August 31, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Beck on Top: The talk-show host's 'Restoring Honor' rally was about one thing: him. (Alexander Zaitchik, August 29, 2010, New Republic)

To understand what Glenn Beck accomplished with “Restoring Honor,” it’s useful to look back at the methods Beck has always used to promote himself and further his career. His path to last Saturday’s success began, appropriately, while working in Washington, D.C., as a WPGC morning jock during the early ‘80s. It was there that Beck met another young DJ named Bruce Kelly, who became his first mentor in the art of publicity. For the next two decades, Beck labored in the fiercely competitive world of zoo-style Top 40 morning radio, where DJs fought dirty for attention—from local media coverage to top billing at charity events. “It’s hard for people who never worked in FM radio during the 1980s to really understand how deep publicity-hunger runs in Beck’s blood,” says Kelly, a radio veteran who worked with and against Beck in two markets. “Morning radio DJ’s were the Navy Seals of getting your name out there and keeping it out there. It was all about finding the biggest stage to promote yourself and your shows. Take away the high rhetoric, and Saturday is just a masterful lesson in the art of the publicity stunt. Old DJ’s like me can only stand in awe.”

Years before Beck made it as the maudlin hype man of the paranoid style, he was famous for high-dive publicity splashes following a masterful long-tease. In Baltimore in the early ’90s, while working with his current radio co-host Pat Gray, Beck turned straw into gold by building up the grand opening of an underground theme park, Magicland, which did not exist. He did it all with a few audio clips and an understanding of his audience’s psychology—the very tools he later used to create the political Magicland known as the Van Jones Scandal.

The closest analog to Saturday in Beck’s past was his 2003 traveling “Rally for America” road show. As with last weekend’s “Restoring Honor,” Beck falsely billed those controversial rallies as “nonpolitical,” used charitable donations to defray logistics costs, piggybacked, when possible, on other events such as Memorial Day parades, and barely bothered to hide the fact that the whole thing was a shameless brand-building exercise, stamped with his corporate logo.

It's one sweet racket.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


The Failure of the Liberal Economic Experiment? (James K. Glassman, September 2010, Commentary)

Government played two distinct roles during and after the crisis. The first was shoring up shaky financial institutions. On March 24, 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York issued JPMorgan Chase a $29 billion non-recourse loan that allowed it to buy Bear Stearns, an investment bank on the verge of collapse. Six months later, the Fed provided $85 billion (more came later) to save AIG, the insurance giant with assets of more than $1 trillion. Congress then enacted the comprehensive Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which authorized loans and equity purchases for hundreds of institutions (mainly banks but also auto companies).

By June 30, 2010, the U.S. Treasury had disbursed $386 billion in TARP funds. Another $145 billion went to keep afloat the two government-sponsored (though ostensibly private) institutions that provide lenders with mortgage money, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

How did all that work out? The Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, and TARP dispositions were far from perfect. Robert Pozen argues in his book Too Big to Save? that too much of the federal money injected into AIG was used to bail out banks—many of them foreign—that AIG had insured against mortgage losses through credit default swaps. Those banks, he writes, could have taken a -severe haircut without jeopardizing the global financial system. Also questionable was giving General Motors and Chrysler more than $80 billion (though President Bush acted honorably in keeping the automakers alive until the start of the Obama administration.) A good case can be made that automakers should have been allowed to go bankrupt through the normal legal process, with their assets passing from weak hands to strong. As for Fannie and Freddie, had perfectly sensible warnings from experts like Peter Wallison been heeded, they might not have collapsed at all, and the entire subprime-mortgage meltdown might not have occurred. So far, Congress and the president have simply kicked the Fannie-Freddie can down the road, delaying a long-term solution.

Overall, however, it has to be said that the TARP and the other financial rescues were necessary and -efficient. The global financial network did face systemic failure, mainly because of a lack of liquidity, or cash to meet immediate demands. The U.S. government was able to provide that liquidity, using its authority as lender of last resort, and most of the direct beneficiaries could eventually repay their loans, with interest, as they recovered. In fact, within a year and a half after the TARP was launched, the Treasury had been repaid $211 billion—or more than half what it had put out.

The second role government played, however, was far more questionable. Instead of lender of last resort, it determined to be the spender of last resort. And this decision, more than any other, is what has led to the crisis in the liberal economic experiment.

...the intellectual has retarded it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


There is no struggle between Islam and America, imam says (Kareem Shaheen, August 30. 2010, The National)

Imam Feisal , an imam in the area for 27 years, said the struggle “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between moderates of all the faith traditions and the radicals of all the faith traditions. So what is required is a coalition.”

Christian and Jewish leaders have spoken in support of the project, he said, and are in favour of positive, interfaith discourse.

“However, there are also those very small, loud and vociferous voices who are beating the drum for the opposite kind of discourse. So the question becomes which discourse will dominate, not only in the short term but in the long term.”

He suggested that part of the opposition was politically motivated.

“There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse,” he said.

Opposing or supporting the centre has evolved into a campaign issue ahead of congressional midterm elections in the US in November.

The project’s creators have also been criticised for not effectively participating in the media debate over the centre, but Imam Feisal rejected that criticism.

“We have been saying from the very beginning what the vision and objectives are. I’ve said it repeatedly on many television shows,” he said, adding that religious and political leaders have also spoken forcefully about the merits of the project.

“But, as I said, there is a small minority that doesn’t want to hear this.

“The fact of the matter is the local community board recognises and understands the vision, the politicians in New York understand the vision, and there is broad-based support for these objectives.” [...]

The imam said that religion is enmeshed in American life, and the Arab and Muslim world must realise that protection of religious freedom is part of the “American creed”.

The inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, endowed by the Creator and laid out in the US Declaration of Independence, are “a very deeply embedded vision … in the American people. This particular existential viewpoint and foundational viewpoint of America is exactly what Islam is.

“America was created by people who fled Europe seeking religious freedom and religious liberty. So it is an essential part of the American worldview and creed, that religious liberty is a fundamental protected right,” he said, adding that the role of government is to protect all religions.

“This is something which I believe the Muslim world insufficiently appreciates about America. I’d like to see them understand that better, recognise that better. And recognise that in that is a value which lies at the very core of the Quranic value,” he said.

The imam also spoke of an “evolving American Islamic identity”, and the need to avoid equating Islam with extremism, a concern that “has been going on for quite some time now”.

“And this is why it is important, the issue of radicalism is a threat to all of us. We have radicals in the Muslim world and we have radicals in the other faith traditions as well.”

“The radicals feed off each other and need each other to sustain themselves. So we need right now to combat the radical voices. That’s the only way we can win this struggle, and establish a peaceful world order, which is what everybody wants and everybody needs.”

“We are evolving an American Islamic identity, and the struggles we are going through today are of the same genre as what the previous faith communities had to face – Jewish immigrants, Catholic immigrants had to face even worse attacks against their communities,” he said.

“But as time goes on and as the second generation establishes itself and is rooted in the United States they articulate an expression of who we are as Americans and to be seen decreasingly as alien and being local.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Migrants say Arizona worth risk of crossing (AMANDA LEE MYERS, 08/31/2010, AP)

Deaths of illegal immigrants in Arizona have soared this summer toward their highest levels since 2005 — a fact that has surprised many who thought that the furor over the state’s new immigration law and the 100-plus degree heat would draw them elsewhere along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

But at the Pima County morgue in Tucson, Ariz., the body bags are stacked on stainless-steel shelves from floor to ceiling. A refrigerated truck has been brought in to handle the overflow at the multimillion dollar facility.

In July, 59 people died — 40 in the first two weeks when nighttime temperatures were the hottest in recorded history, hovering around the low 90s. The single-month death count is second only to July 2005, when 68 bodies were found.

Of this July’s deaths, 44 were on the Tohono O’Odham Nation, a reservation the size of Connecticut that shares 75 miles of Arizona’s border with Mexico. The tribe is opposed to humanitarian aid on its lands, believing it invites violence.

Twenty-two more people died in the first 30 days of August.

Even with the prospect of a torturous death, and the bitter wrath they face in Arizona, immigrants, including Ortega, say the state’s vast, sparsely populated terrain is still the best place for border jumpers.

“In Tijuana, you have two walls that you have to get over,” said Ortega, who first came across in 1976 to work in West Coast agricultural fields. “This is much easier here. You just have to watch out for the snakes. That’s why I prefer to walk in the daytime and not at night.”

He admits he’s afraid when he crosses, but states flatly, “It’s worth the risk.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM

Oatmeal raisin walnut cookies (Jill Gibson, 8/31/10, Boston Globe)

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups dark raisins

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Spread the nuts in a baking dish. Toast them for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned; set aside to cool.

3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to blend them.

4. In an electric mixer, cream the butter with the granulated and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

5. Blend in the flour mixture just until incorporated.

6. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a wooden spoon, mix in the oats, raisins, and walnuts.

7. Drop the batter on the baking sheets in 2-tablespoon mounds, leaving 2 inches between them.

8. Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown but the tops are still fairly light.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM



Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage?: A pastor who hates Muslims, Mormons and gays will start preaching Sunday. Will mosque opponents speak out? (Justin Elliott, 8/31/10, Salon)

Pastor Bill Keller of Florida said today he will begin preaching Sunday at the Marriott at 85 West Street (see proximity to ground zero here). A weekly service is planned at the hotel until the $8 million 9/11 Christian Center finds a permanent space. (Fundraising is going well, Keller told Salon today.) [...]

Keller is the same pastor who hosted a birther infomercial that encouraged viewers to send him and a partner donations to advance the birther cause. His Internet ministry explicitly calls President Obama the new Hitler. He calls homosexuality a perversion. And in 2008, he targeted presidential contender Mitt Romney for being Mormon with a campaign called "voting for Satan."

In short, if critics of the Park51 Islamic community center, which is explicitly welcoming of all faiths, truly believe that there is a "zone of solemnity" around ground zero (as Gov. Pat Quinn put it), they should be horrified at Keller's 9/11 Christian Center.

Ditto for those who believe that religious leaders should not build "deliberately provocative" projects around ground zero, as another mosque opponent put it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Prepaid cellphone plans gaining popularity: Once aimed at low-income customers, prepaid calling plans are luring new customers by increasing their smartphone choices. (BRIDGET CAREY, 8/31/10,

Marketers for no-contract phones are working hard to tell their side of the story. Virgin Mobile last week launched a campaign saying it's ``stupid'' to spend $100 a month on a plan when customers can go ``crazy'' and get unlimited text, e-mail, data and Web access -- including 300 monthly anytime phone minutes -- for $25. Customers can increase to 1,200 minutes for $40, or unlimited everything for $60.

Even among major service providers, prepaid options have become more popular. T-Mobile has seen its prepaid customers double since 2006, and spokesman Graham Crow said more customers are using prepaid as a way to test drive a bill.

``Parents are having their teenagers try prepaid as a way to learn about how many minutes or text messages they'll actually use and to learn a little bit about the cost of owning a phone,'' Crow said.

And though most major carriers -- including AT&T and Verizon -- that focus on contract agreements offer less-snazzy phones for their prepaid plans, they too are seeing increased demand for their no-contract options.

Prepaid subscribers made up 20.3 percent of the industry in December 2009, up from 17.8 percent at the end of 2008, according to the international wireless trade group, CTIA.

``The demographic was someone who didn't have great credit,'' said Chuck Hamby, Verizon spokesman. ``Now that doesn't matter, it's people who want to be smart with their money.''

We'd been looking for a car charger for our disposable phones, but for roughly the same price you can get a Trac-fone with car charger and Double Minutes for the life of the phone (on sale at K-Mart). So, after a $15 initial outlay you have a phone that costs $80 a year.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Christie Channels Reagan to Become Anti-Obama (Kevin Hassett, Aug 29, 2010, Bloomberg)

Christie’s cuts to school funding have earned him the enmity of the state teachers’ union, with 200,000 members. The governor asked teachers to agree to a one-year salary freeze and to kick in 1.5 percent of their pay to help fund their health care insurance -- most of the state’s teachers don’t contribute to their plans.

Teachers in many school districts refused. As he had threatened during discussions with the unions, Christie called on constituents to vote down local school board budgets that didn’t conform to his requests. Christie won the public fight. A surprising 58 percent of proposed budgets were defeated, making it the largest number of rejections on state record.

Just as Reagan did in 1981, when he faced off with the air traffic controllers union, Christie called the bluff and seems to have won.

Reagan became on overwhelming political force because of his ability to appeal to audiences beyond his natural constituency, as Christie did at that Perth Amboy gathering. Christie clearly has the same knack, and will become an irresistible political force if New Jersey can recover.

It is an open question whether it will, but if it does, then the Republican Party may have found a real star.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


Nation Building Works (DAVID BROOKS, 8/31/10, NY Times)

On the economic front, there are signs of progress. It’s hard to know what role the scattershot American development projects have played, but this year Iraq will have the 12th-fastest-growing economy in the world, and it is expected to grow at a 7 percent annual clip for the next several years.

“Iraq has made substantial progress since 2003,” the International Monetary Fund reports. Inflation is reasonably stable. A budget surplus is expected by 2012. Unemployment, though still 15 percent, is down from stratospheric levels.

Oil production is back around prewar levels, and there are some who say Iraq may be able to rival Saudi production. That’s probably unrealistic, but Iraq will have a healthy oil economy, for better and for worse.

Living standards are also improving. According to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, the authoritative compendium of data on this subject, 833,000 Iraqis had phones before the invasion. Now more than 1.3 million have landlines and some 20 million have cellphones. Before the invasion, 4,500 Iraqis had Internet service. Now, more than 1.7 million do.

In the most recent Gallup poll, 69 percent of Iraqis rated their personal finances positively, up from 36 percent in March 2007. Baghdad residents say the markets are vibrant again, with new electronics, clothing and even liquor stores. [...]

Iraq ranks fourth in the Middle East on the Index of Political Freedom from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit — behind Israel, Lebanon and Morocco, but ahead of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Nearly two-thirds of Iraqis say they want a democracy, while only 19 percent want an Islamic state.

In short, there has been substantial progress on the things development efforts can touch most directly: economic growth, basic security, and political and legal institutions.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 AM


Costs will rein in Arizona's immigration crackdown: Arizona can arrest illegal immigrants now, but then what? Prison and deportation are both too expensive to sustain. (David R. Francis, 8/30, CS Monitor)

Beside the moral, humanitarian, and legal issues surrounding illegal immigrants, their apprehension poses a sizable financial cost. In Arizona, police could arrest them under the new state law, but keeping them in already crowded jails costs roughly $100 a day per person. For 5,000 people, imprisonment costs could add up to $182.5 million a year. That's a hefty charge for a state struggling with a budget deficit of at least $368 million.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Petraeus: Afghan concern about Pakistan is legit (DEB RIECHMANN, 08/31/2010, Daily Caller)

The Karzai government has been increasingly vocal in recent days about the need to destroy Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta has argued that U.S. support of Pakistan amounts to nurturing the terrorists’ “main mentor” and that the Afghan people are no longer ready to “pay the price for the international community’s miscalculation and naivety.”

“Given the very clear linkage between attacks on Afghan soil by individuals who have come from Pakistan and are commanded and controlled from Pakistan, I think President Karzai and Dr. Spanta have very legitimate concerns,” Petraeus said.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Human rights are key to our foreign policy: We must harness Britain's generosity and compassion to help the rest of the world (William Hague, 8/31/10, Daily Telegraph)

It is not in our character as a nation to stand by while others are in need, or to be unmoved when they are denied the hard-won freedoms and protections that we enjoy in Britain as a result of centuries of striving for individual rights within a democratic society.

It is a sad fact that there are scores of countries in the world where human rights are severely curtailed. Somalia, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and North Korea are just some of the many countries where people endure war, want or political oppression. There is no single country that has the power to transform this situation alone. In the end, strong institutions and the rule of law are the only lasting guarantee of freedoms, and we all know that these things take a long time to build and must be constantly nurtured.

But this does not diminish the centrality of human rights in the core values of our foreign policy. We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Foreign policy is domestic policy written large. The values we live by at home do not stop at our shores. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human. When ceasefires break down or unchecked climate change takes hold, ordinary people suffer. Where there is lawlessness, human rights abuses inevitably follow, affecting our security in the UK as well as affronting our common humanity. [...]

We will continue to raise human rights concerns wherever they arise, whether with our oldest and staunchest allies, authoritarian regimes or emerging democracies. We will use the persistent and painstaking mobilisation of our resources and of our diplomacy to make progress on this core value of UK foreign policy. For the right foreign policy for Britain is one that includes ambition for what we can achieve for others as well as ourselves, that seeks to inspire others with our values and that is resolute in its support for those around the world who are striving to free themselves from poverty or political repression.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


AP-GfK Poll: Most attuned voters tilt toward GOP (ALAN FRAM, 08/31/2010, AP)

To find people with the most intense views, the AP examined poll respondents who called an issue extremely important and compared those who strongly approved of Obama’s handling of that matter with those who strongly disapproved.

By a 3-to-1 margin, more of these highly opinionated people strongly disapproved of the president’s effort on the economy than strongly approved. More strongly disapproved of Obama’s actions by a 2-to-1 ratio on unemployment, 2-1 on health care, 6-1 on the deficit and 2-1 on terrorism. His performance on Afghanistan, taxes, immigration and gas prices also drew strong disapproval.

Of the most frequently mentioned issues, the only one where most did not strongly disapprove of Obama’s work was education, on which they were closely divided. They were also split over his handling of energy, Iraq, the environment and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Those with the strongest views represent a minority of the population, ranging from one in nine people to one in three people, depending on the specific issue. Even so, they could be disproportionately crucial because turnout in election years without a presidential race is usually light.

This election is the proverbial unscrewable pooch (if you'll pardon our French).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Cordova Christians put out welcome mat for new mosque
(Lindsay Melvin, August 28, 2010, Commercial Appeal)

When pastor Steve Stone initially heard of the mosque and Islamic center being erected on the sprawling land adjacent his church, his stomach tightened.

Then he raised a 6-foot sign reading, "Welcome to the Neighborhood."

The issue for Stone and the 550-person Heartsong Church in Cordova, came down to one question:

"What would Jesus do if He were us? He would welcome the neighbor," Stone said. [...]

On a 31-acre stretch at Humphrey Road and Houston Levee, Memphis Islamic Center leaders plan to build a massive gathering place during the next several years. It will include a mosque, youth center, day care center, indoor gym, sports fields, medical clinic and retirement home.

While the 4,000-square-foot worship hall is being completed, Heartsong has opened its doors to its neighbors throughout the monthlong observance of Ramadan.

Under a gigantic cross constructed of salvaged wood, nearly 200 area Muslims have been gathering each night to pray.

"I think it's helped break down a lot of barriers in both congregations," said Islamic center board member Danish Siddiqui. [...[

"I've got fear and ignorance in me, too," said Stone, referring to his and some of his congregants' early apprehension toward the Memphis center.

But as members of the Christian congregation take the opportunity to sit in on Ramadan prayers and meet people at the nightly gatherings, much of that mystery and fear has dissipated.

"People in Memphis appreciate faith, even if it's not their faith," said Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, the Islamic center's scholar in residence and a Rhodes College professor.

The peaceful tone in the Bluff City has been refreshing for Qadhi, 35, who recently moved to Memphis from Connecticut, where early this month his Bridgeport mosque was descended on by angry protestors yelling slurs at families as they arrived for evening prayer.

"We're living in a climate of Islamophobia," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


'Jewish gene' theories make waves in Germany, go unnoticed in Israel: German politician Thilo Sarrazin and the Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai both believe in 'Jewish genes,' but only Sarrazin is castigated for his belief. (Akiva Eldar, 8/31/10, Ha'aretz)

Yesterday's Hebrew edition of Haaretz reported a remark by a German politician that sparked a political and public furor. The foreign and defense ministers, among others, sharply criticized the remark made by Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the German Social Democratic party and a board member of the German central bank.

What is the nature of the comment that is causing a stir in Germany? Here is a quote from Sarrazin's interview with the paper, Welt am Sonntag: "All Jews share a particular gene that makes them different from other peoples."

A Jewish gene? It is unbelievable that race theory continues to hold sway in Germany.

Now read the following pearl: "A convert, if he converts through the Orthodox, he has the Jewish gene. If he doesn't convert through the Orthodox, he doesn't have the Jewish gene. As simple as that." This quote is taken from an interview the interior minister of the Jewish State and the Shas party leader, Eli Yishai, gave to the editor of The Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz (August 8, 2010 ). that, genetically, Palestinians are Jews.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 AM


Beck challenges Obama's religious beliefs after rally in D.C. (Felicia Sonmez, 8/31/10, Washington Post)

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck voiced sharper criticism of President Obama's religious beliefs on Sunday than he and other speakers offered from the podium of the rally Beck organized at the Lincoln Memorial a day earlier.

During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," which was filmed after Saturday's rally, Beck claimed that Obama "is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim." [...]

Beck made the remarks in answer to a question about his previous accusation that Obama was a "racist" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people." He contended that that statement "was not accurate" and that he had "miscast" Obama's religious beliefs as racism. that no one believes he paid much attention in church, especially not to the "black liberation theology" guff.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 AM


Her Darkest Places: a review of SHIRLEY JACKSON: Novels and Stories, Edited by Joyce Carol Oates (TERRENCE RAFFERTY, 8/29/10, NY Times Book Review)

A lot of writers, both in and out of the horror genre, know how to create a sense of dread. What makes Jackson’s sensibility so distinctive is that her brand of dread tends to be self-aware and even, at times, self-amused. There’s often a tinge of embarrassment to her characters’ fear, simply because it’s so tenuous, so apparently sourceless: they can’t tell if what’s troubling them is something or nothing. In Hill House, which Jackson characterizes as “not sane,” all it takes to make Eleanor and her fellow ghost hunters feel profoundly uncomfortable is the house’s “unbelievably faulty design which left it chillingly wrong in all its dimensions, so that the walls seemed always in one direction a fraction longer than the eye could endure, and in another direction a fraction less than the barest possible tolerable length.” But the heroine, at least initially, tries to shake off the bad vibes, to chalk her queasiness up to an overactive imagination: “Really, she told herself, really, Eleanor.”

Most of Jackson’s fiction affects the reader the way Hill House affects Eleanor — you’re spooked, then you feel a little silly, and then, like it or not, you’re spooked again. This peculiarly Jacksonian disquiet operates in almost every one of her stories, not just the tiny handful that could be called horror. A fair amount of her work is comic; in her lifetime, she was perhaps as well known for her humorous sketches about her unruly household as she was for having written “The Lottery.” (Three of those funny domestic vignettes are in the Library of America collection.) And even these, written for such unlikely publications as Good Housekeeping, don’t seem wholly out of character. There’s an eerie detachment to them: for Jackson, everything, even her own apparently happy family life, turns strange in the telling.

Oates’s selection is canny. “The Haunting of Hill House” and “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” are the best of Jackson’s six novels (though it’s a shame that space couldn’t have been found for “The Bird’s Nest,” a dryly unsettling 1954 novel about multiple-personality disorder), and the 21 uncollected and unpublished stories here are drawn largely from the posthumous 1968 volume “Come Along With Me,” wisely put together by Jackson’s husband, the critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. (The other 25 stories are the contents of the 1949 collection “The Lottery.”) Jackson wrote wonderfully at every stage of her career, but it’s the later work, from her difficult last years, that sticks most tenaciously in the imagination, stories about desperate homebound fantasies and overfamiliar fears.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


FLOOD TIDES (Steve Coll, September 6, 2010, The New Yorker)

After a decade in which the United States and Pakistan have been lashed together by war and terrorism, it is understandably hard for many Americans to conceive of Pakistan as a whole place. It’s not only a country that is poorly governed and menaced by Islamist radicals; it’s also one that is growing economically, and that houses a raucously open society populated by muckraking journalists, comic novelists, cheesy reality-TV producers, real-estate hustlers, world-class squash players, and the like. The number of Pakistanis living in poverty fell by almost half between 1999 and 2008, from thirty per cent of the population to about seventeen per cent. This extraordinary change, a result of rapid economic growth and remittances from Pakistanis working abroad, is not often discussed on American cable-news outlets. Five years ago, Pakistan’s economic growth rate reached eight per cent annually, and the economy has continued to expand, if more slowly, even since 2008, when the global financial crisis and the domestic Taliban insurgency took hold simultaneously. (The number of Pakistanis living in poverty almost certainly has crept up again, and will move higher still because of the floods.)

Islamist insurgents threaten Pakistan’s weak government, yet they remain widely unpopular. In the last election, the religious party previously aligned with the Taliban polled two per cent; in the country’s history, religious parties have never won more than twelve per cent in a national election.

Pakistan’s economic expansion has come, in part, by selling and smuggling consumer goods to India’s growing middle classes. For Pakistan to overcome its many burdens, it must make peace, or, at least, normalize economic ties, with India, which would include resolving the Kashmir dispute. On this subject, the United States could benefit from a sense of urgency comparable to its focus on Pakistani terrorism. In 2007, the governments of India and Pakistan negotiated the outline of an agreement that would have further opened their border to trade. A final deal has proved elusive, in part because of evidence that Pakistan’s Army continues to support anti-Indian terrorist groups; the Obama Administration has the leverage in Pakistan to hold the Army accountable.

Economic growth is not a panacea for social ills or political disarray, but policies designed to unleash Pakistan’s economy during the next decade are far more likely to reduce the threat of Taliban-inspired revolution than are military operations and drone strikes. Examples of success exist: Indonesia, which, like Pakistan, has a large Muslim population and implausible borders left behind by imperialists, suffered badly a decade ago from separatist violence, Al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists, and poisonous civil-military relations. By riding Southeast Asia’s economic boom, Indonesia has become a comparably bland, democratic archipelago.

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August 30, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Man Already Knows Everything He Needs To Know About Muslims (The Onion, August 30, 2010)

Local man Scott Gentries told reporters Wednesday that his deliberately limited grasp of Islamic history and culture was still more than sufficient to shape his views of the entire Muslim world.

Gentries, 48, said he had absolutely no interest in exposing himself to further knowledge of Islamic civilization or putting his sweeping opinions into a broader context of any kind, and confirmed he was "perfectly happy" to make a handful of emotionally charged words the basis of his mistrust toward all members of the world's second-largest religion.

"I learned all that really matters about the Muslim faith on 9/11," Gentries said in reference to the terrorist attacks on the United States undertaken by 19 of Islam's approximately 1.6 billion practitioners. "What more do I need to know to stigmatize Muslims everywhere as inherently violent radicals?"

"And now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero," continued Gentries, eliminating any distinction between the 9/11 hijackers and Muslims in general. "No, I won't examine the accuracy of that statement, but yes, I will allow myself to be outraged by it and use it as evidence of these people's universal callousness toward Americans who lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell."

"Even though I am not one of those people," he added.

When told that the proposed "Ground Zero mosque" is actually a community center two blocks north of the site that would include, in addition to a public prayer space, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, and athletic facilities, Gentries shook his head and said, "I know all I'm going to let myself know."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Gallup: GOP takes 10-point lead over Democrats in generic poll (Alex Pappas, 8/30/10, The Daily Caller)

It’s the Republicans largest margin of the year and its largest margin over Democrats in Gallup’s history of tracking dating back to 1942.

In July of 1994 — the year of the Republican revolution swept the GOP into control of Congress — Republicans had their widest margin ever in this poll over Democrats, leading by 5 points. At this point in the election season in 1994, both Democrats and Republicans were tied at 46 percent in the generic

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:05 PM


White Fright: Glenn Beck's rally was large, vague, moist, and undirected—the Waterworld of white self-pity. (Christopher Hitchens, Aug. 30, 2010, Slate)

This summer, then, has been the perfect register of the new anxiety, beginning with the fracas over Arizona's immigration law, gaining in intensity with the proposal by some Republicans to amend the 14th Amendment so as to de-naturalize "anchor babies," cresting with the continuing row over the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque, and culminating, at least symbolically, with a quasi-educated Mormon broadcaster calling for a Christian religious revival from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

At the last "Tea Party" rally I attended, earlier this year at the Washington Monument, some in the crowd made at least an attempt to look fierce and minatory. I stood behind signs that read: "We left our guns at home—this time" and "We invoke the First Amendment today—the Second Amendment tomorrow." But Beck's event was tepid by comparison: a call to sink to the knees rather than rise from them. It was clever of him not to overbill it as a "Million"-type march (though Rep. Michele Bachmann was tempted to claim that magic figure). The numbers were impressive enough on their own, but the overall effect was large, vague, moist, and undirected: the Waterworld of white self-pity.

The Washington Post quoted Linda Adams, a Beck supporter from Colorado, who said, "We want our country to get back to its original roots," adding that "her ancestors were on the Mayflower and fought in the American Revolution." She was also upset that some schools no longer require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Well, the U.S. population is simply not going to be replenished by Puritan pilgrims from England, and the original Pledge of Allegiance was fine with most people as a statement of national unity, until its "original intent" was compromised by a late insertion of the words "under God" in the McCarthyite 1950s. But one still sees what she means and can feel sympathy with the pulse of nostalgia.

In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


West Virginia Senate: Manchin (D) 48% to Raese (R) 42% (Rasmussen Reports, August 30, 2010)

In the first Rasmussen Reports post-primary survey of West Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, Democratic Governor Joe Manchin attracts 48% of the vote while Republican businessman John Raese earns 42%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


In Israel, Settling for Less (GADI TAUB, 8/30/10, NY Times)

Although religious settlers often describe themselves as heirs of the early Zionist pioneers, they are anything but. Herzl’s vision was about liberating people, while theirs is about achieving a mystical reunion between the people of Israel and the land of Israel. Herzl’s view stemmed from the ideals of the Enlightenment and the tradition of democratic national liberation movements, dating back to the American and French Revolutions; religious settlers are steeped in blood-and-soil nationalism. Herzl never doubted that Israeli Arabs should have full and equal rights. For religious settlers, Arabs are an alien element in the organic unity of Jews and their land.

The consequences of these differences are huge. If the settlers achieve their manifest goal — making Israel’s hold on the territories permanent — it will mean the de facto annexation of a huge Arab population and will force a decision about their status. In Israel proper, the Arab minority represents about a fifth of its 7.2 million citizens, and they have full legal equality. But between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, there are roughly equal numbers of Arabs and Jews today.

Even if Israel annexed only the West Bank, it would more than double its Arab population. With birthrates in the territories far exceeding those of Arabs and Jews within Israel, Jews would soon enough be a minority. This would void the very idea of a Jewish democratic state.

Israel would have to choose between remaining democratic but not Jewish, or remaining Jewish by becoming non-democratic. Israel’s enemies have long maintained that Zionism is racism and that Israel is an apartheid state. If the settlers succeed, they will turn this lie into truth.

In the end it just didn't matter how good an ally South Africa had been, once there was no longer any military need for its resources nor naval significance to its position on the Cape of Good Hope, its official racism made it intolerable.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 AM


Mandelson warns against return to pre-New Labour era (, 30 August 2010)

The Labour party risks getting stuck in an "electoral cul-de-sac" if it takes a "pre-New Labour" direction under its new leader, Lord Mandelson warned today.

His comments were seen as a warning against the election of Ed Miliband, who has positioned himself to the left of his brother David as the pair have emerged as front-runners to succeed Gordon Brown.

The former business secretary – and architect of New Labour – warned that the party risked a long period in opposition if it swung to the left and failed to recreate the wide-ranging coalition which took Tony Blair to power in 1997.

...of Anglospheric parties that have successfully governed by the Third Way is to react against themselves while their opponents imitate the success.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 AM


GOP's Susana Martinez Leads Democrat Diane Denish in N.M. Governor's Race (Bruce Drake, 8/29/10, Politics Daily)

Republican Susana Martinez leads Democrat Diane Denish by 45 percent to 36 percent with 16 percent undecided in the race to fill the seat of New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, according to an Albuquerque Journal poll published Sunday.

Martinez, the District Attorney for the area covering Dona Ana County, built the lead by attracting one in five Democratic votes and one in four Hispanic voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


Park 51 reaction impacts young U.S. Muslims (RACHEL ZOLL, 8/30/10,m Associated Press)

Whatever the outcome, the uproar over a planned Islamic center near the former World Trade Center site is shaping up as a signal event in the story of American Islam.

Heroes have emerged from outside the Muslim community. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been steadfast in his support for the project. Jon Stewart nightly mocks the bigotry that the protest unleashed.

"The sentiment, say, five years ago among many Muslims, especially among many young Muslims, was that, 'We're in this all by ourselves,'" said Omer Mozaffar, a university lecturer in Chicago who leads Quran study groups as a buffer between young people and the extremist preachers on YouTube. 'That has changed significantly. There have been a lot of people speaking out on behalf of Muslims."

Eboo Patel, an American Muslim leader and founder of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago nonprofit that promotes community service and religious pluralism, said Muslims are unfortunately experiencing what all immigrant groups endured in the U.S. before they were fully accepted as American. Brandeis University historian Jonathan D. Sarna has noted that Jews faced a similar backlash into the 1800s when they tried to build synagogues, which were once banned in New York.

Patel believes American Muslims are on the same difficult but inevitable path toward integration.

"I'm not saying this is going to be happy," Patel said. "But I'm extremely optimistic."

Yet, the overwhelming feeling is that the controversy has caused widespread damage that will linger for years.

American Muslim leaders say the furor has emboldened opposition groups to resist new mosques around the country, at a time when there aren't enough mosques or Islamic schools to serve the community.

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August 29, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Fire at Tenn. Mosque Building Site Ruled Arson (CBS/AP, 8/29/10)

Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson. [...]

The center had operated for years out of a small business suite. Planning members said the new building, which was being constructed next to a church, would help accommodate the area's growing Muslim community.

"We unfortunately did not experience hostilities for the 30 years we've been here and have only seen the hostility since approval of the site plan for the new center," said Sbenaty.

Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

"They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group," Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore "Vote for Jesus" T-shirts and carried signs that said "No Sharia law for USA!," referring to the Islamic code of law.

Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the "Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro" and tearing it up.

Earlier this summer opponents criticized the planned mosque at hearings held by the Rutherford County Commission, as supporters held prayer vigils.

At one such prayer vigil, WTVF reported opponents speaking out against construction.

"No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don't want it. I don't want them here," Evy Summers said to WTVF. "Go start their own country overseas somewhere. "

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


Obama’s Old Deal: Why the 44th president is no FDR—and the economy is still in the doldrums. (Michael Hirsh, 8/29/10, Newsweek)

[B]y midsummer of 2010 the Volcker rule that Obama finally backed was so full of exemptions—allowing banks to invest substantially in hedge and equity funds—that even Volcker expressed dismay. The fundamental structure of Wall Street had hardly changed. On the contrary, the new law effectively anointed the existing banking elite, possibly making them even more powerful. The major firms got to keep the biggest part of their derivatives business in interest-rate and foreign-exchange swaps. (JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley control more than 95 percent, or about $200 trillion worth, of that market.)

The same banks may end up controlling or at least dominating the clearinghouses they are being pressed to trade on as well. New capital charges, meanwhile, have created barriers to entry for new firms. This consolidation of the elites has in turn kept alive the “too big to fail” problem. “It makes it way tougher now to kiss somebody off when they get in trouble,” says the former Fed official. Eugene Ludwig, a former comptroller of the currency, believes the new law’s impact will be “profound” in changing the way banks do business. But he worries about a “skewing of the playing field” in favor of the big banks, putting community banks at a disadvantage.

The Obama administration also did little to use its bully pulpit to reorient pay packages at the big financial houses, where bonuses still often run in the tens of millions of dollars. Critics make the case that changing this pay structure would do more than punish those who helped spur the meltdown. It might also encourage some of America’s greatest minds to stay away from financial engineering, which contributes little of substance to the economy, and instead consider real engineering. Nor has the Justice Department launched prosecutions as it did after the S&L crisis, or during the insider-trading scandals of the ’80s, when Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky were led off in handcuffs. (One problem this time around, lawyers say, is that virtually everyone was complicit in the subprime-mortgage scam.)

Most significantly, Barack Obama, in contrast to FDR in the depths of the Depression, has failed as yet to restore confidence in the economy. A recent Associated Press poll showed him at his lowest point ever on that issue, with just 41 percent of Americans approving of his performance. It was little surprise last week when Republican House leader John Boehner, sensing blood in the water—and a possible speakership in his future—attacked the president’s economic team and called for the resignations of Geithner and Summers. (Both budget chief Peter Orszag and Romer had already announced over the summer they were leaving.)

Obama can hardly take all the blame for the surprising persistence of high unemployment and slow growth. Among the new headwinds beating the economy down in recent months was Europe’s currency crisis, for example. But the leadership question can’t be ignored. Financial and economic reform just never seemed to be a subject that kindled Obama’s passions, his critics say. (The White House strenuously disagrees: “Financial reform has been a top priority to the president since day one,” administration spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told me.) For much of his first 18 months in office, Obama always seemed to be finding some new thing to focus on. He spoke about financial reform, but he often seemed to address it on the fly, as he was tackling other priorities, like health care. To be fair, Obama was also juggling two wars. Yet all in all, he seemed perfectly willing to leave things to his trusted lieutenants, Geithner and Summers, puzzling some Democratic allies on the Hill. “Doesn’t the president realize he’s got a big flank exposed here?” said one Democratic staffer pushing for tougher restrictions on Wall Street early in the summer of 2010.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


New Orleans' School Miracle: Hurricane Katrina changed the city. Five years later, Sarah Carr looks at the school revolution brought by the storm. (Sarah Carr, 8/28/10, Daily Beast)

Lafayette and, indeed, New Orleans in general is instructive when considering these questions because, since Katrina, the city has become a sort of education laboratory, with a higher percentage of children in charter schools than anywhere else in the country. Nearly 70 percent of the city’s children are enrolled in charter schools this fall, and educators say that New Orleans might become the nation’s first all-charter city within the next few years.

Charter schools differ from other schools according to the specific laws of the state. But, in general, a charter school is run by a board of directors that has flexibility to set its own curriculum and calendar, and make its own decisions when it comes to the hiring and firing of teachers.

In New Orleans, the storm that upended life in the city also enabled a band of officials to make a series of controversial, radical changes in an effort to improve the city’s historically troubled schools.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, state officials took control of most of the public schools, firing all the teachers and putting the schools into the state-run Recovery School District - an entity created before Katrina to suggest recovery from academic failure, not recovery from the hurricane. Since then, officials have rapidly moved to turn the city’s traditional schools into charters.

“We talk about post-traumatic stress, but there’s also post-traumatic growth,” said Andre Perry, the CEO of a network of charter schools. “There’s an empowerment that comes from being held responsible—and I don’t mean that from some conservative, ‘pull yourself up by you your boot straps’ mentality. But when you have to hire contractors, negotiate with FEMA, rebuild your house, these things change you.”

After Katrina, how charter schools helped recast New Orleans education: New Orleans has become a laboratory for education reform since hurricane Katrina. Charter schools, which are free to experiment, make up the majority of the city’s schools. (Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, August 29, 2010, CS Monitor)
Five years later, the schools are like a nascent jazz band: bursting with energy and improvisation and making bold academic strides – but still far from achieving their full promise.

“Few cities have achieved the widespread gains in student learning that New Orleans has recorded since Katrina ... [but] state and city leaders need to keep upping their game,” says Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact, an education consulting group in Chapel Hill, N.C. “Dramatic reform will always involve trade-offs, in this case a trade of stability for dynamism.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Influential Israeli rabbi says Abbas should perish (AP, 8/29/10)

An influential Israeli rabbi known for his vitriolic pronouncements against Arabs says Palestinians and their leader should “perish from this world.” [...]

The 89-year-old rabbi is a respected religious scholar among Jews of Middle Eastern descent. He is also spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas political movement — part of Israel’s coalition government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


As nationalism rises, will the European Union fall? (Charles Kupchan, August 29, 2010, Washington Post)

For many Europeans, that greater good no longer seems to matter. They wonder what the union is delivering for them, and they ask whether it is worth the trouble. If these trends continue, they could compromise one of the most significant and unlikely accomplishments of the 20th century: an integrated Europe, at peace with itself, seeking to project power as a cohesive whole. The result would be individual nations consigned to geopolitical irrelevance -- and a United States bereft of a partner willing or able to shoulder global burdens.

The erosion of support for a unified Europe is infecting even Germany, whose obsession with banishing the national rivalries that long subjected the continent to great-power wars once made it the engine of integration. Berlin's recent reluctance to rescue Greece during its financial tailspin -- Chancellor Angela Merkel resisted the bailout for months -- breached the spirit of common welfare that is the hallmark of a collective Europe. Only after the Greek crisis threatened to engulf the euro zone did Merkel override popular opposition and approve the loan. Voters in local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia promptly punished her party, delivering the Christian Democrats their most severe defeat of the postwar era.

Such stinginess reflects the bigger problem: Germany's pursuit of its national interest is crowding out its enthusiasm for the E.U. In one of the few signs of life in the European project, member states last fall embraced the Lisbon Treaty, endowing the union with a presidential post, a foreign policy czar and a diplomatic service. But then Berlin helped select as the E.U.'s president and foreign policy chief Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton, respectively, low-profile individuals who would not threaten the authority of national leaders. Even Germany's courts are putting the brakes on the E.U., last year issuing a ruling that strengthened the national Parliament's sway over European legislation.

This renationalization of politics has been occurring across the E.U. One of the starker signs of trouble came in 2005, when Dutch and French voters rejected a constitutional treaty that would have consolidated the E.U.'s legal and political character.

The Lisbon Treaty, its watered-down successor, was rejected by the Irish in 2008. They changed their minds in 2009, but only after ensuring that the treaty would not jeopardize national control of taxation and military neutrality.

And in Britain, May elections brought to power a coalition dominated by the Conservative Party, which is well known for its Europhobia.

Elsewhere, right-wing populism is on the upswing -- a product, primarily, of a backlash against immigration. This hard-edged nationalism aims not only at minorities, but also at the loss of autonomy that accompanies political union. For example, Hungary's Jobbik Party, which borders on xenophobic, won 47 seats in elections this year -- up from none in 2006. Even in the historically tolerant Netherlands, the far-right Party for Freedom recently won more than 15 percent of the vote, giving it just seven fewer seats than the leading party.

If these obstacles to a stable union weren't sobering enough, in July, the E.U.'s rotating presidency fell to Belgium -- a country whose Dutch-speaking Flemish citizens and French-speaking Walloons are so divided that, long after elections in June, a workable governing coalition has yet to emerge. It speaks volumes that the country now guiding the European project suffers exactly the kind of nationalist antagonism that the E.U. was created to eliminate.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Norway ‘bomb plot’ underscores al-Qaida pitfalls (IAN MacDOUGALL 08/29/2010, AP)

Interviews with U.S. and European intelligence officials and documents reviewed by the AP paint the picture of a loosely organized cell that was doomed to fail long before Norwegian police raided its basement lab in suburban Oslo in July. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases publicly.

The Norwegian plot’s undoing, and that of its sibling plots in the U.S. and Britain, casts light on the potential pitfalls of al-Qaida’s changing tactics in the decade since the massive, highly organized Sept. 11 attacks. In recent years, al-Qaida has grown increasingly decentralized and nimble, relying on amateurs to recruit local cells and carry out smaller-level attacks without extensive planning and hands-on training.

While such plots are harder to detect, they are also harder to manage — and the slack remote control they often require leaves greater room for operational error and sloppy tradecraft.

All three plots were thwarted after suspected operatives exchanged e-mails — sometimes poorly coded ones — in and out of Pakistan. [...]

In May 2009, shortly before he returned to Norway, Davud sent an e-mail to a Gmail address that authorities believe belonged to a midlevel al-Qaida operative in Peshawar, Pakistan, known as Ahmad. Ahmad also communicated with the New York and Manchester plotters, via a Yahoo! Mail account accessed at the same computer, and he is one of the key links connecting the plots, officials said.

This long-distance coordination — and the electronic trail it leaves behind — helped intelligence officials unravel the plans.

U.S. authorities, who were already watching Ahmad’s e-mails, picked up on Davud’s earliest correspondences and alerted their Norwegian counterparts, who began monitoring him as he returned to Norway from Turkey. Authorities had arrested 12 men in Manchester in April and would arrest three others in New York later in 2009. Of the New York men, two would eventually plead guilty to terror charges.

After several unanswered messages, Davud made contact and began to exchange e-mails with Ahmad, who signed off as “Ismail.”

In the e-mails, Davud promises to pay off an unspecified “debt” and, like the New York and U.K. plotters, seeks what officials believe may be bomb-making guidance using coded language.

After returning to Norway in June 2009, Davud re-established contact with his old acquaintances Jakobsen and Bujak, officials said.

What, no obligatory fretting about violating their "privacy rights"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Katrina - a man-made disaster: A new movie reveals how the flooding could have been prevented (Errol Louis, August 29th 2010, NY Daily News)

Shearer filmed a slew of engineering experts discussing how faulty plans and designs by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - and the Corps decision to ignore one warning after another - left the city vulnerable and exposed to catastrophe.

The central problem was the creation of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a man-made ship channel that was virtually obsolete from the day it opened in 1968. Built at the urging of private industry, the MRGO funneled a wave of water with hurricane force into the center of New Orleans, where it blasted through levees and caused the drowning of the city.

That isn't just academic speculation. As I reported last fall, Federal Judge Stanwood Duval issued a devastating ruling in connection with a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers.

"The Corps not only knew, but admitted by 1988, that the MRGO threatened human life, and yet it did not act in time to prevent the catastrophic disaster that ensued with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina," reads part of the opinion.

In one of the most riveting parts of Shearer's film, Duval reads his own words from the decision.

"The Corps' lassitude and failure to fulfill its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions," Duval says. "The Corps' negligence resulted in the wasting of millions of dollars in flood protection measures and billions of dollars in congressional outlays to help this region recover from such a catastrophe."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


For Once, Hope in the Middle East (MARTIN INDYK, 8/27/10, NY Times)

First, violence is down considerably in the region. [...]

[T]he number of Israeli civilians killed in terrorist attacks has dropped from an intifada high of 452 in 2002 to 6 last year and only 2 so far this year.

Second, settlement activity has slowed significantly. [...]

Third, the public on both sides supports a two-state solution. So do a majority of Arabs. The simple truth is that most people in the Middle East are exhausted by this conflict, and if Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas can reach a viable agreement, the public on all sides will likely support it by a large majority. [...]

Fourth, there isn’t a lot to negotiate. In the 17 years since the Oslo accords were signed, detailed final status negotiations have dealt exhaustively with all the critical issues. If an independent Palestinian state is to be established, the zone of agreement is clear and the necessary trade-offs are already known.

Netanyahu proposes bi-weekly meetings with Abbas during direct peace talks (Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis, 8/27/10, Ha'aretz)
[T]he Yesha Council of settlers is gearing up for the possibility that the 10-month freeze on settlement construction will remain in force past the September 26 deadline.

According to the council, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak plan to enforce a "quiet freeze." Under this scenario, the moratorium would be declared officially over, but Barak would not sign building permits brought to him for approval.

The settlers thus fear that in practice they will face enormous bureaucratic hurdles in their efforts to expand settlements.

One of the effects of this policy, the settlers argue, is that there will be hardly any new construction in the settlement blocs.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Where has all the love gone? (Dick Polman, 8/28/10, Philadelphia Inquirer)

As we navigate the waning days of our xenophobic August, with so many opportunists in high dudgeon about Muslims in our midst, perhaps it'd be wise to quote a notably tolerant Republican - somebody whose words might possibly shame the fearmongers who currently pervade his own party.

For instance: "America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms, and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect. . . . They love America just as much as I do."

On Sept. 17, 2001, so said President George W. Bush.

Hey, I'm starting to miss the guy. Notwithstanding all the disastrous aspects of his presidency, his generous, inclusive attitude toward immigrants of color - particularly Muslim Americans in the wake of 9/11 - was always in the finest American tradition. We could use a sustained dose of his tone today. that he has no moral compulsion to do the right thing irrespective of the polls.

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August 28, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


The Death of Conservatism Was Greatly Exaggerated: In 2008 liberals proclaimed the collapse of Reaganism. Two years later the idea of limited government is back in vogue. (PETER BERKOWITZ, 8/28/10, WSJ)

Progressives like to believe that conservatism's task is exclusively negative—resisting the centralizing and expansionist tendency of democratic government. And that is a large part of the conservative mission. Progressives see nothing in this but hard-hearted indifference to inequality and misfortune, but that is a misreading.

What conservatism does is ask the question avoided by progressive promises: at what expense? In the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008, Western liberal democracies have been increasingly forced to come to grips with their propensity to live beyond their means.

It is always the task for conservatives to insist that money does not grow on trees, that government programs must be paid for, and that promising unaffordable benefits is reckless, unjust and a long-term threat to maintaining free institutions.

But conservatives also combat government expansion and centralization because it can undermine the virtues upon which a free society depends. Big government tends to crowd out self-government—producing sluggish, selfish and small-minded citizens, depriving individuals of opportunities to manage their private lives and discouraging them from cooperating with fellow citizens to govern their neighborhoods, towns, cities and states.

Progressives are not the only ones to misunderstand the multiple dimensions of the conservative mission. Conservatives have demonstrated blind spots, too.

In 2010—in an America in which the New Deal long ago was woven into the fabric of our lives—conservatives can not reasonably devote themselves exclusively to limiting the growth of government. Government must effectively discharge the responsibilities it has had since the founding of the republic, but also those it has acquired over more than two centuries of social, political and technological change.

Those responsibilities include putting people to work and reigniting the economy—and devising alternatives to ObamaCare that will enable the federal government to cooperate with state governments and the private sector to provide affordable and decent health care.

A thoughtful conservatism in America—a prerequisite of a sustainable conservatism—must also recognize that the liberty, democracy and free markets that it seeks to conserve have destabilizing effects. For all their blessings, they breed distrust of order, virtue and tradition, all of which must be cultivated if liberty is to be well-used.

To observe this is not, as some clever progressives think, to have discovered a fatal contradiction at the heart of modern conservatism. It is, rather, to begin to recognize the complexity of the conservative task in a free society.

To be sure, the current conservative revival was not in the first instance inspired by reflection on conservative principles.

Thoughtful conservatism, throughout the Anglosphere and promulgated by parties of both the Left and the Right, seeks to bring principles of liberty and free markets to bear on the New Deal/social welfare net that is inextricably woven into modern Western society.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


The Greening of Godzilla (Walter Russell Mead, 8/28/10, American Interest)

The previous generations had been in love with big projects: Woodie Guthrie even wrote a famous folksong about the Grand Coulee Dam, hailing the power of grand engineering projects to tame the ‘wild and wasted’ Columbia River, and celebrating the mines and the factories that the dam’s power made possible. Mid-twentieth-century America was intoxicated with social and environmental engineering of all kinds. As the costs of those projects became more clear, and as a generation that had never known, say, what life had been like in rural Alabama before the Tennessee Valley Authority, focused on the drawbacks rather than the advantages of big engineering projects, the public fell out of love with Big Science and Big Engineering. The technocratic imagination that people like McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, Robert Moses and Walt Rostow brought to American life in a range of disciplines and endeavors lost its hold on the public mind.

Experts lost their mystique. The guys in the white coats were no longer deemed all-knowing and all-wise. A better educated and more skeptical public opinion was no longer prepared to defer to technocrats, experts and government bureaucrats who said they knew best. The experts said nuclear power was safe; environmentalists doubted it. The experts said genetically modified food was safe; environmentalists thought that was hooey. The experts said bovine growth hormone and pesticides posed no dangers; environmentalists thought that was stark raving bonkers and built the organic food industry in opposition.

An increasingly skeptical public started to notice that ‘experts’ weren’t angels descending immaculately from heaven bearing infallible revelations from God. They were fallible human beings with mortgages to pay and funds to raise. They disagreed with one another and they colluded with their friends and supporters like everyone else. They often produced research that agreed with the views of those who funded their work (tobacco companies, builders of nuclear power plants, NGOs and foundations).

More, on issues the public follows closely, the scientific consensus keeps changing. Margarine was introduced as the healthy alternative to butter; now experts tell us that the transfats in many types of margarine are the worst things you can eat. Should you eat no fat or the right fat? All carbs, no carbs or good carbs? How much vitamin E should you take? How much sun should you get? How much fish oil should you swallow? How should you divide your time between aerobic and non-aerobic exercise? On these and many other subjects, expert opinion keeps changing. Perhaps the current consensus will last; quite possibly, it won’t — but the experts can’t tell you what will happen.

The rise of the environmental movement reflected the increasing independence of thought and judgment of a public that was becoming less and less impressed with credentials and degrees. The public wanted to take power back from experts and appointed government agencies and put up new obstacles in the way of technocratic engineers with big projects in mind.

But when it comes to global warming, the shoe is on the other foot. Now it is suddenly the environmentalists — who’ve often spent lifetimes raging against experts and scientists who debunk organic food and insist that GMOs and nuclear power plants are safe — who are the pious advocates of science and experts. Suddenly, it’s a sin to question the wisdom of the Scientific Consensus. Scientists are, after all, experts; their work is peer-reviewed and we uneducated rubes must sit back and shut up when the experts tell us what’s right.

More, environmentalists have found a big and simple fix for all that ails us: a global carbon cap. One big problem, one big fix. It is not just wrong to doubt that a fix is needed, it is wrong to doubt that the Chosen Fix will work. Never mind that the leading green political strategy (to stop global warming by a treaty that gains unanimous consent among 190 plus countries and is then ratified by 67 votes in a Senate that rejected Kyoto 95-0) is and always has been so cluelessly unrealistic as to be clinically insane. The experts decree; we rubes are not to think but to honor and obey.

The environmental movement has turned into the Army Corps of Engineers, even as public skepticism of experts has reached new heights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Islamism Is Not Islam (MAAJID NAWAZ, 8/28/10, WSJ)

[M]uslims throughout history rarely codified any version of the Islamic religious code, or Shariah, as state law. The result was a Muslim history full of religious societies with very temporal and often debauched ruling dynasties. Indeed, these dynasties launched religiously justified wars, against themselves and others. But was that not the practice of all medieval kings seeking material glory while promising spiritual salvation to their men? The simple fact is that, as with all medieval states, religion was but a political convenience.

Breaking with this tradition, Islamism emerged as an entirely modern social-engineering project, designed initially to resist colonialism. Islamists' focus on controlling the "state," adopting an "Islamic constitution," and codifying and implementing "Islamic law" were all borne of ideas that grew out of the European nation-state. The terms state, constitution and law are not referred to at all in the Quran. It mattered little to Islamists, bent on rejecting all that was Western, that their entire debate took place within an exclusively European political paradigm.

In Muslim-majority societies that hold elections today, parties wanting to "rule in God's name" have been roundly defeated time and again by their fellow Muslims. Take two of the world's most populous Muslim-majority countries, Indonesia and Bangladesh. In recent years, the electorates of both these countries have decisively rejected Islamism in favor of secular, democratic values. In the Arab-speaking world, the situation is similar. For the last 20 years, whether seeking power through the gun or the ballot-box, Islamists have failed. Fortunately, Islamists do not speak on behalf of Islam.

Unfortunately, this message has not been heard enough in the West, leading many Americans to believe that all Muslims are closet Islamists, hell-bent on global domination. For this reason, the Islamic center in New York has been transformed in the minds of many into a symbol of Islam's conquest of America. So far the furor over the inaccurately dubbed "Ground Zero Mosque" has achieved nothing but reinforce al Qaeda propaganda that the West is at war with Islam.

In fairness, it would be as odd for Islamic societies not to have government that flows from Islam as it would be for the Anglosphere not to have the sort of Christianity based culture reflected in a variety of Founding texts. The question uis whether Sunni Islam, in particular, is intrinsically totalitarian. History and the fact that over half of all Muslims today live in liberal democracies suggest that it is not, or need not be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


Bradford: Smoke bombs thrown at English Defence League protest (Matthew Taylor and Martin Wainwright, 8/28/10,

Far-right activists threw smoke bombs and missiles and fought with the police as trouble flared in a protest organised by the English Defence League.

Bricks and bottles and smoke bombs were thrown at anti-racist supporters and police as around 700 EDL activists – including known football hooligans and BNP members – held a "static protest" in Bradford city centre.

Such is the Burlington Coat mosque opponent's vision for America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


The great Obama-Axelrod-etc. mystery (Michael Tomasky, 8/28/10, The Guardian)

Here's one of the big questions, really, one to chew on over the weekend, one that's asked a lot around this town. How could a bunch of people who ran such a brilliant campaign be doing such a lousy job at the politics of governing? [...]

I think you have to walk into the White House with a long-arc narrative strategy: here's where we want to be in three months, six months, nine months, etc. Now, maybe they did that, and the economy just shot all that to hell. But there's little sign they did that. And I think that the state of the economy is only partly determinative of the narrative.

In other words, you know coming in: okay, we're a new administration, black president, big-city guy, we saw the campaign they ran, they're basically gonna do that: liberal liberal out of touch out of touch big government big government and so on. So you plan things that undercut that narrative.'s just that in its entirety it stated the following: Barack Obama is elected president.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


How to feed the world: The emerging conventional wisdom about world farming is gloomy. There is an alternative (The Economist, Aug 26th 2010 )

A year after “The Limits to Growth” appeared, however, and at a time when soaring oil prices seemed to confirm the Club of Rome’s worst fears, a country which was then a large net food importer decided to change the way it farmed. Driven partly by fear that it would not be able to import enough food, it decided to expand domestic production through scientific research, not subsidies. Instead of trying to protect farmers from international competition—as much of the world still does—it opened up to trade and let inefficient farms go to the wall. This was all the more remarkable because most of the country was then regarded as unfit for agricultural production.

The country was Brazil. In the four decades since, it has become the first tropical agricultural giant and the first to challenge the dominance of the “big five” food exporters (America, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union).

Even more striking than the fact of its success has been the manner of it. Brazil has followed more or less the opposite of the agro-pessimists’ prescription. For them, sustainability is the greatest virtue and is best achieved by encouraging small farms and organic practices. They frown on monocultures and chemical fertilisers. They like agricultural research but loathe genetically modified (GM) plants. They think it is more important for food to be sold on local than on international markets. Brazil’s farms are sustainable, too, thanks to abundant land and water. But they are many times the size even of American ones. Farmers buy inputs and sell crops on a scale that makes sense only if there are world markets for them. And they depend critically on new technology. As the briefing explains, Brazil’s progress has been underpinned by the state agricultural-research company and pushed forward by GM crops. Brazil represents a clear alternative to the growing belief that, in farming, small and organic are beautiful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Shrinking Societies: The Other Population Crisis (Venessa Wong, 8/27/10, Business Week)

Japan is expected to see its population contract by one-fourth to 95.2 million by 2050, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based research group, making it the fastest-shrinking country in the world.Former Eastern Bloc nations Ukraine and Georgia came in second and third, respectively, in a ranking of more than 200 countries by based on the Population Reference Bureau's 2010 World Population Data Sheet.

These countries defy the global trend -- but that doesn't mean they'll be spared problems of their own. The world population is expected to expand by 37 percent to 9.5 billion in 2050, according to the report, but growth will not be evenly distributed. Developing countries will grow the most, with the population in Africa expected to double.

Meanwhile, other regions will shrink as the boomer generation ages, people have fewer children, and workers leave for opportunities abroad. The most widespread decline is projected in Eastern Europe, where birthrates have declined since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The number of people in every country in the region, except the Czech Republic, is forecast to contract. By 2050 the region will have lost 13.6 percent of its population, according to data from the Population Reference Bureau.

"Europe, Korea, and Japan have gone into panic mode," says Carl Haub, a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. A declining population impacts a country's economic growth, labor market, pensions, taxation, health care, and housing, according to the U.N. Globally by 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history, according to the U.N. The imbalance will create havoc in the pension systems and make it difficult to support retired and elderly persons, Haub says.

August 27, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


Interdependency Theory: China, India, and the West (Simon Tay, September/October 2010, Foreign Affairs)

A major factor in the Chinese-Indian competition -- and in its perceived significance for the wider world -- is that the two countries have such different political systems. Their trajectories, therefore, offer insights into the prospects for development under authoritarianism and under democracy. In addressing this point, Bardhan rightly cautions against the simplistic conclusion that authoritarianism is superior to democracy with regard to growth. Yet he echoes simplistic characterizations of the subject, writing, for example, "India's experience suggests that democracy can also hinder development in a number of ways" and "in China, there is more decisive policy initiative and execution than in India." The real debate, especially in the wake of the recent crisis, is over what mix of democratic jockeying and authoritarian decisiveness makes economies most robust.

The challenge for Beijing and New Delhi is to combine power and legitimacy. Only then can the Chinese and Indian governments take measures that may be unpopular in the short run or damaging to some politically connected sectors but necessary for long-term progress: stimulating job growth, alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, or other vital tasks.

One hears often of a "Beijing consensus" but rarely, if ever, of any Indian model of governance. Indeed, India's case appears to be sui generis, especially since the modern Indian state was born a democracy -- unlike other postcolonial states, such as South Korea, which were or remain autocratic. Moreover, New Delhi has not traditionally sought to influence the political practices of other Asian states (lest its own domestic issues become vulnerable to intervention by foreigners). Asia therefore lacks a strong homegrown exemplar of successful economic development under democracy. Indonesia might become such a model, as it has been transitioning to democracy since Suharto's fall in 1998 and now has annual growth rates of four to six percent. But, for now, autocratic China remains Asia's lodestar.

This concerns many in the West who warn against China's model of state capitalism, criticize its human rights abuses and censorship, suspect Beijing of pursuing a manipulative currency policy, and generally see China as a risen dragon seeking domination. According to this view, China's economy has opened and globalized but its politics remain frozen around the Communist Party. This, in turn, suggests that the Chinese state will remain radically different from, and even opposed to, the liberal states of the West.


Edward Steinfeld's book Playing Our Game: Why China's Rise Doesn't Threaten the West offers a different perspective on China's rise. The changes in China's economic and political systems are not contradictory, Steinfeld argues, but are more or less in sync. This, he argues, is because of "institutional outsourcing" from the global system: globalization brings with it commercial discipline and requires states to institute rules in order to foster change and anchor progress.

Having been influenced by foreign investors and experts, the Chinese government and business community have deliberately altered China's commercial environment, especially with regard to legal institutions and industrial-labor relations. For example, in 2007, the National People's Congress enacted a labor contract law that provides individual workers with far more job security than they had under the preexisting laws, which dated back to 1994. China remains a far cry from having the sort of labor unions and collective bargaining that are taken for granted elsewhere, but, as Steinfeld correctly argues, Chinese labor practices are moving away from their revolutionary roots and are increasingly consonant with Western standards.

Meanwhile, argues Steinfeld, the role of the Communist Party within China's political system has changed radically in recent decades. Today, politics are primarily determined not by contests for power between the party and different segments of society but by partnerships between government forces and reform elements outside the party. Ordinary Chinese people, Steinfeld argues, have gone from being mere subjects to being citizens. Because of this, the Chinese government has to proceed cautiously: to preserve the party's central role, officials must find allies outside the party, including among activists and civil-society elements, that could otherwise threaten the party's monopoly on official power. To Steinfeld, this means that China is evolving in much the same way that other modernizing nations did, including not just South Korea and Taiwan but also the United Kingdom and the United States. Increasingly liberal politics are ahead, he argues, even if the Communist Party will remain central and there will be ebbs and flows along the way.

"China today is growing not by writing its own rules. . . . It is playing our game," Steinfeld writes. That game is globalization, and its dominant rules are set predominately by the West. If this is correct, China will increasingly become a responsible stakeholder in the existing global order. The country, then, does not need to be contained; globalization will take care of that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Exactly how far can you build a mosque from Ground Zero? (Chris Moody, 8/27/10, The Daily Caller)

Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, for instance, said last week that there should be a “zone of solemnity” around sites like Ground Zero, but did not specify how far such a zone should spread.

“I do believe that there are special places on Earth that should have a zone of solemnity around them,” he said last week. “I would strongly urge those who are thinking of putting a mosque within that zone to rethink their position.”

When asked for specifics, a spokesman from the Illinois governor’s office pointed to the August 20th press conference in which Quinn addressed the issue. While the governor did explain his reasoning during the briefing, he did not provide a precise distance. A request for a further explanation from the governor’s office went unanswered.

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said that he would approve of a mosque if it were near Central Park, which is just beyond four miles off the site. Likewise, former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has criticized the mosque’s position on grounds that it is “steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3000 people.”

Additionally, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, simply said that Reid thinks the community center should “be built someplace else.”

So how many “steps away,” exactly, would a mosque need to be to avoid controversy?

It’s just not that simple, said Robert Spencer, author and editor of the website Jihad Watch, adding that it would be impossible to pin down an exact appropriate location for an Islamic center in the neighborhood.
The proximity to Ground Zero is just one component of a wide range of factors that ought to be considered, he said. These include “the historical connections of the new site to 9/11 and the buildings in the surrounding area.” Also, the site would need to be “as far away as would be necessary to take away the symbolic value that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Kahn have alluded to in saying that this mosque is intended to make a statement about 9/11.” With that in mind, he said, any answer with just a specific distance that did not provide for the other elements would be incomplete.

“I’m not going to give you an address. There is no way I could possibly do that or anybody could do that,” he replied when asked during a phone interview. “…You’re trying to trap me and I know it. You want to play the game? I know how to play this game. I’ve been doing this for many years, alright? I’ve talked to lots of reporters, I know the games you play. I ain’t playing. You’re trying to get me to give you an address and say ‘oh, if it’s one block over or one building over then it’s okay with Spencer, but one building over here, no then it’s a triumphal mosque.’ Well I’m not playing.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


A model for antitribal governance in Africa: Kenya's new Constitution: A new Constitution that took effect Friday sets Kenya on a path toward reducing tribal differences – and violence. Other nations with ethnic rivalries can learn from it. (CS Monitor, 8/27/10)

The most radical idea is a reduction in the power of the presidency. Having a strong president often meant only one tribe was in a position to command the nation’s wealth, leading to resentment and conflict – a common problem on a continent prone to “big man” politics.

Now more power will be given to regions in the national distribution of money, goods – and patronage. A new, two-tier parliament will put a check on presidential authority, with a Senate that will represent regions.

In addition, a candidate for president must win more than 50 percent of the vote, which will help unite competing tribal groups into parties based on policy preferences and not ethnic jingoism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


Catholics, Muslims, and the Mosque Controversy (R. Scott Appleby and John T. McGreevy, 8/27/10, NY Review of Books)

As historians of American Catholicism, and Catholics, we are concerned to see the revival of a strain of nativism in the current controversy over the establishment of an Islamic center some blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.

For much of the nineteenth century Catholics in America were the unassimilated, sometimes violent “religious other.” Often they did not speak English or attend public schools. Some of their religious women—nuns—wore distinctive clothing. Their religious practices and beliefs—from rosaries to transubstantiation—seemed to many Americans superstitious nonsense.

Most worrisome, Catholics seemed insufficiently grateful for their ability to build churches and worship in a democracy, rights sometimes denied to Protestants and Jews in Catholic countries, notably Italy. In the 1840s and 1850s these anxieties about Catholicism in American society turned violent, including mob attacks on priests and churches as well as the formation of a major political party, the American Party, dedicated to combating Catholic influence. This led to novel claims that the US constitution demanded an absolute separation of church and state—claims that stem not from Thomas Jefferson and George Washington but from nineteenth-century politicians, ministers, and editors worried that adherents of a hierarchical Catholicism might destroy the hard-won achievements of American democracy. In 1875, a decade after accepting General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, President Ulysses S. Grant publicly warned that Catholicism might prove as divisive in American society as the Confederacy.

Like many American Muslims today, many American Catholics squirmed when their foreign-born religious leaders offered belligerent or tone-deaf pronouncements on the modern world. New York’s own Bishop John Hughes thundered in 1850 that the Church’s mission was to convert “the officers of the navy and the Marines, commander of the Army, the legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the president and all.” The Syllabus of Errors, promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1864 denied that the Church had any duty to reconcile itself with “progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”

...and before too long their Pope is a Tocquevillian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


Ground Zero Muslim center may get public financing (Reuters, 8/27/10)

The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy. might never have been built but for the opposition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Cuba embraces 2 surprising free-market reforms (Will Weissert, Associated Press)

Cuba has issued a pair of surprising free-market decrees, allowing foreign investors to lease government land for up to 99 years — potentially touching off a golf-course building boom — and loosening state controls on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own fruit and vegetables.

The moves, published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and Friday and effective immediately, are significant steps as President Raul Castro promises to scale back the communist state's control of the economy while attempting to generate new revenue for a government short on cash.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


Contemplating Death From Above: In World War I, it was the trenches that captured the imagination of poets. In World War II, it was aerial combat. (Robert Messenger, 8/27/10, WSJ)

Strategic bombing—aimed at civilian targets more than military ones—is a form of justified massacre. In June 1943, Winston Churchill was shown films of the five-month bombing campaign known as the Battle of the Ruhr, and, in his official biographer's words, he "suddenly sat bolt upright and said to his neighbour, 'Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?' "

It is a question that Mr. Swift asks repeatedly in "Bomber County." The U.S. and Britain dropped 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany, causing civilian casualties of more than one million and rendering as many as 7.5 million people homeless. The seven-month B-29 firebombing campaign against Japan organized by Curtis LeMay is estimated to have killed a half-million people and to have left five million more homeless. It was so successful that the Air Force had trouble finding suitable targets for the atomic bombings at the end of the war.

Good thing we found a couple cities with no military value.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Governor Chris Christie: GOP Darling: New Jersey Governor Christie is a rising national star. By taking on his state's bloated budget, he embodies the New Austerity. Will voters hate him for it? (Peter Coy , 8/25/10, Business Week)

Christie's most astute move was to curtail future local spending by cramping the primary means of funding it. After seeking a strict limit in the state constitution on increases in local property taxes, he settled for a law that held property tax hikes to 2 percent annually with few exceptions. The cap gives mayors and councils an incentive to support changes in civil-service rules sought by Christie that make it easier to lay off or cut employee pay.

The sequencing was masterful: Christie says he probably would not have the mayors' support for those cost-saving measures if he hadn't first gotten lawmakers to pass his cap. Next up is pension reform. "I'm working on all of these things at once because they're all interconnected," Christie says. "I don't see how any responsible governor has a choice anymore not to take on the public-sector unions." Says Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Attorney General and Republican nominee for governor in this November's election: "He certainly sets an example I think other governors can follow." Even David Paterson, the Democratic governor of New York, has praised New Jersey's property-tax cap.

Despite his admirers, the Christie formula isn't easily transported to other states. Like an LBO specialist sent in to unlock the value of a badly managed company, Christie is working with a state that has great underlying strengths. Contrary to the image projected by MTV's Jersey Shore, New Jersey is educated and prosperous. It ranks second in the nation in per-capita income (behind Connecticut) and fifth in the percentage of people 25 and older who have bachelor's degrees, according to the Census Bureau. It's in the nation's densest urban zone, with New York City on one border and Philadelphia on another. Jersey City, across the Hudson from lower Manhattan, has sprouted a forest of tall buildings filled with financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley (MS). The center of the state has vast campuses of pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Roche, and Merck (MRK). And even though it's no longer the headquarters of the Bell System, New Jersey still has a web of telecom and data center infrastructure.

From the 1960s through the mid-1990s, New Jersey used lower taxes and cost of living to lure jobs out of New York City. But steadily rising taxation has lessened its allure, says the Manhattan Institute's Malanga. Much of the spending increase has occurred at the local level. In the well-to-do New York City suburb of Closter, N.J., which has a below-average crime rate, all but two of the 20 members of the police force are earning more than $100,000 this year, not including benefits or overtime. To blame: Arbitration rules that are tipped in unions' favor—and that Christie is trying to change. New Jersey ranked last in a Tax Foundation survey of states' business-tax climates. "What's particularly disturbing to us is that we have now fallen behind our regional competitors such as New York and Pennsylvania and Delaware and Connecticut," says Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Assn.

Verizon New Jersey President Dennis M. Bone, interim chairman of a new public-private partnership called Choose New Jersey, says Christie has energized businesses by working to hold down their taxes, streamline regulation, and keep jobs in the state. Christie says when he heard that Honeywell International (HON) was about to move its 1,200-employee headquarters from Morris Township to Pennsylvania, he told CEO David M. Cote, "Give me a week." Christie offered tax credits that persuaded Honeywell to stay—and expand.

The friendly face Christie shows to business isn't in evidence in his confrontations with the New Jersey Education Assn. and other public-employee unions. His method is divide and conquer. On pensions he formed an alliance with Democrat Stephen M. Sweeney, the state senate president and treasurer of an Ironworkers union local in South Jersey. (It was Sweeney who began pushing pension reform in 2006.) Christie has also exploited regional divisions between Democrats in the legislature.

Party discipline is much tighter among the Republicans in Trenton and tighter still in the Christie administration. Some 24 of his appointees worked under him in the U.S. Attorney's office, including his attorney general, his chief counsel, his press secretary, and the head of the school development authority.

Being a Republican in a state with a Democratic legislature is not the handicap it might seem. While Corzine and other Democratic governors felt they needed to accommodate the wishes of the powerful county Democratic leaders to keep peace within the party, Christie feels no such compunction, says Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist. "He just doesn't give a damn," says Baker. "One should never underestimate the value of fortitude in a politician. Chris Christie's got fortitude in abundance."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Poll: 57% of Americans Oppose Tax Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Steven Ertelt, August 27, 2010,

On the week in which a federal judge ruled that President Barack Obama's executive order forcing Americans to pay for embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer funds violates a federal law, a new poll shows a majority of Americans opposed tax-funding the controversial and unproven research.

Only 33% of U.S. voters believe that taxpayer money should be spent on embryonic stem cell research, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans say funding for the research, which has never helped any patients and requires the destruction of human life to facilitate, should be left to the private sector.

If the UR were as smart as people tell him he is, he'd go to school on how W led on this issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Boehner, GOP seize on private-public pay gap as a midterm election issue
(Jared Allen, 08/26/10, The Hill)

Federal workers have become a new flashpoint in the fight between Republicans and Democrats on the economy.

House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) this week blamed Democratic policies for exacerbating a gap in the pay between public and private workers that he claims was rising even as the country suffers through a housing crisis and high unemployment.

House and Senate Republicans already have offered legislation to freeze the salaries of the 2 million federal employees through amendments to economic stimulus bills being ushered through Congress by Democrats. Each effort has failed due to opposition from Democrats.

Take it and run with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Bush Had It Right on Islam After 9/11 (Morton M. Kondracke, Roll Call)

Just days after the Twin Towers were destroyed in 2001, President George W. Bush set the tone that ought to govern U.S. attitudes in the New York mosque controversy today.

While visiting the Islamic Center of Washington, he declared that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. ... Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”

He went on to say that American Muslims “need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 AM


Poll: GOP's Snyder is winning over voters (CHRIS CHRISTOFF, 8/27/10, FREE PRESS)

Republican Rick Snyder's 22-percentage point lead over Democrat Virg Bernero in their race for governor comes with overwhelming support from independent and outstate voters.

Snyder leads Bernero, 51%-29%, according to a poll by EPIC/MRA released exclusively to the Free Press and WXYZ-TV Channel 7. Snyder even has a slim lead among Bernero's most natural constituency -- union members and their families.

August 26, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


More House Seats Look Like They May Change Hands (Kyle Trygstad, 8/26/10, CQ-Roll Call)

The latest CQ-Roll Call survey of the political landscape finds an environment that continues to worsen for Democrats and new race ratings to reflect Republicans on the ascent.

Among the seats now held by Democrats that have been moved into more competitive categories, CQ-Roll Call now rates three of as likely to be won by Republicans: the 2nd district in Arkansas; the 3rd district in Louisiana; and the 29th district in New York.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 PM


Muslim cab driver Ahmed Sharif, victim in bloody attack, saw 'so much hate' in face of assailant (Edgar Sandoval, John Lauinger and Bill Hutchinson, 8/26/10, NY Daily News)

Enright, a senior at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, returned from Afghanistan in May after 35 days of filming a documentary about front-line troops.

When he was arrested Tuesday in midtown, Enright had a personal diary filled with pages of "pretty strong anti-Muslim comments," a police source said.

The source said Enright's journal equated Muslims with "killers, ungrateful for the help they were being offered, filthy murderers without a conscience."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Non-felon illegal immigrants going unprosecuted as U.S. focuses on threats (Susan Carroll, 8/25/10, Dallas Morning News)

The Department of Homeland Security is reviewing thousands of pending immigration cases and moving to dismiss those filed against suspected illegal immigrants who have no serious criminal records, according to sources familiar with the efforts.

Culling the immigration court system dockets of immigrants who aren't believed to be dangerous started in earnest in Houston about a month ago and has stunned local immigration attorneys, who have reported coming to court anticipating clients' deportations only to learn that the government was tossing their cases. [...]

Critics assailed the plan as another sign that the Obama administration is trying to create a kind of backdoor "amnesty" program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 AM


Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why (SIMON ROMERO, 8/26/10, NY Times)

Some here joke that they might be safer if they lived in Baghdad. The numbers bear them out.

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

Even Mexico’s infamous drug war has claimed fewer lives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


India’s PM tells police to change Kashmir strategy (NIRMALA GEORGE, 08/26/2010, AP)

Security forces in Kashmir need to find non-lethal means of controlling violent mobs to prevent more deaths in the unrest roiling the Indian-ruled region, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday in rare remarks directly questioning government tactics. [...]

Civil rights activists have accused Indian paramilitary soldiers and police of using a heavy-handed approach, and each death caused by security forces sparks further clashes with rock-throwing demonstrators.

Singh has made at least two recent appeals for calm, telling the people of Kashmir his government is ready to hold talks to resolve their problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 AM


Ground zero’s boundaries evolve in mosque debate (AMY WESTFELDT, 08/26/2010, AP)

The evolving boundaries of ground zero have informed — or misinformed — the debate about its proximity to the planned Park51 community center. The farther away from the place, the bigger it seems.

“It’s constructed as hallowed ground when people don’t actually have a clear boundary for it or a clear sense of what’s within the boundary,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania communications professor who studies political rhetoric. “What you have is a classic instance of people responding to a symbol whose meaning is physically divorced from the actual space.”

Ground zero for decades had conjured up images of the atomic bomb blasts in 1945. After Sept. 11, it became a journalistic shorthand that evoked war and devastation, with an Associated Press report on the day of the attacks referring to the ruins of the towers as ground zero.

It became synonymous with the World Trade Center site as the debris field left by the attacks — body parts and airplane debris on rooftops and office papers that flew to Brooklyn and New Jersey — got smaller. Since the first months after the attacks, the 16-acre site has been fenced-off and mostly covered.

It once housed the ruins of the two towers hit by hijacked jetliners, as well as four other buildings in the complex, including U.S. Customs headquarters and a Marriott hotel. Today, cranes rise high in the air along with an office tower over 30 stories high, a Sept. 11 memorial and a transit hub under construction.

Even the public and private agencies closest to the site don’t have one definition of ground zero’s boundaries. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which owns the trade center site and is rebuilding most of it — says it is bounded by the fence, which has moved a few feet in both directions as construction has progressed.

“The fence is certainly the way we think of it,” said Steve Sigmund, Port Authority’s chief spokesman. The city uses the same boundaries, a spokesman said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 AM


Migrants turn to the sea to enter US illegally (ELLIOT SPAGAT, 08/26/2010, AP)

The speedboat is about three miles offshore when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent cuts the engine to drift on the current in quiet darkness, hoping for the telltale signs of immigrant smuggling — sulfur fumes or a motor’s whirr.

“It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and the haystack is the Pacific Ocean,” agent Tim Feige says minutes before sunrise marks the end to another uneventful shift.

This is a new frontier for illegal immigrants entering the United States — a roughly 400-square-mile ocean expanse that stretches from a bullring on the shores of Tijuana, Mexico, to suburban Los Angeles. In growing numbers, migrants are gambling their lives at sea as land crossings become even more arduous and likely to end in arrest

...nor allow conscription into the force that would be required to try.

August 25, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Kin selection is dead, says E.O. Wilson (Andrew Letten, 8/26/10, Cosmos Online)

Eminent evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson is trying to bring about the demise of the theory of kin selection, which has formed the foundation of the study of sociobiology since the 1960s. [...]

[A]ccording to the new study, "the theory of inclusive fitness rests on fragile assumptions, which rarely hold in nature… and is not needed to explain eusociality."

Instead, based on precise mathematical models they outline an allegedly simpler and superior approach involving three distinct steps by which species can bypass the evolutionary costs of eusociality.

Initially, species must form groups within a population, such as when parents and offspring remain together. Next, the species must accumulate traits arising through natural selection that favour the switch to eusociality, including most importantly the construction of a defensible nest.

Finally, in order to cross the eusociality threshold, individuals must develop genes that quell an individual's urge to disperse to start its own nest.

....just impossible to come up with a new one that works.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


N.Y. cabbie is asked if he's Muslim, stabbed (Tom Hays, 8/25/10, AP)

A drunken passenger riding in a New York City taxi cab attacked the driver after asking him if he was Muslim, police said Wednesday.

The driver told police that when he answered yes, Michael Enright pulled out a folding hand tool, reached into the front seat and slashed him.

Rider Asks if Cabby Is Muslim, Then Stabs Him (N. R. KLEINFIELD, 8/25/20, NY Times)
What is known about Mr. Enright presents a complicated picture. An only child, he lives with his mother in Brewster, N.Y., a middle-class suburb about 50 miles north of Manhattan. Neighbors said he was friendly enough and often skateboarded outside his house.

He is a senior, studying film, at School of Visual Arts, on East 23rd Street, near where he hailed the cab.

He was arrested in November on charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. According to the police, he was picked up on Second Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, where he was acting violently, banging on walls and ringing doorbells. There was also a warrant out for him at the time for another violation, though it was unclear on Wednesday what it was for.

Mr. Enright had been working as an unpaid intern with an Internet media company called on a documentary that followed Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Third Marines, known as the Lava Dogs.

An article in The Journal News in March said the film, “Home of the Brave,” was to be Mr. Enright’s senior thesis. The article said that in October, Mr. Enright spent time at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii filming the Marines as they prepared for deployment to Afghanistan. In April and May, he spent five weeks embedded with them in Afghanistan, according to military officials in Afghanistan. One of the members of the regiment was a friend from Brewster High School, Cpl. Alex Eckner.

In the article, Mr. Enright said the experiences of Mr. Eckner led him to want to do the film.

Mr. Enright is also a volunteer with Intersections International, an initiative of the Collegiate Churches of New York that promotes justice and faith across religions and cultures. The organization, which covered part of Mr. Enright’s travel expenses to Afghanistan, has been a staunch supporter of the Islamic center near ground zero. Mr. Enright volunteered with the group’s veteran-civilian dialogue project.

Joseph Ward III, the director of communications for Intersections, said that if Mr. Enright had been involved in a hate crime, it ran “counter to everything Intersections stands for” and was shocking.

Mr. Enright, according to the article in The Journal News, was also working as a landscaper at Four Winds Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Katonah, N.Y.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM


You can now make toll free phone calls in Gmail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


Kashmir on Fire: Popular explanations for violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir hold some truth, but the reality is much more complex. (Apoorva Shah, August 25, 2010, American)

[I]n 2007, India and Pakistan almost reached a deal to completely demilitarize the Indian- and Pakistani-occupied areas of Kashmir as part of a broader deal to grant “loose sovereignty” to the region. The deal was derailed not only by the ensuing political unrest in Pakistan but also by what a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan calls a “pathological” anti-India attitude among elites in the Pakistani army and intelligence services—in particular General Ashfaq Kayani, who was director of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during that time and is now the country’s chief of army staff.

While India has shown its willingness to withdraw troops from Kashmir and make a much-needed strategic shift to the eastern border with China, it cannot do so unilaterally without a settled agreement with Pakistan, which also has troops on its side of the Line of Control. No rational thinker in Delhi would ever consider such a one-sided move, especially considering reports of continued ISI and military support of terrorist groups such as Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami in the region.

Second, the protests have much more to do with what Professor Happymon Jacob of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi has coined “the poverty of politics” in Kashmir than the mere lack of economic opportunity in the state. In 2008, Kashmiris, with a remarkable turnout of 61 percent, decisively voted for the pro-India National Conference-led government of Omar Abdullah. It was a time of ebullient hope that the new government could act on some of the most pressing political issues in the state, from human rights violations to land disputes to calls for more autonomy within the Indian political system.

Nevertheless, Abdullah and the state government failed to deliver on many of these promises, instead blaming Pakistan, the LeT, and the state’s opposition party for its troubles. Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech to Kashmiri leaders earlier this month, in which he called for granting more autonomy to the region, the opposition People’s Democratic Party President Mehmooba Mufti reminded Singh and the ruling National Conference party that autonomy cannot solve the Kashmir issue and that the real problem is that the present government has “failed to provide good governance” to the state. As they say, all politics is local.

But unlike what some Pakistanis may like to think, anti-India or anti-establishment attitudes are different from pro-Pakistan attitudes. In a Chatham House poll conducted earlier this year, only 2 percent of residents in Jammu and Kashmir said they would vote to join Pakistan if offered the opportunity.

A people who think themselves a nation are one.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Brewmaster combines two loves: beer and tea (Josh Rubin, 8/24/10, Toronto Star)

Growing up in a house with two English parents, Joel Manning developed a bit of a taste for tea.

Now, even though he brews England’s other favourite beverage for a living, the brewmaster at Mill Street Brewing still indulges a hankering for a cuppa on a regular basis.

While sipping some Earl Grey one day, it occurred to Manning that combining his two favourite beverages just might be a good idea.

It wasn’t as big a stretch as you might imagine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 AM


Mutual Irritation Society: Alan Grayson tries to show Democrats how to take on the Tea Party (David Weigel, Aug. 23, 2010, Slate)

Outmaneuvering the Tea Party takes a multipronged strategy. Grayson has tried to work on the problems that inspire the movement while dismissing the movement itself as racist, stupid, and crazy. For example, he says, he has found common ground with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. "I agree with him on the wars," says Grayson. "I agree with him on civil liberties. We've worked together very effectively regarding the Fed."

And now here comes the dig. "Many people, improperly, lump together libertarians and the Tea Parties. That's really wrong. Many of the libertarians are physicists, and many of the Tea Party people don't bathe. There's really not much in common there!"

Link Between Grayson, Tea Party Questioned (Nathan L. Gonzales, June 22, 2010, Roll Call)
One of Rep. Alan Grayson’s pollsters is running for the state House in Florida as a Tea Party candidate, fueling Republican suspicions that the Democratic Congressman is using a newly formed third party to boost his own re-election bid.

On Friday, Victoria Torres, 44, of Orlando qualified to run as a Tea Party candidate in state House district 51 in the last hours of the qualifying period.

A call to Torres was returned by Nick Egoroff, communications director for the Florida Tea Party, who described Torres as a “quasi-paralegal assistant who works in a law office.” But apparently, Torres is also a pollster.

According to records from the Florida Department of State office, Torres incorporated Public Opinion Strategies Inc. in December 2008. In the first quarter of this year, Grayson’s campaign made two payments to her firm, totaling $11,000, for polling and survey expenses.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


VT GOV: Shumlin Inching Ahead of Racine (Dan Roem, 8/25/10, Hotline)

State Senate Pres. Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D) appears to be putting some daylight between himself and state Sen. Doug Racine (D) in a race dwindling down to a Last Man Standing competition. Shumlin's lead of 22 votes just jumped up to 216 with 34 precincts still left to report out of 260. Both men check in with about 25% of the vote and the race remains too close to call.

It'd be worth the GOP's time and money to back Senate candidate Len Britton against Pat Leahy, given a political cilimate that resembles 1994, when they could have knocked off Bernie Sanders statewide, and the strength of the gubernatorial candidate atop the ticket.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 AM


FED TO SAVERS: DROP DEAD (James P. Gannon, 8.25.10, American Prospect)

Thoughts while pondering the 43 cents of interest I earned on my savings.

A few days ago I received my monthly statement from Fidelity Investments, where I keep some of my retirement savings. It told me that the cash I keep in a money market account there is earning an annual rate of interest of 0.01%. Yes, that is one one-hundredth of one percent.

I have enough cash in that account to buy a fancy new car or take a glorious long vacation but it earned me the grand sum of 43 cents in interest in the month of July. I might as well have the cash buried in a coffee can in my back yard.

What this tells me is that our economic policy-makers in Washington don't give a damn about savers. The Federal Reserve is holding short-term interest rates to near zero in a monetary policy that could be reduced to a headline like one that became famous back in the 1970s: FED TO SAVERS: DROP DEAD.

...that for the past twenty years, when our betters have been telling us we ought to "save" like the Japanese, this is what their savings have been earning them.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 AM


Primary voters back the familiar: Insurgents falter; McCain wins (Matt Viser, August 25, 2010. Boston Globe)

Established candidates from both major parties struck back in Senate primaries last night as former GOP presidential nominee John McCain bagged a Tea Party challenger in Arizona while President Obama’s pick beat a self-made billionaire in the Democratic race in Florida.

McCain easily defeated former congressman J.D. Hayworth, taking about twice as many votes as the challenger with 30 percent of precincts reporting.

Now he can ditch all the nativist nonsense.

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August 24, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM


Meek wins Florida Democratic Senate primary (Brendan Farrington And Jennifer Kay, 8/24/10, Associated Press)

Rep. Kendrick Meek is the Democratic nominee for Senate, overcoming billionaire Jeff Greene's massive television and mail onslaught to win a bitter Florida primary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


Glenn Beck and fans to rally on 'I Have a Dream' anniversary (Kathleen Hennessey, August 25, 2010, LA Times)

Glenn Beck says he didn't intend to schedule a rally Saturday in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. But it's a convergence of time and place that the conservative talk-show host describes as "divine providence."

Some have used other words.

Civil rights leaders aligned with Democrats are recoiling at the Fox News superpundit's plan to gather his faithful on the same steps where King delivered his call for racial justice.

Given the past doctrinal racism of the Mormon Church, you can just imagine the coming hue and cry from the Right about how insensitive Mr. Beck's rally is.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


Pakistanis Tell of Motive in Taliban Leader’s Arrest (DEXTER FILKINS, 8/22/10, NY Times)

When American and Pakistani agents captured Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s operational commander, in the chaotic port city of Karachi last January, both countries hailed the arrest as a breakthrough in their often difficult partnership in fighting terrorism.

But the arrest of Mr. Baradar, the second-ranking Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar, came with a beguiling twist: both American and Pakistani officials claimed that Mr. Baradar’s capture had been a lucky break. It was only days later, the officials said, that they finally figured out who they had.

Now, seven months later, Pakistani officials are telling a very different story. They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

In the weeks after Mr. Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of the Pakistani government for years. The talks came to an end.

The events surrounding Mr. Baradar’s arrest have been the subject of debate inside military and intelligence circles for months. Some details are still murky — and others vigorously denied by some American intelligence officials in Washington. But the account offered in Islamabad highlights Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan: retaining decisive influence over the Taliban, thwarting archenemy India, and putting Pakistan in a position to shape Afghanistan’s postwar political order. that it will distract Pakistan.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


George David Weiss, Writer of Hit Pop Songs, Dies at 89 (MARGALIT FOX, 8/24/10, NY Times)

George David Weiss, a songwriter who had a hand in some of the biggest hits of midcentury pop music, recorded by some of the biggest stars, died on Monday at his home in Oldwick, N.J. He was 89. [...]

Among his most famous numbers were “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” recorded by Elvis Presley; “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” recorded by the Tokens; and “What a Wonderful World,” recorded by Louis Armstrong. [...]

Mr. Weiss’s other standards include “Lullaby of Birdland” (1952), the vocal version of George Shearing’s jazz standard, and many songs with his frequent collaborator Bennie Benjamin, among them “Surrender” (1946), recorded by Perry Como; “Confess” (1948), recorded by Patti Page; and “Wheel of Fortune” (1952), recorded by Kay Starr.

He collaborated on several Broadway musicals, the best known of which is “Mr. Wonderful” (1956), starring Sammy Davis Jr., for which Mr. Weiss contributed original music and lyrics with Jerry Bock and Larry Holofcener.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM

Reza Kahlili, A Time to Betray (Bill Thompson, Eye on Books)

We'll tell you at the outset that Reza Kahlili is not his real name. He's a native of Iran, who grew up in pre-revolutionary Tehran with a close-knit family. After the 1979 rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, Kahlili joined the Revolutionary Guards, envisioning a road to a Persian renaissance. The tyranny of the Khomeini regime left him shaken and disillusioned, and that's when Kahlili became a spy for the CIA. His book is called "A Time to Betray."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


China's massive traffic jam could last for weeks (AP, 8/24/10)

A massive traffic jam in north China that stretches for dozens of miles and hit its 10-day mark on Tuesday stems from road construction in Beijing that won't be finished until the middle of next month, an official said.

Bumper-to-bumper gridlock spanning for 60 miles (100 kilometers) with cars moving little more than a half-mile (one kilometer) a day at one point has improved since this weekend, said Zhang Minghai, director of Zhangjiakou city's Traffic Management Bureau general office.

But he said he wasn't sure when the situation along the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway would return to normal.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Book Review: 'The Peasant Prince' By Alex Storozynski: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution (Patricia Chasteen, 8/23/10, Epoch Times)

Thaddeus Kosciuszko was born in Poland in 1746 to a noble family that was well off but not wealthy. He was trained as a soldier and also as an engineer. His family owned land that was worked by serfs. The serfs' station was slightly above that of American slaves—they were bought and sold but eventually worked toward personal freedom. Even at an early age, the idea of serfs or slavery did not sit well with Kosciuszko. His schooling, starting when he was nine, was by a group of priests called Piarists. Their main goal was to revolutionize the Polish school system and that included philosophical ideas and political enlightenment.

At the time Poland was ruled by the King, and the noblemen in various states were known as princes. Kosciuszko was known as the Peasant Prince mainly because he was a lifelong champion of the of the common man. He fought for woman’s rights, serfs, slaves, Native Americans, and Jews. He was way ahead of his time when it came to the belief and acceptance of all men as equals.

His story begins when he has to leave Poland in late 1775 to escape a death sentence for daring to court a woman who was “above his station." Her father was a nobleman who was wealthy and so was considered above Kosciuszko.

Luckily for the Continental Army he came to America in 1777—shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He went to Philadelphia and knocked on the door of a man he knew was part of the war for revolution—Benjamin Franklin. He literally “volunteered” to serve the cause—and quickly showed his genius as an engineer.

The book outlines in great detail his incredible skill as an engineer and also his battle plans used in several key battles—without which the war for independence may have been lost.

It’s amazing to read how critical his achievements were during the war—including the battle plans for the Battle of Saratoga and plans for the fortress at West Point (which later became the basis for the West Point academy after the war). We are used to hearing and reading about our American heroes of the revolution such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams. But it’s fascinating to see how this one foreign rebel influenced the outcome of the American Revolution.

Following the end of the Revolution, Kosciuszko returned to Poland and became a leader in that country’s Constitutional Movement. He led the defense against a Russian invasion and in 1794 was the main leader of a revolt against Russian occupiers, The revolt is known as the Kosciuszko Uprising. He was captured during the revolt and spent several years in Russian captivity.

After his release, he returned to Poland and also spent time in France. He spent the rest of his life working for human rights in all countries. Thomas Jefferson, who became one of his closest friends called him “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” repeatedly selling them out.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


The Cipher in Chief: Unlike prior presidents, Obama remains an enigma to the public. (Rich Lowry, 8/24/10, National Review)

Obama’s candidacy always had the sense about it of a supremely artful marketing campaign. His bio video during the Denver convention made him sound like a corn-fed product of the American heartland. There was barely a hint of the father from Kenya and the boyhood in Indonesia and Hawaii — in short, what made him so biographically alluring to worshipful journalists.

He was the blank canvas upon which people could paint their visions of grandeur. One moment Obama was the loyal parishioner of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who converted him to Christianity and was the fount of preacherly wisdom from whom Obama ripped off his most famous rhetorical riff, “the audacity of hope.” The next, he’d hardly heard of the good reverend.

An element of the Obama-is-a-Muslim opinion is perfervid critics wanting to believe the worst of him, but not all. According to Pew, the number of Americans who identify him as Christian has declined from 51 percent in October 2008 to just 34 percent. The more we see of him, the less we know of him. Only 46 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of blacks think Obama is a Christian. His faith simply hasn’t made an impression on the public.

Compared with his predecessors, Obama is as transparent as a billiard ball. You knew George W. Bush was an unapologetically pro-business, freedom-spreadin’ Texas evangelical. You knew Bill Clinton was a flawed but brilliant Southern operator, part of whose charm was the ability to lie with impressive fluidity. Who is Obama?

Forget all the gay Indonesian Muslim Socialist stuff; the most disturbing possibility is that Mr. Obama is exactly what he appears to be: a null set.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


No compromise on religious freedom (Richard Cohen, August 24, 2010, Washington Post)

[Karen] Hughes, who argued the case for the mosque and then advocated building it elsewhere, should have followed her own logic. And the archbishop, instead of urging compromise, should have urged his congregants to show tolerance. He's not a labor mediator. He's a moral leader.

Over the years, thousands of priests have abused many thousands of children. This is a lamentable fact. Yet no rational person can possibly believe that all priests are pedophiles and that a plan to erect a church should or could be opposed by victims of priestly pedophilia. We know the difference between the acts of individuals -- even many of them -- and the dogma or beliefs of an entire religion. I am a Jew, but do not judge me by Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 murdered 29 Muslims in Hebron.

Appearing on ABC's "This Week with Christiane Amanpour," Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

It has become something of a cliche, I know, but no one ever put this sort of thing better than William Butler Yeats in his poem "The Second Coming." "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Some passionate intensity from the best is past due.

...a compromise will get the project built.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 AM


Glenn Beck spoke of ‘good Muslims’ with Imam Rauf in ’06 (Michael Calderone, 8/23/10, Yahoo)

On Fox News and the radio, Beck has tried to link Rauf to radical Islamic organizations, including Hamas.

But Beck didn't always speak so harshly about Rauf, who's been a prayer leader at a mosque 12 blocks from the World Trade Center site for decades and is widely considered a moderate Muslim. In fact, Rauf worked with the FBI on counterterrorism during the Bush years and is currently on a State Department-sponsored trip speaking out against extremism in the Muslim world.

Beck and Rauf aren't strangers. In 2006, they sat down for an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America." Liberal watchdog group Media Matters — which frequently targets Beck and other conservative hosts — unearthed the 7-plus-minute sit-down and blasted it out on Monday.

At the time, Beck spoke out strongly against Islamic terrorism while also praising "good Muslims." It appears that he gestures toward Rauf when making that comment.

The discussion is worth watching as reminder that civil debate is possible over issues of Islamic radicalism and religious tolerance. It also serves as a stark contrast to some of the overheated cable debates regarding the Park51 project over the past few months.

The facts don't sell soap.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


Barack Obama: It’s all about me (David Limbaugh, 8/24/10, Daily Caller)

Obama’s patent self-confidence is not just posturing. It’s evident he truly believes he is special. He did, after all, pen two largely autobiographical books before he had accomplished much of anything. He once told campaign aide Patrick Gaspard, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that . . . I’m a better political director than my political director.”

Obama’s belief that he is a gift to the world is a theme he would carry forward into his presidency. He truly believes he alone has the power to reverse the mess America has allegedly made of world affairs, and that only he can restore America’s supposedly tattered reputation.

Indeed, it often seems that for our president, American policy is not about the United States, but about him personally. At the Summit of the Americas, Obama sat through a 50-minute harangue against the United States by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who eviscerated the United States for a century of “terroristic” aggression in Central America. When it was Obama’s turn, he did not defend the United States, but made himself the issue: “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”

Obama’s numerous self-references soon became legendary. Obama referred to himself 114 times in his first State of the Union. By September 23, 2009, Obama had given forty-one speeches so far that year, referring to himself 1,198 times. At his West Point speech in December, he referred to himself forty-four times. In a speech in Ohio in January, Obama referred to himself no fewer than 132 times and, in the same speech, had the audacity to proclaim, “This is not about me.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


Rubio, Crist await Democratic senate nominee (, 8/24/10)

Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist both plan to vote in Tuesday's primaries as they wait to see who will be the Democratic challenger for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. [...]

U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek is running against real estate developer Jeff Greene for the Democratic Senate nomination. Polls show Meek has the lead over Greene, but many voters are still undecided and Greene hopes they will swing the race his way.

If Meek wins, Rubio's the favorite. If Greene wins, Crist is (though a strong showing by the GOP in the governor's race and those downticket would give the election to the official candidate of the Party).

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


Why taxes are low in the Middle East: High taxes help to build an effective state. That many Middle Eastern countries don't have them tells us much (Brian Whitaker, 8/24/10,

Low taxes, and the erratic collection of them, are common features of life in most of the Middle East. Among the Arab oil producers, for example, taxation accounted for only 5% of gross domestic product in 2002, rising to 17% in the non-oil countries – which is still very low compared with Germany (39%), Italy (41%) and Britain (37%).

The main reason, of course, is that many of them are rentier economies where the government has sources of income other than taxes. Oil is the classic example but there are others: Egypt benefits in a similar way from the Suez canal and several of the poorer Arab countries receive substantial rent in the form of foreign aid. Overall, slightly less than 20% of Arab governments' revenue comes from taxes.

Taxation is an often-overlooked factor in the internal politics of the Middle East: it helps to explain why undemocratic regimes stay in power for so long.

No taxation, no representation.

August 23, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Friend Driscoll on the plan to save newsweeklies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Public Transit Systems Contribute to Weight Loss and Improved Health (American Journal of Preventive Medicine, June 29, 2010)

Increasing the availability of public transit systems is one among a number of modifications to the built environment that offers opportunities for increasing physical activity and reducing the prevalence of obesity and its associated problems. In a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the RAND Corporation found that construction of a light-rail system (LRT) resulted in increased physical activity (walking) and subsequent weight loss by people served by the LRT. These findings suggest that improving neighborhood environments and increasing the public's use of LRT systems could improve health outcomes and potentially impact millions of individuals

Public policy implications of the study are significant. “The built environment can constrain or facilitate physical activity. Understanding ways to encourage greater use of local environments for physical activity offers some hope for reducing the growth in the prevalence of obesity,” commented lead investigator John M. MacDonald, PhD, University of Pennsylvania. “Given that perceptions of neighborhood environments are independently associated with improved health outcomes, and that individuals who choose to use LRT obtain some relative weight reduction, it would be prudent to encourage public policies that improve the safety and attractiveness of pedestrian environments that link home, work and transit stops to increase use of public transit for commuting to work. Public policy investments in transit should consider potential increases in physical activity as part of the broader set of cost–benefit calculations of transit systems. Land- use planning and travel choice have a clear impact on health outcomes. Public transit systems can generate positive health impacts by encouraging greater numbers of users to walk to station stops and maintain more physically active lives. An added benefit of public policy investments in LRT, on top of the general transportation benefits accrued, is the potential reductions in obesity in the population.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


'Ground Zero mosque'? The reality is less provocative: Millions of Americans are furious about the 'Ground Zero mosque'. But it doesn't exist (Charlie Brooker, 8/23/10, The Guardian)

Millions are hopping mad over the news that a bunch of triumphalist Muslim extremists are about to build a "victory mosque" slap bang in the middle of Ground Zero.

The planned "ultra-mosque" will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin's call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for "victory" is.

I'm exaggerating. But I'm only exaggerating a tad more than some of the professional exaggerators who initially raised objections to the "Ground Zero mosque". [...]

The "Ground Zero mosque" is a genuine proposal, but it's slightly less provocative than its critics' nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it's not at Ground Zero. Also, it isn't a mosque.

Wait, it gets duller.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


How a homeownership fetish hurt the American dream (Robert J. Samuelson, August 23, 2010, Washington Post)

Historically, the pursuit of homeownership dates to the Great Depression of the 1930s, notes historian A. Scott Henderson of Furman University. In some ways, it's a great success story. In 1940, 44 percent of households owned a home; by 1985, the rate was 64 percent. The size and quality of homes have increased dramatically. Owning a home contributes to neighborhood stability and encourages property improvement.

Unfortunately, we let a sensible goal become a foolish fetish. Not everyone can become a homeowner. Some are too young and footloose; some are too old and dependent; some are too poor or irresponsible. Some don't want a home. Even with these gaps, homeownership is virtually universal among the middle-aged middle class: almost three-quarters of Americans ages 45 to 54 and four-fifths ages 55 to 64.

Mr. Samuelson is an economist, and so views homeownership through the lens of economics. As he points out, even changes in our economic policies would only be expected to reduce our high ownership rates slightly. This might make some economic sense, though the caese does not seem clear cut.

The problem is that homeownership is not primarily an economic matter, but a political one, even the political one, as James Madison said in Federalist #10:

[T]he most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

The question is then, not whether there are some marginal economic benefits to be found in a lower rate of homeownership, but what are the political consequences of expanding the number of voters who lack property.

The obvious solution, of course, is to tie to the franchise to property ownership, but we're long past the point where the sensible is feasible. Instead, it is a proper role of government to ease the path to homeownership.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


New York mosque controversy worries Muslims overseas:
Some can't understand the fuss over a house of worship and how a democracy promoting religious freedom could even be having such a debate. Others are offended at the conflation of the 9/11 attacks with all Muslims. (Borzou Daragahi, August 23, 2010, LA Times)

Many Muslims abroad are miffed by the stateside debate, largely conducted by non-Muslims, that has grown so loud as to become a topic of discussion on talk shows and newspapers from Bali to Bahrain, from Baghdad to Berlin. The proposed Cordoba House has become a symbol of America's fraught relations with the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.

"Rejecting this has become like rejecting Islam itself," said Ahmad Moussalli, a professor of Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut. "The United States has historically been distinguished by its tolerance, whereas Europe, France, Belgium and Holland have been among those who have rejected the symbolism of Islam. Embracing it will be positively viewed in the Islamic world."

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has spent millions trying to improve its image among Muslims, especially in the Arab world, from where the Sept. 11 hijackers and their leaders came. Coincidentally, the leader of the proposed Muslim community center, the Kuwaiti-born scholar Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is currently touring the Persian Gulf states on a U.S. State Department-funded trip to promote goodwill for America.

Like most non-Americans, Muslims across the world barely understand the vagaries of U.S. politics, including the wedge issues and posturing that turn midterm elections into mud fights.'s just the Right feeding red meat to its wahoos the same way the Arab press uses anti-Semitic tropes to whip people up.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Dems urge Obama to take a stand (JOHN F. HARRIS & JAMES HOHMANN, 8/23/10, Politico)

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s recent complaint about the ingratitude of the “professional left” is a small symptom of a larger problem for President Barack Obama: He has left wide swaths of the Democratic Party uncertain of his core beliefs.

In interviews, a variety of political activists, operatives and commentators from across the party's ideological spectrum presented similar descriptions of Obama’s predicament: By declining to speak clearly and often about his larger philosophy — and insisting that his actions are guided not by ideology but a results-oriented “pragmatism” — he has bred confusion and disappointment among his allies, and left his agenda and motives vulnerable to distortion by his enemies. [...]

The ability to transcend ideological divides and unite disparate parts of the electorate was a signal strength of his candidacy in 2008. But that has given way to widespread — if often contradictory — complaints about his agenda (too radical or too cautious?) and the political tactics (too partisan or too conflict averse?) he uses to pursue it. [...]

[O]bama’s opaque ideology invites everyone to see something different in him — and those perceptions often do not work to his advantage.

The opacity is what made him a formidable candidate, particularly against foes reluctant to define him.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM

"WE'RE AGAINST MUSLIMS,,," (profanity alert):

The New Anti-Semitism: Recent attacks on Islam in the United States echo old slurs against Jews (Daniel Luban, Aug 19, 2010, The Tablet)

The problem for the ADL is that there simply isn’t much anti-Semitism of consequence in the United States these days. While anti-Semitism continues to thrive elsewhere in the world and to molder on the fringes of American society, Jews have by now been fully assimilated into the American ruling class and into the mainstream of American life. A mundane event like the recent wedding of Protestant Chelsea Clinton and Jewish Marc Mezvinsky drove this point home. What was notable was not the question “will she convert?” but how little importance anyone attached to the answer; the former first daughter’s choice between Judaism and Christianity seemed as inconsequential as the choice between Episcopalianism and Presbyterianism would have a few decades ago.

At the same time, many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified.

While the political operatives behind the anti-mosque campaign speak the language of nativism and American exceptionalism, their ideology is itself something of a European import.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


5 Reasons Obama Is the Same as Bush, Clinton (Paul Bedard, 8/22/10, US News)

We've asked some Whispers regulars if they think Obama is the same old same old and here are the five ways they see the president as little different than previous administrations.

You're hard pressed to find important policy deviations either.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Calif. GOP hopes statewide slate lifts others, too (JULIET WILLIAMS, 8/22/10, Associated Press)

[I]t's far from clear whether voters in California, where Democrats have a nearly 15-point voter registration advantage, will see the same glitter the GOP faithful perceive.

Their candidates have been pushing for smaller government, fewer regulations on businesses and lower taxes. Democrats have countered that the Republican Party is just promoting what it always has — a pro-business agenda that punishes the middle class and working class.

Despite their registration edge, the top Democratic candidates are working hard to retain the middle-of-the-road voters who have helped the party dominate statewide elections over the past two decades.

Republicans were buoyed at their weekend meeting in San Diego by appearances from their top candidates, gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal stalwart reviled by conservatives.

Now that their candidates are through contentious primaries, some delegates are hoping they can successfully sway those centrist voters who will be key to a November win.

"Both of them are going to have to reach out to the Latinos, independents and the decline-to-states because we need those votes," said Alice Anderson, of Dana Point. "We're hoping those people will think as we do and realize what a good team we have right now."

"Why, yes, we are the party that has been advocating less government, lower taxes, and fewer regulations even as Democrats have done the opposite and driven the decline of the once Golden State for twenty years...."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Vineyard buzzes less for Obamas’ second visit (Milton J. Valencia, August 18, 2010, Boston Globe)

One barometer of the plunge in excitement has been the sale of Obama-themed T-shirts, which designers had been banking on after the craze of last year. Clothing labeled with the president’s name sold by the thousands, helping to salvage a tough economic year for the island.

But this year’s T-shirt sales are much less brisk, merchants say.

“Last year, Obama gave you goose bumps, but I don’t think you’re going to see that this year,’’ said Alex McCluskey, co-owner of the Locker Room, who sold more than 4,000 “I vacationed with Obama’’ T-shirts last year. But so far this year, he said, his hot item is T-shirts of former President Bush asking, “Miss me yet?’’

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 AM


Modernity’s Uninvited Guest: Civilization makes progress, but evil persists. (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2010, City Journal)

The Enlightenment held out the hope that with enough of this “proper study,” man would come to know himself sufficiently to eliminate the evil and suffering that had always beset his existence. Man would obtain something like a Newtonian knowledge not only of the universe but of himself, with all the predictive and mechanical advantages that such understanding had brought in the study of inanimate nature.

And in a certain sense, the promise of the Enlightenment has been triumphantly fulfilled in our modern societies—surely as regards natural evil. Thanks to rational inquiry, to take but one instance, the infant-mortality rate since Jenyns wrote has fallen 98 percent. We live lives cleaner, more comfortable, and freer from pain than those of any people who have ever existed. Nobody today has to endure one-hundredth of the physical tortures, brought by illness and the efforts to treat it, that Philip II of Spain and Charles II of England had to endure.

Nor can one say that no moral advance occurred because of the Enlightenment. Just as we are freer from disease, so, too, our mental lives are freer. Of course, dictatorships over thought still exist in the world, but they are on the defensive and have come to seem somehow unnatural. Freedom is now the default setting of human thought. No one can tell us what to think, say, or write, at least not without our consent.

But an uninvited guest has arrived at this banquet of human advancement: evil. Whether men behave better or worse, individually or in the aggregate, than they did before the Enlightenment, is probably a question that we cannot answer approximately, let alone definitively. But what is certain is that moral evil has not only failed to disappear but has taken on a more deliberate, calculated character. Whereas the torturers of Damiens did their evil unself-consciously because it was the natural or preordained thing to do, modern evil is done after intellectual reflection, divorced from any tradition that might guide conduct.

The two greatest moral catastrophes of the twentieth century, wrought by Lenin and Hitler, were perverse effects of the Enlightenment. Lenin and Hitler were creatures of the Enlightenment not in the sense that they were enlightened, of course, but in the sense that they believed they had the right and the duty to act in accordance with their own unaided deductions from their own first principles. Everything else they regarded as sentimentality. Lenin preached no mercy to the non-proletarian, Hitler none to the Jew. The truth of their theories, supposedly rational and indubitable, was more evident to them, more real in their minds, than the millions killed as a consequence of those theories. If a syllogism ended in a command to commit unspeakable evil, you did not doubt the premises or the argument but obeyed the command.

This post-Enlightenment way of thinking continues to have its defenders. The celebrated British historian Eric Hobsbawm, a lifelong Marxist, said not long ago that had the Soviet Union turned out much better than it did, the deaths of 20 million to achieve it would have been a worthwhile price to pay. One cannot accuse Hobsbawm of thinking small.

That evil has not disappeared pari passu with German measles puzzles and troubles us. Evil remains a conundrum, as evidenced by Marxist literary theorist Terry Eagleton’s recently published book On Evil. Eagleton is not one of those Marxists for whom, like the late historian and Stalin apologist Edward Hallett Carr, the problem of evil does not exist. “I don’t think there are such things as bad people,” Carr once said. “To us Hitler, at the moment, seems a bad man, but will they think Hitler a bad man in a hundred years’ time, or will they think the German society of the thirties bad?”

Eagleton sees clearly that this will not do. Helping him in this recognition is that he is a Christian as well as a Marxist, and no Christian can believe wholly in social determinism. The problem of the human heart is real, not just a remediable social artifact. The relationship between society and human behavior is dialectical, Eagleton believes. Society has its effect, but it is acting on an already imperfect nature, which in turn is bound to produce an imperfect society.

Significantly, Eagleton begins his book by citing the case of two ten-year-old British boys who abducted, tortured, and killed three-year-old Jamie Bulger in 1993. Here is the opposite of childhood innocence, for the two boys knew that what they were doing was deeply wrong but went ahead and did it anyway. The human mystery is that neither their environment nor their nature can fully explain them. Man is not only wolf to man; he is mystery to man.

So the Enlightenment project has failed, at least in explaining man fully to himself. However successful it has been in other regards—and we are all, even its bitterest enemies, children of the Enlightenment—we do not know ourselves any better than we did in Jenyns’s and Johnson’s day.

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August 22, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


In Florida, a Candidate Veers From Tea Party’s Script (JEFF ZELENY, 8/22/10, NY Times)

Many of the voters he comes across during his statewide tour were mad, but there was no anger, shouting or a hint of irritation from Mr. Rubio as he fielded questions from a lunchtime crowd in Pensacola about how he would stop what one woman described as a radical Democratic agenda overtaking America.

“This is our country!” the woman declared from her seat at McGuire’s Irish Pub, looking to Mr. Rubio for affirmation. He nodded and paused a moment before answering.

“I am not running for the United States Senate because I want to be the opposition to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid,” he replied in a measured tone. “I’m running for Senate because I want to create an alternative.”

At each stop with voters, Mr. Rubio speaks of the urgency to restore “American exceptionalism,” which he believes is slipping away under Democratic control. He said the private sector has been stymied by uncertainty under the Obama administration and the health care law should be repealed.

Yet an expansive interview with Mr. Rubio, as he rode in the back of a white mini-van along the Gulf Breeze Parkway from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach, found that he did not agree with flashpoints Republican candidates elsewhere have seized on.

Does he support changing the 14th Amendment, as some Republicans have suggested, which grants the right to citizenship to anyone born in the United States?

“You’re taking energy and focus away from that fundamental debate and spending time on something that quite frankly is not the highest and best use of our political attention,” Mr. Rubio said. “I don’t think that’s where the problem is.”

Is the Arizona immigration law a good idea, with the police required to check the documents of anyone they stop or detain whom they suspect of being in the country illegally?

“I don’t want Arizona to serve as a model for other states,” said Mr. Rubio, a first-generation American, whose parents fled Cuba in 1959. “I want Arizona’s law to serve as a wakeup call to the federal government to finally do its jobs with regard to illegal immigration.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


...even complete moonbat Republicans won't lose KY and NV.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


Howard Dean: Obama aides need to spend 'some time outside Washington' ( Mike Lillis - 08/22/10, The Hill)

Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Sunday that President Obama's political advisers are out of touch with average Americans and need to "spend some time outside Washington."

"The people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington," D.C.Dean told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union." [...]

"This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and election Day," Dean said. "For the president to be out there fighting, as he has been for the last two or three weeks, and sounding like Harry Truman, people love that stuff.

"They want to see a fighter. They want to see strength in their leaders, and I think president Obama is showing that strength. … He appears to want to win this."

In other words, he's setting the UR up to take the fall personally for November. The Mad Doctor is running...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Anti-'Ground Zero mosque' protestors descend on downtown Park51 site (Erik Badia, Kate Nocera and Simone Weichselbaum, 8/22/10, NY DAILY NEWS)

Opponents chanted "No mosque, no way!" and carried signs reading, "9-11-01: Never Forget," as Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" blared over loudspeakers.

One group brought life-sized mock missiles with a dummy terrorist draped over top holding a sign that read: "Obama, your middle-name is Hussein, we understand. Bloomberg, what's your excuse." [...]

"I am nervous when people from outside our city come here and tell us how to live in our city," said Garth Silberstein, an Orthodox Jew from Crown Heights, who supports the project.

"This has to do with racism. It has nothing to do with Ground Zero. It's dangerous to think that freedom of religion only applies to your religion."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


NY mosque imam says US freedoms more in line with Islam than limits of some Muslim nations (Associated Press, August 22, 2010)

The imam spearheading plans for an Islamic center near the New York site of the Sept. 11 attacks says America's sweeping constitutional rights are more in line with Islamic principles than the limits imposed by some Muslim nations.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told the Al Wasat newspaper in Bahrain that the freedoms enshrined by the U.S. Constitution also reflect true Muslim values.

A portion of the interview — to be published Monday — was seen Sunday by The Associated Press.

You couldn't prove it by his foes. Happily, he is more American than they.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


A grab for the mantle of moral authority (Peter Hartcher, August 23, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald)

[E]ach is using a different definition of what it takes to own "legitimacy". Neither wants to be seen as illegitimate in the struggle for public recognition, for the consent of the governed, for the support of the independents.

Abbott struck first. In his speech on election night and again yesterday, he claimed that the Gillard government had lost its legitimacy the moment it lost its majority.

But this cuts both ways. Because the Coalition doesn't have a majority either. So with neither party likely to command a majority in its own right, Abbott is, in effect, arguing that no one will have legitimacy to govern.

So Abbott went a step further. "The one unambiguous fact to emerge from yesterday's election is that there are about half a million more votes for the Coalition than for the Labor Party," he told reporters yesterday.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Republicans for Religious Freedom (Steve Chapman, 8/22/10, Chicago Tribune)

Ten years ago, Republicans in Congress passed a major law to protect the right of Muslims to establish mosques even where such a building might be unwelcome. Yes, they did. They just may not have thought of it quite that way at the time.

The law, called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), was aimed at a common problem often ignored by the courts: local government bodies using zoning authority to prevent religious institutions from moving in or expanding their operations.

It had the support of such groups as the Christian Legal Society and the Family Research Council. Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., said it was aimed at "the well-documented and abusive treatment suffered by religious individuals and organizations in the land use context." Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, pushed it because, he said, "At the core of religious freedom is the ability for assemblies to gather and worship together."

Today, of course, that statute is a problem for anyone hoping that the city, state or federal government would take action to block an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, commonly referred to as the Ground Zero mosque. Many of those opponents are happy to disregard both the law and the Constitution in their effort.
Anyone can bow to the letter of the law, the Cordoba House is in the spirit.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Russia's Long (and Brutal) War on Terror (Nathan Thornburgh, August 16, 2010, TIME)

Moscow was a fortress before it was ever a city. The Kremlin, sited on Borovitskaya Hill in 1156, was its first grand building, made originally from pine, then oak, limestone and finally red brick. As its walls grew thick, Moscow began the "gathering of Russia"--the conquering of principalities around it. It was the beginning of an expansion that, at the zenith of Soviet power, encompassed not just Russians but the world's largest tapestry of subject peoples: more than 100 ethnic groups speaking more than 200 languages, living in 11 time zones. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Moscow divested itself of many of those entanglements, but some regions that agitated for more autonomy were located inside the century-old border of Russia and could not be carved out. Chief among these was the North Caucasus, a predominantly Muslim region that includes Chechnya, a tiny republic that fought two failed wars of independence. Since 2007, Chechnya has been ruled by the strong hand of Ramzan Kadyrov, a Kremlin-backed president who at first extinguished all open rebellion. But even Kadyrov's grip is slipping, and the fight against the Kremlin has flared in neighboring republics, which have served as a base for insurgent groups to mount successful attacks from southern Russia all the way to the fortress city on the Moscow river.

The March 29 bombers, Dzhennet Abdullayeva, 17, and Maryam Sharipova, 28, were so-called black widows--young women radicalized by the death or disappearance of their husbands--from Dagestan, a tiny, mountainous republic south of Chechnya that, together with the rest of the North Caucasus, serves as a strategically important buffer between Russia proper and its enemies (like Mikheil Saakashvili's Georgia) to the south.

Dagestan's sorry recent history mirrors that of the rest of the region. The post-Soviet era was chaotic and corrupt. Regional governments co-opted Sufism--a variant of Islam popular in Central and South Asia--by building government Islamic schools and mosques, but their own venal appetites tainted the faith by association. So when students and preachers began bringing Wahhabism--the strict Saudi version of Islam--to the North Caucasus, it seemed clean, devout, otherworldly. The ensuing struggle between Kremlin-backed Sufi authorities and the growing tide of Wahhabis has been bloody and clannish, and it has reached far beyond the mountains of the Caucasus. In Dagestan, a Chechen former engineer named Doku Umarov has declared himself the emir of the nonexistent emirate of the Caucasus. Umarov claimed responsibility for the Moscow-metro bombings, telling Russians in a video message, "I promise you that the war will come to your streets and you will feel it in your lives, feel it on your own skin." [...]

Russia's war on terrorism is essentially a civil war. "Our Afghanistan is inside Russia" is how Lipman puts it. Even so, on most days, the war feels far away. This may well be a credit to the Kremlin's powers of misdirection and distraction. At a huge Moscow rally organized by Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, 65,000 young Russians were bused in from all over the country to celebrate victory--not in the war on terrorism but in World War II. The string of speakers hardly mentioned terrorism, choosing instead to focus on other bogeymen: opposition leaders, foreign media and foreign leaders who had apparently insulted the memory of Russia's sacrifice in the Great Patriotic War. Teenagers lined up by the dozens to turn in books--ostensibly for return to the publishers--written by Kremlin opponents like the leaders of Georgia and Estonia and opposition politicians like Gary Kasparov.

The authoritarian overtones of the rally, where everyone wore matching faux-military T-shirts and had been issued replica Kalashnikov cartridges, were chilling. But there was an added component, an orderliness that was breathtaking for Russia: 65,000 teenagers and not one of them smoking or drinking. It reminded me of the allure of the Wahhabi extremists who recruit young people in Dagestan: in a chaotic and muddy land, the clean-swept mosques and confident composure of the Wahhabi leaders is a tremendous sales pitch.

The same can be said of the Kremlin. Its pitch is that Russian authorities are strong enough to muscle their way to victory. But explosions continue to hit the North Caucasus on a daily basis, and Moscow remains at risk. In mid-July, another six would-be suicide bombers were arrested before they could be "deployed" to major Russian cities, according to police. This is the real indictment of the Kremlin's strategy: its iron fist keeps striking the Caucasus, and the Caucasus keeps striking back.

...but they are nations, so they'll be free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Does Barack Obama want to be re-elected in 2012?: Few Americans consider themselves bigger than the presidency but Obama might be one of them. The man in the Oval Office, argues Toby Harnden, may already be preparing for a role as a post-president in a post-American world (Toby Harnden, 21 Aug 2010, Daily Telegraph)

Almost everything Obama does these days suggests that he doesn't care much about being re-elected. Strange as it might seem, perhaps he wants to be a one-term president.

Obama was elected in 2008 at an extraordinary moment in American politics. Suddenly, this charismatic figure, elected to the Senate without serious opposition in 2004 and without any executive experience, was catapulted into the White House.

His presidential bid had been based on the power of his life story and his ability with the spoken word. Doubtless he was as surprised as anyone else that he pulled it off. Governing has been altogether more difficult for him and there are signs he is already tiring of it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Going Mad in Herds (MAUREEN DOWD, 8/22/10, NY Times)

At the Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard, the sojourning President Obama bought a few books, including “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. It was for his daughter, but it may have also conjured a sweet memory for the beleaguered president. Only a couple of years ago, when he was campaigning, Obama inspired comparisons with the noble lawyer Atticus Finch.

If he's a character from the book, he's Dill, the effete intellectual poseur.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Is China Turning Japanese?: China is now the world's second largest economy. Here's why Beijing, not Washington, should be worried. (MICHAEL PETTIS, AUGUST 19, 2010, Foreign Policy)

China has formally overtaken Japan as the world's second largest economy. Yet, for all the recent excited commentary, there's less cause for baijiu toasts in Beijing than they might think. That's because China's economic growth has followed what's sometimes called "the Japanese model." In Japan and other Asian countries, this model has proved extraordinarily successful in the short term in generating eye-popping rates of growth -- but it always eventually runs into the same fatal constraints: massive overinvestment and misallocated capital. And then a period of painful economic adjustment. In short: Beijing, beware.




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Japan's "lost decade" of the 1990s -- from which it still has not emerged -- followed a period of high growth, at the heart of which were massive subsidies for manufacturing and investment. The Japanese model channels wealth away from the household sector to subsidize growth by restraining wages, undervaluing the currency, and, most powerfully, forcing down the cost of capital. In every prior case, once the train gets rolling, it has been very difficult to correct course. That's because too much of the economy depends on hidden subsidies to survive.

Nor is Japan the only country to rise quickly and then suffer in this fashion. Brazil, which experienced "miracle" growth years during the 1960s and 1970s, had its own lost decade in the 1980s, for similar reasons. Beijing would do well to heed these tales of caution. [...]

hy do Chinese consume such a low share of what they produce -- in spite of determined efforts by Beijing to get them to increase consumption? Contrary to conventional thinking, the Chinese have no aversion to consuming. They are eager shoppers, as even the most cursory visit to a Chinese mall will indicate. The problem is that Chinese households own such a small share of total national income that their consumption is necessarily also a small share. And just as the household share of national income has declined dramatically in the past decade, so too has household consumption.

This isn't to say households are getting poorer. On the contrary, they are getting richer quite rapidly, but they are getting richer more slowly than the country overall, which means their share of total income is declining.

If Beijing wants to increase the consumption share of GDP, it shouldn't waste effort and money trying to create additional incentives for consumption, tinkering with subsidies and taxes, improving the social safety net, attempting to change cultural habits. What is needed is to increase the share of national income that households take home. Give them more money, and they will spend it.

So how can their share rise? Here, the problem gets very difficult.

One option might be for Beijing to engineer a huge shift of state wealth to the household sector through, say, a massive privatization program. This could drive up consumption significantly by boosting household wealth, but the likelihood of mass privatization is slim, given the political realities in China.

Another option, and ultimately the only sustainable path forward, would involve reversing the subsidies that generated such furious growth. Wage growth must at least keep pace with productivity growth; interest rates must rise substantially; and the currency must be revalued. But if any of these happen too quickly, we could expect a surge in bankruptcies -- as old businesses struggle to survive without familiar subsidies.

Unfortunately, the longer China waits to make the transition from this model of growth, the more difficult the transition will be. Forcing banks to fund projects at artificially low interest rates inevitably raises non-performing loans, and these eventually become government debt. The longer China waits, the more debt there will be and the more dependent growth will be on the subsidies.

For a worrying case study, one need only look to Japan, which grew very rapidly thanks largely to very high rates of investment forced through the banking system. For a long time the problem of misallocated investment -- which was whispered about in Tokyo but not taken too seriously -- didn't seem to matter. Everyone "knew" that Japan's leaders could manage a transition easily. After all, they were extremely smart, with a deep knowledge of the very special circumstances that made Japan unique, with real control over the economy, with a strong grasp of history and penchant for long-term thinking, and most of all with a clear understanding of what was needed to fix Japan's problems. Sound familiar?

In the end, they were seduced by their own success. Look what a great job they had already done: by the early 1990s Japan had generated so much investment-driven growth that it had grown from 7 percent of global GDP in 1970 to 10 percent in 1980, and then surged to nearly 18 percent at its peak in the early 1990s. In about twenty years, Japan's share of global GDP was two-and-a-half times its initial share. And yet it kept boosting investment to generate high growth well into the early 1990s, long after the economic value of its investment had turned negative.

Less than 20years later, after a terribly long struggle to adjust to high debt and massive overinvestment, Japan is about to be overtaken by China with only 8 percent of global GDP. Japan, in other words, has given back in less than two decades almost the entire share of global GDP it had taken in the two astonishing decades that preceded it (during the same period the United States has roughly maintained its share).

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Taking Bin Laden’s Side (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 8/21/10, NY Times)

[O]pponents seem to be afflicted by two fundamental misconceptions.

The first is that a huge mosque would rise on hallowed land at ground zero. In fact, the building would be something like a YMCA, and two blocks away and apparently out of view from ground zero. This is a dense neighborhood packed with shops, bars, liquor stores — not to mention the New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club and the Pussycat Lounge (which says that it arranges lap dances in a private room, presumably to celebrate the sanctity of the neighborhood).

Why do so many Republicans find strip clubs appropriate for the ground zero neighborhood but object to a house of worship? Are lap dances more sanctified than an earnest effort to promote peace?

And this is an earnest effort. I know Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan — the figures behind the Islamic community center — and they are the real thing. Because I have written often about Arab atrocities in Darfur and about the abuse of women in Islamic countries, some Muslim leaders are wary of me. But Imam Feisal and Ms. Khan are open-minded and have been strong advocates for women within Islam.

Untold story behind the so-called 'Ground Zero mosque' (Ahmed Rehab, 8/20/10, NY Times)
Those opposed to American Muslims practicing their right to build a religious and cultural center on their private property near Ground Zero and in concordance with all laws and regulations reluctantly concede that they have no legal grounds to challenge it. So they argue instead that the Muslims should voluntarily forgo their right out of sensitivity for the sacredness of that site.

This is a particularly disingenuous line.

If it is about sensitivity for the sacred, then why aren't those same people opposing the deli, bar, coffee shop, and offices, or strip club for that matter, that are open for business in that same sacred vicinity?

What is particularly indecent or insensitive about American Muslims building a house of peace, community, and worship that doesn't apply to the New York Dolls gentlemen club?

Let's be blunt: it is only indecent and insensitive if you buy into the canard that American Muslims are somehow collectively guilty for 9/11. That is the coded message at the heart of opposition to the center. It is a message we reject on its face.

Couple behind Ground Zero mosque a model of tolerance (Walter Ruby, August 18, 2010, Jewish Telegraph Agency)

In my testimony at the hearing, I said that since our organizations began cooperating three years ago, I have consistently found both Feisal and Khan to be unequivocally opposed to violence and terrorism and deeply committed to the American values of democracy and pluralism. These are values, Feisal argues in his book, “What’s Right with Islam,” that are intrinsic to Islam as well.

For this reason, our foundation has consistently supported Feisal’s effort to create an Islamic community center in New York that will serve as a high-profile platform from which to articulate that vision of peaceful and pluralistic Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Months ago, he and his wife told the president of our foundation, Rabbi Marc Schneier, that they hope to create a center for Muslim-Jewish dialogue at the Islamic community center in cooperation with our foundation and the larger Jewish community.

Over the past three years, Rauf and Khan have taken part in an annual event sponsored by our foundation known as The Weekend of Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues Across North America, during which mosques and synagogues offer one-on-one programs focusing on and celebrating commonalities in our two faith traditions.

From what I have learned, when Feisal set out during the past few years to bring to fruition his decades-old dream of creating an Islamic community center with a strong interfaith component in New York City, he was never much concerned about where the center would be located. Yet, when a space large enough to fulfill his vision became available two blocks north of Ground Zero, he saw special significance in the site. He argued that the building of an Islamic community center there dedicated to non-violence and mutual understanding among faiths would represent a deeply felt gesture of compassion and healing by the Muslims of New York to the entire New York community, including those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Blair Journey is a love letter to Bush (Ian Kirby, 8/22/10, NOTW)

The News of the World can reveal Blair says he thinks Bush was the only politician in the world with the courage and commitment to take on al-Qaeda after the 9/11 terror attacks. [...]

But Mr Blair also insists Bush was "sensitive" and "fully aware of the consequences" of the 2003 invasion. Former advisers who’ve read the book say they were shocked at the strength of Blair’s commitment to Bush, who was internationally derided for his handling of the Iraq war.

Blair’s pal told us: "It is basically an extended love letter.

"Tony says he was wowed by Bush’s strength, courage and conviction and saw him as a highly intelligent and visionary friend.

"He says the Americans were the only ones with an effective vision on how to deal with al-Qaeda and Iraq." The ex-PM backs the US for the way it tried to deal with near-civil war in Iraq after the invasion.

He even defends the Americans’ decision not to put hundreds of thousands of troops into Iraq to ensure stability, and says it was right to go to war without a second UN resolution authorising the invasion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Lighten up, Mr. President: Americans like their president to relish the job he’s been entrusted with (Jeff Jacoby, August 22, 2010, Boston Globe)

Peter Wehner, a former Bush aide and now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, recalled recently Theodore Sorensen’s description of John F. Kennedy: “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.’’ Time and again, JFK quoted an ancient Greek definition of happiness: “It is full use of your powers along lines of excellence,’’ as he told reporters at one of his last press conferences. “I find, therefore, the presidency provides some happiness.’’ Despite everything life and the world’s biggest job threw at JFK, wrote Sorensen, “the gaiety and laughter within him never subsided.’’

Americans like their presidents to relish the job they’ve been entrusted with. It’s not an ideological thing. Politically, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were controversial and even polarizing, but both inspired — and continue to inspire — a deep and durable public affection. Is it just a coincidence that both exuded an irrepressible optimism about life and a sunny enthusiasm for the nation that elected them?

By contrast, you come across too often as irritable and self-pitying. It’s not attractive, and it’s not winning you the admiration of the American people. Lighten up, Mr. President. You’ve got the job of a lifetime. Enjoy it.

It's maybe the starkest contrast between him and W, who was obviously enjoying the job even when everyone hated him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


First Listen: The Marsalis Family, 'Music Redeems' (Patrick Jarenwattananon, 8/15/10, NPR)

Today's first family of jazz, the Marsalises, don't often get together, at least on stage. But when the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C. (now the DC Jazz Festival), gave its 2009 lifetime achievement award to family father Ellis Marsalis — a great pianist and legendary educator — all four of his music-playing sons (Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason) joined him on stage. Ellis Marsalis III also recited an original poem for his father, frequent collaborators Herlin Riley and Eric Revis played, Dr. Billy Taylor joined in the fun, and family friend Harry Connick Jr. took a few guest spots, too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Bill Millin, Scottish D-Day Piper, Dies at 88 (JOHN F. BURNS, 8/19/10, NY Times)

Mr. Millin was a 21-year-old private in Britain’s First Special Service Brigade when his unit landed on the strip of coast the Allies code-named Sword Beach, near the French city of Caen at the eastern end of the invasion front chosen by the Allies for the landings on June 6, 1944.

By one estimate, about 4,400 Allied troops died in the first 24 hours of the landings, about two-thirds of them Americans.

The young piper was approached shortly before the landings by the brigade’s commanding officer, Brig. Simon Fraser, who as the 15th Lord Lovat was the hereditary chief of the Clan Fraser and one of Scotland’s most celebrated aristocrats. Against orders from World War I that forbade playing bagpipes on the battlefield because of the high risk of attracting enemy fire, Lord Lovat, then 32, asked Private Millin to play on the beachhead to raise morale.

When Private Millin demurred, citing the regulations, he recalled later, Lord Lovat replied: “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

After wading ashore in waist-high water that he said caused his kilt to float, Private Millin reached the beach, then marched up and down, unarmed, playing the tunes Lord Lovat had requested, including “Highland Laddie” and “Road to the Isles.”

With German troops raking the beach with artillery and machine-gun fire, the young piper played on as his fellow soldiers advanced through smoke and flame on the German positions, or fell on the beach. The scene provided an emotional high point in “The Longest Day.”

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August 21, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Pizza Hut Slashing Prices Starting Sunday (Resa Xu, 8/21/10, Epoch Times)

Pizza Hut, part of Yum Brands, are lowering prices to the point that most “medium pizzas will cost $8, large pizzas will be priced at $10 and so-called specialty pizzas will cost $12 each,” said the New York Times.

Pizza Hut advertising signs claim, “Every pizza price slashed.” This certainly is true, given that a medium-sized Pizza Hut pizza was previously priced at around 15 dollars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


The quiet resurgence of George W. Bush?: He's enjoying a mini-moment of grudging acceptance, if not affection (Howard Fineman, 8/20/2010, MSNBC)

Seven years ago, then-President George W. Bush stood beneath a banner on an aircraft carrier and declared that “major combat operations” in Iraq had ended. Wednesday, they actually did — and, by design, Bush was nowhere to be seen.

It was a moment of political closure brought to us not by Bush, but by his successor, who delivered on a campaign promise that was the original seed from which his campaign for president grew.

As a candidate, Barack Obama vowed to end the “war” in Iraq. And though troops will remain, skirmishes will continue, and there’s no guarantee that the age-old sectarian forces in Mesopotamia won’t resume their bloody rivalry — Bush’s war is over. [...]

Bush has been the beneficiary of weeks worth of back-handed compliments from the national punditocracy, which is sharply critical of the Tea Party’s (and other conservatives’ views) on immigration and the construction of an Islamic Community Center two blocks from the Ground Zero site in Manhattan.

It’s been widely noted that Bush was, especially by today’s standards, a moderate and rhetorically benign figure on both issues: pushing for an immigration reform bill that would have offered a “path to citizenship” for many illegals, and stressing from the outset of the “war on terror” that he deeply respected Islam and its message of peaceful submission to God.

Some key figures from the Bush era, including former solicitor Ted Olson and tax lobbyist Grover Norquist, have come out in support of building the Islamic Center at the site.

Several writers — including those who lost no love for Bush when he was president — have used him as a foil for attacking Tea Party activists who support sweeping anti-immigration measures (such as Arizona’s law and a change in the 14th Amendment), and for attacking those who oppose the Islam site.

Bush has remained studiously silent on both matters — and on anything else having directly to do with politics.

...Mr. Fineman can't even acknowledge that the Iraq War is ending on W's terms.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Lessons from Locke (LA Times, August 20, 2010)

As Locke High School prepares for its third year as a charter school, operator Green Dot Public Schools has earned some bragging rights — as well as reasons for humility. There's no doubt that students at the Watts school are better off for the Green Dot takeover. Dropout and truancy rates are down significantly; more students are taking college-prep classes and passing the high school exit exam on the first try. Crime, especially on-campus fighting, is considerably lower. Scores on the state's standardized tests rose modestly this year.

Yet Locke's students are far from even mediocre achievement. Only 15% score as proficient or better in English, and only 6.7% in math, and that follows a year in which scores barely budged at all. By the end of 10th grade, only 72% of the students who started as freshmen at Locke were still attending the school — though that's higher than when it was run by L.A. Unified. Still, the numbers are nowhere close to as impressive as at other Green Dot schools, where early and dramatic successes earned the charter operator a reputation as a miracle worker.

Locke is different from those schools, and from almost every other charter school in California. It doesn't enroll students through a lottery, a system that tends to draw the most motivated students and parents. Instead, it takes all students within its attendance boundaries.

Green Dot deserves appreciation for taking the challenge and for bringing about progress on several fronts.

Three years isn't much time to undo decades of damage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM



I believe that there are, at least, three elements which characterize Japanese religiosity philosophically distinct from Christianity.

The three key words are “self”, ”Nature” and ”absolutization”.

First, in terms of the notion of “self”, there is a clear-cut distinction between Buddhistic-Shintoistic notion and western monotheistic notion.

Second, in terms of view of Nature, the east and the west are also substantially different. While Japanese deem Nature as divine, Christians do not share the same reverence.

Third, in terms of value, because of their religious mentality, Japanese by and large have much less “propensity” towards its absolutization than Westerners.


Now the first element: “self”. How is Japanese traditional religious notion on “self” different from westerners’ view ? To put it in a simplistic way, Buddhistic-Shintoists believe that, in order to attain the Real Spiritual Freedom, they should “throw away” all the “karma (desire)”, “ego”, “interests”, “hope” and even “self”. Here, the words “throwing away” are synonymous with such words as “discarding”, ”renouncing”, ”melting down”, ”emptying”, “zeroizing “ or “reducing to nothing”. To paraphrase, the ultimate state of mind, the genuine freedom of mind, or the Highest Reality can be gained only after throwing away their own self or melting down their identity. Their self or identity should be absorbed into Mother Nature or Universe.

In contrast, monotheistic religions seem to be based on the assumption that humans are “miniatures” of the deity. They (humans) are defined to reflect the image of deity. They are, therefore, by definition, expected to be “divine”, or at least “mini-divine”. However, in order to get closer to the deity, they are destined to polish, consolidate, elevate or perfect their self. It never occurs to them, hence, to throw away their self. Perhaps throwing away one’s self is deemed immoral or sinful.

In short, monotheists are supposed to maximize, perfect their self. Hence, they are “maximalist”. Bearing this view in mind, it does not need special imagination to understand that the maximized or perfected “self as mini-deity” is inviolable or sacred.

In contrast, Buddistic-Shintoists are, in order to reach the Highest Reality, supposed to minimize, throw away their self. Hence, they are “minimalist”. Even one’s dignity or honour is something they should never cling to. They never regard themselves as “mini-deity”. It never occurs to them that they should perfect themselves to get closer to deity. Such a desire is a kind of “karma”, which should be thrown away.

I repeat, Buddhist-Shintoists believe that, at an ultimate stage, one should not cling to any desires or obsession, including “dignification” of oneself. One should be completely detached from the desire to dignify oneself.

So far, I made a kind of intellectual exercise, with an assumption that different religiosities bear different concepts of “self”. By the way, in terms of image I have, westerner’s “self” is something like a big, solid, shiny golden metal ball which should be constantly shined, polished and solidified, whereas Buddhist’s self is something like air or gas: shapeless, elastic, and difficult or impossible to “shine” or “polish”.

According to Japanese religiosity, what they should renounce are not limited to “karma ”, desires and “self”. They should be detached from logical thinking. After all, for Japanese, religiosity is a realm where “logos” such as “reason”, logical thinking and “deductive approach” should be done away with, too.

In particular, for traditional Zen Buddhists, even opposing values such as good vs. evil are something to be transcended. In the deepest sense of Buddhist religiosity, at the ultimate stage of spirit, there are no holiness, no truth, no justice, no evil, or no beauty. Even hope is something not to be clung to, but to be discarded. The Ultimate Freedom is given through absolute passiveness.

They also believe that they should be detached from desire to look for eternity. In the Universe, there is nothing eternal or absolute. Every being remains “ephemeral”, “nothing”, or every being remains “relative”. The Ultimate Reality lies in “emptiness”,” nothing-ness” or “ambiguity”. [...]


Then I move to the 2nd element: Nature. For westerners, divinity lies in the Creator rather than in Nature, a product of Him. On the other hand, for Buddhistic-Shintoists, divinity lies in Nature itself whereas there is no concept of the “Creator” who created Nature (Universe ) from without or from above. Nature was generated by itself, not by an extra-universal force, out of nothing. The divinity permeates through Nature. It does permeate even into humans.

The divinity in the Mother Nature envelops everything----humans, trees, plants, rocks, fountains and so forth. For Buddhistic-Shintoists the Highest Reality does not exist outside of Nature. In other words, the divinity is intrinsic to Nature. [...]

Now, the 3rd element: absolutization of values. Because of Buddhist-Shintoist religious mentality as I just briefed, Japanese by and large do not like to cling to any “absolutized values”. They don’t believe that there is absolute justice nor absolute evil. They would say that every being is, in substance, “relative”. For them, any values, I mean positive values, are permissible so long as they have no crash with other values. They believe, however, that when there is crash between values, no particular value should be absolutized at the expense of others. Simply because in the deepest sense of their religious philosophy, there be nothing absolute in the Universe. Only un-perpetual or ephemeral.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Senate Landscape Shifts Farther in Favor of GOP (John McArdle, CQ-Roll Call)

It’s hit that point in the election cycle where the competitive nature of Congressional races are shifting rapidly. Unfortunately for Democrats, the overwhelming majority of those shifts are in favor of Republicans.

The latest Senate race rating changes by CQ Politics includes five changes — in California, Washington, Wisconsin, Georgia and Iowa — that benefit Republican candidates. And Democrats can’t even catch a break on the sixth change, which moves Florida’s Senate race from Leans Republican to the more competitive Tossup category based solely of the strength of the Independent campaign run by Gov. Charlie Crist .

When Crist announced this spring that he was abandoning the GOP primary to seek the Senate seat as an Independent, Democratic strategists saw real opportunity. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) went so far as to call the move a sign of “divided Republican Party cannibalizing itself.” [...]

A poll from late July and another from August showed Crist with a slight lead in a three-way race against Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek. Two more recent polls showed Rubio ahead by a narrow margin. What’s clear is that Crist’s decision to leave the GOP has not been the political suicide that many Republicans thought it would be. Crist is now the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Republicans holding the Sunshine State seat this fall.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains (Joe Keohane, July 11, 2010, Boston Globe)

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

This effect is only heightened by the information glut, which offers — alongside an unprecedented amount of good information — endless rumors, misinformation, and questionable variations on the truth. In other words, it’s never been easier for people to be wrong, and at the same time feel more certain that they’re right.

“Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be,” read a recent Onion headline. Like the best satire, this nasty little gem elicits a laugh, which is then promptly muffled by the queasy feeling of recognition.

If there weren't beheadings in AZ there wouldn't be no beheaded.

[originally posted: 7/13/10]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Australia election results point to hung parliament: With more than half the votes counted, results suggest the prime minister, Julia Gillard, has failed to see off Liberal Tony Abbott (David Batty, 8/21/10,

Early results from Australia's federal election suggest the country faces the prospect of a hung parliament for the first time in 70 years.

With more than half the votes counted, Australia's first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard, is set to lose at least 16 seats and gain only two, leaving her well short of the 76 seats required for an overall majority, according to public broadcaster ABC. [...]

The closeness of the contest is a huge turnaround in fortunes for the incumbent Labor party, whose previous leader and prime minister, Kevin Rudd, had a 70% approval rating. His decision in April to shelve the centrepiece of his climate change policy, the emissions trading scheme, dealt his popularity a heavy blow, and a fight with the country's big mining companies over tax finished him off.

With an election due in months, the party needed a new direction and a scapegoat. Gillard appeared to be the perfect solution. When she took over on 24 June she was embraced as Australia's first female prime minister while Rudd took the blame for the party's woes.

But the respite did not last long. Gillard's campaign has been dogged by leaks against her, party infighting and the presence of Rudd himself, and now she is fighting for her political life. No first-term government has been thrown out in Australia for 80 years.

Gillard's rival Tony Abbott became leader of the conservative Liberal opposition nine months ago, defeating his predecessor by one vote. At that time, the party was deep in the political wilderness. It was reminiscent of the Tories under William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, suddenly dishevelled in opposition after a long period in power.

This Fall the US will become the third Anglospheric country to force the major parties to compromise rather than trust one with power.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


The most powerful Republican in politics (JIM VANDEHE; ANDY BARR; KENNETH P. VOGEL, 8/20/10, Politico)

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in American politics — at least for the next three months. [...]

It’s not just because he controls the RGA kitty but, rather, because he has close relationships with everyone who matters in national GOP politics — operatives like Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and other top Republicans running or raising cash for a network of outside political groups. Together, these groups are essential to Republican hopes of regaining power because Democrats are cleaning their clocks through more traditional fundraising efforts. [...]

Barbour’s stature has grown at the expense of cash-strapped, gaffe-prone Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, and he has funded his various efforts by tapping into broad dissatisfaction with Steele — at one point, Barbour complained to donors that he needs to raise even more money because Steele is stumbling. This past quarter, Barbour’s RGA actually matched the Republican National Committee in fundraising, something that hasn’t been done in at least five years and probably much longer, according to a POLITICO analysis.

“He’s clearly the top political strategist and political operative of his generation,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former RNC chief of staff. “He is without peer when he is raising money.”

The Case for Haley Barbour in the 2012 Presidential Race: Could the Mississippi governor and good old boy carry Republicans to the White House? (Cameron Lynch, March 30, 2010, US News)
[S]imply to dismiss Barbour as a shrewd campaign tactician cheapens his substantive contributions to Mississippi as the state's chief executive. Barbour receives widespread credit for his crisis management skills during the disastrous hurricanes that traumatized his state in 2005. I spoke with one Magnolia State native who deadpanned: "Mississippi got hit worse than Louisiana. The difference was that Mississippi had Haley." Throughout his tenure in Jackson, Barbour has established an impressive record, even with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Barbour is most comfortable as the backslapping, bourbon sipping, good old boy, and his critics quickly pan him as just that. Engage him in a policy firefight, however, and you'll wish you hadn't. Barbour converses fluently about intricacies of Democratic healthcare reform, and the ramifications of proposed climate change legislation. Barbour works a room with the swagger of a riverboat gambler, but beneath that easy exterior whirls a policy mind that even think-tank wonks can envy.

At a time when many pundits insist that Tea Partiers, libertarians and social conservatives are splintering the GOP, Barbour's political strength is his broad appeal to Republicans of all stripes. Social conservatives admire his pro-life, pro-family values message. Fiscal conservatives revel in his swashbuckling anti-Washington rants. Good-government fans value his executive experience as GOP chairman, businessman, and governor. Country club Republicans like him because, frankly, at heart, he's one of them. All of these attributes, however, do not a successful presidential candidate make.

Barbour has some considerable obstacles to overcome if he is to challenge Romney, Pawlenty, and others. He must combat his "Beltway Barbour" moniker at a time when American voters couldn't be more frustrated with Washington or displeased with their political parties. President Obama's uproar over registered lobbyist participation in the 2008 presidential election (a tactic he will undoubtedly resurrect in the 2012 race) certainly wouldn't favor a Barbour candidacy.

Ultimately, demographics and geography may prove to be Barbour's greatest impediment. Americans perceive the Republican Party to be too white, too male, and too southern. In other words, too much like Haley.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Mosque protest loses Gingrich (Jordy Yager, 08/21/10, The Hill)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) will not be addressing a protest of the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan on the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Lets assume that even if he opposes Cordoba House, Abe Foxman won't go stand beside Geert Wilders to protest it either.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


The King of Iraq: As U.S. troops leave the country, one man stands to benefit above all: Moqtada al-Sadr. (BABAK DEHGHANPISHEH, AUGUST 20, 2010, Foreign Policy)

Sadr -- feared by some, reviled by others and revered by a broad swath of Iraq's urban poor -- is now a kingmaker in Iraqi politics. It's a role that Sadr, the scion of a prominent clerical family, has been building toward since 2003. Immediately after the U.S. invasion, thousands of his supporters packed the dusty streets of Baghdad's Saddam City neighborhood (later renamed Sadr City) for Friday prayers week after week. Sadr rallied their ranks around his parliamentary list in the 2005 elections, making a strong showing, and then used his political clout to help push Nouri al-Maliki into the prime minister slot in 2006. But the friendship didn't last: Sadr bitterly split from Maliki when the latter allowed American troops to attack his militia members. Depending on whom you ask, Sadr either sensed he was next to be targeted and fled to Iran or was convinced of that fact by Iranian officials, who urged Sadr to leave for his own safety. Now, as U.S. troops withdraw and negotiations are underway in Baghdad to form a new government, Sadr may be planning his return. If he does, he will no doubt face jubilant crowds once again.

Sadr's political comeback was the result of careful and deliberate planning. More than a year before the elections in March, Sadr and his top aides set up an election strategy committee they dubbed the "machine." The goal was to game the electoral system as best as they could. A team of seven pored over the election law, dissected district maps, and built an extensive database of voters in every province. In the end, Sadr's Free Movement party won 39 seats in parliament, giving his followers a decisive vote within the National Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shiite bloc of which they are part. And that's exactly why Allawi shuttled to Damascus for the meeting: He needs Sadr if he hopes to become prime minister.

It would be easy to write off Sadr's electoral success as a fluke. But the reality is that the cleric's brand of religious nationalism, coupled with his carefully cultivated image as the defender of the Shiite community, has struck a deep chord with tens of thousands of Iraqis. Moreover, he's got the one thing that his rivals don't: "street cred." Sadr can, rightfully, claim that his movement is one of the few on the Iraqi political scene that's homegrown. Compare this to the Sadrists' top rivals in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). For years, they've tried to fight the image that they were brought in on American tanks and are beholden to both Washington and Tehran, even changing their name because the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq sounded too Iranian. They tried appropriating the image of Iraq's most senior cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to woo more supporters (there are still posters up around Baghdad showing the late ISCI leaders Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Hakim and Abdul Aziz Hakim beside Sistani). Nothing worked. ISCI got wiped out at the polls in March and also had a pretty dismal showing during provincial elections last year.

It's been pretty amusing the past few years to listen to folks thump their chests about Mookie being in retreat.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Rossi Rejects Didier's Demands in Washington Senate Race (John McCormack, August 20, 2010, Weekly Standard)

A Washington state Senate race poll conducted after Tuesday's primary shows that Republican nominee Dino Rossi has jumped out to a 7-point lead over incumbent Democrat Patty Murray. According to the SurveyUSA poll, Rossi leads Murray 52 percent to 47 percent. This is a significant change from three polls conducted in the past month, which showed Murray ahead by anywhere from 2 to 4 points.

But just as things are looking up for Rossi, his GOP primary opponent Clint Didier, a former pro-football player who had the backing of Sarah Palin, is refusing to endorse Rossi unless Rossi signs anti-tax, anti-spending, and pro-life pledges.

"If it's not me," Didier said on a radio program on May 28, "whoever it is, I'll get behind them. I'll work as hard for them as I did for me." But sometime since then Didier changed his mind. "I want to endorse Dino – I really do," Didier said at a press conference Friday, according to a transcript of prepared remarks. "I want to beat Patty Murray. I really want that." But Didier said he could only endorse Rossi upon three conditions.

The Right doesn't want to govern, just to enforce ideology.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Move the New York City mosque, as a sign of unity (Karen Hughes, August 22, 2010, Washington Post)

When my fellow Americans ask why more Muslims don't speak out against such violence, I respond that they do -- and I met many who were vocal in their condemnation of al-Qaeda and its acts of terror. Osama bin Laden wants to portray our efforts against terrorism as the West vs. Islam; we must work hard to portray them as civilized people of many faiths vs. a death cult.

That's why I believe it is so important that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his congregation make what I fully understand would be a very difficult choice: to locate their mosque elsewhere. Putting the mosque at a different site would demonstrate the uncommon courtesy sometimes required for us to get along in our free and diverse society.

I recognize that I am asking the imam and his congregation to show a respect that has not always been accorded to them. But what a powerful example that decision would be. Many people worry that this debate threatens to deepen resentments and divisions in America; by choosing a different course, Rauf could provide a path toward the peaceful relationships that he and his fellow Muslims strive to achieve. And this gesture of goodwill could lead us to a more thoughtful conversation to address some of the ugliness this controversy has engendered.

In 2005, when I was at the State Department, a Danish newspaper published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. The debate around the world was heated and strikingly similar to this one. It pitted those supporting the right of a free press to publish anything, no matter how offensive, against those who took to the streets and threatened death to the cartoonists. Many of those citing freedom as they advocate locating the mosque near Ground Zero were on the other side of the argument when it came to the cartoons. At that time, I joined with many Muslim friends in saying that while newspapers were free to publish the offensive materials, I hoped they would show respect and restraint and decide against it. That is an instructive model now. that it requires the newcomer to be more American than his peers. Thus, the Imam will exemplify American values in the face of unAmerican hatreds.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Real Americans, Please Stand Up (Dick Cavett, 8/22/10, NY Times)

I had a 6th grade teacher who referred to American Indians as “sneaky redskins” and our enemies in the Pacific as “dirty Japs.” This abated somewhat after I asked one day in class, “Mrs. G., do you think our parents would like to know that you teach race prejudice?” She faded three shades.

The rest of that year was difficult.

As a war kid, I also heard an uncle of mine endorse a sentiment attributed to our Admiral “Bull” Halsey: “If I met a pregnant Japanese woman, I’d kick her in the belly.”

These are not proud moments in my heritage. But now, I’m genuinely ashamed of us.

...such psychotic Japanophobia was still on display nearby ground zero less than thirty years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


This Is How We'll Fix Social Security (Derek Thompson, Aug 20 2010, The Atlantic)

Some solutions for fixing our federal pension program are, in fact, pretty straightforward. One is to raise the Social Security tax on employers and employees above 6.2 percent. Another is to raise the "ceiling" of taxable income so that Social Security taxes apply to dollars earned over $107,000. Another is to push back the normal retirement age, or the age at which seniors can receive full benefits.

Those solutions are easy enough to grasp. But one of the most popular ideas for reforming Social Security is a little more complicated. It would involve making benefits more progressive by writing smaller checks to wealthier retirees. too will it be the UR who gives us the means-testing the GOP has been trying to add to SS since Ronald Reagan was president. Unfortunately, such minimal reforms extend the life of the program so far that they remove any pressure for privatization.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


From the flotilla to peace talks (Ben Smith, 8/20/10, Politico)

There was also, however, an unexpected opportunity in the flotilla incident to make lemons out of lemonade. The subsequent international outcry led Israel — despite its public defense of its actions — to loosen a blockade that had been one of the chief Palestinian complaints and to simultaneously loosen restrictions in the West Bank. Those Israeli moves, meanwhile, gave Palestinian leaders — under their own domestic pressure to take a hard line — the opening to move toward peace talks, despite their earlier statements that they wouldn't come to the table without a more complete Israeli settlement freeze.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Horse-trading is no crime, Blagojevich says (LA Times, 8/21/10)

Former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on Friday accused prosecutors of trying to criminalize political horse-trading and said that he would not accept any plea deal. [...]

Blagojevich continued to insist he had done nothing wrong, saying prosecutors had captured him on tape discussing only "possibilities" with lawyers and political advisors. "Political horse-trading … this is what they are trying to criminalize," he said.

He accused prosecutors of hypocrisy, saying they frequently make deals with convicted felons. "The very thing they charge me with, they should charge themselves with," he said.

He said political horse-trading was a necessity in American politics and asserted that a congressman who voted for President Obama's healthcare package was rewarded by having his brother nominated to a federal judgeship.

Jurors Fault Complexity of the Blagojevich Trial (MONICA DAVEY and SUSAN SAULNY, 8/18/10, NY Times)
As the jurors in the corruption case against Rod R. Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor, entered a 25th-floor conference room here, one problem was instantly clear: They were overwhelmed.

The judge had handed them instructions that ran to more than a hundred pages. The verdict sheet was as elaborate as some income tax forms. And many of the 24 counts they were being asked to consider came in multiple parts and were highly technical and interconnected.

“It was like, ‘Here’s a manual, go fly the space shuttle,” Steve Wlodek, one of the jurors, said Wednesday. [...]

It also became clear early on that some jurors believed that much of Mr. Blagojevich’s crass political talk — captured in hours of secretly recorded phone calls — amounted to dreamy thoughts of what he might gain, not criminal demands. [...]

After initial frustration and confusion upon arriving in the deliberation room with little sense of what to do next, the jurors laid out a plan.

On large sheets of paper, they wrote down crimes Mr. Blagojevich was accused of committing, and taped each one on the walls around the room. On the sheets: a claim that he had sought political contributions in exchange for legislation to help a local pediatric hospital; another that he had sought a political fund-raising event in exchange for state financing for a school; another that he had sought payments for a law that would benefit the horse racing industry; and so on.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


‘Kiner’s Korner’ Returns, Dusted Off and in Digital (RICHARD SANDOMIR, 8/21/10, NY Times)

“Kiner’s Korner” is getting a new life online, providing Mets fans with a chance to see Ralph Kiner in his television heyday as the host of Channel 9’s postgame (and rain delay) show from a cramped studio in Shea Stadium.

Starting Tuesday, will post the first of nine weekly webisodes that combine clips from Kiner’s postgame interviews and new chats between him and the host Ted Berg for the Mets network’s dip into nostalgia.

“When I’m in town or in the car, people yell out, ‘Kiner’s Korner,’” Kiner said by telephone Friday. “I can’t tell you how many people tell me that they grew up with ‘Kiner’s Korner.’”

The footage that will be seen is about all that is known to have been rediscovered. Only some of it is usable.

Nearly all the “Korners” are gone, tossed out or taped over at a time when few local stations, networks or teams understood the value of a video archive of their history and broadcasts.

Certainly the greatest moment on the Korner was when Ralph was interviewing Choo Choo Coleman asked, "What's your wife's name and what's she like?" To which Choo Choo replied, "Her name's Mrs. Coleman and she likes me, bub."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


A's ballboy lands date with fan (Jane Lee, 8/19/10,

Jacki Lynch walked into her first A's game Thursday night with no other itinerary than to take advantage of a free ticket and enjoy the company of some college friends.

Kevin Fennell, however, had a different plan for her, although both didn't know it at the start.

The 21-year-old A's ballboy, stationed near Oakland's bullpen throughout the game, spotted Lynch nearby in the stands and, after putting his glove on a foul ball, passed by a line of fans and handed it to her.

"He looked at me and pointed," Lynch recalled. "I said, 'Me?' and he came over and game me the ball."

Later in the game, an eventual 4-3 Oakland win over Tampa Bay, Fennell did it again, at which point the A's television crew caught on to the act and shared it with its audience -- including those friendly with Lynch.

"People kept texting and calling me," Lynch told by phone on Friday. "I thought it was so funny. I can't believe how much attention this has all been getting."

Although video only shows Fennell handing off two balls, he admitted the count actually grew to four. Lynch, though, says she walked away with five balls, the last of which came via messenger from the bullpen, reading, "How about a phone number for our Ball Man, Kevin?"

Fennell not only received the digits, but he's also already communicated with Lynch via text message to set up a date.

August 20, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Rightwing blogs lead war on Islam in America: New York blogger Pamela Geller is at the forefront of campaign against mosque near Ground Zero (Chris McGreal, 8/20/10,

In Atlas Shrugs, Geller lays bare her sympathies with extremist groups across the globe. She has vigorously defended Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president who died while on trial at The Hague for war crimes, and denied the existence of Serbian concentration camps in the 1990s.

She has allied herself with racist extremists in South Africa in promoting a claim that the black population is carrying out a "genocide" of whites.

The website also carries a picture of Geller hugging Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who advocates banning the Qu'ran and the construction of new mosques, and runs a support campaign for him as he faces trial for incitement to hatred.

Geller has also spoken out in favour of the English Defence League. When the anti-Islamic organisation was planning a rally outside parliament earlier this year, she wrote: "How I wish I could be there to stand with the English Defense League".

Geller has claimed regular contact with the EDL leadership and recently published a screed by the organisation's spokesman, Trevor Kelway. She said in one of her blogs: "I share the EDL's goals ... We need to encourage rational, reasonable groups that oppose the Islamisation of the West and not leave it solely to fringe groups like the BNP."

Geller has also said the EDL is misrepresented. "The EDL is routinely smeared in the British media, as the Tea Party activists are smeared in the US media ... There is nothing racist, fascist, or bigoted about the EDL," she wrote.

While mainstream politicians in Britain and other parts of Europe generally steer clear of the likes of the EDL, Wilders and Serbian war criminals, Geller is providing a bridge between foreign extremists and prominent politicians in the US.

Wilders is scheduled to appear on stage at the September 11 anti-mosque rally alongside Gingrich, Bolton and Gary Berntsen, a candidate for the US Senate.

This is England: Masked like terrorists, members of Britain's newest and fastest - growing protest group intimidate a Muslim woman on a train en route to a violent demo (BILLY BRIGGS, 2nd January 2010, Daily Mail)
Some of the men hide behind balaclavas, others wear black hoodies. A few speak on mobile phones, their hands pressed against their ears to block out the cacophony.

'It's already kicking off in Manchester. This could be tasty,' shouts one. These are some of the most violent football hooligans in Britain and today they have joined together in an unprecedented show of strength. Standing shoulder to shoulder are notorious gangs - or 'firms' as they are known - such as Cardiff City's Soul Crew, Bolton Wanderers' Cuckoo Boys and Luton Town's Men In Gear.

The gathering is remarkable, as on a match day these men would be fighting each other. But it is politics that has drawn them together. They are headed for Manchester to support a march by the burgeoning English Defence League. [...]

The rise of the English Defence League has been rapid. Since its formation at the start of the summer the group has organised nearly 20 major protests in Britain's cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Luton, Nottingham, Glasgow and Swansea.

Its leaders are professional and articulate and they claim that the EDL is a peaceful, non-racist organisation. But having spent time with them, there is evidence that this movement has a more disturbing side. There is talk of the need for a 'street army', and there are links with football hooligans and evidence that violent neo-Nazi groups including Combat 18, Blood and Honour and the British Freedom Fighters have been attending demos.

Violence has erupted at most of the EDL's demonstrations. In total, nearly 200 people have been arrested and an array of weapons has been seized, including knuckledusters, a hammer, a chisel and a bottle of bleach.

As the EDL gains support across the UK, Muslims have already been targeted in unprovoked attacks. In the worst incident, a mob of 30 white and black youths is said to have surrounded Asian students near City University in central London and attacked them with metal poles, bricks and sticks while shouting racist abuse. Three people - two students and a passer-by who tried to intervene - were stabbed.

Following the Manchester protest, when 48 people were arrested during street violence, the Bolton Interfaith Council Executive issued a stark warning that race relations were under threat and Communities Secretary John Denham compared the EDL to Oswald Mosley's Union of British Fascists, who ran amok in the Thirties. In response to these fears, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, a countrywide police team set up to combat domestic extremism, has been investigating the EDL.

'The concern to me is how groups like this, either willingly or unwillingly, allow themselves to be exploited by very extreme right-wing groups like the National Front and the British Freedom Fighters,' Metropolitan Police chief Sir Paul Stephenson has said.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM


ADHD: Has this diagnostic fad run its course?: Like hysteria before it, ADHD has been a disorder of its time. And now it’s time to leave it behind and make a commitment to helping children be their best. (Stephen R. Herr, August 19, 2010, CS Monitor)

ADHD became a popular diagnosis in the 1980s as more parents went to work and the role of schools and teachers changed. If we look at the history of our culture and the ailments that have plagued it, is not difficult to see why people in positions of authority told women that they were weak, minorities that they were feeble-minded, and children that they had a psychological disorder: It was easier for them than addressing the difficult conditions that women, minorities, and children faced.

At one time, ADHD appeared to be a reasonable theory that might help people address genuine concerns. Raising children can be hard, especially when adults are tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and riddled with self-doubt. Beyond that, children can be annoying; They fidget, they interrupt, they don’t pay attention, and they don’t always do what they are told.

Careful with the door, ADHD, or you'll hit Autism on the way out....

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


You can buy or stream the new All Delighted People EP by Sufjan Stevens at his website.

<a href="">All Delighted People (Original Version) by Sufjan Stevens</a>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


'Ground Zero' Imam: 'I Am a Jew, I Have Always Been One' (Jeffrey Goldberg, Aug 19 2010, The Atlantic)

In 2003, Imam Rauf was invited to speak at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan. The service was held at B'nai Jeshurun, a prominent synagogue in Manhattan, and in the audience was Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl's father. In his remarks, Rauf identified absolutely with Pearl, and identified himself absolutely with the ethical tradition of Judaism. "I am a Jew," he said.

There are those who would argue that these represent mere words, chosen carefully to appease a potentially suspicious audience. I would argue something different: That any Muslim imam who stands before a Jewish congregation and says, "I am a Jew," is placing his life in danger. Remember, Islamists hate the people they consider apostates even more than they hate Christians and Jews. In other words, the man many commentators on the right assert is a terrorist-sympathizer placed himself in mortal peril in order to identify himself with Christians and Jews, and specifically with the most famous Jewish victim of Islamism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Beat the back to school blues with Breakfast Cookies (King Arthur Fliour: Baking Banter)

These days many of us are up and on the go early, and full breakfasts just aren’t always part of the plan.

We know the deep-down truth about fast food even if it tastes good, and even many “healthy” granola bars on the market are loaded with artificial colors and unpronounceable ingredients. Not all, mind you. There are some great ones out there to serve to your family without a hint of guilt, but wouldn’t it be nice to whip up something delicious and be able to add just what YOU want for ingredients?

I’ve been making these Breakfast Cookies for nearly 20 years now. I’ve tweaked the original recipe many times over, quite a few since coming to work here at King Arthur. The greatest thing I’ve found about this recipe (besides sharing it with many, many parents of my students over the years) is that it’s very adaptable, and each person can really tailor it to their tastes. Don’t like coconut? Leave it out. Love walnuts? Throw ‘em in! To quote the famous jingle, “Have it your way!”

* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 cup peanut butter
* 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 eggs
* 1/3 cup milk
* 1 1/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour OR King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
* 1/3 cup Hi Maize Natural Fiber Flour
* 1/3 cup dried milk. whole or non-fat
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 4 1/2 cups total add ins of your choice: raisins, coconut, barley flakes, oat flakes, granola, chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts etc.

* 4 ounces butter, softened
* 9 1/2 ounces peanut butter
* 9 1/4 ounces brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 eggs
* 3 ounces milk
* 5 1/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour OR King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
* 1 1/3 ounces Hi Maize Natural Fiber Flour
* 1 ounce dried milk whole or non-fat
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 4 1/2 cups total add ins of your choice: raisins, coconut, barley flakes, oat flakes, granola, chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts etc.


1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In the bowl of your mixer combine the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium high speed until lightened and fluffy.

3) Add in the eggs and liquid milk, mix until well combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice.

4) On low speed mix in the flour, Hi Maize fiber, dried milk, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until the dough is cohesive. Add 4 1/2 cups total of your favorite add ins and mix until all are incorporated.

5) Scoop generous 1/4 cup mounds of batter 2 inches apart on the parchment lines sheets. Slightly flatten each mound. This recipe contains no leaveners, so the cookies will only spread and rise slightly.

6) Bake the cookies for 18-22 minutes, until lightly browned. Do not over-bake or the cookies will be dry and crumbly. Cool on cookie sheets for 5-8 minutes. Move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Agnosticism: Neutrality is impossible. One must choose. (Thaddeus J. Kozinski, 20 August 2010, MercatorNet)

Have you ever heard of the famous wager of the 17th century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal? "Either God is, or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance [death] a coin is being spun that will come down heads [God] or tails [no God]. How will you wager?" The agnostic says, "The right thing is not to wager at all." Pascal replies, "But you must wager. There is no choice. You are already committed."

As Pascal points out, we can't not choose. Agnosticism is not really an option, for we must act, not just think, in this life, and all action is either for or against God. All actions either are oriented to and motivated by love, or they are not. (I mean voluntary, deliberate, and significant actions here—sneezing or putting on one's socks in the morning might be safely considered neutral!) If God is love, then there can be no real neutrality. Of course, Pascal's wager is only a rough start for those who have little else than their self-interest to motivate themselves. One must go deeper.

It's pretty simple, really. If you choose to live as if love does not exist, then you will have to accept the consequences: a loveless life and a loveless afterlife. Whether life ends in this world or goes on, you ain't gonna have love either way, for unconsciousness surely isn't love, and if there is indeed life after death, well, you reap what you sow—why would you choose love in the afterlife if you rejected it in this one?

"Ah, sir, may God forgive you for the damage you've done to the whole rest of the world, in trying to cure the wittiest lunatic ever seen! Don't you see, my dear sir, that whatever utility there might be in curing him, it could never match the pleasure he gives with his madness?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Ground Zero mosque fight shows how little we've learned from U.S. history (Edward Schumacher-Matos, August 20, 2010, Washington Post)

In 1834, the convent and school were burned in an anti-Catholic riot by local Protestant men, drunk with alcohol and paranoia. For good measure, the men returned the next night, found the sacred altar tabernacle hidden under a rose bush and burned it, too.

Boston Mayor Theodore Lyman condemned the riots and sought to promote inter-religious dialogue, but public opinion blew in another direction. A jury acquitted the ringleaders, and for more than a decade the Massachusetts Legislature refused to pay indemnification.

No plaque commemorates the forgotten site. [...]

Newt Gingrich went to high school with me in Columbus, Ga. We share personal history, but I wonder what books inspire this self-styled intellectual today when he likens Muslims to Nazis and the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor. "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia," he said recently, as if we should govern ourselves by Saudi standards.

But Gingrich is not the only poor student of American history.

In the 1930s, as the real Nazis were murdering Jews, American Jewish and ecumenical leaders pressed President Franklin Roosevelt to lift immigration quotas or allow desperate German and Austrian Jews to come as refugees.

Nativist Southern and Western legislators were adamantly opposed. According to a 1938 Fortune magazine poll, 86 percent of Americans agreed that there should be no emergency quota increases to aid "German, Austrian and other refugees."

How many times in your history classes did you feel that twinge of shame at the stuff our ancestors did and hope that we would do better? Today we're in the midst of a moment we all know in our hearts we'll be ashamed of in twenty years--like the anti-Japanese ravings of the mid-80s--and so we each have the opportunity to refuse to go along with the lynch mob this time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


The Man Behind the Mosque: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the controversial Islamic center Park51, represents a liberal version of Islam, says biographer Brad Gooch, who shares his memories of a friendship with him going back a decade—and his wealthy patron. (Brad Gooch, 8/20/10, Daily Beast)

I first met Feisal Rauf in the spring of 2000, while working on my book Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America. I wished to write a chapter on Islam in New York City, and a friend took me to a lecture Feisal was giving on his new book, Islam: A Sacred Law, subtitled What Every Muslim Should Know About Shariah. (I learned that night what many screaming heads have not yet—there are different schools of Islamic law, as there are denominations in Christianity, and Feisal is part of an extremely liberal one.) The event was in the basement of a (since vanished) Sufi bookstore on West Broadway. Next door was the Masjid Al-Farah, where I began to attend his Friday talks. This jewel of a mosque was founded in the mid-'80s and is still a commitment of Shaykha Fariha, whose given name is Philippa de Menil, a daughter of the wealthy Houston family of art patrons. I interviewed Feisal at a nearby café. Eventually, he invited me to attend a meditation group in Sufism—the mystical branch of Islam—he led Friday nights at the Upper West Side apartment he shared with his wife Daisy Khan. I frequented the group over four months.

I needed a sympathetic guide to the cosmopolitan, and complex, world of Muslims in New York City. Central Casting couldn’t have done better than Feisal Rauf. I felt some bond because, born in 1948, he was only four years older, and we were both Columbia grads. He talked a language I understood. “Reading a translation of the Koran is like reading a translation of one of Puccini’s operas, in English, without the music,” he said. (Ding! went a bell in my head.) When asked about homosexuality, while admitting a majority of Muslims would agree with a tirade I recently heard, he argued the issue was behavior “apart from the question of sexual orientation.” I met his father, since deceased—an elegant Cambridge-educated gentleman and grammarian, who started the first Islamic Center in New York City in 1965. His weekly prayer group was a Noah’s ark (the Koran has Noah, too), including the grandson of a Syrian president; a Jewish librarian; a Roman Catholic Latina; an African-American radio commentator.

The book on which I was doing all the gumshoe reporting, Godtalk, is now a time capsule. Yet the chapter that keeps being smash-cut with living history is its last, forcing me at least twice to rethink Feisal Rauf and his American Muslims. Between the book’s writing and publication, in 2002, came the 9/11 attacks. I did a bit of updating of the manuscript, but mostly the group I knew had been jolted beyond recognition. One of its foreign-born members was recruited to work in media outreach to the Middle East by the State Department. I heard the FBI had tapped Feisal for help in its intelligence operations. A few of the younger American-born Muslims in the prayer circle were shying away, feeling queasy about identifying with their religion.

About a year ago, I revived my acquaintance with Feisal. I went to meet with him at the offices of his Cordoba Initiative, near Riverside Church on Morningside Heights, supported in part by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. I was about to sign a contract to write a biography of Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet associated with tolerance; I knew Rumi was Feisal’s “main man” and wanted his thoughts. (Rumi famously wrote “I am not Christian, Jew, Pagan, Muslim/I am not East or West.”) “Did we bring you to Rumi, or did Rumi bring you to us?” joked Feisal. I subsequently ran into his wife Daisy, the night of the Community Board hearings. “I was struck by just how much grief and pain they are in,” she said of the victims’ families. “No one has really been paying attention to them.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


The right stuff: Indiana's governor is a likeable wonk. Can he save the Republicans from themselves and provide a pragmatic alternative to Barack Obama? (The Economist, Aug 19th 2010)

In 2003 Mr Daniels announced that he would run for governor. Democrats knew he was intelligent. To their horror, he turned out to be likeable too. Sarah Palin is strident and Mitt Romney disconcertingly perfect. Mr Daniels is at ease, an unusual politician who does not seem like one. He criss-crossed the state in an RV decorated with his slogan, “My Man Mitch”, and soon covered with signatures. He ate pork and watched baseball in the shadow of Gary’s steel mills. He stayed in private homes, first to save money on hotels, then because he liked it and his hosts seemed to as well. (He continues this even now, sleeping in children’s rooms, cramped Latino households and even more crowded Amish ones, often riding between them on his beloved Harley.) In November 2004 he won, by 53% to 45%.

Mr Daniels oozed with ideas. He introduced merit pay for public workers and performance metrics for state agencies. Indiana’s counties skittered illogically between two time zones, so he reset the state’s clocks. A toll road was losing money, so he oversaw a $3.85 billion lease to foreign investors. He was not dogmatic. In his first year he proposed a tax increase. He shrank the state workforce but increased the number of case workers for children. He passed a health plan that included private accounts for the poor.

Not everything went smoothly. The road lease and time change were, at first, enormously unpopular. He privatised the state’s welfare system, an unqualified disaster—eventually he cancelled the contract. But by the end of his first term he had transformed a $200m deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus and the state had earned its first AAA credit rating.

It helped that Indiana was faring better than its rusty neighbours. Manufacturing output grew by 20% between 1998 and 2008. Michigan’s slumped by 12% during the same time. The number of bioscience jobs, still small, grew 17.2% from 2001 to 2008. Mr Daniels tried to help, keeping taxes low and investing in infrastructure before it was hip. When the recession began, Indiana’s unemployment rate was lower than the national average.

By 2008 all this had culminated in a simple reality: Indiana liked its man Mitch. Barack Obama won the state, but Mr Daniels trounced his Democratic opponent, 58% to 40%. Some of this was luck. The opponent was lacklustre; the recession had yet to do its worst. But his victory was still notable. He won the young by 51% to 42%, and even picked up 20% of black and 37% of Hispanic voters.

Such numbers should make strategists swoon. Mr Daniels used to deny any presidential aspirations. Then Newt Gingrich shared a secret: if you say you might run, people will listen to your ideas. Mr Daniels has plenty. He calls the health-care bill “a wasted opportunity”, blaming both Democrats and Republicans. He is deeply worried about debt—he wants to raise the retirement age and stop sending Social Security cheques to the rich. He wonders whether America can afford all its military commitments, particularly those only loosely tied to fighting terrorism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 AM


The lost promise of Barack Obama (Michael Gerson, August 20, 2010, Washington Post)

The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval -- it is the gap between aspiration and reality.

The Manhattan mosque controversy showed the problem in compressed form. First came the Obama of high-toned principle (largely the right principle, in my view). Then a politically motivated recalibration. Then a scrambling staff explanation. Then an embarrassed silence, since it is difficult to clarify the clarification of a clarification. Then the president's regretful assertion of "no regrets."

It was more than a lapse. From the firing of Shirley Sherrod to the obsession with Fox News to lashing the "professional left," the Obama administration engages in a daily hypocrisy. It attacks the sound and fury of the cable news cycle while being entirely captive to its rhythms. In the process, it often appears reactive, windblown and unprincipled.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 AM


-AUDIO LECTURE: The Common Law between England and America (Roger Scruton - 08/19/10, First Principles)

“What I want to do . . . is talk about the relevance of England—the idea of England and also the reality of it—to your situation here in America.” So begins British author Roger Scruton in this engaging lecture focusing on England’s essence, which includes the common-law tradition. As he discusses, this tradition holds great importance for the American experience.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 AM


Demography and Economic Destiny: Why the global economic crisis is really about old age—and how to encourage prosperous countries to have more children. (Phillip Longman, August 17, 2010, Big Question)

One day in 1999, I went to visit the billionaire financier Peter G. Peterson in his office high above Park Avenue. In those days, Peterson surveyed a city booming with leveraged deals and paper profits that hourly added to his wealth. Yet he was worried about the future. He warned of a world going gray and predicted that the aging population of the industrial world, particularly in Europe, would tank the era of prosperity then being called “the long boom.”

As I quoted him back then in a cover story for U.S. News and World Report: “The scenario I see is that one or more developed countries . . . is going to decide that the political cost of reforming their pension systems is just too high.” When that happens, Peterson continued, “they will try running high deficits — much higher than the limits set by the European Union’s monetary authorities — in an attempt to finance their way out of the problem. When the financial markets wake up to this news, there will be a broad realization that we have a global aging crisis that is going to be unrelenting in its economic consequences.”

At first, the global recession that began in 2008 seemed to have nothing to do with changing demographics. Economists and politicians pointed instead to the excesses of unregulated capitalism. Many thought that the prophesied demographic-driven entitlements crisis was still years away. But today it is becoming more apparent that Peterson was right: Europe’s demographic problems are not only forcing startling cutbacks in the welfare state but also are damaging the Continent’s prospects for sustained growth and economic recovery. Worse, Europe's today is the rest of the world's tomorrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


Bush’s Gift to Obama: The United States may succeed in sitting the Israelis and Palestinians down for direct talks, but it’s unlikely the negotiations will go far. It’s time for a more creative approach -- one that picks up where George W. Bush left off. (STEVEN J. ROSEN, AUGUST 18, 2010, Foreign Policy)

Abbas accepted the Quartet's Middle East Roadmap in 2003 knowing that it called very clearly and explicitly for an interim arrangement with a Palestinian state having "provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty ... as a way station to a permanent status settlement." The Roadmap made this interim Palestinian state Phase II of the process, after Phase I ("Ending Terror and Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions") and before Phase III ("Permanent Status Agreement and the End of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.") During Phase II, the Quartet members are to "promote international recognition" of the provisional state, "including possible U.N. membership." And during this period of the Palestinian state with provisional borders, the Arab states are to "restore pre-intifada links to Israel (trade offices, etc.)" and "revive multilateral engagement" with Israel "on issues including regional water resources, environment, economic development, refugees, and arms-control issues." In other words, the Palestinians have already accepted the idea of "interim arrangements." (Palestinian objections to interim agreements have been a continuing feature of Middle East diplomacy, but the record is replete with past examples where they did in fact agree to the step-by-step approach.)

Will Obama build on this recorded agreement to pass through an interim stage, or will he throw it away in a headlong rush to the dream of a millennial rearrangement?

The Roadmap that the Palestinians accepted is the only document providing a pathway to a Palestinian state ever accepted by all the parties involved in Middle East peace negotiations. It was issued by the Quartet, consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the secretary-general of the United Nations on April 30, 2003. Then it was endorsed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council (including Syria!) in Resolution 1515 on Nov. 20, 2003. It was endorsed again by the Quartet on March 19, 2010. It was accepted "without any reservations" by Abbas at the Middle East peace summit in Aqaba, Jordan on June 4, 2003. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accepted it on May 23, 2003, and Sharon's government, by a majority vote, accepted it on May 25, 2003. Both sides are bound by the Roadmap, and it does not require a fresh endorsement by either. It is one of the signed written commitments of the Palestinian government on which the peace process is based today.

Obama could construct an interim agreement on the "bottom up" approach of Salim Fayyad, who is building the institutions of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank in his capacity as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Israel is already cooperating importantly with this process, by lifting most of the Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks even where there is an element of risk in trusting Palestinian security forces instead of the Israeli army. Netanyahu is prepared to go further in this direction. Here is a concrete foundation on which Obama could stand, instead of chasing an illusion beyond anyone's reach. [...]

Does the Roadmap's provenance in the hated Bush administration make it so repulsive to this administration that miss the opportunity Bush left him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 AM


The moon is shrinking. No, seriously.: The surface of the moon has moved the equivalent of a football field closer to the core during the past billion or so years. (Pete Spotts, August 19, 2010, CS Monitor)

[F]or an object long thought tectonically dead, the discovery of "recent" faulting on the lunar surface indicative of shrinkage is pretty surprising. It's but the latest indication that "this isn't your grandfather's moon anymore," says Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

"When you look at the new information we've garnered with a number of different missions to the moon over the last year, we're now talking about the moon in a completely different way," he says. "It was thought to be dead and unchanging. And now you have this dynamism."

So much for that Lunar Geology course I took at Colgate...

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


News outlets split in describing mosque (Michael Calderone, 8/16/10, Yaho!)

In covering the growing controversy over the proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, the national media, led by the big cable networks, have by default shaped the increasingly heated debate by repeatedly referring to the project as the "Ground Zero mosque." An MSNBC spokesman said that describing the project is a "show-by-show decision," while a CNN spokesperson said the network guides anchors in written copy to refer to the project as "an Islamic center that includes a mosque that is near Ground Zero, or is two blocks from Ground Zero." Of course, political pundits may stray from the network's phrasing and inaccurately describe the location of the planned building at the center of the furor.

But Phil Corbett, the New York Times' standards editor said, "Given how politically volatile this discussion has been, we think it's important to be accurate and precise," in explaining the paper's consistent references to the planned structure being two blocks from the Ground Zero site.

The "Park51" project, as it's officially dubbed, is in fact planned for a site two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers fell, amid other lower Manhattan establishments whose names have never featured the words "Ground Zero." If built, the 13-story community center and mosque project will be one of hundreds of buildings located within blocks of Ground Zero — a densely populated area that already includes a couple of mosques, along with less "hallowed" institutions, like strip clubs, bars and Off Track Betting operations.

August 19, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Ex-Bush advisers urge Republicans to soften criticism of mosque near Ground Zero (Perry Bacon Jr., 8/19/10, Washington Post)

Bush famously called Islam a "religion of peace" during his presidency, a phrase few in the party have invoked in discussing the current controversy.

"I think it's important even -- and perhaps especially -- for those who oppose the mosque being built near Ground Zero to make clear they are not conflating all of Islam, and certainly not all American Muslims, with wahhabism and bin Ladenism," Peter Wehner, who ran what was akin to an in-house think tank in the Bush White House, wrote in an e-mail message. "This debate -- because it touches on such sensitive issues -- needs to be done in a manner that is careful, precise, and that even includes a measure of grace. I think some of the comments by the former speaker [Gingrich] fall short of that."

Michael Gerson, who was Bush's chief speechwriter, and Mark McKinnon, who produced ads for both of Bush's presidential campaigns, have defended the mosque being built and suggested Obama's initial statement emphasizing the right to have a mosque near Ground Zero was correct.

Ed Gillespie, who was a top counselor to Bush, emphasized the party should not overplay the controversy for political reasons. James K. Glassman, who was undersecretary of state for diplomacy under Bush and now heads the ex-president's think thank, the George W. Bush Institute, in recent days has emphasized the importance of the U.S. communicating a message of tolerance to most Muslims while highlighting opposition to figures such as Osama Bin Laden.

Changing the 14th amendment won't solve our immigration crisis (Alberto R. Gonzales, August 22, 2010, Washington Post)
President George W. Bush pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, but Republican members of Congress refused to join him. Although President Obama and the present congressional leadership have used their majority to enact sweeping health-care and financial reform, they seem to lack the will to try to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. Even my apolitical and saintly 78-year-old mother wonders whether the Democrats are keeping this issue on the table for political reasons, hoping that Republicans will propose enforcement measures that alienate Hispanic voters.

Most recently, some politicians and concerned citizens have expressed a desire to amend the 14th Amendment of our Constitution, which says in Section 1, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Proponents want to discourage undocumented mothers from crossing our borders to give birth to children derogatorily referred to as "anchor babies," who by law are American citizens. Such a change is difficult to carry out, as it should be, requiring a new amendment ratified by three-quarters of the states.

I do not support such an amendment. Based on principles from my tenure as a judge, I think constitutional amendments should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances that we cannot address effectively through legislation or regulation. Because most undocumented workers come here to provide for themselves and their families, a constitutional amendment will not solve our immigration crisis. People will certainly continue to cross our borders to find a better life, irrespective of the possibilities of U.S. citizenship.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


Ganley Won’t Say Whether He Thinks Obama Is Muslim (Matthew Murray, 8/19/10, Roll Call)

Cleveland-area Republican House candidate Tom Ganley declined to indicate Thursday whether he thinks President Barack Obama is Muslim.

“I don’t have a position on whether he’s a Muslim,” Ganley said Thursday in a telephone interview with Roll Call.

The wealthy car dealer’s comments came just hours after the Pew Research Center released a poll suggesting that “nearly one-in-five Americans” think Obama is Muslim. The new 18 percent figure is a dramatic upswing from March 2009, when a similar survey put that figure at 11 percent. The study also showed that 43 percent do not “know what Obama’s religion is.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Mindless Evolution: A provocative new book challenges a key element of Darwinian orthodoxy. (Simon Conway Morris, August 17, 2010, Big Question)

[I]f Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini are in any way correct, not only do cherished notions of adaptation crash to the ground, but the entire Darwinian edifice begins to totter. Hence the uproar. My own concern is that, quite unwittingly, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini have dragged in a Trojan Horse that will give comfort to exactly the wrong people.

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini accept without reservation the realities of evolution, but (like many previous critics) they reject Darwin’s effort in the Origin to conflate natural selection with the sort of artificial selection practiced in animal breeding. The latter only works because the breeder knows exactly what characteristic he wants to select — that is, evolution occurs by a conscious choice. This is not possible in natural selection, as Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini emphasize, rejecting the familiar trope of evolution as the Blind Watchmaker. Indeed, as they see it, the difficulty with natural selection revolves precisely round Darwin’s metaphor of agency. In their view, to speak of “selection for” something presupposes that we know what that something being selected actually is. This may seem like hair-splitting. After all, isn’t it obvious that organisms are adapted, often beautifully so, to their environments? According to Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, this is to put the cart before the horse.

They begin with an intriguing comparison of natural selection and the now-exploded concept of behaviorism, the brainchild of B.F. Skinner. Both schemes draw on the same framework of argument. In behaviorism, nature provides a random selection of possibilities (stimuli), of which those that are favorable are selected (responses). Once started, the vehicle described by both behaviorism and Darwinism careers off, effectively in any direction so long as it is adaptively beneficial.

Behaviorism met its end when it became self-evident that it was a fiction, unable to address either mental states or intentionality. And this is exactly where the close parallel with natural selection is most telling, at least according to Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini. If the parallel was exact then Darwinism could only explain evolutionary change by invoking mind-like agency, which is simply inadmissible. As they say, “the cost would be catastrophic," suggesting, as it does, the very sort of divine intervention that Darwin believed he had made totally unnecessary. [...]

From their perspective, the last 150 years of research in the biological sciences has been little more than glorified natural history, boiling down to the banal observation that if an organism didn't work, it wouldn’t be here to boast about its adaptive credentials. This is difficult to buy, but it does not mean that there is no common ground between the authors and more conventional Darwinians. After all, nobody in this dispute doubts the reality of evolution.'s that everyone else is right about it too.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM

>>>AND EVERYBODY HATES THE GYPSIES... (via Bryan Francoeur):

Scores expelled in French crackdown on Roma (Isabelle Wesselingh, August 20, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald)

France expelled scores of Roma, packing them on planes and flying them back to Romania Thursday at the start of a crackdown ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy which has drawn strong criticism.

A planeload of around 60 Roma landed at Bucharest's Aurel Vlaicu airport in the early afternoon, the first expulsion since Sarkozy last month vowed action against Roma, Gypsy and traveller communities.

What, is he running for governor of Arizona?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


...would raise and then shatter our hopes like this?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


How To Lose A Guy In 75 Days (Reid Wilson, 8/18/10, Hotline)

The advice from Democratic consultants and strategists is almost unanimous: Run away from the president, and fast. A prominent Democratic pollster is circulating a survey that shows George W. Bush is 6 points more popular than President Obama in "Frontline" districts -- seats held by Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees as most vulnerable to Republican takeover. That Bush is more popular than Obama in Democratic-held seats is cause for outright fear.

Where are the Republicans who will reject pandering and prejudice? (Washington Post, August 19, 2010)
Former president George W. Bush has shied away from political commentary since stepping down in 2009, and for understandable reasons. It's a sign of respect for the office of the presidency to allow one's successor to do his best without having to hear carping from his predecessor.

But this is a case where Mr. Bush's own party could benefit from a dose of adult supervision. As president, Mr. Bush never stopped making the distinction between Muslims and the terrorists who pervert their religion. As a politician, he understood the value to the Republican Party of reaching out to minorities, including Muslims. A word from Texas right now could offer his would-be heirs a useful lesson.

America Has Disgraced Itself (Peter Beinart, 8/18/10, Daily Beast)
Words I never thought I’d write: I pine for George W. Bush. Whatever his flaws, the man respected religion, all religion. Maybe it was because he had been an addict himself, and knew from hanging around prisons that Allah had saved as many broken souls as Jesus Christ.

W's rehabilitation was inevitable, but the UR has done more than his share to speed it along.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


Karl Rove Concerned About Republican Rhetoric on Ground Zero Mosque (George Stephanopoulos, August 18, 2010, ABC News)

I asked Karl Rove if he was concerned that the heated rhetoric from some of his fellow Republicans on the proposed Islamic center would undercut the work that President Bush did and the work President Obama is trying to do to reach out to the moderate Muslim world.

"I am," Rove told me.

By expressing his concern Rove joined New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former speechwriter Michael Gerson and former undersecretary James Glassman -- three Republicans who have said the controversy could have negative repercussions.

Chris Christie warns GOP on mosque (MAGGIE HABERMAN, 8/16/10, Politico)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a new national icon for the Republican Party thanks in part to his push for pension reforms, on Monday became the most prominent GOP figure to warn against "overreacting" to the threat of terror and painting "all of Islam" with the brush of terrorism amid the swirling controversy about the ground zero-area mosque. [...]

Christie, who was a U.S. attorney in New Jersey before he was elected, answered questions about the president's speech and the issue generally at a bill signing in Trenton, the seat of the state's government — and he framed his answer partly in terms of his past job.

"Given my last position, that I was the first U.S. attorney post-9/11 in New Jersey, I understand acutely the pain and sorrow and upset of the family members who lost loved ones that day at the hands of radical Muslim extremists," Christie said. "And their sensitivities and concerns have to be taken into account. Just because it's nearly nine years later, those sensitivities cannot and should not be ignored.

"On the other hand, we cannot paint all of Islam with that brush. ... We have to bring people together. And what offends me the most about all this, is that it's being used as a political football by both parties."

Spoken like a leader.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


China's Potemkin Cities: Vacant skyscrapers, empty malls: the surreal fruits of a nation's obsession with growth. (April Rabkin, Aug. 18, 2010, Mother Jones)

THE CHINESE BORDER OUTPOST of Erenhot is part boomtown, part ghost town. Residents are seldom seen in much of this Gobi Desert location, where little that's green grows on its own. Strips of trees that workers have planted along the roads are buttressed with plywood or have toppled over, their roots blown free of dirt.

But there's activity aplenty on the town's construction sites. Over the past decade, scores of empty strip malls and apartment buildings have sprouted from the sand—an eerie skyline visible for miles across the flatlands. At dusk, construction workers headed home on bikes and mopeds are sometimes just about the only traffic on the wide, freshly paved streets, illuminated by shiny new lampposts.

In recent years, economists have raved about China's double-digit growth—which dropped to a still-impressive 9 percent in 2008 and 2009, even as much of the world slouched through the recession. But this turbocharged expansion is less about the invisible hand than the iron fist: the enormous engine of the state geared to drive GDP at the expense of everything else.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Polls Predict Big GOP Gains in Congress (Fred Barnes, August 19, 2010, Weekly Standard)

As of August 18, President Obama’s job performance was approved by 41 percent and disapproved by 52 percent, the worst showing of his presidency. Republicans had a 50 percent to 43 percent advantage on the generic ballot, which asks respondents whether they intend to vote for a Republican or Democrat for the House of Representatives. Gallup’s August polls involve registered voters. The polls closer to an election were narrowed to likely voters, a group that tends to be slightly more Republicans than all registered voters.

The general rule has been that when a president’s rating dips into the mid-to-low 40s (or lower), his party is likely to lose a substantial number of House seats in a midterm election and some in the Senate as well. And this trend is reinforced when the opposition party is ahead on the generic ballot.

In 2006, President Bush’s approval was 42 percent in mid-August and fell to 37 percent in the final poll before election day. In August, Democrats led Republicans, 47 percent to 45 percent, on which party’s candidate was preferred. The final, pre-election poll gave Democrats an advantage of 51 percent to 44 percent. The election result: Democrats won 31 House and 6 Senate seats, capturing control of both bodies.

In 1994, President Clinton’s approval rose from 40 percent in August to 46 percent in early November. But the Republican lead on the generic question also rose, from 47 percent to 44 percent in August to 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent in November. The result: Republicans gained 54 seats in the House, 8 in the Senate, winning a majority in both chambers.

In 1982, President Reagan’s performance in office was approved by 41 percent in August and 42 percent in late October. Democrats had a whopping 54 percent to 36 percent advantage in August and a 55 percent to 45 percent lead in October. The result: Democrats won 27 House seats but lost one in the Senate.

Why didn’t Democrats win more seats in 1982, given the strength reflected in poll numbers? With 242 House seats before the election, they were near their high water mark, post-Depression, in the size of their majority. By boosting it to 269 seats, Democrats erased most of their losses in 1980.

Based on poll comparisons – similarities, actually – Republicans ought to pick up dozens of House seats and at least a handful of Senate seats this fall. In fact, it would be difficult for them not to do this well.

For the most part, the poll numbers in 2006, 1994, and 1982 changed little between August and November. That’s the usual pattern. The numbers aren’t likely to change in 2010 either.

...would anyone be surprised if the UR decided not to run for re-election?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 AM


Entering a Death Spiral?: Tensions Rise in Greece as Austerity Measures Backfire (Corinna Jessen, 8/17/10, Der Spiegel)

This dire prognosis comes even despite Athens' massive efforts to sort out the country's finances. The government's draconian austerity measures have managed to reduce the country's budget deficit by an almost unbelievable 39.7 percent, after previous governments had squandered tax money and falsified statistics for years. The measures have reduced government spending by a total of 10 percent, 4.5 percent more than the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had required.

The problem is that the austerity measures have in the meantime affected every aspect of the country's economy. Purchasing power is dropping, consumption is taking a nosedive and the number of bankruptcies and unemployed are on the rise. The country's gross domestic product shrank by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Tax revenue, desperately needed in order to consolidate the national finances, has dropped off. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society. [...]

Prime Minister George Papandreou's austerity package has seriously shaken the Greek economy. The package included reducing civil servants' salaries by up to 20 percent and slashing retirement benefits, while raising numerous taxes. The result is that Greeks have less and less money to spend and sales figures everywhere are dropping, spelling catastrophe for a country where 70 percent of economic output is based on private consumption. [...]

The entire country is in the grip of a depression. Everything seems to be going downhill. The spiral is continuing unabated, and there is no clear way out. The worse part, however, is the fact that hardly anyone still hopes that things will improve one day.

The country's unemployment rate makes this trend particularly clear. In 2009, it was 9.5 percent. This year it may rise to 12.1 percent and economists expect it to reach 14.3 percent in 2011. Those, though, are only the official numbers, which were provided by Angel Gurría, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Greek trade union association GSEE considers those numbers far too optimistic. It considers 20 percent to be a more likely figure for 2011. This would put the unemployment rate as high as it was in 1960, when hundreds of thousands of Greeks were forced to emigrate. Meanwhile, purchasing power has fallen to its 1984 level, according to the GSEE.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 AM


A Three-Point Plan For Reforming Public Employment (Richard A. Epstein, 08.16.10, Forbes)

First, Calvin Coolidge underestimated the risks of public unions when he said famously, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time." No strike laws stop this problem but create another one in its stead: excessive monopoly power through the mandatory arbitration power. The correct solution is more comprehensive. No public body should ever be required or allowed to confer monopoly power on an employee union--period.

In education, for example, don't let powerful unions block charter schools, vouchers and home schooling. Any school, public or private, should operate with an explicit legislative guarantee that all teachers and other employers must agree not to join a union as a condition of employment. The "best interests of the student" cannot be allowed to become a fig leaf for protectionist union legislation. Alternative paths of education are the best way to reduce government expenditures and blunt union power.

Second, cut back pension contracts for all retired and current workers now. Far from being sacred property rights, these sweetheart agreements between union leaders and sympathetic legislators represent the worst form of self-dealing. Some legislators sell out their constituents in exchange for modest campaign contributions; others yield to union threats of massive electoral retaliation if they do not go along with union demands.

Regrettably, no taxpayer has ever been allowed to challenge these questionable deals in court before they took effect. That has to change. Any self-dealing between a corporate board and its key officers would not last a minute. These bloated union contracts should fare no better. They should be set aside as unfairly obtained. Exactly how they should be trimmed is hard to say.

Recently voters in Colorado, Minnesota and North Dakota voted to strip cost of living increases to present and future pensioners. It is a start, but it won't be enough. In the end, the ultimate objective is to reduce pensions for public employees to the levels received by their peers in private industry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 AM


On Dawkins’s Atheism: A Response (GARY GUTTING, 8/11/10, NY Times)

[T]he ideas behind premises 3 and 4 suggest a more cogent line of argument, which Dawkins seems to have in mind in other passages:

1. If God exists, he must be both the intelligent designer of the universe and a being that explains the universe but is not itself in need of explanation.

2. An intelligent designer of the universe would be a highly complex being.

3. A highly complex being would itself require explanation.

4. Therefore, God cannot be both the intelligent designer of the universe and the ultimate explanation of the universe.

5. Therefore, God does not exist.

Here the premises do support the conclusion, but premise 2, at least, is problematic. In what sense does Dawkins think God is complex and why does this complexity require an explanation? He does not discuss this in any detail, but his basic idea seems to be that the enormous knowledge and power God would have to possess would require a very complex being and such complexity of itself requires explanation. He says for example: “A God capable of continuously monitoring and controlling the individual status of every particle in the universe cannot be simple” (p. 178). And, a bit more fully, “a God who is capable of sending intelligible signals to millions of people simultaneously, and of receiving messages from all of them simultaneously, cannot be . . . simple. Such bandwidth! . . . If [God] has the powers attributed to him he must have something far more elaborately and randomly constructed than the largest brain or the largest computer we know” (p. 184).

Here Dawkins ignores the possibility that God is a very different sort of being than brains and computers. His argument for God’s complexity either assumes that God is material or, at least, that God is complex in the same general way that material things are (having many parts related in complicated ways to one another). [...]

Religious believers often accuse argumentative atheists such as Dawkins of being excessively rationalistic, demanding standards of logical and evidential rigor that aren’t appropriate in matters of faith. My criticism is just the opposite. Dawkins does not meet the standards of rationality that a topic as important as religion requires. one that Reason can't pass.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


America’s First Muslim College (Reza Aslan, 8/19/10, Daily Beast)

Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, is aiming to become the first accredited Muslim college in the U.S. Founded by America’s best known and most highly respected Muslim cleric, Hamza Yusuf, the school will function, according to its website, at a level “comparable to the best of religious seminaries and general institutions of higher education the U.S.” The curriculum will be based in Islamic studies and Arabic but also will contain humanities and social sciences. [...]

aytuna began as a modest Islamic seminary nestled in the mellow suburbs of Hayward, California, in 1996. Its goal was to revive the traditional Islamic sciences, though with a distinctly American flavor, so as to train a new generation of American imams who could relate to the unique cultural identity of the American Muslim community.

For years mosques needing trained and qualified imams to lead their congregations have been forced to import them from countries like Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, countries whose customs and traditions are far removed from America’s. For Sheikh Hamza, as he is known, such a situation created a huge cultural divide between the imam and his congregation.

“You can’t have somebody from Egypt give a fatwa to people who are living in America, but that’s what’s been happening,” he told me in an interview last year. “If you don’t know the custom of a people, you can’t help them navigate their spiritual and legal concerns.”

After graduating its first class of seminary students in 2008, Zaytuna’s board decided to make the difficult transition from an Islamic seminary to a full-fledged college—the first four-year, accredited, liberal arts Muslim college in the United States. Students need not be Muslim to attend the school, though at present the first incoming class of students has only two majors to choose from: Islamic law and theology and Arabic language. The school hopes eventually to hand out degrees in science, math, literature—all the disciplines one would expect to study at any liberal arts college in America.

Zaytuna views its attempt to create a Muslim college in the U.S. as a vital part of Islam’s acculturation into American society. The school points out that with 6 million to 8 million Muslims in the U.S. and a rapidly growing base of Muslims in Europe and Canada, few institutions exist that can train students in the varied sciences of Islam while at the same time instilling in them what the school calls “a sophisticated understanding of the intellectual history and culture of the West.” Zaytuna envisions its graduates working as Muslim community and religious leaders, entering into public service, and continuing and succeeding at graduate and professional schools.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 AM


Washington Saved Our Economic Hide (Froma Harrop, 8/19/10, Real Clear Politics)

Using econometric models, Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi argue that the bailouts, the stimulus and other extraordinary actions saved America from nothing less than another Great Depression. Blinder was vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. Zandi is chief economist at Moody's Analytics and advised Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Had Washington not taken any aggressive steps starting in 2008, the results would have been horrific, their study says. Real gross domestic product would have fallen a "stunning" 12 percent, rather than the actual decline of 4 percent. Nearly 17 million jobs would have vanished, twice as many as the real count. And the unemployment rate would have peaked at 16.5 percent. [...]

One number the public does see and understandably dislikes is the federal budget deficit. Most assume that TARP and the various recession-fighting programs helped raise the deficit to $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2010. But how many have considered what that number might have been with no policy response? Blinder and Zandi have.

Recessions themselves fuel deficits by raising social spending and lowering tax revenues. Thus, government programs that make economic downturns shallower and end them sooner can pay for themselves.

If Washington had not reacted as quickly and as forcefully as it did, the two economists write, "the costs to U.S. taxpayers would have been vastly greater."

With no special government intervention, the 2010 deficit would have passed $2 trillion, according to their model. It would have reached $2.6 trillion in fiscal 2011 and $2.25 trillion in 2012.

Add outright deflation to the expected massive employment and falling GDP, Blinder and Zandi conclude, and "this dark scenario constitutes a 1930s-like depression."

...but there's an implicit argument here for W as our greatest president.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


August 18, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


What About the Ground Zero Church? (Judson Berger, 8/17/10, Orthodoxy Today)

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America accused New York officials on Tuesday of turning their backs on the reconstruction of the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, while the controversial mosque near Ground Zero moves forward.

The sidelined project is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a tiny, four-story building destroyed in 2001 when one of the World Trade Center towers fell on top of it. [...]

The Port Authority and the church announced a deal in July 2008 under which the Port Authority would grant land and up to $20 million to help rebuild it in a new location — in addition, the authority was willing to pay up to $40 million to construct a bomb-proof platform underneath.

Within a year, the deal fell through and talks ended. Port Authority officials told Fox News that the deal is dead.

The archdiocese and Port Authority offer sharply conflicting accounts of where things went wrong. The Port Authority has previously claimed the church was making additional demands — like wanting the $20 million up front and wanting to review plans for the surrounding area. They say the church can still proceed on its own if it wishes.

“The church continues to have the right to rebuild at their original site, and we will pay fair market value for the underground space beneath that building,” a spokesperson with the Port Authority told Fox News. we just need a temple and a cathedral.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Imams join U.S. officials at Nazi sites (LAURA ROZEN, 8/18/10, Politico)

At the end, the imams — from a broad range of backgrounds — issued a far-reaching statement, condemning anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and religious bigotry.

“We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, where over 12 million human souls perished, including 6 million Jews,” the group said in a joint statement issued after the trip. “We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics.”

Beyond Rosenthal, among those from the Obama, Reagan and George W. Bush administrations who accompanied the imams on the Aug. 7-11 trip to Germany and Poland were Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Nasreen Badat, a State Department official working on religious freedom issues; Marshall Breger, former special assistant to Reagan for public liaison and his liaison with the Jewish community; and Suhail Khan, an official in Bush's public liaison office. Also participating was Rabbi Jack Bemporad from New Jersey. [...]

Organizers of the trip say they were dismayed that the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman lobbied U.S. officials against participating. They also say the Investigative Project’s Steve Emerson, author of "American Jihad," lobbied against the trip, arguing that one of the imams planning to participate had made Holocaust denial statements a decade ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:48 PM


Literary critic Frank Kermode dies in England (RAPHAEL G. SATTER, 08/18/2010, AP)

“He was one of the great conversationalists of our literature,” Alan Samson, Kermode’s publisher, told The Associated Press. “His wit and wisdom in speaking about writing is something that I will always remember.”

Samson said Kermode was best known for his influential book, “The Sense of an Ending” — a witty meditation on the relationship between fiction and crisis. He was also a respected student of Shakespeare and he would return to the Bard often over the course of his career, which took in everything from the Bible to deconstructionist theory.

Kermode was born on Nov. 29, 1919, in the small town of Douglas on the Isle of Man, between Ireland and Great Britain. Raised in modest circumstances, he would eventually become an establishment figure, writing for The New Statesman and The Guardian as well as judging Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize.

His dry and occasionally self-abasing memoir, published in 1995, traced his uncertain path to the top tier of Britain’s literary firmament.

The book opens with a line from Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” — “He was a kind of nothing, titleless” — and goes on to describe a disappointing child who grew into a young writer of indifferent talent. Academia, he said, was the only route left open to him.

“My poetry wasn’t up to much, so there was nothing left for me except to become a critic, preferably with a paying job in a university,” he wrote.

...of we've had the opportunity to exchange pleasantries and even develop friendships with a number of authors, especially those who sent us their books themselves. But a publicity agency--FSB Associates--sent Mr. Kermode's book and he still took the time to drop us a gracious note, thanking us for our review of Shakespeare's Language. Hopefully he and the Bard are conversing somewhere even now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


Muslims pray daily at Pentagon's 9/11 crash site (ANNE FLAHERTY, 8/18/10, Associated Press)

Americans are debating bitterly the proposed building of a mosque near New York's ground zero, but for years Muslims have prayed quietly at the Pentagon only 80 feet from where another hijacked jetliner struck.

Pentagon officials say that no one in the military or the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has ever protested. [...]

Wright said that Muslim employees can gather for a daily prayer service Monday through Thursday, and attend a Friday worship service run by an imam from a local mosque.

You poor deluded infidels....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Brink Lindsey on Traditional and Liberal Conservatism (Jonathan Rauch , 15 August 2010, Five Books)

I think liberals, of both a libertarian, classical, liberal stripe and a more modern egalitarian stripe, see John Stuart Mill as a common ancestor, but he’s not really in the conservative pantheon. Indeed it was Mill who said, ‘While not all conservatives are stupid, all stupid people are generally conservative.’ So he was not only a liberal political theorist but a liberal Member of Parliament, and definitely not a Tory.

Liberal in the European sense, ie libertarian?

He strays from the contemporary libertarian line in a number of respects. But the reason I selected him is that there is a brief passage in On Liberty (in the second chapter on defending liberty of thought and discussion) where he lays forth what I think is the best concise explanation for why there is a left and a right – and why there always will be. Why, even though he wasn’t a conservative and didn’t think much of conservatives, he thought conservatism was a necessary and wholesome part of political life. Let me quote a sentence or two: ‘In politics, again, it is almost a commonplace, that a party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life; until the one or the other shall have so enlarged its mental grasp as to be a party equally of order and of progress, knowing and distinguishing what is fit to be preserved from what ought to be swept away. Each of these modes of thinking derives its utility from the deficiencies of the other; but it is in a great measure the opposition of the other that keeps each within the limits of reason and sanity.’

I think the typical view of politics from inside a partisan mindset is to see politics as a battle of the good guys versus the bad guys. Maybe the good guys are on the left, maybe the good guys are on the right, but it’s this Manichean struggle and the way to get progress is for the good side to win and impose their will. Mill sees through that and sees that, in fact, politics is a dialectical process. At any given time truth is partly on one side and partly on the other. It’s more a battle of half-truths and incomplete truths than of good versus bad. The excesses of each side ultimately create opportunities for the other to come in and correct those excesses. Liberalism, in Mill’s view and in mine, provides the basic motive force of political change and progress. It will go astray, it will have excesses, it will make terrible mistakes – and a conservatism that is focused on preserving good things that exist now will be a necessary counterweight to that liberalism.

...but the picture becomes more complex when "progressives" are able to achieve excesses, at which point, they become the conservatives in this equation, while the traditional conservative party--which seeks to ameliorate the problems created--becomes the reformist movement. This is our situation now, where the Right complains that its leaders are liberals and the Left that its are conservative. The complainants on the Left are correct that a Clinton and a Blair are not seeking to extend the Second Way, just to preserve what they can of it while making it more efficient. Those on the Right are correct that Thatcher, Bush, Harper, Howard, Cameron, etc. are not trying to restore the First Way but to apply its methods to the Second. It leaves true believers on the two wings thoroughly dissatisfied--to the point where they tend to bring down their own governments--but they appeal to the electorate, which is why they obtained power in the first place.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Blagojevich Guilty on Single Count (DOUGLAS BELKIN, 8/18/10, WSJ)

A federal jury found former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich guilty Tuesday of one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation but failed to reach a verdict on 23 other corruption counts.

...and then we wonder why people are cynical about politicians. Atta boy, Blago.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Who's the Happiest?: Who's happiest? In theory, a married born-again Christian orthodontist who lives in Costa Rica. (Anneli Rufus, 8/17/10, Daily Beast)

1. Republicans are 15 percent happier than Democrats.

In a Pew Research Center survey, 45 percent of Republicans described themselves as being very happy, compared with 30 and 29 percent of Democrats and independents, respectively. Republicans have been consistently happier than Democrats every single year since Pew began conducting these polls in 1972, and were 10 percent happier than Dems even during Jimmy Carter's term. [...]

6. Married people are 19 percent happier than unmarried people.

43 percent of married people describe themselves as very happy, compared to 24 percent of singles. [...]

8. Americans are 200 percent happier than Cameroonians.

With its Happy Planet Index, the New Economics Foundation tracks emotional, environmental, and other types of well-being worldwide. The USA's HPI score matches Australia's and Sweden's, but doubles those of Cameroon, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates are tied happinesswise, but both are three times happier than Tanzania. [...]

10. If a friend living within half a mile of you becomes happy, there's a 42 percent chance that you'll become happy too.

Moreover, your chances for happiness increase 15.3 percent if someone intimately involved with you becomes happy, 9.8 percent when a friend of a friend becomes happy, and 5.6 percent when a friend of a friend of a friend becomes happy. "Joy is contagious, as are most emotions. This is because we are wired for empathy," says James Baraz, coauthor of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness. [...]

15. If you're an Evangelical Christian, there's a 99 percent chance you're very happy.

Or are you? The study that produced that dubious stat was conducted by the evangelically oriented Barna Group. According to a more credible Pew survey, Evangelicals are 10 percent happier than other Protestants, and folks of any faith who frequently attend religious services are happier than those who don't. Forty three percent of those attending services weekly or more call themselves very happy, compared to 31 percent of those who attend monthly and 26 percent of those who never attend services.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Why He Turns Voters Off: Voters are tired of the president pursuing policies they don’t want, and he’ll find out just how much in November. (Douglas E. Schoen, 8/18/10, Daily Beast)

There is a fundamental problem with the way President Obama has governed.

Since taking office, he has systematically put forth policies the American people do not want. The net result is a crisis of confidence and legitimacy in the American political system and our institutions.

The president is now at record low levels of approval—close to 40 percent overall, and in the mid- to low 30s among swing voters.

...but with the fact that he's had to govern. Definition is fatal to his image.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


First UK Islamic bond launches (David Oakley, August 16 2010, Financial Times)

The first UK Islamic bond has been launched in a significant development that could prompt other British companies to raise money in the niche market.

The issue from a small British manufacturer is likely to be the first of many sukuk fundraisings in the UK, say analysts.

The UK government is also expected to pave the way for the launch of the first sovereign sukuk, a bond that complies with Islamic religious rules, in the next year or two.

Just wait until the Daniels Administration issues the first American Islamic bond.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


Jazz Master Outplays Himself (BEN RATLIFF, 8/17/10, NY Times)

Mr. [William] Savory, who died in 2004, worked in New York during the 1930s as an engineer for a transcription service: the kind of outfit with access to live radio broadcasts from around the country, and the ability to make disc copies of the broadcasts for whoever needed them. Evidently he brought home copies of what he liked as a fan, what he thought important or what had sentimental value, for here was a guy who befriended jazz musicians. That’s it: no master plan, no urge toward comprehensiveness.

Looking through the names on the discs — cataloged by Loren Schoenberg, the jazz scholar and executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, which recently bought the collection from Mr. Savory’s family — I saw a whole lot of Benny Goodman, because Mr. Savory loved Goodman’s music and came to know him. (He eventually married one of Goodman’s singers, Helen Ward, after she had left the band.) There’s a lot of Teddy Wilson, probably for similar reasons. There are recordings of now obscure swing-band saxophonists: Tony Zimmers, Stewie McKay. There’s some Billie Holiday, some Cab Calloway, some Mildred Bailey, a tiny bit of Louis Armstrong and John Kirby, and some extravagantly good jam-session Lester Young. And Coleman Hawkins.

When Hawkins came back from a five-year European stay in the summer of 1939, the disposition of his music had changed. He had been playing a different role with audiences; he had become a star who blotted out the importance of his sidemen. In England and Switzerland and the Netherlands, audiences treated him with deference, as an exotic and a master soloist.

After his return, the record producer John Hammond remarked with dismay that he had become a “rhapsodist,” but that was no easy accomplishment. The studio recording of “Body and Soul,” from October 1939, is an event, an actorly tour de force in three minutes, a continuous solo after a loose statement of theme; its equivalent in another form of music might be Jimi Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner.” (Hawkins once said that Thelonious Monk, incredulous and envious that the record had become a hit, told him, “There’s no melody in there; what are they listening to?”)

It was Hawkins’s most famous song, and he recorded it many times again: the complete list includes stage versions from 1949 at Carnegie Hall and in Lausanne, Switzerland; studio revisits in 1956 with an orchestra and in 1958 with the clarinetist Tony Scott; and from 1944 a more abstracted version of the song — with even less of a melody — copyrighted as “Rainbow Mist.” What we haven’t had is an example of how he played it in clubs right after the record came out. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be helpful to the historical record?

That’s what Mr. Savory kept for us. This “Body and Soul,” from May 1940, comes from a gig broadcast from the Fiesta Danceteria, then a new joint in Times Square, where you could buy cafeteria food as a cover charge and dance to music free. According to “The Song of the Hawk,” John Chilton’s biography of Hawkins, the engagement went badly. The owners asked him to play stock arrangements of pop songs until the late set, and even then asked Hawkins to quiet down his brass players. Hawkins quit after a week.

-NPR 100: 'Body And Soul' (Tom Moon, All Songs Considered)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Poll: Women today treated with less chivalry (Jennifer Harper, 8/16/10, The Washington Times)

Eight out of 10 Americans, in fact, say, "Women today are treated with less chivalry than in the past." Seven out of 10 say women do not receive equal pay for equal work, a bulwark of the feminist war on the status quo. Two-thirds say women are "discriminated against" when it comes to supervisory or executive jobs, while an equal number agree that the U.S. has "a long way to go" to reach gender equality. Just 35 percent said women got equal pay for equal work.

There's another toll, and a telling one: A majority of the respondents — 52 percent — say relations between men and women are not "fine" these days. Just 13 percent, in fact, strongly agreed that the sexes are in harmony.

The West’s over-sexualized culture is feminism’s byproduct (Caroline May, 8/14/10, The Daily Caller)
Founder of Collective Shout — a group which targets companies that use overly sexual images of girls –Melinda Tankard Reist struck a chord last week when she told a New Zealand audience that the over-sexualized nature of western society has set women back 50 years.

“Raunch culture has taken us back. It’s an absolute tragedy,” she said. “[Women's] liberation has now come to be seen as the ability to wrap your legs around a pole, or flash your breasts in public, or send a sexual image of yourself to your boyfriend … Girls think that empowerment lies in their ability to be hot and sexy.”

Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, an advocacy group for women, told The Daily Caller that while she wasn’t ready to attribute Hefner’s attitude to feminism, she did believe over-sexualized imagery to be a byproduct of third wave feminism gone awry.“The first wave of feminism got women the right to vote,” Siskind said. “The second wave, with women like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, gave women permission to make choices and enjoy sex. But the third wave — kind of the 1990s and on…was the idea that there is empowerment in being defined by our sexuality.”

While Siskind credits the third wave with the shift, even second wave feminist Betty Friedan, co-founder of the National Organization for Women and author of “The Feminine Mystique,” walked that fine line between liberation and objectification. In 1992, Friedan gave an interview to Playboy contributing editor, David Sheff, in which she told him that she did not have a problem with celebrating the female form in forums like Playboy, so long as it did not result in objectification.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


Our Mosque Madness (MAUREEN DOWD, 8/18/10, NY Times)

Maybe, for Barack Obama, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing.

“I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he said the morning after he commented on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack. What is so frightening about Fox News?

In fairness to the UR, his initial stand was legalistic, not principled.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM

REALLY? (via Bryan Francoeur):

Critics say Obama's message becoming 'incoherent' (Ed Hornick, 8/17/10, CNN)

Obama has faced a torrent of criticism for what was called mixed messages on the controversial plan. On Friday, Obama said Muslims "have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country ... That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."

The next day, Obama told CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry that he was "not commenting on the wisdom" of the project, just the broader principle that the government should treat "everyone equal, regardless" of religion. Then those comments were clarified by a White House spokesman.

"There is no question they are having messaging problems at the White House," Morey said. "They've lost control of the dialogue and they've gotten pulled down by the extremes on the left and right. They've just not had a coherent set of themes."

New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column that Obama's clarity and successful messaging during the campaign are gone. In place is a "incoherent president," who's "with the banks, he's against the banks. He's leaving Afghanistan, he's staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds."

But Obama has the ability to sharpen his messaging skills by being less of a law professor and more of a communicator-in-chief, Morey said.

Then why has he never demonstrated that ability? Doesn't the fact that he was all things to all people during the campaign suggest a candidacy based on non-coherence? To be coherent requires having thoughts and views on the issues and there is no evidence that he believes anything.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


Pakistan’s Failed National Strategy (Walter Russell Mead, 8/17/10, American Interest)

Ever since the Partition of British India left a smaller, divided Pakistan facing a larger (and, frankly, a sometimes hostile and aggressive) neighbor, the Pakistani military has defined its mission and the nation’s identity by the need to hold up its end of the military contest. Realizing from the beginning that the smaller Pakistani economy could not support a strong enough military for the task, the Pakistani military turned to outside powers and especially the United States for help. Pakistan took the American side in the Cold War while ostensibly ‘non-aligned’ India tilted toward the USSR. Pakistan hoped that US aid would allow it to maintain the unequal contest; this is often the reason Pakistanis today give for Pakistan’s staunch support of the US during the 1950s and 1960s.

The strategy failed then and it is failing now. US aid has helped build Pakistan’s formidable military and given it top notch equipment, but the costs of Pakistan’s military buildup remained crippling — and over the years India has consistently pulled further ahead. Today the contest is more unequal than ever. India is emerging as a global power; Pakistan looks more and more like a basket case. East Pakistan was ‘lost’ a generation ago and is now the independent state of Bangladesh; what was once the western half of Pakistan is simply not in India’s league and the social and political cohesion of what remains weakens every year. Currently, Pakistan ranks 8th in the world in military expenditure as a percentage of total government spending (23%); India spends a lower percentage of both GDP and government expenditure on the military than Pakistan.

The costs of that failed strategy have been high. While country after country in Asia embarked on export-oriented development strategies that have brought new affluence and influence to places ranging from South Korea to Malaysia and Vietnam, Pakistan remains mired in old fashioned underdevelopment. Power flickered on and off across the country even before the recent floods; illiteracy and poverty levels remain at shocking levels. Even in military terms this has its consequences; Pakistan’s failure to grow and develop fast enough means that the country is less and less able to support the kind of military that the soldiers think it needs.

But there is more. The iron necessity of competition with India as perceived by the Pakistani military led to three additional fateful choices. First, the nuclear program: once India proceeded with its bomb (and perhaps even if it didn’t), Pakistani military authorities had to get their own. To be smaller in population and economy, weaker in conventional power and also to be a non-nuclear state confronting a nuclear power was radically unacceptable. The military felt the bomb was a necessity, no matter what it cost, no matter what deals with what devils were required.

And more: a smaller power in conventional terms looks to forms of asymmetrical warfare to offset its enemy’s advantage. For Pakistan, this meant that cultivating relationships with groups willing to use violence in Kashmir and against India more generally became a perceived necessity of state. Pakistan might be smaller, weaker and poorer than India, but it was not without offsetting advantages. The discontent of so many Kashmiris under India rule and the presence of both religious and political resistance movements gave Pakistan opportunities too good to resist. The partnership of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment with unconventional, non-state violent movements began to take shape.

Finally, the need to compete with India drove Pakistan into far-reaching policies in Afghanistan. There are many reasons why Pakistan was interested in influencing events across the Durand Line (the British-drawn line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan on maps, but which neither the local tribes nor the Afghan government has ever recognized), but the need for ‘strategic depth’ against India and the need to combat Indian influence in Afghanistan have shaped Pakistan’s Afghan policy for decades. Pakistan made more deals with more devils, collaborating in the obscenity of Taliban rule for the sake of maintaining Pakistani influence.

The net effect of these strategies has been costly. Pakistan’s combination of illicit nuclear activities, terrorist links and collusion with the Taliban set it directly in opposition to core American interests — even as India’s rising power made Pakistan more dependent than ever on the US. Since 9/11 Pakistan has been impaled on a dilemma of its own construction: torn between supporting and opposing American policy on proliferation, terrorism and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, unresolved questions about Pakistan’s nuclear program, combined with US support for India, have led to the worst possible nuclear outcome for Pakistan: India now enjoys full access to advanced nuclear technology and materials while Pakistan’s access remains blocked. Nuclear weapons were supposed to be Pakistan’s equalizer in the contest with India; increasingly, they look like just another crucial area in which India is gaining the advantage.

Worse, Pakistan’s support of terror groups in India (including Kashmir) has provoked, Pakistanis fear, increased Indian support for the long-festering separatist movement in Balochistan. Ethnic Punjabis now live in fear there; the Pakistani flag and other national symbols can no longer be displayed in much of the province, and public opposition to rule from Islamabad seems to be growing. Significant voices in Sindh and Kyhber-Pakhtunkwa (formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province) are less than enthusiastic about Pakistan, often seen by non-Punjabis as a front for Punjabi ethnic domination.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


Indian Kashmir’s top official pardons shoe thrower (AIJAZ HUSSAIN, 08/18/2010, AP)
Indian-controlled Kashmir’s top elected official has pardoned an off-duty police officer who hurled a shoe at him during India’s independence day ceremony — an insulting act reportedly lauded by thousands of Kashmiris. [...]

The public reaction to the stunt underscored the continuing anti-India sentiment in the predominantly Muslim region, which has been rocked by unrest since June. At least 59 people have died in the violence.

The Himalayan region is divided between predominantly Hindu India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, but claimed in full by both. Most people in Kashmir favor independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 AM


Islam in New York (Financial Times, August 17 2010)

On an ideological level, freedom of conscience is central to America’s founding principles. And in the struggle against intolerance, tolerance is an important weapon.

The case for supporting Park 51, as the centre will be known, does not stop there. The aftermath of 9/11 has pitted moderate Muslims against al-Qaeda and its off-shoots in a struggle over the direction of Islam. Any chance to strengthen moderates, such as Abdul Faisal Rauf, the imam behind Park 51, is worth seizing.

The opposite is achieved by hysterical claims that an Islamic centre near Ground Zero would be a victory for terrorists. Conflating moderate Islam and al-Qaeda’s extremism demonises peaceful Muslims and plays into the hands of those who claim that the west is the implacable enemy of Islam.

Simply going ahead with the centre will underscore that the practice of Islam is compatible with citizenship of a non-Muslim country. The centre threatens not the security of the US, but the radicalisation efforts of al-Qaeda and its followers.

On the one hand, it would have been best to build the facility as close to the WTC as possible, just for the symbolism, but by moving a few blocks the organization is going to get a sweetheart deal.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Annual test scores rise in L.A. Unified schools: State scores are up too. Local gains are tallied at schools under district control and in Green Dot and Villaraigosa schools (Howard Blume, 8/17/10, Los Angeles Times)

Despite thousands of teacher layoffs and shrinking school budgets, Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest school system, posted gains on annual standardized tests. Schools statewide also posted overall gains in results released Monday.

The rising scores brought generally good news concerning various reform efforts underway in L.A. Unified, including at Locke High School and at 12 schools overseen by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Schools still under direct district control also showed gains, some of them larger than the higher-profile efforts touted as superior to what the district could accomplish. [...]

Locke High, on the edge of Watts, became the first traditional Los Angeles school handed over to an outside organization when Green Dot Public Schools took over in July 2008. First-year scores remained virtually unchanged and exceptionally low. This year, the percentage of students proficient in English rose modestly from 13.7% to 14.9%; in math, from 4% to 6.7%.

"There is so much focus on test scores that people miss the bigger picture of what a turnaround is about," said Green Dot chief executive Marco Petruzzi. "The first thing you need to do is keep kids enrolled."

Enrollment and attendance rates surged, even as enrollment has declined elsewhere.

Locke began last year with about 250 more students than in its final year under L.A. Unified. And Green Dot asserts that 95% remain enrolled; independent state figures are unavailable.

Among ninth-graders who started under Green Dot two years ago, figures show 73% are still at Locke after 10th grade. That compares to 44% of students who remained after 10th grade in the class of 2008, under L.A. Unified. (The L.A. Unified percentage is worse in part because its ninth-grade number included students repeating ninth grade.)

More Locke students are taking exams in courses required for admission to state four-year colleges. Last year, 785 more students took math tests, 894 more took science tests and 603 more took history tests. Also, Locke's passing rate is up for the mandatory high school exit exam.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Exaggerating the Jihadist Threat (Romesh Ratnesar , 8/18/10, TIME)

The story of the past decade in the Muslim world is that of the widespread rejection — or "refudiation," to borrow a phrase — of terrorism. A study by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that support in Muslim countries for suicide bombings has fallen precipitously from post-9/11 levels. One-third of Pakistanis believed terrorism was justified in 2002; now just 8% do. For all our anxiety about the rise of religious extremism, no government in the Arab world has been toppled by forces sympathetic to al-Qaeda since 2001. And though some militant Muslims surely wish us harm, their ability to actually inflict it has eroded; it has been more than five years since the last successful al-Qaeda attack in the West.

The eclipse of al-Qaeda has come about largely through revulsion at the jihadists' indiscriminate slaughter of fellow Muslims, from Indonesia to Iraq. And yet we have failed to notice. A Gallup poll taken in June found that Americans still believe terrorism is a bigger threat to the future well-being of the country than health care costs, unemployment and illegal immigration. (Only the federal debt was deemed an issue of equal seriousness.) America's post-9/11 obsession with terrorism, the belief that we are locked in an epic ideological struggle with radical Islam, has stretched our resources to the limit and distracted us from higher-order priorities. National myopia poses a bigger challenge to the U.S.'s long-term stability than terrorism ever will.

What does this mean for the mosque near Ground Zero? However the dispute is ultimately resolved, its impact on the "threat" posed by radical Islam will be negligible. That's because the threat is receding on its own. Allowing a place of worship to be built in lower Manhattan will constitute neither an American triumph nor a defeat. It will simply tell the world that this nation, wisely, has decided to move on.

Almost 50 years later the same crazies thought Japanese ownership of Rockefeller Center represented losing WWII. And you don't need Google Maps to recognize that 30 Rock is more than a few blocks from Pearl.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Ground Zero Mosque On The Move?: Opponents To Meet With Developers On Troubling Issue (CBS New York, August 17, 2010)

New York Gov. David Paterson plans to meet with developers of the controversial ground zero mosque as early as this week to offer them state land – at another location – for their cultural and religious center. Paterson told Congressman Peter King about the meeting, and King said the governor asked him to make it public.

“The purpose of the meeting would be for the governor to discuss with the leaders of the mosque where state property is available,” said Rep. King. “Whether or not people from the mosque would be willing to consider that property.”

King added that the governor “seemed very enthused” about the anticipated discussions. [...]

Paterson’s office confirmed that discussions between his staff and the developer’s staff have been ongoing and said the governor expects to have a meeting scheduled in the near future.

Congressman King said the openness of the developers to a compromise will be the real test of their intentions.

“If the leaders of the mosque take up the governor on his proposal, it would show that their real intention is to bring people together,” he said. “And not just make a political statement by having a mosque at Ground Zero.”

There’s also the issue of separation of church and state, and whether the governor should provide state land for a mosque.

King said in this case it would be okay, especially if the compromise meets the need of both sides.

Just another reason to love the law of unintended consequences: basically the opponents of the mosque will have turned a non-political local project that was going ahead quietly into a sort of national zoning process that approves building and funding a 9-11 Memorial Mosque. Thus does America bring good even out of evil.

August 17, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


U.S. giving Michigan $16.8M for charter schools (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/17/10)

The U.S. Department of Education says it's giving $16.8 million to Michigan to increase charter school options in then state.

The grant is part of a package of $136 million going to promote charter schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:03 PM


Bobby Thomson Dies at 86; Hit Epic Home Run (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, 8/17/10, NY Times)

Robert Brown Thomson was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Glasgow and arrived in the United States at age 2. The son of a cabinetmaker, he grew up on Staten Island and signed with the Giants’ organization for a $100 bonus in 1942 out of Curtis High School.

A right-handed batter with good power and excellent speed, Thomson was in his fifth full season with the Giants in 1951. He got off to a slow start, playing center field, then went to the bench in May when the Giants called up a 20-year-old rookie named Willie Mays. But Thomson was playing regularly again by late July, this time at third base, and he hit better than .350 over the final two months of the season.

In mid-August, the Giants trailed the first-place Dodgers by 13 ½ games, and the Dodgers’ manager, Charlie Dressen, had proclaimed, “The Giants is dead.” But they went on a 16-game winning streak, and they tied the Dodgers for the National League lead on the season’s final weekend.

The Giants won the playoff opener, 3-1, at Ebbets Field, behind Thomson’s two-run homer off Branca, the Dodgers starter. But the Dodgers romped, 10-0, the next day at the Polo Grounds.

On Wednesday afternoon, the teams returned to the Polo Grounds to play for the pennant. It was an overcast day, and the attendance was just 34,320 — some 22,000 below capacity — for a duel of pitching aces, the Giants’ Sal Maglie against the Dodgers’ Don Newcombe.

Thomson authored an unlikely ending (Red Smith, October 4, 1951, New York Herald Tribune)
Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. There art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again. ;...]

So it was the Dodgers ball game, 4 to 1, and the Dodgers' pennant. So all right. Better get started and beat the crowd home. That stuff in the ninth inning? That didn't mean anything.

A single by Al dark. A single by Don Mueller. Irvin's pop-up. Lockerman's one-run double. Now the corniest possible sort of Hollywood schmaltz -- stretcher bearers plodding away with an injured Mueller between them, symbolic of the Giants themselves.

There went Newcombe and here came Ralph Branca. Who's at bat? Thomson again? He beat Branca with a home run the other day. would Charlie Dressen order him walked, putting the winning run on base, to pitch to the dead-end kids at the bottom of the batting order? No, Branca's first pitch was called a strike.

The second pitch -- well, when Thomson reached first base he turned and looked toward the left-field stands. Then he started jumping straight up in the air, again and again. Then he trotted around the bases, taking his time.

Ralph Branca turned and started for the clubhouse. The number on his uniform looked huge. Thirteen.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM


The Muslims in the Middle (WILLIAM DALRYMPLE, 8/16/10, NY Times)

Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.

For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.

The great Sufi saints like the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi held that all existence and all religions were one, all manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque, church, synagogue or temple, but the striving to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart: that we all can find paradise within us, if we know where to look. In some ways Sufism, with its emphasis on love rather than judgment, represents the New Testament of Islam.

While the West remains blind to the divisions and distinctions within Islam, the challenge posed by the Sufi vision of the faith is not lost on the extremists. This was shown most violently on July 2, when the Pakistani Taliban organized a double-suicide bombing of the Data Darbar, the largest Sufi shrine in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city. The attack took place on a Thursday night, when the shrine was at its busiest; 42 people were killed and 175 were injured.

This was only the latest in a series of assaults against Pakistan’s Sufis. In May, Peeru’s Cafe in Lahore, a cultural center where I had recently performed with a troupe of Sufi musicians, was bombed in the middle of its annual festival. An important site in a tribal area of the northwest — the tomb of Haji Sahib of Turangzai, a Sufi persecuted under British colonial rule for his social work — has been forcibly turned into a Taliban headquarters. Two shrines near Peshawar, the mausoleum of Bahadar Baba and the shrine of Abu Saeed Baba, have been destroyed by rocket fire.

Symbolically, however, the most devastating Taliban attack occurred last spring at the shrine of the 17th-century poet-saint Rahman Baba, at the foot of the Khyber Pass in northwest Pakistan. For centuries, the complex has been a place for musicians and poets to gather, and Rahman Baba’s Sufi verses had long made him the national poet of the Pashtuns living on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “I am a lover, and I deal in love,” wrote the saint. “Sow flowers,/ so your surroundings become a garden./ Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet./ We are all one body./ Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.”

THEN, about a decade ago, a Saudi-financed religious school, or madrasa, was built at the end of the path leading to the shrine. Soon its students took it upon themselves to halt what they see as the un-Islamic practices of Rahman Baba’s admirers. When I last visited it in 2003, the shrine-keeper, Tila Mohammed, described how young students were coming regularly to complain that his shrine was a center of idolatry and immorality.

“My family have been singing here for generations,” he told me. “But now these madrasa students come and tell us that what we do is wrong. They tell women to stay at home. This used to be a place where people came to get peace of mind. Now when they come here they just encounter more problems.”

Then, one morning in early March 2009, a group of Pakistani Taliban arrived at the shrine before dawn and placed dynamite packages around the squinches supporting the shrine’s dome. In the ensuing explosion, the mausoleum was destroyed, but at least nobody was killed. The Pakistani Taliban quickly took credit, blaming the shrine’s administrators for allowing women to pray and seek healing there.

The good news is that Sufis, though mild, are also resilient.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


Bush drug plan beats cost mark (Stephen Dinan, 8/16/10, The Washington Times)

The numbers are stark and conclusive: In 2009, the government spent $60.8 billion on the drug benefit, or far less than the annual $111.2 billion cost projected just five years ago, after the program was enacted.

The lower cost - a result of slowing demand for prescription drugs, higher use of generic drugs and fewer people signing up - has surprised even some of the law's most pessimistic critics.

"I'm perfectly willing to say I was wrong," said Robert Moffit, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who fought the 2003 bill as an inevitable boondoggle. "I projected these costs would go through the roof on prescription drugs. I also did not believe private plans would come and offer their wares. Frankly, I'm perfectly willing to say I was wrong."

Thank goodness W generally ignored his Right.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Paul Ryan's Friends )G. Tracy Mehan, III, 8.16.10, American Spectator)

You can live with enemies in politics, but you can't survive without friends. Ryan needs more than intellectual or moral support from conservative intellectuals, commentators, and even honest liberals, as important as they are. He and his "Roadmap" need the heartfelt support of his party, its leaders and its candidates across the country who must take the argument to the people in this watershed election year.

The stakes are too high for the Republicans to simply stand by, quietly, hoping the Democrats will self-immolate. The GOP needs to embrace a big, visionary idea, something like Ryan's "Roadmap," which addresses the most important political challenge of the age: the runaway costs of entitlements which were irresponsibly put on autopilot under both Democratic and Republican governments.

Ideas, good or bad, have consequences. If there is to be regime change in Washington, the new one better have prepared the ground with a clear articulation of its plans, no matter how politically daunting the prospect, thereby creating legitimacy for those plans through electoral victory. The nation can afford nothing less. Otherwise, it will amount to just "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss."

This is not to say that the GOP needs to accept every jot or tittle of the "Roadmap." But it very much needs to engage, substantively, the same issues as Paul Ryan has, heroically in my opinion, in terms of the long-run sustainability of America's fiscal and economic condition. The "Roadmap" should be the Republicans' point of departure for what must be a serious conversation with the American people.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Interview: Jimmy Carter, singer, The Blind Boys of Alabama (Claire Prentice, 8/17/10, The Scotsman)

If tonight's concert is anything to go by, 61 years since they formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind, the Blind Boys have plenty of life in them yet. In August they are travelling to Edinburgh to appear at the International Festival with The Gospel At Colonus, a radical reworking of Sophocles' tragedy, Oedipus At Colonus, which blends gospel music, rock'n'roll and soul.

Set in modern-day America, within the context of a black church service, the narrative is driven by a Pentecostal preacher while the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama collectively play the role of Oedipus. "I'm not really sure how that works as I haven't seen it," says a smiling Carter, the only remaining founding member of the Blind Boys. We are meeting the day after the group's show at Carter's hotel, a stone's throw from Central Park. "When we originally met with Lee Breuer and Bob Telson, the creators of the show, they said they wanted Oedipus to be a blind guy because he does go blind, he puts his eyes out. We Blind Boys got together to discuss the idea and we all thought it sounded interesting so we decided to do it. We had no idea what it would become."

Since then The Gospel At Colonus has played on Broadway and wowed critics and the public alike in cities across the globe (including an early workshop at the Edinburgh Fringe). It's been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cast members have included Robert Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman, who at the time, said, "I've been in a lot of shows in my life, and I've thought a lot of them were pretty good, but this is a masterpiece." Among stars who have sat in on the show are Stevie Wonder and Ry Cooder. Described by critics as "a miracle" and the "most electric and inventive show in American musical history", The Gospel At Colonus is an exhilarating ride which will make even the most hardened hearts soar.

And that is precisely why the Blind Boys are so delighted to be involved. After plugging away on the gospel circuit for decades, driving around the south in an old van and playing to mostly black audiences in churches and town halls, it gave them the chance to take their gospel message to a wider audience. Carter says: "We had a lot of setbacks but we never thought about giving up. We love what we do. Success came late for us but better late than never."

EIF audiences know the New York-based theatre director Lee Breuer for last year's Peter And Wendy and Mabou Mines' DollHouse in 2007. Co-creator Bob Telson is an Oscar-nominated composer and songwriter who played organ with the Philip Glass Ensemble in the 1970s and has written songs for Joe Cocker, Celine Dion, George Michael and Barbra Streisand.

"In the beginning I was concerned about how it would be received by religious groups," says Breuer. "But then I spoke to the Reverend Martin Jaycox, a good friend of mine who was involved in an early production, and he said to me: 'It is a play about redemption, love, faith and a return to root values. You've got 40 devout Pentecostalist gospel singers and three preachers there on stage. Don't worry, you've got a Christian production.'"

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


'Ligers' bred in Taiwan zoo (Daily Telegraph, 16 Aug 2010)

The three liger cubs were born in Taiwan on Sunday at the World Snake King Education Farm in the south, but one of them died almost immediately.

"The pregnancy of the tigress caught me totally unprepared," said Huang Kuo-nan, the farm's owner.

"The lion and the tigress have been kept in the same cage since they were cubs more than six years ago, and nothing happened."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 AM


James Bond was a neo-fascist gangster, says John Le Carré (Anita Singh, 17 Aug 2010, Daily Telegraph)

To his millions of fans around the world, James Bond is the quintessential British spy.

Yet to John Le Carré, 007 is a "neo-fascist gangster" who would ply his trade for any country provided he could get a plentiful supply of beautiful women and dry Martinis.

In a 1966 interview with Malcolm Muggeridge, newly re-discovered in the BBC archive, the author and creator of the decidedly unglamorous spy George Smiley was scathing in his assessment of Ian Fleming's suave secret agent.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 AM


Obama and the Teachers Unions: The administration’s ‘Race to the Top’ program is fraying the traditional alliance between Democrats and organized teachers. (Sam Ross-Brown, In These Times)

At their annual convention in July, National Education Association (NEA) members narrowly approved a vote of “no confidence” in Race to the Top, a cornerstone of Obama’s education reform plan. For each of the last three years, the NEA has hosted either Obama or his education secretary, Arne Duncan, at its annual convention. But this year, amid calls for Duncan’s resignation, neither was invited. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), another national teachers’ union, has also distanced itself from the administration in the months since the Race was announced in July 2009. [...]

While Obama has talked about using “the collective bargaining process as a catalyst for reform,” the reality is much more ambiguous. In many cases, states seem to be rewarded for ignoring union concerns about the effects of reforms and their cost. And while states are rhetorically encouraged to work with unions in crafting legislation, Duncan has downplayed this as “by no means the determining factor” in the competition. The irony is that both the AFT and NEA have been strong supporters of Democrats in the past, and especially of Obama. Unions collectively gave more than $5 million to Democratic candidates in the 2008 election, and education ranked third in top industries supporting the Obama campaign. If the rift between Democrats and teachers’ unions continues to widen, this political and financial support may not last.

From Washington’s perspective, however, union shortsightedness is derailing efforts to reform a system in crisis. In a 2007 speech, Obama noted that 6 million American students are reading below grade level, and that only one in ten black and Latino eighth graders is proficient in math. “This kind of America is morally unacceptable for our children,” he said. Frustrated that America’s education system appears to be failing and impatient with traditional channels of reform, Obama and Duncan believe that U.S. schools suffer from fundamental, structural problems that no one group can adequately address.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 AM


Why Cordoba?: The Ground Zero Islamic center was named for a period in Spanish-Muslim history that some call a golden age of tolerance (Marc Tracy, Aug 16, 2010, The Tablet)

According to Princeton historian Mark Cohen, the notion of convivencia, of medieval Spain as utopia, began with mid-19th century German-Jewish historians. Disappointed to find that emancipation did not equal equality, they crafted a long-ago world of true Jewish freedom as the model that their own world failed to live up to. “They looked back nostalgically to Muslim Spain, and said, ‘Look there,’ ” Cohen told me. “They wanted to embarrass the Christians.” They were not demanding a state of their own; on the contrary, they were demanding the right to live freely in another people’s state and, moreover, to be considered members of that people.

A subsequent batch of historians, under the spell of early-20th-century Zionism, cast medieval Spain not as a utopia but as, according to Cohen, “an unmitigated disaster.” They did so in order to argue that “Arab anti-Semitism is firmly rooted in a congenital, endemic Muslim/Arab Jew-hatred,” which in turn buttressed their case for a country of, by, and for the Jewish people.

So, which of those versions is right? Neither, Cohen said. In one essay, he refers to a “myth” (the German historians’ heaven) and a “counter-myth” (the Zionist historians’ hell) and asserts that the truth lies somewhere in between. Those who hold up the period as an ideal are exaggerating: “In a medieval situation,” he argues, “where you have monotheistic religions living in proximity, there is no such thing as toleration.” (In other words, tell “toleration” to the Jews of Granada, many of whom were massacred by angry Muslims in 1066, or to Granada’s Jewish vizier at the time, who was crucified.) And those who downplay the extent of tolerance and pluralism exaggerate, too. “If by convivencia,” said Cornell historian Ross Brann, “we mean that cultural and social proximity, conversation, and interaction among Jews, Muslims, and Christians were significant and productive,” then convivencia was real.

August 16, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Obama Cowers on the Mosque (Tunku Varadarajan, 8/16/10, Daily Beast)

A mere 24 hours after he threw his presidential weight behind the proposed mosque near New York’s ground zero—in a display of statesmanship that was delicious as much for its rarity as for its apparent cojones—Obama recalibrated his position in a frightened, mealy mouthed attempt to placate the anti-mosque opposition (which, depressingly, appears to comprise almost the entire Republican Party).

On Friday, Obama said, in words that were plainly at war with the conventional wisdom that holds that the mosque is offensive to popular American sentiment: “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America.”

Many of us who are libertarian—in other words, people opposed as much to the subversion of private rights by a majoritarian maumau-ing as we are to curbs on private affairs by government intervention—found ourselves in pleasantly astonished agreement with the most statist president since FDR. No one hearing his remarks, or reading of them, could have been in any doubt that he was fully, unequivocally, behind the construction of the mosque. So much so that New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the first public official of consequence to stand up to the mosque’s opponents, described the president’s remarks as “a clarion defense of the freedom of religion.”

The infatuation was not to last more than a day...

...he wouldn't have hidden behind the "rights" dodge, he'd have just said it was the right thing to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Metro-North Considering Double-Decker Trains to Reduce Crowding (MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUMm 8/16/10, NY Times)

Some New Yorkers who take the railroad to the city may soon enjoy an amenity more common to Paris than Ossining: the double-decker ride.

The Metro-North Railroad is seriously considering buying double-decker coaches for its Harlem and Hudson commuter lines, in a move to ease overcrowding on a rail network that routinely runs standing-room-only trains during rush hour.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Medical treatment carries possible side effect of limiting homosexuality (Shari Roan, 8/15/10, Los Angeles Times)

Each year in the United States, perhaps a few dozen pregnant women learn they are carrying a fetus at risk for a rare disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The condition causes an accumulation of male hormones and can, in females, lead to genitals so masculinized that it can be difficult at birth to determine the baby's gender.

A hormonal treatment to prevent ambiguous genitalia can now be offered to women who may be carrying such infants. It's not without health risks, but to its critics those are of small consequence compared with this notable side effect: The treatment might reduce the likelihood that a female with the condition will be homosexual. Further, it seems to increase the chances that she will have what are considered more feminine behavioral traits.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 AM


Obama's Gulf Swim Was Fake (Stephen Lendman, 16 August, 2010,

[On August 15 the] BBC reported:

"Barack Obama has taken a swim in the Gulf of Mexico (to) reassure Americans that the waters are safe despite the recent oil spill."

US corporate media reporters repeated the message, CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry among them, saying "Obama takes (the) plunge, swims in the Gulf (to show it's safe and) open for business."

In fact, area businesses continue to be severely impacted, and the entire region is dangerously unsafe.

As for Obama's swim, on August 16, the London Independent reported that Obama and his daughter, Sasha, swam in a private Panama City Beach, FL beach off Alligator Point in St. Andrew Bay, not part of the Gulf.

Reporters were banned, no TV video permitted. "So....only the White House photographer was allowed to capture proceedings. The official picture was intended to provide evidence that the region's beaches are back to normal."

But did he secretly fast during the day?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


Obama's mosque duty (Michael Gerson, August 16, 2010, Washington Post)

The federal government has a response to American mosques taken over by advocates of violence. It investigates them, freezes their assets and charges their leaders. It does not urge zoning decisions that express a general discomfort with Islam itself.

Here again, this debate illustrates a gap in perspective. A commentator can speak with obvious sincerity of preventing American hallowed ground from being overshadowed by a mosque. A president not only serves Muslim citizens, not only commands Muslims in the American military, but also leads a coalition that includes Iraqi and Afghan Muslims who risk death each day fighting Islamic radicalism at our side. How could he possibly tell them that their place of worship inherently symbolizes the triumph of terror?

There are many reasons to criticize Obama's late, vacillating response to the Manhattan mosque, and perhaps even to criticize this particular mosque. But those who want a president to assert that any mosque would defile the neighborhood near Ground Zero are asking him to undermine the war on terrorism. A war on Islam would make a war on terrorism impossible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 AM


Lebanon tries to retain Arabic in polyglot culture (ZEINA KARAM, 08/16/2010, AP)

Maya Sabti’s children were born and raised in Lebanon but they speak only broken Arabic and cringe when presented with an Arabic book to read.

“I try to get them interested, but I don’t blame them that they’re not,” said Sabti, whose children are 8 and 10. “Mobile phones, Facebook, movies — all that’s important to them is in English.” [...]

Arabic is believed to be spoken as a first language by more than 280 million people, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa. The classical, written form of the language is shared by all Arabic-speaking countries but spoken dialects differ among countries — and fluency in speaking doesn’t necessarily mean fluency in reading and writing.

While Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, a tiny Arab country of 4 million on the Mediterranean, many Lebanese pride themselves on being fluent in French — a legacy of French colonial rule — and English. Conversations often include a mix of all three, so much so that “Hi kifak, ca va?” — with the English “hi” and the Arabic and French phrases for “how are you?” — has become a typical greeting, even appearing on T-shirts and mugs sold in souvenir shops.

Most schools in Lebanon teach three languages from an early age, and many parents send their children to French- or American-curriculum schools where Arabic comes second or third. It has become very common for young people, particularly when using Facebook and text messages, to write Arabic using Latin characters.

Even politicians are not immune. Last year, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, 40, stumbled through a speech in parliament, having obvious difficulty with the classical Arabic — raising laughter from lawmakers and from the many who watched video of the address posted on YouTube.

The concerns are not unique to Lebanon. Neighboring Syria requires that at least 60 percent of the space on signs for shops, restaurants and cafes should be in Arabic.

But Lebanon is a special case because of its more open society, said Mounira al-Nahed, assistant secretary general of the Beirut-based Arab Thought Foundation.

Lebanon’s sectarian and ethnic diversity have always made it open to foreign influences. Moreover, it has a huge diaspora with an estimated 8 million people of Lebanese descent living in countries as distant as Brazil and Australia — many of whom come regularly to Lebanon for visits and often don’t speak much Arabic.

Al-Nahed blames parents in part for speaking to their children in French or English at home, thinking they will pick up Arabic anyway. But this has had the adverse effect, making Arabic come at a distant third.

“It has reached a stage where you see young people in Lebanon feel it’s a shame to speak Arabic. This is not the case in the Gulf or other Arab countries,” she said.

It will be.

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August 15, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM


India offers talks to end Kashmir violence (Associated Press, 15 August 2010)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Prime minister Manmohan Singh said Kashmir was 'an integral part of India'. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA

India's prime minister has appealed to the people of Indian-controlled Kashmir to end violent protests and said his government was ready to hold talks to resolve their long-standing problems.

"The years of violence should now end. Such violence will not benefit anyone," Manmohan Singh said in a speech marking India's Independence Day. "We are ready to talk to every person or group which abjures violence."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Election 2010: Colorado Governor: Colorado Governor: Hickenlooper (D) 43%, Maes (R) 31%, Tancredo (ACP) 18% (Rasmussen Reports, August 13, 2010)

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Colorado Voters finds Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, with 43% support. Businessman Dan Maes, the winner of Tuesday’s Republican Primary, captures 31% of the vote, while American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo trails with 18%.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


My Kind of Technocracy (JAMES WARREN, 8/14/10, NY Times)

The old Chicago was largely the handiwork of Mr. Rostenkowski’s political patron, the iconic Mayor Richard J. Daley. Daley’s legacy is largely concrete-filled, including the grimly austere University of Illinois at Chicago, the big expressways, O’Hare International Airport, scores of well-intentioned but now-discarded public housing projects and the Loop’s inspiring skyscrapers.

From his perch on the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Rostenkowski fed the steel and concrete beast with federal largess. Long past his patron’s death in 1976, he kept the booty coming, via dollars and tax breaks. You can point to the stadium where the White Sox play, a second airport, the mile-long Navy Pier, subways, trains and far more — and find the hand of a truly effective power broker.

Coincidentally, much of the transformation of the city followed Mr. Rostenkowski’s departure from public office after a 1994 criminal indictment and an election defeat. Under his patron’s son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, the city began replacing a dying industrial economy with one built on information. Its exchanges now trade in foreign currencies, insurance risks and other complex uncertainties, not just soybeans, wheat and corn. Not even most Chicagoans understand the vivid symbolism of how the Sears Tower is now the Willis Tower, while the Standard Oil Building, the city’s fourth tallest, is Aon Center. Aon and Willis are the world’s largest and third-largest reinsurers.

THERE remains too much grinding poverty, too much violence and too many pols like Rod R. Blagojevich, the impeached former governor of Illinois. Still, the state has less public corruption than Florida, at least according to the Justice Department. And Saskia Sassen of Columbia University, an expert in the rise of so-called global cities, ranks Chicago as the fifth most important one economically, after New York, London, Tokyo and Singapore.

As someone who has lived here since the late 1970s, I find it pretty easy to see the change. All you have to do is walk through Millennium Park, a 24.5-acre downtown space mixing sculpture, architecture (Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry) and a video-adorned fountain. It’s by far the most democratic space in what remains the most segregated Northern city.

Or take in the remade lakefront, the Lazarus-like downtown (with more high-rises built since 1998 than exist in total in Detroit, St. Louis or Milwaukee), the revival of community through a vast expansion of public libraries.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


Spoilt Rotten! by Theodore Dalrymple: review: In Spoilt Rotten! Theodore Dalrymple suggests that the all-too-ready expression of feeling has led to an ailing society (Noel Malcolm, 8/15/10, Daily Telegraph)

Now retired from his prison work, Dr Dalrymple has turned to the diagnosis of our ailing society at large. In his new book, he argues that sentimentality is the virus that is eating away at modern life. It destroys the sense of responsibility; it undermines human relationships; and it has a close affinity with aggression and violence.

Those who think of sentimentality in terms of Valentine’s Day cards or three-hankie movies may find this a little surprising. How is sentimentality connected with, for example, what Dalrymple calls 'the general drunken and drug-fuelled sauve qui peut in the centres of British towns every Friday and Saturday night’?

The answer lies, he says, in the Romantic idea that feelings must be expressed, and that passions and desires are innocent – which means that they deserve instant gratification. Tact, consideration, self-control and fortitude are cast aside: they indicate 'repression’, which is bad for you. Good manners are thus reduced to an undesirable psychological condition. But the cult of feeling can have more dramatic consequences than that. As Dalrymple notes, the lynch-law of the media now dictates that anyone who fails to show sufficient feeling in public (the Queen after Diana’s death, Kate McCann after the disappearance of her daughter Madeleine) will be denounced and denigrated.

This is what makes sentimentality so much worse than a mere windy emotionalism: at its core is a special kind of self-righteousness. You do not just have a feeling, whatever it may be (caring passionately about 'kiddies’, for example, even if the children in question are completely unknown to you); you have a warm glow of superiority in expressing that feeling and hence a righteous hatred of those who do not show it too. 'There is’, Dalrymple observes, 'always something coercive or bullying about public displays of sentimentality.’

You shouldn't have to be a WASP to appreciate the value of repressing feelings in the public sphere.

Name Your Link

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


The faith that underpins science (New Scientist, 8/09/10)

Albert Einstein once asked, does the moon exist when no one is looking at it? Such questions had been the preserve of philosophers, but with the discovery of quantum mechanics in the 1920s they became legitimate queries for physicists, too.

Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, did not believe that science grants us access to an objective reality and insisted that the task of physics was not to find out "how nature is" but only "what we can say about nature". Einstein, on the other hand, maintained an unshakeable belief in a reality that exists out there. Otherwise, he said, "I simply cannot see what it is that physics is meant to describe".

Einstein based his view of quantum mechanics on his belief in an independent reality - the moon does exist when no one is looking at it. In contrast, Bohr used the theory to construct and underpin his belief that the atomic realm has no independent reality. The two agreed on the equations but disagreed on what they meant.

"Scientists, like everyone else, have beliefs," writes distinguished mathematician E. Brian Davies in Why Beliefs Matter. He is not only referring to religious beliefs but to philosophical ones, too. While religious beliefs can be easy to leave at the laboratory door, philosophical beliefs are much harder to sideline.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


The secret of happiness: Family, friends and your environment: How do you find contentment in an acquisitive society? By changing the things you spend your money on, says a US academic (Rachel Shields, 15 August 2010, Independent)

In a new paper, If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending it Right, Elizabeth Dunn argues that spending money wisely is a sure-fire route to happiness. Dunn lays out eight ways to use money to make you happy: buy

experiences instead of things; lots of small treats instead of a few big ones; give money to others; pay now and consume later; think about the negatives of what you want to buy; don't use price comparison sites as they distract from other attributes a product has; follow other people when choosing what to buy, as they are a better predictor of how happy a purchase will make us than our own judgement.

"The situation hopefully encourages people to focus on the key things in life which, the research says – and, to a large extent, they intuitively know – really make them happy: relationships with family, friends, contact with the natural environment, and so on," said George MacKerron, a researcher at the London School of Economics who specialises in well-being. "On the other hand, I think there's a slight risk that those who were sceptical in the first place start decrying well-being/happiness research as somehow unserious or childish in the face of the 'important business' of growing GDP and creating jobs."

The evidence, however, suggests the subject is being taken ever more seriously. Liverpool declared 2010 its year of "health and well-being". Next January, meanwhile, the "Movement for Happiness", which aims to increase happiness and decrease misery, will be launched by no lesser mortals than Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington School, Lord Layard, dubbed the Government's "Happiness Tsar", and Geoff Mulgan, a former Downing Street policy head.

The idea that happiness lies not in flashing the cash, but in modest living and giving something back to society has also been identified as an emerging trend by The Boston Consulting Group, management consultants, in a recent report entitled New World Order. An increased desire to connect with a community is also part of the new movement, with growing numbers keen to join clubs and churches, or get involved in volunteer work. These activities are thought to offer a stable network which in turn promotes happiness. The charity Community Service Volunteers has reported a rise in all types of volunteering: the number of people mentoring young people in care doubled from 2007 to 2009, while the number of people taking part in environmental volunteering through the charity rose from 17,195 in 2008 to 20,333 in 2009.

However, while people may be keen to give their time to charity they are less keen to part with their cash. Charitable giving declined in the recession, from £10.6bn in 2007-08 to £9.9bn in 2008-09. However, a recent report from Merrill Lynch Capgemini's World Wealth Report showed that 41 per cent of Europeans planned to increase their charitable giving in 2010.

Increased interest in caring for the environment and spending more time outside are also an important part of the "new happiness".

"As a society, we hugely underplay the importance of natural environments on happiness. Not just the awe at a beautiful view, but the de-stressing effects," said Jody Aked, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation's Centre for Well-being.

In an attempt to better understand how people's feelings are affected by their immediate environment researchers from the London School of Economics will tomorrow launch a "mappiness" project, which aims to track British happiness. Using a free iPhone app, researchers will ask users how they feel at regular intervals, using GPS to pinpoint their location.

Although experts in the new science seem unified on the subject of what can help boost happiness – spending more time with friends and family, in pleasant natural environments, for example – some believe this change has yet to hit Britain.

...The Country would be growing, not The City.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Dale Warland's Transcendent Choral Sound (Brian Newhouse, NPR: Classics in Concert)

Dale Warland, the conductor of this concert, was raised on an Iowa farm, and one of his earliest memories is of a train whistle wafting over the cornfields late at night. Even as a boy, he remembers thinking how beautiful that three-note chord was. [...]

"My goal is to have the audience leave the hall having heard something of beauty," Warland says. "There's nothing more powerful than sheer beauty."

Warland shut down the Singers in 2004 to devote more time to his children and grandchildren, but he's still busy composing and guest-conducting, spreading that gospel of beauty. That led him to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's podium and these two gorgeous 20th-century choral/orchestral pieces.

I can see why Warland begins the concert with Arvo Pärt's Te Deum (from 1985). If Warland's ear still holds the memory of that Iowa train whistle, Pärt's music is built on that exact same simplicity. Pärt called his technique "tintinabulli," Latin for "little bells." For Pärt, this means the fleeting beauty of sound shortly after bells have been struck — just like that fading train whistle in the Iowa night.

It pairs perfectly with Maurice Duruflé's Requiem. He wrote it in 1947 when much of Europe lay in ashes. I love this piece for how audacious it was in its time. Duruflé had the courage to write something not avant-garde. He used ancient chants and simple major and minor chords. His Requiem wooed the weary into love affairs with beautiful music, and it still does today.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Rule of Law: The Great Foundation of Our Constitution (Matthew Spalding, 08/11/10, First Principles)

A principle that itself is quite old and long predates the United States, the rule of law is the general concept that government as well as the governed are subject to the law and that all are to be equally protected by the law. Its roots can be found in classical antiquity. The vast difference between the rule of law as opposed to that of individual rulers and tyrants is a central theme in the writings of political philosophers from the beginning. In the works of Plato and as developed in Aristotle’s writings, it implies obedience to positive law as well as rudimentary checks on rulers and magistrates.

In Anglo-American history, the idea was expressed in Magna Carta in 1215. In its famous thirty-ninth clause, King John of England promised to his barons that “No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, disseized, outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will he proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and the Law of the Land.” The idea that the law is superior to human rulers is the cornerstone of English constitutional thought as it developed over the centuries. It can be found elaborated in the great seventeenth-century authorities on British law, Henry de Bracton, Edward Coke, and William Blackstone. The ultimate outcome of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England was permanently to establish that the king was subject to the law. [...]

Over time, the rule of law had come to be associated with four key components. First, the rule of law means a formal, regular process of law enforcement and adjudication. What we really mean by “a government of laws, not of men” is the rule of men bound by law, not subject to the arbitrary will of others. The rule of law means general rules of law that bind all people and are promulgated and enforced by a system of courts and law enforcement, not by mere discretionary authority. In order to secure equal rights to all citizens, government must apply law fairly and equally through this legal process. Notice, hearings, indictment, trial by jury, legal counsel, the right against self-incrimination—these are all part of a fair and equitable “due process of law” that provides regular procedural protections and safeguards against abuse by government authority. Among the complaints lodged against the king in the Declaration of Independence was that he had “obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers,” and was “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.”

Second, the rule of law means that these rules are binding on rulers and the ruled alike. If the American people, Madison wrote in Federalist 57, “shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.” As all are subject to the law, so all—government and citizens, indeed all persons—are equal before the law, and equally subject to the legal system and its decisions. No one is above the law in respect to enforcement; no one is privileged to ignore the law, just as no one is outside the law in terms of its protection. As the phrase goes, all are presumed innocent until proven guilty. We see this equal application of equal laws reflected in the Constitution’s references to “citizens” and “persons” rather than race, class, or some other group distinction, as in the Fifth Amendment’s language that “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It appears again in the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee that “No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The rights of all are dependent on the rights of each being defended and protected. In this sense, the rule of law is an expression of—indeed, is a requirement of—the idea of each person possessing equal rights by nature.

....insofar as it lives under its own laws."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Bad Lies: Why most golf statistics whiff and how to fix them. (Michael Agger, Aug. 12, 2010, Slate)

The pros are aware of the holes in the standard stats. When I talked to players at the AT&T National, the stat that came most under fire was greens in regulation. GIR presumes to measure the accuracy of a golfer's iron play—reaching a green in regulation means landing the ball on the green in three strokes on a par 5, two strokes on a par 4, and one stroke on a par 3. Michael Letzig, a lanky, affable pro from Missouri, recalled a shot that he hit on a long par 3 that landed five feet away from the hole—except the ball was on the fringe. That counts as a missed green. If you go by GIR, Letzig's shot was worse than one that landed on the putting surface, 100 feet from the cup.

Mark Broadie, a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Columbia and an avid golfer, understood the fundamental problem with golf statistics: They don't factor in distance and location. Professor Broadie spends most of his time studying the financial markets. He knew that he could take the same mathematical tools that he uses to value an unusual security and apply them to golf. But first he needed the data. Around 10 years ago, he started keeping track of the rounds that he played with his friends and colleagues. He didn't just record standard stats such as his total number of putts and the number of fairways he hit. He created something that, with the PGA Tour's ShotLink not yet in existence, nobody had thought to construct: a database that allowed him to enter the precise coordinates of every shot that he and his golf buddies struck.

Broadie's collection has since grown to include more than 65,000 shots from golfers as young as 8 and as old as their 70s, with rounds as low as 61 and as high as 150. Thanks to his golf shot database, Broadie was able to do away with the old-fashioned, simplistic stats we hear about on TV and figure out how the game is truly played. Just as baseball's statistical pioneers overthrew the tyranny of ERA and RBI by developing more meaningful metrics, Broadie saved golf from GIR with a concept called "shot value."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Pragmatic Abbott embraces mentor's philosophies (Paul Kelly, 8/11/10, The Australian)

The agenda Abbott advanced in Sunday's policy speech was a shock to many Tony believers and testifies to his sheer pragmatism in ambition. He has ditched his enshrined goal of more industrial relations reform. He is keeping Ken Henry as Treasury secretary and praises his ability. He wants a 12-month process to draft a tax reform agenda based on Henry's report. He offers an extravagant parental leave scheme for working women but still no new scheme for stay-at-home mothers.

The first foreign leader he will contact is not President Obama but the president of Nauru. The first nation this champion of the Anglosphere will visit is Indonesia. Abbott was once seen as a big spender but his priority now is discharging the debt, not new grand plans. Long a critic of state governments, he shuns any centralisation agenda. And he offers no changes on divorce or abortion for his old friends.

All such positions, again, are easily understood -- they fit into an Abbott agenda for office, as distinct from book writing, media interviews, confessional ruminations, ideological posturing and rank self-indulgence, all activities at which Abbott has excelled.

According to Peter Costello the young Abbott saw himself as a Don Quixote figure, "ready to take on lost causes and fight for great principles", with a penchant for "grandiose plans for public expenditure". But Abbott's 2010 agenda is devoid of either romance or great principles.

His policy agenda for office is Liberal orthodox, geared to an era of fiscal restraint and bears the stamp of his absolute mentor, John Howard.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


AP-GfK Poll: Independent voters sour on Democrats (ALAN FRAM, 08/15/2010, AP)

Only 32 percent of those citing no allegiance to either major party say they want Democrats to keep control of Congress in this November’s elections, according to combined results of recent Associated Press-GfK polls. That’s way down from the 52 percent of independents who backed Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain two years ago, and the 49 percent to 41 percent edge by which they preferred Democratic candidates for the House in that election, according to exit polls of voters.

Independents voice especially strong concerns about the economy, with 9 in 10 calling it a top problem and no other issue coming close, the analysis of the AP-GfK polls shows. [...]

Ominously for Democrats, independents trust Republicans more on the economy by a modest but telling 42 percent to 36 percent. That’s bad news for the party that controls the White House and Congress at a time of near 10 percent unemployment and the slow economic recovery.

...though it should only apply to the employee share.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Born in the USA, but not an American? (Jeff Jacoby, August 15, 2010, Boston Globe)

The specter of America being “overrun’’ by undesirable immigrants is a classic bugbear, nearly as old as America itself. And Boehner & Co. are hardly the first members of Congress to fret about the supposed perils from the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to anyone born on US soil. During the congressional debates on the amendment in 1866, Senator Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania feared that automatic citizenship at birth would undermine a state’s ability to defend itself “if it were overrun’’ — that word again — by immigrants of “another and a different race.’’

For example, Cowan demanded, “is it proposed that the people of California are to remain quiescent while they are overrun by a flood of immigration of the Mongol race? Are they to be immigrated out of house and home by Chinese? . . . If another people of a different race, of different religion, of different manners, of different traditions, different tastes and sympathies are to come there and have the free right to locate there and settle among them, and if they have an opportunity of pouring in such an immigration as in a short time will double or treble the population of California, I ask, are the people of California powerless to protect themselves?’’

Change “California’’ to “Arizona’’ and “Chinese’’ to “Hispanic,’’ and you might think you were listening to 21st-century immigration alarmists fulminating about “anchor babies’’ or the “invasion’’ of illegal immigrants across the southern border. For good measure, Cowan also denounced the “Gypsies’’ immigrating into the Pennsylvania of his day — a “pestiferous’’ people, he called them, “who pay no taxes; who never perform military service; who .. . . infest society.’’ The players change in the immigration wars, but the rhetoric remains the same.

Of course the 14th Amendment isn’t going to be amended, as Boehner, Graham, and the others know perfectly well, and it is hard to interpret their embrace of the idea as anything but political posturing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


On education policy, Obama is like Bush (Dana Milbank, August 15, 2010, Washington Post)

The Education Department kicked off its first ever "Bullying Summit" this week with a speech by Secretary Arne Duncan about the need "to break the cycle of bullying."

But if Duncan really wants to stop the biggest bully in America's schools right now, he'll have to confront his boss, President Obama. In federal education policy, the president and his education secretary have been the neighborhood toughs -- bullying teachers, civil rights groups, even Obama's revered community organizers.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, in now-famous remarks, said that those who claim Obama is like George W. Bush should be "drug tested." In general, I have sympathy for Gibbs's frustration --liberals have an annoying tendency to eat their own -- and I often think Obama should be more forceful. But in education, the Bush-Obama comparison is spot on. If anything, Obama has taken the worst aspect of Bush's No Child Left Behind education law -- an obsession with testing -- and amplified it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


In sign of calm, Israel removes gunfire barrier (AP, 8/15/10)

The Israeli military says it is removing a concrete barrier erected nine years ago to protect a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem from Palestinian gunfire. [...]

The wall was erected in 2001, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian violence. It was meant to protect Gilo residents from Palestinian militants firing from a nearby West Bank village.

An Israeli military statement Sunday said the wall was removed because of “a reduced security threat” and increased cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Turkey: patriarch holds historic Mass (AP, 8/15/10)

Orthodox Christians are holding a rare Mass at an ancient monastery in Turkey after the government allowed worship there once a year in a gradual loosening of restrictions on religious expression.

Sunday’s service at the Byzantine-era monastery of Sumela near the Black Sea is being led by Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians. Pilgrims from Greece, Russia and other countries traveled to the monastery, which is built into the side of a mountain.

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August 14, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 PM


Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents (SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI and ROBERT F. WORTH, 8/14/10, NY Times)

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

So when arrests are made on other continents--Asia and North America--are they not part of the campaign?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Indefensible borders (PAUL GROSS , 08/15/2010, Jerusalem Post)

Listen the next time an Israeli leader holds a press conference with an American official. It is guaranteed that he will stress the shared democratic values of the two countries. Similarly, at an AJC conference or any large gathering of American Jews, the visiting Israeli VIP will talk about the love of democracy and liberty that unites Israel and the US.

LET US be clear. Israel is a democracy. With free elections, a free, (hyper-) critical press, and frequent public dissent. But there is no getting away from the fact that a democratic state cannot permanently rule over another people who are denied the basic rights of citizenship.

It can’t be spun and it can’t be brushed under the carpet.

Yes, Netanyahu has said he supports two states for two peoples. And he has talked euphemistically about being willing to make “painful concessions,” but the freeze on building in settlements ends in September, and the signs are that it will not be continued.

If he renews construction in the settlements beyond the blocs, the very existence of which would make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible, the occupation which threatens the Zionist dream of a Jewish democratic state will just become further entrenched.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


In a Place Once Shattered, Serenity (John Kelly, September 11, 2006, Washington Post)

A little before 1400 hours on Friday, Faisal Rana and Umar Abdul Wahhab prepared the Pentagon chapel for worship.

Fridays are always busy at the chapel, on the Pentagon's first level, E-ring, fourth corridor, about where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building that awful morning five years ago. The chapel hums all week, but settle into one of the seats on Friday and you'll get a survey course in the great religions. There's a Catholic Mass at 11:30, a Jewish service at 12:30 and an Islamic service at 2.

The pulpit was moved from one side of the chapel to the other so worshipers could face Mecca, the position of which was determined with military precision after the chapel opened in 2002. The altar was lifted and carried over against a wall, and two large green Persian rugs were unfolded on the floor.

Faisal spread out some handwritten notes on the pulpit. A retired Marine from Burke who now is a contractor at the Justice Department, he would be delivering the day's khutba , or sermon. The topic he'd picked: "The Purpose of Our Existence."

Men began to come in. Most were in civilian clothes, shoeless now, their hard plastic photo IDs hanging from around their necks. There was a sailor. And a soldier in desert camouflage -- 13 men in all. The soldier unlaced his tan boots, slipped them off and padded onto the green carpet.

Umar, an Air Force veteran who's now a civilian Defense Department employee in Crystal City, gave the call to prayer in a strong tenor voice. Then Faisal started talking. Allah, he said, created humans only to worship. "That is the whole reason for existence in the world," he said.

The chaplains who serve the Pentagon have always wanted a chapel. It took Sept. 11, 2001 -- and the approval of the president -- to finally get one, said the Pentagon chaplain, Col. William Broome , a former Vietnam helicopter pilot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:36 PM


Pool Reports: Obama Expands on Mosque Defense (August 14, 2010, Pool Report #5)

Asked about his mosque comments by reporters as he left after his remarks, POTUS said:

"In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about."

In other words: "We don't have to like sharing water fountains with them but they're legally entitled to use them."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


In sign of respect to Islam, pope prays in Istanbul's Blue Mosque (John Thavis, 11/30/2006, Catholic News Service)

Pope Benedict XVI prays with Mustafa Cagrici, the grand mufti of Istanbul, as he visits the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 30. The pope's visit marked only the second time a pontiff has entered a mosque.

As the pope walked with Mustafa Cagrici, the grand mufti of Istanbul, to the "mihrab" niche that points the way toward Mecca, the mufti said he was going to pray.

The pope stood alongside him, bowed his head and moved his lips in silence for about a minute.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


INTERVIEW – NY imam plans a “Muslim Y,” not a “Ground Zero mosque” (Reuters, Jul 22, 2010)

When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decided to build a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, the model he chose couldn’t have been more mainstream American — the Young Men’s Christian Association chapters found in cities across the United States.

The institution he had in mind was the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish adaptation of the YMCA concept that is one of New York’s leading addresses for residents of all religions or none to visit for public lectures, debates, concerts or educational courses.[...]

“We repeatedly say we are neither a mosque nor within Ground Zero, but they just shout back ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ ‘Ground Zero mosque,’” Rauf, 61, told Reuters in an interview. The planned building will have a prayer room for Muslims, he said, but it would only be a small part of the 13-story complex.

Rauf said the YMCA, which began in London in 1844 as Christian centre for young working men and quickly spread to the United States and other countries, had long worked to promote understanding across religious, ethnic and social dividing lines in modern societies. Now called simply “the Y,” its facilities across the United States offer exercise classes, education and community activities.

“We are trying to establish something that follows the YMCA concept but is not a church or a synagogue or, in this case, a mosque,” he said by telephone from Kuala Lumpur, where he is visiting. “We are taking that concept and adapting it to our time and the fact that we’re Muslims. It’s basically a Muslim Y.”

It's way too late to talk sense to the raging Right, but it continues to be worthwhile noting how much more American Mr. Rauf is than the opponents of the project. Somewhere, Avraham Zelmanowitz is ashamed of how his fellow citizens are behaving.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Free admission: National Park Service waives fees this weekend (Judy Nichols Douglass, August 14, 2010, CS Monitor)

Attention bargain hunters: Now is your big chance to go to a national park for free.

On Saturday and Sunday, the National Park Service will waive entrance fees at 146 national-park sites that normally charge $3 to $25 for admission. (Another 246 national parks, landmarks, and historic sites are always free.)

Meet you at Saint-Gaudens?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Berlin artists create a buzz with "original fakes" (Deutsche Welle, 8/14/10)

Posin Art Salon, a small gallery located in the Berlin district of Neukoelln, is the studio of Evgeni, Michail and Semyon Posin - three Russian brothers who paint copies of iconic masterpieces.

Their works are so perfect that they've sparked awe among art critics and museum directors.

The "original fakes" are not cheap, each one selling for tens of thousands of euros. Only artists who have been dead for over 70 years are allowed to be copied legally, so the brothers re-paint works of the most prominent European painters from before the turn of the 19th century.

The brothers' skills have impressed experts like Christoph Stoelzl, a German art critic and former museum director, who says their copies of Impressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's paintings could pass for originals.

In what sense is a passable copy of a masterpiece not itself a masterpiece?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


RevelationLee Scratch Perry
"Psalm" (mp3)
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


‘Welfare robots’ to ease burden in greying Japan (AFP, July 30, 2010)

Robotic wheelchairs, mechanical arms and humanoid waiters are among the cutting-edge inventions on show at a robotics fair in Japan, a country whose population is ageing rapidly.

To ease the burden in a nation with one of the world’s highest life expectancies, engineers have come up with technologies to make life easier for the elderly and disabled, and their caregivers. [...]

Another invention from Saitama University, still in the development phase, is a robot that is being designed to serve its human masters and predict their wishes by literally reading their faces.

With its female appearance and dressed, manga-cartoon-style, in a French maid uniform, the humanoid on display at the fair can move about with the help of a Segway people mover hidden under its full-length skirt.

Sensors and software inside the machine are designed to detect when a human being is looking at it and to respond by, for example, bringing the person a drink, said Kobayashi, adding that the robot-maid could one day work in homes for the elderly and restaurants.

Learning about the complexities of human behaviour will be a challenge, said Kobayashi, adding: “Humanoids need to learn how they should behave so as not to leave one particular person in a group unattended.”

Close friend, family relationships boost survival (Randy Dotinga, 8/03/10, USA Today: HealthDay
Family and friends may do more than provide companionship: They also may boost your longevity, making as much of a difference as not smoking, a new analysis of studies suggests.

Researchers combined the results of 148 studies and estimated that people with strong personal relationships are 50% more likely than others to survive over a specific period of time.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


A GOP Blunder on Immigration (Mark McKinnon, 8/13/10, Daily Beast)

Republicans freed the slaves. Congressional Republicans passed the 13th Amendment despite nearly unanimous opposition by Democrats. And, Republicans granted citizenship to freed slaves and their children in the 14th Amendment, against the total resistance of congressional Democrats.

We were the party that welcomed people to America. Now some are sending the signal, "You're not wanted here. Go home."

Two recent Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, embraced immigrants. Reagan granted amnesty to nearly 3 million. And Bush promoted comprehensive legislation creating pathways to citizenship for immigrants already in this country. His message: “Immigration is not a problem to be solved, it is the sign of a successful nation.” It was this kind of compassionate conservatism that drew me to join the ranks of the GOP 15 years ago.

Republicans are now throwing that heritage of liberty out the door to score cheap political points. I'd like to give my friends the benefit of the doubt and believe their motives are pure, but that's hard to do when it's a practical impossibility that the 14th Amendment can be changed.'s only such racial blunders that are keeping the two party system strong. If the GOP followed its own ideals--as exemplified by the Gipper and W--it would completely dominate the political scene.

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina: No 14th Amendment repeal (ANDY BARR | 8/13/10, Politico)

California GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have both come out against a repeal of the 14th Amendment, joining a growing chorus of GOP voices denouncing the idea of removing birthright citizenship from the Constitution. [...]

The California Republican hopefuls have both ramped up recent efforts to appeal to the state’s huge number of Latino voters. Their opposition comes on the heels of a similar announcement from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is trying to temper a push to strip birthright citizenship from the 14th Amendment.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Obama stands up for Ground Zero mosque (ABBY PHILLIP & MAGGIE HABERMAN, 8/13/10, Politico)

President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed a controversial plan to build a mosque and Islamic center just blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, despite the strong objections of conservatives, the ADL and those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.“Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” Obama said at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. “But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”Having steered clear of the controversy for weeks, Obama took on opposition to the mosque directly — a move that many other Democratic lawmakers had been hesitant to do in the face of highly emotional appeals against its construction.

Bush aide backs Obama on mosque (Ben Smith, 8/13/10, Politico)
President Obama's defense of Muslims' right to build a mosque near Ground Zero was a sharp rebuke to most of the contemporary Republican Party, but it was very much in line with the tone of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who had waged his own internal party wars over his insistence that Islam is a "religion of peace."[...]

"An enormously complex and emotional issue -- but ultimately the right thing to do," [former senior Bush aide, chief speechwriter Michael] Gerson said. "A president is president for every citizen, including every Muslim citizen. Obama is correct that the way to marginalize radicalism is to respect the best traditions of Islam and protect the religious liberty of Muslim Americans. It is radicals who imagine an American war on Islam. But our conflict is with the radicals alone."

...and to base the case only on rights is little different than opposing it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


The dangerous rows behind the scenes are between Tories and Tories (James Forsyth, 14 August 2010, The Spectator)

Coalition politics has thrown political journalists for a loop. For years we have been used to members of government claiming that there is not a cigarette paper of difference between them and their colleagues — even when the disagreements were obvious. But now Cabinet ministers happily admit that they differ. And when they disagree, the coalition partners set about resolving their differences in a civil and reasonable fashion. The lobby journalist’s bread and butter — the splits story — is in danger of disappearing.

But the old politics is not dead. There are still vicious rows going on in government, but they are blue on blue: Tory versus Tory.

This is not as odd as it might seem. The Tories and Liberal Democrats expect to disagree. No one feels betrayed when they find out that someone from another party has a different view. Vince Cable and David Willetts know that they are not of one mind on the question of how to fund higher education. But this knowledge actually liberates them; it makes it much easier for them to sit down and try to work out a mutually acceptable compromise. It is, though, quite another matter when someone who you feel should agree with you doesn’t. As one Cabinet minister puts it, ‘the emotional baggage and tension is all with your own side.’

It is the sniping from the folks on your own side, who can't accept governing in the Third Way, that takes its toll on the leadership. With the exception of SS Reform, W had an a fairly easy time getting what he wanted from Democrats. It was the Right that brought him down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


A pound for a pound: Could financial incentives that encourage fat people to lose weight solve the obesity crisis? (Liz Hollis, 21st July 2010, The Prospect)

Academics have a new term for our fat-inducing society, with its vast portions and a push-button culture: “obesogenic.” Eight out of ten British men and seven out of ten women will be obese by 2020, according to a recent National Heart Forum report led by Klim McPherson at Oxford University. And the toll on public finances is growing in line with our girth: in England, obesity costs an estimated £4.2bn a year, or about 5 per cent of the English NHS budget. Some £2.3bn of this goes on treating obesity itself, the remainder is the cost of associated diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and colorectal cancer. That figure will rise to £6.3bn by 2015 if no “effective action” is taken.

Decades of health information campaigns have failed to avert the crisis. Bariatric surgery (such as gastric bands), is the most effective long-term treatment, but it’s risky and expensive, costing over £5,000 per patient. Now, a controversial new strategy has arrived: paying fat people to lose weight. Such schemes are already well established in the US, and the first British trial has just finished in Kent.

“Nothing to date has been effective, so suddenly this idea is coming to prominence—in parallel with the rise of behavioural economics and the notion of incentivising people with money,” says Theresa Marteau of King’s College London, a leading authority on financial incentives and health.

...then they have an obvious interest in trimming us down.

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August 13, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM

Murder By Death In Concert (XPN, 8/13/10)

[T]he band's dark, Gothic aesthetic and prominent cello lines complicate its raucous sound. Formed in 2000 in Bloomington, Ind., the group specializes in whiskey-inspired, "no depression" country songwriting. Lyrical themes touch on all sorts of haunting, ghastly material, from zombies to the Devil. This year's Good Morning, Magpie is the band's fifth full-length. It's a ballad-heavy affair, with dark and suspenseful narratives.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Ground Zero Mosque Founder: ‘We Want to Repair the Breach’ (Tamer El-Ghobashy, 8/02/10, The Wall Street Journal)

As The Journal reported, backers of the project now plan to include a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in bid to allay the concerns of critics who see the mosque’s location as insensitive.

Metropolis sat down with Daisy Khan, one of the founders of Park51, as the Islamic center will be known, to discuss the heated backlash to the project. During the interview, Khan described her vision for the center as an open and inclusive place for Muslims to gather for arts programs, social events, fitness and education.

She also emphasized that the center will be open for interfaith programs and insisted that it will “repair the breach” caused by the terrorist attacks. The center, she says, will try to make inroads through food: “We will cater to the lunch crowd — a religion becomes accepted in any country once it’s food is accepted.”

Here are selected excerpts from the interview.

Metropolis: What is the ultimate goal of this community center?

Daisy Khan: To create a deep tolerance in intra-faith affairs. It’s a place for Muslims to come together in a place where divisions would gradually peel away and a new vision of Islam that is culturally American would emerge.

Metropolis: You have been in the Lower Manhattan community for nearly three decades with Masjid Al-Farah without controversy. How do you explain the opposition to Park51?

Khan: No one should be asked to leave their neighborhood. This is our neighborhood and we’ve been part of it for 27 years. Our opponents are not from this neighborhood…We were shut down for four weeks after 9/11. The sad part was that we felt victimized like everyone else in New York because it was our city that was attacked but we were never given permission to mourn.

We’ve decided to own the tragedy of 9/11 and we’ve heard and felt [the families of the 9/11 victims] pain and we’re extending ourselves. We want to repair the breach and be at the front and center to start the healing. A world full of hatred and suspicion and ignorance is not going to serve anyone’s interest.

...imagine the evil genius required to see how putting a community center, run by Muslims who've denounced you and who work towards interfaith tolerance, within just blocks of the site of your greatest defeat -- the one that led to your own death, no less -- will serve your own ends?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Obama: Fighting the Yuppie Factor: From the price of arugula to vacations in Marbella, the Obamas are the perfect yuppie couple. (Victor Davis Hanson, 8/13/10, National Review)

During the campaign, numerous critics highlighted what we can legitimately call Obama’s yuppie problem — especially after the good times ended with the September 2008 meltdown, and a frazzled public wanted a president who would symbolically appreciate their ordeal. Instead, Obama wondered out loud about the price of arugula. He could not bowl a lick (but foolishly tried), and he scoffed at the gun-owning, white churchgoers of rural Pennsylvania as hopeless clingers, just the sort you would not want to meet at a Bill Ayers book-signing party in Hyde Park.

Michelle Obama, for her part, seemed incapable of giving an impromptu speech without the characteristic yuppie whining. Those damn student loans. And sky-high piano lessons to boot — not to mention the cost of the right camp and private-school tuition! How is a family of four to survive these days?

Oblivious to her privilege and perks, Michelle lectured working-class America that she felt their pain in such a “downright mean country.” Y­­ou see, each time the Obamas got raises, a cruel America “raised the bar,” and so the two had to pay even more for their incessant upward mobility. Of course, the insular hip urban professional never realizes how ridiculous complaints about the price of arugula or piano lessons sound to most Americans. But to the Obamas, a cruel world was inherently unfair in demanding that the two pay back a $50,000-a-year tab at Harvard Law School.

There was never any thought of choosing a cheaper Penn State rather than Harvard, or skipping Marbella for Galveston. Instead, there is always the unfairness of the fact that Harvard costs so much — or that clueless people can be so silly as to criticize necessary downtime in southern Spain. Professor, legislator, and candidate Barack Obama was never going to climb into his Winnebago and, in the manner of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, drive off to tour rural Midwestern America.

So the Obamas, like all insular yuppies, were oblivious to their choice lot, always assessing their social and financial position in terms of lamentation for what they lacked in comparison to the capriciously better off — never in terms of appreciation for their benefactions in relation to the understandably less blessed 99 percent of Americans.

The media were of no help. So desperate were most reporters and commentators for an Obama presidency (and so insular themselves, as yuppies par excellence) that they naïvely assumed that being half black ipso facto gave one street cred — race alone in some warped sense providing working-class authenticity. After all, how could anyone who mimicked the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s hood cadences be tagged as a yuppie?

Being such a yuppie saved him when the Reverend Wright controversy broke. No one believed he had been listening to or cared much about what was said in that church. We could all accept that he was just there to try and learn how to speak.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Pakistan Fight Stalls for U.S. (JULIAN E. BARNES and SIOBHAN GORMAN, 8/13/10, WSJ)

The U.S. military has stopped lobbying Pakistan to help root out one of the biggest militant threats to coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. officials say, acknowledging that the failure to win better help from Islamabad threatens to damage a linchpin of their Afghan strategy.

Until recently, the U.S. had been pressing Islamabad to launch major operations against the Haqqani network, a militant group connected to al Qaeda that controls a key border region where U.S. defense and intelligence officials believe Osama bin Laden has hidden. [...]

But military officials have decided that pressing Pakistan for help against the group—as much as it is needed—is counterproductive.

U.S. officials believe elements of Pakistan's intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, are continuing to protect the Haqqani network to help it retain influence in Afghanistan once the U.S. military eventually leaves the country. U.S. officials say the support includes housing, intelligence and even strategic planning.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Born in the U.S.A.: The misguided movement to strip birthright citizenship from the Constitution (Damon W. Root | August 11, 2010, Reason)

On March 27, 1866, President Andrew Johnson sent a message to Congress vetoing the landmark civil rights bill it had just passed. Among the provisions “which I cannot approve,” Johnson wrote, was the first section, which stated, “All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.”

Not only would this grant of birthright citizenship make citizens out of “the entire race designated as blacks,” Johnson complained, it would also make citizens out of “the Chinese of the Pacific States, Indians subject to taxation, [and] the people called Gipsies.” He wouldn’t sign it.

So the Radical Republicans of the 39th Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 over the president’s veto. As Sen. Lyman Trumbull (R-Ill.) declared from the Senate floor, “the child of an Asiatic is just as much a citizen as the child of a European.” Several months later, those same Republicans introduced legislation that became the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, among other things, declared, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Upon ratification in 1868, the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause specifically overturned the Supreme Court’s notorious 1856 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which held that persons of African descent could never be U.S. citizens. It was a magnificent achievement for the young Republican Party.

Today, birthright citizenship is again under fire, only this time the attacks are coming primarily from the party that first put the guarantee into place.

Bad enough that the attackers are un-Republican, worse, they're un-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


As Ramadan Nears, NYPD Alert for Signs of Anti-Muslim Harassment (Tamer El-Ghobashy, 7/27/10, WSJ)

[Daisy] Khan, an official with the American Society for Muslim Advancement, said she and her husband have received a string of hateful messages and phone calls related to the community center that she said will house a mosque among other facilities.

She said two detectives from the NYPD’s hate crimes task force paid her a visit and assured her that they are monitoring the activity. “They taught me how to handle these hate crimes,” Khan said, still addressing the police commissioner. “They taught us how we should take care of ourselves. Thank you. I applaud you…I know there’s somebody in the Police Department that is concerned.”

Since the controversy over the building erupted, Khan and her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, have been fighting the characterization of the Islamic center as being a mosque at Ground Zero.

“It has gotten publicly positioned as a 13-story mosque,” she said, insisting that it will function primarily as a community center in the mold of the Upper East Side’s 92nd Street Y.

Most of the city’s Democratic elected officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have voiced their support for the center, while Republican gubernatorial candidates Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio have spoken out against it.

Paul Browne, the chief spokesman for the NYPD, said Kelly’s position is “guided” by the democratic process by which the plan for the center received overwhelming approval from the community board. “Nothing has come to Kelly’s attention that would cause him to oppose it,” Browne said.

On Tuesday, police officials said they will step up patrols around the city’s mosques during Ramadan to deter any hate crimes and harassment during the holy month of fasting and reflection.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


Pentagon push to phase out top brass causing much consternation (Craig Whitlock, 8/13/10, Washington Post)

Of all the spending cuts and budget battles the Pentagon is confronting, none is causing more angst than Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's vow to start getting rid of generals and admirals.

By almost any measure, the military is more top-heavy an institution than it has been for decades. Today, there are 40 four-star generals and admirals -- one more than in 1971, during the Vietnam War, even though the number of active-duty troops has shrunk by almost half.

The number of active-duty generals and admirals of all rank, meanwhile, has increased by about 13 percent since 1996.

It is, as Gates puts it, "brass creep."

But the defense secretary's pledge Monday to cut about 5 percent of the brass is nothing short of seismic for many at the Pentagon. The cuts would be the largest in the upper ranks since a similar squeeze at the end of the Cold War, when the collapse of the Soviet Union prompted the military to downsize.

The military is just another bureaucracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


The unlikely revolutionary: David Cameron’s Britain has embarked on the toughest fiscal tightening and most drastic decentralisation of any big, rich country. The stakes are high. So are the risks (The Economist, Aug 12th 2010)

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE’S chronicles of the Anglo-Saxon world did not stop with America. On a tour of Britain, he was taken with its liberal vigour, decentralised government and “spirit of association”. It came as a relief from the stultifying uniformity that he knew at home in France.

Under Gordon Brown Britain arguably became Europe’s truly Napoleonic state, the real home of dirigisme. More of its public spending now comes from central government than in any OECD country bar New Zealand. Its local government is weaker than nearly any comparable country, including France. The state finances and provides most health care. It bossily decrees where schools can be opened, and how they must be run. Then there is the sheer size of the beast: on OECD figures, public spending made up 51% of GDP in 2009, putting Britain into the same league as continental countries that deplore Anglo-Saxon laissez-faire.

It would have been understandable, if not forgivable, had David Cameron ducked a showdown with Leviathan. The Conservative prime minister failed to win May’s general election outright and governs precariously in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Yet as it approaches its 100th day, the government is turning out to be searingly ambitious in taming the state. It wants to cut public spending more steeply than almost anyone expected. And it intends to make sure that whatever state is left is more local, flexible and responsive to the people who pay for it. was inevitable that whoever led the Tories would pick up the Thatcher/Blair baton.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 AM


Barefoot shoes try to outrace the black market (Jennifer Alsever, August 13, 2010,

Six years ago, Robert Fliri, a mountaineer and industrial designer, approached the company with a novel idea. He proposed a lightweight shoe -- essentially a glove for the foot -- that would mimic the experience of going barefoot while protecting the wearer from dirt and abrasions. Fliri believed that his anti-shoes would enhance muscle development in the feet and improve a wearer's range of motion, balance and posture.

Vibram started making Fliri's five-toed shoes in 2006, dubbing the brand Vibram FiveFingers. In 2007, Time magazine named the shoe one of the year's best health inventions. Two years later, Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run, which touts the benefits of barefoot running, became a best-seller. And this year, a study by Harvard evolutionary biologists published in the journal Nature concluded that barefoot runners land on the balls of their feet, rather than on their heels, ultimately creating less joint stress and reducing injuries.

Customers were hooked. The shoes, which sell for $75 to $125, started showing up on runners at elite events such as the Boston Marathon. Revenue for FiveFingers shoes jumped to $11 million last year, up from $430,000 in 2006. This year, the company's shoes -- which include models for running, training, climbing, hiking and trekking -- are on track to generate sales of $50 million. All of this is separate from Vibram's $125 million annual business making soles.

The company now struggles to meet demand for FiveFingers shoes: It expanded from one factory to five this year and tripled the size of its Boston warehouse and office. About 90% of FiveFingers' shoes are sold to American customers.

Some of us used to run barefoot at summer camp (see post above) but that was on a golf course.

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August 12, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


(Un)lucky country: It’s been fun to watch but Australia has gained little from this particular slugfest (The Economist, Aug 12th 2010)

Ms Gillard became Australia’s first woman prime minister in June, after a brisk act of party regicide that did for Kevin Rudd. In office only since 2007, Australia’s first environmentally minded prime minister had fallen from party favour after dropping a promise to bring in an emissions-trading scheme and then picking a damaging fight with mining companies over a supertax on their profits. Ms Gillard promptly agreed to ease the tax. Seeing favourable polls, she opted for a snap election. Nobody really knows how she would govern. Fans call her decisive and disciplined; critics damn her as disloyal and an opportunist. Once a left-winger, she can seem ill at ease grasping for the centre. She used to oppose policies that she now loudly promotes, such as paid parental leave. And she has helped confuse voters by trumpeting Mr Rudd’s stewardship of Australia’s economy, while insisting he had to go as his government was in a “downward spiral”.

....whether to the First Way--as the Tories after Maggie and the GOP after W--or to the Second--as Al Gore and Gordon Brown. It's little wonder Ms Gillard can't get back to the middle way, where the Anglosphere electorate is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


Obama begins move to the middle (KEITH KOFFLER | 8/12/10, Politico)

If Gibbs is purposely picking fights with the left, it’s not too surprising. In fact it’s consistent with the White House effort to position Obama closer to the center — where he traditionally needs to be for a reelection victory in 2012.

That’s where former President Bill Clinton went after the voters threw the congressional Democrats out of power in 1994. He won reelection by a comfortable margin.

Now Obama, excoriated by conservatives as a free spender who wants to socialize medicine and coddle U.S. adversaries, is starting to remake his image in the same fashion.

...Dick Morris is sucking a hooker's toes.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


How The Cheap Revolution Confuses Policymakers (Rich Karlgaard, 08.12.10, Forbes)

The G-forces of change are scrambling the brains of those unfamiliar with Moore's Law and the Cheap Revolution. As one sad example, pundits and politicians argue whether inflation or deflation describes the current economic reality. It should be obvious that both are true! Any product or service shielded from Moore's Law is getting more expensive: education, heath care, minerals dug from the ground, regulated telecom. Any product or service built on Moore's Law is cheaper by the day. [...]

Here are 10 Cheap Revolution rules that might guide us in picking winners and losers:

Consumers rule. Consumer technology is now ahead of most industrial technology, which forces businesses to change their operational practices.

Solid state rules. Hard disk drives will be used for long-term storage. Any information requiring quick access will be stored on silicon.

Interface rules. The friendliest interface will win. It's all moving in the direction of entertainment.

Transparency rules. All those 1990s predictions of middleman destruction turn out to be true. Poor bandwidth only temporarily delayed this inevitability.

Detail rules. Entertainment and sports with little appeal on tiny TVs blossom with large screens and HD. Think soccer and the Tour de France. Similarly, corporate executive dashboards aren't very useful if they only provide top-level information. Drill, baby, drill--down for deeper detail. That's what consumers and executives want.

Smart aggregation rules. Some forms of content will always need human curation.

Dumb aggregation rules. And some forms of content won't. Trick is to figure out where algorithms beat humans and vice versa.

Speed rules. "Newsweeklies" now sell for $1. Mind you, not the product, but the company.

Self-learning rules. We are at the beginning of the Death of Credentials. The ROI for 95% of college educations will be negative.

Self discipline rules. We are on our own. The most important software of all is our internal operating system.

...if the price can only be propped up by rigging the market.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


How to Make a Liberal Foreign Policy: The question of how to use American military power still threatens to split the liberal movement. (Matthew Yglesias, August 12, 2010, American Prospect)

Much of the controversy over the past two decades has centered on the concept of "humanitarian intervention." This was exemplified by 1990s arguments over military intervention in Haiti, Rwanda, and Bosnia and ultimately by the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia to concede Kosovo's de facto independence. In world-historical terms, this war will go down as extremely trivial, but it was a key moment politically. It led, in particular, to the development of a (purportedly) new "liberal hawk" approach to world affairs in which American power would be unleashed to do good all around the world.

In retrospect, there was nothing new about this vision. In its fundamentals, it is identical to the conservative view (albeit at times with different points of rhetorical emphasis) in terms of positing American military primacy and freedom from institutional restraint as key planks of foreign policy. Sensible liberals were able to see the humanitarian ventures of the 1990s as perhaps-praiseworthy things done at a particular time and place without redefining their entire worldview around the idea of serial humanitarian wars. But many intellectuals and political leaders of the Democratic Party ended up following the liberal-hawk line right into the disaster in Iraq.

Post-Iraq soul searching combined with the emergence of a presidential candidate untainted by support for the invasion has bolstered the development of a clearer idea of the liberal goal in international affairs, what the Obama National Security Strategy calls "a rules-based international system that can advance our own interests by serving mutual interests." Several years earlier, the Princeton Project on National Security came up with the more elegant "A World of Liberty Under Law." The idea in either case is that instead of struggling fruitlessly for perpetual dominance of the anarchic international realm, America liberals should strive to tame it by helping build a set of rules and institutions that can accommodate the legitimate interests of all nations.

Rather than try to dominate the anarchical regions and bring good to these parts of the world, the proposed project would seek to tame America and keep us from intervening against anti-democratic governments. It's passing curious that Mr. Yglesias's "liberal foreign policy" is based on accommodating illiberal regimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Two Cheers For American Tolerance: The mosque controversy shows that America manages its hatreds better than any other country. (Shikha Dalmia, 08.12.10, Forbes)

It is possible that the center is really an elaborate ruse for some sinister anti-American agenda--just as it is possible that America's next president could be a Manchurian candidate installed by the Chinese. But to suspect such an agenda in the face of massive evidence to the contrary testifies to just how deep-seated the suspicion against Muslims is in this country.

But this is precisely why it is all the more remarkable that this resentment hasn't boiled over into active persecution--something that would hardly be possible any place else in the world. To be sure, this controversy has triggered a backlash against other proposed mosques in the country, with opponents holding protest rallies with dogs in tow to taunt Muslims who regard dogs as napaak, or impure. And Republicans in some races have turned this controversy into something of a rallying cry to energize their base.

But that's about the worst of it.

On the other hand, to this country's enormous credit, New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously rejected demands that it subvert local zoning ordinances allowing houses of worship in the area "as a right" to scuttle the project. (Mosque opponents had wanted the commission to declare the existing Burlington Coat Factory on the site a landmark so that nothing else could be built there.)

The losers have appealed the decision, although they know they have virtually no chance of prevailing. Yet so far they have resorted not to violence but persuasion to convince the couple to go elsewhere. Even Palin's silly tweets are infused with a sweet civility, asking Muslims to reconsider as a gesture of goodwill toward their fellow Americans.

Her request might be wrong-headed, but can anyone think of another country where a major national figure would resort to gentle cajoling to win over members of a vilified minority?

...afterwards the demagogues can congratulate themselves that it's such a great country they're forced to lose (somewhat) gracefully.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:04 PM


City Police No Longer Enforcing Immigration Laws (Andy Sheehan, 8/11/10, KDKA)

[P]ittsburgh police say a person's immigration status is no longer their business.

"We want to make sure that we're not terrifying that individual or stepping across that fine line of racial profiling," Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said.

Harper recently issued new guidelines to his officers to no longer check the immigration status of a person and to leave enforcement of immigration laws to federal officers. Harper says police need good relations with the immigrant community and should not be feared.

"It's very important that have communication – a very well-built bridge to all neighborhoods throughout the City of Pittsburgh, " he said. "We don't want to have to go into any neighborhood and not be able to communicate."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM


Hope at Ground Zero: America and Muslims have an opportunity to repair frayed relations and build bridges for the future (Aijaz Zaka Syed, 8/12/10, Al-Ahram Weekly)

[T]he Manhattan mosque initiative has subjected both America and Muslims to an unprecedented test. It not just tests America's claim to be the "land of the free" but also the much-celebrated ideals of its founding fathers. It tests its fabled democracy and freedom and its claim to be a land where everyone is welcome and has the right to do his or her own thing.

By giving the go-ahead for the mosque project in Manhattan, close to the site of the 11 September terror attacks, New York and its mayor Michael Bloomberg have already earned the admiration of many Muslims around the world. However, the ongoing campaign against the mosque and indirectly against Muslims is sure to get fiercer and nastier in the days and months to come. The response of the US leadership will be watched closely around the world, especially by Muslims.

On the other hand, Muslims face a situation that refreshes the memories of the 9/11 aftermath. Right now, they need all the survival skills they've got. Already, there's an alarming upsurge in hostility and paranoia in the land that they chose to make their home.

But I see an opportunity in this brewing crisis. Muslims must use this opportunity to clear the cobwebs clouding the image of their faith in the minds of Americans. They have an opportunity to remind and explain to Americans, and the world, that the destruction that struck the Twin Towers does not represent Islam, but peace, compassion and equality do.

In the Manhattan mosque initiative, America and Muslims have an opportunity to repair their long-frayed relations and build bridges for a shared future. The wounds inflicted by the US wars and policies in the Muslim world are deep, but gestures like these could make them less painful.

The Cordoba House project should be a monument to healthier and better Islam-West relations, and for a better world. There's too much at stake in this struggle for America and Islam's soul.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


'Automatic' IRAs to Fill Retirement Gap (Joe Mont, 08/11/10, TheStreet)

The "automatic" IRA may be on the way.

A bill filed by U.S. senators Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) would automatically enroll most U.S. workers in individual retirement accounts if their employers don't sponsor a retirement plan. Half of American workers have no work-based retirement plan, and as many as 42 million Americans would benefit from the bill, Bingaman said in a statement.

The sponsors make their case, in part, by citing the increase in contribution rates commonly credited to automatic enrollment features now used with many 401(k) plans. Automatic IRAs would result in new contributions of about $15 billion a year, the sponsors say. just making the SS we all pay into a 401k.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM


CBS 5 Poll: Fiorina Widens Lead Over Boxer (CBS 5, 8/12/10)

California Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has increased her lead over Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer to five percentage points according to a new CBS 5 KPIX-TV poll released Thursday, which also shows gubernatorial candidates Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman in a dead heat.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


What's wrong with this one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Sephardi Chief Rabbi: Reform Jews are digging their claws into Israel (Haaretz Service, 8/12/10)

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlomo Amar on Thursday criticized Reform Jews whom he said are trying to impose a more liberal lifestyle on Israel.

Rabbi Amar wrote a letter to other Israeli rabbis in honor of the start of the Jewish month of Elul, saying, "We have reached our spiritual low point."

Amar added that he is shocked by the increasing violence, murders and lack of modesty. Above all, Amar said, the biggest problem threatening Israel is assimilation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


speaking of the new Doc Watson bio, we've got an extra copy (and some other books) to give away if you can pick the winner of the PGA Championshiop that starts tomorrow:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


Take Back the Sports Page?: The political wing of the women’s sports movement is in trouble. These activists are accustomed to challenging timid bureaucrats and university administrators. But in taking on TV sports coverage, they are challenging the market itself. (Christina Hoff Sommers, August 12, 2010, The American)

Since 1989, the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California (USC) has published a study of “Gender in Televised Sports” every five years. The latest report has just been released and the Women’s Victim Industrial Complex is reeling from the findings. “Shocking,” says the Women’s Sports Foundation.

According to the report, coverage of women’s professional teams has “nearly evaporated” and a “deepening silence” has enveloped women’s professional soccer, basketball, golf, field hockey, and softball. “Nothing short of stunning” says author Michael Messner, a feminist sociologist at USC. “This is simply intolerable.”

National Public Radio sports commentator Diana Nyad, a celebrated distance swimming champion, was moved to write a special introduction to the latest report: “Women’s athletic skill levels have risen astronomically over the past twenty years ... It is time for television news and highlights shows to keep pace with this revolution.” She describes the neglect of women’s sports as “unfathomable and unacceptable.” [...]

Even women prefer watching male teams. Few women follow the sports pages and ESPN, but many enjoy attending live games—featuring male athletes. According to Sports Business Daily, 31 percent of the NFL’s “avid fans” are women.

Nyad and the USC study authors demand that television cover women’s sports “fairly and equitably,” but the study never once mentions the word “attendance.” Shouldn’t fan interest in the games drive the media stories? Economist Mark Perry, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, looked at the numbers. For the 2009 season, the NBA got 92.3 percent of the total attendance for pro basketball (NBA plus WNBA), while the WNBA got only 7.7 percent of the total attendance (see chart below). But according to the USC study, the WNBA received 22.2 percent of the coverage. Perry’s conclusion: “So women’s pro basketball got a hugely disproportionate share of media coverage. Total attendance at NBA games was 12 times greater than attendance at the WNBA games, but media coverage was only 3.5 times greater for men than for women.”

The WNBA may be the most popular thing among lesbians since Doc Martens, but that's a pretty small demographic.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


George W. Bush makes surprise visit to U.S. troops (Andrew Malcolm, August 11, 2010, LA Times)

Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, made a surprise visit to U.S. troops this afternoon.

They showed up at the USO in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. There they mingled with the returning soldiers, thanked them, chatted and posed for photos as proof of the unexpected encounter for folks back home.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Supply Depends on the Demand for (Often Unseen) Alternatives: Another path from here to there. (Steven Horwitz, 8/12/10, The Freeman)

Imagine an entrepreneur considering making tents out of canvas. The price of canvas will be crucial to his ability to supply those tents. But the price of canvas is in turn determined by the demand for other consumer goods made of canvas. That is, the supply of tents depends on the demand for canvas sneakers, canvas drawing boards, and the like. Should there be a public craze for canvas sneakers, driving up their price, sneaker producers will bid canvas away from alternative uses and increase the quantity of sneakers. The higher price of canvas will in turn will reduce the supply of tents since our entrepreneur will face rising input costs.

Thus supply decisions are ultimately driven by demand for the alternative uses of the inputs. Or to put it in more colloquial terms: If we want people to do more of something we like, we either have to increase the benefit of their doing so or increase the cost of alternatives that use the same inputs. Because all supply is based on the demand for alternative uses of inputs, changing either the costs of one side or the benefits of the other will change the relative value of the two choices in the same direction, generating the same result.

Government (as any single investor would be) is really bad at picking the alternatives, but quite adept at forcing them. Just tax what you don't want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 AM


At the Death Camps, Muslim Leaders Grapple With Jews’ Pain (A.J. Goldmann, August 11, 2010,The Forward)

Krakow, Poland — It was a perfect summer day at the Dachau concentration camp. The clear skies and pleasant breeze seemed almost offensive. And there, beneath the main monument, a bronze sculpture of writhing bodies intermeshed with barbed wire, was an uncommon sight: a group of Muslims leaders prostrate in prayer.

At the end of the service, prayer leader Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, offered up an additional prayer: “We pray to God that this will not happen to the Jewish people or to any people anymore.”

Siddiqi was one of eight American Muslim leaders on a study tour to Dachau and Auschwitz that was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the Foundation and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, a New Jersey-based interfaith dialogue group. [...]

It is impossible to know what the long-term impact of such a trip will be. But if the heartfelt comments of the trip participants — including some with a history of previous statements that many Jews view as problematic — are any guide, Breger did not underestimate the value of direct experience in promoting education, understanding and even, perhaps, change.

Among other developments, Mohamed Magid, imam and executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, a mega-mosque in the Washington area that serves more than 5,000 families, is preparing an article on Holocaust denial for Islamic Horizons, the magazine published by the Islamic Society of North America. “No Muslim in his right mind, female or male, should deny the Holocaust,” said the Muslim leader, a native of Sudan. “When you walk the walk of the people who have been taken to be gassed, to be killed, how can a person deny physical evidence, something that’s beyond doubt?”

Breger related that he had appealed to numerous Jewish organizations for financial assistance without luck, as he sought to make the trip a reality. But the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank affiliated with Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, agreed almost immediately upon being approached. [...]

The delegates’ level of knowledge about the Holocaust prior to the trip seemed to be fairly low. Some had read up on it online, while others had seen films that depicted horrors of the Nazi period. None, however, was an expert in the subject. Some were visibly shaken by what they saw. The delegates seemed especially affected by seeing the number tattooed on Mannheimer’s arm by the Nazis. They asked things like, “Did you see any of your family members killed?” and, “When did you find out about the crematoria?” As they toured the sites, the posed questions that seemed tinged not with skepticism, but rather with outrage and a desire to understand.

“These imams all have significant constituents in American Muslim communities as recognized legal scholars, people with mega-mosques, people with radio shows, people on the web, people who reach out to youth,” Breger noted. He said that the Jewish community, in contrast, often looks to engage with Muslims who meet specified criteria but do not have large constituencies.

Indeed, it was not hard to imagine that some of the Muslim delegates might be viewed as imperfect candidates for dialogue by Jews wary of discussions with those they see as Islamists or as prone to extremist views.

Siddiqi, who also serves as chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, a body that interprets religious law, has gained attention for issuing a Fatwa against suicide bombing. At the same time, he has been criticized for failing to denounce such groups as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Eleven months before the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, Siddiqi also gave a speech that critics have since used to assail him: “America has to learn, if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Do you remember that? If you continue doing injustice, the wrath of God will come.”

Nevertheless, mere weeks after 9/11, he condemned the attack strongly, most notably at an interfaith prayer meeting with President Bush in Washington.

In addition to leading the prayer at Dachau, Siddiqi spoke at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Death Wall at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he quoted a verse from the Quran (similar to the Jewish adage) stating that he who kills one person kills all humanity.

Later that same day, during an audience with the archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, Siddiqi was even more forceful. “We came here to witness the place where the most horrible crimes were committed,” he said. “We came here to understand the pain of the Jewish community. This is in order to improve relationships, because you cannot build relationships with people unless you know what they’ve been through,” he said.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 AM


Our Neandertal Brethren: Genome sequencing has revealed our common humanity (Michael Schermer, August 2010, Scientic American)

According to the late Harvard University biologist Ernst W. Mayr, the greatest evolutionary theorist since Charles Darwin, “species are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups.”

Reproductive isolation is the key to understanding how new species form, and many types of barriers can divide a population and split it into two different groups: geographic (such as a mountain range, desert, ocean or river), morphological (a change in coloration, body type or reproductive organs), behavioral (a change in breeding season, mating calls or courtship actions), and others. After isolation, if members of the split populations encounter one another and cannot produce viable offspring that can themselves later successfully interbreed and produce viable offspring (hybrids such as mules are infertile), then these two populations constitute two different species.

Let’s say that a species migrates out of Africa into Europe around 400,000 years ago and becomes reproductively isolated from its ancestral population for the next 320,000 years. It evolves distinctive anatomical features and adaptations for the colder climes. Moreover, even after other descendants of the original ancestral population move into Europe around 80,000 years ago, the skeletons from both groups show no obvious signs of blended characteristics. Modern scientists classify the creatures as two different species.

Then, however, genetic analysis reveals that members of these two species interbred and produced viable offspring that populated Europe and spread eastward as far as China and Papua New Guinea. By Mayr’s definition, these two interbreeding populations are not two species after all, but two sibling subspecies of the original African species. A subspecies has a characteristic appearance and geographic range, Mayr explains, yet he adds this significant qualifier: “It is a unit of convenience for the taxonomist, but not a unit of evolution.”

Thus it is — revealing the identity of my example — that we must reclassify Homo neanderthalensis as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, a subspecies of Homo sapiens. A comprehensive and technically sophisticated study published in the May 7 issue of Science, “A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome,” by Max Planck Institute evolutionary anthropologists Richard E. Green, Svante Pääbo and 54 of their colleagues, demonstrates that “between 1 and 4% of the genomes of people in Eurasia are derived from Neandertals” and that “Neandertals are on average closer to individuals in Eurasia than to individuals in Africa.” In fact, the authors note, “a striking observation is that Neandertals are as closely related to a Chinese and Papuan individual as to a French individual…. Thus, the gene flow between Neandertals and modern humans that we detect most likely occurred before the divergence of Europeans, East Asians, and Papuans.” In other words, our anatomically hirsute cousins are actually our genetic brothers. that this easy interbreeding turns out to be true for everything and puts paid to the notion of speciation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 AM


High-Pressure Hybrids: Fuel-Efficient Hydraulic Vehicles Come of Age: Once relegated to the sidelines due to bulky components and complicated controls, these systems are benefiting from lightweight materials and ecofriendly fluid formulas (Christopher Johnston, 8/11/10, Scientific American)

A hydraulic system replaces all of the electronic components of an gas-electric hybrid (starter motor, generators, controllers, batteries, etcetera) with three parts: a small diesel motor–powered pump, a hydraulic motor and an accumulator. (Hydraulic-powered vehicles also contain an electric battery to power secondary equipment such as lights or a radio.)

The diesel pump pushes hydraulic fluid into the accumulator to reach pressures of up to 385 kilograms per square centimeter. By pressing down on the accelerator, the driver releases that pressurized fluid from the accumulator to then drive the hydraulic motor.

The best analogy might be a person operating a handheld air pump to pressurize a balloon, says Joe Kovach, group vice president of technology and innovation for Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin Corp.'s Hydraulics Group. In this comparison the person equals the pump, which drives air (technically a fluid) into the balloon, and the balloon represents the accumulator. The energy that can be harnessed comes from the force of the air released from the balloon.

"We think it's quite possibly the most cost-effective technology to achieve high fuel efficiency with low carbon emissions," says John Kargul, director of technology transfer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Ann Arbor, Mich. Since the early 1990s Kargul and his research team have been testing hybrid hydraulic systems as a core drive-train technology for roughly 20 different sizes of vehicles—from 1,500-kilogram passenger cars to 18,000-kilogram commercial trucks. They also partner with automotive manufacturers including Ford Motor Co., Parker Hannifin and Eaton Corp. as well as delivery companies UPS and FedEx to design, build and field-test prototype vehicles.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 AM


Michael Bennet Got Fewer Votes Than GOP Loser (Sam Stein, 08-11-10, Huffington Post)

For all the chatter about the White House's ability to get out the vote in Colorado's Tuesday night primary, the election produced one statistic that could leave Democrats unsettled.

The losing candidate in the Republican race, former Lt. Gov Jane Norton, actually earned more votes (197,143) than the winning candidate in the Democratic primary, Sen. Michael Bennet (183,521).

A voting breakdown like that is troubling enough for the party. That it occurred in Colorado -- a state targeted by the Obama presidential campaign and turned into a potential Democratic stronghold in 2008 -- makes it slightly more frightening.

August 11, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


'Cowardly' American baseball fan 'Bo the Bailer' caught on TV 'dodging foul ball' (Andrew Hough, 11 Aug 2010, Daily Telegraph)

An American baseball fan dubbed “Bo the Bailer” has become an internet hit after being caught on television ducking to avoid catching a ball hit into the stands that then struck his girlfriend.

The fan, only named as Bo, was sitting in the stands with his girlfriend during the Major League Baseball game between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves.

But when the Astro’s hitter Chris Johnson struck a foul ball into the crowd, the fan dodged it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


In La., signs of regrowth seen in oiled marshes (CAIN BURDEAU and JEFFREY COLLINS, 8/11/10, AP)

Shoots of marsh grass and bushes of mangrove trees already are starting to grow back in the bay where just months ago photographers shot startling images of dying pelicans coated in oil from the massive Gulf oil spill.

More than a dozen scientists interviewed by The Associated Press say the marsh here and across the Louisiana coast is healing itself, giving them hope delicate wetlands might weather the worst offshore spill in U.S. history better than they had feared.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


R&B, funk guitarist ‘Catfish’ Collins dies at 66 (LISA CORNWELL, 08/11/2010, AP)

The older brother of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician William “Bootsy” Collins died Friday of cancer.

Bootsy Collins’ wife, Patti, said Wednesday that Catfish Collins played with James Brown’s J.B.’s, Parliament-Funkadelic and in her husband’s Rubber Band. A statement from Bootsy Collins says his brother was a father figure and his “best friend.”

The brothers backed up James Brown on classics such as “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and later joined Parliament-Funkadelic. They also performed on the soundtrack to the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy “Superbad.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


Republican Rob Portman leads Senate race in Ohio (John Whitesides, 8/10/10, Reuters) -

[Ohio Republican Rob] Portman, director of the Office of Budget and Management and the U.S. Trade Representative under former President George W. Bush, leads Fisher 43 percent to 36 percent among likely voters less than three months before the November 2 election for the open Senate seat.

In the race for governor, Republican challenger John Kasich leads incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland by 48 percent to 39 percent among likely voters in Ohio, a critical battleground state that often reflects national voting trends.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Driver error caused Toyota's 'runaway' cars, US study suggests (Andrew Clark, 8/11/10,

[A]n analysis of vehicles' data recorders by engineers from the US department of transport and Nasa has found that in the vast majority of "runaway" cases, drivers failed to press the brake pedal at all or pressed the brake only in the final moments before a crash.

In preliminary findings delivered to Congress on 58 incidents, investigators found that in 35 cases, the brake was not applied. In a further 14 cases there was only "partial braking". In one case, both the brake and accelerator pedals were depressed and another showed evidence of pedals getting trapped in a floor mat. But the investigation found no evidence of any electronic problem suggested by Toyota's critics as a likely cause of crashes.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM


For Mosque Sponsors, Early Missteps Fueled Storm (ANNE BARNARD, 8/10/10, NY Times)

In 1999, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Ms. Khan’s husband, tried to buy the former McBurney Y.M.C.A. on 23rd Street in Manhattan, telling the seller’s broker, David Lebenstein, that he planned a kind of Muslim Y.

Knowing that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing still left raw nerves in New York, the imam assured Mr. Lebenstein, “We’re not the ones doing bombs; we’re moderates and Americans.”

The sale would have gone through but for financing difficulties, said Mr. Lebenstein, the son of a Holocaust survivor. Imam Feisal is in Malaysia and could not be reached for comment for this article.

Imam Feisal, 62, moved to the United States as a teenager with his father, an Egyptian imam, and graduated from Columbia University. Until 2009, he was the Friday prayer leader at Masjid al Farah, a mosque in the Sufi tradition, which emphasizes mysticism and tolerance. The mosque was established two decades ago and is 12 blocks from the World Trade Center.

His sermons were infused with a “sweet spirituality,” not focused on “rules and regulations” or politics, said Adem Carroll, director of the Muslim Consultative Network, an advocacy group based in New York. Those sermons attracted his two allies in the current project, slated to be built at 45-51 Park Place.

Daisy Khan, who immigrated, also as a teenager, to Jericho, on Long Island, from Kashmir, married Imam Feisal in 1997. They founded a Sufi organization advocating melding Islamic observance with women’s rights and modernity. After 9/11 they raised their profile, renaming the group the American Society for Muslim Advancement and focusing on connecting Muslims and wider American society. They spoke out against religious violence; the imam advised the F.B.I.; his wife joined the board of the 9/11 memorial and museum.

A few years later, Sharif el-Gamal, a developer whose Egyptian father was a Chemical Bank executive, asked the imam to perform his wedding.

Mr. Gamal, who headed SoHo Properties, agreed around 2006 to join the effort. In 2009, he bought two adjacent buildings on Park Place, where the imam began holding services. Only then did the organizers start reaching out more widely about their idea.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Hispanic media take on Obama (Carrie Budoff Brown, August 11, 2010, Politico)

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO. [...]

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. And just like the famed CBS newsman’s commentary helped turn the country against the Vietnam War, Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration — a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

“When you have a Univision and a Telemundo taking an aggressive and active role pointing to the White House inaction, it calls attention,” said Jose Cancela, president of the media consulting firm Hispanics USA. “It is not helping the administration at this point in time.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Is ground zero mosque imam best choice for diplomatic mission to Mideast? (Howard LaFranchi, August 11, 2010, CS Monitor)

[T]he State Department says its choice of Mr. Rauf to represent the US in a forthcoming trip to Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, reflects the religious leader’s established record of moderation and his past experience in taking Islamic life in America to foreign audiences.

“His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it’s like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States,” State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said Tuesday. He added that the department’s public-diplomacy offices “have a long-term relationship with” Rauf – including during the past Bush administration, when the religious leader undertook a similar speaking tour.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


In graying Japan, scandal over 'missing' 100-year-olds (Justin McCurry, August 10, 2010, CS Monitor)

[T]he search now under way for dozens of missing Japanese aged 100 or over is proof that fact can indeed be stranger than fiction.

Japan’s failure to keep tabs on its oldest residents is not only an administrative embarrassment: It also casts doubt on the health of family and community ties, and could even mark the discovery of a hidden wave of pension fraud in one of the world’s fastest-graying societies.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


So, what will the Kashmiri people accept?: After very hard and acrimonious bargaining they will ultimately settle for unadulterated autonomy, which will allow them the right to rule themselves, within the Indian Union (Gurmeet Kanwal, 8/11/10, IST)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears to have at last realised that it is time to deliver in Kashmir and has come out strongly in favour of a healing touch. He has spoken of feeling the people's 'dard aur mayusi' and has expressed his anguish over the recent killings in Kashmir Valley.

He has appointed an expert group headed by former Reserve Bank of Indiagovernor Dr C Rangarajan, with N R Narayana Murthy, Tarun Das, P Nanda Kumar, Shaqueel Qalander and an official representative of the J&K Government as members, to formulate a plan for creating new jobs in the state. However, he has stopped short of also appointing a political interlocutor to unconditionally resume the stalled dialogue with Kashmiri political parties representing all shades of opinion.

While the prime minister's initiatives are a welcome development, the situation in the Kashmir Valley continues to be grim and is reminiscent of other revolutions in recent memory. In February 1986, the Filipino people restored democracy through the People Power Revolution. In 1989-90, Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement in Poland beat back the mighty Soviet Union's tanks. The citizens of Czechoslovakia shook off totalitarian Communist rule in the Velvet Revolution. The victory of the Ukrainian peoples' Orange Revolution represented a new landmark in the history of peoples' movements for democracy. The Cedar Revolution in April 2005 ended the Syrian military occupation of Lebanon after 30 years. The Nepalese revolution next door is the latest manifestation of the power of the people.

Clearly, there is a lesson in this for India. If the Kashmiri people come out on the streets of Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore, Kupwara, Anantnag and half a dozen other towns like they did in 1988-89, in today's mega-media age, it will be well nigh impossible to keep Kashmir by force this time around.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


As I've just been reminded, it's been awhile since we did one of these. Please share your recommendations (or rejections) of what you've been reading, listening to, and watching lately:


The publisher just sent us a great bio of Doc Watson: Blind, But Now I See, so we've been queueing this up:


We also just got the new historical thriller by the great Alan Furst:


Our local cable network has a station called RetroTV and every night at 10 we watch:

Our youngest has to be the only 8 year old in America who knows the whole theme song. In the past week there have been awesome guest appearances by Isaac Hayes and Lou Gossett. You can Watch Instantly at Netflix.

Meanwhile, in between Sox games there are some decent Summer series: Burn Notice, Covert Affairs (or Chick Chuck, as it should be called), Rubicon, The Closer, and for some reason we started watching Antiques Roadshow again.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


...check out this post from Gear Daily on Amazon music deals

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


August 10, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


White House unloads anger over criticism from 'professional left’ (Sam Youngman, 08/10/10, The Hill)

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


Has Tehran lost the weapon of fear? (Michael Theodoulou, August 10, 2010, The National)

It is a sign that the Iranian regime’s use of fear to silence domestic critics may be weakening when one of its most influential hard-line clerics is publicly ridiculed.

The moment came in last July when Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati alleged recently that the leaders of the opposition green movement were paid US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) by the United States to foment unrest in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election last year.

“Even a boiled chicken will laugh at his words,” scoffed Zahra Rehnavard on August 1. She is the wife of the opposition leader, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the man whom millions of Iranians believe was the real winner of the vote that the opposition says was rigged. [...]

As embarrassing for the regime are the relentless opposition attacks on Ayatollah Jannati, which are chipping away at the regime’s legitimacy.

The cleric alleged in late July that he had documents proving the US had used “Saudi individuals” to pay the “leaders of sedition” – a term coined by hardliners to describe opposition leaders $1bn to stoke post-election turmoil.

He claimed they were promised a further $50bn if they managed to “overthrow the Islamic establishment”.

Lashing out in response, Mr Mousavi, Mehdi Karrubi and Mohammad Khatami accused Ayatollah Jannati of lying, defamation, helping to engineer Mr Ahmadinejad’s “stolen” election and of complicity in the “brutal” repression of those who peacefully opposed it.

“These attacks on Jannati are an implicit challenge to the authority of Iran’s supreme leader, who reinstated him last month in his Guardian Council post,” said Scott Lucas, an Iran specialist at Birmingham University in England.

“The regime has long used the fear factor of foreign intervention to suppress the opposition. But Jannati’s accusations that the green’s leaders were involved in a US-Saudi plot have backfired by exposing the highly suspect nature of such claims,” Mr Lucas added in a telephone interview.

Cover version of a Pink Floyd classic brings fight against Iranian government to the masses (Ben Kaplan, 8/10/10, National Post)

Blurred Vision is a Canadian-Iranian rock band that the Iranian government apparently doesn’t want its citizens to hear. “We can’t be positive it’s them, but someone’s been on our Facebook page saying things like we’re sponsored by the CIA or else puppets of the Pentagon,” says Sepp, the band’s 28-year-old lead singer, who doesn’t want to give his last name for fear of repercussions to his family members still back in Iran. “The best thing about those messages, though, is the response they get every time. Almost as soon as someone sends up one of those postings, dozens more people kick those comments back down.”

Blurred Vision has attracted controversy, both in Canada and their birth country of Iran, thanks to a cover version of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. Recorded in October with new lyrics approved by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, the brothers have changed the song’s chorus to, “Hey, Ayatollah, Leave them kids alone.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM

THE AMUSING CONCEIT HERE...: that God wasn't Himself when he cried out: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Gay Bar Proposed Next to Ground Zero Mosque (Julie Bolcer, 8/1`0/10,

In what could be a serious proposal or a thought exercise, libertarian commentator Greg Gutfeld wants to see if the tolerance expressed by proponents of the Ground Zero mosque extends to welcoming a bar that caters to Islamic gay men next door.

It's too bad every manufactured kerfuffle doesn't get its own moment of clarity like this one. Nothing could better symbolize the anti-human opposition to Cordoba House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


Mavis Staples: Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen, Tiny Desk Concert)

Mavis Staples is a legend, but she's not stuck in the past. You probably know her work with her family band, The Staple Singers, which was all over the radio in the '70s with hits like "Respect Yourself," "Let's Do It Again" and "I'll Take You There" (which she excerpts in her performance here).

What you may not know is that Mavis Staples has been actively working with her fellow Chicago musician (and Wilco leader) Jeff Tweedy on her upcoming album, You Are Not Alone. Tweedy produced the record and wrote a few songs for her, as well — including the title track, which she sings here.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


Crossroads poll: Dem Senate in peril (ALEXANDER BURNS, 8/9/10, Politico)

The survey, which gauged voter sentiment in 13 of the states with the country’s most competitive Senate races, showed Republican Senate candidates averaging a high single-digit lead over their Democratic opponents, offering the same snapshot of an angry, uneasy electorate shown in poll after poll this year. [...]

[T]he results suggest Republicans have an opening to make substantial gains this fall, even to the point of putting the Democrats’ 59-seat majority in peril. In eight seats currently held by Democrats – Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington – Republican candidates average an edge of seven points over their Democratic opponents, leading 47 percent to 40 percent.

In five Republican-held seats – Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio – GOP candidates hold an average lead of eight points, 45 percent to 37 percent.

...but if they were to miss gaining control of the Senate because Charlie Crist was chased out of the Party it would make for some good backbiting.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Announcing: Jihad Me At Hello (Dromedary Records, Jun 29, 2010)

On the heels of the announcement of Stuyvesant’s signing to Dromedary, we’re pleased to announce the imminent release of Jihad Me At Hello, a digital EP that we’ll be making available to you for FREE download.

We love this band. We love this band so much that we want you to know about them. And so we’ve collected a few of their very best songs, a couple of rarities and unreleased tracks, and a demo from their forthcoming Dromedary full-length, put them together in one hysterically-titled digital EP that should serve as an excellent introduction to the band’s masterful brand of powerful pop.

Jihad Me At HelloStuyvesant
"Bi-Polar Bears" (mp3)
from "Jihad Me At Hello"
(Dromedary Records)

More On This Album

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Always Pushing Beyond the Envelope (DAMON DARLIN, 8/09/10, NY Times)

For Blockbuster, the advent of DVDs in the mail was a disruptive technology. The chain relied initially on bulky videotapes and late fees to generate a fat revenue stream, and its scale was huge; smaller, independent stores gradually left the market. Netflix opened a new battlefront, mailing thin DVDs and letting customers keep a disc as long as they wanted.

Blockbuster saw the change coming. It even took action, setting up its own mail service. But seeds of destruction had been sown, and Blockbuster is now financially troubled. Netflix, meanwhile, is already embracing technology shifts that will make those red envelopes a quaint memory.

Creative destruction has such a cataclysmic sound. But the term, coined by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter to show how capitalism destroys companies as more innovative ones succeed, describes a process that is more like a slow-motion train wreck.

...who misses the whole video store rental process?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Rand Paul's Secret Society: Did Tea Party favorite Rand Paul belong to an anarchic college group that kidnapped and drugged a woman in the name of “Aqua Buddha”? Members talk to Benjamin Sarlin about their anti-establishment group. (Benjamin Sarlin, 8/09/10, Daily Beast)

Even for a Senate campaign that’s taken detours through one-world conspiracy theories and debates over the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the latest Rand Paul blow-up, involving kidnapping, forced drug use, and idol worship, is unusually bizarre. The story, according to GQ: Paul, as part of an anarchic secret society at Texas’ Baylor University called the NoZe Brotherhood, abducted a student, forced her to smoke marijuana from a bong, and then demanded she bow before a satirical deity known as “Aqua Buddha.” According to the kidnapped woman, the ritual was intended to mock her Christian faith, part of an ongoing struggle between NoZe and the Baptist school’s religious culture.

The story would likely have faded away as too weird to take seriously, especially given that the woman in question didn’t give her name, if the Paul camp had quickly labeled it false. But the Kentucky Republican’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, responded to GQ with a non-denial, deadpanning in an email that “During his time at Baylor, Dr. Paul competed on the swim team and was an active member of Young Conservatives of Texas.” Paul’s camp did not return calls from The Daily Beast, but as the story spread across the Web, Benton’s response to other reporters, including Slate’s David Weigel, grew angrier: “We are investigating all our options—including legal ones. We will not tolerate drive-by journalism by a writer with a leftist agenda.” Nonetheless, as of Monday evening, the campaign had not denied the substance of the article.

No wonder he never graduated.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


Summer of Appeasement: When Ford Snubbed Solzhenitsyn (Paul Kengor, 8.10.10, American Spectator)

On June 30, Solzhenitsyn acquiesced to a request from George Meany, the stalwart anti-communist labor leader, to speak at an AFL-CIO dinner in Washington. There, the former prisoner cut loose, freely blasting away not merely at the USSR but at any effort to accommodate it. Solzhenitsyn told the 2,000-plus labor delegates:

I have tried to convey to your countrymen the constrained breathing of the inhabitants of Eastern Europe in these weeks when an amicable agreement of diplomatic shovels will inter in a common grave bodies that are still breathing. I have tried to explain to Americans that 1973, the tender dawn of détente, was precisely the year when the starvation rations in Soviet prisons and concentration camps were reduced even further. And in recent months, when more and more Western speechmakers have pointed to the beneficial consequences of détente, the Soviet Union has adopted a novel and important improvement in its system of punishment: to retain their glorious supremacy in the invention of forced-labor camps, Soviet prison specialists have now established a new form of solitary confinement -- forced labor in solitary cells. That means cold, hunger, lack of fresh air, insufficient light, and impossible work norms; the failure to fulfill these norms is punished by confinement under even more brutal conditions.

This was naked reality. Its expression enraged the Kremlin and its hatchet-men and lackey propagandists, who viciously attacked the truth-teller in a series of brutal press releases and articles in their government-controlled media.

As this quote also suggests, Solzhenitsyn had much to say for America. He told the AFL-CIO that America was "a country of tremendous breadth of spirit; a country of generosity; a country of magnanimity." More trenchantly, he gravely warned against "unprincipled compromises," about sacrificing "conscience," and about making "deals with evil."

Here, more context is required: Notably, this was mere weeks before the Helsinki conference, where some 30-40 nations -- the United States among them -- met in Finland to sign a declaration to improve "relations" between the West and the communist world. On the surface, that may have sounded good. At closer inspection, however, it was capitulation.

Most hideous among the 10 points in the Helsinki declaration were the first and the sixth which, respectively, called for each side to respect the sovereign rights of the other and for "non-intervention in internal affairs." This was the not-so-clever language incessantly employed by the communist world to silence the West, to goad the likes of America into not protesting the jailing and executing and general repressions of hundreds of millions held captive behind the Iron Curtain.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, points seven and eight of the declaration pledged respect for basic freedoms among all parties, including "thought, conscience, belief" and "equal rights and self-determination."

The Soviets were not about to fulfill any part of the bargain.

Nonetheless, there lending support to this historical farce was America's president, Gerald Ford, signing the document alongside Western dupes like Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and Pierre Trudeau of Canada, as attendees like the hideous Erich Honecker of East Germany and Romania's insane Nicolai Ceausescu -- among other Eastern bloc tyrants -- licked their chops at the stunning display of naïveté. The pitiful scene reminded of Whittaker Chambers' observation that communists looked upon Western elites with "sneering contempt," cynically amazed at their willingness to fall prey to their own victimization.

Helsinki was the perfect byproduct, the wretched bastard child, of détente, perpetuated by the accommodationist Republican triumvirate of Nixon-Ford-Kissinger. This was not "rollback" or undermining of the Soviet empire, as Ronald Reagan would later pursue. It was not "We win, they lose," as Reagan ultimately dedicated himself and his country. No, this was pure accommodation, in its most quixotic, pathetic form.

As the likes of ex-governor Reagan publicly noted at the time, all of this -- Helsinki, détente, "non-intervention," respect for sovereignty and "territorial integrity" and so-called freedom of thought -- was merely a sham, a "one-way street" for the Soviets to continue to hold half of Europe in slavery and export communism around the globe without Western resistance. Worse still, it meant that the West, from Americans to Western Europeans, were complicit, essentially selling their brethren in Eastern Europe down the river. Détente was flatly "immoral," said Reagan.

Alas, and so said Solzhenitsyn -- and then some. As a former inhabitant of the gulag, Solzhenitsyn could criticize these things with a credibility few others possessed. He had survived his persecutors, and lived to tell the world.

Thus, everyone in America wanted to meet with Solzhenitsyn that summer of 1975, to gather his wisdom; everyone, that is, except the sitting president of the United States, Republican Gerald R. Ford.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 AM


The Golden State’s War on Itself (Joel Kotkin, 08/08/2010, New Geography)

The old progressivism began in the early 1900s and lasted for half a century. It was a nonpartisan and largely middle-class movement that emphasized fostering economic growth—the progressives themselves tended to have business backgrounds—and building infrastructure, such as the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. One powerful progressive was Republican Earl Warren, who governed the state between 1943 and 1953 and spent much of the prospering state’s surplus tax revenue on roads, mental health facilities, and schools. Another was Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, elected in 1958, who oversaw an aggressive program of public works, a rapid expansion of higher education, and the massive California Water Project.

But by the mid-1960s, as I noted in an essay in The American two years ago, Brown’s traditional progressivism was being destabilized by forces that would eventually transform liberal politics around the nation: public-sector workers, liberal lobbying organizations, and minorities, which demanded more and more social spending. This spending irritated the business interests that had formerly seen government as their friend, contributing to Brown’s defeat in 1966 by Ronald Reagan. Reagan was far more budget-conscious than Brown had been, and large declines in infrastructure spending occurred on his watch, mostly to meet a major budget deficit.

The decline of progressivism continued under the next governor: Pat Brown’s son, Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr., who took office in 1975. Brown scuttled infrastructure spending, in large part because of his opposition to growth and concern for the environment. Encouraged by “reforms” backed by Brown—such as the 1978 Dill Act, which legalized collective bargaining for them—the public-employee unions became the best-organized political force in California and currently dominate Democrats in the legislature (see “The Beholden State,” Spring 2010). According to the unions, public funds should be spent on inflating workers’ salaries and pensions—or else on expanding social services, often provided by public employees—and not on infrastructure or higher education, which is why Brown famously opposed new freeway construction and water projects and even tried to rein in the state’s university system.

The power of the public-employee lobby would come to haunt the recall-shortened gubernatorial reign of Gray Davis, Brown’s former chief of staff. The government workers’ growing demands on the budget, green groups’ opposition to expanding physical infrastructure, and Republican opposition to tax increases made it impossible for either Davis or his successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to expand the state’s infrastructure at a scale necessary to accommodate its growing population.

The new progressives were as unenthusiastic about welcoming business as about building infrastructure. Fundamentally indifferent or even hostile to the existing private sector, they embraced two peculiar notions about what could sustain California’s economy in its place. The first of these was California’s inherent creativity—a delusion held not only by liberal Democrats. David Crane, Governor Schwarzenegger’s top economic advisor, once told me that California could easily afford to give up blue-collar jobs in warehousing, manufacturing, or even business services because the state’s vaunted “creative economy” would find ways to replace the lost employment and income. California would always come out ahead, he said, because it represented “ground zero for creative destruction.”
Graph by Alberto Mena.

The second engine that could supposedly keep California humming was the so-called green economy. Michael Grunwald recently wrote in Time, for example, that venture capital, high tech, and, above all, “green” technology were already laying the foundation of a miraculous economic turnaround in California. Though there are certainly opportunities in new energy-saving technologies, this is an enthusiasm that requires some serious curbing. One recent study hailing the new industry found that California was creating some 10,000 green jobs annually before the recession. But that won’t heal a state that has lost 700,000 jobs since then.

At the same time, green promoters underestimate the impact of California’s draconian environmental rules on the economy as a whole. Take the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, which will force any new development to meet standards for being “carbon-neutral.” It requires the state to reduce its carbon-emissions levels by 30 percent between 1990 and 2020, virtually assuring that California’s energy costs, already among the nation’s highest, will climb still higher. Aided by the nominally Republican governor, the legislation seems certain to slow any future recovery in the suffering housing, industrial, and warehousing sectors and to make California less competitive with other states. Costs of the act to small businesses alone, according to a report by California State University professors Sanjay Varshney and Dennis Tootelian, will likely cut gross state product by $182 billion over the next decade and cost some 1.1 million jobs.

It’s sad to consider the greens such an impediment to social and economic health. Historically, California did an enviable job in traditional approaches to conservation—protecting its coastline, preserving water and air resources, and turning large tracts of land into state parks. But much like the public-sector unions, California’s environmental movement has become so powerful that it feels free to push its agenda without regard for collateral damage done to the state’s economy and people. With productive industry in decline and the business community in disarray, even the harshest regulatory policies often meet little resistance in Sacramento.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


One nation undivided under God: Up until 2005, Indonesia seemed sure to succumb to a wave of Islamist terror. But, in the post-Suharto era, even political Islamists seem intent on democracy, tolerance and keeping the peace. (Sholto Byrnes, 09 August 2010, New Statesman)

Confidence may be widespread among Indonesians that their gentle tradition of Islam will endure. The outside world, however, worries. It is little more than a year since the bombs went off in Jakarta; today, hotels and shopping centres insist visitors pass through security scanners before entering. The early release of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, jailed in 2005 in connection with JI terrorist attacks, infuriated Australia and the US. Detachment 88, the country's elite special force unit named in honour of the number of Australians who died in the first Bali bombings of 2002, has had great success in rounding up JI members. What was Indonesia doing releasing the group's spiritual leader so soon?

Goenawan says that criticism was mistaken. "It's good that he's out. Otherwise he would be a hero. Instead, he's a grumpy old man, a joke. Freedom helps. The Muslim Brotherhood flourished under Anwar al-Sadat because Egypt had no democracy. Only a small minority have ever voted for parties here that want an Islamic state. Democracy has the means to quell this."

Through pluralism and confidence in its own traditions, Indonesia, this nation state of 240 million people, offers a different model to the world of what it means to be a democratic, Muslim-majority country. There is unanimity that pursuing the goals of justice and alleviating poverty will ensure that the country's moderation is preserved.

The links with the Middle East will always persist, particularly through al-Azhar University in Cairo and the hajj to Mecca. Al-Azhar is generally considered the oldest university in the world and was historically the greatest centre of Sunni scholarship - so Muslims from Indonesia will always travel there to be educated in theology.

Indonesia has its own centres of Islamic scholarship and moderate networks of pesantren, or Muslim boarding schools. Saudis may fund mosques, it is argued, but the extremist ideology they hope to export along with the buildings fails to take root in a soil too rich and varied for dry, husky seeds from Arabia.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, for one, is optimistic. "As I travel around the world," she said during a visit to Jakarta in February last year, "I will be saying to people, if you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia."

Zulkieflimansyah makes an even greater prediction. "If we can show that Islam and democratic values are compatible, we are confident the future of Islam can be written here in Indonesia," he says. "Otherwise there is no hope."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 AM


Europe’s Choice: Populate or Perish (Samuel Gregg D.Phil., 7/13/10, Acton Institute)

[I]t’s striking how many Europeans are reluctant to discuss the subject of their population decline. This may owe something to an association of calls to have more children with the population policies of totalitarian regimes such as Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mussolini’s Italy, and Ceausescu’s Romania. Another factor may be many Europeans’ susceptibility to population-growth alarmism, as manifested in many European governments’ aggressive promotion of population-control in developing countries (which strikes some as verging on neocolonialism).

At a deeper level, however, Europe’s declining birth-rate may also reflect a change in intellectual horizons. A cultural outlook focused upon the present and disinterested in the future is more likely to view children as a burden rather than a gift to be cared for in quite un-self-interested ways. Individuals and societies that have lost a sense of connection to their past and have no particular interest in their long-term destiny aren’t likely to be worried about a dearth of children. Here Europe’s generation of 1968—which promoted a radical rupture with the past and is intensely suspicious of anything that might broaden people’s outlooks beyond the usual politically-correct causes—has much to answer for.

Immigration is one way for European countries to escape these conundrums. After all, it has proved to be one of America’s engines of economic growth and continues to help the United States avoid the population trap in which Europe now finds itself. For decades, Western Europe relied on immigration, especially from Islamic countries, for cheap labor, especially for those unpleasant jobs some Europeans prefer not to do.

For the moment, however, increased immigration doesn’t appear to be an option for Europe. The policies of multiculturalism have failed and produced such deep fractures in many European societies that most European governments are presently reducing immigration from non-European countries. that they don't care what comes after themselves.

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August 9, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


Understanding Pakistan's military (Anatol Lieven, 9 August 2010, Open Democracy)

The Pakistani military is the only Pakistani state institution which works as it is officially meant to – which means that it repeatedly does something that it is not meant to, which is to overthrow what in Pakistan is called “democracy” and seize control of the state from other institutions. The military has therefore been seen as extremely bad for Pakistan’s progress, at least if that progress is to be defined in standard western terms.

On the other hand, it has also always been true that without a strong military, Pakistan would most probably long since have disintegrated. That is more than ever true today, as the country faces the powerful insurgency of the Pakistani Taleban and their allies. The Taleban threat makes the unity and discipline of the Army of paramount importance to Pakistan and the world – all the more so because the deep unpopularity of US strategy among the vast majority of Pakistanis has made even the limited alliance between the Pakistani military and the US extremely unpopular in Pakistani society, and among many soldiers.

Because it is an artificiality, that is vital to Pakistan. The rest of the world's interests are obviously best served by devolving the place into its constituent parts that can govern themselves.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Democratic candidates all but ignore their legislative successes (Janet Hook, August 9, 2010, LA Times)

As Democrats fan out across the country to campaign for reelection this month, many are surprisingly quiet about their hard-won accomplishments — the major bills they have passed under President Obama.

In an effort coordinated with the White House, congressional leaders are urging Democrats to focus less on bragging about what they have done — a landmark healthcare law, a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulation and other far-reaching policy changes — and more on efforts to fix the economy and on the perils of Republican control of Congress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM


Of babies and hammers (Mark Hulbert, 8/04/10, MarketWatch)

The stock market will get a major boost at the end of this week. That's when Congress' August recess begins, and it isn't scheduled to go back in session until after Labor Day.

What's that have to do with the market? Plenty, apparently. The stock market on average has performed much better when Congress was not in session.

Consider an academic study several years ago by professors Michael Ferguson of the University of Cincinnati and Hugh Douglas Witte of the University of Missouri at Columbia. Specifically, they found that "about 90% of the capital gains over the life of the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 10,699, +45.19, +0.42%) have come on days when Congress is out of session."

Specifically, according to the professors, the Dow between 1897 and 2004 produced an annualized return of 5.3% when Congress was out of session, in contrast to just 0.4% when it was in session.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


The GOP's Revolt Against Bush: On issues from immigration to Islam, the 43rd president staked out a view far more progressive than today's conservatives. Peter Beinart on how declining U.S. confidence has changed the right. (Peter Beinart, 8/09/10, Daily Beast)

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that the central conservative insight is that culture matters more than politics. But in this regard, George W. Bush was an odd conservative because he didn’t care much about culture; he believed that people everywhere were pretty much the same. In the mid-1990s, when Pete Wilson and Pat Buchanan were demonizing Mexican immigrants, Bush insisted that they were just like everyone else. “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande River,” he told a reporter. “And see, what I understand is, is that when you’re a man who got kids to feed, and are you making 50 cents and you can look up north and see the chance to make $50 and your kids are hungry, that you are going to come.”

After September 11, Bush described Muslims in the same universalistic way. A few months after the attacks, he insisted that “Islam is peace,” a view dramatically at odds with the one being propagated by most conservative talking heads. (A 2002 poll of evangelical Protestant leaders found that only 10 percent thought Bush was right.) But Bush’s brand of Christianity was genuinely ecumenical. Although he had transformed his life through Christ, he knew that lots of former addicts had done so through born-again Islam. As president, he sought out people like Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya who told him that the people of Iraq yearned for democracy, and were capable of building it. And it was this belief that made him receptive to the arguments of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who as ambassador to Indonesia had been emboldened by watching the world’s largest majority-Muslim country move from dictatorship to democracy. Two months before the Iraq War, Bush declared, “The human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror.”

This is emphatically not what today’s Republicans believe. In 2006, Bush’s efforts at immigration reform were destroyed by the rising nativism of the grassroots GOP. And today, prominent Republicans barely ever discuss illegal immigrants in the humanizing terms that Bush did.

Mr. Beinart's assertion that these bigotries on the Right are a function of the recession won't withstand his own discussion of Congressional Republican opposition to immigration--and he doesn't even get to how psychotic the Right got about compassionate conservatism, NCLB, Dubai Ports, Harriet Miers, etc. W cared intensely about the culture--more than any modern president--because it is Christian and is an Evangelist.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


Man Caught with Pants Down and an Armless Mannequin in Public Park (Hanna Francis; Josh McComas, 8/08/10, WSAZ)

A man is behind bars for committing "lewd acts" with a mannequin in a public park Sunday morning.

According to the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department, 61-year-old Eddie M. Campbell from Belle was caught at Booker T. Washington Memorial Park in Malden with his shirt off and his pants around his ankles.

Deputies say Campbell was sitting on a park bench with an armless mannequin on his lap, holding it with one hand -- pleasuring himself with the other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Before the Moor's Last Sigh: 'The Ornament of the World' by Maria Rosa Menocal and 'The Clash of Fundamentalisms' by Tariq Ali (Fouad Ajami, April 28, 2002, Washington Post)

Yale historian Maria Rosa Menocal has written an affecting portrait of that lost Iberian world. In her splendid account, it was effervescent but feeble, stalked by Muslim puritanism from across the Strait of Gibraltar and by Christian zealotry to the north.

Menocal didn't set out to write a book about Islamic tolerance against the background of the terror attacks of Sept. 11; she had finished her book shortly beforehand. In a brief set of remarks, she concedes the painful irony of her stories of tolerance in the aftermath of Sept. 11. In her portrait of that vanished time, zealots also make an appearance, and the timeless battle between the standard-bearers of reason and the preachers of holy vigilance plays out with fury.

The beauty of Menocal's work lies in her craftsmanship and patience, in her eye for the illuminating anecdote, for the stray life that catches a time and its wonder. For me, the redeeming gift of this book (and its unintended consoling message for the pockets of modernity in the Muslim world and their isolated, embattled standard-bearers) is the way a measure of intellectual and cultural brilliance survived the Andalusian regime's political troubles and political breakdown.

It was in Cordoba, Menocal tells us, during the terrible dark reign of the Almoravids of North Africa, that two great, towering intellects were born: Ibn Rushd (Averroes) in 1126, and Musa ibn Maymun (Maimonides) in 1135. Averroes's retrieval of and commentary on Aristotle and Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed were to prove enduring works of scholarship and imagination. Both men, according to Menocal, shared a basic vision that can be characterized as the defense of human freedom. These two men of God and philosophy were constructing heroic defenses of a worldview that they were born into and that they were educated to take for granted. Yet this dream of reason and tolerance disappeared in their lifetimes. Both died in exile: Averroes in 1198 in Marrakech, Maimonides in 1204 in Egypt. For both, the Andalusian world became, in Menocal's turn of phrase, "a memory palace."

In truth, that golden age of Al-Andalus was relatively brief -- from the early years of the 10th century to the middle years of the 11th. Islam had stayed long in the Peninsula: Nearly eight centuries separate the Muslim conquest from the fall of Granada. The Jews had partaken of it all: There were seasons of bliss and times of terror. There were benevolent, worldly Muslim rulers who raised their Jewish courtiers to great heights of power, and there were preachers and mobs who cut them down whenever they could. There was Cordoba, on the banks of the Guadilquivir, the ornament of the world, secular to the core, and there were the merciless bands of zealots, fundamentalist warriors from North Africa, who had brought with them the ways of plunder and intolerance. By the early years of the 13th century, the Andalusians had effectively lost their political freedom. Cordoba fell to Christian forces in 1236, Valencia in 1238. Two years later, it was Seville's turn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Build the Ground Zero Mosque: I believe we should promote Muslim moderates right here in America. And why I'm returning an award to the ADL. (Fareed Zakaria, August 06, 2010, Newsweek)

The man spearheading the center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a moderate Muslim clergyman. He has said one or two things about American foreign policy that strike me as overly critical —but it’s stuff you could read on The Huffington Post any day. On Islam, his main subject, Rauf’s views are clear: he routinely denounces all terrorism—as he did again last week, publicly. He speaks of the need for Muslims to live peacefully with all other religions. He emphasizes the commonalities among all faiths. He advocates equal rights for women, and argues against laws that in any way punish non-Muslims. His last book, What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America, argues that the United States is actually the ideal Islamic society because it encourages diversity and promotes freedom for individuals and for all religions. His vision of Islam is bin Laden’s nightmare. [...]

Bloomberg’s speech stands in stark contrast to the bizarre decision of the Anti-Defamation League to publicly side with those urging that the center be moved. The ADL’s mission statement says it seeks “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.” But Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, explained that we must all respect the feelings of the 9/11 families, even if they are prejudiced feelings. “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted,” he said. First, the 9/11 families have mixed views on this mosque. There were, after all, dozens of Muslims killed at the World Trade Center. Do their feelings count? But more important, does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Flying Suit by The Mommyheads (Dromedary Records, May 18, 2010)

Heroes of Indie Music says it “might be the greatest indie reissue of 2010.” New York Magazine called it “an embarrassment of riches.” For us, it’s one of our favorite records ever, and we’re so excited to be able to offer it to you again after all these years.

Flying Suit is considered by many to be one of the greatest indie records of the 90s. Beautifully remastered by Fred Kevorkian (White Stripes, Phish, Stuyvesant), the fidelity of this reissue is magnificent – and the record contains three bonus tracks that were not found on the original. The tracks – “Box,” “Over,” and “Day Job,” were recorded during the same era, and fit wonderfully in this collection.

You can hear the CD in its entirety, streaming for FREE right here on the Dromedary website.

-Mommyheads (MySpace)
-Mommyheads (Wikipedia)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


Food For Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter (Christopher Joyce, August 2, 2010, NPR)

Our earliest ancestors ate their food raw — fruit, leaves, maybe some nuts. When they ventured down onto land, they added things like underground tubers, roots and berries.

It wasn't a very high-calorie diet, so to get the energy you needed, you had to eat a lot and have a big gut to digest it all. But having a big gut has its drawbacks.

"You can't have a large brain and big guts at the same time," explains Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and director of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City, which funds research on evolution. Digestion, she says, was the energy-hog of our primate ancestor's body. The brain was the poor stepsister who got the leftovers.

Until, that is, we discovered meat.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life by Nicholas Phillipson: review: As Nicholas Phillipson's biography shows, Adam Smith may have led the quietest of lives but the life of his mind was another matter altogether (Noel Malcolm, 01 Aug 2010, Daily Telegraph)

Phillipson is particularly good at analysing the influence on Smith of other major thinkers – especially his charismatic teacher at Glasgow, Frances Hutcheson, and his brilliant and faithful older friend, the philosopher David Hume. Both of these had reacted against what they saw as the excessive rationalism of previous theories about politics and morality – the idea that the state was founded on a purely rational 'contract’, or that ethics could be reduced to a rational calculation of self-interest. In Hume’s view, these things could better be explained in terms of custom, habit, a natural convergence of interests, and a general approval of 'utility’. Smith’s theory of 'moral sentiments’ took a further step in the same direction, analysing moral behaviour in terms of how we empathise with others, and how we wish to be empathised with in turn.

This whole account of human psychology, in which passions make all the running and what we call rational judgment is really an exercise of the imagination, is – as Phillipson shows – fundamental to the theory of The Wealth of Nations. The crude modern caricature of Smith’s theory is that the pursuit of self-interest promotes, automatically, the general good; but Smith was acutely aware that the 'self-interest’ people pursue is often an imagined good, the product of mere imitation and the desire to be admired.

Much of Smith’s work, indeed, was aimed at explaining why European societies had not attained prosperity as fast as they rationally should have done. There were many culprits: stupid landowners who thought that getting more land was more important than improving the productivity of the land they already had; merchants who persuaded governments that protectionism would benefit the whole nation; and governments that did almost anything (especially waging expensive wars) other than maintaining 'easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice’.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


The Paradox of Choice (Arlemagne1, 7/26/10, Ruth Institute)

In the beginning, there was patriarchy. And it was EEEEEEEEEVIL. Under patriarchy, men were expected to get married. And they were expected to have children soon after getting married. You know why they had children? Because patriarchy was oppressive and forced them to marry women.

There was not a lot of choice built into the system. Men not only had to marry women, but they had to marry women of the appropriate station.

If Henry wanted to get married, he could marry Katherine or Anne or Jane. That was it.

Now that the enlightened Baby Boomers have overthrown the dreaded Patriarchy, people have more choice in matters marital and sexual. Henry does not have to confine his choices to Katherine, Anne or Jane. He can now also marry Tiffany, Barbara, Aiko, Taliqua, or Fatima. Not only that, in some states Henry can even “marry” James, Edward or Robert. Or he can even forget about marriage altogether and play the field for the rest of his life.

It seems that Henry is spoiled for choice. He must constantly frolic and rejoice to celebrate all that choice. That’s how things work, right? The more choices people have, the happier they are. Right? Right?

Well, Enter Professor Barry Schwarz to burst your bubble. He has shown that more choice does not necessarily produce more happiness. In fact, it may produce more unhappiness.

There is a perfectly acceptable alternative to traditional marriage--don't.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


The Right's New Religious Bigotry (Michelle Goldberg, 8/09/10, Daily Beast)

On September 11, Geert Wilders, the ultranationalist Dutch politician who has suggested banning the Koran as hate speech, is speaking at ground zero, part of a rally against the Islamic community center being built nearby. He’ll be joined by Newt Gingrich, and in all likelihood other significant conservatives as well. Not long ago, the American right resisted the kind of overt Islamophobia that animates reactionary parties in Europe. The embrace of Wilders shows that this is no longer the case. A new type of religious bigotry has entered American politics, one more blatant than anything we’ve seen since the Twin Towers fell.

Even during the most terrifying days after September 11, or in the crazed and febrile period preceding the invasion of Iraq, the spokespeople for the American right mostly refrained from the outright demonization of Muslims. Some of the credit goes to George W. Bush, who, despite the odd slip of the tongue about America’s “crusade,” was usually careful to emphasize that American Muslims are not an internal enemy.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 AM


The Case Against Public Sector Unions: A powerful force for unaffordable benefits (John O. McGinnis and Max Schanzenbach, Policy Review)

State and local governments today are, with few exceptions, in deep financial distress. While some governors can offer the recession, the housing crisis, or the loss of an important industry as an excuse for poor finances, many states are simply structurally insolvent — not unlike General Motors prior to bankruptcy. Indeed, California’s travails began well before the recession, and warnings about the financial health of Illinois and New York predate the present crisis. It is no secret that the primary cause of the states’ long-term problems are their bloated public sectors — particularly their public pension obligations.

Public employees unions have wielded huge influence to gain perquisites for themselves at the expense of the public. Early retirement, job tenure, high wages, and generous defined-benefit pension plans have gained increasing attention from commentators and voters, though many public sector perks are intentionally shrouded and confuse the public debate. What has received far less attention is the pernicious effect of public sector union privileges on the provision of public goods in the United States. Public sector unions have greatly distorted state spending priorities and made it more difficult for states to devise innovative public goods that would benefit their citizenry as whole. For example, prison guard unions have directly influenced penal policy, fighting reduced sentences or decriminalization of drugs. Teachers’ unions fight charter schools and merit pay. The strong organizational rights of these unions, protected or abetted by statute and regulations, enables their outsized influence on public policy.

But crisis is also opportunity. The dire straits of states offer the chance for entrepreneurial governors to abolish public employee union privileges, like the rights to strike, to collectively bargain, to seek binding arbitration, and to collect dues. Public employee unions are the great reactionary force in public life today, using their privileged position both to defend the rewards their members receive and to block innovation. As a result, this recession offers a political opening for both liberal and conservative governors.

Unlike many important reforms, there isn't even any reason for the GOP to be skittish about these--W paid no political price for his war on the civil service.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 AM


Former enemies US, Vietnam now military mates
(Margie Mason, 8/08/10, Associated Press )

Cold War enemies the United States and Vietnam demonstrated their blossoming military relations Sunday as a U.S. nuclear supercarrier cruised in waters off the Southeast Asian nation's coast — sending a message that China is not the region's only big player.

The visit comes 35 years after the Vietnam War as Washington and Hanoi are cozying up in a number of areas, from negotiating a controversial deal to share civilian nuclear fuel and technology to agreeing that China needs to work with its neighbors to resolve territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 AM


The Extraordinary Realignment of the Centre Right (David Marquand, 8 August 2010, Open Democracy)

To me, the single most important feature of the last election, shockingly ignored by the Westminster-centred commentariat, is that it saw what may well turn out to be the death throes of the statist, top-down democratic collectivism which has been Labour's default position ever since it became a serious contender for government after the First World War. The Coalition is, in a way, an alliance between the two great non-statist political traditions of this country: the whig tradition, with its emphasis on Edmund Burke's 'little platoons', now exemplified by David Cameron, and the essentially republican tradition with its emphasis on civic engagement and bottom up democracy, partially exemplified by Nick Clegg. It's much too soon to tell how this will work out. It may all come apart under the stress of actually governing, and there are plenty of ambiguities about it. So I certainly don't advocate blanket endorsement of Level Two of the Coalition project. But I do think it should be given a fair wind, unless and until the Coalition shows unmistakably that it is trying to deceive us all.

August 8, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


...what is supposed to be wrong with this Palinism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


How Firm a Foundation? The Prospects for American Conservatism (George H. Nash, Winter 2009, Intercollegiate Review).

The following is an address delivered at Belmont Abbey College, October 24, 2008 at which Dr. Nash received the Weaver Prize for Scholarly Letters from the Ingersoll Foundation.

We have gathered this evening—and at this conference—to consider the future of American conservatism. Until a few weeks ago, it did not appear to have much of a future at all. Writing in the September issue of the American Prospect, the liberal columnist E. J. Dionne declared flatly that “the conservative era” in American politics is “in its final days.” The “conservative project,” he said, is “exhausted.” Meanwhile in the September 10 issue of the New Republic, Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, asserted that the conservative movement “has never been in poorer shape than it is today.” Indeed, he claimed, it has entered “its last and genuinely decadent phase.”

Such sentiments are by no means confined to the American Left. In the past three years an increasing number of conservative commentators have wondered aloud whether the long foretold “conservative crackup” was finally at hand. Jeffrey Hart, for example, in his history of National Review published in 2006, perceived a movement succumbing to a tide of doctrinaire, unconservative ideology and a reckless politics of imprudence. William F. Buckley Jr. reportedly believed in his last years that the conservative movement he had so tirelessly championed was (in Hart’s words) “probably finished”—a case of “intellectual suicide.” A leading conservative journalist of my acquaintance remarked a couple of years ago that the movement is suffering a nervous breakdown—a consequence, he said, of the end of the Cold War. A few on the Right have even suggested that if the movement is not already dead, then it ought to be. “Is the Conservative Movement Worth Conserving?” was the title of a posting at a prominent conservative website just a couple of months ago.

Earlier this year the New York Times’ technology columnist David Pogue listed the five stages of grieving when you lose your computer files: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Moving to Amish Country. It sounds like a fair description of the mood gripping many American conservatives in 2008. Certainly, evidence abounds of a political and intellectual movement in crisis. One sign of this is the growing tendency on the Right to classify conservatives into ever smaller sectarian groupings: neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, big government conservatives, leave-us-alone conservatives, “national greatness” conservatives, compassionate conservatives, crunchy conservatives—and the list goes on. Another sign is the volume of intramural polemic in which some of these elements have indulged in recent years. Thus the paleoconservatives relentlessly pound the neoconservatives, Straussians exchange fire with anti-Straussians, devotees of Abraham Lincoln debate his detractors, libertarians take issue with religious conservatives, and neo-agrarians critique capitalism and free-marketeers. A once relatively disciplined band of brothers (or so it used to appear in the Age of Reagan) has seemingly devolved into a rancorous jumble of factions. It calls to mind Napoleon’s answer when asked against whom he preferred to fight. He replied: against his allies. They were the ones who caused him the most trouble.

Several adventitious factors have strengthened the impression among many observers that American conservatism has come to a cul-de-sac. The deaths of Milton Friedman in 2006, Jerry Falwell in 2007, and William F. Buckley Jr. in 2008 precipitated an outpouring of anxious retrospection and an intensified awareness that nearly all of modern conservatism’s founding fathers have now gone to the grave. Coupled with this generational changing of the guard has been the phenomenal upsurge of popular interest in the life and achievements of Ronald Reagan. More than any of our forty-three presidents, Reagan has been on the minds and tongues of a nation hungering for renewal in 2008. From conservatives in particular has come the cry, “What would Reagan do?” Critics scoff at this as mere nostalgia, the rightwing equivalent of the liberal cult of John F. Kennedy. It is much more than that, but memories of the Gipper remind embattled conservatives of better days and reflect the feeling of disorientation that many on the Right now feel.

A more subtle ingredient in this mix has been the efflorescence in the past decade of historical scholarship about American conservatism since World War II—much of it written by young liberal historians. This is not necessarily a sign of declension, but it certainly testifies to the growing passage of time: the conservative movement has now been around long enough to be the object of academic inquiry. To put it another way, modern American conservatism—a marginalized orphan in academia when I began research on it a generation ago—has become middle-aged. Which, of course, raises the uncomfortable question: are old age and remarginalization just around the corner? [...]

[I]n their obsession with the sound and fury of the stormy present, it is easy for conservatives to overlook and undervalue one of their most impressive achievements during the past forty years: the creation of a veritable conservative counterculture, a burgeoning infrastructure of alternative media, foundations, research centers, think tanks, publishing houses, law firms, homeschooling networks, and more. From the Beltway to the blogosphere, these clusters of purposeful energy continue to multiply and flourish. From the perspective of a historian, this flowering of applied conservatism, this institutionalization of conservative ideas, is a remarkable intellectual and political development.

Think of it: when Richard Weaver was writing in the 1950s and early 1960s, the number of publicly active, professedly conservative intellectuals in the United States was minuscule: perhaps a few dozen at most. Today how can we even begin to count? Since 1980 prosperity has come to conservatism and, with it, a multitude of niche markets and specialization on a thousand fronts.

Does this mean that all is well in the conservative parallel universe? Not necessarily. A few months ago the neoconservative columnist David Brooks accused the conservative think tanks of being “sclerotic.” Other conservatives have quoted Eric Hoffer’s pungent aphorism that every cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and then a racket. Still, the fruit of a generation of successful conservative institution-building appears to have reached a critical mass that is unlikely to crumble anytime soon. This augurs well for the continued influence of conservatism on our national conversation.

A third source of durability for conservatives is this: on the home front, the cohesion that was once supplied by Cold War anticommunism has increasingly come from another “war,” one that seems integral to the identity of most Americans on the Right. This is the so-called culture war, pitting an alliance of conservative Roman Catholics, evangelical Protestants, and Orthodox Jewish believers against a post-Judeo-Christian, even anti-Christian, secular elite whom they perceive to be aggressively hostile to their deepest convictions. Every day fresh tremors break out along this fault line—over abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, gay marriage, and the composition of the federal courts. It is a struggle literally over the meaning of right and wrong, a battle (for conservatives) against what Pope Benedict has called “the tyranny of relativism.”

The problem is somewhat different than stated here, it is that conservatism is no longer the counterculture but the culture. This is why the natural divisions within the Right have come to the fore since The End of History. They have been exacerbated by the moderation/conservatism of the two Democrat presidents we've had since then. Where the broad conservative side of the spectrum was once held together by its uniform opposition to a Soviet-friendly American Left, activist Supreme Court, and Great Society liberal policies, there is nothing and no one left for everyone to unite against domestically.

There was high hope that Islamicism might afford a replacement, but 9-11 was a one off and you weren't going to get libertarians, Realists and paleocons to care about democratic reforms in the Muslim world. After all, they'd only supported the Cold War--and even that waveringly--because their foes on the domestic Left liked at least playing footsie with Marxism.

Likewise, there was nothing but disappointment for those who prepared to defend capitalism against the Keynesians in the wake of the credit crunch. The Death of Capitalism meme died even faster than the Death of Conservative one had, with the stimulus earning little but revulsion from the public.

Meanwhile, the media has become so diffused that conservative voices are easily heard, the Court has become so conservative that Reagan appointees are the moderates, and the great accomplishments of the Clinton Era are Welfare Reform, the budget surplus, GATT and NAFTA and President Obama's signal achievement is the twenty year old GOP plan for requiring private health insurance.

So in the absence of anything for everyone to be against, each branch of the conservative movement is liberated to follow its own path. And as each twines in on itself any deviation from that particular path can be fought with the same ferocity that used to be generally reserved for those on the Left. Feeding the fury is the fact that the mainstream of conservatism (as represented by the Republican Party base) is now in broad agreement with much of the Democratic Party base, because it has been shifted Right. So when a George W. Bush pursues compassionate conservatism--maintaining the Welfare State but making it Free Market oriented--or a freedom agenda--pushing universal democratization--or a culture of life--stem cells, abortion, marriage, euthanasia, etc.--the opposition from various wings on the Right is just as loud and impassioned as that on the far Left.

This is the reason that the leaderships of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, W, John Howard, and the like have crashed on the shoals of their own parties, not of the opposing. The sort of Third Way governance that the political center of the Anglosphere demands and rewards at the polls is anathema to many of the professionals, pundits, and ideologues of both Left and Right. These leaders win by running on Third Way reforms, replacing parties that are stuck in or have reverted to First or Second Way rhetoric (they can almost never enact policies), and are temporarily followed out of sheer gratitude. But as they enact reforms they end up losing support from their own, who find such compromise intolerable.

This see-sawing in our politics will continue until one side or the other can make the intellectual leap of accepting that we're never going back to the old ways (or the older). And whoever gets there first will dominate the political scene for quite some time. Here in the States, the GOP is particularly well positioned to make the transition, because the party membership are so heavily religious. In particular, a GOP that welcomed the generally religious Latino and black populations would be virtually unbeatable. And because so much of the Third Way is built around offering opportunities for wealth creation the alliance is even more natural. It is this coming shift in the GOP that causes many on the Right to oppose immigration who would normally be expected to celebrate the free market and free movement of peoples.

Happily, it is the GOP electorate that chooses the Party's presidential nominee, not the Beltway types, and the latter are always shocked by the conservatism of the former. We may not know exactly who will be chosen in this first genuinely open Republican primary season, but we know the general outline: it will be a Christian/social conservative governor. Thus, we know that the loudest voices in the movement will be disappointed yet again, though the national electorate will demonstrate its approval at the polls.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Great poetry is no scandal (Richard King, 8/04/10, The Australian)

For [Geoffrey] Hill, responsibility to the richness of the language is inseparable from responsibility to the truth. This is a heavy burden to bear, and Hill is aware that such a vision can lend itself to self-aggrandisement and to comedy. In his Mercian Hymns (1971) he imagines himself as a poet-king, wryly fusing an account of his childhood in the English Midlands in the 1930s with the life of an ancient king of that region. But he also knows that writers can, and do, have an impact on historical events, and in The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy (1983) he explores one instance when this was the case. Peguy was a French intellectual and patriot who attacked the socialist leader Jean Jaures for attempting to keep France out of World War I, an attack that may have led indirectly to Jaures's assassination in 1914. The responsibility of the writer is laid out in the starkest terms:

Did Peguy kill Jaures? Did he incite

the assassin? Must men stand by what they write

as by their camp-beds or their weaponry

or shell-shocked comrades while they sag and cry?

Here, the cliche -- to stand by something -- is brilliantly restored by the image of the camp-bed, which takes us straight from Perguy's rhetoric to the reality of life on the Western Front, encapsulating in a single phrase the theme of artistic responsibility. The exploration of the relationship between thought and action as it played itself out in a unique intelligence has, one feels, a particular resonance for this most engaged and engaging of poets.

The late Peter Porter once remarked on the tendency of contemporary poets to turn themselves into stand-up comedians, so concerned are they to appeal to a world that appears to be turning its back on their art. Hill will have nothing to do with such nonsense. His is a serious poetry about serious things. Sometimes he can seem too serious, forbidding to the point of rebarbativeness. Still, I'd rather have the rebarbativeness, replete as it is with exquisite effects, than the purveyors of performance doggerel seeking to lighten my day. There are perhaps a handful of poets whose work will survive into the 22nd century. In my view, Hill is one of them.

-REVIEW: of True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell Under the Sign of Eliot and Pound, by Christopher Ricks (Patrick Kurp, June 7, 2010, The Quarterly Conversation)

True Friendship started life as the Anthony Hecht Lectures in the Humanities at Bard College in 2007. Ricks’s challenge is to keep from tangling so many threads on his loom—five writers and all their possible pairings and treblings—but there’s nothing grim or workmanlike about his ambitious task. Among his other virtues, Ricks is a grateful, happy critic:

It would please me if, after all these years and all that is owed to these poets, the five of them were to form for others as well as for me the mysteriously persuasive shaping that Sir Thomas Browne delighted in: the quincunx. But I should of course settle for something along less far-fetched lines, such as the dear, down-to-earth way of putting it that William Empson came up with: the right handle to take hold of the bundle. Or rather, merely a right handle to take hold of the bundle.

Seldom do audacity and humility so charmingly mingle in a critic. Ricks begins with Hill, a poet he has championed for more than forty years. Hill’s work is unimaginable without Eliot’s example, but the friendship is never true—or uncomplicated. Ricks notes that Hill’s poetry is suffused with Eliot’s, but his critical work is often dismissive of his great precursor. Hill goes so far as to call Eliot’s late work “demonstrably bad,” but Ricks notes that “the grudging respect that Hill has for Eliot remains respect, even on the occasions when it is palpably outnumbered by the grudging or even the grudges.” For example, Ricks cites a passage from section 29 of Hill’s Speech! Speech! (2000):

The sanctuary hung with entrails. Blood
on the sackcloth. And still we are not
word-perfect. HARUSPICATE; what does that
say to you?

The odd-sounding upper-case word means inspecting animal entrails for purposes of divination, but Hill isn’t merely showing off his Latinate vocabulary. Ricks writes: “Well (since you ask), what this says to me is that (among much else) the entrails of a poem by Eliot are being inspected.” Then he cites an echo from “The Dry Salvages” section of Four Quartets:

To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behavior of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures . . .

The spell-check software on my computer recognizes neither “haruspicate” nor “scry” (crystal gazing), but Ricks recognizes Hill recognizing Eliot, and a good reader recognizes a small gift from a good critic.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


'Higher Education' Is A Waste Of Money (NPR, August 2, 2010)

Professor Andrew Hacker says that higher education in the U.S. is broken.

He argues that too many undergraduate courses are taught by graduate assistants or professors who have no interest in teaching.

Hacker proposes numerous changes, including an end to the tenure system, in his book, Higher Education?

"Tenure is lifetime employment security, in fact, into the grave" Hacker tells NPR's Tony Cox. The problem, as he sees it, is that the system "works havoc on young people," who must be incredibly cautious throughout their years in school as graduate students and young professors, "if they hope to get that gold ring."

That's too high a cost, Hacker and his co-author, Claudia Dreifus, conclude. "Regretfully," Hacker says, "tenure is more of a liability than an asset."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Psychology Studies Biased Toward Western Undergrads:
A recent and exhaustive meta-analysis of scientific data shows that top psychology studies tend to make conclusions about human nature based on samples taken solely from Western undergraduate students. Christie Nicholson, 8/07/10, Scientific American)

[A] group from the University of British Columbia recently published an enormous meta-analysis on the danger of assuming that all of humanity closely matches the behaviors of 20-something college students. They cite evidence that between 2003 and 2007 undergrads made up 80 percent of study subjects in six top psychology journals, and that 96 percent of all psychology samples come from countries that make up only 12 percent of the world’s population. They call this the WEIRD population—Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic—and say that they are the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans.

The researchers found huge variability between global populations along measures of motivation, self-perception, reasoning, heritability of IQ and even visual perception. For instance the Muller-Lyer visual illusion, which shows two lines of equal length where one is often perceived at least by American undergrads, as longer than the other, is actually not an illusion at all for the San foragers of the Kalahari. The authors also note points of similarity like this one: in 37 populations males tend to rank physical attractiveness of mates to be more important than do females.

The main plea from the researchers is that far too often these so-called WEIRD populations are actually the "outliers" and psychologists need to be less cavalier about labeling some behavior as human nature based on the desires, emotions and culture of a group of 19-year old co-eds.

Ah, science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition (LAURIE GOODSTEIN, 8/08/10, NY Times)

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Image via Wikipedia

Undercover with the young Conservatives: The sexual appeal of Margaret Thatcher, "the bloody Lib Dems" and the true meaning of "the big society" -- I heard it all at my first Conservative Future event. (Laurie Penny - 08 August 2010, New Statesman)
The debate is thrown open to the floor, and eventually one of the few ladies in the room puts up her hand to ask a polite question about the representation of women in Tory politics.

"Well, obviously I think women should be more visible in the party - " begins one candidate, grinning as a roar of appreciation goes up for his blokey innuendo. There follow some platitudes about how unfortunate it is that few women are taking advantage of this uniquely welcoming atmosphere to put themselves forward, and assurances that "positive discrimination" will never be a part of Conservative Future's way of doing politics.

It's alright, though - there's at least one woman who these people respect. "We need to attack the left like they attacked us," says one of the candidates, his top button straining. "We need to vilify them like they vilified the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever had - Margaret Thatcher!" Sudden thunderous applause and thumping of the bar from fifty young men in blazers who were largely prenatal when Thatcher left Downing Street. "She did what needed to be done," continues the speaker fervently. I begin to worry that this is actually a neoliberal ecstatic cult, and that one of the young men on the platform is about to start shaking and summon the spirit of the Iron Lady. Time for a little break.

Sucking down fresh Belgravia air and nicotine in the street, I meet a young graduate in a pink shirt who decides to share my lighter and his left-libertarian misgivings. "The Thatcher thing is weirdly sexualised, isn't it?" he says. "I heard one of them saying that it'd be a privilege to lick her boots." It's almost as if the right can't express respect for any woman without declaring her super-sexy.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


The new political correctness (The Economist, Aug 6th 2010)

We don't deserve not to be offended just because we got hurt. And just because we lost something doesn't mean we get everything we want, or even deserve everything we want. Religious freedom is an American value. The freedom to offend is too.

This is something Republicans used to believe in. George Bush senior criticised "a movement [that would] declare certain topics 'off-limits', certain expressions 'off-limits', even certain gestures 'off-limits'." The entire argument against political correctness held that women and minorities didn't have the right not to be offended. But now that its own constituents feel offended, the right is suddenly arguing in favour of sensitivity. Again, people who lost relatives on September 11th feel a personal loss, and society generally agrees on how to protect someone who's lost a loved one. But what about the rest of us? Do all Americans need sensitivity training, on how to deal with other Americans who might feel particularly hurt by September 11th? Should universities come up with a code of how to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing around September 11th? Now that the Republicans have come to embrace this form of political correctness, maybe both parties can have a sensitivity summit, where they can agree on what's off-limits in America. Maybe they can draw up a curriculum.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


The myth of the Social Security system's financial shortfall: The trust fund is in far better shape than critics admit. (Michael Hiltzik, August 8, 2010, LA Times)

The trustees indicated that the program has made it through the worst economic downturn in its life span essentially unscathed. In fact, by at least one measure it's fiscally stronger than a year ago: Its projected actuarial deficit over the next 75 years (a measurement required by law) is smaller now than a year ago.

The old age and disability trust funds, which hold the system's surplus, grew in 2009 by $122 billion, to $2.5 trillion. The program paid out $675 billion to 53 million beneficiaries — men, women and children — with administrative costs of 0.9% of expenditures. For all you privatization advocates out there, you'd be lucky to find a retirement and insurance plan of this complexity with an administrative fee less than five or 10 times that ratio.

This year and next, the program's costs will exceed its take from the payroll tax and income tax on benefits. That's an artifact of the recession, and it's expected to reverse from 2012 through 2014. The difference is covered by the program's other income source — interest on the Treasury bonds in the Social Security trust fund.

That brings us back to this supposed $41-billion "shortfall," which exists only if you decide not to count interest due of about $118 billion.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Poor man's Howard moving backwards to the future (PETER HARTCHER, August 9, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald)

TONY ABBOTT has launched the Liberal Party's campaign as a poor man's John Howard.

The biggest single applause point among the faithful at the Liberal launch came when Abbott embraced Howard in the front row of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

It was the personification of the Abbott pitch - a return to the philosophy and policies of the Howard era.

So when Abbott declared that it was time to "give Australia back a grown-up government'', it was clear which grown-up he had in mind.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Mitch McConnell comes to the Senate's defense (David S. Broder, August 8, 2010, Washington Post)

He is right when he says that the Senate tends to be at its best when the party ratios are relatively close -- say 55 to 45 -- rather than as lopsided as they have been during Obama's first two years.

A more-even split encourages dealing between the parties in the center of the political spectrum, and it may very well return if Republicans make the gains now widely forecast for November.

McConnell confirmed at the breakfast that one day earlier, he had had his first ever one-on-one private meeting with Obama at the White House. And he fleshed out what I had gathered from my own earlier visit to the White House and reported in another column, namely, an active interest developing on the part of the president in reaching out to congressional Republicans for help on the 2011-12 agenda.

McConnell said he could foresee alliances with Obama on trade issues, on development of nuclear power and electric vehicles, and, most important, on disciplining the federal budget.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Labor Trussed-up by gag orders (August 9, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald)

THE Labor Party has reason to be terrified. Warren Truss - who, in case you had not noticed, is Deputy Leader of the Opposition - and Julie Bishop, deputy leader of the Liberal Party, are now so relaxed and confident they are prepared to perform comedy routines to a packed theatre.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Truss intoned at the Coalition's official campaign launch, has become so isolated ''she has had to resort to texting her ex to ask him to accompany her to the ball because she couldn't find anyone else willing to dance with her''.

Why, asked Truss, had the Gillard government given up making decisions, just as the ex, Kevin Rudd, had left most of the reports and reviews he had commissioned gathering dust or in the too-hard basket.
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''This isn't governing. This is loitering without intent,'' he deadpanned. The audience howled. It wasn't the greatest line, but coming from Warren Truss, who normally wears the mournful look of a homeless hound, it was high comedy.

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August 7, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


G.O.P. Seeks Democratic Seats on McCain Turf (JEFF ZELENY, 8/08/10, NY Times)

Of all the veins Republicans hope to mine to win seats they need to recapture the House, one may be particularly rich: Democratic seats from districts that picked John McCain over Barack Obama in the last presidential race.

These split districts are scattered across the country, a total of 48 from Alabama to Arizona where Democrats were elected not on the coattails of Mr. Obama, but in spite of opposition to him. Republicans, needing a net gain of 39 for a majority in the House, are redoubling their efforts to win these seats, hoping to link Democrats to the president and his policies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 PM


Republicans Push Back Primaries One Month (JEFF ZELENY, 8/06/10, NY Times)

The measure seemed to be on the verge of failing until a longtime party leader issued a dire warning.

“I guarantee we will wake up in July next year and say, ‘Oh my God, what did we do?’ ” said John H. Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor, now chairman of that state’s Republican Party. “If we create chaos again, we will end up selecting the wrong nominee and we will have lost the momentum we gain in 2010 and we will allow Barack Obama to waltz into the White House.”

The rules were designed to avoid a replay of the last presidential race, when the Democratic fight between Mr. Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton energized voters and party activists. Senator John McCain became the presumptive nominee months earlier, without going through a series of primaries that Republicans believe could have made him a stronger candidate.

The plan does not change the traditional opening roles of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, but it pushes their primaries and caucuses away from the holiday season by not allowing the contests to begin until Feb. 1, 2012. Other states face penalties if they schedule their elections before March, an effort to keep states from repeating the intense jockeying that has taken place as they try to gain a greater voice in choosing the nominee.

...(assuming Jeb doesn't run) there doesn't seem much danger of the nomination being sewn up early. The only candidate who could win IA and NH is probably Tim Pawlenty and that would be some achievement for a rookie.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


Labor pains for Gillard (JESSICA WRIGHT, August 8, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald)

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard woke to disappointing poll results yesterday only to see her day get worse as she crossed paths with two former Labor leaders.

Six weeks after she deposed Kevin Rudd, the two spoke for the first time - they had exchanged text messages - in a tightly managed photo opportunity in Brisbane.
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Their body language and distinct lack of eye contact suggested the rancour of the leadership coup is yet to abate, and the expected news they will not campaign together this week was interpreted as a further sign of strain.

Ms Gillard's meeting with Mr Rudd was overshadowed by former Labor leader Mark Latham ambushing her to ask why Labor had allegedly complained over his role as a 60 Minutes producer. Channel Nine boss David Gyngell last night apologised for Mr Latham's ''lack of respect'' for Ms Gillard.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero (RALPH BLUMENTHAL and SHARAF MOWJOOD, 12/09/10, NY Times)

The Sept. 11, 2001, attack killed 2,752 people downtown and doomed the five-story building at 45 Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center, keeping it abandoned for eight years.

But for months now, out of the public eye, an iron gate rises every Friday afternoon, and with the outside rumblings of construction at ground zero as a backdrop, hundreds of Muslims crowd inside, facing Mecca in prayer and listening to their imam read in Arabic from the Koran.

The building has no sign that hints at its use as a Muslim prayer space, but these modest beginnings point to a far grander vision: an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land that would stand as one of ground zero’s more unexpected and striking neighbors.

The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

“We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61.

Although organizers have sought to avoid publicizing their project because they say plans are too preliminary, it has drawn early encouragement from city officials and the surrounding neighborhood.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said through a spokesman that Imam Feisal told him of the project last September at a celebration to observe the end of Ramadan. As for whether Mr. Bloomberg supported it, the spokesman, Andrew Brent, said, “If it’s legal, the building owners have a right to do what they want.”

The mayor’s director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, Fatima Shama, went further. “We as New York Muslims have as much of a commitment to rebuilding New York as anybody,” Ms. Shama said. Imam Feisal’s wife, Daisy Khan, serves on an advisory team for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for the memorial, said, “The idea of a cultural center that strengthens ties between Muslims and people of all faiths and backgrounds is positive.”

Those who have worked with him say if anyone could pull off what many regard to be a delicate project, it would be Imam Feisal, whom they described as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding.

“He subscribes to my credo: ‘Live and let live,’ ” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of Park East Synagogue on East 67th Street.

As a Sufi, Imam Feisal follows a path of Islam focused more on spiritual wisdom than on strict ritual, and as a bridge builder, he is sometimes focused more on cultivating relations with those outside his faith than within it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Why David Cameron is the new Dubya: Our young, energetic prime minister has more in common with the discredited former president than you may think (Andy Beckett, 8/06/10,

Having missed the heyday of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the two men began to rise instead when voters were losing their appetite for transatlantic conservatism's more caustic remedies, and positioned themselves accordingly as "compassionate conservatives". Most journalists took this carefully constructed moderation at face value.

Voters were less impressed. In the 2000 presidential election Bush, infamously, received about half a million votes fewer than Al Gore, despite Gore's over-complicated and stiff public manner, and a jittery economy. In this May's general election, it is already less remembered, Cameron's Conservatives scraped 36% of the vote – only a slight improvement on the share the party won in its heavy defeats in 2005 and 2001 – despite Gordon Brown's Gore-style presentational problems, and despite a British economy that was not so much jittery as post-traumatic.

And yet, out of Bush and Cameron's poor election showings in 2000 and 2010 has come a new, bolder British and American conservatism. You could call it a politics of wishful thinking – or of bluff.

First, the two men spun their thin or nonexistent electoral mandates as decisive expressions of public support. Thus, in America, throughout the month-long tumult of recounts and court challenges that followed the 2000 election, Bush presented himself as the contest's victor and Gore as the loser, when there was plenty of evidence that the situation was unclear or even the opposite. Similarly, in Britain this May, on election night, with a mere three seats declared (all retained by Labour) and the exit polls predicting a hung parliament, Cameron's key ally, George Osborne, told the BBC: "I do not think there's any question of Labour being able to continue [in office]." A few commentators fleetingly raised an eyebrow at Osborne's characteristically cocky, premature triumphalism, but it helped create a conventional wisdom about the election result that led directly to the formation of the coalition.

Once in government, Cameron, like Bush, has again exceeded the electorate's instructions. The cautious, inclusive, compassionate conservative has turned into a divisive rightwing radical. Both men have used national emergencies as political cover. For Bush, it was 9/11 that justified his huge, reckless neocon experiment. For Cameron, the emergency, more contrived, has been the double one of a hung parliament and a large national deficit – neither of them remotely unprecedented, but scary enough, in a Britain recently grown accustomed to political and economic stability, to make a shrinking of state spending drastic enough to satisfy the zaniest of 80s Thatcherites look like common sense, for the time being, to an impressive 55% of voters.

Will Cameron's shallow and opportunistic radicalism succeed? The Bush precedent suggests it may, but only for a few years. Bush was re-elected in 2004, and his approval ratings remained healthy until mid-2005. During this post-9/11 period, it sometimes seemed as if his government could be kept aloft almost by agenda-setting rhetoric alone, without the clever thinktank ideas and canny legislative arm-twisting and basic administrative competence that sustained Thatcher's and Reagan's administrations.

The dirty secret of the Anglosphere is that just as David Cameron resembles Blair/Clinton/Howard/Harper/W, so too will the next Republican president resemble the British PM.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Ahmadinejad’s Govt Has Halted Iran’s Projects Waiting On Imam Mehdi, Mousavi (RUDAW, 8/07/10)

Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran’s opposition leader has accused the government of the Iranian President Ahmadinejad of suspending government projects believing in the superstition of the arrival of the last Shiite Imam Mohammedi Mehdi, reported by several local and regional Media outlets last week.

“Some government officials have predicted the coming of Mahdi soon. Therefore, the government has halted working on several important projects,” said Mousavi.

...doesn't get us off the hook in the meantime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


An August Surprise from Obama? (James Pethokoukis, Aug 5, 2010, Reuters)

Main Street may be about to get its own gigantic bailout. Rumors are running wild from Washington to Wall Street that the Obama administration is about to order government-controlled lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to forgive a portion of the mortgage debt of millions of Americans who owe more than what their homes are worth. An estimated 15 million U.S. mortgages – one in five – are underwater with negative equity of some $800 billion. Recall that on Christmas Eve 2009, the Treasury Department waived a $400 billion limit on financial assistance to Fannie and Freddie, pledging unlimited help. The actual vehicle for the bailout could be the Bush-era Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, a sister program to Obama’s loan modification effort. HARP was just extended through June 30, 2011. [...]

Moreover, Morgan Stanley is pushing a mortgage relief plan directly to Congress. On August 3, a top Morgan Stanley economist recommended to the Senate Budget Committee that Fannie and Freddie ease their lending standards to allow millions of Americans to refinance their mortgages.

We ought to be helping people take advantage of rates under 4.5%.

August 6, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM

NO JUDD EVER HAD A GREEN CARD (via The Other Brother):

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 AM


Change the focus to long-term growth (Glenn Hubbard, August 5, 2010, Politico)

While Social Security is not the biggest contributor to long-term budget costs — that distinction is held by health care — it is a big deal.

The good news is that we know ways to reduce the Social Security debt while retaining its important role as a floor for retirement income. One step is to increase the retirement age to match recent improvements in longevity.

Benefit growth for middle- and upper-income households can also be trimmed. One fix is progressive indexing, in which lower-income workers’ benefits are indexed to growth in wages (as under current law), while benefits for higher-income workers are indexed only to growth in prices. This focuses Social Security more sharply as a safety net and would generate a large improvement in America’s long-run fiscal picture.

A bold move toward fiscal consolidation would improve long-term growth by easing the pressure of mounting government debt on interest rates and reducing the need for higher taxes. More important, the adjustment would grant breathing room for near-term fiscal action to improve growth.

Two good candidates for so doing are (1) a temporary payroll tax holiday for firms and for lower-income workers to reduce hiring costs and boost household spending and (2) a cut in America’s high corporate tax rate.

Further fiscal consolidation could also improve long-term growth prospects, while focusing entitlement spending on a “social safety net” role. Reducing Medicare subsidies for nonpoor individuals could be a large step. Shifting the federal contribution to Medicaid to a block grant, in which payments to states grow with inflation and low-income population, could be another key step.

These changes — important for fiscal consolidation and keeping tax rates low to encourage growth — are key.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 AM


Obama: Not the Great Stone Face: Obama could still restore his standing with the American people if he copied the Clinton of 1995 and abandoned his unpopular agenda. But he won’t. (Victor Davis Hanson, 8/06/10, National Review)

In 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote an allegory about a series of small-town would-be heroes who the gullible public claimed resembled the Great Stone Face on the side of a New Hampshire mountain. The citizens assumed that these men would have a granite-like ability to stand firm against whatever dangers the people faced. (“About this time there went a rumor throughout the valley, that the great man, foretold from ages long ago, who was to bear a resemblance to the Great Stone Face, had appeared at last.”) The most confident and charismatic of these quick-fix characters — Mr. Gathergold, Old Blood-and-Thunder, and Old Stony Phiz — always in the end proved failures, as the people finally learned that they did not have the qualities they ascribed to the face on mountain. [...]

There is a growing desperation among politicians that the populace perceives them as pretty much alike — alike in the sense of not being appealing. In Obama’s case, the charge is doubly serious, because he made extravagant claims that our first community organizer and our first African-American to become president — and our most purely liberal president in a generation — would be different, as in bringing a new humility and competence to the office.[...]

The odd thing is that the entire country senses how Obama could restore his ratings to over 50 percent in the same way Clinton did in 1995. He would simply call in Republicans to work out a deal to balance the budget, quit his two-year “Bush did it” whine, stop suing the states, reassure business that there will be no more tax hikes, praise the private sector for its ingenuity and competence, stop trying to appeal to his base through race and ethnicity, and get engaged on Afghanistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 AM


Q&A: How Puritans became capitalists: A historian traces the moment when Boston’s dour preachers embraced the market (Michael Fitzgerald, August 1, 2010, Boston Globe)

How could people who loathed market principles birth a modern market economy? That question captivated Mark Valeri after he read sermons by the fiery revivalist Jonathan Edwards that included detailed discussions of economic policy. Edwards turned out to be part of a progression of ministers who led their dour and frugal flocks down a road that would bring fabulous riches, and ultimately give rise to a culture seen as a symbol of material excess.

In his new book, ”Heavenly Merchandize,” Valeri, professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, finds that the American economy as we know it emerged from a series of important shifts in the relationship between the Colonies and England, fomented by church leaders in both London and early Boston. In the 1630s, religious leaders often condemned basic moneymaking practices like lending money at interest; but by the 1720s, Valeri found, church leaders themselves were lauding market economics. Valeri says the shift wasn’t a case of clergymen adapting to societal changes--he found society changed after the ministers did, sometimes even decades later. [....]

IDEAS: So how do you get from Keayne to an unapologetic early American entrepreneur like Benjamin Franklin?

VALERI: There’s a series of catastrophes in the mid-17th century, especially in the 1660s. Preachers and their merchant parishioners begin to fear for the collective status of New England. They begin to rethink the role of the economy and how what is good for the economy is good for the social order, which is God’s social order. It’s at that point they begin to valorize merchants and their trade.

IDEAS: This is after Keayne has died, after the era of ”Crucible”-like ”merchant hunts”?

VALERI: That’s right. Then comes the Glorious Revolution, 1688, when the English throne is given over to William and Mary. William is seen by the people of New England as a protector of Protestantism. England’s Imperial order, which is now ruled by a highly devout Protestant monarchy, is God’s agent in the world. The economic tool God uses is long-distance, Atlantic capitalism. And to abet or assist or participate in England’s new Colonial empire is to serve God. So here exchange of credit and commoditization of credit become not only morally tolerable but actually religiously praiseworthy.

IDEAS: You’re saying that the market didn’t rise at the expense of religion, but was enabled by it?

VALERI: You need to have a change in your basic understanding of how or where God works in the world before you can envision different economic behaviors as morally sufferable. These religious changes come first. The market--networks of exchange, converging prices, things being adjudicated in courts--is not put in place in North America until the 1740s,1750s. The religious changes come before that. They’re integral to it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 AM


Yoko Ono opposes parole for John Lennon’s killer (LYNN ELBER, 08/05/2010, AP)

Three decades after John Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono said she opposes his killer’s parole because he remains a potential threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


How did five million barrels of oil simply disappear? (Steve Connor, 8/06/10, Independent)

The other three-quarters no longer poses a significant threat to the environment, having mostly either evaporated or been dispersed, skimmed or burned off from from the sea surface, the NOAA scientists said.

Although the amount of oil still remaining in the environment, nearly 1.3 million barrels, is about five times the amount spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989, scientists believe that it is unlikely to cause as much damage as this notorious spill. The oil from the Gulf of Mexico is lighter than the usual heavy crude oil, and it will be easier to degrade naturally because there is a greater volume of water so it will dilute faster, and the warmer temperatures of the Gulf help bacterial degradation.

"This is good news. We've been saying all along that this wasn't the catastrophe that the politicians and the media would have us believe – but of course there is no such thing as a good oil spill," said Simon Boxall, an oceanographer from the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton University.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 AM


Poll: 85% agree to two-state solution (HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, 08/06/2010, Jerusalem Post)

A new poll finds that 85 percent of the Arab world would agree to a two-state solution with Israel and a plurality endorse a negotiated solution, though most doubt that such an outcome will happen.

Though 85% of those surveyed in six Arab countries said they were willing to support peace for a two-state solution in which Israel returned to the 1967 lines, including in Jerusalem, 55% thought Israel would not agree to give up the necessary territory, according to a poll by the Brookings Saban Center’s Shibley Telhami. Only 14% said Arabs should continue to fight even if Israel returned to the 1967 borders.

August 5, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


The GOP needs to become the party of “Yes” on immigration (Stewart Lawrence, 08/05/2010, The Daily Caller)

he real challenge for the GOP is to articulate a more prosperity-oriented vision for immigration policy – and that means shifting the country’s attention away from controlling illegal immigration towards promoting more and better legal immigration.

The GOP, as the party of prosperity and mobility, needs to remind the country that immigrants are still our nation’s lifeblood – but only if we design the proper policies.

For example, the United States is currently losing the increasingly globalized competition for skilled scientific and technical workers because it refuses to adjust its visa policies to recruit and retain the “best and the brightest.”

Republicans should be in the forefront of a plan to eliminate the visa cap for H-1 skilled workers and to make it easier for foreign-born students in our universities to obtain green cards, instead of forcing them to return home, which bolster our competitors’ economies.

The same common-sense pro-immigration policies should also be adopted for unskilled workers. In a deep recession like the current one, native-born workers can replace some of the illegal aliens currently in the construction, retail, and service industries.

But in an expanding economy, the labor market demand for unskilled workers will outstrip the domestic supply – by about 400,000 workers per year. We will still need to channel foreign-born, unskilled workers into our economy through some kind of legal system – either through a temporary worker program, or with more green cards.

Simply saying “no” to foreign, unskilled workers won’t protect our economy’s labor markets, which have needs at both the “high” and “low” ends of the skill spectrum.

Finally, there is no reason to alienate Latinos who might otherwise lean Republican with exceedingly harsh – and at times, xenophobic – rhetoric about illegal aliens. As we close the enforcement noose tightly, to deter future illegal flows, there should be room in our hearts for compassion and leniency towards those who have lived and worked in the US illegally for many years, paying taxes, and obeying our laws, when our enforcement policies were lax.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


What Is the “Rule of Law”? (David W. Skubik, 08/03/10, First Principles)

An important catchphrase of modern conservative leaders and thinkers, the “rule of law” captures what conservatives see as the need to return to past assumptions about government.

One commonly held view of the meaning of “the rule of law” is that governments ought to be so structured that citizens perceive society as grounded on the impartial application and enforcement of agreed norms of behavior rather than on the whims or prejudices of political leaders. In most contexts that mention the rule of law, the implied if not explicit contrasting phrase is “and not of men.” As outlined in Montesquieu’s seminal The Spirit of the Laws (1748), influential in the thought of the founders of the American Republic, there should exist a certain balance of power between the various branches of government so that no partisan can disturb the overall structure. This arrangement allows citizens to trust in the fair administration of the laws. Constructing and maintaining this balance are themes in James Madison’s famous Federalist 10 (1787), which urges ratification of the new Constitution because it will serve as a crucial tool for ameliorating the activities of factions (i.e., political parties and special interest groups) in American political life.

This practical political result requires more than customary observance of the usual technical legalisms—that is, that no act should be designated a crime and no punishment meted out, without law. As important as these legalisms might be, the overall structure of government must be so framed as to inspire and protect the confidence of the people. This requires a written constitution as the fundamental formulation of governmental authority. In Thomas Jefferson’s words, “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.”

Note that in a republic, freedom does not mean that you are free to do what you want, but as free as every other citizen to do what they want: "Action regulated by law is free...not when the law is accepted voluntarily, or when it corresponds to the desires of the citizens, but when the law is not arbitrary, that is, when it respects universal norms (when it applies to all individuals or to all members of the group in question), aspires to the public good, and for this reason protects the will of the citizens from the constant danger of constraint imposed by individuals and therefore renders the will fully autonomous."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Ahead of his time: Carausius was a pirate, a rebel and the first ruler of a unified Britain : The discovery of a hoard of ancient coins has called attention to a forgotten emperor (Alan Clayson, 30 July 2010, Independent)

One afternoon earlier this summer, in a Somerset meadow, David Crisp stumbled upon 52,000 Romano-British coins, the second-largest such hoard of its kind ever unearthed – and presently on exhibit in the British Museum. Almost 800 of these were minted during the reign of Carausius, which lasted from around AD286 until AD293, the first ruler since the conquest in AD43 to govern Britain without the authority of Rome – and a much-overlooked historical figure. As Roger Bland, the museum's head of portable antiquities, says, "This find presents us with the opportunity to put Carausius on the map. Schoolchildren across the country have been studying Roman Britain for decades, but have never been taught about Carausius – our lost emperor."

For nigh on 10 years prior to its recapture, Britain enjoyed the best of both worlds as a unified and isolationist nation-state that could still claim affinity with the greater dominion of Rome across the Straits of Dover. Indeed, some of the coins that activated Crisp's metal detector are embossed with the motif "AUGGG" (the three 'g's denoting three augusti, or Roman emperors), stressing that Carausius was on equal terms with the other two emperors – one in Constantinople, one in Rome itself – of an increasingly more fragmented federation, riven with incessant warfare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


Material girl Michelle Obama is a modern-day Marie Antoinette on a glitzy Spanish vacation (Andrea Tantaros, August 5th 2010, Daily Mail)

Sacrifice is something that many Americans are becoming all too familiar with during this economic downturn. It was a key theme in President Obama's inaugural address to the nation, and he's referenced it numerous times when lecturing the country on how to get back on its feet.

But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing summer sojourns - or forgoing them altogether - the Obamas don't seem to be heeding their own advice. While many of us are struggling, the First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her "closest friends." According to CNN, the group is expected to occupy 60 to 70 rooms, more than a third of the lodgings at the 160-room resort. Not exactly what one would call cutting back in troubled times.

Reports are calling the lodgings of Obama's Spanish fiesta, the Hotel Villa Padierna in Marbella, "luxurious," "posh" and "a millionaires' playground." Estimated room rate per night? Up to a staggering $2,500. Method of transportation? Air Force Two.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Squeezing the Rich Is Poor Way to Spur Growth (Caroline Baum, Aug 4, 2010, Bloomberg)

What we do know, empirically, is this: Over time, federal revenue as a share of gross domestic product has stayed fairly constant at 17.9 percent. That’s true if the top marginal tax rate is 91 percent (1950s), 50 percent (early 1980s) or 35 percent (2000s). Recessions are the one exception.

So, if the government’s tax take varies little, why create uncertainty over how much of our income we’ll have to fork over to Uncle Sam three, five, 10 years down the road? Why not flatten the rate, fix it and forget about it?

Fairness, for one. The government wants to take money from the rich and give it to the poor.

“They are wrong,” Laffer says. “It doesn’t work that way. The rich can change the volume, timing, composition and location of their income. Poor people can’t.”

Congress is the second. The tax code is the means through which lawmakers dole out tax breaks, credits and exemptions in return for campaign contributions. Which is why tax simplification in 1986 was such a short-lived phenomenon, says Jim Glassman, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The constancy is why the Right's fretting about consumption taxes is hysterical.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Is Pakistan the enemy in Afghanistan? (LAWRENCE SELLIN, 8/05/10, UPI)

For many years it has been an open secret that Pakistan, in particular its Inter-Services Intelligence agency, has been supporting and advising the Taliban.

It isn't diplomatic to say so but perhaps the time to start playing hardball with Pakistan is long overdue.

Harvard University's Matt Waldman has made a valuable contribution to the debate involving Pakistan's complicity in supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan and its duplicity in its relationship with the United States and the other coalition nations.

In his discussion paper "The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship Between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan Insurgents," Waldman states: "Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions and supplies. In their words, this is 'as clear as the sun in the sky.'"

...given that they're our enemy in Pakistan.

Thanks, Wikileaks, for widening the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Sheikh Your Newtie:
The Gingrich-Bin Laden alliance. (William Saletan, Aug. 5, 2010, Slate)

[B]in Laden has an ally in this propaganda campaign: Newt Gingrich.

Over the past two weeks, in a series of articles and speeches, Gingrich has declared a religious war that suits al-Qaida's agenda almost perfectly. While denouncing "Islamists" rather than Islam, Gingrich has blurred the distinction by selecting as his initial target the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Everything Bin Laden says about the United States, Gingrich validates. All you have to do is read their statements, side by side.

Someone had to continue the fight after we killed OBL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Health Care Reform, British Style (NY Times, 8/05/10)

[T]he new coalition government is proposing a sweeping round of reforms intended to eliminate layers of bureaucracy and deliver better, more personalized care by giving primary care doctors more power over treatment decisions and referrals to specialists. That makes sense. There also are risks, particularly for people living in poorer areas with fewer medical resources.

Thoughtful debate will be needed as these proposals are fashioned into detailed legislation — more thoughtful, we can only hope, than the recent highly politicized debates here over health care reform.

Britain’s nationalized system is, of course, hugely different. But the basic issues are the same everywhere: ensuring the widest possible access to care; encouraging innovation to improve care and reduce costs; making sure that profit-making parts of the system do not sacrifice patient health to the corporate bottom line.

In order to try and sell Americans on the need for health reform you have to convince them that your plan will lower their own costs. The Times is honest enough here to acknowledge that's not what they think reform is for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Obama must show that he knows his limits (Jacob Weisberg, August 4 2010, Financial Times)

This fear of overreaching government is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. The rational side of it appreciates that the state grows in response to war and economic emergency, but also that temporary measures are liable to stick around long after the precipitating crisis ends. Government spending at all levels has swelled from around 33 per cent of gross domestic product in the late 1990s to an estimated 44 per cent this year. At the higher level, distinctions between US democracy and European social democracy begin to erode.

On the other hand, there is a fundamental hypocrisy in rightwing fear-mongering. The global financial crisis demanded a powerful, temporary expansion of spending. Those in Congress who doubled the cost of government during the Bush years have suddenly remembered their principles in opposition. Republicans have yet even to announce a programme, preferring to stand on simple, unified opposition to everything Mr Obama favours. The vacuum they have created has left most of the attention to undeclared presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose stream of absurdist comments on Twitter and the Fox News Channel at least provide entertainment value.

To stand up to these disingenuous attacks, Mr Obama needs to explain why his policies will not result in a more intrusive state or a less flexible economy. It is here that he has fallen short – whether because he lacks a clear view of Washington’s role or because he feels that articulating it would be a political mistake.

So the question is whether the UR is thoughtless or just a lousy pol?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 AM


Doctors Educated Outside U.S. Outperform Home-Grown Physicians (Pat Wechsler, Aug 3, 2010, Bloomberg)

U.S. patients of doctors who went to medical school outside the country and weren’t American citizens had a 9 percent lower death rate on average than those whose doctors trained at home, a study showed.

The report, published today in the August issue of Health Affairs, tracked the performance of primary-care doctors, internists and cardiologists in 244,153 hospitalizations involving congestive heart failure or heart attacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 AM


Sonny Rollins: The Colossus Speaks: One of America's greatest musical treasures reflects on jazz, and the good life (Sonny Rollins, Aug 5 2010, LA Weekly)

[I]'d like to see people feel more optimistic so young musicians can come along and feel they have a platform. Be encouraging. They should feel optimism around them.

It's good to be encouraged and to know your music means something. Maybe, when people listen to me — at least I've been told this by my fans — what I play gets them through the drudgery of their everyday life. This is wonderful and helps me realize I'm not playing for my own edification, as in vanity. This is important to me. They say it's a positive affirmation and hopefully something not negative in a very negative world. At least some people do.

I'd like that to be more, of course. I'd like to reach more with the jazz message of love, affirmation, and goodwill. I'd like to be the person who spreads that message, but I can only take credit for improving upon my gift as I'm woefully inefficient in some things. Of course, I tried to develop it. What I try in my everyday writing, practicing, is endless. I haven't felt I've accomplished ... well, I'm sure I've accomplished something, but I don't feel I've established my musical legacy yet. That's why I practice and I'm still in the middle of it.

I haven't done what I was put here to do.

I'm still improving myself to be a better and more realized person.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 AM


Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam Behind the 'Ground Zero Mosque' (Bobby Ghosh, Aug 3, 2010, TIME)

Criticism spans the gamut, from the ill-informed anguish of those who mistakenly view Islam as the malevolent force that brought down the towers to the ill-considered opportunism of right-wing politicians who see Islam as an easy target.

(Ironically, Islam's roots in New York City are in the area around the site of the World Trade Center, and they predate the Twin Towers: in the late 19th century, a portion of lower Manhattan was known as Little Syria and was inhabited by Arab immigrants - Muslims and Christians - from the Ottoman Empire.)

With city authorities now out of the way, it is the people spearheading the project who must bear the enormous pressure to give up their plans and scrap the building. They are being accused of sympathizing with the men who crashed the planes on 9/11 and of designing the project as, in Newt Gingrich's reckoning, "an act of triumphalism."

And yet Park51's main movers, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, are actually the kind of Muslim leaders right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents - ironically, just the kind of "peaceful Muslims" whom Sarah Palin, in her now infamous tweet, asked to "refudiate" the mosque. Rauf is a Sufi, which is Islam's most mystical and accommodating denomination.

The Kuwaiti-born Rauf, 52, is the imam of a mosque in New York City's Tribeca district, has written extensively on Islam and its place in modern society and often argues that American democracy is the embodiment of Islam's ideal society. (One of his books is titled What's Right with Islam Is What's Right with America.) He is a contributor to the Washington Post's On Faith blog, and the stated aim of his organization, the Cordoba Initiative, is "to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions." His Indian-born wife is an architect and a recipient of the Interfaith Center Award for Promoting Peace and Interfaith Understanding.

August 4, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Distributed Humans Smarter Than Distributed Computers In Solving Complex Biology Problem (Rebecca Boyle, 08.04.2010, Popular Science)

The program stems from Rosetta@home, which works like SETI@home in that it uses a network of idle home computers to crunch data. Biologists were using Rosetta to figure out how proteins develop their final three-dimensional shapes. They know which amino acid chains make up proteins, but the way they're structured is not well understood, and that knowledge has huge potential, because proteins act as gatekeepers in the body.

Rosetta@home included a screensaver that showed users what the computer was doing. Sometimes the computer would get stuck on a tricky folding problem, but gamers thought it looked easy. "People started writing in saying, 'I can see where it would fit better this way'," says David Baker, a biochemist at UW in Seattle who developed Foldit, in Nature News.

Baker's team figured they would let them try it out, and the result was Foldit, wherein players can compete, collaborate, develop strategies, gather points and move to different levels.

It turns out that humans' highly evolved spatial manipulation talents were a boon for this type of problem-solving. Even a small protein can have hundreds of amino acids, meaning thousands of connections are possible -- and that means plenty of work for a computer. But humans can often see the solution intuitively, Nature News reports.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Obama turns 49 with Mrs. Obama, kids out of town (AP, 8/04/10)

Home alone, President Barack Obama turned 49 on Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


Plan for Islamic Center Near Ground Zero Vaults Latest Hurdle, But Protests Continue (Josh Nathan-Kazis, August 04, 2010, The Forward)

The dilapidated former Burlington Coat Factory on Manhattan’s Park Place seems an unlikely locus for a controversy that has swept up Republican gadflies, political candidates, Jewish leaders, and New York City’s mayor. Through a glass door decorated with a bumper sticker reading “U.S.A.,” one can see a quiet, makeshift Muslim prayer space. Security guards say it is packed with more than 400 worshipers on Friday afternoons, though on a recent weekday the only traffic came from the handful of reporters and technicians from the satellite trucks parked outside the door. [...]

The project, formerly known as Cordoba House but now dubbed Park51, is slated to include a swimming pool, an auditorium, restaurants, bookstores, and a prayer space. Organizers say it is modeled after Jewish community centers.

In interviews in May, Jewish interfaith activists broadly praised Imam Faisal Rauf, the pivotal figure behind the community center effort, as a leading moderate in the Muslim community and a dialogue partner for Jewish groups, although some criticized the decision to build the mosque and community center so close to the former site of the Twin Towers.

“He’s one of the most constructive forces of Islam in the U.S. today, and indeed internationally,” Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs, said at the time. “I think he is a very fair man, and the kind of Muslim voice we need to empower and encourage.”

In an interview on August 2, ADL national director Abraham Foxman seemed to concur. “I know he’s moderate; I know we’ve worked with him; I know we’ve put him on our platform,” Foxman said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


The accidental president (Michael Gerson, 8/04/10, Washington Post)

If politics were literature, Bill Clinton would be Tom Buchanan in "The Great Gatsby," casually smashing lives around him while remaining untouched by the chaos he creates. Barack Obama is more like Macon Leary in "The Accidental Tourist," the author of tour guides who hates travel. "He was happiest with a regular scheme of things" - a cautious driver and committed flosser, systematic and steady, suspicious of unpredictable yearnings, displaying an "appalling calm" in times of crisis. "If you let yourself get angry you'll be ... consumed," Macon says. "You'll burn up. It's not productive." Only order and method are productive. He is attracted to the "virtuous delights of organizing a disorganized country."

Macon uses structure and rationality to avoid facing personal loss. Obama's emotional distance seems rooted in self-sufficiency - a stout fortress of self-confidence. But the effect is much the same. Obama leads a country without reflecting its passions - at least any he is willing to share. Events leave him apparently untouched. He doesn't need the crowd. Americans have always loved Obama more than he seems to care for us.

Reaction to this trait is one of the main dividing lines in American politics. Some view it as cold, cerebral and off-putting. Obama supporters still find his reserve refreshing, a welcome contrast to emotive and theatrical politicians. For me - constitutionally averse to hugging, back-slapping and other forms of politically motivated manhandling - Obama's manner has a certain appeal. It offers some of the pre-Oprah presidential dignity of Rutherford B. Hayes or James Garfield.

Actually, Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton share an important characteristic and share it with Ronald Reagan (among other leaders): the absent or virtually absent father [*]. This absence helps explain their ambition--the need to be tacitly approved of--but it did leave the three with some apparent emotional issues.

Perhaps to the current president's credit, he does not don a mask of false openness as his two peers did. While Ronald Reagan appears to have genuinely liked other people and to have disliked remarkably few, he was, nevertheless, so self-contained after growing up with an alcoholic father and dominant mother that he didn't have room in his emotional life for much more than Nancy, thus his unhappy relations with even his own kids. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, seems to have developed into almost a sociopath, able to fake emotions at Ron Brown's funeral one minute and yuck it up the next and acting the playful rogue in public while accosting or even, by various reports, raping women in private. At any rate, both men were rather different in one sphere of their lives than in the other.

Now it is certainly possible that we will one day discover that the cold and distant--even vacant--public persona that Mr. Obama presents is similarly hiding some much different private man, but, based on current evidence, it seems more likely that he is pretty much the cipher he presents as. After all, he has no religious beliefs, no political convictions, few if any friends, a wife who doesn't much respect him, and he spends every chance he gets on the golf course--essentially alone.

Rather than being reserved, the cardboard cut-out may be Mr. Obama in his entirety.

[* Compare and contrast with the two three recent presidents who were sons of powerful fathers--JFK and both Bushes--who basically competed with and ultimately topped their examples. All three were quite comfortable in their own skins and made friends easily. GHWB was a tad too upper class to ever be entirely at home with the hoi polloi, but the other two were comfortable in any milieu.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


Money behind the mosque (NY Post, August 4, 2010)

Just imagine the city fathers of, say, Riyadh so graciously clearing the way for construction of a 13-story cathedral in the Saudi capital.

As if.

Indeed, such a notion renders risible criticism of the sort leveled by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, among others, before the vote.

...but the "I'm just acting like a Hahabbist" defense is particularly moronic, though honest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


U.S. Finds Most Oil From Spill Poses Little Additional Risk (JUSTIN GILLIS, 8/04/10, NY Times)

The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 AM


A Cynical Reason to Love the Mosque: Michael Bloomberg's lofty defense of the ground zero mosque, which won de facto approval yesterday, missed a larger point: It's good strategy. (Elizabeth Wurtzel , 8/04/10, Daily Beast)

[I]t's odd that the whole Islamophobic crowd—the Fox News hysterics, the Palinolithics, the various Cheneys, the assorted terror mongers—doesn't welcome Cordoba House for the kinds of cynical, obnoxious reasons that any savvy political player would instantly recognize: Which is to say, if the people behind Cordoba really are so dangerous, then for heaven's sake, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

If the destroyers of civilization—which is what many believe Muslims to be—come to you with irenic intent, insisting that they want to pay homage and honor to a disaster caused by the evildoers of their own kind, it strikes me as a good idea to just work with them. Not because you like them or agree with, but because they are here and that's that, and it seems that when they are trying to be decent, the wisest move is to respond in kind. That way, if something goes wrong later on—if members of the American Muslim community turn out to be bad actors—we have our warm reception of Cordoba House to hold up as evidence of our goodwill. It's a bargaining chip.

Basically, if everyone thought of this a bit more as realpolitik and a bit less as an existential crisis—which it is not; the United States will be just fine—this would all be less complicated.

It's all about emotional reaction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 AM


Cherry Cola Pops (Tucker Shaw, 8/04/10, Denver Post)

1 pound pitted cherries (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) cola


Stir together cherries, water, sugar and honey in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover, turn off heat, and let sit 15 minutes.

Puree the cherry mixture and the lemon juice until smooth. Stir in cola. Pour into molds and freeze 2 hours. Insert sticks and freeze another 6 hours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 AM


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad survives alleged assassination attempt (Haroon Siddique, 8/04/10,

The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad survived an assassination attempt today when a homemade grenade exploded near his convoy, it was reported.

The Iranian website,, said the incident happened in Hamedan in western Iran as Ahmadinejad was on his way to address a crowd. It said he was unhurt and went on to give his speech as planned, which was broadcast live on state television.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 AM


Meg Whitman’s play for the Latino vote (JAMES HOHMANN, 8/4/10, Politico)

Whitman is not the only Republican candidate making a serious play for Hispanic votes this year, but she stands out as the nation’s most prominent test case of whether Republicans can project a welcoming message as the party’s dwindling base clamors for Arizona-style crackdowns on illegal immigration.

Her struggle to make inroads with this pivotal constituency, which accounts for one-fifth of California’s electorate, captures in miniature the dilemma facing national Republicans. A hard line on immigration might pay short-term dividends in 2010, yet it might also be a risky gamble against the long-term odds of demography.

No state party understands the downside of that risk quite like the Golden State GOP, which has suffered for 16 years now because Wilson tied his 1994 reelection fortunes to the politically expedient Proposition 187, which would have denied public services to illegal immigrants had a federal judge not ruled it unconstitutional.

August 3, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


Labor's death agonies (John Passant - posted Wednesday, 4 August 2010, Online Opinion)

With 52 per cent of the vote on a two party preferred basis, the Conservative coalition would easily win the election.

There are two trends discernible. One is the short term one - the possible defeat of the Labor Government at this election.

The other is the long term move of the ALP from “the left” (broadly defined) to the right.

This long term trend finds expression in the similarity between the two major parties on most policies.

Where are the real differences between them on Afghanistan, refugees, climate change, the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commissioner), the gender pay gap, the Northern Territory invasion, the transfer of wealth from workers to capital, the lengthening of the working day, the slow privatisation of public services etc, etc …

I see little difference at all.

The structural changes within society and the increasing role of the managerial class of capitalism have reflected themselves in the ALP and its takeover by that sub-class both personnel wise and intellectually. Labor has become little more than the second eleven of capital.

Partisanship has surged since the end of the Cold War precisely because there's no meaningful difference between the parties anymore. We're all Third Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


No More Dozing Off in First Period: An 8:30 a.m. high school start time helps students get more sleep, stay alert in class, a pilot study finds. (Melinda Burns, 8/01/10, Miller-McCune)

The study shows that two months after the St. George’s School changed its start time from 8 to 8:30 a.m., students were getting 45 minutes more sleep on school nights, on average, or nearly eight hours in all. They were going to bed an average 18 minutes earlier, presumably because it felt so good. On Sundays, they spent less time sleeping to catch up.

“Well, for me,” one student said, “ever since the 8:30 start I have seen how much good 30 minutes of extra sleep does for me, so I have been inspired to … get an additional half hour on top of the 30 minutes.”

Teens are among the Americans least likely to get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group and proponent of later start times. Doctors recommend that adolescents get nine hours of sleep on school nights for optimal performance, but the research shows that they average less than seven. According to a recent foundation poll, 80 percent of U.S. teens are not getting nine hours of sleep.

“It’s not surprising that a large number of studies have now documented that the average adolescent is chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy,” said Judith Owens, a sleep expert at Rhode Island’s Hasbro Children’s Hospital and the lead researcher on the St. George’s study. The consequences, she said, can range from mood, attention and memory problems to obesity and low grades.

“We’re really fighting biology,” Owens added. “It’s time we started to recognize that sleep is not an optional activity. Adolescents cannot fall asleep much before 11 at night. If they have to start school at 8 a.m., they’re not going to get anywhere near the hours of sleep they need.”

A number of studies in the past decade have compared high schools and middle schools with different starting times, finding that even a half-hour later start can improve student dropout and attendance rates and help students concentrate. In one study, there was even a drop in the number of crashes due to drowsiness while driving.

If we cared about the kids we wouldn't make them waste their time on homework either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM


Fayyad rejects bi-national state idea (FELICE FRIEDSON WITH BENJAMIN JOFFE-WALT, 08/02/2010, Jerusalem Post)

Fayyad has been championing a plan to build national Palestinian institutions so as to create a de facto state over a period of two years, which comes to a close in August 2011. The initiative is known as the ‘Fayyad Plan’.

“[Statehood] is not something that is going to happen to the Israelis, nor something that is going to happen to the Palestinians,” Fayyad said. “It is something that will grow on both sides as a reality... creating a belief that this was inevitable through the process, a convergence of two paths, the political and the process, from the bottom up and the top down.”

“When we started there was skepticism, but I am most encouraged by the growing number of people who now believe it,” Fayyad said, referring to the “necessity” to “build a state based on universal principles” and “support the shift and mindset away from violence.”

The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that a one-state solution is not on the table, arguing that any negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel would be based on “the terms of reference of two states and 1967 [borders] with agreed swaps.”

“I am against a one-state solution, my option is a two-state solution – that is the only option for Palestinians and Israelis,” he told The Media Line. “We want to reach the end game, we want to end the conflict.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


The Marrying Kind (Diane Johnson, 8/19/10, NY Review of Books)

First, some statistics to frame the discussion. Marriage is a “public, formal, lifelong commitment to share your life with another person,” as Andrew J. Cherlin defines it in The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. In the American view, marriage remains the ideal state: only 10 percent of Americans endorse the idea that the institution is outdated, compared to, say, in France, where a third of people think it is. On the contrary, America is seeing a sort of Marriage Renaissance, the impetus for which comes in part from the gay marriage movement, which in itself reflects our reverence for weddings. All the usual explanations for the marrying nature of Americans seem good enough: marriage is seen as a haven in a rough world, an antidote to rootless anomie unneeded by people in smaller, more comfortable societies, and it developed in response to other historical factors including patterns of life and religion in Colonial America and on the frontier. Cherlin also says that marriage is not an innate biological impulse but a socially determined convenience for raising children.

By the time they’re forty, 84 percent of American women have been married, a higher percentage than in other Western nations; and more than half (54 percent) of marriages will have broken up within fifteen years.

...than in the way putative transgressives have been reduced to whining because they don't get to have their relationships institutionalized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


Earmarks Could Help Candidates in Midterms; Palin and Tea Party Connections Could Hurt (Pew Research, August 2, 2010)

About a quarter (27%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate Obama campaigned on behalf of, while about the same number (28%) say Obama's support would make them less likely to vote for a candidate; a plurality (43%) says it would make no difference in their vote. In contrast, nearly four-in-ten (38%) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate Palin has campaigned for; just 18% would be more likely to vote for a Palin-supported candidate and 42% say Palin's endorsement would have no impact. And about three-in-ten (31%) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is a supporter of the Tea Party, 22% say they would be more likely and 41% say it would have no effect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM

IT'S W'S FAULT (via Gene Brown):

Nasa scientists braced for 'solar tsunami' to hit earth: The earth could be hit by a wave of violent space weather as early as Tuesday after a massive explosion on the sun, scientists have warned. (Andrew Hough, 02 Aug 2010, Daily Telegraph)

The explosion, called a coronal mass ejection, was aimed directly towards Earth, which then sent a “solar tsunami” racing 93 million miles across space.

Images from the SDO hint at a shock wave travelling from the flare into space, the New Scientist reported.

Experts said the wave of supercharged gas will likely reach the Earth on Tuesday, when it will buffet the natural magnetic shield protecting Earth.

It is likely to spark spectacular displays of the aurora or northern and southern lights.

"This eruption is directed right at us," said Leon Golub, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

"It's the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time."

Scientists have warned that a really big solar eruption could destroy satellites and wreck power and communications grids around the globe if it happened today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Opposition to 'Ground Zero Mosque' Is a Victory for Al Qaeda (John Aloysius Farrell, August 3, 2010, US News)

The United States is not at war with Islam. It is at war with a small, deadly and extreme faction of Islamic crackpots. One of the best things about President George W. Bush's response to the 9/11 attacks was that he immediately understood and made clear that distinction.

For the umpteenth time: the way the terrorists win is by provoking overreaction. Say it again. Recite each day. Any American politician who does not understand this basic truth (Hello Ms. Palin, and Mr. Gingrich) is far too dumb, or dangerous, to let near public office, much less the presidency.

So here's a tip of the hat to Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City historic building commission, who refused to knuckle under to the hysteric protesters who wanted to distort a local preservation ordinance in order to keep a Muslim cultural center and mosque from opening in lower Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Center. If any place on the planet needs healing, and praying, it is Ground Zero. I would put the mosque right there on Vesey St.

If He Could, Bin Laden Would Bomb the Cordoba Initiative (Jeffrey Goldberg, Aug 3 2010, The Atlantic)
This seems like such an obvious point, but it is apparently not obvious to the many people who oppose the Cordoba Initiative's planned mosque in lower Manhattan, so let me state it as clearly as possible: The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda. Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative's proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama's most dire enemies are Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Right-Time RetroFits (Caroline Fluhrer and Rebecca Cole, June 2010, RMI)

A year after RMI and our partners completed an award-winning retrofit design of the Empire State Building, the $550 million capital upgrade program is now underway.

Overall, the complete energy efficiency program will generate $4.4 million in annual energy cost savings, and cut the building’s energy use by nearly 40 percent, all with an incremental payback of just over three years.

A major portion of the project is to retrofit every one of the building’s approximately 6,500 double-hung windows in order to quadruple their energy performance. Only 10 years old, the windows will be removed, converted into “super insulating glass units” in a special on-site assembly area on a vacant floor of the building, and re-hung.

This project will generate $410,000 a year in energy savings at a total capital cost of $4.5 million and an incremental capital cost of $4 million (since $500,000 was already budgeted for window sealing and isolated replacements). This stand-alone project has a simple payback of just less than 10 years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


First Listen: Arcade Fire, 'The Suburbs' (Robin Hilton, 8/02/10, NPR)

The members of Arcade Fire have always been fascinated by the subtle ways geography informs our lives. With its series of "Neighborhood" songs on the band's 2004 full-length debut, Funeral, the group unpacked the emotional and psychological baggage of seemingly bucolic landscapes, and the sometimes haunted lives of the people who live there. On its latest release, The Suburbs, Arcade Fire turns its attention to ubiquitous, cookie-cutter communities and the impermanent memories they create. The album, which you can hear on NPR Music in its entirety, trolls deftly through a hazy world of failed dreams, lost identity, creeping malaise and, of course, plenty of heartache.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Bollywood's spoof Osama bin Laden movie proves global hit (Alia Waheed, 8/01/10, The Observer)

Tere Bin Laden (Without You Laden) has grossed more than $2m in India, despite having a first-time director and initially only being shown on 344 screens.

The film tells the story of a young journalist from Pakistan whose repeated attempts to obtain a visa to the US to pursue his media career are thwarted. Finally he resorts to unscrupulous means by making a bogus Bin Laden video to sell to the news channels with disastrous results.

The film's main character is played by one of Pakistan's biggest pop stars, Ali Zafar, the first time a Bollywood film has featured a Pakistani actor in a main role. Zafar said he hoped the film would challenge people's misconceptions about his country. "People in Pakistan, especially the educated youth, are by and large very liberal and desire progression and peace," he said. "People who have seen pirated copies of the film in Pakistan have loved it and are open to it."

The film, directed by Abhishek Sharma, has been banned in Pakistan, for fear of provoking attacks on cinemas by Bin Laden sympathisers.

...just doesn't want any competition in the fake OBL tape business?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


The Holmes Brothers: Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen, 8/02/10, NPR)

When The Holmes Brothers arrived to play a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices, the group showed up early — really early, and ready to work. With Sherman Holmes on bass and Wendell Holmes on guitar, these folks are pros. They've been working at it for more than 30 years, playing soul music steeped in Baptist hymns, blues and spirituals. And they play it really well, without the frills.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Adult stem cell research far ahead of embryonic (Malcolm Ritter, The Associated Press)

A few months ago, Dr. Thomas Einhorn was treating a patient with a broken ankle that wouldn't heal, even with multiple surgeries. So he sought help from the man's own body.

Einhorn drew bone marrow from the man's pelvic bone with a needle, condensed it to about four teaspoons of rich red liquid, and injected that into his ankle.

Four months later the ankle was healed. Einhorn, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Boston University Medical Center, credits "adult" stem cells in the marrow injection. He tried it because of published research from France.

Einhorn's experience isn't a rigorous study. But it's an example of many innovative therapies doctors are studying with adult stem cells. Those are stem cells typically taken from bone marrow and blood — not embryos.

George Bush might be forgiven forcing US policy towards the moral position, but how can he ever be forgiven forcing superior science upon the ideologues?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


1962 glass could be Corning's next bonanza seller: Sturdy Corning glass from 1962 could be a multibillion winner in frameless TV market (Ben Dobbin, 8/02/10, AP)

Gorilla showed early promise in the '60s, but failed to find a commercial use, so it's been biding its time in a hilltop research lab for almost a half-century. It picked up its first customer in 2008 and has quickly become a $170 million a year business as a protective layer over the screens of 40 million-plus cell phones and other mobile devices.

Now, the latest trend in TVs could catapult it to a billion-dollar business: Frameless flat-screens that could be mistaken for chic glass artwork on a living-room wall.

Because Gorilla is very hard to break, dent or scratch, Corning is betting it will be the glass of choice as TV-set manufacturers dispense with protective rims or bezels for their sets, in search of an elegant look.

Gorilla is two to three times stronger than chemically strengthened versions of ordinary soda-lime glass, even when just half as thick, company scientists say. Its strength also means Gorilla can be thinner than a dime, saving on weight and shipping costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Chan, the Man: On the trail of the honorable detective (Jill Lepore, 8/02/10, The New Yorker)

Earl Derr Biggers did not invent Charlie Chan. “How can I write of Chinese?” he asked Chan, in that fictional conversation with his fictional detective. “I could not distinguish Chinese man from Wall Street broker.” (Chan had an answer for that. Chan had an answer for everything. “Chinese would be the one who sold you the honest securities.”) A great delight of Huang’s quirky, smart, and entertaining book is his sleuthing out the real story behind Charlie Chan. It turns out that Chan was an actual detective with the Honolulu Police Department; Biggers read about him in the newspaper. His real name was Chang Apana. He was born, around 1871, in Waipio, a village outside Honolulu. His mother, Chun Shee, was also born in Hawaii. People from China had settled in what were then called the Sandwich Islands, beginning in the late seventeen-seventies. Sugarcane had been cultivated in China for centuries, and the first person to grow it for sugar processing in the Sandwich Islands was a man named Wong Tze-chun, who arrived from China in 1802. Chang Jong Tong, Chang Apana’s father, probably travelled from China to Hawaii in the eighteen-sixties. In the second half of the nineteenth century, some forty-six thousand Chinese laborers made that journey. In 1866, when the sugarcane trade was booming, Mark Twain went to Hawaii to report for the Sacramento Union. “The Government sends to China for coolies and farms them out at $5 a month each for five years,” Twain wrote. When Chang Jong Tong’s five years were up, he took his wife and children and headed home, to the tiny village of Oo Sack, south of Canton.

Yunte Huang himself grew up during “the waning days of Mao’s China,” he writes, in a village in southeastern China not much different from Oo Sack. Between the lines, “Charlie Chan” is as much Huang’s story as Charlie Chan’s or Chang Apana’s. Huang writes of a boyhood spent working, and playing with insects—ants, fireflies, grasshoppers—for toys, and imagines that Chang might have done the same. Imagining Chang’s life is what Huang is often reduced to, though, because Chang never learned to read or to write either Chinese or English (later in life, he taught himself to read Hawaiian), which partly accounts for his scant appearances in the historical record.

In Oo Sack, a part of the world devastated by famine and the Opium Wars, the boy and his family were starving. In 1881, when Chang was about ten years old, his parents sent him to Oahu, with an uncle; he never returned to China. Somehow—here, too, the trail vanishes—he became a cowboy, a paniolo, because, ten years later, he was a stableman for a wealthy family, the Wilders, at their horse ranch in Honolulu. When Samuel Wilder, later a steamship magnate, was married in Hawaii, in 1866, to Elizabeth Judd, the daughter of a missionary (and said to be the first white girl born in Hawaii), both Mark Twain and King Kamehameha attended the wedding. In 1897, the Wilders’ youngest daughter, Helen, hired Chang Apana as the first officer for a local chapter of the Humane Society. It was his job to stop people from beating their horses. He was very good at this. He was, for one thing, different from most of the people who lived in Honolulu’s Chinatown, the district where he mostly patrolled, making arrests and issuing fines. He was nicknamed Kanaka Pung, because he looked more Hawaiian than Chinese. “I was the only one without my queue in the ’80s and ’90s,” he later recalled. He was neither chubby like a baby nor dainty like a woman. He was five feet tall and wiry and had a nasty scar on his brow. He wore a cowboy hat and carried a bullwhip.

In 1898, the United States went to war with Spain, a war waged mainly in the Pacific, and Hawaii became a territory of the United States. Chang Apana was recruited by the Honolulu Police Department, which was growing, because of those two developments. In a force of more than two hundred men—the officers mainly Hawaiian and the chiefs mostly white—he was the only Chinese. He excelled, and was promoted to detective. In the nineteen-tens, he was part of a crime-busting squad. His escapades were the stuff of legend. He was said to be as agile as a cat. Thrown from a second-floor window by a gang of dope fiends, he landed on his feet. He leaped from one rooftop to the next, like a “human fly.” When he reached for his whip, thugs scattered and miscreants wept. He once arrested forty gamblers in their lair, single-handed. He was a master of disguises. Once, patrolling a pier at dawn, disguised as a poor merchant—wearing a straw hat and stained clothes and carrying baskets of coconuts, tied to a bamboo shoulder pole—he raised the alarm on a shipment of contraband even while he was being run over by a horse and buggy, and breaking his legs. He once solved a robbery by noticing a strange thread of silk on a bedroom floor. He discovered a murderer by observing that one of the suspects, a Filipino man, had changed his muddy shoes, asking him, “Why you wear new shoes this morning?”

At times, Huang gets a little carried away by the legend, caught up in the perfumed, tropical romance of it all. “Apana once climbed up walls like a pre-Spiderman sleuth and slipped into an opium dive,” he writes. But, more often, Huang’s history is bracing and expansive, moving from Chang’s exploits to chronicle the squalor of Honolulu’s Chinatown and the miseries endured by each wave of immigrant workers—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino—in a world of brutal and unbending racial hierarchy. (Between 1917 and 1957, the year Hawaii outlawed the death penalty, twenty out of the twenty-six civilians executed on the islands were Filipino, two were Korean, two Japanese, one Puerto Rican, and one Hawaiian; as Huang observes, “not a single white man was among them.”) One of Chang’s jobs was to capture lepers, for forced transport to a leper colony on the island of Molokai, to die. Hawaiians called leprosy mai pake, “Chinese sickness,” because it came to the islands in the eighteen-thirties, and appeared to have arrived with the Chinese. Chang got that scar above his right eye while trying to capture a Japanese man who had contracted leprosy and who, armed with a sickle, refused to be sent to Molokai, on a journey over what came to be called the Bridge of Sighs.

Biggers started out as a police reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He published a lot of doggerel, many short stories, and some plays. He produced his first novel in 1913. He sailed to Hawaii seven years later. He always said, though, that he came across Chang Apana, in 1924, only back in the States, while paging through a Hawaiian newspaper in the Reading Room of the New York Public Library: “In an obscure corner of an inside page, I found an item to the effect that a certain hapless Chinese, being too fond of opium, had been arrested by Sergeants Chang Apana and Lee Fook, of the Honolulu Police. So Sergeant Charlie Chan entered the story of The House Without a Key.”

The year Biggers decided to write about Chan, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which, among other restrictions, excluded from American citizenship foreign-born “Asiatics” (a new racial category, invented by eugenicists in the nineteen-tens and codified, in 1923, by the United States Supreme Court). is we missionary families.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Restoring the Paradise that Saddam Destroyed (Samiha Shafy, 8/03/10, Der Spiegel)

Of course, this isn't just any old marsh. Alwash is fighting for a marsh which Biblical scholars believe is the site of the Garden of Eden, and which some describe as the cradle of civilization. The Mesopotamians settled in the fertile region in the fifth century B.C., and within a few centuries it had become the site of an advanced Sumerian civilization. Scholars believe that cuneiform was invented in the region, as were literature, mathematics, metallurgy, ceramics and the sailboat.

Only 20 years ago, an amazing aquatic world thrived in the area, which is in the middle of the desert. Larger than the Everglades, it extended across the southern end of Iraq, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers divide into hundreds of channels before they come together again near Basra and flow into the Persian Gulf. For environmentalists, this marshland was a unique oasis of life, until the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, had it drained in the early 1990s after a Shiite uprising.

Turning the Garden of Eden into Hell

The official explanation was that the land was being reclaimed for agriculture. The military was sent in to excavate canals and build dikes to conduct the water directly into the Gulf. The despot, proud of his work of destruction, gave the canals names like Saddam River and Loyalty to the Leader Canal.

In truth, Saddam was not interested in the farmers. His real goal was to harm the Madan, also known as the Marsh Arabs. For thousands of years, the marshes had been the homeland of this ethnic group and their cows and water buffalo. They lived in floating huts made of woven reeds and spent much of their time in wooden boats, which they guided with sticks along channels the buffalo had trampled through the reeds. They harvested reeds, hunted birds and caught fish.

When the fishermen backed a Shiite uprising against the dictator, the vindictive Saddam turned their "Garden of Eden" into a hell. He had thousands of the Marsh Arabs murdered and their livestock killed. Any remaining water sources were poisoned and reed huts burned to the ground. Many people fled across the border into Iran to live in refugee camps, while others went to the north and tried to survive as day laborers. By the end of the operation, up to half a million people had been displaced.

Within a few years, the marshland had shrunk to less than 10 percent of its original size. In a place that was once teeming with wildlife -- wild boar, hyenas, foxes, otters, water snakes and even lions -- the former reed beds had been turned into barren salt flats, poisoned and full of land mines. In a 2001 report, the United Nations characterized the destruction of the marshes as one of the world's greatest environmental disasters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


Hispanic Market Hits Tipping Point: Demo Accounts for One in Six U.S. Residents, Nearly Half Are at Ease in English (Peter Francese, July 26, 2010,

If you're looking to reach upholders of traditional American values, your best bet might be the Hispanic market.

The market is growing: The 2010 Census expected to count a record 50 million Hispanics, or one in every six U.S. residents, meaning the Hispanic population will have increased a stunning 42% from the previous census in 2000. (By comparison, the non-Hispanic population will have edged up just 5% in that decade.) It's also got scale: Hispanics are now the nation's second-largest consumer market after white non-Hispanics, who are still the largest group at about 200 million.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Hispanics in America is how closely they exemplify our idealized concept of 1950s America. They are young (their median age is about where the whole nation was in 1955) and more often live in large, traditional, married-with-children families with lots of participation from grandparents.

More often than not, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they eat family meals at home, and spend less than average on alcohol. They're moving to the suburbs, tend to be community-oriented, and have high aspirations for their children. In short, they are the sweet market for consumer goods and services that the entire nation used to be when baby boomers were young.

Hispanic children are overwhelmingly U.S. born. Fully 91% of Hispanic children were born in the U.S., compared to only 47% of Hispanic adults, which has great implications for the demographic's speed of acculturation.

When you hate a group that exemplifies your values we can narrow down the reason for your loathing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


The Coalition must not wobble on immigration (Telegraph View, 02 Aug 2010)

Damian Green, the immigration minister, is promising to tighten the system. He should go further. The Tories had a clear policy to fix a cap on immigration, but that is looking worryingly flexible under the Coalition – witness David Cameron's promise to consult India before implementing it. Mr Green must make clear that while this country will always welcome genuine students and those with the skills we need, the Government will be relentless in stopping those who try to play the system.

...was so he could ditch such nonsense and pretend to do so reluctantly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 AM


Poll: Identity, blending in important to Hispanics (JIM KUHNHENN, 08/03/2010, AP)

An Associated Press-Univision poll shows that a significant percentage of Hispanics believe it is important to hold on to their unique identity even as they work to blend into American society. That dual view of their cultural space — a strong sense of heritage and a desire to embrace the United States as their home — challenges perceptions that a growing Hispanic population poses a destabilizing threat to national unity.

“It is part of life to adapt,” Bulux says. “But our identity is already within us — you can’t isolate it, suppress it, substitute it for another.”

The poll, also sponsored by The Nielsen Company and Stanford University, shows two-thirds of all Hispanics surveyed say it is important to maintain their distinct cultures. At the same time, 54 percent say it is important to assimilate into American society.

All told, about four in 10 hold both views — a seeming contradiction that reflects the daily balancing act that many immigrants and ethnic groups perform to retain their identity in a diverse, though still Anglo-Protestant-dominant, culture.

“Identity is multidimensional and people can see themselves as Hispanic and as Americans, and see themselves as culturally part of the United States and maintaining their Hispanicity, without seeing that as being internally in conflict,” said Gary Segura of Stanford University, an authority on Latino politics who helped design the survey. “Hispanics are part of a very long tradition here of incorporating their own cultures into the American mainstream.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 AM


Consumers find thrift, but lose fast recovery (Patrice Hill, 8/02/10, The Washington Times )

Figures put out by the Commerce Department on Friday show that the personal savings rate tripled during the recession and is hovering at more than 6 percent — a level not seen in decades. Although that newfound taste for thrift is helping to correct some long-standing problems, such as the chronic U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world, it also poses an immediate obstacle for the economy because it is fueling sluggish growth.

Consumer spending normally is the biggest engine driving growth in the broader economy. It has been tepid throughout the recovery, posting growth at or less than 2 percent since last summer despite major spending incentives enacted by Congress, such as the "cash for clunkers" and "cash for appliances" programs encouraging Americans to trade in their energy-inefficient cars and home appliances.

The uninspired pace of spending growth is averaging half the 3 percent to 4 percent levels seen during the 2000s expansion.

...and it's predictably disastrous.

August 2, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Ex-N.B.A. Player Finds Groove in Politics (THOMAS KAPLAN, 8/02/10, NY Times)

Like most people who run for governor, Dudley is crisscrossing his state to shake hands, kiss babies and chitchat with voters. Unlike most people, he is doing so at the height of 6 feet 11 inches, his ticket to a 16-year N.B.A. career.

“It really is a great icebreaker,” Dudley said in a recent interview. “People are very comfortable coming up to me — a lot of them feel like they know me already from my time playing.”

Dudley, 45, is an unusual political candidate. He played basketball at Yale, a university far better known for producing politicians than N.B.A. players, and did so while living with diabetes. And in N.B.A. history, no player who scored as little as Dudley — he averaged 3.9 points a game and was famous for his inept free-throw shooting — has managed to linger longer than his 886 games, which included three and a half seasons with the Nets and three with the Knicks.

He faces an uphill battle in the political arena, too: President Obama won Oregon by 16 percentage points in 2008, and the last time a Republican was elected governor in the state was 1982. But polls have put Dudley in a virtual dead heat with his Democratic opponent, former Gov. John A. Kitzhaber. (The most recent poll, released last Wednesday by SurveyUSA, put Dudley ahead by 2 points, within the margin of error.)

Dudley’s advisers say they hope to replicate the kind of jobs-focused campaign that helped win governorships for Republicans last year in two other states that went for Obama, New Jersey and Virginia. [...]

A former treasurer for the National Basketball Players Association, Dudley said he was growing more comfortable as a politician. He has shown an ability to raise money, netting $2.73 million to Kitzhaber’s $1.76 million, according to the Oregon secretary of state’s office, which has allowed Dudley to run a steady diet of unchallenged television ads (the most recent features the head of the players association, Billy Hunter).

Among the contributors to Dudley’s campaign are N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern; the founder of Nike, Phil Knight; the coaches P. J. Carlesimo and Rick Carlisle; and his former Blazers teammates Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


The job machine grinds to a halt (Harold Meyerson, July 28, 2010, Washington Post)

The GM model typifies that of post-crash American business: massive layoffs, productivity increases, wage reductions (due in part to the weakness of unions), and reduced sales at home; increased hiring and booming sales abroad. see why the model works. Obviously if massive layoffs are accompanied by productivity increases then you had too many employees. There may be some social utility to giving people money for doing useless stuff, but there is no utility in a business doing so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Rep. Ryan pushes budget reform, and his party winces (Perry Bacon Jr., August 2, 2010, Washington Post)

[R]yan is running a campaign of a different sort, one his party has so far refused to adopt: He is determined to persuade colleagues to get serious about eliminating the national debt, even if it means openly broaching overhauls of Medicare and Social Security.

He speaks in apocalyptic terms, saying the debt is "completely unsustainable" and warning that "it will crash our economy." He urges fellow politicians, and voters, to stop pretending that this problem will go away on its own.

He administers his sermons with evangelical zeal. He will go anywhere and talk to anyone who will listen. When he is not writing op-eds and appearing on television, he can often be found speaking to liberal and conservative audiences alike about his "Roadmap for America's Future," a plan he says would fix the problem.

"Political people always tell their candidates to stay away from controversy," said Ryan, 40. "They say, 'Don't propose anything new or bold because the other side will use it against you.' "

While he does not name the "political people," they no doubt include many Republican colleagues, who, even as they praise Ryan for his doggedness, privately consider the Roadmap a path to electoral disaster. Unlike most politicians of either party, he doesn't speak generically about reducing spending, but he does acknowledge the very real cuts in popular programs that will be required to bring down the debt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:55 PM


The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (John Gray, 02 August 2010, New Statesman)

As the subtitle of his book indicates, Ridley sees free markets as part of the evolutionary process. This is not evolution of the kind bio­logists understand, however. "Humanity is experiencing an extraordinary burst of evolutionary change, driven by good old-fashioned Darwinian natural selection," he writes. "But it is selection among ideas, not genes." Like Rich­ard Dawkins, another neo-Darwinian missionary, Ridley is a believer in memes - units of meaning that supposedly explain human development. Applying the idea to economics, he writes that "whole economies evolve by natural selection". Just as biological evolution works by bringing together the genes of different individuals, cultural evolution occurs "when ideas meet and mate" in market exchange. “Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex is to biological evolution," he writes. The history of humankind is no more than the working out of this simple equation.

Of course, biological evolution doesn't work the way Darwinists wish it did, but the marketplace of ideas does work. The interesting question is whether biological evolution works that way too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


High prices will fix what politicians cannot (Trevor Houser, August 1 2010, Financial Times)

Mr Obama’s post-BP address is strikingly similar to a speech given by President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, attempting in vain to use the last oil crisis to change US energy policy. Mr Obama acknowledged the parallels, but promised a different outcome. But while Washington’s resolve faltered again, the industry’s economics are not following the old script.

Ultimately, it was this drop in prices, rather than poor speechmaking, that hobbled Mr Carter’s attempts to reduce America’s oil consumption. US clean-energy research might have hit record levels between 1979 and 1981, but as oil prices fell, funding for clean-energy innovation fell in step. By the late 1990s, spending on clean-energy research was down by more than 75 per cent from its peak. The spectre of the 1980s oil price crash seemed to inhibit investment, even when oil prices rose again in 2003.

Just use taxes to create an artificial floor under oil prices and keep lifting it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Philosophy and Faith (GARY GUTTING, 8/01/10, NY Times)

Recently, however, I’ve realized a mistake in the way that I — and most of my professional colleagues — tend to think about philosophy and faith. (One of the great benefits of getting to teach philosophy to bright undergraduates is that it makes it easier to think outside the constraints of current professional assumptions.) The standard view is that philosophers’ disagreements over arguments about God make their views irrelevant to the faith of ordinary believers and non-believers. The claim seems obvious: if we professionals can’t agree among ourselves, what can we have to offer to non-professionals? An appeal to experts requires consensus among those experts, which philosophers don’t have.

This line of thought ignores the fact that when philosophers’ disagree it is only about specific aspects of the most subtle and sophisticated versions of arguments for and against God’s existence (for example, my colleague Alvin Plantinga’s modal-logic formulation of St. Anselm’s ontological argument or William Rowe’s complex version of a probabilistic argument from evil). There is no disagreement among philosophers about the more popular arguments to which theists and atheists typically appeal: as formulated, they do not prove (that is, logically derive from uncontroversial premises) what they claim to prove. They are clearly inadequate in the judgment of qualified professionals. Further, there are no more sophisticated formulations that theists or atheists can accept — the way we do scientific claims — on the authority of expert consensus.

In these popular debates about God’s existence, the winners are neither theists nor atheists, but agnostics — the neglected step-children of religious controversy, who rightly point out that neither side in the debate has made its case. This is the position supported by the consensus of expert philosophical opinion.

This conclusion should particularly discomfit popular proponents of atheism, such as Richard Dawkins, whose position is entirely based on demonstrably faulty arguments. Believers, of course, can fall back on the logically less rigorous support that they characterize as faith. But then they need to reflect on just what sort of support faith can give to religious belief. How are my students’ warm feelings of certainty as they hug one another at Sunday Mass in their dorm really any different from the trust they might experience while under the spell of a really plausible salesperson?

An answer may lie in work by philosophers as different as David Hume, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Alvin Plantinga. In various ways, they have shown that everyday life is based on “basic” beliefs for which we have no good arguments. There are, for example, no more basic truths from which we can prove that the past is often a good guide to the future, that our memories are reliable, or that other people have a conscious inner life. Such beliefs simply — and quite properly — arise from our experience in the world. Plantinga in particular has argued that core religious beliefs can have a status similar to these basic but unproven beliefs. His argument has clear plausibility for some sorts of religious beliefs. Through experiences of, for example, natural beauty, moral obligation, or loving and being loved, we may develop an abiding sense of the reality of an extraordinarily good and powerful being who cares about us. Who is to say that such experiences do not give reason for belief in God as much as parallel (though different) experiences give reason for belief in reliable knowledge of the past and future and of other human minds? There is still room for philosophical disputes about this line of thought, but it remains the most plausible starting point of a philosophical case for religious belief.

But this defense of faith faces a steep hurdle. Although it may support generic religious claims about a good and powerful being who cares for us, it is very hard to see it sustaining the specific and robust claims of Judaism, Christianity and Islam about how God is concretely and continually involved in our existence.

Mr. Gutting has backed himself into a familiar corner here. For if we accept--for the sake of argument, at least--that we can know nothing with any certainty, then it is up to us to choose what we believe in. Essentially, the test of one's beliefs boils down not to whether they are "right" or "wrong" but only whether they are beautiful--like Christianity--or ugly--like Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 AM


Rising Wages Rattle China's Small Manufacturers (ANDREW BATSON, 8/02/10, WSJ)

Wages in China have been rising for years, but pressure is now particularly strong as the rebound in the nation's economy runs up against the shrinking supply of younger workers caused by the one-child policy. Big foreign companies have felt the effects, with the local operations of Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. hit by strikes and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world's biggest contract manufacturer of electronics, promising raises of at least 30%.

But the impact could be even more pronounced on China's more than 10 million small businesses, which account for 60% of the economy and 80% of jobs. Many small, light manufacturing businesses crowd together in highly specialized "clusters," particularly here in Zhejiang province on the eastern coast.

The most remarkable aspect of the rise of China is what a low level its decline is beginning from.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 AM


The Soak-the-Rich Catch-22 (ARTHUR LAFFER, 8/02/10, WSJ)

During this era of ubiquitous tax cuts, income tax receipts from the top 1% of income earners rose to 3.3% of GDP in 2007 (the latest year for which we have data) from 1.5% of GDP in 1978. Income tax receipts from the bottom 95% of income earners fell to 3.2% of GDP from 5.4% of GDP over the same time period. (See the nearby chart).

These results shouldn't be surprising. The highest tax bracket income earners, when compared with those people in lower tax brackets, are far more capable of changing their taxable income by hiring lawyers, accountants, deferred income specialists and the like. They can change the location, timing, composition and volume of income to avoid taxation.

Just look at Sen. John Kerry's recent yacht brouhaha if you don't believe me. He bought and housed his $7 million yacht in Rhode Island instead of Massachusetts, where he is the senior senator and champion of higher taxes on the rich, avoiding some $437,500 in state sales tax and an annual excise tax of about $70,000.

Howard Metzenbaum, the former Ohio senator and liberal supporter of the death tax, chose to change his official residence to Florida just before he died because Florida does not have an estate tax while Ohio does. Goodness knows what creative devices former House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel has used to avoid paying taxes.

In short, the highest bracket income earners—even left-wing liberals—are far more sensitive to tax rates than are other income earners.

...that the lack of a state income tax may have influenced LeBron's decision to go to Florida.

August 1, 2010

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


The Culture of Sex (Jessa Crispin, Smart Set)

[A]s Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality says, most of what we think of as our inborn nature in regard to love and sex is culturally indoctrinated. They take this so far as to suggest that monogamy, jealousy, and marriage that begins with virginity are all social construc