of London)

[W]hile I understand why the term new Labour may cease to be used by a new generation of potential Labour leaders who rightly wish to move on from the past, the concept that new Labour represents should not be cast aside so easily. New Labour is not an affectation or a marketing tool that enabled us simply to win elections. It is more fundamental than that.

It is, and was, a logical flow from the revisionist, social democratic tradition in our party — the tradition that applies the timeless values of our party afresh to new times; that believes the Left should concentrate on the ends — a strong economy, social justice and high-quality public services — but should always be willing to consider new means of achieving those ends.

It is about Labour not being a party of class or sectional interest, but about being a broad-based party of conscience and reform. An outlook that remains in tune with the priorities and ambitions of families across the country. Open, not tribal. Pluralist, not statist.

But it is also a mindset that is, above all, governmental. Which recognises that democratic power is the only route to implementing our values, and that very difficult policy choices — such as those raised by the deficit — cannot be ducked.

I am not arguing for the new Labour of Blair, Brown and Mandelson to be preserved in aspic — that would be the opposite of the revisionist instincts that lay at the root of our project. This phase of new Labour is now over and died on May 6, 2010. But the cast of mind that new Labour represents — aspirational, reforming, in touch and that faces up to the choices power demands — must not die with it if our party is to be a serious party of government again.

Like the Tories, they'll return to power when they are seen as more Third Way than their opponents again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


'I'd do it again' former President Bush tells Grand Rapids crowd about waterboarding terrorists (Ted Roelofs , 6/02/10, The Grand Rapids Press)

Former President George W. Bush was by turns affable, relaxed -- and deadly serious in his local appearance Wednesday.

"Yeah, we water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Bush said of the terrorist who master-minded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. He said that event shaped his presidency and convinced him the nation was in a war against terror.

"I'd do it again to save lives."

In a speech and question-and-answer session before the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Bush defended his decision to go to war in 2003 with Iraq.

"Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him," Bush said. [...]

In sharp contrast to former Vice President Dick Cheney, he also has restrained from speaking out against Obama.

"I'm trying to regain a sense of anonymity," he said in February.

"I didn't like it when a certain former president made my life miserable," he said, a reference to former President Jimmy Carter and his frequent criticisms of Bush. [...]

Referring to his decision to wear an old tuxedo and Laura Bush's reaction to it, Bush said: "'Read my lips, no new tuxes.'"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


Democrats in Congress fail the sales pitch: They have not done a good job communicating the virtues of their economic and healthcare policies — a big problem for the party as the midterm election nears. (Janet Hook, 6/02/10, Chicago Tribune)

For all President Obama's skills as a communicator and party leaders' skills inside the Beltway, they have not done a good job communicating the virtues of their policies, even to potentially receptive voters. [...]

[W]hat is especially damaging for Democrats is that even many Americans who may benefit from their policies are dissatisfied — about the high level of spending by Congress or about compromises that have been made.

Congressional Democrats have been looking to the White House to help explain their policies and tout their accomplishments — especially on the economy, where the problems and solutions are so complex.

"He needs to take the country to school on the economy," said House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.), who said he worried that Obama's ability to use his bully pulpit to build support for healthcare and other policies had been eclipsed by the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Critics say Democrats' policies could have gained more traction if the White House had a stronger commitment to promoting them.

...comes when they convince themselves that the electorate that has rejected them would be supportive if only the morons could understand what was being done for them. This is the point at which you move beyond bad policy to demonstrating genuine contempt for the voters who disapprove of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


In Gaza, a complex, dysfunctional way of life (Janine Zacharia, 6/03/10, Washington Post)

It has been five years since Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers from the coastal strip, and largely closed Gaza off from the world. Israel's critics say what's left is a devastated land in need of emergency assistance. Israeli officials insist Gaza's people are getting what they need to live. Neither narrative reflects the complex and dysfunctional way of life that has emerged here. [...]

With the exception of one border crossing that is managed -- and largely kept shut -- by Egypt, Israel controls all entry and exit points to the Gaza Strip, a narrow territory that is 25 miles long and three to seven miles wide. After Israel first imposed a closure on the territory in 2005, the blockade has intensified over the three years since Hamas seized power.

Originally, Israel hoped the closure would put enough pressure on the local economy that Gazans would grow frustrated and oust Hamas. But the group's hold on power remains firm. Israel has tried to use the closure as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, to no avail.

"The blockade policy has not proven itself in the last three years, and I don't think it will prove itself in the next three," said retired Brig. Gen. Meir Elran, a national security expert at Tel Aviv University.

It has not worked out well for Gaza's 1.5 million people, either.

The prohibition on concrete, which Israel says is necessary because Hamas can use it to build bunkers, has forced Palestinians to harvest cement and wire from buildings Israel bombed last year. If the siege were lifted tomorrow all six crossings would need to operate 24 hours a day for three years to fill Gaza's current need of 2 million tons of concrete, Shaban said. The infrastructure woes stretch beyond construction: Gaza suffers rolling blackouts and the sewage treatment facility needs repair.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Philippe Lazzarini, has urged Israel to lift agricultural restrictions and give fishermen the chance to cast their nets in less polluted waters. "The fact that this coastal population now imports fish from Israel and through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border speaks to the absurdity of the situation," Lazzarini said in a statement.

The Israeli military decides which items can be allowed in and which are prohibited.

..is that if they just let Palestine become a normal democracy then there is nothing special about their own state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Money's Rolling In To Rossi (John McArdle | June 3, 2010, CQ)

Former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) said in a statement Thursday that his campaign has raised over $600,000 in the week since he officially entered the Washington Senate race on May 26.

Of that total some $200,000 came in the form of online contributions. Rossi has also attracted over 20,000 Facebook followers since entering the crowded GOP primary to take on Sen. Patty Murray (D).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


Vatican official prods US on immigration reform (Catholic Culture, June 03, 2010)

Speaking to the Regional Consultation of the American Bishops' Conferences on Migration, Archbishop Vegliò said that “I follow with more than usual interest and admiration the courageous advocacy efforts of the USA Church for the regularization of the approximately 12 million undocumented migrants. Their existence will thus be recognized. However, should this also not be linked with a immigration reform which takes into account the demands of the labour market, and especially the continuing need for low-skilled workers?”

“One also has to realize that not workers will arrive, but human persons, with all its consequences, like living with their families,” he continued. “In order to achieve this, the necessary political will is required to address humanely undocumented migration.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Jimmy Carter + Rod Blagojevich = Barack Obama (Cheri Jacobus, 06/03/10, The Hill)

Obama has big problems. No doubt about that. To be considered as incompetent as Jimmy Carter, and as sleazy as Rod Blagojevich, is no one's idea of "good news" on even the worst of days in the White House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Beating swords into welfare cheques: Hedonistic benefits, low birth rates—Europe needs protection from itself (Mark Steyn, June 3, 2010, Maclean's)

The trick in this line of work is not to be right too soon. A couple of years back, I wrote a bestselling hate crime. Don’t worry, I’m not in plug mode; indeed, I shall eschew even mentioning the book’s title. But its general thesis is that the jig is up for much if not most of the Western world. “Alarmist,” pronounced Maclean’s, reflecting the general consensus of polite society here and in Europe.

Polite society has spent the years since playing catch-up. So if you don’t want your fin du civilisation analysis from a frothing right-wing loon you can now get it from the house-trained chaps at the New York Times:

“Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism . . . ‘The Europe that protects’ is a slogan of the European Union.”

Protects from what? Right now, Europe mostly needs protection from itself, and its worst inclinations:

“With low growth, low birth rates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle." [...]

There is no precedent in human history for increased prosperity on declining human capital, even before you factor in the added costs of propping up a bunch of other nations facing even worse socio-economic arithmetic. Can mass immigration save you? No. You can never import enough people fast enough: according to Armin Laschet, “Integration Minister” of North Rhine-Westphalia, already 40 per cent of the children in the Fatherland’s cities are ethnically non-German, and thus the future of those cities will be non-German, too.

Could you ramp that number up to, oh, 70 per cent? Sure. But it still wouldn’t be sufficient to prop up an unsustainable economic model. Entire sovereign nations are now in the situation of a homeowner who’s fallen too far behind on the payments and has no prospect of catching up: you might as well just put the door keys in an envelope, leave ’em at the bank for the new owner, and move on.

There is nothing to mourn about the disappearance of the Europe the Enlightenment made.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


Operation Make the World Hate Us: The assault on the 'Mavi Marmara' was wrong, and a gift to Israel's enemies. (Leon Wieseltier, June 3, 2010, New Republic)

Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called. [...]

[T]he militarization of the Israeli government’s understanding of Israel’s situation—this has been the most sterile period for diplomacy in all of Israel’s history—is not all that led to the debacle at sea. Rules of military engagement that allow soldiers to fire on political activists (I leave aside the question of their humanitarianism for a moment) may signify something still deeper and even more troubling. It is hard not to conclude from this Israeli action, and also from other Israeli actions in recent years, that the Israeli leadership simply does not care any longer about what anybody thinks. It does not seem to care about what even the United States—its only real friend, even in the choppy era of Obama—thinks. This is not defiance, it is despair. The Israeli leadership seems to have given up any expectation of fairness and sympathy from the world. It is behaving as if it believes, in the manner of the most perilous Jewish pessimism, that the whole world hates the Jews, and that is all there is to it. This is the very opposite of the measured and empirical attitude, the search for strategic opportunity, the enlistment of imagination in the service of ideals and interests, that is required for statecraft.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


The added value of Torres and Gomez (Luke Cyphers and Doug McIntyre, 6/03/10, ESPN)

[W]ould Pachuca supporters actively root against a team playing Torres, who's been a fixture in their midfield for most of the past two years? Or how about Gomez, the Mexican league scoring champ who will join Torres with the country's best club next season?

Granted, "Gringo" Torres, as he's known, took some heat from fans south of the border upon choosing to rep his birth nation. But don't rule out the possibility of his winning some of them over now that Torres, still just 22, is finally beginning to make his mark with the U.S.

It's taken time for the Texan to establish himself within Bob Bradley's squad, but from his debut in October 2008, Torres has displayed a comfort on the ball and an ability to pace the Americans' buildup that's been missing since Reyna retired from the national team in 2006. He's also improved his sometimes-lax defensive play considerably, increasing his odds of seeing the field in South Africa.

"I've been watching video to know how to defend more and how to close the gaps down," Torres told us last week. "Usually, I would just defend one man, and the other one I would leave him, but now I'm watching my back and trying to close the gap and trying to get the ball."

Gomez, meanwhile, figures to come off the bench if the U.S. needs a goal, a role he thrived in with Puebla earlier this year. Gomez's scoring touch helped him earn a huge media and fan following at Puebla (they called him "the American soldier") and his 10 strikes equaled Mexican international and recent Manchester United signee Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who played more minutes.

If Torres is really committed to defense now, play him with Michael Bradley in the middle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


Colombians Opt For Strong U.S. Ties: A free trade agreement between the countries would boost the market for U.S. exporters and relieve tensions. (Roger Noriega, 06.03.10, Forbes)

This past Sunday, Colombian voters defied predictions and opted by a wide margin for the hand-picked successor of President Alvaro Uribe, a stalwart U.S. ally. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Colombia next Wednesday, she can show that we value this relationship by pledging to press for ratification of a bilateral trade agreement that has been languishing in the Congress for over three years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


Abortion Foes Advance Cause at State Level (JOHN LELAND, 6/03/10, NY Times)

At least 11 states have passed laws this year regulating or restricting abortion, giving opponents of abortion what partisans on both sides of the issue say is an unusually high number of victories. In four additional states, bills have passed at least one house of the legislature.

In a flurry of activity last week, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi signed a bill barring insurers from covering abortion in the new insurance exchanges called for under the federal health care overhaul, and the Oklahoma Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Brad Henry of a bill requiring doctors who perform abortions to answer 38 questions about each procedure, including the women’s reasons for ending their pregnancies.

It was the third abortion measure this session on which the Legislature overrode a veto by Mr. Henry.

At least 13 other states have introduced or passed similar legislation this year. The new laws range from an Arizona ban on coverage of abortion in the state employees’ health plan to a ban in Nebraska on all abortions after 20 weeks, on the grounds that the fetus at that stage can feel pain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Significant fuel savings possible for cars, SUVs (Associated Press, June 3, 2010)

The report, which looked at three-types of automotive engines, found:

— The full combination of improved technologies could reduce fuel consumption by 29 percent in medium and large cars and pickup trucks with conventional engines at an added cost to consumers of about $2,200.

— Switching to diesel engines and components could yield fuel savings of about 37 percent at an added cost of $5,900 per vehicle.

— Gas-electric hybrid engines and components could reduce fuel as much as 43 percent at an increase of $6,000 per vehicle.

Smaller reductions in fuel savings can be achieved for considerably less money, the report noted. For example, one available conventional engine technology allows a six- or eight-cylinder engine to run on fewer cylinders when full engine power isn't needed, such as on flat roads. That can reduce fuel consumption as much as 10 percent at a retail price increase of about $350 to $500 per vehicle.

Over two-thirds of total U.S. oil consumption is for transportation, and almost two-thirds of transportation consumption is gasoline used primarily in cars and light trucks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says (WILLIAM J. BROAD, 6/02/10, NY Times)

Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said.

“It’s crazy,” one senior official said.

Government and private nuclear experts agreed that using a nuclear bomb would be not only risky technically, with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences from radiation, but also unwise geopolitically — it would violate arms treaties that the United States has signed and championed over the decades and do so at a time when President Obama is pushing for global nuclear disarmament.

...the stimulus and health care bills would be totally different.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


Barack Obama's anti-British prejudice helps neither BP nor an alliance that has served the world well for 100 years (Stephen Glover, 3rd June 2010, Daily Mail)

[I]t is difficult to imagine that the President would have been so remorselessly vituperative had BP been an American oil company such as the even bigger ExxonMobil.

These are different times, of course, but when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker sank off Alaska in 1989, its American owners, Exxon, were not treated like criminals by the U.S. government.

Equally, when the north sea oil rig Piper Alpha exploded in 1988 at the cost of 167 lives, the then Prime Minister, Margaret thatcher, did not inveigh against its American owners.

The President's public evisceration of BP cannot merely be explained by his feelings of impotence or his political predicament. There is an additional factor. BP, after all, stands for British Petroleum.

I don't wish to sound paranoid, but it is pretty clear that Mr Obama does not much like anything that is British. There is an anti-British undertow throughout his book dreams From My Father, with slighting references to the country and its citizens.

Most significantly, he reveals - or perhaps I should say 'alleges', since no evidence is produced - that his Kenyan grandfather was tortured by the British authorities during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the Fifties.

I imagine that if my grandfather had been tortured by, say, the Venezuelans, I might nurse a lingering prejudice against their country, and I do not particularly blame Mr Obama for bearing his grievance. What is undeniable, though, is that it has helped to shape his feelings about Britain.

Unlike his immediate predecessors - Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - he displays no affection for, or interest in, this country and its history.

When he entered the Oval office, he immediately returned a bust of Winston Churchill that had been loaned to George W. Bush by the British government.

Mr Obama's administration has been notably cool towards Britain. For example, during the recent stand-off between Britain and Argentina over oil rights around the Falkland islands, the U.S. was at best neutral, at worst pro-Argentine, whereas during the Falklands War it had been strongly supportive of this country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


The ugly truth about the beautiful game: When South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 World Cup, it was hailed as a chance to 'give something back' to Africa. But, as Alex Duval Smith reports, the biggest event on Earth will do little for the planet's poorest people (Alex Duval Smith, 6/03/10, Independent)

Heralded as a historic turning point for an unlucky continent, Africa's first-ever World Cup – which kicks off in Johannesburg next Friday – increasingly looks like the playground for the rich that its critics decry. As final preparations are made in the host cities to welcome some of the world's most famous, and most well-paid, sportsmen, tangible benefits elsewhere in Africa from the world's biggest sporting event look as elusive as ever.

Under strict bylaws enforced at the insistence of football's governing body, informal traders – a crucial part of any African economy – have been banned around the 10 stadiums where matches will be played. Even the future of the most important legacy project of the tournament – public bus transport – is in the balance, amid government reticence to stand up to South Africa's powerful minibus-taxi industry. Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, which expects to earn more than £3bn from sponsorship and television rights, has insisted that the event is about "giving back to Africa what the continent has given world football" through its players. The organisation points to the 20 "centres for hope" – football academies – that it will build.

But radical Sowetan columnist Andile Mngxitama said all Fifa is giving Africa is a month-long feel-good episode which will do little, long-term, to change perceptions or economic realities.

In Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and his coauthor spell out why hosting sports teams and events isn't the bonanza that supporters claim, World Cup drains host city’s coffers, experts say (AP, Dec . 2, 2009)
Prepare to be disappointed, South Africans. One of the world's leading sports economists says you're not going to get rich hosting next year's World Cup.

There'll be no economic bonanza, according to a new book, and if experience matches the last World Cup in Germany, spending by visitors will be much less than the South African government shelled out preparing for the tournament.

"The next World Cup will not be an airplane dropping dollars on South Africa," authors Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper write in the book "Soccernomics." [...]

Using data analysis, history and psychology, the book debunks dozens of myths about what it takes to win, and who makes money in football - and in sports in general.

"The problem for South Africa is that they have to spend quite a lot to build stadiums," Szymanski said in a telephone interview from London. "Germany could afford this, and it had stadiums anyway. But South Africa is a nation that can ill afford to fritter away a few billion on white elephants."

Following the 2002 World Cup, for instance, South Korea's K-League had difficulties filling the 10 new stadiums built for the tournament at a cost of more than $2 billion.

World Cup can boost morale, image; not coffers
The book's argument is that hosting a World Cup or Olympics is an inefficient way to revitalize a city, or enrich a nation - especially one like South Africa, where a third of the population lives on under $2 a day. It can boost a nation's morale or image, but not much else.

"If you want to regenerate a poor neighborhood, regenerate it," Szymanski and Kuper write. "If you want an Olympic pool and a warm-up track, build them. You could build pools and tracks all across London, and it would still be cheaper than hosting the Olympics."

However, they also note that it does boost gross national Happiness, which is all the rage these days on the Left. There is presumably a fair bit of overlap between folks who are enamored of this new measure of wealth and those who tend to oppose sports franchises and their stadia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


White House touch: From gold to brass? (JONATHAN ALLEN & CAROL E. LEE, 6/3/10, Politico)

They toppled Hillary Clinton, crushed John McCain and managed to get the first black man elected president of the United States.

But now a series of recent missteps just keeps getting worse for Barack Obama’s political operation, already under fire from inside the party for losing its golden touch.

...but he only beat Hillary because he got such huge proportions of the black vote in Democratic primaries and Maverick because the House GOP decided a Depression would have a salutary effect on America. And those are the only items you can cite for him and his team being effective. Jimmy Carter won a nomination and an election too, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


US-Mexico border isn’t so dangerous (MARTHA MENDOZA, 06/03/10, AP)

It’s one of the safest parts of America, and it’s getting safer.

It’s the U.S.-Mexico border, and even as politicians say more federal troops are needed to fight rising violence, government data obtained by The Associated Press show it actually isn’t so dangerous after all.

The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin, according to a new FBI report. And an in-house Customs and Border Protection report shows that Border Patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


Souter’s Challenge to Scalia (E.J. Dionne, Jr., 6/03/10, TruthDig)

Souter, who did not mention Scalia by name, underscored “how egregiously it misses the point to think of judges in constitutional cases as just sitting there reading constitutional phrases fairly and looking at reported facts objectively to produce their judgments.”

The problem is not only that “constitutions have a lot of general language in them in order to be useful as constitutions,” but also that the U.S. Constitution “contains values that may very well exist in tension with each other, not in harmony.”

This means that “hard cases are hard because the Constitution gives no simple rule of decision for the cases in which one of the values is truly at odds with another.”

Souter attacked the fatal flaw of originalism—which he relabeled the “fair reading model”—by suggesting that it would have led the Supreme Court in 1954 not to its Brown v. Board of Education decision overturning legal segregation but to an affirmation of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling upholding “separate but equal” public facilities.

“For those whose exclusive norm of constitutional judging is merely fair reading of language applied to facts objectively viewed, Brown must either be flat-out wrong or a very mystifying decision,” Souter said.

“The language of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws did not change between 1896 and 1954, and it would be very hard to say that the obvious facts on which Plessy was based had changed,” Souter argued. “Actually, the best clue to the difference between the cases is the dates they were decided, which I think lead to the explanation for their divergent results.”

They're both bad decisions, but suppose that the Court had simply required the South to follow Plessy and provide equal facilities and instrumentalities in every walk of public life to blacks and intervened in every instance where they were unequal. The empowerment such spending would have unleashed in black communities would hardly have been less effective in transforming them than access to previously segregated institutions was. Indeed, the prospect of spending that kind of money and developing black institutions would itself have killed Jin Crow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


Finance Chief Favored as Next Japanese Leader (MARTIN FACKLER, 6/03/10, NY Times)

Finance Minister Naoto Kan emerged on Thursday as the leading candidate to become Japan’s next leader, one day after the unpopular prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, abruptly announced his resignation. [...]

The party is apparently betting that Mr. Kan’s background as a former civic activist who rose through the opposition will make him a more forceful leader than the indecisive and professorial Mr. Hatoyama, who squandered last summer’s historic election mandate.

Known for his quick temper, Mr. Kan, 63, gained national attention in the mid-1990s when as health minister he exposed the use of H.I.V.-tainted blood. In the Hatoyama administration, he also served as deputy prime minister and was a point man in the party’s push to rein in secretive central ministries that have run Japan since World War II.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 AM


In Old Article, Kagan Invites Tough Questioning (JESSE J. HOLLAND, Jun. 03, 2010, AP)

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's review of the book A Confirmation Mess is creating a confirmation mess of its own.

Kagan's 1995 commentary on Stephen Carter's book rendered a harsh judgment on how lawmakers question Supreme Court nominees, and that has some senators preparing to interrogate her about it.

"I talked to her about that essay," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "She said, 'I think I'm probably going to hear that quoted back to me a few times during the hearing.'

"I said, 'Starting with me.'" [...]

Kagan wrote:

— "If the recent hearings lacked acrimony, they also lacked seriousness and substance."

— "The practice of substantive inquiry has suffered a precipitous fall since the Bork hearings, so much so that today it hardly deserves the title 'practice' at all."

— "When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public."

— "Senators today do not insist that any nominee reveal what kind of Justice she would make, by disclosing her views on important legal issues. Senators have not done so since the hearings on the nomination of Judge Bork. They instead engage in a peculiar ritual dance, in which they propound their own views on constitutional law, but neither hope nor expect the nominee to respond in like manner."

They'll show her...by talking more about themselves.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 AM

THE POINT ABOUT '80 AND '94....:

Can Republicans Win the Senate in 2010?: Eleven Democratic seats are in play. (Fred Barnes, June 2, 2010, Weekly Standard)

The good news for Republicans comes in two parts. First, they’re ahead in four of the six open Republican seats and tied in two. That’s a great improvement from, say, late last year. Second, in the 11 Democratic seats in play, they’re ahead in five, tied in four, and within easy striking distance in the other two. Not bad for a party that was crushed in the past two national elections. [...]

In Washington and Wisconsin, Republicans are in contention on the strength of candidates who only recently decided to run. Republican Dino Rossi, twice an unsuccessful candidate for governor, trails Democratic Senator Patty Murray by a single point (Rasmussen) in Washington. And Republican businessman Ron Johnson is two points behind (Rasmussen) Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. The tightness of these contests is especially worrisome to Democrats because once seemingly safe incumbents are now in deep trouble.

Two Democratic seats are all but conceded to Republicans – in North Dakota, where Republican Governor John Hoeven is miles ahead for the seat of retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan, and in Delaware, where Republican Congressman Mike Castle is far ahead of any Democrat.

Indiana and Arkansas also look like Republican pickups. In Indiana, former senator Dan Coats leads Democrat Brad Ellsworth, currently a House member, by 15 points (Rasmussen). And in Arkansas, Republican House member John Boozman is 20 points in front of Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in a Daily Kos poll and 11 points up on her Democratic primary challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

In Illinois, Republican Mark Kirk has a 3-point lead (Daily Kos) over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer. Kirk is a House member. The opposite is true in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Joe Sestak is three points ahead (Daily Kos) of Republican Pat Toomey. Sestak is a House member, Toomey a former member.

Colorado, Nevada, and California are more complicated. In Colorado, the two leading Republicans, Jane Norton and Ken Buck, lag three to six points behind Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and two to three behind Bennet’s primary challenger Andrew Romanoff in PPP polls.

In Nevada, three Republican candidates – Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian, and Sharron Angle – are tightly clustered. They are either ahead of or behind Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, by three points or fewer, according to a Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters.

Finally, in California, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer trails Republican Tom Campbell by seven points but leads Republican Carly Fiorina by six in an LA Times poll of registered voters. Campbell is a former House member, Fiorina the ex-CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

...is the number of wins that no one saw coming.

June 2, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


Why The Gaza Flotilla Attack Proves That I Am Right About Israel / Palestine (Wayne Myers, 6/02/10, Conniptions)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Clear the air on Romanoff deal: Coloradans deserve to know the details about any job offer made to the Senate candidate in exchange for not running. (The Denver Post, 6/02/10)

The Denver Post last September quoted unnamed sources that said Obama's deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, contacted former state House Speaker Romanoff, who hadn't yet announced his candidacy, with specific suggestions for Washington jobs in exchange for his staying out of the race against appointed Sen. Michael Bennet.

The White House denied any such offer, but sources told The Post's Michael Riley: "Romanoff turned down the overture, which included mention of a job at USAID, the foreign aid agency."

Obama endorsed Bennet the day after Romanoff formally announced he was in the race.

We read Riley's story with particular interest. Only days before it ran, after hearing whispers of a Romanoff job offer, we asked the former House speaker directly whether he had been offered a job by the White House to drop out of the race.

He told us unequivocally that he had not been offered a position.

The matter dropped off the political radar until Sestak admitted on the campaign trail that he was offered some sort of job.

Romanoff now refuses to answer questions about whether he was, in fact, offered a job. In fact, Romanoff refuses even to offer an explanation for why he won't answer the question. And yet, like Obama, Romanoff's campaign theme has been to run against the Washington way of doing things.

We don't know what to make of all the secrecy. Without an explanation, voters are left to wonder who to believe. And if Obama doesn't mind the position in which that places Romanoff, he ought to care about where it places him.

The Chicago Way isn't supposed to be ineptly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


Nuke It?: It’s a little less crazy than it sounds. (Daniel Foster, 6/02/10, National Review)

It was September of 1966, and gas was gushing uncontrollably from the wells in the Bukhara province of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. But the Reds, at the height of their industrial might, had a novel solution. They drilled nearly four miles into the sand and rock of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, and lowered a 30-kiloton nuclear warhead — more than half-again as large as “Little Boy,” the crude uranium bomb dropped over Hiroshima — to the depths beneath the wellhead. With the pull of a lever, a fistful of plutonium was introduced to itself under enormous pressure, setting off the chain reaction that starts with E = MC2 and ends in Kaboom! The ensuing blast collapsed the drill channel in on itself, sealing off the well.

The Soviets repeated the trick four times between 1966 and 1979, using payloads as large as 60 kilotons to choke hydrocarbon leaks. Now, as the Obama administration stares into the abyss of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and a slicker of sweet, medium crude blankets the Gulf of Mexico, slouching its way toward American beaches and wetlands, Russia’s newspaper of record is calling on the president to consider this literal “nuclear option.”

...can't use the one solution we know might work because his ideology forbids it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Bloomberg Moves to Block Teachers’ Raises (JENNIFER MEDINA, 6/02/10, NY Times)

After warning of widespread teacher layoffs for months, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Wednesday morning that the city would eliminate planned raises for all of its public-school teachers and principals for the next two years, which he said would “save the jobs of some 4,400 teachers.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Gallup Poll shows largest Republican lead ever (Yahoo, 6/02/10)

With five months to go before the general election, a new poll finds that Republicans have opened their widest lead yet when it comes to which party voters prefer this fall. Gallup's generic congressional ballot finds that the number of voters who say they will vote GOP has jumped to 49 percent, compared with 43 percent for Democrats. That's not only the biggest lead Gallup has recorded for the GOP this election cycle, it's the largest lead Republicans have ever had in the poll, which Gallup has run since 1950.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


George W Bush joins Facebook (AFP, June 03, 2010)

FACEBOOK has a new member - former US president George W Bush.

Bush joined the fast-growing social network yesterday and his profile page, facebook.com/georgewbush, attracted more than 2,000 fans within a few hours. [...]

The messages visible on Bush's page were overwhelmingly positive although a Facebook user named Brent Bender posted "You were an incredibly incompetent president" and others complained that their comments had been deleted.

Most messages were along the lines of this from Matt Thullen: "God bless you, and thank you for your leadership of this great country. You are missed!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Japan's prime minister Yukio Hatoyama resigns: Yukio Hatoyama steps down over failure to honour election promises including relocation of Okinawa's US air base (Justin McCurry, 6/02/10, guardian.co.uk)

Japan's prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, today said he would resign just eight months after he took office, after failing to honour election promises to bring sweeping change to domestic policy and fundamentally alter the country's relations with the US.

The world's second biggest economy faces yet another period of uncertainty after Hatoyama, whose Democratic party won by a landslide last year, became Japan's fourth prime minister in as many years to step down after a year or less in power.

In a further blow to the Democrats five weeks before upper house elections, Ichiro Ozawa, the architect of last year's election victory, will also step down amid a political funding scandal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Tina Fey Isn't Funny (Aaron Goldstein, 6.2.10, American Prospect)

When Fey receives the prize in November, a week removed from the midterm elections, the ceremony will turn into little more than yet another opportunity for the so-called sophisticates from D.C., New York and Hollywood to pillory Palin. If not for the former Alaska Governor, would Fey have been honored this year? In which case, it would merely confirm that Fey is being honored for all the wrong reasons.

Now some might argue that I am merely objecting to Fey's liberal politics. That is hardly the case. Robin Williams is as liberal as they come. Over the years, he has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party. But whatever his politics it would be foolhardy to deny his comedic genius. If Williams's contributions to American humor aren't unique, it would be impossible to imagine someone fitting of the word. The Kennedy Center, however, has yet to honor Williams. Can anyone honestly tell me that Tina Fey is more deserving of the Mark Twain Prize than Robin Williams?

Others still might argue that there's more to Fey than Sarah Palin. They might point to her being the first female head writer at Saturday Night Live. They might also point to her success as the star and executive producer of the NBC show 30 Rock, which is loosely based on her experiences at SNL.

Well, being the first female head writer at SNL is all well and good but it doesn't amount to a pinch of salt if the show isn't funny. Admittedly, I haven't watched the show nearly as much as I did in the 1980s and the early 1990s (not to mention the reruns from the 1970s). But there's the Catch-22. Why would I watch a comedy show week after week if it doesn't make me laugh? Why would I watch a comedy show if I cannot find amusement in it? Why would I watch a comedy show if it can scarcely make me crack a smile? Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said of Fey, "Like Mark Twain, Tina Fey offers her brilliance unconditionally." Yet when I watch Fey I have to ask myself, what is the brilliance of which Rubenstein speaks?

I did watch part of Fey's recent turn as SNL host back in April. Oy Fey!!! Sorry, her skit with Justin Bieber gave me the creeps. Perhaps some people find the sight of a middle-aged woman fantasizing about a barely adolescent boy funny, but I sat on the couch stone-faced. I had to flip the channel by the end of the first half hour.

As for 30 Rock, outside of Alec Baldwin, isn't it little more than a pale version of The Larry Sanders Show? Yet I haven't seen The Kennedy Center place a call to Garry Shandling.

...would think that Ms Fey is liberal. The show allows her to make fun of everything she's supposed to believe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


This Bench Belongs in a Dugout (ADAM LIPTAK, 5/31/10, NY Times)

Consider Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a Phillies fan, who last year contributed an essay to The Baseball Research Journal. Or Justice John Paul Stevens, a Cubs fan, who was at Wrigley Field for Game 3 of the 1932 World Series and witnessed Babe Ruth’s legendary called-shot home run.

Or Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Yankees fan, whose most famous ruling as a trial judge helped end a baseball strike in 1995. “You can’t grow up in the South Bronx without knowing about baseball,” she said at the time.

Justice Alito took his team’s loss in the last World Series particularly hard. And he had to pay off a wager.

“Unfortunately, I had a bet with Justice Sotomayor about the outcome,” he told The Philadelphia Daily News in April. “We had a bet, cheese steaks v. Nathan’s hot dogs, and I had to provide Nathan’s hot dogs.”

When a new justice joins the Supreme Court, tradition requires the junior justice to arrange a little party. In 2006, when Justice Alito came on board, that task fell to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, a Red Sox fan.