March 31, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM


Why You Should Care About Cricket (Wright Thompson, ESPN the Magazine)

Sachin is both the riddle and the answer. That's what I'm told. You must understand India to understand Sachin, but you must understand Sachin to understand India. They created each other. They are the same.

This, obviously, makes no sense to me.

How could it? Just a few hours ago, on a mid-February morning, I landed in Dhaka. I came with a copy of "Cricket for Dummies." The 2011 Cricket World Cup starts tomorrow, India at Bangladesh, and I know nothing about the sport, not even about the tremendous pressure on the Indian National Cricket team to win its second World Cup after a three-decade drought. How tremendous? The Hindustan Times' logo for their cup coverage says, every day, in enormous letters: A Billion Dreams … 28 years of yearning.

I don't understand that the sport itself is at a crossroads, in crisis even.

I don't realize that Sachin Tendulkar is likely playing in his final World Cup, still searching for his first title. Tendulkar is probably the most famous man in India. He's so famous that people who worked for him are famous: a well-known Bollywood movie character is based on his first agent, Mark Mascarenhas, who died in a car wreck. Billboards with Sachin's photo blanket India's cities; every other commercial on television features his face. He's wildly rich. He is the greatest cricketer in the world. One of the greatest ever.

I know none of that.

At the moment, I'm too busy trying to figure out the definition of a wicket.

Is it the manicured area in the center of the field?

Is it the stumps on either end of that manicured area?

Is it when a player gets out?

(Turns out, according to my book, it's all three.)

Cricket, like India, had long intrigued me from afar. It seemed so mysterious: a game with strange rules, and stranger vocabulary, one that can last for days, captivating billions but meriting only an inch or two in the papers at home. Only madness made it to my radar. Fan hangs himself after India loss. … Pakistan's coach allegedly murdered after upset defeat. There seemed something pure and savage that was missing from the glossy sports I follow at home.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM


A New Palestinian Movement: Young, Networked, Nonviolent (Joe Klein, Mar. 31, 2011 , TIME)

Fadi Quran is the face of the new Middle East. He is 23, a graduate of Stanford University, with a double major in physics and international relations. He is a Palestinian who has returned home to start an alternative-energy company and see what he can do to help create a Palestinian state. He identifies with neither of the two preeminent Palestinian political factions, Hamas and Fatah. His allegiance is to the Facebook multitudes who orchestrated the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and who are organizing nonviolent protests throughout the region. In the Palestinian territories, the social-networking rebels call themselves the March 15 movement—and I would call Quran one of the leaders of the group except that it doesn't really have leaders yet. It is best described as a loose association of "bubbles," he says, that hasn't congealed. It launched relatively small, semisuccessful protests in the West Bank and Gaza on the aforementioned March 15; it is staging a small, ongoing vigil in the main square of Ramallah. It has plans for future nonviolent actions; it may or may not have the peaceful throngs to bring these off.

I meet with Quran and several other young Palestinians at the local Coca-Cola Bottling Co. headquarters in Ramallah, which tells you something important about this movement: we are not meeting in a mosque. I've known one of them, Fadi El-Salameen, for five years. He was an early volunteer for the Seeds of Peace program, which intermingled Palestinian and Israeli teenagers at a summer camp in Maine. In recent years, El-Salameen has spent much of his time in the U.S. and has achieved a certain prominence—he is quietly charismatic, a world-class networker, the sort of person who is invited to international conferences—but he is now spending more time at home in Hebron, organizing the March 15 movement in the West Bank's largest city. "I met some of the leaders of the Tahrir Square movement at a conference in Doha," he tells me. "They don't fit the usual profile of a 'youth leader.' They are low-key, well educated but not wealthy. They are figuring it out as they go along, trying to figure out what works."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM


Tea Party Hypocrisy? Some Lawmakers With Tea Party Ties Are on the Government Dole: Which Tea Partiers Are Getting Hundreds of Thousands of Government Dollars? (JONATHAN KARL and AVERY MILLER, March 31, 2011 , ABC News)

While the majority of American farmers receive no government money at all, at least 23 current members of congress or their families have received government money for their farms -- combining for more than $12 million since 1995 according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The biggest recipient was Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tenn.

While the self-described Tea Party patriot lists his occupation as "farmer" and "gospel singer" in the Congressional Directory, he doesn't mention that his family has received more than $3 million in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, according to the Environmental Working Group.

When asked whether he would be willing to see all his subsidies go away, Fincher would not directly say he would no longer take any more subsidies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


Thomas Kinkade: Is the “Painter of Light” also a “Painter of the Right”? (Stephen Lowman, 3/24/11, Washington Post)

In “Painter of the Right: Thomas Kinkade’s Political Art,” Micki McElya declares that Kinkade’s “art, message, and persona have resonated with conservatives who understand themselves to be locked in an epic cultural battle for the soul and future of the nation.”

“At the same time, his political art has been widely popular because it is rarely marketed as such overtly,” McElya writes.

McElya, an assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut, goes on to write that his “images operate as potent and penetrating conservative propaganda” and that his “vision of nostalgic nationalism bathed in God’s light is widely representative of the suburban, racial, sexual, and economic politics of the Right . . . promoting whiteness, normative heterosexuality, Christianity, middle-class aspirations, and free-market radicalism as the core of ‘American values.’ ”

Kinkade’s conservative and religious beliefs are no secret. He visited George W. Bush several times in the White House and has spoken publicly about his Christian faith. But in recent works, like “Symbols of Freedom” (set in Washington) and “Hometown Pride” (a flag waves from a house), McElya argues that Kinkade has moved beyond merely inspirational and nostalgic imagery to adopt “the rhetorics of the Right” that seek “to equate ‘freedom’ with the Patriot Act, the War on Terror, and freewheeling global capitalism.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Shh! Obama gets anti-secrecy award (ABBY PHILLIP, 03/30/11, Politico)

President Obama finally and quietly accepted his “transparency” award from the open government community this week — in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House on Monday.

The secret presentation happened almost two weeks after the White House inexplicably postponed the ceremony, which was expected to be open to the press pool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


German Kids Endure Hare-Raising Experience (Frauke Lüpke-Narberhaus, 3/30/11, Der Spiegel)
It was a lesson designed to help teach children the realities of life: Teachers at a school in Schleswig-Holstein arranged for a rabbit to be slaughtered in front of the kids to give them an insight into how Stone Age people managed to live without a freezer. Ultimately, though, not even a student petition could save the bunny from its grisly fate. [...]

One day prior to the event, some of the fifth-graders launched an effort to save the rabbit and collected 30 signatures of classmates who were opposed to the killing. The farmer said he knew nothing about the campaign -- and the teachers ignored the petition.

"We rejected this form of protest," one of the teachers was quoted by the Lübecker Nachrichten newspaper as saying. "One can't collect signatures against a math test either."

In total, some 100 children took part in the Stone Age project -- and late last week, 50 of them voluntarily surrounded the farmer and the rabbit in the school courtyard. Before he began, the farmer told the children that what they were about to see wasn't disgusting nor was it monstrous -- and that they would agree once it was over.

Then the farmer hit the rabbit with the hammer. One child fainted, others burst into tears. Next, he slit the animal's throat with a knife, gutted the body, skinned it and hung it up to drain The next day, the rabbit was grilled in the school yard and eaten -- in Stone Age style, naturally, on a hot stone. Some mothers and fathers who had attended the feast had also tried it, the farmer recalled. growing up in the inner-city and having a rat killed with a hammer in their classroom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


Obama punts as Utah grants amnesty to illegals: President tackles Arizona for upholding federal immigration law (Dan Stein, 3/30/11, The Washington Times)

In contrast to Arizona’s effort to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress, the Utah legislature enacted legislation in March that creates a completely separate immigration policy for Utah. One of the bills signed by Gov. Gary Herbert would grant two-year work permits to illegal aliens who reside in Utah, provided they have no criminal records. Because federal law expressly forbids illegal aliens from working anywhere in the United States - including Utah - the law gives the governor until 2013 to negotiate a waiver with the federal government. Even if a waiver is not issued, Utah would begin issuing work permits to illegal aliens beginning in 2013.

The 1986 federal law prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens does not include provisions for waivers - a point that was noted by Utah’s own legislative attorneys. Thus, the executive branch has no authority to negotiate, much less issue, a waiver that would allow Utah to turn illegal aliens into legal guest workers. To do so would require the Obama administration to invalidate unilaterally a federal statute.

A second piece of legislation signed by Mr. Herbert grants Utahans the right to sponsor up to two foreign individuals, or one entire family, to live in Utah. Utahans, like other Americans, already enjoy the right to sponsor immigrants to the United States provided that they fall within the parameters and quotas established under federal law. Thus, any immigrant intending to settle in Utah must first be granted a visa by the federal government, as states lack any legal authority to admit immigrants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


New York City school aid sliced by millions as lawmakers finalize on-time state budget (Glenn Blain and Kenneth Lovett, 3/30/11, NY DAILY NEWS)

The $132.5 billion budget cuts overall state spending for the first time in 15 years - and closes a $10 billion deficit without borrowing or new, broad-based taxes.

On a day when the Capitol was overrun with hundreds of shouting protesters decrying the cuts, lawmakers worked late into the night to deliver the first on-time budget since 2005 and fourth since 1983. It's due tomorrow. [...]
Many Democrats held their noses to vote in favor of a budget they claimed would hurt the state's needy while offering a tax cut to millionaires.

Republicans, on the other hand, found themselves overwhelmingly supporting a budget pushed by a freshman Democratic governor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Putting a lid on bread baking (Bob Hoover, 31/11, Post-Gazette)

Commercial bakeries essentially bake their breads in a giant pot, a tightly sealed container with injectors that fill it with steam that makes a nice crunchy crust. A covered vessel preheated in a 500-degree oven at home functions the same way.

The lid holds in the moisture given off by the dough, creating the crunchy crust as well as a dark brown color, something called the "Maillard reaction" as the heat caramelizes the sugar in the grain.

The lid does away with those usually ineffective attempts to fill the oven with steam, and I've tried most of them, except Julia Child's more extreme effort -- heating the head of an axe red-hot over the gas range, then plunging it into a pan of water in the bottom of her oven.

(I now have the best system: I cover a four-sided oven tray with wet towels and insert it just before the loaves go in. And, you have a very nice set of hot towels for facials when the bread's done.)

The pot also largely eliminates the need to shape the dough, although it still needs some work to fashion it into a cohesive lump that can be dumped into the container.

The Lahey/Robertson doughs call for wet hands, lots of flour and a dough scraper to pile up the mass into a manageable shape, while standard well-kneaded breads should be formed into a rough ball.

Then, it really comes down to following a set of steps to put the pot oven into service.

Step 1 is choosing the pot. Needed is a round or oval form that's ovenproof to 500 degrees -- forget tagine cookers -- with a tight lid. Capacity should be between 4 and 6 quarts for a loaf made from 3 to 5 cups of flour.

I've used a cast-iron bean pot, a Le Creuset casserole pan (plastic handle removed) and a Romertopf clay vessel, but the best device is a rather costly "cloche bread baker" ($59.95), a ceramic gizmo from a Virginia pottery. It's available from the King Arthur Flour company (

Using a baking stone helps even out the heat, but isn't required.

Step 2 is having a pair of industrial-strength oven mitts. You will need to pull your scorchingly hot pot from the blazing oven and set it someplace where it won't set the kitchen on fire and cause yourself third-degree burns.

Step 3 is having the dough close at hand and the determination to work fast because you need to take off the mitts, slip the dough into the pan, put on the mitts, get the pan into the oven, slam on the lid and shut the door. Whew. Oh, then turn the temperature down.

Step 4 is to hang around for 25 minutes, at which point you should remove the lid and give the bread another 20 to 25 minutes to finish baking. Then get those mitts back on and pull out your crackling crust creation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


Shock Waves: The renewed violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may be tied to the wave of unrest in the Arab world—as a distraction meant to lure the U.S. back to a failed peace process (Lee Smith, Mar 30, 2011, Tablet)

The fact that a wave of revolutions has shaken the foundations of Arab politics without the slightest apparent connection to popular outrage against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians should be surprising to most experts and politicians in the West. For over four decades, the driving idea behind the West’s approach to the Middle East has been the supposed centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Arab popular anger at the West and its key to ensuring the stability of the West’s favored regimes. That the price tag for this American diplomatic instrument has been thousands of dead Jews and several lost generations of Arabs has, in the upside-down world of Mideast policymakers, made the achievement of an ever-elusive peace deal seem all the more important with every passing year.

This idea was a convenient point of agreement between Washington policymakers and Arab regimes. For Washington, the peace process was a good source of photo ops and a chance to show concern for human rights in the region without interfering with the propensity of America’s Arab allies to torture and murder their political opponents. As for the regimes, they were happy to escape criticism of their own failures—rampant corruption, lack of basic human rights and freedoms, and violence against the Arabs they rule—by blaming Israel.

Now the notion that the genie of revolution in the Arab world can be put back in the bottle by blaming Israel is laughable. Even Arab populations with no special love for the Jewish state know that the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria were not loved or hated by their people because of their adherence or opposition to the Palestinian cause. In fact, one of the most baffling things about the current wave of Arab revolutions to professional Middle East watchers must be the complete absence of any mention of the Palestinians in popular demonstrations and regime counter-propaganda alike.

However there is a clear connection between the Palestinian cause and the wave of popular discontent that has upended the foundations of Arab politics. By pushing the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past four decades, the West has helped to underwrite Arab repression at home. The rationale behind the emergency laws in places like Syria and Egypt (even now after Cairo’s “revolution”) is that because of the war with Israel, the Arab security states must be ever-vigilant and therefore forbid their people from exercising basic rights like freedom of speech—or, in the words of Gamal Abdel Nasser, “no voice louder than the cry of battle”—diktats that they enforce through torture and murder.

If the recent wave of revolutions in Arab countries has proven anything it is that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process isn’t even a convenient fiction by which Washington can make nice to the Arabs. Rather, it has been a recipe for failure on a grand scale—social, political, and economic—that has now been laid bare. While the Arab regimes are being held responsible for their failures by their fed-up populations, Washington seems to feel no need to hold itself accountable for the collapse of a set of enabling fictions that has greatly diminished our position in a region that is of crucial strategic importance for the United States both militarily and economically.

...if neither the Arabs nor we are willing to have them oppressed by other Arabs, the notion that Israel will be permitted to continue oppressing the Palestinians is obviously lunatic.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE SOUND: The King James Bible is 400 years old this year, and the music of its sentences is still ringing out. But what exactly made it so good? Ann Wroe, Spring 2011, INTELLIGENT LIFE)

Like many Catholics, I came late to the King James Bible. I was schooled in the flat Knox version, and knew the beautiful, musical Latin Vulgate well before I was introduced to biblical beauty in my own tongue. I was around 20, sitting in St John’s College Chapel in Oxford in the glow of late winter candlelight, though that fond memory may be embellished a little. A reading from the King James was given at Evensong. The effect was extraordinary: as if I had suddenly found, in the house of language I had loved and explored all my life, a hidden central chamber whose pillars and vaulting, rhythm and strength had given shape to everything around them.

The King James now breathes venerability. Even online it calls up crammed, black, indented fonts, thick rag paper and rubbed leather bindings—with, inside the heavy cover, spidery lists of family ancestors begotten long ago. To read it is to enter a sort of communion with everyone who has read or listened to it before, a crowd of ghosts: Puritan women in wide white collars, stern Victorian fathers clasping their canes, soldiers muddy from killing fields, serving girls in Sunday best, and every schoolboy whose inky fingers have burrowed to 2 Kings 27, where Rabshakeh says, “Hath my master not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”

When it appeared, moreover, it was already familiar, in the sense that it borrowed freely from William Tyndale’s great translation of a century before. Deliberately, and with commendable modesty, the members of King James’s translation committees said they did not seek “to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, but to make a good one better”. What exactly they borrowed and where they improved is a detective job for scholars, not for this piece. So where it mentions “translators” Tyndale is included among them, the original and probably the best; for this book still breathes him, as much as them.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 AM


Why Leaders Don’t Learn from Success (Francesca Gino and Gary P. Pisano, Harvard Business Review)

The annals of business history are full of tales of companies that once dominated their industries but fell into decline. The usual reasons offered—staying too close to existing customers, a myopic focus on short-term financial performance, and an inability to adapt business models to disruptive innovation—don’t fully explain how the leaders who had steered these firms to greatness lost their touch.

In this article we argue that success can breed failure by hindering learning at both the individual and the organizational level. We all know that learning from failure is one of the most important capacities for people and companies to develop. Yet surprisingly, learning from success can present even greater challenges. To illuminate those challenges—and identify approaches for overcoming them—we will draw from our research and from the work of other scholars in the field of behavioral decision making, and focus on three interrelated impediments to learning.

The first is the inclination to make what psychologists call fundamental attribution errors. When we succeed, we’re likely to conclude that our talents and our current model or strategy are the reasons. We also give short shrift to the part that environmental factors and random events may have played.

The second impediment is overconfidence bias: Success increases our self-assurance. Faith in ourselves is a good thing, of course, but too much of it can make us believe we don’t need to change anything.

The third impediment is the failure-to-ask-why syndrome—the tendency not to investigate the causes of good performance systematically. When executives and their teams suffer from this syndrome, they don’t ask the tough questions that would help them expand their knowledge or alter their assumptions about how the world works.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 AM


Gorbachev: the wrong man for Andropov’s reforms: Gorbachev is hailed for doing away with Soviet totalitarianism, yet his predecessor Andropov was the man actually responsible for preparing liberal reform some twenty years earlier. With Gorbachev hopelessly unaware of the forces he was unleashing, failure was inevitable, argues Andrei Konchalovsky (Andrei Konchalovsky, 30 March 2011, Open Democracy)

The idea of reform and liberalisation was entirely Andropov’s. As head of the KGB, he was better informed than anyone else about the catastrophic economic situation in the USSR. When he became head of state, he was able to start putting into effect the plan he had been hatching for a long time. I don't think Andropov completely trusted Gorbachev. He, Andropov, belonged to the older generation and was not intending to dismantle the system; the maximum he was prepared to consider was that a new type of person should be able to rule the country.

In many ways Heydar Aliyev was Andropov's more obvious successor and student. It was Aliyev that Andropov counselled to embark on reforms in his country, Azerbaijan, without worrying about the Soviet leadership. He also recommended to Aliyev that he should study the Hungarian economy and visit Hungary more often. There, economic reforms were in full swing after the 1958 uprising and there were even private companies and banks, something quite unimaginable in the USSR.

Andropov rang Aliyev and invited him to Moscow as First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers (Sovmin), which was an important economic post. To my mind this offer of an All-Union [central] position meant significantly more than we can imagine.

Perhaps Andropov realised Gorbachev did not have the required authority to introduce reforms in the empire that was the USSR. Perhaps he understood what was needed was a politician of a different calibre. I've heard many times from friends of Aliyev that the terminally ill Andropov was torn with uncertainty over whom he should appoint as his successor. Many thought it might be Aliyev who would become the head of this great state. But Aliyev himself realised the impossibility of this for a non-Russian. After Stalin, the Russian people would not have wanted to see an Azeri from an Islamic republic as their head of state.

Thus there were two fairly strong political figures in the CC Politburo when Andropov left the scene: Heydar Aliyev, believer in a strong state and national hero of Azerbaijan; and Mikhail Gorbachev, young and raring to go out and make historic changes. Gorbachev denies that he did everything to ensure Aliyev was not part of a possible leadership battle. At the same time, Heydar Aliyev told me himself that when he had a heart attack in 1987, Gorbachev failed to visit him in hospital, and even ignored repeated requests to meet once he had recovered. This belied the fact that Aliyev had been one of Andropov's closest disciples and had many times spoken out in favour of Gorbachev. The battle between these two powerful figures ended when Gorbachev achieved supreme power, while Aliyev was left under a cloud and forced to retire from the scene.

As a “new man”, Gorbachev (who was born in 1931) probably thought he could free the Soviet system from all its economic and ideological encumbrances. He probably hoped that this would guarantee unprecedented economic growth and inspire the people to new heights of achievement in the field of labour and so on. But it didn't happen. What happened was exactly the opposite.

Gorbachev certainly didn’t expect the course that events took, and for most of his time in power he was completely lost. The simple reason is that he didn't have (nor could he have done!) any real political experience which would have enabled him to perceive the results of his actions. It's unlikely that he could have imagined dismantling the system without being buried in the resulting wreckage. His lack of experience, education and intellectual potential meant that he had no idea of what was needed to embark on such a grandiose plan.

March 30, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


Bank bailout turns a profit (Charles Riley, March 30, 2011, CNNMoney)

Don't look now, but the bank bailout is starting to turn a profit.

The Treasury Department will announce Wednesday that the money it gave to banks during the financial crisis has been paid back, and then some.

The bank bailout -- part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- is now $6 billion in the black, according to a Treasury Department official, who said the ultimate profit might rise to $20 billion.

Some folks on the Right owe W an apology....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


The Brain: The Trouble With Teens: Fast driving, drugs, and unsafe sex: The risk-loving behavior of adolescents may result from a neurological gap in the developing brain.
(Carl Zimmer, 03.24.2011, Discover)

Some of the most telling insight into the adolescent mind comes not from humans but from rats. Around seven weeks after birth, rats hit puberty and begin to act a lot like human teens. They start spending less time with their parents and more with other adolescent rats; they become more curious about new experiences and increasingly explore their world. Teenage rats also develop new desires. It’s not just that they get interested in sex but also that their landscape of pleasure goes through an upheaval.

Miriam Schneider, a behavioral pharmacologist who studies adolescence at the University of Heidelberg, and her colleagues recently documented this shift. The scientists ran an experiment on a group of rats of varying ages, allowing the animals to drink as much sweetened condensed milk as they wanted. The amount of milk they drank, relative to their body weight, stayed fairly constant through their prepubescent youth. But when they hit puberty, they started to drink much more. Once they became adult rats, their rate of milk drinking dropped and then stayed steady as they got older.

To any parent who has observed a teenager guzzle a bottle of soda, this spike would look awfully familiar. But the behavior of adolescent rats is not simply the result of their being bigger than juveniles. Schneider and her colleagues trained their rats to press a lever in order to get a squirt of milk. The rats had to press the lever dozens of times before they were rewarded with a single sip, and each successive sip required two more presses than the previous one. This requirement allowed Schneider and her colleagues to measure just how much work the rats were willing to put in for a reward. They found that pubescent rats would press the lever much more often than rats of any other age, putting in far more work for the calories they were getting, given their size. In other words, they valued the milk more.

A number of other experiments support Schneider’s results. Whether rodent or human, adolescence makes us add more value not only to sweet drinks but to all sorts of rewards. A team led by Elizabeth Cauffman, a research psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies antisocial behavior in adolescents, documented this shift with a game of cards. She and her team had volunteers play a simple gambling game with pictures of four decks of cards on a computer screen (pdf). At each turn of the game, an arrow pointed to one of the decks. The volunteers could either turn over a card or pass. Each card had a different amount of money on it—“+$100,” for example, or “-$25.” The goal of the game was to win as much of the imaginary money as possible.

The scientists had stacked the decks. Two of the decks had more losing cards than winning ones, and the reverse was true for the other two decks. When people play these games, they unconsciously shift their strategies as they see more cards. They pass more on some decks and take more cards from others. Cauffman and her colleagues tracked the strategies of 901 volunteers ranging in age from 10 to 30 years old and compared the teenagers with the other age groups. Across all ages, the older the volunteers were, the more they shied away from using the losing decks. But the scientists found a different pattern when it came to the winning decks. Adolescents tended to play the winning decks more often than adults or preteens. In other words, they were unusually sensitive to the reward of winning money but the same as others when it came to the risk of losing it.

Underlying this behavior are the neural circuits of the teen brain. Neuroscientist B. J. Casey and her colleagues at the Sackler Institute of the Weill Cornell Medical College believe the unique way adolescents place value on things can be explained by a biological oddity. Within our reward circuitry we have two separate systems, one for calculating the value of rewards and another for assessing the risks involved in getting them. And they don’t always work together very well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


AUDIO: Timothy Olyphant: 'Justified' In Laying Down The Law (Fresh Air, 3/29/11, NPR)

"The thing that's very attractive about the character is the moral code of it all," Olyphant tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I always go back to that scene in the first episode, where Raylan told a guy that you don't walk into someone's house unless you're invited — and at the same time, he gave somebody 24 hours to get out of town or he'd kill him. That to me says everything you'd need to know about the guy."

Ms Gross just doesn't get it at all. The gun discussion is especially amusing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shake (The Denver Post, 03/30/2011)

1 tablespoon boiling water
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1 very ripe banana, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large scoop (about 1/2 cup) frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream
3 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter


Mix the boiling water and cocoa together in a cup until smooth. Pour into a blender. Add milk, banana, yogurt and peanut butter. Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides and adding more milk as needed to reach the desired thickness, until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Republicans seize on public pension issue (Dan Morain, 3/27/11,

[Dan] Pellissier worked 18 years for various state agencies and elected officials, most recently as deputy Cabinet secretary, a post he left in January when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger departed. He is halfway through burning up six months of accrued vacation and unused furlough days, with pay courtesy of you and me.

Like many state employees, Pellissier bought "air time," paying a little to boost his pension by a lot. When he turns 55 in five years, he will start collecting about $5,000 a month – $60,000 a year – half of his highest salary.

"I'm going to get a great pension," Pellissier said over a plate of ham and eggs. "A great, unsustainable and unfair pension."

Not that he feels guilty, but Pellissier does have a mission: drastically altering the pension system for all state and local government employees in California, ones hired in the future and ones currently on the job.

Pellissier has been advising Republican legislators as they demand that Brown place pension reform before voters, in exchange for any agreement to a statewide vote on a Brown-backed measure to extend $11 billion in taxes.

Details of the GOP's concept are not public. But if their plan mirrors Pellissier's ideas, it's obvious why Brown refuses. There is no way public employee union leaders, Democrats' main benefactors, ever would consent. And Republicans don't see much reason to settle. Public opinion seems to be on their side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


Redmond O'Hanlon: A life in books: 'I feel that if I leave the ship for too long or go too far, it may sail without me, and that then I would be lost in the real world' (Paul Laity, 3/26/11, The Guardian)

[Redmond] O'Hanlon is celebrated most of all for his perilous jungle mountain treks and exhausting paddles through river swamps – for sucking out monkey's eyes and dancing, drugged, for local tribes. In short, for having a really, comically terrible time. Isn't a trip among scientists on a well-equipped clipper a little tame? Rather, as perhaps befits a 64-year-old, he's delighted with the comforts of film-making, in contrast not only to the rigours of previous adventures, but as a way of circumventing the agonies of writing: "It's all done for you: no more privations, no more suffering, never being alone, no chance to get really depressed, a lot of drinking. Wonderful."

Sailing around the world is, after all, still boys' own stuff, and O'Hanlon, mischievous and laddish but very learned, became popular with the crew. The series shows him as something of an eccentric throwback, contentedly leafing through Robert Chambers's Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, consulting Lyell's Principles of Geology on the shores of Cape Verde and lying in a hammock turning the pages of other august volumes, which turn out to be deteriorating rapidly in the sea air. He isn't even irked that the wind blew off several pages from his precious first edition of On the Origin of Species: "It was worth €40,000, and nothing now, but then again I got it for £5 in the 1970s, before Darwin had been rediscovered."

Each of the wonderfully recounted jungle adventures that made O'Hanlon's name is centred on a near-impossible quest – to find a rare rhinoceros (Into the Heart of Borneo, 1984), to reach one of South America's highest peaks (In Trouble Again, 1988), and to catch sight of Lake Tele's mythical dinosaur (Congo Journey, 1996).

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 AM

Hot Club Of Cowtown On Mountain Stage (NPR, 3/29/11)

The Western swing band kicks off its fourth Mountain Stage appearance with the classic "Stay All Night" from its new album, What Makes Bob Holler. Inspired by the sound and style of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Hot Club of Cowtown's live repertoire has expanded to include a substantial amount of original material (Whit Smith's "Sleep") and cover songs from artists like Tom Waits, whose tune "The Long Way Home" is included here.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


Hanoi’s Underground Capitalism (Joel Kotkin, 3/29/11, Forbes)

In Hanou, even for the poor, it’s not just about survival. There’s a sense of Wild West in the East. With very un-socialistic frenzy, motorcyclists barrel down the streets like possessed demons, with little regard to walking lanes or lights. Everyone not on the government payroll seems to have hustle, or is looking for one.

Modern-day Hanoi reminds me most of China in the 1980s, when I first started going there. But there are crucial differences. State-owned companies in Vietnam lack the depth and critical mass of their Chinese counterparts, for example. Still, as in China, foreign firms are moving in: Panasonic plants dot the outskirts, and Nokia is planning to build a $200 million factory on the city’s edge.

Hanoi is not Singapore either, where an enlightened state has allowed flashes of street capitalism, particularly in the hawker’s stalls that make the city a foodie’s delight. In Singapore business remains highly deliberate and world-class, enabled by a much envied and skilled Mandarinate. As you walk around Hanoi, peak inside a cavernous building and you’ll see not a sleek Singapore-style mall, but a cluttered collection of small boutiques. It reminds one of nothing more than the Vietnamese outposts in Orange County, Calif., or in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, which is now largely dominated by Chinese from Vietnam.

Le Dang Doanh, one of the architects of Vietnam’s economic reforms, which were known as (Doi Moi) and launched in 1986, estimates the private sector now accounts for 40% of the country’s GDP, up from virtually zero. But Le Dang estimated as much as 20% more occurs in the “underground” economy where cash — particularly U.S. dollars — reigns as king.

“You see firms with as many as 300 workers that are not registered,” the sprightly, bespectacled 69-year-old economist explains. “The motive force is underground. You walk along the street. I followed an electrical cable once and it led me to a factory with 27 workers making Honda parts and it was totally off the system.”

After years as a Communist apparatchik, Le Dang now has more faith in markets than is commonly found in the American media or U.S. college campuses. Trained in the Soviet Union and the former East Germany, Le Dang saw up close the “future” of a state-guided economy and concluded it doesn’t work. He noted that in agriculture farmers produce 50% of the cash income on the 5% of land that they can call their own. He also mentions proudly that his son, born in 1979, works for a private Hanoi-based software firm.

Other Vietnamese also have developed a taste for self-interest — and display considerable ingenuity finding their way. One clear inspiration, and source of capital, for the rapid acceleration toward capitalism comes from the over 3.7 million overseas Vietnamese. Ironically many of these are former stalwart opponents to the nominally capitalist rulers who fled the Communist takeover in 1975.

Today you see these ties at Vietnamese banks and trading companies nestled in various U.S. communities, including the largest in Orange County. Overall, the U.S. community — also strong in Houston, Northern Virginia and San Jose – accounts for roughly 40% of the total diaspora.

These communities have prospered, after a shaky start following the end of the Vietnam War. They are particularly prominent in fields such as information technology, science and engineering, with percentage representation in the workforce in those fields higher than most other immigrant groups.

March 29, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


GOP 2012: Return of the neo-cons (BEN SMITH & BYRON TAU, 3/16/11, Politico)

The apparent unanimity reflects the settlement of a long dispute inside the Republican Party, as many in the aging band of “realist” statesmen defected to support Barack Obama in 2008.

“Once upon a time, there was a debate within the party between realists of the Brent Scowcroft variety and the neo-cons,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush. “It seems like realists have lost that debate.”

“The party is reasonably united,” Abrams told POLITICO. “There is a consensus about the need for American leadership of the world.”'s the Democrats, whose increasing secularism means they have no moral obligation to others..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


Part of the Budget Fight: Picking a Bad Guy (JACKIE CALMESand CARL HULSE, 3/28/11, NY Times)

Already resigned to a final budget for this year that cuts deeply into domestic spending, Democrats in the White House and Congress are struggling to regroup behind a strategy to limit the reductions — or to set up House Republicans for blame if the current standoff shuts down the government. [...]

Even many Democrats believe that House Republicans have gotten the better of the antispending, antigovernment argument. [...]

Yet Democrats’ willingness to make significant cuts in current year federal spending, even if too few by Republicans’ standards, underscores a point that Republicans have been making since their gains in last November’s midterm elections: The budget debate has fundamentally shifted from whether to cut to how much.

In decades past, bipartisan budget agreements generally were balanced between spending cuts and more tax revenues. But Democratic leaders have not pressed for raising taxes, only for cutting them for lower- and middle-income workers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM


Empire for Liberty (Peter J. Leithart, 29 March 2011, Credenda)

Far from eschewing empire, many of the Founders aspired to build a “particular ‘genre’ of state that would grow in size, strength, and prosperity, exercise influence over populations that either considered themselves autonomous or resided beyond America’s political boundaries . . . and possess a centralized government.” What the Founders did reject was colonization. They expected and wanted the US to expand, definitely to fill up the North American continent, and they were willing to fight Indians to achieve that aim. But they regarded colonization with abhorrence.

Immerman’s rich and detailed book examines six major players in the formation of the American empire. Only one of the six was a US President (John Quincy Adams), several were powerful Secretaries of State (Adams, William Henry Seward, John Foster Dulles), another was an American diplomat (Benjamin Franklin), another a foreign affairs leader in the Senate (Henry Cabot Lodge), and the last a policy intellectual who has held second-tier posts in various recent administrations (Paul Wolfowitz). All of them were theorists as well as practitioners, and because the intellectual influence runs down the line from Franklin to Wolfowitz, Immerman’s book amounts to a brief history of American foreign policy.

One of the important lessons that emerges from the book is that American empire has had several different shapes. Franklin’s ambitions were impelled by demographic considerations; the United Stated had to expand to ensure that there would be sufficient land for American farmers. As Secretary of State throughout the 1860s, Seward believed that the key to American greatness was commercial expansion and he worked to form an “informal” empire of influence. During the “Great Aberration” of late nineteenth-century American colonization, Lodge banged the drum for a “national greatness” empire that would prove to the world that America was all growed up. Dulles’ main concern was security and he sought to extend the sphere of American influence in order construct a world where the US and nations like ours set the rules for everyone else.

Whatever form American empire has taken, though, it has always foundered on the clash between imperial aspirations and our commitment to liberty. If it is an empire for liberty, we should be conquering to liberate. Yet, this impulse has tangled with American exceptionalism, which has sometimes implied that Americans are uniquely suited to be free. Blacks and Indians are the heart of the dilemma: How could the US expand into a vast empire without depriving Native Americans of liberty (not to mention land and life)? And how could the US claim to be an empire for liberty when a large number of states depended on slave labor?

...our empire grants people sovereignty over themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Lula’s Brazil (Perry Anderson, London Review of Books)

Contrary to a well-known English dictum, stoical if self-exonerating, all political lives do not end in failure. In postwar Europe, it is enough to think of Adenauer or De Gasperi, or perhaps even more impressively, Franco. But it is true that, in democratic conditions, to be more popular at the close than at the outset of a prolonged period in office is rare. Rarer still – indeed, virtually unheard of – is for such popularity to reflect, not appeasement or moderation, but a radicalisation in government. Today, there is only one ruler in the world who can claim this achievement, the former worker who in January stepped down as president of Brazil, enjoying the approval of 80 per cent of its citizens. By any criterion, Luiz Inácio da Silva is the most successful politician of his time.

That success has owed much to an exceptional set of personal gifts, a mixture of warm social sensibility and cool political calculation, or – as his successor, Dilma Rousseff, puts it – rational assessment and emotional intelligence, not to speak of lively good humour and personal charm. But it was also, in its origins, inseparable from a major social movement. Lula’s rise from worker on the shop-floor to leader of his country was never just an individual triumph: what made it possible was the most remarkable trade-union insurgency of the last third of a century, creating Brazil’s first – and still only – modern political party, which became the vehicle of his ascent. The combination of a charismatic personality and a nationwide mass organisation were formidable assets.

Nevertheless, Lula’s success was far from a foregone conclusion. Elected in 2002, his regime got off to a dour start, and soon came close to disaster. His first year in office, dominated by the economic legacy of his predecessor, reversed virtually every hope on which the Workers’ Party had been founded. Under Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the public debt – nearly half of it denominated in dollars – had doubled, the current account deficit was twice the Latin American average, nominal interest rates were over 20 per cent, and the currency had lost half its value in the run-up to the election. Argentina had just declared the largest sovereign default in history, and Brazil looked – in the eyes of the financial markets – to be on the brink of the same precipice. To restore investor confidence, Lula installed an unblinkingly orthodox economic team at the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance, which hiked interest rates yet further and cut public investment, to achieve a primary fiscal surplus higher even than the figure the IMF had demanded. For citizens, prices and unemployment rose as growth fell by 50 per cent. But what was bitter medicine for militants was nectar to bond-holders: the spectre of default was banished. Growth resumed in 2004 as exports recovered. Even so the public debt continued to rise, and interest rates were hoisted once more. Adherents of the previous regime, who had smarted under Lula’s criticisms of Cardoso, pointed triumphantly to the continuities between the two.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Five Changes Bob Bradley Should Make for the Paraguay Match (JOHN GODFREY, 3/28/11, NY Times)

Here are a few changes United States Coach Bob Bradley should consider for Tuesday’s game — roster adjustments that would give deserving players a chance to prosper and tactical decisions that might help the team be better prepared today and for this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup.

1. Put Juan Agudelo in the starting lineup. Bob Bradley likes to bring young players along slowly. And while this nurturing mind-set is an admirable trait, it should no longer apply to 18-year-old striker Juan Agudelo.

Why not? For one thing, Agudelo keeps creating goals. He scored in his national team debut against South Africa last November, he drew the penalty that led to a goal against Chile in January, and he delivered the tying goal Saturday against Argentina. In each instance he came in as a second-half substitute. Wouldn’t it be nice to see what Agudelo could do over 90 minutes?

Another reason Agudelo deserves the start alongside Jozy Altidore: the cupboard is otherwise bare. Teal Bunbury has a dislocated elbow, Charlie Davies is still recovering from a life-threatening injury and Edson Buddle was just released from the squad and sent back to FC Ingolstadt. (Note to Andy Najar: hurry up and align yourself with the U.S.)

Bradley’s postmatch comments on Saturday indicated that he may be ready to give Agudelo a bigger role. “You can tell he has confidence,” Bradley said. “He puts himself in good positions and when the ball comes he’s strong and he has something where he’s looking to try things, things that make sense.”

It’s time, Bob. This kid is special. Put him in the starting lineup.

2. Try a 4-3-3 formation. Give Bradley credit for attempting to play to his team’s strengths on Saturday. With a roster full of talented midfielders and just a few pure strikers available to him, Bradley opted for a 4-5-1 configuration designed to get five midfielders on the field.

And it failed. Miserably.

After 45 minutes, Bradley shifted to a 4-4-2 and the team played noticably better. But why not give a 4-3-3 setup a try against Paraguay?

America’s “A” team is in camp. It has the experience and the maturity to attempt new tactics, and there never will be a better time to toy with a new formation. Imagine the following lineup against Paraguay:

Defenders (4): Eric Lichaj, Jay DeMerit, Tim Ream, Timmy Chandler
Midfielders (3): Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Landon Donovan
Forwards (3): Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Clint Dempsey

Yes, a 4-3-3 would mark a serious departure from Bradley’s defense-first mind-set. But given the team’s inability to score goals, why wouldn’t the coach try something new? If the 4-3-3 doesn’t work against Paraguay, no big deal, we all move on. If it does work, the U.S. can place a new arrow in its quiver and keep opponents on their toes.

How Thomas Rongen develops U.S. talent (Brent Latham, 3/28/11, ESPN)

He's lived in the U.S. since the days of the NASL, but American under-20 national team coach Thomas Rongen is still Dutch through and through. For proof, try asking him about the virtues of the quintessentially Dutch 4-3-3 formation he prefers.

"It's not that I think the Dutch know it all," said Rongen, in Guatemala as the Americans prepare to take on Suriname on Tuesday night in their first match of the regional under-20 World Cup qualifying tournament. "But we've done a pretty good job at playing within that system. You've got to have guys that can play high when you have the ball, but get something going forward, guys that are comfortable in the final third but can help out on defense in the middle third, guys that want to go to goal and are comfortable taking on players one on one."

Rongen can go on about the 4-3-3 for quite some time. By the time he finally stops to take a breath, at least one thing is abundantly clear: The coach believes the formation is the best choice to further his young players' development into complete soccer talents.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Pawlenty: Obama administration 'naive' on Syria (Steve Brusk, 3/28/11, CNN)

Pawlenty's comments came in a radio interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show Monday evening, shortly before President Obama addressed the nation on the military operation in Libya.

"Our interests in Syria are at least as strong, if not stronger, than in Libya", Pawlenty said when asked what the United States should do after violent crackdowns on demonstrators in Syria. “Here you have a country (that has) enabled and accommodated people to go into Iraq and kill American soldiers. They house Hamas and allow them to exist in Syria as they continue to be a terrorist organization in Israel and elsewhere. And the list goes on and on about the problems that the Syria, and specifically Bashir Assad, has caused the region and the world and also the United States of America."

Pawlenty told Hewitt the U.S. needs a tougher stance on the Syria protests, first calling for President Obama "to speak strongly and clearly to the people of Syria that we hope and believe and support their drive towards freedom and getting rid of Bashir Assad.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Arabs Will Be Free (ROGER COHEN, 3/28/11, NY Times)

Yes, citizens go to the polls in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel and no dictator gets 99.3 percent of the vote. They are lands of opportunity where money is being made and where facile generalizations, for all their popularity, miss the point. Turkey has not turned Islamist, Lebanon is not in the hands of Hezbollah, and Israel is still an open society.

All three countries, of course, are also wracked by division and imperfection; but then two great merits of democracy are that it finesses division and does not aspire to perfection.

Speaking of Hezbollah, remember all that alarm a couple of months back when a Hezbollah-backed businessman, Najib Mikati, emerged as prime minister? After that, Lebanon introduced the Libyan no-fly-zone resolution at the United Nations — a rare, if little noted, example of the United States and a Hezbollah-supported government in sync.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


Utah on immigration: We aren't Arizona (Daniel C. Vock, 3/25/11, Stateline)

“Last summer, it was a foregone conclusion that Utah was going to do exactly what Arizona had done,” says Marty Carpenter, a spokesman for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. That worried many of the chamber’s members. [...]

In the end, though, Utah avoided the acrimony that Arizona experienced. The state’s leaders changed direction. They followed the lead of business, religious groups and others that drafted a 227-word document, introduced in November, called the Utah Compact. Nearly 100 people from dozens of groups collaborated on the immigrant-friendly statement. Its effect became clear this month, when Governor Gary Herbert signed four bills that follow the contours of the agreement. The new laws give local police more power to enforce immigration laws, but they also create guest-worker programs designed to add to the state’s labor supply.

Although it had plenty of supporters, the Utah Compact benefited greatly from the backing of business leaders and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Utah Compact changed the whole tone of the conversation of the Legislature,” says Tony Yapias, a radio host and director of Proyecto Latino de Utah. It was especially significant, he says, because Utah Republicans embraced the compromise while GOP officials in other states were focusing on hard-line enforcement-only approaches.

A people too decent for nativism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM


North Korea 'on a knife edge' as aid agencies appeal for food donations: Domestic food production hit by bad weather and disease leave more than 6 million people in urgent need of aid (Tania Branigan, 3/28/11,

Aid agencies working in North Korea have issued a rare joint appeal for increased food donations, warning that millions of vulnerable citizens are living on a knife edge.

The groups, which include Save the Children and the Swiss government's relief agency, say bad weather and livestock disease have hampered domestic production, while high global food and fuel prices are making it harder to import supplies. They fear that unless aid is increased now, it will be too late to support people who are already chronically malnourished through the lean season that begins in May.

Their warning comes days after a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) assessment found the country was "highly vulnerable to a food crisis", with more than 6 million people in urgent need of international food aid. Today's joint statement highlighted the needs of children and mothers, the elderly, disabled and sickand pointed to a need for healthcare, water and sanitation as well as food.

We bear a heavy responsibility for not liberating them 60 years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Big Picture: Middle Eastern upheaval and the promise of American life. (Rochelle Gurstein, March 26, 2011, New Republic)

When the inspiring images of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian men and women demanding their freedom at enormous personal risk first appeared and everybody was talking about whether that revolution would spark similar revolutions in nearby countries, I found myself saying to friends, "What about here? Maybe the example of their courageous actions will shake the American people out of their long apathetic stupor." Inevitably I was met with laughter. Sometimes I felt a friend's laughter was conspiratorial—the exhilaration of imagining together that things could be different from what they are. Other times, I knew it was a response to what a friend found absurd, ridiculous, in my proposition. "We already had our revolution in 1776. Sure, things are bad, people are out of work, but we're not living in a police state like Egypt. I don't see you out on the street." And then there were the times when the laughter sounded nervous, a friend made uncomfortable by such talk, insisting that it couldn't happen here. I reminded these skeptical/cynical/realist friends (take your pick) that no one imagined that revolutions could happen in Tunisia or in Egypt and certainly not through the highly disciplined tactics of non-violent resistance. Or that the Soviet Union would collapse or that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled.

....but it is certainly the case that we'll have revolutions as regions seek autonomy from each other and from Washington. A developed economy and functioning democracy in a single state with a population as large as ours is too great an anomaly to endure. Nor is there any reason for it to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Birth of an Obama doctrine (Clarence Page, 3/28/11, Chicago Tribune)

With critics on his right, left and middle clamoring for answers, Obama focused less on details of what we’re trying to than on moral reasons for why we are trying to do it.

They include saving lives, upholding America's "interests and values," asserting the legitimacy of the United Nations and preventing the Arab Spring from turning into the deadly dog days of Moammar Gadhafi's summer. [...]

In short, this is a good war, not a “stupid war” as he described Iraq in speeches that launched his ascent to the presidency.

Except, of course, that he just described the precise reasons for the Iraq War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 AM


Obama's Case for Humanitarian War (John Avlon, 3/28/11, Daily Beast)

[A]s he weaved his familiar rhetorical path between the extremes—in this case neo-isolationist liberals and neoconservative regime-changers—Obama was on awkward footing trying to explain how insisting that “Gaddafi must go” did not signify a policy of regime change.

Hardly surprising that the president most uncomfortable in his own skin since Richard Nixon is frightened to realize that he's a W clone.

March 28, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


China's workforce 'dries up': The seemingly endless flow of young Chinese workers that helped to create the country's economic miracle has now finally "dried up", according to a leading economist. (Malcolm Moore, Shanghai 3:32PM BST 27 Mar 2011)

For decades, China has been able to rely on its vast workforce to manufacture a host of goods more cheaply and efficiently than anywhere else in the world.

But now China's leaders are worrying that the country's one-child policy has begun to stem the tide of young workers ready to step forward into the country's factories.

"Each year, the number of new workers joining factories is smaller than the number of old workers who are retiring," said Zhang Zheng, an economist at the elite Guanghua School of Management at Peking University. "The supply has dried up," he added.

Last year, according to his calculations, only 154 million people under 30 were part of China's enormous 550 million-strong industrial workforce.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


Mongolia seeks help sharing wealth of its mining boom (John Garnaut, February 21, 2011, Sydney Morning Herald)

THE Mongolian Prime Minister wants Australia to be a ''third neighbour'' that can help develop his country's massive resource deposits and balance its strategic and economic vulnerability to China.

The China-driven resources boom is hoisting Mongolia's traditionally nomadic people from subsistence living towards what some say could be a material standard of living equivalent to oil-rich Arab states.

While many nations have revealed anxieties about China's political and economic power, few are as close and economically dependent as Mongolia and none has taken such drastic steps to hedge their interests. [...]

Mongolia's Prime Minister, Sukhbaataryn Batbold, formerly a successful businessman, will make new overtures to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Australian corporate leaders today. ''We have a concept of a 'third neighbour' and we'd like to see a balance,'' he told the Herald in an interview in Ulan Bator.

''We regard China as an important partner but equally importantly we'd like to have other countries represented in Mongolia in a more expansive way.''

Several senior Mongolian officials told the Herald of the public pressure they face to resist Chinese influence. ''When you are a small country and they are a giant, even when they try to stroke you it can hurt,'' said one.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Among the Hagiographers: Early on Gandhi was dubbed a 'mortal demi-god'—and he has been regarded that way ever since (ANDREW ROBERTS, 3/27/11, WSJ)

Joseph Lelyveld has written a ­generally admiring book about ­Mohandas Gandhi, the man credited with leading India to independence from Britain in 1947. Yet "Great Soul" also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist—one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive ­intellectual, professing his love for ­mankind as a concept while actually ­despising people as individuals.

...after reading this.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


The Iraq Effect: If Saddam Hussein were still in power, this year's Arab uprisings could never have happened. (Christopher Hitchens, March 28, 2011, Slate)

The most heartening single image of the past month—eclipsing even the bravery and dignity of the civilian fighters against despotism in Syria and Libya—was the sight of Hoshyar Zebari arriving in Paris to call for strong action against the depraved regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. Here was the foreign minister of Iraq, and the new head of the Arab League, helping to tilt the whole axis of local diplomacy against one-man rule. In May, Iraq will act as host to the Arab League summit, and it will be distinctly amusing and highly instructive to see which Arab leaders have the courage, or even the ability, to leave their own capitals and attend. The whole scene is especially gratifying for those of us who remember Zebari as the dedicated exile militant that he was 10 years ago, striving to defend his dispossessed people from the effects of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons.

Can anyone imagine how the Arab spring would have played out if a keystone Arab state, oil-rich and heavily armed with a track record of intervention in its neighbors' affairs and a history of all-out mass repression against its own civilians, were still the private property of a sadistic crime family? As it is, to have had Iraq on the other scale from the outset has been an unnoticed and unacknowledged benefit whose extent is impossible to compute.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:47 PM


Republicans Are Winning the Budget Fight: The incremental approach is working and embarrassing Democrats. Why should the GOP risk a government shutdown? (FRED BARNES, 3/27/11, WSJ)

Some of the most disgruntled folks in Washington these days are conservative Republicans in Congress. They believe their party has abandoned the cause of deep spending cuts that spurred the Republican landslide in the 2010 midterm election. They say their leaders are needlessly settling for small, incremental cuts.

Moreover, this demand for bigger cuts and defunding of liberal programs—immediately—comes from prominent members of the House, not just excitable freshmen. "This is our mice or men moment," according to Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Allowing Democrats more time to negotiate "will only delay a confrontation that must come," said Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the House Study Committee, added: "We've made some solid first downs. Now it's time to look to the end zone."

The end zone is far away, however, and impatience won't get Republicans there. Impatience is not a strategy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


A Plan to Improve U.S. Soccer: How a Confederation of Americas Would Benefit The Americans; The Problem With Friendlies (GABRIELE MARCOTTI, 3/27/11, WSJ)

On Saturday, 78,936 people filled New Meadowlands Stadium to watch the United States hold Argentina to a 1-1 draw. Short of actually beating one of the world's top teams, it was a good day for U.S. soccer. Bob Bradley's crew soaked up the pressure in the first half but held its own until Esteban Cambiasso put Argentina ahead just before the interval. Then, in the second half, the Americans switched to a 4-4-2 set, found an equalizer through teenage starlet Juan Agudelo and matched its illustrious opponent the rest of the day.

In short: great crowd, pulsating match between two teams that played well and a coming-out party for the U.S.'s 18-year-old potential phenom. What's not to like? Not much. But it would have been better if the game had actually meant something. [...]

[T]he best possible thing for U.S. soccer may be combining CONCACAF and its equivalent in South America (CONMEBOL) into one confederation of the Americas. With its 10 members, CONMEBOL is the smallest confederation, but it's filled with the game's historical and current heavyweights: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and others. Creating one pan-American confederation would allow the U.S. and Mexico to play more competitive games on a regular basis. Second-tier CONCACAF teams—countries that rarely meet top opposition, even in friendlies—would benefit, too.

South American teams would get something out of this arrangement, as well. They'd play a wider variety of teams and styles, which would be a welcome break from playing each other over and over again. There are also financial benefits, like accessing the television markets in the U.S. and Mexico, which would translate into an increase in rights fees and lucrative sponsorship deals. It's not a coincidence that both Argentina and Brazil, arguably the sport's biggest draws, chose to play friendlies in the United States in the past nine months: It pays to do so.

The same theory applies at the club level. A Copa Libertadores—South America's version of the UEFA Champions League—featuring American clubs would be more lucrative and attractive for these reasons. Mexican teams already play in the competition, evidence that rules are flexible in soccer.

...the U.S. coach sent out his team in an absurdly defensive alignment, playing for a tie, that his own players didn't even understand. As soon as going a goal down forced him to switch to a more attacking set-up the squad came to life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


China’s repression undoes its charm offensive (Joseph S. Nye Jr., March 25, 2011, Washington Post)

For all these efforts, however, China has had a limited return on its investment. A recent BBC poll found that opinions of China’s influence are positive in much of Africa and Latin America but predominantly negative in the United States, Europe, India, Japan and South Korea. Similarly, a poll taken in Asia after the Beijing Olympics found that China’s charm offensive had been ineffective.

Great powers often try to use culture and narrative to create soft power that promotes their advantage, but it is not an easy sell when it is inconsistent with their domestic realities.

Shortly after the 2008 Olympics, China’s domestic crackdown in Tibet and Xianjiang and its resumed pressure on human rights activists undercut the very gains in soft power it had built up. The Shanghai Expo was a great success but was followed by the jailing of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. And for all the efforts to turn Xinhua and China Central Television into competitors of CNN and the BBC, there is little international audience for brittle propaganda. In the wake of the Middle East revolutions, China is tightening its controls on the Internet and arresting activists for fear that the Egyptian example might inspire similar protests. A few futile efforts by demonstrators have been quickly suppressed by Chinese police.

After my lecture at Beijing University, a student asked how China could increase its soft power. I suggested that he ask himself why India’s Bollywood films command far greater international audiences than do Chinese films. Does India have better directors and actors? When Zhang Yimou, the acclaimed Chinese director, was asked a similar question, he replied that films about contemporary China are neutered by the censors. I told the student that much of a country’s soft power is generated by its civil society and that China had to lighten up on its censorship and controls if it wished to succeed. But I also admitted that he would probably not find my answer very helpful.

They have no culture to export, just a system that their own people don't want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Navy sinks ship, nabs 16 pirates (TNN, 3/27/11)

The Navy is now going the whole hog against pirates daring to venture near Indian waters, in keeping with the new "proactive and aggressive measures" approved by the government. On Saturday, Indian warships sank yet another "pirate mother ship" around 400 nautical miles west of Lakshadweep Islands.

With 16 pirates being nabbed in this latest operation in Arabian Sea, which also saw rescue of 12 Iranian and four Pakistani sailors held hostage, the total number of sea brigands apprehended by Navy has gone up to 120 over last two months. In the earlier three operations, the Navy had captured 104 pirates, who are now facing trial in Mumbai courts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Many U.S. Blacks Moving to South, Reversing Trend (SABRINA TAVERNISE and ROBERT GEBELOFF, 3/25/11, NY Times)

The percentage of the nation’s black population living in the South has hit its highest point in half a century, according to census data released Thursday, as younger and more educated black residents move out of declining cities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of better opportunities.

The share of black population growth that has occurred in the South over the past decade — the highest since 1910, before the Great Migration of blacks to the North — has upended some long-held assumptions.

Both Michigan and Illinois, whose cities have rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, said William Frey, the chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

And Atlanta, for the first time, has replaced Chicago as the metro area with the largest number of African-Americans after New York. About 17 percent of blacks who moved to the South in the past decade left New York State, far more than from any other state, the census data show.

At the same time, blacks have begun leaving cities for more affluent suburbs in large numbers, much like generations of whites before them.

“The notion of the North and its cities as the promised land has been a powerful part of African-American life, culture and history, and now it all seems to be passing by,” said Clement Price, a professor of history at Rutgers-Newark. “The black urban experience has essentially lost its appeal with blacks in America.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Census Suggests N.H. Has An Edge (John P. Gregg, 3/27/11, Valley News)

Along the Connecticut River Valley, a clear pattern seems to be emerging from 2010 Census numbers -- population was stagnant or grew only slightly in most of the larger towns on the Vermont side of the river while nearby New Hampshire hubs enjoyed more robust gains.

Lebanon's population grew by 4.6 percent, while Hartford's dropped by 4.2 percent. Hanover was up 3.8 percent, Norwich, its partner in the interstate Dresden school district, down 3.7 percent.

The town of Windsor lost 5.4 percent of its population, and other old river towns in Vermont fared little better -- both Brattleboro and St. Johnsbury grew by less than 1 percent.

If you think growth is good, could there really be something to the so-called “New Hampshire advantage” when it comes to taxes and economic vitality?

That could be the case in the Upper Valley, where New Hampshire towns grew by 6.4 percent, while their Vermont counterparts increased a paltry 0.1 percent, according to a Valley News analysis of the new Census data.

The lack of a state income tax in New Hampshire clearly played a role, as did more housing options in the Granite State, according to new residents who bought homes in fast-growing New Hampshire towns over the past decade.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Give TARP a Break (Robert Samuelson, 3/27/11, RCP)

It isn't often that the government launches a major program that achieves its main goals at a tiny fraction of its estimated costs. That's the story of TARP -- the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Created in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, it helped stabilize the economy, used only $410 billion of its authorized $700 billion and will be repaid most of that. The Congressional Budget Office, which once projected TARP's ultimate cost at $356 billion, now says $19 billion. This could go lower. [...]

One lesson of the financial crisis is this: When the entire financial system succumbs to panic, only the government is powerful enough to prevent a complete collapse. Panics signify the triumph of fear. TARP was part of the process by which fear was overcome. It wasn't the only part, but it was an essential part. Without TARP, we'd be worse off today. No one can say whether unemployment would be 11 percent or 14 percent; it certainly wouldn't be 8.9 percent.

That benefited all Americans. TARP, says Douglas Elliott of the Brookings Institution, "is the best large federal program to be despised by the public."

...but only W could have prevented the economic disaster that was imminent.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Russia sees population decline: Preliminary census results show that Russia's population shrank by 1.6 percent since 2002. (Miriam Elder, March 28, 2011, Global Post)

The data, published Monday in the official Rossisskaya Gazeta newspaper, showed that Russia has a population of 142,905,200 people – 2.2 million less than 2002, when the last census was carried out.

The data also found that it doesn’t just seem like there are many more women in Russia than men. Men comprise less than half of Russia’s population – 46.3 percent (down from 46.6 percent). That means there are 76.7 million women in Russia and just 66.2 million men.

Russia has experienced a dramatic drop in population since the fall of the Soviet Union, thanks in large part to an unhealthy lifestyle that sees alcohol and cigarettes cut men’s life expectancy to just around 60 years old. At the same time, Russians tend to have few children, and emigration is again on the rise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


An Open Letter to the Left on Libya (Juan Cole, 03/27/2011, Informed Consent)

I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed. I can still remember when I was a teenager how disappointed I was that Soviet tanks were allowed to put down the Prague Spring and extirpate socialism with a human face. Our multilateral world has more spaces in it for successful change and defiance of totalitarianism than did the old bipolar world of the Cold War, where the US and the USSR often deferred to each other’s sphere of influence.

The United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya has pitched ethical issues of the highest importance, and has split progressives in unfortunate ways.

...between those who oppose liberating others on principle and those who only oppose it when a Republican is president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Facebook: It’s Bad News for Bigamists (Mar. 28 2011, Forbes)

Richard Leon Barton Jr., who I knew right away was in trouble because the report used all three of his names, was charged with polygamy recently after his first wife learned he had another one and reported him to the police. She had become suspicious after he “de-friended” her on Facebook — de-friending a significant other is rarely going to turn out well — and a few months later a Facebook search turned up pictures of him getting married to somebody else. At that point, she said, “I put two and two together.”

Barton, at least, had not posted these pictures himself, which makes him one IQ point smarter than the Australian guy who personally sent his second-wedding photos to his local newspaper, despite the fact that his current wife lived in the same town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


A Strange Man Is Following You: Shouting about mind-control assassins, the 9/11 conspiracy, and the Bilderberg Group, radio host Alex Jones has cornered the bipartisan paranoia market. (Joe Hagan, Mar 27, 2011, New York)

A shadowy group of elites—mainly international bankers but also George W. Bush, Barack Obama, the Clintons, most of the mainstream media, the Saudi royal family, and Google—is trying to enslave the Earth’s population through orchestrated terror attacks and revolutions, vast economic manipulation, vaccines and fluoride, and an ever-widening system of surveillance that includes Facebook.

That’s the truth—at least, the truth according to Alex Jones, a popular talk-radio host who is today’s leading proponent and marketer of political paranoia. “The globalists have stolen the world’s power,” he told me recently, with surprisingly abundant good cheer. “Their big dream, and all they talk about, is creating a super bioweapon, basically based on a mouse pox, and just turn it loose and kill almost everybody. It kills about 99 percent of whatever mammal you design it for. It’s their Valhalla, and they’re going to do it.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 AM


Show them the money, old China: Despite clampdowns and the mayor's war on gangsters and corruption, Chongqing's king of finance Weng Zhenjie and his cronies keep coming up trumps. (John Garnaut, March 26, 2011, Sydney Morning Herald)

Zhang's dossier of Weng Zhenjie's gangland antics - one multimillionaire congress delegate dumping on another - would be remarkable anywhere. But in Chongqing it landed like a bombshell.

''This is the most brutal battle in Chongqing's business community since liberation,'' says a manager at one of Chongqing's largest and well-connected private companies, who knows both protagonists well.

This, after all, is the thriving Yangtze River metropolis where China's only maverick leader, Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, has gained nationwide acclaim by reclaiming the streets from the city's mafia. Bo has thrown thousands of lesser ''black society'' gangsters and their Communist Party protectors in jail and executed several, including the vice-president of the Supreme Court.

As well as ''striking black'', Bo Xilai has been "singing red" by leading his city in rousing cultural revolution songs. He has launched an ambitious ''red GDP'' campaign to strengthen state ownership, build public housing and accelerate China's (already breakneck) urbanisation by coaxing and pushing peasants off their land.

And yet, throughout it all, Weng Zhenjie has managed to grow bigger.

The ascendencies of big brother Weng and comrade Bo reveal the alchemy of power in China today and a signal as to where the country may be heading. Both men have spun astonishingly complex webs of loyalty and patronage through the Communist Party and its red-blood aristocracy. They have exploited every lever at their disposal and chosen their targets carefully.

Weng's wealth and reputation grew out of China's military-industrial complex. In the 1990s he left the Peoples Liberation Army to join the Carrier (Kaili) Group, one of two main arms-trading companies of the time. The Carrier Group was controlled by a special kind of "princeling", Ye Xuanning, whom others in that club of communist aristocrats refer to as their ''spiritual leader''.

Ye also ran another lucrative enterprise, the liaison office of the General Political Department of the PLA, which was once responsible for exporting revolution across south-east Asia and which still lubricates links throughout Asia's Chinese diaspora. Ye inherited his status from his father, Marshal Ye Jianying.

There's no sign that Weng deals directly with the Ye family but he does sit on the boards of several major companies with the family's key financial officer, Li Junyang. Li, in turn, has myriad connections, including through his gambling habits in Macau and the environmental organisation he runs with a brother of the anointed future president, Xi Jinping.

With this calibre of perceived backing, Weng leveraged himself into the cockpit of Chongqing's financial system. He confronted and then reached accommodation with the current Chongqing mayor, with his spoils including opaque shareholdings and effective control over the city's most important state-owned securities and finance companies.

Weng began dressing more regularly in Western suits, he obtained a seat on the Chongqing People's Congress and he launched a money-laundering service for the ''grey income'' of dozens of senior officials, according to several local businessmen who know him well. He bought himself more good luck by donating 100 million yuan in ''compensation'' to police who might have been injured in Bo Xilai's mafia crackdown.

Even before Bo Xilai began his anti-mafia campaign he stood out as the only publicly charismatic cadre in the Politburo.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 AM


In Syria, a test for Bashar Assad: The beleaguered president sends troops to protest areas and promises to repeal a controversial law. But there are signs that the unrest is a strain on his regime. (Garrett Therolf and Jeffrey Fleishman, 3/28/11, Los Angeles Times)

Syrian President Bashar Assad tried to retain control of his protest-roiled nation on Sunday, sending troops to the site of recent clashes and promising through subordinates to remove a controversial emergency law used to detain dissidents without trial.

But there were signs that the unrest continued to test the political skill of Assad, who came to power in 2000 after his father's 29-year rule. Political analysts pondered the regional implications of the stress being placed on his regime.

A presidential advisor told reporters Sunday that Assad would address the nation on state television "within 24 to 48 hours." The president has largely remained out of view since his forces first fired on unarmed protesters in the southern city of Dara on March 18. The death toll from such clashes has climbed past 60.

Assad's remarks were expected to detail his pledge to remove the 1963 emergency law, which strictly limits Syrians' ability to assemble or voice opposition to the regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 AM


Orioles’ Adam Jones ‘just wants to give back?’ Eh, not really . . . (Brew Editors March 25, 2011, Baltimore Brew)

In the April 4 issue of ESPN The Magazine, there is a feature called “Scale of 1 to 10” that asks this question:

“If 1 equals ‘It’s crushing’ and 10 equals ‘Glad to do my civic duty!’ How do you feel when you pay your taxes?”

Centerfielder Adam Jones, who just signed a $3.2 million one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles, is one of eight athletes who answer. His reply:

“Three. If it went to a good cause, I’d be happy. But our tax money goes to lazy people who don’t want to work.”

Here’s David Ortiz, of the Boston Red Sox:

“Seven. At least here I see what they do with my millions. In the DR (Dominican Republic), you don’t know where the money goes.”

March 27, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Harry Coover, creator of Super Glue, dies at 94 (AP, 3/27/11)

Harry Wesley Coover Jr., known as the inventor of Super Glue, has died at his home in Kingsport, Tenn. He was 94.

Coover was working for Tennessee Eastman Company when an accident resulted in Super Glue, according to his grandson, Adam Paul of South Carolina. An assistant was distressed that some brand new refractometer prisms were ruined when they were glued together, marking the invention of the popular adhesive.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


Biden Team Apologizes to Reporter for Sticking Him In Closet (Jake Tapper, March 27, 2011, ABC News)

[Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers] told ABC News that he showed up at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday to cover Vice President Biden and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., attending a $500-a-head fundraiser at the Winter Park manse of developer Alan Ginsburg.

A young female staffer met him at the door and brought him to the storage closet.

"You're going to have to wait in here until the VP gets here," he says she told him.

"You're kidding me," he recalls responding.

Forcing reporters into closets is generally not the tradition of politicians in the US. Powers is a respected politics and business reporter who recently wrote about the Space shuttle Discovery coming home to Kennedy Space Center for the 39th and final time.

Making matters worse, Biden didn't arrive until more than an hour later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


The Endless Game of a Lifetime, Recalled by a Baseball Lifer (DAN BARRY, 3/27/11, NY Times)

After committing his life more than 60 years ago to the endeavor of baseball, Morgan remains in thrall of its continuing narrative, of which he is a part. He is revered in New England, for example, for leading Boston to the 1988 and 1990 playoffs with a management style that was equal parts sachem, gunslinger and eccentric uncle. (One of his nonsensical catchphrases, “Six, two and even,” always seemed to add up somehow.)

Now, at 80, he continues to apply an irreverent, Jesuitical rigor to his study of the game, drawn from his four years at Boston College and several decades in dugouts. “Now that I’m out of baseball, it’s what keeps me going,” he says.

Our dialogue began two years ago in Morgan’s hometown, Walpole, Mass. Nestled in an armchair, his feet shod in Red Sox slippers, he reflected on everything from the worst ball field he ever played on (Keokuk, Iowa) to the best all-around player in history (Jimmie Foxx) — to the time he got thrown out of a game in Columbus, Ohio, and refused to leave the field until a sheriff’s deputy arrived to provide humorless escort. The cop later declined his offer of a clubhouse beer.

Morgan’s laconic recitation of his many minor league ports of call that day sounded like Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” as sung by a salty Robert Frost: the Hartford Chiefs, the Evansville Braves, the Jacksonville Braves, the Atlanta Crackers, the Wichita Braves, the Louisville Colonels, the Charleston Marlins, the Raleigh Pirates.

Sprinkled here and there were major league stints with the Milwaukee Braves, the Kansas City Athletics, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals. Morgan hovered somewhere between cup-of-coffee guy and journeyman, collecting a .193 career batting average and a deep repository of baseball knowledge and anecdotes.

For example, he keeps an index card inscribed with the names of prominent baseball players who spent just one year with the Boston Red Sox: Jack Chesbro, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Tom Seaver ...

After retiring as a player in 1966, Morgan continued his peregrinations as a manager and a coach, returning to Walpole every fall to find work that would carry him through the off-season. After all, he had a wife, a family, a mortgage. He held so many jobs over the years, from bill collector to coal man, that he compiled a list. Kept, of course, on another index card.

In 1974, Morgan became the manager of Boston’s Class AAA team in Pawtucket, R.I., a short drive from Walpole. At the time, the impoverished Pawtucket Red Sox were playing before sparse but caustic crowds at McCoy Stadium, a rusting Depression-era hulk that was doubling as a city public-works garage. The aroma of popcorn commingled with the fumes of gasoline.

But Morgan endured, charming fans and annoying umpires with his antics: shinnying up a foul pole, say, to point out why that ball was fair. To New Englanders, he was a regular Joe, plowing snow for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in the off-season, and never too proud to pick up the errant coins found at the toll plazas.

Morgan worked for three owners in Pawtucket. The first would pack up the unsold bags of popcorn at the end of homestands and drive them to Connecticut to be hawked at another ballpark. The second would make several poor business moves, including his declarations that he was a Yankees fan. And the third, a wealthy retiree and baseball neophyte named Ben Mondor, would methodically rebuild the PawSox franchise — and McCoy Stadium — into the minor league gem that it is today.

Of the hundreds of games that Morgan managed during his nine years in Pawtucket, and of the thousands he participated in over the decades, none lingers in memory as much as an otherwise insignificant game that began on the night of April 18, 1981. It was Passover, and Holy Saturday, and miserably cold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


The Origin of Life: A new analysis suggests lightning and volcanoes helped make life possible. (David Biello, March 27, 2011, Scientific American )

How did life start on Earth? Science still has no definitive answer. But in the 1950s, a pair of chemists mixed a stew of poisonous gases, like you'd find at a volcano. They zapped it with electricity, mimicking lightning. And they found that they'd created a few amino acids. All life on Earth relies on these compounds to make proteins.

...intelligent design makes life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Ridding Syria of a despot (Elliott Abrams, March 25, 2011, Washington Post)

The Arab monarchies, especially Jordan and Morocco, are more legitimate than the false republics, with their stolen elections, regime-dominated courts and rubber-stamp parliaments. Unlike the “republics,” the monarchies do not have histories of bloody repression and jails filled with political prisoners. The question is whether the kings, emirs and sheiks will end their corruption and shift toward genuine constitutional monarchies in which power is shared between throne and people.

For the “republics,” however, reform is impossible. Force is the only way to stay in power. When Bashar al-Assad inherited power in 2000, there was widespread hope of a Damascus Spring — an end to the bloody repression that characterized the rule of his father, Hafez (which reached its apex in 1982, when he had an estimated 25,000 protesters in Hama killed). Bashar, the thinking went, had lived in London and wanted to modernize Syria. But when he had himself “elected” president with 97.2 percent of the vote, the writing was on the wall. Some still suggested that Bashar’s hoped-for reforms were held back by hard-line forces around him, but over time, his consolidation of personal power , the growing number of Syrian political prisoners and murders in Lebanon made this excuse obscene. The U.N. special tribunal may find the Assad regime, Hezbollah or both guilty of the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The car-bomb killings of Lebanese journalists and politicians who criticized the Syrian regime have one address: Assad’s palace.

The demise of this murderous clan is in America’s interest. The Assad regime made Syria the pathway for jihadists from around the world to enter Iraq to fight and kill Americans. Long a haven for terrorists, Syria still allows the Hamas leadership, among other Palestinian terrorist groups, to live and work in Damascus. Moreover, a government dominated by Syria’s Sunni majority — the Assad clan is from the tiny Alawite minority — would never have the close relations with Hezbollah and Iran that Assad maintains; it would seek to reintegrate into the Arab world. Iran will lose its close Arab ally, and its land bridge to Hezbollah, when Assad falls.

Since the wave of Mideast revolts has spread to Syria, Assad is responding the only way he knows: by killing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Saif al-Islam Gaddafi seeking immunity (Khaled Mahmoud, 3/27/11, Asharq Al-Awsat)

Independent Arab and Libyan sources have informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is seeking to convince the coalition forces to accept a deal that is being secretly discussed between Gaddafi delegates and a number of Arab and American parties. This deal would see Gaddafi stepping down from power, only to be replaced by his son Saif al-Islam, with a deadline being put in place for a peaceful transition of power.

A well-informed Libyan source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has held a number of secret meetings with officials in the French and British governments, discussing the idea of his replacing his father for a transitional period of between 2 – 3 years, in return for a comprehensive ceasefire and negotiating with the anti-Gaddafi rebels.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Replace ObamaCare With Health Savings Accounts (Dean Zarras, Mar. 26 2011, Forbes)

Only Health Savings Accounts distinguish the “care” from the “insurance”. They are different issues, and they require different solutions.

To demonstrate the difference, say you currently have a traditional “family plan” through your employer that costs the employer $12,000 a year. Your employer is very generous, and pays for all of it. You see whatever doctors you want, and make “co-payments” of $25 per doctor visit. Beyond that, it’s basically all you can eat — the buffet line starts to your left.

With a Health Savings Account, your employer still spends $12,000 a year (in actuality, probably less). But they take $5,000 of the $12,000 and put it into an account with your name on it. The money is now legally yours. It’s a form of compensation. With the remaining $7,000, they buy a “High Deductible Health Plan“, whose deductible just happens to be $5,000. The HDHP covers you in full for any unlikely tragedy that should it occur, would be financially devastating.

When you go for your physical, since it’s a non-risk, near-certain probability event, you pay for the physical with a plastic card linked to your HSA. Here’s the kicker: since that $5,000 is your money, whatever balance you have at the end of the year is yours to keep. Note that this is distinctly different from “Flexible Spending Accounts” that many people have, which have a “use it or lose it” aspect to them (thus making them the local eyeglass store’s best friend in December).

Next year, your employer deposits another $5,000 into the account and the process repeats. Over time, the balance in the HSA account can grow, and it’s yours to keep if you change employers. And hopefully, the health tragedy that your high-deductible plan would cover in full, never happens.

Now you’re in a whole new world.

Suddenly you’ll pocket the difference in price between one provider of lab work, and a cheaper but totally acceptable alternative. Under a system of widespread HSA’s, labs would start advertising their services and prices to the retail customer. MRI service providers would do the same, as would doctors’ offices.

Can’t evaluate one lab versus another? A lot of people might be in that category, so a new company would pop up that would do that for you — the “Consumer Reports” of lab comparisons, if you will. You might even pay more for a lab that had a certain level of certification that you trusted. Think the certifying company might be corruptible? Any more so than your local government agency that might otherwise be mandated to do the same thing, paid for by additional tax dollars from you?

Of course, many different types of High Deductible Plans would be offered to cover the catastrophic events, some of which might have their own additional limitations or costs, in return for an even lower annual rate. Just as the labs and MRI providers would undoubtedly compete for business, the insurance companies, returning largely to the business of pricing risk, not certainty, would have every incentive to compete as well. We want to allow the insurance companies to beat each other up in the marketplace, rather than beat us up.

“But wait a minute.” you say. “In your example, I might have to spend $300 on the physical, where right now I only make a $25 co-payment”. True, but where did the $300, or the $25, come from in the first place? In both cases, your employer is the originator of the money, as they are funding the full $12,000. But with the HSA, you have an incentive to retain as much of the $5,000 each year as you can. With the traditional plan and the $25 co-payments, you don’t. The concept is the same even if you have to pay a portion of your health insurance costs from each paycheck, as is the more typical case.

Give the Democrats the universality they seek, the GOP the market mechanism that work and the UR an eponymous program that will last past his presidency as his one legacy and you have the outlines of a deal.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


KG sends a practice message (Chris Forsberg, 3/25/11, ESPN the Magazine)

In the middle of the Celtics' scrimmage, head coach Doc Rivers toots his whistle and tells Garnett to take a blow. Turkish big man Semih Erden reluctantly tags out KG. Reluctantly, because this minor event can resemble going to the dentist: It's something you do only when you have to. Erden proceeds to allow a crisp pass to fly off his hands and out of bounds.

Meanwhile, rather than take a seat or a swig, Garnett, who is 34, but has played more minutes than all but 13 players in NBA history, breaks into wind sprints on the sideline. Up. Back. Up. Back. Up. Back. Touching the end line every time, like a ninth-grader trying to make JV. "Never seen another NBA player do that," says Phil Galvin, the facility's basketball director.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


The left goes to war (Dick Polman, 3/27/11, Philadelphia Inquirer)

I wonder how many liberals would've voted for Barack Obama if he had stumped the nation with this campaign vow:

"We're fighting two wars, but as president I pledge to change that policy by ordering up a third. And I will do so by exercising the prerogatives of the imperial presidency. George W. Bush felt it was necessary to get congressional authorization for the war in Iraq, but I will do him one better. When I launch our third intervention, I pledge to inform the members of Congress only when it's too late for them to do anything about it. Thank you very much!"

But that's where we are today, in the wake of the American-led air strikes in Libya, amid strong indications - I know this will come as a shock - that the mission, which is being conducted in what a top U.S. military official calls "an extremely complex and difficult environment," may take a wee bit longer than originally envisioned. Which explains the current liberal angst. Some on the left are muttering about President Obama in rhetorical language previously reserved for the likes of Bush and Richard Nixon.

....this was the inevitable outcome once he was elected.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


Halladay presents Ruiz with replica of Cy Young prize (PAUL HAGEN, 3/26/11,

When Ruiz, who didn't play in yesterday's 3-1 exhibition win over the Braves, left the dugout and walked into the nearly deserted clubhouse during the seventh inning, he found a plain, brown box sitting on the chair in front of his locker.

At first, he just glanced at it as he began stowing his equipment.

Then he noticed what was written with a marker on one corner of the top.

To: Chooch

From: Roy

Curious, he dug into the wrapping paper and packing bubbles and found an exact replica of Halladay's Cy Young Award. He looked at reliever Danys Baez standing nearby and said a few words in Spanish. Both men beamed.

"It means a lot. It's hard to say what I feel. I don't know what to say. It's special, you know? I'm definitely going to say thank you a thousand times. It's real special," Ruiz said later.

Ruiz has never pitched as a professional. He was a second baseman before being converted to catcher. So the thought of getting a Cy Young Award never occurred to him.

"Exactly," he said with a laugh. "It's definitely going to be in a special room in my house. I'll always remember this gift from him. Anything he does for me is special, because if I were going to pay to watch baseball, that's the guy I'd like to watch play the game.

"I can't wait to put it in my house."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether (DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI, 3/27/11, NY Times)

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

While General Electric is one of the most skilled at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less.

Tax consumption, not profits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


REVIEW: The Killing, BBC Four, review : Sweaters and subtitles: Danish drama The Killing signs off in style (Neil Midgley, 3/27/11, The Telegraph)

Gudrun & Gudrun is a small knitwear company, based in the Faroe Islands, which makes traditional Scandinavian sweaters. Over the years, one design in particular – the one “with the star pattern” – has, according to the firm’s website, “become our classic number one”. This iconic design has, apparently, long enjoyed cult status in Japan. And, over the last 10 weeks, these discerning Japanese jersey-coveters have been joined by an even more obsessive crowd: BBC viewers of Danish detective drama The Killing.

Those viewers gather together, often in dark corners of the internet, and ask each other questions about the sweater. How has Sarah Lund, the Copenhagen police detective who is the show’s heroine, managed to wear it almost every day throughout a gruelling murder investigation? Does it magically clean itself? Did it, indeed, magically repair itself when it was slashed – along with Lund’s arm – by a baddie? Even though The Killing managed to notch up half-a-dozen deaths during its 20 episodes, the sweater mysteries were still some of its most impenetrable by the time it finished its triumphant run on Saturday – to understandably Auden-esque wails of grief from its fans.

But even the jumper, spellbinding as it is, does not entirely explain why so many people – a remarkable 500,000 a week on BBC Four, most of whom seem also to be discussing the show on Twitter – have been so devoted.

The Killing is much more than just Midwinter Murders: it comes from an honourable and growing tradition of complex continental cop drama, including the French detective show Spiral and Sweden’s original Wallander. But by some magical Nordic alchemy, it has transcended both of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Something Understood (BBC Radio 4, 27/03/2011)

'Trains are made for meditation', John Betjeman wrote, celebrating slow travel back in 1940. He was only one of many poets, writers and musicians who have found inspiration in rail travel. Hypnotised by the rhythm of the train, they find a freedom to think and to dream, inspired by the unfolding landscape outside.

Mark Tully chooses the best train poetry and music and talks to the Chaplain of St Pancras Station, Jonathan Barker, about his work on the station. With music by Glenn Miller, Anton Dvorak, Villa Lobos and Baron Samedi.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Reading 1: Extract from The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton. Published by Penguin, 2003.

Reading 2 :“In the Train” by Antonio Machado, translated by A S Kline. Available on the website, used by kind permission of A S Kline.

Reading 3: Extract from “Back to the Railway Carriage”, by John Betjeman, from Trains and Buttered Toast. Published by John Murray, 2006.

Reading 4: “On a Train” by Wendy Cope, from If I Don’t Know. Published by Faber and Faber, 2001. This recording is taken from Poetry Archive,

Reading 5: Reading from “The Spiritual Railway”, a Memorial in Ely Cathedral.
Music played

Glenn Miller Glenn Miller — Chatanooga Choo Choo

Performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra.
Glenn Miller – 34 Greatest Hits, Odessa Mama Records, B000UTHRE
Heitor Villa-Lobos Heitor Villa-Lobos — The Little Train of the Caipira

Performed by Leopold Stokowski and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Classic Records, B003TRMLOE
Arthur Honegger Arthur Honegger — Pacific 231

Performed by the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands.
Deutsche Grammophon, B00000E535
Baron Samedi — Night Mail
Wanderland, ElevenEleven Records, B004IY4REE
Acker Bilk — Gospel Train
Boaters, Bowlers and Bow Ties, Decca (UMO, B002CPD59Y
Antonin Dvorak Antonin Dvorak — Symphony no 7 (1st Movement)

Performed by the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Warner Classics, B00000F1RK

March 26, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 AM


Well Beyond the End of History (Evan R. Goldstein, 3/22/11, The Chronicle Review)

In conversation, as in his writings, Fukuyama is cool and understated. His sentences unspool slowly, the words carefully considered. This equanimity is shaken, albeit briefly, when I mention the idea for which he is most famous. "I've been trying to move beyond The End of History ever since I wrote the book," Fukuyama says with weary patience. "But no matter what I write, everyone wants to ask me about it."

And no wonder—few of the myriad efforts to interpret the post-cold-war world have so endured, and none has attracted as much attention. When the essay was published, a Washington news vendor reported that the journal in which it appeared was "outselling everything, even the pornography." Frequently described as a rock star, Fukuyama continues to draw large audiences around the world. His thesis, however, has never sat well in certain quarters. Margaret Thatcher supposedly quipped: "End of history? The beginning of nonsense!" More serious was the critique of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, who countered with his own vision of a future soaked in conflict between the world's major cultural groups—The Clash of Civilizations.

In the eyes of some, September 11, 2001, vindicated Huntington and exposed Fukuyama's declaration as, at best, premature. (In fact, Fukuyama never suggested that the "end of history" entailed the cessation of extreme violence or cataclysmic events.) Nevertheless, those familiar with Fukuyama and Huntington only as rivals might do a double take when they open The Origins of Political Order and find that it is dedicated to Huntington, who died in 2008. Turns out that the book took shape when Fukuyama, a former student of Huntington's at Harvard, was asked to write the introduction to a reprint of Huntington's 1968 classic, Political Order in Changing Societies, a book that Fukuyama regards as one of the most important in 20th-century international relations. But when he returned to the text, he says, it felt dated. For starters, there was hardly any mention of religion.

"We've seen a revival of religion in the world," Fukuyama says, noting that religion has played a central role in the historical development of political institutions as well. Early human sociability was limited to face-to-face interactions within close-knit kin groups, and trust didn't extend beyond a few dozen relatives. Large-scale cooperation didn't become possible until the development of religious beliefs, which allowed trust to transcend kin. And that paved the way for the big faith communities—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism—capable of uniting tens of millions of people in collective action.

Case in point: the Prophet Muhammad. At the time of his birth, around 570, the Arabian Peninsula had been inhabited by tribal peoples for centuries. Muhammad preached his vision of a single ummah—gaining adherents, conquering others, and eventually uniting central Arabia into a single polity. "There is no clearer illustration of the importance of ideas to politics than the emergence of an Arab state under the Prophet Muhammad," Fukuyama writes. "The Arab tribes played an utterly marginal role in world history until that point; it was only Muhammad's charismatic authority that allowed them to unify and project their power throughout the Middle East and North Africa."

Fukuyama's portrayal of religion as a unifying force in history will irk some atheists, for whom religion is at all times a source of intolerance, conflict, and violence. He does concede, however, that religion's role in the contemporary world is more problematic. Pluralistic societies require religions to coexist in proximity. As a result, he says, "integration today has to be based on shared political values, not deep, religiously rooted cultural beliefs."

...that, despite a couple thousand years of effort by philosophers, monotheism remains the only basis for shared values.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 AM


Wind energy surplus threatens eastern German power grid (Deutsche Welle, 3/26/11)

More than one third of Germany's 21,500 wind turbines are located in the nation's east. This concentration of generating capacity regularly overloads the region's electricity grid, threatening blackouts.
German Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle recently warned that Germany faces frequent power blackouts because too much 'green electricity' is being pumped onto the grid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 AM


Schism brews in Coffee Party (Ben Smith, 3/24/11, Politico)

The Coffee Party, which launched last year to mild public curiosity in reaction to the Tea Party wave, has receded from public view -- in part because of a schism between its centrist leadership and some left-leaning grassroots.

The movement, co-founded by filmmaker named Annabel Park, was initially seen as a progressive alternative to the Tea Party.

As Newsweek reported of an early meeting, members "were angry. They hated the Tea Party, and the Republican Party. They wanted to get even."

Park, however, says she intended the group to be centrist and non-partisan. She at one point weighed legal action to prevent the left-leaning faction from using their copyrighted logo after Darrell Bouldin, a Tennessee-based activist, started an offshoot called "Coffee Party Progressives." [...]

"I feel the name Coffee Party attracted so many people because they assumed it was a reaction to the Tea Party and a progressive counter."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 AM


Health Care Myth Busters: Is There a High Degree of Scientific Certainty in Modern Medicine?: Two doctors take on the health care system in a new book that aims to arm people with information (Sanjaya Kumar and David B. Nash, March 25, 2011, Scientific American)

We believe that the vast majority of what physicians do is backed by solid science. Their diagnostic and treatment decisions must reflect the latest and best research. Their clinical judgment must certainly be well beyond any reasonable doubt. To seriously question these assumptions would seem jaundiced and cynical.

But we must question them because these beliefs are based more on faith than on facts for at least three reasons, each of which we will explore in detail in this section. Only a fraction of what physicians do is based on solid evidence from Grade-A randomized, controlled trials; the rest is based instead on weak or no evidence and on subjective judgment. When scientific consensus exists on which clinical practices work effectively, physicians only sporadically follow that evidence correctly.

Medical decision-making itself is fraught with inherent subjectivity, some of it necessary and beneficial to patients, and some of it flawed and potentially dangerous. For these reasons, millions of Americans receive medications and treatments that have no proven clinical benefit, and millions fail to get care that is proven to be effective. Quality and safety suffer, and waste flourishes.

We know, for example, that when a patient goes to his primary-care physician with a very common problem like lower back pain, the physician will deliver the right treatment with real clinical benefit about half of the time. Patients with the same health problem who go to different physicians will get wildly different treatments. Those physicians can't all be right.

Having limited clinical evidence for their decision-making is not the only gap in physicians' scientific certainty. Physician judgment—the "art" of medicine—inevitably comes into play, for better or for worse. Even physicians with the most advanced technical skills sometimes fail to achieve the highest quality outcomes for their patients. That's when resourcefulness—trying different and potentially better interventions—can bend the quality curve even further.

And, even the most experienced physicians make errors in diagnosing patients because of cognitive biases inherent to human thinking processes. These subjective, "nonscientific" features of physician judgment work in parallel with the relative scarcity of strong scientific backing when physicians make decisions about how to care for their patients.

We could accurately say, "Half of what physicians do is wrong," or "Less than 20 percent of what physicians do has solid research to support it." Although these claims sound absurd, they are solidly supported by research that is largely agreed upon by experts. Yet these claims are rarely discussed publicly. It would be political suicide for our public leaders to admit these truths and risk being branded as reactionary or radical. Most Americans wouldn't believe them anyway.

Especially those who consume a lot of health care, mainly women.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thursday's Bruins-Canadiens Game Garners Record 6.6 Rating on NESN (NESN, Mar 25, 2011)

Thursday night's 7-0 Bruins win over the Canadiens garnered a 6.6 household rating on NESN, according to Nielsen, which is the highest-rated regular-season game in the network’s 27-year history covering the Bruins. [...]

The Bruins-Canadiens game faced a very competitive television lineup, including the 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and ranked No. 1 in the Boston DMA in men age 25-54, No. 2 in adults age 18-49 and No. 3 in households and adults age 25-54.

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March 25, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


Give War a Chance (WILLIAM KRISTOL, 4/04/11, Weekly Standard)

We’re at war. We need to succeed in that war. By all means, be generous with the constructive criticism. (For example, it seems ridiculous for the United States not to be arming the Libyan opposition.) Note for the historical record the Obama administration’s dithering and double-talk. But don’t carp and cavil in ways that suggest America can’t prevail, or that America shouldn’t prevail. Don’t revel in every administration misstep. Don’t chortle at every misstatement. Don’t exacerbate the administration’s failure to build domestic support for the mission. Put the mission, and the country, first.

Which means, to some extent, that we might consider biting our collective tongues, wishing the president well because he is our president, and helping him get it right rather than pointing with glee to everything he’s doing wrong. Which in turn means that we might want to cool it with the 24/7 criticism. Let’s support our troops and their mission, and give the war a chance—even though it’s a war that’s not being perfectly conducted by an administration that offers plenty of cause for frustration.

You go to war with the president you have. This isn’t the one we conservatives preferred. We have a good chance to remove him in 2012. We should work to do so. But first let’s remove Qaddafi, help get Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen right, and—who knows?—despite our reluctant president, push the administration to have the backs of those fighting for regime change in Syria and Iran.

It's embarrassing that so many of our friends need to be told this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


NATO deal leaves U.S. still commanding Libya strikes (David Alexander, 3/25/11, Reuters)

A NATO decision to take charge of a no-fly zone over Libya does not include conducting air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's ground forces, a mission that will remain in U.S. hands until a new command deal is reached, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said on Friday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


There'll barely be a Labor Party left after the NSW election (Andrew Clennell, 3/25/11, The Daily Telegraph)

NSW Labor will be wiped out in its worst electoral defeat in 110 years tomorrow and will only just retain party status by winning a paltry 14 of 93 lower house seats.

That was the finding of a final Daily Telegraph-Galaxy poll, which has Labor's primary vote at just 22 per cent - down one point from three weeks ago - compared to Barry O'Farrell's Coalition, unchanged at 51 per cent.

The Greens sit at 12 per cent and other minor parties and independents 15.

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition was up two points, leading 66 to 34.

A party is required to win 10 seats in the Legislative Assembly to give it party status, allowing the opposition leader and deputy opposition leader to be paid more than an ordinary backbencher.

The Galaxy poll found Labor will squeak over the line - with three more members than a cricket team.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Inflated Worries (LAURENCE H. MEYER, 3/24/11, NY Times)

There are two fundamental measures of inflation: overall (or “headline”) inflation and “core” inflation, which excludes food and energy prices because they are very volatile and mostly transitory and as a result don’t necessarily reflect underlying inflation trends. A central objective of the Fed’s monetary policy is price stability, defined as a low, steady rate of overall inflation. So are rising food and gas prices a sign that the Fed is falling down on the job?

The answer is no. There is very little that the Fed can do to control today’s inflation, whether core or headline. What the Fed does influence is inflation a year or two down the road, which is why it needs to look to the future, not overreact to the present.

The most significant question for the Fed, then, is whether overall or core inflation right now is a more reliable gauge of where headline inflation will be next year. And the data unequivocally tell us that core inflation better predicts overall inflation tomorrow.

Given that core inflation is close to 1 percent, overall inflation next year will likely also end up at about 1 percent, well below the Fed’s almost explicit objective of 2 percent.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


U.S. funding tech firms that help Mideast dissidents evade government censors (Ian Shapira, 3/10/11, Washington Post)

The Obama administration may not be lending arms to dissidents in the Middle East, but it is offering aid in another critical way: helping them surf the Web anonymously as they seek to overthrow their governments.

Federal agencies - such as the State Department, the Defense Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors - have been funding a handful of technology firms that allow people to get online without being tracked or to visit news or social media sites that governments have blocked. Many of these little-known organizations - such as the Tor Project and UltraReach- are unabashedly supportive of the activists in the Middle East.

But the United States' backing of these firms has the potential to put the government in an awkward diplomatic position, not only with the countries where uprisings are active, but also with economic partners such as Saudi Arabia and China, which are known to block Web sites they deem dangerous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Number of black D.C. residents plummets as majority status slips away (Carol Morello and Dan Keating, March 24, 2011, Washington Post)

The number of African Americans residing in the District plummeted by more than 11 percent during the past decade, with blacks on the verge of losing their majority status in the city for the first time in half a century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 AM


Antiwar Senator, War-Powers President: Like all of his predecessors, this president has realized why the Constitution vested certain powers in the executive branch: Only it can act with dispatch. (JOHN YOO, 3/25/11, WSJ)

President Barack Obama has again flip-flopped on national security—and we can all be grateful. Having kept Guantanamo Bay open, resumed military commission trials for terrorists, and expanded the use of drones, the president has now ordered the U.S. military into action without Congress's blessing.

Imagine the uproar if President Bush had unilaterally launched air attacks against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. But since it's Mr. Obama's finger on the trigger, Democratic leaders in Congress have kept quiet—demonstrating that their opposition to presidential power during the Bush years was political, not principled.

Mr. Obama's exercise of war powers in Libya is firmly in the tradition of American foreign policy.

Of course, Republican whingeing about the President is, likewise, unprincipled...but both sides are amusing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 AM


'Incredibly strong and powerful' Gov. Cuomo on brink of budget victory (Kenneth Lovett and Glenn Blain, 3/25/11, NY DAILY NEWS)

Legislative leaders hoped to wrap up budget negotiations Friday on a $133 billion spending plan - sobered by the realization that they lacked the political capital to battle Gov. Cuomo.

"He is getting basically everything he wanted," one Democratic lawmaker said of Cuomo, who boasts sky-high approval ratings.

The looming agreement would mark just the third time since 1984 that the Legislature approved a budget by the April 1 deadline - 2005 and 2006 were the others.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who often bullied previous governors, all but admitted defeat in a stunning, closed-door session with his conference, sources said.

Silver's message, according to the lawmaker, was: "The governor is incredibly strong and powerful" and Democrats lack the public support to challenge him.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 AM


Rights Are Curtailed for Terror Suspects (EVAN PEREZ, 3/25/11, WSJ)

New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades.

The move is one of the Obama administration's most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S. And it potentially opens a new political tussle over national security policy, as the administration marks another step back from pre-election criticism of unorthodox counterterror methods.

The Supreme Court's 1966 Miranda ruling obligates law-enforcement officials to advise suspects of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present for questioning. A 1984 decision amended that by allowing the questioning of suspects for a limited time before issuing the warning in cases where public safety was at issue.

That exception was seen as a limited device to be used only in cases of an imminent safety threat, but the new rules give interrogators more latitude and flexibility to define what counts as an appropriate circumstance to waive Miranda rights.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation memorandum reviewed by The Wall Street Journal says the policy applies to "exceptional cases" where investigators "conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat."

March 24, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


Cathead Biscuits (Runaway Spoon)

4 cups flour all-purpose soft wheat flour

2 Tablespoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup cold lard

1 to 1 ½ cups cold well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking pan (about 13” by 9” with 1-inch sides) with parchment paper or grease it well with shortening.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl that gives you lots of room to work. Mix gently with a fork to combine and aerate the flour.

Cut the lard into pieces and sprinkle over the top of the flour mixture. Use the fork to toss the cubes lightly in the flour to coat. Then dip your clean fingers into some flour and mix everything together, squishing and rubbing the mixture together to combine the fats and the flour. Don’t spend too long doing this, gentle handling is the key to a tender biscuit. It’s okay if there are some visible bits of lard left. When you pinch a bit of flour between your fingers, from anywhere in the bowl, it should stick together.

Measure out the shaken buttermilk, then pour about ¾ cup of it over the mixture. Use the fork to fold the buttermilk into the dough, carefully incorporating the liquid. Keep adding the buttermilk a bit at a time until you have a cohesive dough. You may not need all the buttermilk. Again, you don’t want to work the dough too much, but don’t leave much loose, dry flour in the bottom of the bowl. You can use your hands to get that last bit of dry flour into the dough.

Lightly flour a work surface. You do want to use a light hand to flour the surface, because too much will leave an unpleasant floury coating on the biscuits. Sprinkling flour through a wire sieve is a great way to do this.

Turn the dough out onto the surface, and turn it over on itself once or twice to bring the dough together. I do not say knead, because you don’t want to work the dough that hard. Press the dough into a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Just press it out lightly with your hands to an even thickness.

Cut the biscuits with a large round cutter or the ring of a quart mason jar, always cutting as close to the edge of the dough and as close together as possible to get as many biscuits as possible. Don’t be too precious about this, these babies are meant to be rough-and-ready. Just press the cutter down and pull back up; don’t twist or the sides won’t rise up as nice. Gently pull the dough scraps together, pat out and cut a few more biscuits.

Place the biscuits very close together on the prepared pan, just touching each other. This helps them rise while cooking. Brush the tops with a little buttermilk. What’s clinging to the sides of the measuring cup should be enough.

Bake the biscuits in the hot oven for 8 – 9 minutes. Watch the biscuits carefully so they do not over-brown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


New census milestone: Hispanics to hit 50 million (HOPE YEN, 3/24/11, Associated Press)

Racial and ethnic minorities are expected to make up an unprecedented 90 percent of the total U.S. growth since 2000, due to immigration and higher birth rates for Latinos. Currently the fastest growing group, Hispanics are on track to exceed 50 million, or roughly 1 in 6 Americans; among U.S. children, Hispanics are now roughly 1 in 4.

Based on a Pew Hispanic Center analysis, the 2010 count of Hispanics was on track to be 900,000 higher than expected as their ranks surpassed census estimates in roughly 40 states. Many of their biggest jumps were in the South, including Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina and Louisiana, where immigrants made large inroads over the last decade.

Asians for the first time had a larger numeric gain than African-Americans, who remained the second largest minority group at roughly 37 million. Based on the 2010 census results released by state so far, multiracial Americans were on track to increase by more than 25 percent, to about roughly 8.7 million.

The number of non-Hispanic whites, whose median age is now 41, edged up slightly to 197 million. Declining birth rates meant their share of the total U.S. population dropped over the last decade from 69 percent to roughly 64 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Whole Grain Cereal May Help Control Blood Pressure: Men who consumed seven or more servings a week reduced their risk of hypertension by about 20%, study finds (Steven Reinberg, 3/22/11, HealthDay News)

Eating breakfast cereal -- especially whole grain cereal -- may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

"We found about a 20 percent decreased risk of developing hypertension in those who consumed whole grain breakfasts cereals at least seven times a week," said lead researcher Dr. Jinesh Kochar, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the VA Boston Healthcare System. she trying to kill you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


The Next Big Name to Come Out of Austin? (JIM FUSILLI, 3/24/11, WSJ)

[A]ustin resident Gary Clark Jr., who may be the city's next big music star, was an island of easygoing professionalism and aw-shucks charm. He played eight sets, ranging from a solo gig for an industry group to showcases sponsored by Warner Brothers, his new label. As if immune to pressure, he flashed his blend of blues, soul and rock, mixing fluid, muscular guitar with a rootsy bark or a falsetto croon. Though his influences are plentiful—Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King and Smokey Robinson are in evidence—throughout SXSW 2011 Mr. Clark came across as someone who is building something that is distinctly his own.

"I don't want to be stuck in a box," said Mr. Clark, referring to his approach, from an office overlooking Sixth Street, the unofficial midway to the SXSW bazaar. "There's so much soul in Freddie, Curtis Mayfield, Prince. It flows together."

Since it's a short trip from his home in Austin's Oak Hill section, Mr. Clark played SXSW in years past and had his moment in the national spotlight when he was featured in John Sayles's 2007 film "Honeydripper." Last year, facilitated in part by guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, a longtime supporter, the soft-spoken 27-year-old made an impressive appearance at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival. He's among the artists on the live "Crossroads" DVD, playing his own composition "Bright Lights" and joining Messrs. Bramhall and Clapton, Susan Tedeschi and her husband, Derek Trucks, behind Sheryl Crow for two numbers.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Springtime for Civil War (Bruce Riedel, March 22, 2011, National Interest)

The Saudis goal in Bahrain is clear; no revolution in the gulf monarchies especially by Shia. They intervened in Bahrain to back anti-Shia Sunni hardliners led by the Prime Minister who has ruled since 1961. The aim: to marginalize reformers like the American-backed Crown Prince. The Saudis sent a clear message to the two Shia republics in the gulf, especially Iran but also Iraq, that they will not tolerate Shia takeovers in Bahrain or the Kingdom's eastern province. They also sent a message to Washington: Bush naively gave Iraq to the Shia, Obama won't do the same to Bahrain.

That's just silly. We aren't going to tolerate a minority regime. Consensual government isn't naivete; it's American.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


State illegal immigration laws: What have they accomplished? (Aaron Couch, March 23, 2011, CS Monitor)

From an enforcement standpoint, the impact of state anti-immigration laws like Arizona's controversial SB 1070 "is almost negligible," says Veronica Dahlberg, an immigrants' rights activist.

The far greater impact has been social, Hispanic groups say. Laws targeting illegal immigrants have reflected and even intensified the rising anti-immigration movement, both in statehouses and on the streets. The result is a legislative record from Arizona to Florida that hasn't made much of a mark on illegal immigration, but has fueled a populist backlash against it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 AM


Anger at God common, even among atheists (Elizabeth Landau, 1/1/11,

People unaffiliated with organized religion, atheists and agnostics also report anger toward God either in the past, or anger focused on a hypothetical image - that is, what they imagined God might be like - said lead study author Julie Exline, Case Western Reserve University psychologist.

In studies on college students, atheists and agnostics reported more anger at God during their lifetimes than believers. A separate study also found this pattern among bereaved individuals. This phenomenon is something Exline and colleagues will explore more in future research, which is open to more participants.

It seems that more religious people are less likely to feel angry at God and more likely to see his intentions as well-meaning, Exline's research found.

And younger people tend to be angrier at God than older people, Exline said. She says some of the reasons she's seen people the angriest at God include rejection from preferred colleges and sports injuries preventing high schoolers from competing.

In other words, there are no atheists.

March 23, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


The Destruction of Charleston in the Civil War: Photographs from the 1860s reveal how Union bombardment and a blazing fire devastated much of the South Carolina city (Ray Gordon and Molly Roberts, March 23, 2011,

Confederate forces abandoned Charleston on February 15, 1865, when Union Gen. William T. Sherman threatened to raze the city during his “March to the Sea.” In May 1865, Sherman toured the city, proclaiming that “Any one who is not satisfied with war should go to Charleston and he will pray louder and deeper than ever that, the country, in its long future be spared any more war.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


Actress Elizabeth Taylor dead at 79 (Agence France-Presse Mar 23, 2011)

The poor woman never got to star* in a good movie.

* Though she did have a part in Life With Father.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


The case for Tim Pawlenty (Chris Cillizza, 3/22/11, Washington Post)

Everything to everyone: Usually trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for political disaster. But, in Pawlenty’s case it may well be an advantage. Pawlenty isn’t likely to be the first choice of any of the GOP’s disparate interest groups but there isalso no group that is adamantly opposed to the idea of him as the nominee. And, a look back at the last two Republican presidential nominees — George W. Bush and John McCain — reveals that the party tends to pick the person who is able to appeal to the broadest number of constituencies within the party rather than the person who embodies the ideal pick of a single constituency group. Pawlenty, at the moment, is lots of peoples’ second choice. As the field narrows — and it will narrow — Pawlenty is likely to pick up supporters of other candidates because he is good — if not great — on the issues that matter most to them.

* An early state path: Winning in Iowa or New Hampshire — or, ideally, both — is absolutely essential for a lesser known candidate like Pawlenty to make a real run at the nomination. Lucky for him, he has a plausible case for why he can be competitive in both states, a case that many other candidates in the field (or soon to be in the field) simply can’t make. Pawlenty is the only candidate likely to run who has represented a state that borders Iowa . That geographical proximity will allow him to effectively make the case that he knows the worries and dreams of Hawkeye State Republicans best. In New Hampshire, Pawlenty’s image as an average Joe who happens to love ice hockey — Pawlenty was featured on skates in the video announcing his exploratory committee — should play well too. Pawlenty has already seen some results, in fact, in the Granite State; a recent independent poll showed him in third place behind only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is the clear favorite in new Hampshire in 2012, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Firing Of Nobel Winner Straining U.S./Bangladeshi Relations (Chris Barth, Mar. 23 2011, Forbes)

The firing of Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and founder of Grameen Bank, has drawn criticism and questions from international leaders. Now the situation is threatening to undermine — or at the very least strain — U.S. relations with the seemingly responsible Bangladesh government. According to a report on Rediff, an India-based web portal, a planned visit from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton hinges on successful resolution of the issue.

“We in the United States have been deeply troubled by the difficulties [Yunus] is currently facing,” said US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake. “If there is no compromise, it will have an effect on our bilateral relations.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


Newt Gingrich back-and-forth on Libya no-fly zone (KENDRA MARR, 3/23/11, Politico)

First, Gingrich criticized President Barack Obama for not imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. Now the former House Speaker is lashing out at the White House’s intervention, calling it “badly run as any foreign operation in our lifetime.”

“The standard he has fallen back to, of humanitarian intervention, could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe to Syria this week to Yemen, to Bahrain,” he said on the “Today” show Wednesday morning. “This isn’t a serious standard. This is a public relations conversation.”

Gingrich added, “I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Can Anyone Explain Why We're in Libya? (David Harsanyi, 3/23/11, RCP)

Contrary to pithy bumper-sticker truisms, war is occasionally the answer. But can anyone explain why it's the answer now?

Because: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Morals and Markets: a review of Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life
by Nicholas Phillipson (Yuval Levin, March 21, 2011, New Republic)

Once he enters Smith’s most productive (and most public) period, Phillipson’s analysis is brilliant and clarifying. He demonstrates decisively the coherence and immense ambition of Smith’s life-long project—the development of an overarching system for the study of social life—of which his individual works were elements. By so doing, Phillipson effectively puts to rest the longstanding argument that the economics of The Wealth of Nations was inconsistent with the moral theory that Smith had laid out in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a view that dominated the study of Smith until well into the twentieth century, and that continues to shape the way he is understood.

Smith’s economics, Phillipson argues, was a function of precisely his understanding of morality—an understanding of man as a profoundly social creature whose capacity for sympathy and desire for approval made it possible to civilize him through the inculcation of “moderate virtues” like prudence, restraint, industry, frugality, sobriety, honesty, civility, and above all “self command” or discipline. These low bourgeois virtues were nothing to sneer at, Smith believed. They were the essence of a functioning liberal society. And the market, in turn, was an institution crucial to the effort to inculcate such virtues. It could both yield immense prosperity and encourage discipline and the moderate virtues by making self-command (which is essential to keeping a job, satisfying customers, and beating out the competition) a means of bettering our condition.

The compatibility and continuity of Smith’s two great works suggests that there was not—as left-leaning admirers of Smith ever since Thomas Paine have suggested—a hidden revolutionary morality in the The Wealth of Nations. The insistence on such a veiled radical agenda (which can be found in many contemporary studies of Smith, most recently Iain McLean’s book Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian) has kept too many readers of Smith from taking his moral philosophy seriously.

But the same continuity also means that many libertarian readers of Smith are wrong to believe that his economics is his morality, or that an unregulated market exhausts his idea of an ethical society. In fact, Smith’s market is highly regulated. Far from a pseudo-natural phenomenon best left to its own equilibrium, it is a social institution constructed by policymakers with very particular moral ambitions.

The nature of those ambitions speaks directly to the problems bedeviling our own capitalist economy—indeed Smith’s arguments are more relevant today than at any time since Smith’s own age. For most of its history, capitalism was locked in conflict with various forms of collectivism, and above all with socialism and communism. That conflict is for the most part over now, and what remains in the developed world is an argument about what sort of capitalism we want. And as Phillipson powerfully brings out, Adam Smith’s capitalism is a very particular type.

Smith, after all, did not offer up his economics in opposition to collectivism, which did not really emerge until the subsequent century. His adversary was mercantilism—by which each of the European powers set market rules that served the interests of a few large domestic manufacturers and trading companies working closely with the government. Mercantilism thus put economic policy in the service of the national interest, in order to advance the nation’s trading position. Smith believed this was counterproductive. Instead, he argued, legislators should govern the market in the interest of the common consumer. This was his key economic insight. As he put it:

Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so perfectly self-evident that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it. But in the mercantile system, the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer.

By turning the logic of mercantilist economics on its head and establishing a market designed for the good of the common citizen, Smith believed governments could both unleash immense productivity and wealth and create economic institutions that encouraged discipline, moderation, and order in an open society. This would mean drawing a clear distinction between “pro-market” economic policy and “pro-business” economic policy, and Smith believed there were few threats to the moral order of a liberal society greater than the entanglement of the government with the nation’s largest producers.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


"Nerve": Why is America so anxious? (Jacob Sugarman, 3/20/11, Salon)

We don't need a global crisis to be reminded that fear and life in the 21st century seem to go hand in hand. Whether you're a professional basketball player trying to sink a game-winning jump shot in the closing seconds of a playoff game or a lowly journalist scrambling to meet your deadline, chances are your nerves have gotten the best of you at one point or another. You wouldn't be human if they didn't. In fact, fear recognition and the fight-or-flight reflex embedded in our neurochemistry is part of what has enabled our survival and evolution from chest-pounding primates to iPad-wielding bipeds. As we might guess from the endless stream of television commercials for psychopharmaceuticals, Americans have an especially tough row to hoe in the fight against anxiety. Despite our prosperity, statistics show that we're as susceptible to nervous disorders, if not more so, than any nation in the world.

Poll: Most living American Dream (UPI, 3/21/11)
Despite many homes in foreclosure, a high jobless rate and a shaky economy, most U.S. adults say they are living the American dream, a survey indicates.

The Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll indicates 59 percent say they are living the American Dream. Seventy-five percent percent surveyed say it is still possible for people like them to achieve the American Dream, which the poll defined as the ability to advance as far as their talents will take them and live better than their parents did.

Survey respondents say after raising a family, owning a home is the second most critical part of the American Dream. Nearly nine out of 10 U.S. homeowners say they would buy their homes again -- even if its value has declined, the survey says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


Fool's Gold: Eight centuries of Western monetary history show that bullion-based systems offer no benefits over paper-based systems. (Jay Weiser, March 14, 2011, The Amerrican)

The gold standard is a Holy Grail of otherworldly purity for which monetary knights perpetually quest. After all the stomach-churning, post-meltdown improvisations by central banks and governments worldwide—the Troubled Asset Relief Program, quantitative easing, and mortal entanglements with insolvent mega-debtors—it's natural to long for nobler days. Thus World Bank President Robert Zoellick argues for returning to gold as a monetary reference point. And in the credit market, guru James Grant yearns again to pull the Excalibur of the classical gold standard from the stone. While the current run-up in gold is a signal (whether of inflation expectations, credit problems, or lemming-like investor behavior remains to be determined), 800 years of Western monetary history shows that bullion-based systems offer no benefits over paper-based systems.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Fed says 2010 payment to government sets record (Martin Crutsinger, 3/22/11, AP)

The central bank earned a record $81.7 billion last year from its massive holdings of securities, which were purchased to help stabilize the financial system and pull the economy out of the recession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


Obama's Holbrooke Moment (FOUAD AJAMI , 3/23/11, WSJ)

[P]resident Obama came to this Libyan engagement imbued by a curious doctrine of American guilt. By his light, we are an imperialistic power, and our embrace would sully those we would seek to help.

Middle Eastern rulers and oppositionists alike had come to an unsentimental reading of Mr. Obama: He was no friend of liberty, he had made peace with the order of power in Arab-Islamic lands. Nothing had remained of that false moment of intimacy, in June 2009, when he had traveled to Cairo, the self-styled herald of a new American message to the Arab world. No, what mattered to Mr. Obama, above all, was his differentness, his break with the legacy of George W. Bush. The irony was lost on the liberal devotees of Mr. Obama: a conservative American president who had taken up the cause of liberty in Arab-Islamic lands, and his New Age successor who was nothing but a retread of Brent Scowcroft.

Everywhere Mr. Obama looked, he saw Iraq. We couldn't rescue Tripoli and Benghazi because of what we had witnessed in Fallujah and Sadr City. Iraq was Mr. Obama's entry into the foreign world, it was his opposition to that war that gave him a sense of worldliness and gravitas. He had made much of being "a student of history." But history didn't stretch far for him, and in a man who claimed affinity with distant peoples and places, there was a heavy dosage of parochialism. It was history's odd timing: A great historical rupture in the Arab world, bearing within it the promise of remaking a flawed political tradition that knew no middle ground between despotism and nihilistic violence, happened on the watch of an American president proud of his deliberateness and his detachment from history's passions.

The Obama administration was doubtless surprised by the unexpected decision of the Arab League to grant the green light to the imposition of the no-fly zone. Moral and political clarity had never been an attribute of the Arab League. That organization had never given sustenance to any dissident, never drew a line for the Arab despots. The head of the Arab League for a good number of years now, the Egyptian Amr Moussa, was a creature of the Arab order of power with all its pathologies. His stock-in-trade was that debilitating mix of anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism. He was beloved by that fabled Arab street because he indulged its ruinous passions and alibis. This was never a good jury to appeal to.

But we needed no warrant from the league of dictators. The warrant came from the Libyan people who pleaded for help and made a case for that help by their own bravery. These were not people sitting on the sidelines, or idling their time away in exile. They were men and women in a long captivity anxious to reclaim their tormented country.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


The cult of 'Midsomer Murders' (Stuart Husband, 23 Mar 2011, The Telegraph)

The show was briefly the top-trending topic on Twitter last year and it’s been sold to 230 countries, making it one of the most successful British television exports ever; in Norway, it’s been retitled Mord og Mysterier (Murder and Mysteries), while in Russia and Ukraine, it’s known as A Very English Murder.

That title sums up the appeal of Midsomer Murders, according to the writer Anthony Horowitz, who penned the first batch of scripts for the show: “A producer called Betty Willingale brought me a series of books by Caroline Graham, which she memorably described as ‘Agatha Christie on acid’,” he says. “I read the books and totally fell in love with the utterly warped and twisted world they portrayed.”

For Horowitz, the genius loci is as fundamental to the programme. “The show was originally going to be called ‘Barnaby’,” he says, “but I convinced the producers that the real hero was the setting; what Caroline Graham had tapped into was this archetypal notion of English decorum, exemplified by the well-kept village of lace curtains and thatched cottages and pansy beds, beneath which was this sort of volcanic wave of blood-spattered, perverse eccentricity, waiting to be unstoppered.

“One of my favourite scenes ever has this delightful elderly actress, Elizabeth Spriggs, wheeling a trolley into her parlour laden with teacakes and sandwiches on the top shelf, with a shotgun slung across the shelf below. To me, that sums up the world of Midsomer; demented old ladies, cream cakes and brutal murder.”

Horowitz and others drew up a set of guidelines for the show, known as the “Bible”, and still adhered to today; the setting – and the killings – would be spread across “Midsomer County”, comprising a vast slew of villages, including 19 Midsomers; Barnaby and his assistants would form a kind of still centre around which the mayhem and scenery-chewing, provided by a bunch of RSC stalwarts and other acting worthies, would revolve; and the action would take place in a perennial English summer thanks to camera filtering and computer wizardry.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


Mugabe should "take heed" of Middle East, warns Hague: Foreign Secretary speaks of "ambitious foreign policy" for Britain, and compares Mugabe and Gbagbo to Gaddafi. (Samira Shackle - 23 March 2011, New Statesman)

William Hague has warned that repressive African leaders will find it harder to "hide from the world" and should "take heed" of events in the Middle East. [...]

The action we have taken in Libya, authorised by the United Nations Security Council, shows that the international community does take gross violations of human rights extremely seriously.

Just as Gaddafi is an obstacle to the peaceful development of Libya, there are others who stand in the way of a brighter future for their countries. In Ivory Coast the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to concede that he lost last year's presidential election and is sanctioning attacks on defenceless civilians in a desperate attempt to cling illegitimately to power. In Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe's security forces continue to act with impunity, ramping up intimidation in order to instil fear in their opponents.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 AM

March 22, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


That was quick: Four lines of code is all it takes for The New York Times’ paywall to come tumbling down (Joshua Benton, 3/22/11, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard)

The New York Times paywall is costing the newspaper $40-$50 million to design and construct, Bloomberg has reported.

And it can be defeated through four lines of Javascript. [...]

Canadian coder David Hayes has just released NYTClean, a bookmarklet that, in one click, tears down the Times’ paywall.

“Released” is probably even a little strong — it makes it sound like there was an extended development process. All NYTClean does is call four measly lines of Javascript that hide a couple

s and turn page scrolling back on. It barely even qualifies as a hack. But it allows you access to any New York Times story, even when you’re past the monthly limit. (I just tested it out with a Canadian proxy server — works just like it says.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Obama is dragged into doing the right thing on Libya (Michael Gerson, March 22, 2011, Washington Post)

President Obama's decision to participate in the air campaign against Moammar Gaddafi's regime is a vast improvement over previous policy, a victory for human rights idealists within the administration, and the application of an important international standard known as "the responsibility to protect."

In 2005 - with the gruesome lessons of Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia having finally sunk in - the United Nations General Assembly and the United States, followed in 2006 by the Security Council, endorsed the principle that the prevention of mass atrocities trumps the claim of national sovereignty. When a government engages in genocide, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity - effectively waging war against its own citizens - other nations have the right and duty to intervene. In Libya, this abstract norm became a basis for action. The Obama administration deserves credit for its part in establishing this precedent.

The introduction of a normative component into the concept of sovereignty is a function of the End of History.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


World Premiere: Thurston Moore's Beautiful 'Benediction' (Stephen Thompson, March 22, 2011, NPR)

Thurston Moore has nothing to prove. At this point, his band Sonic Youth is three decades into the career Kurt Cobain coveted at Nirvana's peak: a just-right mixture of experimentation, success and artistic freedom. Moore is married to his bandmate Kim Gordon, with whom he makes everything from off-kilter pop songs to jagged noise freak-outs, and he gets to make the occasional solo record, on which he can indulge or rein in his impulses at will. [...]

A glorious bit of Velvet Underground-esque balladry, "Benediction" moves elegantly through five minutes of subtle, gentle grace, propelled sure-handedly by Samara Lubelski's exquisite violin. As its title suggests, the song addresses the way lovers plea for security and constancy from each other; for a connection that can never succumb to betrayal or loss. "Benediction" unfolds like a prayer, but when Moore sings, "I know better than to let her go," he knows he can only speak for what he can control.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Why It’s Still a Unipolar Era: The world’s response to Libya has made clear that currently fashionable arguments about the ‘rise of the Rest’ and the world’s new ‘nonpolarity’ are simply untrue. (Dan Blumenthal, March 22, 2011, The American)

Sometimes it takes a crisis to dispense with intellectual fads. The world’s response to Libya has made clear that currently fashionable arguments about the “rise of the Rest” and the world’s new “nonpolarity” are simply untrue. Charles Krauthammer was wrong about one thing in his description of the “unipolar moment” at the end of the Cold War: We are not living in a unipolar moment, we are witnessing a unipolar era. Why? Because the “rest”—China and India—are unable and unwilling to lead.

The current fashion in foreign policy argumentation is to explain that America is in decline, particularly relative to Asia. The new declinists usually line up an impressive array of statistics that tell a story of India and China’s high rates of economic growth, military spending, energy consumption, and so on. The new declinists have a point—the raw numbers are impressive. But power is about much more than raw numbers. It is the most elusive concept in politics. It usually cannot be measured accurately until it is used.

The recent example of the West’s decision to use force against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is a case in point. The United States was supposed to be entering a new era of constraints, perhaps even decline, bound by a severe financial debt crisis and an unwillingness to properly fund our military forces. Moreover, we have a president as ambivalent about exercising American power as we have seen in a generation. President Obama did all he could to dither and procrastinate while Qaddafi butchered his people.

After all the hand-wringing, President Obama understood two things: the world order Washington needs demands that Qaddafi be stopped, and only America could stop him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Pinetop Perkins On Mountain Stage (NPR, 2001)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Chavez says capitalism may have ended life on Mars (Eyanir Chinea, Mar 22, 2011, Reuters)

Capitalism may be to blame for the lack of life on the planet Mars, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday.

"I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet," Chavez said in speech to mark World Water Day.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Federal appeals court strikes down Stolen Valor Act (Carol J. Williams, 3/22/11, Jewish World Review)

"Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying."

Those were the words of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in Monday's decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Stolen Valor Act is an unconstitutional restraint on free speech and a threat to every citizen who fibs to embellish his or her image, avoid embarrassment or perpetuate a child's belief in Santa Claus. [...]

"If false factual statements are unprotected, then the government can prosecute not only the man who tells tall tales of winning the congressional Medal of Honor, but also the JDater who falsely claims he's Jewish or the dentist who assures you it won't hurt a bit," Kozinski wrote in defense of the First Amendment.

"Phrases such as 'I'm working late tonight, hunny,' 'I got stuck in traffic' and 'I didn't inhale' could all be made into crimes," Kozinski argued. "Without the robust protections of the First Amendment, the white lies, exaggerations and deceptions that are an integral part of human intercourse would become targets of censorship."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


How the Left Got Libya Wrong (John B. Judis, March 22, 2011, New Republic)

I remember sitting by a pool in August 1990 with my friend Fred Siegel discussing George H.W. Bush’s “drawing a line in the sand” after Iraq had invaded Kuwait. “My comrades on the left can’t be against this,” I announced to Fred, but I was dead wrong. Within days, my own publication, In These Times, and others had raised specters of another Vietnam and of U.S. imperialism. I have had a similar experience of shock and awe today as I looked at various blogs and websites that air opinion on the left. With some notable exceptions (like Juan Cole), all I have found is opposition to the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in Libya.

So I ask myself, would these opponents of U.S. intervention (as part of U.N. Security Council approved action), have preferred:

(1) That gangs of mercenaries, financed by the country’s oil wealth, conduct a bloodbath against Muammar Qaddafi’s many opponents?

(2) That Qaddafi himself, wounded, enraged, embittered, and still in power, retain control of an important source of the world’s oil supply, particularly for Europe, and be able to spend the wealth he derives from it to sow discord in the region?

(3) And that the movement toward democratization in the Arab world—which has spread from Tunisia to Bahrain, and now includes such unlikely locales as Syria—be dealt an enormous setback through the survival of one of region’s most notorious autocrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


McCaskill Failed to Pay Taxes on Plane; Scandal Could Damage Her Focus on Accountability (Z. Byron Wolf and Matthew Jaffe, 3/22/11, ABC News)

Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill has made fighting government waste, pork barrel spending and corruption the focus of her entire political persona.

In Senate floor speeches she often cites her history as a Missouri state auditor, lists government accountability as one of her top issues, and has led the charge to change senate rules to be more transparent.

That’s why her admission that she may have improperly charged taxpayers for a flight to a political event on her private plane could be particularly troubling to her brand. McCaskill is up for reelection in 2012 and facing a likely tough campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Pinetop Perkins, Delta Boogie-Woogie Master, Dies at 97 (BILL FRISKICS-WARREN, 3/22/11, NY Times)

Pinetop Perkins, the boogie-woogie piano player who worked in Muddy Waters’s last great band and was among the last surviving members of the first generation of Delta bluesmen, died on Monday at his home in Austin, Tex. He was 97.

His death was confirmed by Hugh Southard, his agent for the last 15 years.

From his days in the groups of Waters and the slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk to the vigorous solo career he fashioned over the last 20 years, Mr. Perkins’s accomplishments were numerous and considerable. His longevity as a performer was remarkable — all the more so considering his fondness for cigarettes and alcohol; by his own account he began smoking at age 9 and didn’t quit drinking until he was 82. Few people working in any popular art form have been as prolific in the ninth and tenth decades of their lives.

A sideman for most of his career, Mr. Perkins did not release an album under his own name until his 75th year. From then until his death he made more than a dozen records on which he was the leader. His 2008 album, “Pinetop Perkins & Friends” (Telarc), included contributions from admirers like B. B. King and Eric Clapton. His last album, released in 2010, was “Joined at the Hip” (Telarc), a collaboration with the harmonica player Willie Big Eyes Smith.


In 1943 Mr. Perkins moved to Helena, Ark., to work with Nighthawk. He later joined Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Boys, before moving on to the band of the slide guitarist Earl Hooker. He also appeared on the recordings that Nighthawk made for the Chess label and that Hooker made for Sun in the 1950s. It was for Sun, in 1953, that he cut his first version of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” the song that furnished him with his nickname and became his signature number. He appropriated the tune from the repertory of the barrelhouse piano player Clarence Smith, who was also known as Pinetop.

Mr. Perkins has also been credited with teaching Ike Turner how to play the piano.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


To the Shores of Tripoli: Why Operation Odyssey Dawn Should Not Stop At Benghazi (Dirk Vandewalle, March 21, 2011, Foreign Affairs)

If international action simply contained Qaddafi by halting his advance, he would be left in control of Tripolitania, the northwestern province in which Tripoli is located, leaving Cyrenaica effectively independent. The two provinces are divided by long-standing tensions. Qaddafi historically neglected the economy of Cyrenaica, because he judged the tribes in those areas to be potentially disloyal. And tensions between the two provinces were further exacerbated by Qaddafi’s attempts to play each off the other in order to stay in power. Protecting half of the country while leaving the other to Qaddafi would harden the provinces’ resolve to go their own ways. And economically speaking, that would be possible; both provinces have oil fields to rely on for revenue.

But politically speaking, such a division would be disastrous. In Tripolitania, Qaddafi would still have the resources and territory to continue to wage war against the opposition. If the brutal state terrorism Qaddafi instituted in the 1980s to secure Libya’ position in the region is any indication, he would not hesitate to do so. Even if he does observe a future cease-fire, selective containment would allow him to play a long-term cat-and-mouse game, stopping violence while surreptitiously extending his reach into the eastern part of the country by manipulating or buying such Cyrenaican tribes as the Warfalla, a powerful group that has so far adopted a cautious wait-and-see policy.

Meanwhile, the weapons that flowed through Libya’s porous borders and into the hands of Cyrenaican opposition forces during the anti-Qaddafi campaign will leave the regional tribes substantially more powerful than before. Having suffered through Qaddafi’s violence against them and then emboldened by Western intervention on their behalf, they would be ready to fight back at all cost. Thus the specter of all-out intertribal and interprovincial warfare would rise once more.

A Libya with Qaddafi in even partial control would be unacceptable to the international community; the country would be highly unstable and a real liability to North Africa and Europe. The world’s inability or unwillingness to displace an unreconstructed Qaddafi would give succor to a number of groups, including al-Qaeda, that could seize chaos in Libya and North Africa as an opportunity to extend their influence. Indeed, Qaddafi’s threat to turn the Mediterranean into a zone of instability is a reminder of precisely what a divided Libya could yield.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


Boxty: Golden Irish potato pancakes recipe (Trish O'Rourke, 3/21/11, Salon)


* 2 medium-size potatoes (Yukon Golds work well)
* 1 egg lightly beaten with a splash of buttermilk
* 1 pinch of baking soda
* 1 pinch of baking powder
* 3 tablespoons of flour
* salt to taste
* butter, as needed


1. Boil one potato in salted water and mash it into a bowl it fits comfortably. Let cool until warm.
2. Sprinkle the flour, baking soda and baking powder on the mashed potato. Grate the other potato onto the mixture. Stir together, and season with salt to taste. Stir in egg and buttermilk.
3. Shape into pancakes and fry in butter over medium-high heat, until golden brown and crisp, and grated potato is cooked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM


Into the Mystic (Bill Donaghy, 3/22/11, Catholic Exchange)

I’ll always remember the moment when I first became a Van Morrison fan. I was maybe 19 years old, home from college and flipping through the channels when a movie called “Immediate Family” came on. I don’t know anything about the film (I just googled it a moment ago to be sure of the title). What struck me was the song playing during a powerful mother/daughter/healing scene. The song was Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”

There was something magnetic and mystical in that song that made me stop my surfing in mid-click. Maybe it was the slow and steady ryhthm of the guitar, or the line “Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky.” It could’ve even been the spaces between the words and the music that opened me up to sweet contemplation. Isn’t it always the silence, the rest within the notes that moves us most? Whatever it was, it sent me on a journey to the music store, to pick up the Moondance album and a host of Van’s other works since then.

“And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home. And when the fog horn blows, I want to hear it. I don’t have to fear it.”

Into the Mystic led me into the Mystery! The sense of wonder that song stirred up in me was an invitation to ask the deeper questions. It’s the sense of wonder and mystery that the modern heart, I believe, longs for more than any material possession or position of power. We want always that open door, that path before us that leads to the More that we are made for. The one who no longer thirsts for answers drowns in his own Narcissian pool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 AM


Do You Have Free Will? Yes, It’s the Only Choice (JOHN TIERNEY, 3/22/11, NY Times)

Suppose that Mark and Bill live in a deterministic universe. Everything that happens this morning — like Mark’s decision to wear a blue shirt, or Bill’s latest attempt to comb over his bald spot — is completely caused by whatever happened before it.

If you recreated this universe starting with the Big Bang and let all events proceed exactly the same way until this same morning, then the blue shirt is as inevitable as the comb-over.

Now for questions from experimental philosophers:

1) In this deterministic universe, is it possible for a person to be fully morally responsible for his actions?

2) This year, as he has often done in the past, Mark arranges to cheat on his taxes. Is he is fully morally responsible for his actions?

3) Bill falls in love with his secretary, and he decides that the only way to be with her is to murder his wife and three children. Before leaving on a trip, he arranges for them to be killed while he is away. Is Bill fully morally responsible for his actions?

To a classic philosopher, these are just three versions of the same question about free will. But to the new breed of philosophers who test people’s responses to concepts like determinism, there are crucial differences, as Shaun Nichols explains in the current issue of Science.

Most respondents will absolve the unspecified person in Question 1 from full responsibility for his actions, and a majority will also give Mark a break for his tax chiseling. But not Bill. He’s fully to blame for his heinous crime, according to more than 70 percent of the people queried by Dr. Nichols, an experimental philosopher at the University of Arizona, and his Yale colleague Joshua Knobe.

Is Bill being judged illogically? In one way, yes. The chain of reasoning may seem flawed to some philosophers, and the belief in free will may seem naïve to the psychologists and neuroscientists who argue that we’re driven by forces beyond our conscious control — an argument that Bill’s lawyer might end up borrowing in court.

But in another way it makes perfect sense to hold Bill fully accountable for murder. His judges pragmatically intuit that regardless of whether free will exists, our society depends on everyone’s believing it does. The benefits of this belief have been demonstrated in other research showing that when people doubt free will, they do worse at their jobs and are less honest.

No one chooses in Reason over Faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 AM


Ford Flex Limited (Jay Leno, 1/04/09, Times of London)

At first the Ford Flex made me laugh. It looks like the designers thought, “Hey, the Mini Clubman’s a pretty cool-looking car so we’re going to build our own version” — except it’s twice as big. Sort of like a Maxi Clubman.

It makes a lot of sense, and in many ways the Flex is the 21st-century answer to that all-American staple, the station wagon. When I was a kid the most popular car in America was the Ford Country Squire. It had the wood on the side and a rear-facing seat so the kids could sit in the back and be scared to death by cars and trucks that would barrel down on the back of the car at 60mph.

Then the station wagon became uncool. It was replaced by the MPV in the 1980s, before that became uncool too. So you couldn’t have a mini-van and you couldn’t have a station wagon, which is why Ford has said, “Hey, let’s get something that’s a little bit of both.” And that’s what the Ford Flex is.

It seats seven people and features some very clever engineering and very clever design. The way the seats fold down individually, it’s almost like one of those Transformers — you can make it into whatever you want it to be.

You can even sync a $15 (at K-Mart) Tracfone to the Bluetooth hands-free phone system.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 AM


Why I Didn't Renew My Sirius-XM (Eric Peters, 3.22.11, American Spectator)

My Sirius-XM contract came up for renewal last month and I decided to let it lapse.


Some of the content is really good (I'm a longtime and big-time fan of Howard Stern's) but I'm also really tired of paying to hear commercials. Endless, super-annoying commercials. Buy Gold! Do You Need Mortgage Relief?


On some of the Sirius-XM talk channels, commercials are 40-50 percent of the "content." For example, Glenn Beck. I don't like particularly like Glenn Beck (sorry) but sometimes I listen to the channel he's on because I just like talk shows in general. But if the guy isn't pushing his "sponsor this hour," then he's taking another 5-10 minute "break" so that the sponsor can directly push whatever the product is.

MLB radio, live baseball broadcasts (including Spring Training), Fantasy Sports Radio, NHL radio (plus games), and The Football Show (plus EPL games) then add in Old Time Radio, the 40s station and Big '80s and you're not stuck listening to NPR all the time. If you hate the ads you hear on the radio or the ones you see on tv, it's time for some self-examination, because they're aimed at your cohort.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 AM


The First Casualty of War (Robert Stacy McCain, 3.22.11, American Spectator)

Less sober, but more personally aggrieved, was the Atlantic Monthly's Andrew Sullivan, who during the Bush years went from being an initial supporter of the president's aggressive anti-terrorism stance to being one of Bush's most outspoken critics. After Saturday's first air strikes against Gaddafi, Sullivan recalled Obama's own words from a December 2007 interview with the Boston Globe: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Libya posed no such threat, Sullivan wrote Saturday, saying he had supported Obama in the Democratic primaries against Clinton and in the general election against Republican Sen. John McCain because "both Clinton and McCain were unrepentant fans of presidential war-making powers.… But the president we supported is not, it is now clear, the president that we have." And in a Sunday TV appearance with Chris Matthews, Sullivan huffed: "I don't know why anybody voted for Obama in the primaries."

The sense of being betrayed by Obama wasn't limited to liberal pundits. Members of Congress on the left wing of the Democratic Party, many of whom had supported Obama against Hillary in the 2008 primary campaign, expressed their outrage in a caucus conference call Saturday. Politico reported the complaint offered by one unnamed Democrat on that call: "They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress." Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who had been one of Obama's rivals for the 2008 nomination, said the attack on Libya "would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense," because the president hadn't sought congressional approval.

In an accusation reminiscent of the Bush era -- when the president was often accused of invading Iraq to take over that country's oil resources -- Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Ed Markey alleged similar motives for Obama's intervention in Libya. "We're in Libya because of oil," Markey flatly declared Monday in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "I think all Americans know why the president made this strike."

To paraphrase: it's not about Libyans; it's about me.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 AM


The Horrible Libya Hypocrisies (Leslie H. Gelb, 3/22/11, Daily Beast)

There's nothing like a foreign-policy crisis, real or imagined, to ignite the worst among world leaders and foreign-policy experts. Out pop the nuclear weapons of the trade: phony analogies and unabashed hypocrisy. The manufactured crisis in Libya is a prime case in point. No foreign states have vital interests at stake in Libya. Events in this rather odd and isolated land have little bearing on the rest of the tumultuous Mideast region. Also not to be dismissed, there are far, far worse humanitarian horrors elsewhere. Yet, U.S. neoconservatives and liberal humanitarian interventionists have trapped another U.S. president into acting as if the opposite were true.

...there are peoples who need us more, like the North Koreans.

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March 21, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM


Arab hypocrisy on Libya (Daily Star, March 22, 2011)

The Arab embarrassment in the matter, however, does not end with mere inaction. The Western warplanes had barely landed after their first sorties when Arab League chief Amr Moussa began criticizing the strikes. Moussa, of course, was not alone. Arab disunity hardly counts as news; the hypocrisy of the backtracking was the truly nauseating part.

The Arab world bleats incessantly about U.S. and Western colonialism and imperialism; but when Arab leaders needed help in an emergency, they went begging to the West. Once the help came, many reverted to accepting the unproven view of a bloodthirsty mass murderer – Gadhafi – that civilians were killed.

Arab bosses have obviously not yet learned that if action is necessary and justified, then they should act. If they ask others to act on their behalf, then those actors become their partners, and the consequences of action are their responsibility, too.

It's a tsunami of hypocrisy out there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Since he can barely enunciate his own policy, maybe the President should just borrow the doctrine that Jerry Remy outlined on NESN yesterday, to the effect that "the guy's shooting his own people. Let's just drop a bunker buster on him and be done with it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


A World Without Balding: Fresh insight into the role of stem cells may signal new hope for balding men everywhere. So just how close are we to the cure? And will you make the "cut" when we get there? (Eryn Green, 3/21/11, Esquire)

For the broad majority of men, baldness still remains the scourge of our vanities. Maybe it gets to us because, on a psychological level, aging represents a loss of virility, symbolized by hair loss. Or maybe it's simply because — like aging — we can only control it so much.

The fear of balding continues to persist in an age increasingly obsessed with youth (see: the supposedly Samson-esque follicles of everyone from Tom Brady to Justin Bieber) and the preservation of vitality (see: patriarch of the Kardashian clan, Bruce Jenner). Baldness continues to represent some fundamental, inescapable, awful truths for men: You will get old. It will not be pretty. People will think differently of you. One day you will wilt, and eventually, die. Baldness reminds those of us doomed to it that we are masters of our destiny only so much. We are men, and men can do great, impossible, incredible things. But we can't fight the tide.

Or so we've thought.

Recent news of a promising new breakthrough in remedying baldness has heads buzzing. Thanks to a bunch of mice who demonstrated in a laboratory setting that dormant follicular stem cells can be stimulated to cause the regeneration of hair, there might be hope for you yet.

Why would a man prefer hair to baldness? It's just one more thing to take care of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


No Country Leans on Upper-Income Households as Much as U.S. (Scott A. Hodge, 3/21/11, Tax Foundation)

[T]he top 10 percent of households in the U.S. pays 45.1 percent of all income taxes (both personal income and payroll taxes combined) in the country. Italy is the only other country in which the top 10 percent of households pays more than 40 percent of the income tax burden (42.2%). Meanwhile, the average tax burden for the top decile of households in OECD countries is 31.6 percent.

By contrast, column #2 shows that the richest decile in America earned 33.5 percent of the market income in the country in 2005 - the year in which this snapshot was taken, but little has changed since then. But, a few other countries do have a greater or similar concentration of income as does the U.S. For example, the OECD table shows that the wealthiest decile of households in Italy and Poland earn a greater share of their country's market income than do our "rich" - 35.8 percent and 33.9 percent respectively - while the share of income earned by the top decile of households in the U.K. is about on par with those in the U.S. at 32.3 percent.

The table then adjusts for the underlying allocation of income by showing the ratio of income taxes paid to the share of income earned by the top decile in each country. The ratio for U.S. households is 1.35, far greater than the ratio of taxes to income in any other country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


First Listen: Orrin Evans, 'Captain Black Big Band' (Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR)

There's a certain type of payoff only a big band, or large jazz ensemble, can provide. It's akin to driving a muscle car that doubles as a paint store: So much momentum and horsepower, so many colors and textures. Driving that car requires an investment, too; you try to marshal 15-20 top-flight musicians, artistically or economically. But plenty are still willing to make a go of it, in search of the oomph and oooh only an extended family of horns can provide.

It makes sense that the pianist Orrin Evans is one of them. He's been on the circuit since the mid-'90s, and leading bands for nearly that long. (He's got a new small group record coming this summer.) He knows both the Philadelphia and New York jazz scenes well, and has often sought to bring them closer. And as a performer, he brings a bold intensity to the piano, seemingly informed by McCoy Tyner's voicings and a heavyweight boxer's roundhouse punches.

The jazz orchestra that Orrin Evans created is called the Captain Black Big Band, though it's almost the Captain Black Big Bands, plural. A lot of musicians — young and old, from either Philadelphia or New York — played on this debut album: 38 in total, over seven tracks. They rotated in and out during this series of live performances from early 2010; Evans even got two other pianists to take turns in his own chair. Indeed, there's a collective spirit to the enterprise, where Evans is more community organizer than meticulous auteur. He wrote but four of seven tunes, only one of which he arranged for big band, while bandmates wrote and arranged the other numbers.

This town hall meeting of a band makes the kind of jazz that nearly everyone could agree to call jazz.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Gold, China, and Facebook: Detecting market bubbles (Nin-Hai Tseng, March 18, 2011 , Fortune)

How do you spot a bubble?

There are five lenses. The first is a situation where there is a self-fulfilling dynamic going on -- when asset prices are rising rapidly and it's usually fueled by credit at the same time. A classic case would be the housing market, where a bank lends money to someone and that creates a new buyer. In securing the loan, the buyer drives up the price of the collateral. The bank then feels more secure, potentially even smart about its decision. So then it issues more loans, thereby creating more buyers to drive up the prices of real estate that are securing their loans.

The second is looking at the cost of money, how it's allocated and whether there is overcapacity. The South China Mall in southern China is a great example. It was designed for 1,500 tenants. As of last year, I think they had a dozen tenants. The president of the shopping mall was recently interviewed by Bloomberg, saying he would continue expanding the mall, despite it being 90-something percent vacant.

The third is overconfidence. Are we seeing signs of hubris? One indicator that I love to point to is the world's tallest skyscraper, because it signals a speculative instinct. Skyscrapers are never built by their intended tenants. It's usually a developer who is hoping to attract tenants after the building is complete. The tallest building in the world today is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which has been bailed out by the government of Abu Dhabi. So if you look forward at where the world's tallest towers under construction are today -- five of the 10 largest towers under construction are in China.

Also, watch for spikes in Sotheby's (BID) common stock prices. This also signals overconfidence. Over long periods of time the price of the art auction house has generally been around $15 to $25 a share. In 1990, it rose considerably. If you look back and listen to what they were saying about the markets at the time, it was that world record art prices were being set left and right by Japanese buyers. In 1999 we had another surge in Sotheby's stock price driven by a couple of things. For one, we had Internet buyers, and two, Sotheby's launched Sotheby', so it played into the mania that was going on. In 2007 we had Russian billionaires, hedge fund managers, private equity executives all driving the art markets. Sotheby's stock price reflected that and it spiked back up. It fell back down immediately after that bubble imploded.

Today Sotheby's stock is elevated once again and it's being driven by Chinese art buyers.

What do you think is the biggest bubble today?

China's economy. It exhibits all the tell tale signs that have characterized all the great speculative manias throughout history. We have reflexive dynamics under way that are self-fulfilling. Look at property prices -- they're rising rapidly, driven by increasing amounts of credit. It's not an overly leveraged situation yet, but it's increasingly so.

There's also misallocated capital. We can see this, for instance, with South China Mall and the skyscrapers under construction. And then there's the moral hazard factor. A lot of state-run banks are lending money to projects because they're told to politically -- not because they're economically rational projects to lend against. We have state-owned banks lending money to state-owned enterprises to buy land from the state. How we can possibly think that's market oriented and not self-dealing is confusing to me. It's all funny money.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Small Changes, Big Results: Behavioral Economics at Work in Poor Countries (Rachel Glennerster and Michael Kremer, March/April 2011, Boston Review)

As with education, poor countries have made significant gains in health. Life expectancy in virtually every country is higher now than it was in the United States in 1900, even though per capita income in many is a fraction of U.S. per capita income in that year. The invention of health technologies such as vaccines is likely part of the reason. Indeed, randomized trials in medicine have found many health interventions that can improve health at extremely low cost.

But while millions are benefiting from these technologies, their adoption is far from universal. Diarrhea kills 1.8 million children each year. Point-of-use chlorination of drinking water results in a 29 percent reduction in reported cases of diarrhea, yet less than 10 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa use home chlorination. At least 27 million children and 40 million pregnant women worldwide do not receive basic immunizations. Mosquito nets reduce child mortality by up to 38 percent, but only 19 percent of children in areas where malaria is endemic in Africa sleep under a net. Treatment for parasitic worms, which infect 400 million school-aged children worldwide, cut school absenteeism in Kenya by a quarter, and, in the longer term, generate 20–29 percent higher earnings among those who leave subsistence agriculture for paid employment. But only 10 percent of those at risk of infection are treated.

Strikingly similar patterns of behavior seem to govern the hesitancy to adopt useful health interventions. Many consumers are influenced by small costs—both in cash and in convenience—in their decisions to invest in non-acute care.

Whether soap in India or chlorine for sanitizing drinking water in Kenya, demand for a range of non-acute treatments drops precipitously when a small price is charged. Given how cheap these products are to manufacture and how large the public health benefits of breaking the cycle of disease transmission are, why would anyone consider charging for them? One concern is that free mosquito nets will not be hung up, and free chlorine will never be added to drinking water. Some psychologists and social entrepreneurs have suggested, “If you don’t pay for it, you won’t value it.”

But there is little evidence to support this theory. Studies of demand for non-acute care as a function of price show nothing to suggest that the act of paying for something makes a person more likely to use it. Nor is it the case that those who most need a product are more likely to pay for it: those who purchase mosquito nets are no more likely to be sick at the time of purchase; families with small children, who are most likely to die from diarrhea, are no more likely to buy chlorine. But are those more likely to hang mosquito nets or remember to add chlorine to their water also the ones more likely to pay for it, thus helping avoid waste? There is some evidence in the case of chlorine but none in the case of mosquito nets.

Why are people so sensitive to the prices of non-acute health products? One possibility is that much of the health benefit flows to neighbors as transmission of communicable disease is reduced. As a result, individuals invest less than is desirable for the community as a whole. But the private benefits of chlorination or de-worming pills, for example, seem to exceed the modest costs.

One factor surely at work is lack of ready cash. In a study in Kenya, demand for mosquito nets fell less steeply with price when households were given more time to raise the funds to purchase them.

But lack of funds does not explain why adoption also drops off sharply with small changes in convenience. Researchers, again in Kenya, found that people were, on average, only willing to walk 3.5 minutes longer (round trip) to collect water from a protected spring. Similar observations have been made with regard to iron-fortified flour and HIV test results.

In some cases potential users may lack experience with a product. When offered mosquito nets at a subsidized price, Kenyans who had previously been offered free nets—and their neighbors—were more likely to pay than were those who had previously been offered them at a less-subsidized rate. Most likely, those who took free mosquito nets had a positive experience with them and were therefore more willing to pay for an additional net. This is contrary to the conventional wisdom among development workers that free distribution undermines people’s willingness to pay later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Using attacks on Syrians shows Assad's vulnerability (JONATHAN SPYER, 03/21/2011, Jerusalem Post)

As events in Deraa already illustrate, the Syrian regime is predictably willing to employ extreme force against its own people – up to and including live ammunition against protesters.

This is not a sign of the regime’s strength, but rather, paradoxically, of its vulnerability.

In Egypt and Tunisia, elements of the regime were able to enter into a certain dialogue with the protesters. Unpopular regime figureheads were replaced, while the military went on to steward the process of reform.

In Syria, the regime has less room to maneuver. The Assad family dictatorship may count with some confidence on the support only of its fellow Alawis – around 12 percent of the population. The regime maintains its grip not through the seeking of legitimacy, but through the imposition of fear.

Syria is an ally of Iran – not of the US – and therefore has less reason to be concerned at the possibility of its patron being displeased by an excessive use of force. Thus, the prospect of this regime employing extreme measures – should the protests continue and spread – is very real.

The Assad regime has long sought to justify itself in the eyes of its people by depicting itself as Israel’s most staunch opponent. An alternative narrative, however, pertains among the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni opponents of the regime.

This version has been in evidence among the protesters. A protest reported to have taken place near the town of Kuneitra on the Golan Heights saw protesters referring to Assad as a “traitor” who is “guarding the border of Israel.” An unnamed speaker claimed that the Syrian security services were supported by Israel.

Sentiments of this kind are in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s characterization of the regime as Israel’s “main protector.” According to this view, Assad’s maintaining of quiet on the Golan Heights is a mark of submission to Israel.

Some Sunni oppositionists even extend this perspective to southern Lebanon, where they claim that the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement also protects Israel by preventing Sunni jihadis from attacking it.

That's the problem with Realist foreign policy, it requires that the stability you accept in exchange for turning a blind eye to evil will be permanent. When it inevitably turns out to be transitory instead you're just the folks who collaborated with the evil regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


The Folly of Protection: Is Intervention Against Qaddafi’s Regime Legal and Legitimate? (Michael W. Doyle, March 20, 2011, Foreign Policy)

The true complexity of the UN action against Qaddafi’s regime can be understood only by investigating the UN Charter, which specifies that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” The only exception to this principle falls under Chapter VII of the charter, which authorizes the Security Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and act to “maintain or restore international peace and security.” Internal abuses by states -- including the slaughter of civilians -- do not automatically qualify as “international” threats under the charter.

Nonetheless, the Security Council has, in practice, claimed wide discretion to interpret events as “threats to the peace” that did not necessarily qualify as dangers to “international peace.” This phenomenon became particularly acute following the Cold War, when the Security Council further diluted the requirement of “international threat” by endorsing a wide range of other triggers for successful Chapter VII sanctions. It authorized arms embargoes, trade sanctions, no-fly zones, and even armed intervention against various acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, interference with the delivery of humanitarian supplies, violations of cease-fires, collapse of civil order, and coups against democratic governments and war crimes in Haiti, Cambodia, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, and the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

RtoP, responding to the sense that these domestic harms warranted international response, solidified the Security Council’s claims to wider discretion. Yet it also restricted its ability to sanction intervention to the four situations listed in the RtoP document -- genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity -- and thus precluded, for example, intervention in cases of civil disorder and coups. Although the resolution authorizing force against Libya will certainly further entrench the principle of RtoP, it will not completely resolve the tension between RtoP -- in itself only a General Assembly recommendation -- and the UN Charter itself, which, according to the letter of the law, limits action to “international” threats. Equally significant, the Libyan resolution authorizes only a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians, not the ouster of Qaddafi that U.S. President Barack Obama has called for and which is most likely to resolve the crisis politically.

The analysis properly begins with the legitimacy of the regime, and, since Libya is not a democracy, it has no sovereign that we recognize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


Wyclef Jean Shot in Hand During Haiti Presidential Campaign (Julian Marszalek, 3/21/11, Spinner)

Rapper Wyclef Jean has found out the hard way just how tough it is on the campaign trail. The Fugees star revealed he was shot in the hand while campaigning for a friend in Haiti's upcoming presidential elections.

Hey, Other Brother, who'd have guessed there was someone who hates The Song more than I do?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Talking tough is fine, but U.S. needs to take out Moammar Khadafy or get out of Libya (Mike Lupica, March 21st 2011, NY Daily News)

[W]hy are we there? The answer is, we shouldn't be. If we're not in Libya to take him out, get out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


The tiny cube that could cut your cell phone bill: LightRadio is Alcatel-Lucent's solution to a big mobile data problem.LightRadio is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but Alcatel-Lucent designed it to fix a big problem. (David Goldman, March 21, 2011, CNNMoney)

As mobile data usage skyrockets, wireless companies are spending billions each year to maximize capacity, and consumers end up footing the cost in the form of higher cell phone bills.

But a cube that fits in the palm of your hand could help solve that problem.

It's called lightRadio, a Rubik's cube-sized device made by Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) that takes all of the components of a cell phone tower and compresses them down into a 2.3-inch block. Unlike today's cell towers and antennas, which are large, inefficient and expensive to maintain, lightRadio is tiny, capacious and power-sipping.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Creative Destruction? (James Surowiecki, March 28, 2011 , The New Yorker)

[H]istory suggests that, despite the terrifying destruction and the horrific human toll, the long-term impact of the quake on the Japanese economy could be surprisingly small.

That may seem hard to reconcile with the scale and the scope of the devastation. But, as the economists Eduardo Cavallo and Ilan Noy have recently suggested, in developed countries even major disasters “are unlikely to affect economic growth in the long run.” Modern economies, it turns out, are adept at rebuilding and are often startlingly resilient.

The quintessential example comes from Japan itself: in 1995, an earthquake levelled the port city of Kobe, which at the time was a manufacturing hub and the world’s sixth-largest trading port. The quake killed sixty-four hundred people, left more than three hundred thousand homeless, and did more than a hundred billion dollars in damage (almost all of it uninsured). There were predictions that it would take years, if not decades, for Japan to recover. Yet twelve months after the disaster trade at the port had already returned almost to normal, and within fifteen months manufacturing was at ninety-eight per cent of where it would have been had the quake never happened. On the national level, Japan’s industrial production rose in the months after the quake, and its G.D.P. growth in the following two years was above expectations. Similarly, after the Northridge earthquake, in 1994, the Southern California economy grew faster than it had before the disaster. A recent FEMA study found that after Hurricane Hugo devastated Charleston, in 1989, the city outpaced growth predictions in seven of the following ten quarters. And the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, despite its enormous human toll, may have actually boosted the economy’s growth rate.

These were all monumental catastrophes, and yet, a couple of years after the fact, domestic growth rates showed little sign that they had happened. The biggest reason for this, as the economist George Horwich argued, is that even though natural disasters destroy physical capital they don’t diminish the true engines of economic growth: human ingenuity and productivity. With enough resources, a damaged region can reconstruct itself with surprising speed. Although the Northridge quake demolished the Santa Monica Freeway, it reopened after just sixty-six days. Healthy economies are by definition adaptive: in the case of Kobe, other Japanese ports picked up the slack until it was back on line. And, because governments generally flood disaster areas with money, there’s no dearth of cash for new investments.

In a study of eighty-nine countries, the economists Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya, after controlling for every variable they could think of, found that countries that suffered more climatic disasters actually grew faster and were more productive. This seems bizarre: it’s close to the broken-windows fallacy identified by the nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat—the idea that breaking windows is economically useful, because it makes work for glaziers.

...but how do you make him have children?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


Moser’s lifework thrives in books (James Sullivan, March 20, 2011, Boston Globe)

Scars, wrinkles, furrowed brows, and other imperfections are the stuff of life for Moser, the renowned printmaker and illustrator who has worked on more than 300 books in his prolific career. His latest, “One Hundred Portraits’’ (Godine), is a collection of engravings of writers from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, with detours into music (Sibelius, Bukka White the bluesman) and personal subjects, such as his late parents and his beloved Rottweiler, Rosie.

On March 26 the Brandywine River Museum in Pennsylvania opens an exhibition of Moser’s work: engravings, watercolors, and limited-edition books. Given the museum’s emphasis on American illustration, it’s a feather in an already well-plumed cap. In 1983 Moser won a National Book Award for his work on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’’ and he published his own spectacular illustrated version of the King James Bible two decades later.

Not bad for a man who has come to believe he grew up dyslexic. “I’m really interested in the irony of that,’’ says Moser, 70, a bespectacled, head-shaved Tennessee native with a tangy drawl and the sculpted white beard of a 19th-century judge. “I think I largely overcame it by setting type — upside-down and backwards.’’

Over the years Moser has done special editions of “Moby-Dick’’ and “Frankenstein,’’ portraits of Emerson and Thoreau for the covers of Robert Richardson’s biographies, and illustrations and watercolors for dozens of children’s books. His first foray into children’s literature was “Jump! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit,’’ an adaptation of the Uncle Remus stories co-conceived by the Baroque pop musician Van Dyke Parks in 1984.

At the time, Moser says, he thought children’s books “were beneath me — something Grandma might want to do.’’ He has since changed his mind completely. “I’m convinced the character of Brer Rabbit is no less and no more than the portrait of Beatrice in the ‘Divine Comedy,’ ’’ he says.

“I’m probably the only illustrator to have the King James Bible and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ on his desk at the same time.’’

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


Obama Goes to War (W. James Antle, III, 3.21.11, American Spectator)

It was as if the Sunday morning talk shows were being broadcast this week from an alternate dimension. There was Paul Wolfowitz defending the president from George Will's criticisms. President Obama, that is, not George W. Bush. That would be the same Paul Wolfowitz Obama once denounced as an "arm-chair, weekend warrior" shoving his "ideological agendas down our throats." As Jim Traficant would say, "Beam me up, Scotty."

Barack Obama sits in the Oval Office today because he opposed the Iraq war. Like most of his accomplishments, Obama acquired his antiwar record verbally. While Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, and John Kerry were in Congress voting for the invasion, Obama was a candidate for office giving a speech.

What a speech it was. Obama, the Reinhold Niebuhr of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, opened by saying he was "not opposed to war in all circumstances." "What I am opposed to is a dumb war," he elaborated. "What I'm opposed to is a rash war." A sentence later the future president took his swing at Wolfowitz, throwing in Richard Perle and Karl Rove to keep him company.

Obama allowed that Saddam Hussein was a "brutal man," a "ruthless man," a "man who butchers his own people to secure his own power," a "bad guy" even. But that did not make Saddam's ramshackle military capability a threat to the United States, Obama argued, and thus did not offer sufficient grounds for war on a country that had not attacked us.

How then can these Nobel Peace prize-winning words be squared with the president's decision to bomb Libya?

Because he was only a legislator then.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


Egypt passes its first democratic test: But did the vote to change the constitution go far enough? (Jon Jensen, March 21, 2011, Global Post)

As the popular uprisings sweeping across the Arab world turned increasingly violent over the weekend, from ongoing clashes between rebel and loyalist forces in Libya to the brutal state crackdowns on protesters in both Bahrain and Yemen, the region’s most populous nation passed its first major hurdle toward forming a democratic government.

Over 18 million Egyptians cast ballots in a constitutional referendum on Saturday, in a vote largely heralded as free and fair and marked by an unusually high turnout.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 AM


Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire. (Alison Gopnik, March 16, 2011, Slate)

We might start by saying: Suppose we gave a group of 4-year-olds exactly the same problems and only varied on whether we taught them directly or encouraged them to figure it out for themselves? Would they learn different things and develop different solutions? The two new studies in Cognition are the first to systematically show that they would.

In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on. For one group of children, the experimenter said: "I just found this toy!" As she brought out the toy, she pulled the first tube, as if by accident, and it squeaked. She acted surprised ("Huh! Did you see that? Let me try to do that!") and pulled the tube again to make it squeak a second time. With the other children, the experimenter acted more like a teacher. She said, "I'm going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!" and deliberately made the tube squeak. Then she left both groups of children alone to play with the toy.

All of the children pulled the first tube to make it squeak. The question was whether they would also learn about the other things the toy could do. The children from the first group played with the toy longer and discovered more of its "hidden" features than those in the second group. In other words, direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information.

Does direct teaching also make children less likely to draw new conclusions—or, put another way, does it make them less creative? To answer this question, Daphna Buchsbaum, Tom Griffiths, Patrick Shafto, and I gave another group of 4-year-old children a new toy.* This time, though, we demonstrated sequences of three actions on the toy, some of which caused the toy to play music, some of which did not. For example, Daphna might start by squishing the toy, then pressing a pad on its top, then pulling a ring on its side, at which point the toy would play music. Then she might try a different series of three actions, and it would play music again. Not every sequence she demonstrated worked, however: Only the ones that ended with the same two actions made the music play. After showing the children five successful sequences interspersed with four unsuccessful ones, she gave them the toy and told them to "make it go."

Daphna ran through the same nine sequences with all the children, but with one group, she acted as if she were clueless about the toy. ("Wow, look at this toy. I wonder how it works? Let's try this," she said.) With the other group, she acted like a teacher. ("Here's how my toy works.") When she acted clueless, many of the children figured out the most intelligent way of getting the toy to play music (performing just the two key actions, something Daphna had not demonstrated). But when Daphna acted like a teacher, the children imitated her exactly, rather than discovering the more intelligent and more novel two-action solution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 AM


How to Churn Out Cheap LED Lighting: Making LEDs microchip manufacturing methods could slash the cost of lighting. (Prachi Patel, 3/21/11, Technology Review)

A startup in California has developed a manufacturing technique that could substantially cut the cost of LED lightbulbs—a more energy-efficient, but also more expensive, type of lighting.

LEDs are conventionally made on a relatively costly substrate of silicon carbide or sapphire. Bridgelux has come up a new process takes advantage of existing fabrication machines used to make silicon computer chips, potentially cutting LED production costs by 75 percent, according to the company.

Despite their higher efficiencies and longer life, few homes and businesses use LED lighting—largely because of the initial cost. An LED chip makes up 30 to 60 percent of a commercial LED lightbulb. Electronic control circuits and heat management components take up the rest. So for a 60-watt equivalent bulb that costs $40, Bridgelux's technology could bring the cost down by $9 to $18. Integrating the light chip with the electronics might further reduce costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 AM


Vermont’s Single-Payer Salvation: The Green Mountain State is poised to abolish most forms of private health insurance (Lauren Else, 3/18/11, In These Times)

“In five years, I predict the United States will go through another major debate of how to reform the healthcare system,” Harvard School of Public Health Professor William Hsiao told the state’s legislators in January, noting his belief that the federal reform legislation passed in March 2010 will not solve the nation’s healthcare crisis. “The question for Vermont is, do you want to walk ahead of the United States? Do you want to be a model for the United States?”

Last year, lawmakers passed a bill to hire a team of consultants led by Hsiao—an economist who helped to develop universal healthcare plans in China and reform Medicare and Medicaid in the 1970s—to design a new healthcare system for the Green Mountain State. According to Hsiao’s research, about 32,000 people, or roughly five percent of the state’s population, would still be uninsured after federal reform measures take full effect in 2014. (Fifty seven thousand, or 9 percent, of Vermonters are currently uninsured.)

What Hsiao and his team ended up recommending to the state was a single-payer system that would ensure coverage for all residents.

Nevermind that China's disastrous health care system is no model for anyone, even the developed nations of Europe are moving to introduce competition into their systems, so Vermont is going to be trailing them as they become more American?

March 20, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


Barack Obama's Q&A (Charlie Savage, December 20, 2007, Boston Globe)

2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

It's worth the price of admission just to listen to Republicans sound like Senator Byrd and watch the President imitate W.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


Yemen's weakened president abandoned by own tribe (Ahmed Al-haj, 3/20/11, Associated Press)

The U.S.-backed president of Yemen suffered a devastating political blow on Sunday when his own powerful tribe demanded his resignation, joining religious leaders, young people and the country's traditional opposition in calls for an end to his three decades in power.

Massive crowds flooded cities and towns around the impoverished and volatile nation, screaming in grief and anger as they mourned dozens of protesters killed Friday when President Ali Abdullah Saleh's security forces opened fire from rooftops on a demonstration in the capital.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


The Life of a $725,000 Scab: It takes a special kind of worker to cross a union picket line. Especially one full of 250-pounders. Mark Gastineau, the New York Jets defensive end, is a management's dream. (Bill Saporito, October 26, 1987, Forbes)

A name-brand player who crossed the picket line on the strike's first day, Gastineau, 30, attracted more attention than a goal-line fumble. Players on other teams vilified him -- ''He has an IQ of about room temperature'' is how Chicago Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton delicately put it -- and his own teammates, peers now picketers, made no effort to conceal their anger. A contest pitting a bunch of well-compensated, no-neck entertainers against a millionaire boys' club for possession of the nation's fall sporting ritual is hardly the United Auto Workers against General Motors. But it summons up many of the same issues, including the question of what makes one man walk the line and another break ranks with his fellow workers. As in any strike, the success of this one depends on the ability of the union -- the National Football League Players Association -- to instill in its members a sense of right, of shared values and goals. To do this the union must make it socially, psychologically, or -- especially in this case, perhaps -- physically uncomfortable for anyone to desert the pack. For the owners the game is simpler: Divide and conquer. By using strikebreakers they hope to destroy the players' faith in the union's ability to prevail.

A football team is a peculiar kind of labor force. It is organized labor by definition, yet its members are both more and less cohesive than many workers. The importance of the team, something drilled into each player since Pop Warner League, has a powerful hold. Many players spoke out against the strike but didn't want to cross the picket line if it meant losing the respect of their teammates.

OTHER FACTORS pull the workers apart: For one, there is an enormous disparity in wages. Similarly, while the players are striking for the same things -- higher minimum salaries, better pensions, and the freedom to shop their talents to the highest bidder -- winning would mean vastly different things to different people. Throw in the fact that most players are young, have no previous strike experience, and no strike fund to bolster them in time of need, and a betting man would be tempted to take the owners, giving a six-point spread.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Texas' entire pitching outlook hinges on Feliz: Rangers hold meeting to discuss righty's immediate destiny (T.R. Sullivan /

The Rangers held another summit meeting to discuss their pitching staff on Sunday. Neftali Feliz was high on the agenda.

There is almost nothing else to discuss. Feliz remains the fulcrum around which all other pitching decisions revolve. Until the Rangers figure whether Feliz will start or remain the closer, other issues will go unresolved. That one big decision hasn't been made yet.

"We talked about a lot of things, but obviously his role on the club influences more than one guy and how the other dominoes fall," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said after the meeting. "As a group, we know he's capable of starting and we know he will excel at the back end of the bullpen. It's what's best for the team. We're still working through that."

There is little question that if the Rangers go strictly by immediate need, Feliz will remain as a closer and Alexi Ogando will remain as the right-handed setup reliever. That's where they are needed most right now. Feliz said his goal is to be a starter but will understand if the Rangers decide otherwise.

Thirty years into the analytic era of baseball how can anyone still call this a tough decision? It's really freakin' hard to find and develop elite starting pitchers, which Neftali Feliz could be. On the other hand, his peers among the AL saves leaders last year are a flock of former set-up men, failed starters, formerly released guys, etc. It's too much to say that you can make any warm body into a closer, but not by much.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


Dave's small war is a tribute to his hero Tony (Gerald Warner, 3/20/11, The Scotsman)

ALL they are saying is give war a chance. Ticking another box on the Things To Do list, the Heir of Blair last week managed to initiate a war he could call his own.

True, Dave inherited the Afghanistan debacle, but that was a hand-me-down conflict originally the property of his hero Tony. What Dave wanted was a piece of action of which he could take personal ownership; nothing too bloody, nothing too protracted and certainly nothing too expensive - ideally, a wee pretendy war to boost his status.

Libya looked like the answer (as Iraq did to the Great Charlatan). In view of Britain's diminished military capability, Dave could only wage war as part of a consortium. Since the term "war" alarms the masses, the euphemism "no-fly zone" was employed. It was also imperative to accelerate the opening of hostilities before the last British warplanes were consigned to the crusher by an economising Treasury. Fortunately, other beleaguered comic singers such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Don Giovanni Berlusconi were game to buy into a time-share conflict under the auspices of the United Nations, that robust champion of human rights, whose Security Council speedily endorsed the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Abortions give rise to Asia’s ‘lost boy’ generation (AFP, 3/20/11)

The phenomenon was first spotted in South Korea in the early 1990s, when the sex ratio at birth (SRB) — typically 105 male births to every 100 female births — rose to 125 in some cities.

Similar rises in male births were seen in China, “complicated by the one-child policy, which has undoubtedly contributed to the steady increase in the reported SRB from 106 in 1979, to 111 in 1990, 117 in 2001 and 121 in 2005,” said the study.

India has seen “sex ratios as high as 125 in Punjab, Delhi and Gujarat in the north but normal sex ratios of 105 in the southern and eastern states of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh,” it added.

In parts of China where a second child is allowed, after a daughter is the first born, the SRB for the second is 143, suggesting that many choose to abort a second girl foetus in favour of trying again for a boy.

Estimates of China’s actual population difference in 2005 pointed to 1.1 million excess males, with men under 20 exceeding the number of females by around 32 million, said the study led by Therese Hesketh, University College London Centre for International Health and Development.

“These men will be unable to marry, in societies where marriage is regarded as virtually universal, and where social status and acceptance depend, in large part, on being married and creating a new family,” said the authors.

Referred to in China as “guang gun,” meaning “bare branches,” these men are presumed to be unable to bear fruit by coupling and raising a family.

“In China and parts of India the sheer numbers of unmated men are a further cause for concern,” said the study.

“Because they may lack a stake in the existing social order, it is feared that they will become bound together in an outcast culture, turning to antisocial behaviour and organised crime, thereby threatening societal stability and security.”

...parents had time to develop a preference for girls (or at least neutrality on the question). After all, your son isn't going to take care of you when you're old and alone. A daughter might.

But India and China are going to go into decline before ever achieving advanced status and before they have complex social welfare nets, meaning there'll be no one to take care of the elderly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


The worst nuclear plant accident in history: Live from Chernobyl (Charles Q. Choi, Mar 15, 2011, Scientific American)

Although Chernobyl might be safe for a day of tourism, living there is another question. The Ukrainian government did allow people who originally lived in the exclusion zone to resettle on an individual basis. For instance, some areas within 30 kilometers of the explosions are relatively clean, and the elderly would probably not absorb unhealthy levels of radiation in what time they had left, Chumak says.

However, some places remain too dangerous for resettlement. "People might be allowed to live in the 30-kilometer zone, but I don't expect anyone to live within the 10-kilometer zone, ever," Chumak says. "There's some plutonium there."

Officials there did say I should look out for wildlife in the zone. "A mad wolf attacked six people here recently," Malyshev says.

The disaster's impact on wildlife in the zone remains hotly contested. For instance, radiation biologist Ron Chesser at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and his colleagues suggest the area is thriving with life now that humans have left, finding that the wild boar population there has grown 10 to 15 times than what it was before the accident, and that other fauna are often seen in the area, such as wolves, rabbits, red deer, black storks and moose. Their genetic work suggests that any effects of radiation are subtle enough to not lead to any mutations passed down across generations, with the animals perhaps acclimatizing to any damage by boosting their genetic repair mechanisms. As bad as the radiation is, the effects of humans on the environment might have been worse, Chesser concludes.

On the other hand, biologist Tim Mousseau at the University of South Carolina at Columbia and his colleagues have found that species richness of forest birds was reduced by more than half when comparing sites with normal background levels of radiation to sites with the highest levels in the exclusion zone, and the numbers of bumblebees, grasshoppers, butteries, dragonflies and spiders decreased too. Analysis of more than 7,700 barn swallows in Chernobyl and other areas in Ukraine and Europe suggested ones from in or near the exclusion zone had higher levels of abnormalities such as deformed toes, beaks and eyes or aberrant coloration, and recent work also suggests that birds living in areas with high levels of radiation around Chernobyl have smaller brains.

Both teams stand by their own work and suggest the other made errors related to geographic variability.

So what can tourists see at Chernobyl? One can often see and feed giant catfish in the 22-square-kilometer nuclear power plant cooling pond, although during cold weather, the pond is frozen over and covered in snow. In the distance, one can also see a giant radar grid roughly 150 meters high—taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza's current height—once meant to track any nuclear missiles launched from the United States. "It needed a lot of power, which is why it was near Chernobyl," Chumak explains.

The city of Pripyat, abandoned after the accident, is frozen in time, with the Communist hammer and sickle still adorning streetlights here. Nature is reclaiming the area, with white birch and green pines hiding many of the blocky Soviet buildings and animal tracks fresh on the snow still covering the ground here in the first week of March.

By a dock near a riverside cafe in Pripyat, the scientists I traveled with started gathering pussy willows, completely unbidden. These flowers bloom under the snow, and the men want to bring them back for International Women's Day on March 8. "These mean spring," says physicist Vitalii Volosky at the Research Center for Radiation Medicine in Kiev.

Despite the official announcement, tourism to Chernobyl is nothing new—trips have been going there for about a decade. The recent publicity regarding tourism may have its roots in the economic impact of Chernobyl—even two decades after the disaster, roughly 6 percent of the national budgets of both Ukraine and Belarus were still devoted to Chernobyl-related benefits and programs, according to a 2005 report from the Chernobyl Forum, comprised of eight United Nations agencies and the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. "There is this motivation there to do what can be done to return some of this land to productive use," Mousseau says.

Among those who lived through the disaster, the idea of tourism to Chernobyl brings up strong emotions, just as it might for New Yorkers dealing with 9/11. "If we are wise, we will make Chernobyl a museum for humankind just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Chumak says.

Over a million people live in Hiroshima today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


Arab League condemns 'bombardment of civilians' in Libya (REUTERS 03/20/2011)

[A]rab League chief Amr Moussa said what was happening was not what Arabs had envisaged when they called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," he said.

In comments carried by Egypt's official state news agency, Moussa also said he was calling for an emergency Arab League meeting.

Arab backing for a no-fly zone provided crucial underpinning for the passage of the UN Security Council resolution last week that paved the way for the Western intervention, the biggest against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Anyone expecting a cease-fire because we don't have unanimous support?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Libyan Raids Show Obama Doctrine in Action (ADAM ENTOUS And LAURA MECKLER, 3/20/11, WSJ)

Facing off against then-fellow Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a debate for the Democratic primary, Mr. Obama said he didn't want to just end the war in Iraq. "I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place," he said.

In contrast to his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who invaded Iraq in 2003 despite opposition from many allies and Democrats, Mr. Obama is taking pains to receive unambiguous legal authority through the United Nations, getting clear support from Arab states and then letting others—France and Britain —lead the military charge. [...]

The cruise-missile strikes ordered by Mr. Obama against Col. Gadhafi's air defenses Saturday were the first major show of American force in the military campaign. "We're the only nation with the capacity to fire that many," a military official said, explaining why the U.S. was taking the lead for now.

They were also the first military action authorized by Mr. Obama that weren't connected with a war that began before his presidency.

...Saddam Hussein was in open and repeated violation of a series of long-standing UN Resolutions his compliance with which were the condition for the 1991 cease-fire. UN Resolution 1973, authorizing military strikes on Qaddafi, follows a resolution (UN Resolution 1970) of three weeks ago that was based on "violation of human rights."

Mind you, we have problem with such an arbitrary and capricious standard for the use of American military might against regimes we disapprove of, but the idea that the President has met a higher standard is absurd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


Letting others lead in Libya (Doyle McManus, March 20, 2011, LA Times)

Americans and the rest of the world have gotten used to seeing the United States take the lead role when the United Nations or NATO calls for foreign military intervention, but this time we are not fully in charge.

The arrangement, if successful, could lead to a new model in which the United States doesn't have to command every campaign and lead every charge. And that would be as important, in its own way, as removing Kadafi.

Yeah, right. No America, no campaign.

Obama's First New War (Marc Ambinder, March 19, 2011 , National Journal)

When Muammar el-Qaddafi first struck back against protesters, Obama hoped that tough sanctions and material support to the opposition would be enough to force the dictator from power. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned him that a “no fly zone” would be ineffective and essentially commit the country to war. By Monday night, it was clear to Obama that this policy wasn’t working. Countries like Iran were getting the wrong message. The Libyan military was selectively testing the patience of the world by striking opposition strongholds. The opposition was pinned down in the port city of Benghazi, swelled by tens of thousands of refugees. Qaddafi kept using a phrase that stuck in Obama's head: “no mercy.” And France, smarting from seeming to abandon Egyptians during their time of trouble, along with the U.K., were champing at the bit to use force. The Arab League had kicked Libya out and was closer to the French position. It risked its own legitimacy, already questioned by many in the region, if it didn’t side with the rebels.

And they all waited for the American president to decide for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


The Strikes on Libya: Humanitarian Intervention, Not Imperial Aggression (Daniel Serwer , 3/19/11, The Atlantic)

A coalition of the willing attacks an Arab country; French warplanes strike armored vehicles; American cruise missiles take down air defenses. It all sounds to some too much like Iraq redux. But it's not. The proper analogy is Srebrenica. This is the international community acting under international law to prevent mass murder.

...we can pretend there's a difference where there is none. But you can't help but sound vapid when you try to favorably contrast action against a regime that's shot a few hundred with action against a regime that killed hundreds of thousands and against whom the supposedly humane sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands more (or so the Left assured us before the war).

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Wilhelm Roepke and the ‘Third Road’ (Patrick M. Boarman, Autumn 1977, University Bookman)

[I]t is Roepke also who reminds us, in the other half of his monumental life’s work, that the market economy, valuable as it is, does not exhaust human nature, that it is subordinated to higher ends. The German title of what is, perhaps, Roepke’s most representative book is, in this regard, significant. That title, rendered as A Humane Economy is Jenseits von Angebot und Nachfrage. Literally translated, it means “Beyond Supply and Demand.” For Roepke, the most important things do, in fact, lie beyond supply and demand. While one must have bread, he cannot live by bread alone. In short, while Roepke remained a trenchant critic of economic “knownothingism,” which believes that only the perverse workings of the capitalistic system prevent everybody from having everything he wants all the time, he was equally opposed to a morally and spiritually obtuse “economism,” uncaring of or contemptuous of the things which lie beyond supply and demand. [...]

“On the one side,” he wrote (in A Humane Economy): “are those who believe that society and economy can be reconstructed from above and without considering the fine web of the past. They believe in radical new beginnings; they are reformers inspired by an optimism that is apparently proof against any failure. On the other side are those who possess a sense of history and are convinced that the social fabric is highly sensitive to any interference. They deeply distrust every kind of optimistic reforming spirit and do not believe in crusades to conquer some new Jerusalem; they hold, with Burke, that the true statesman must combine capacity for reform with the will to prudent preservation.”

Characteristic of Roepke’s concern for balance, for the golden mean, and for meta-economic values are. the following passages from a foreword he wrote to an early edition of Die Lehre von der Wirtschaft (Economics of the Free Society):

”It would be a profound misapprehension to imagine that a slogan embodying a mere return to old-style rugged individualism is the battle-cry that will help us win the spiritual victory over collectivism. For we cannot ignore the fact that the debacle of economic liberalism[1] is due in great part to its own insufficiencies, to its abortive endeavors, to its degeneration. Nor can we any longer deny that the chief causes of this decay are to be found in humanity itself: the spiritual, moral, and political aberrations which foster the creation of a mass society and the revolt of the masses which such a society engenders. Now it is precisely certain economic and social developments of the liberal era that have contributed decisively to this evolution. In order, therefore, to study and judge these developments, we must keep an open mind and not tie ourselves to the economic platform of historical liberalism.

“I am looking beyond laissez-faire and collectivism for a third road, the only road which still remains open to us. Elsewhere,[2] I have described what we may expect to encounter along this road: an economic and social order founded on liberty, justice, and human dignity; an order which does not neglect the nature of man and one which, while giving free rein to the powerful instinct of self-preservation, adds to its other benefits that of material abundance. In looking for this road, I seek to avoid one of the deep-seated fallacies of our time which Thierry Maulnier felicitously named the ‘Manichaean doctrine’—the habit, that is, of thinking always in pairs of diametrically opposed ideas and of confining oneself without exception to an exclusive choice between two extremes (inflation or deflation, laissez-faire or planned economy, etc.) . . .

“Economic freedom is no doubt a necessary condition for the maintenance of ‘the good society,’ but scarcely a sufficient one. There is grave danger of allowing ourselves to be distracted from the main issue by exclusive concern with this one point, important though it may be.

“The main issue becomes clear if we ask ourselves the question: what is the opposite pole of collectivism? Economic freedom? Hardly. A return to economic freedom would certainly lessen monopoly abuses and would eliminate some other imperfections of the economic system. But would there be any significant change in the other morbid phenomena of our time? Would a country which no longer has farmers or artisans or a stable middle class get all these things at one fell swoop thanks to economic freedom? Would the individual find more meaning and dignity in his work? But if a simple return to economic freedom will not procure all these advantages, how can we expect people to become enthused over such a program? Must we not offer something in addition? . . .”

It was because Roepke was not tied to the platform of historical capitalism that his prescriptions for the reestablishment of the market economy in Germany after the war met with acceptance on the part of his countrymen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


The Real History of the Crusades (Thomas F. Madden, 3/19/11, Inside Catholic)

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression -- an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity -- and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion -- has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt -- once the most heavily Christian areas in the world -- quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Why did they do it? The answer to that question has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne'er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders' expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were only a front for darker designs.

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.

Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals, both of which would remain central to the eastern Crusades for centuries. The first was to rescue the Christians of the East. As his successor, Pope Innocent III, later wrote:

How does a man love according to divine precept his neighbor as himself when, knowing that his Christian brothers in faith and in name are held by the perfidious Muslims in strict confinement and weighed down by the yoke of heaviest servitude, he does not devote himself to the task of freeing them? ...Is it by chance that you do not know that many thousands of Christians are bound in slavery and imprisoned by the Muslims, tortured with innumerable torments?

"Crusading," Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith has rightly argued, was understood as an "an act of love" -- in this case, the love of one's neighbor. The Crusade was seen as an errand of mercy to right a terrible wrong. As Pope Innocent III wrote to the Knights Templar, "You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, 'Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.'"

The second goal was the liberation of Jerusalem and the other places made holy by the life of Christ. The word crusade is modern. Medieval Crusaders saw themselves as pilgrims, performing acts of righteousness on their way to the Holy Sepulcher. The Crusade indulgence they received was canonically related to the pilgrimage indulgence. This goal was frequently described in feudal terms. When calling the Fifth Crusade in 1215, Innocent III wrote:

Consider most dear sons, consider carefully that if any temporal king was thrown out of his domain and perhaps captured, would he not, when he was restored to his pristine liberty and the time had come for dispensing justice look on his vassals as unfaithful and traitors...unless they had committed not only their property but also their persons to the task of freeing him? ...And similarly will not Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, whose servant you cannot deny being, who joined your soul to your body, who redeemed you with the Precious Blood...condemn you for the vice of ingratitude and the crime of infidelity if you neglect to help Him?

The reconquest of Jerusalem, therefore, was not colonialism but an act of restoration and an open declaration of one's love of God. Medieval men knew, of course, that God had the power to restore Jerusalem Himself -- indeed, He had the power to restore the whole world to His rule. Yet as St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached, His refusal to do so was a blessing to His people:

Again I say, consider the Almighty's goodness and pay heed to His plans of mercy. He puts Himself under obligation to you, or rather feigns to do so, that He can help you to satisfy your obligations toward Himself.... I call blessed the generation that can seize an opportunity of such rich indulgence as this.

It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the perspective of medieval Christians, Muslims were the enemies of Christ and His Church. It was the Crusaders' task to defeat and defend against them.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Is this the Syrian spark? (Tariq Alhomayed, 3/20/11, Asharq Alawasat)

Demonstrations emerged after the Friday prayers in several cities in Syria: Damascus, Homs, Baniyas, and in Daraa, in the south of the country on the border with Jordan. These demonstrations resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests, so are we now witnessing the Syrian spark?

Syria is by no means immune to what is happening in our region, in terms of demonstrations and uprisings, yet of course at the same time, Syria is not like other Arab states. As I have said repeatedly: Tunisia is not Egypt, and likewise Bahrain is not like either of those states, because there are sectarian motives there, and Yemen is also unique, for Sanaa is a highly complicated ticking time bomb, especially with the intransigence of the Yemeni president, whilst Libya remains open to all types of intimidation. As I noted above, Syria is not immune to what is happening in our region, but Damascus has always tried to avoid reality, using all tricks and excuses to postpone facing the truth. The problem it faces now concerns the internal situation and the Syrian people, rather than foreign affairs, which are somewhat favorable at the moment especially with the calm on the Israeli border. Indeed, the Syrian-Israeli border is currently less eventful than the Egyptian-Israeli border throughout the years of the Mubarak regime.

Syria's problems are similar to those of other states which avoid reality and believe that time stands still, and that their tricks always succeed. Their modern history reminds us of empty slogans, yet the reality must be dealt with, before an uprising becomes inevitable.

President Obama should call Baby Assad and inform him he's next if he doesn't step down voluntarily.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Lessons From Chernobyl for Japan (ELLEN BARRY, 3/20/11, NY Times)

To visit Chernobyl today is to feel time passing.

In Pripyat, the plant workers’ former bedroom community, a little over a mile from the plant, where 50,000 people were given a few hours to evacuate, wallpaper has slipped down under its own weight and paint has peeled away from apartment walls in fat curls. Ice glazes the interiors. On a residential street, where Soviet housing blocks tower in every direction, it is quiet enough to hear the sound of individual leaves brushing against branches.

The wild world is gradually pressing its way in. Anton Yukhimenko, who leads tours of the dead zone, said that wild boars and foxes had begun to take shelter in the abandoned city, and that once, skirting a forest, he noticed a wolf soundlessly loping along beside him. Not long ago, one of the city’s major buildings, School No. 1, came crashing down, its supporting structures finally rotted out by 25 winters and summers.

“This is a city that has been captured by wilderness,” he said. “I think in 20 years it will be one big forest.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Is al-Qaeda slipping into irrelevance after Arab revolts?: Al-Qaeda has been strangely silent since the outbreak of Arab uprisings. Experts say the toppling of autocratic regimes and popular demands for democratic freedom could end up marginalizing Islamist terrorist groups. (Deutsche Welle, 3/11/11)

Albrecht Metzger, an expert on Islam, said recent events show that al-Qaeda's capabilities may have been misjudged in the past.

"I believe that shows the gap, that was always there," Metzger said. "Only because of the group's partially successful attacks in Arab countries or in the West, we believed that al-Qaeda was stronger than it actually is."

This shows that al-Qaeda is a minority in the Arab world, Metzger said, adding that the group's ideology of a "holy war" couldn't convince the masses.

While al-Qaeda advocated violence as the only means to get rid of unpopular secular regimes, the people in Tunisia and Egypt have shown that there is a peaceful and civilized way to do the same, he added.

So is al-Qaeda the big loser in the historic transformations reconfiguring parts of the Arab world? Undoubtedly, according to Mohammad Abu Ramman, a researcher and Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic Studies in the Jordanian capital Amman. He said the terrorist network was never a mouthpiece for Arab youth.

Demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir SquareBildunterschrift: The demands for democratic change are at odds with al-Qaeda's ideology

"Al-Qaeda always offered its own answers to the general political crisis of Arab regimes. This crisis was apparent in the fact that there was never an outlook for a peaceful, democratic transformation," Abu Ramman said. "And it was also evident in the alliance between Arab regimes and the West. It was an alliance that focused on narrow self-interest, to the detriment of any democratic opening."

The analyst pointed out that the yearning for democracy among Arab people and their demands for social justice, equality and pluralism are the opposite of the fundamental values of al-Qaeda. It serves to strip the terror group of its ideological basis, he added.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Gadhafi calls Western bombing of Libya a "crusade" (Duetsche Welle, 3/20/11)

A speech apparently delivered by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was broadcast on Libyan state TV Sunday, condemning as a "crusade" the attacks inflicted by an international coalition on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

...just conducted by Crusaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


I was the man who broke into Auschwitz: Neil Tweedie meets Denis Avey and hears his astonishing tale of breaking into the Nazi's most feared concentration camp. (Neil Tweedie, 3/18/11, The Telegraph)

The music came from an orchestra hidden just out of sight: Wagner, wafting across the blasted ground. Denis Avey was 25 and a prisoner of war for more than two years. It was 1943 and this was the latest in a long line of PoW camps since his capture in North Africa, a collection of huts in the shadow of an enormous industrial complex in southern Poland. The nearest town was called Oswiecim in Polish. To the Germans it was Auschwitz.

“I thought, what is an orchestra doing here?” remembers Mr Avey. The British soldier soon had his answer. The camp just out of sight was full of Jews, slave labourers imported from all corners of Occupied Europe to build a giant plant for the German industrial giant I G Farben. The synthetic rubber and methanol it was designed to produce were vital to the Nazi war effort. The labour camp, known as Monowitz or Auschwitz III, was part of that vast, sprawling killing machine that included Auschwitz I, a Polish army barracks turned concentration camp, and Auschwitz II, otherwise known as Birkenau, the extermination factory, home to the gas chambers and crematoria.

When the labourers of Monowitz had served their purpose, when months of back-breaking work, starvation rations and furious beatings had taken their toll, the lorries would arrive. The men, by then shadows of men, would be driven away to the gas chambers that had already claimed their mothers and fathers, wives and children.

“The site was crawling with strange, slow-moving figures,” says Mr Avey. “Thousands of them in tattered, striped shirts and trousers. Their faces were grey. They were indistinct, ready to fade away at any moment. The lads in the camp called them Stripeys. The orchestra was very good. It played for the SS.”

Denis Avey is 92 now, a resident of Bradwell in the Peak District. His house, hidden down a narrow lane, overlooks a bowl-shaped valley disappearing eastward into the mist. Here, in this restful place, he summons memories, only recently unlocked, of that terrible place; and one of the most remarkable feats achieved by a British serviceman during the Second World War. When thousands would have given anything to escape Auschwitz, Denis Avey was trying to get in. And in mid 1944, he succeeded.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


The Swinging Savant: His game is unorthodox, he tries shots others would never consider, and he's sort of goofy, which makes Bubba a wildly entertaining, world-class player (Austin Murphy, 3/21/11, Sports Illustrated)

Prepare to meet Bubba from Bagdad, as the sometimes-loopy lefty refers to himself. A native of Bagdad, Fla., near Pensacola, he is known for his ridiculous length—Watson's 314.8-yard driving average leads the PGA Tour—and the still more ridiculous pink shaft on his driver. What's the deal with that? "It's like calling the biggest man 'Tiny,'" Watson explains. "It doesn't really fit, but it's funny." Pause. "It's funny to me, with the goofy mind I have."

Watson's mind is among the most original and intriguing in golf. In this era of equipment designed to make the ball fly straight, he is an affable, shaggy-haired anomaly—a savant at shaping his shots: cutting and drawing (up to 50 yards), high and low, and otherwise making the ball do his bidding. With a self-taught swing you wouldn't teach, he executes shots that even his peers could not conceive.

"He paints the course," says Rory McIlroy. "He moves the ball better than anyone in the game right now."

"Most of us know our limitations," says Bill Haas. "I think Bubba feels like he doesn't have any."

In his third-round match at Dove Mountain against Geoff Ogilvy, Watson struck a tee shot on the par-5 11th that traveled 320 yards, leaving him 287 yards to the pin. "I was just in front of him and was thinking I'd have to hit a three-wood," recalls Ogilvy. "So when he pulled out his three-iron, I was a very interested spectator."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


'I was born in India, owe debt to US, but my heart is Tibetan' (Shobhan Saxena, Mar 20, 2011, India Times)
Lobsang Sangay, 43, has been on a campaign trail for two months, travelling to Tibetan settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan. The Harvard law fellow is the frontrunner in the election for the post of kalon tripa , prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile . Sangay got 50% of the votes in the preliminary round and is hopeful of doing well in today's election. He talks politics, spiritual striving and the Dalai Lama to Shobhan Saxena. Excerpts:

The Dalai Lama's announcement he will retire from politics has stunned the Tibetans. What is the significance of his decision ?

In the history of the Dalai Lamas, it's the first time that there is transition from a traditional role to a modern process . Secondly, he really wants to invest in democratic institutions of the Tibetan government in exile , so that the movement can be sustained till freedom is restored in Tibet. Thirdly, he is devolving his power not only to an elected prime minister, but to the people. It's a reversal of the classic democratic process where the movement is bottom-up . In our case, it's coming down from the top. It's a karmic evolution of democracy.

Is he trying to ensure the Chinese aren't able to manipulate a post-Dalai scenario?

He is definitely challenging the Chinese government upfront. They have always criticized him as a religious leader who plays politics. Now he is saying 'I am giving political power to the people and you —the communist party —are holding all the power even though you may not enjoy the mandate of the people' .
Imagine telling Younghusband that within a hundred years the Tibetans would be Americanized democrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 AM


4onthefloor perform in The Current studio (The Current, March 20, 2011)

Recently crowned the victors of the Vita.MN Are You Local? Best New Band search, bass drum stompin' and blues infused 4onthefloor are worthy of their newest accolade. 4 band members, 4 bass drums, 4/4 time, and a recently released album 4x4 all add to 4onthefloor's exponential rock powers.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 AM


Algerian president promises political reforms (AP, 3/20/11)

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is pledging to make political reforms in the north African country, whose repressive government and widespread poverty and unemployment have led to unprecedented street demonstrations on the capital's streets in recent weeks.

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March 19, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Obama’s shift toward military action in Libya (Scott Wilson and Joby Warrick, March 19, 2011, Politico)

After two weeks of playing down the prospect of military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration is on the brink of inserting itself into a third war in a Muslim nation — something the president, who has spent the first half of his term mending America’s relationship with Islam, had hoped to avoid.

Only an acknowledged hawk could have stayed out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Why Arizona is Retreating on its Immigration Law: In a stunning turnaround, Arizona Republicans killed 5 of the state's notorious immigration bills. Terry Greene Sterling obtains a report showing deportations pummeling the local economy. (Terry Greene Sterling, 3/19/11, Daily Beast)

In a surprise St. Patrick’s Day coup, conservative Republican senators in Arizona slapped down five harsh immigration bills that aimed to deny state birth certificates to babies born to unauthorized immigrants, turn school teachers and hospital workers into immigration enforcers, prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending college, and criminalize them for driving. [...]

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce acknowledged the negative effects of the Latino-led boycott in a letter on its website yesterday. And in a St. Pat’s Day letter to Pearce, Arizona’s biggest employers said they’d felt the boycott sting, and they’d had enough.

“I don’t think this was an epiphany of justice and understanding, this was about economic impact.”

“Last year, boycotts were called against our state’s business community, adversely impacting our already-struggling economy and costing us jobs. Arizona-based businesses saw contracts cancelled or were turned away from bidding …Sales outside of the state declined…It is an undeniable fact that each of our companies and our employees were impacted by the boycotts and the coincident negative image,” the letter says.

Among the local business superstars who urged Pearce to quit passing damaging immigration laws and let the feds handle immigration reform was Robert Delgado, president and CEO of Hensley Beverage Company, owned largely by Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain. Latinos boycotted Budweiser beer, which is distributed by the Hensley outfit, shortly after McCain morphed from immigration reformer to immigration hardliner in order to defeat J.D. Hayworth in a hard-fought primary election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:16 PM


Will the crisis create a new Japan? (Marcus Noland, March 16, 2011, Washington Post)

Before the earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku region on March 11, the country was already facing a slowing economy, fiscal strain and deflation, and decades of wasteful spending had saddled the country with a debt more than twice the size of the economy. Now, beyond the tragedy’s human toll, the economic costs are still being counted — and could be vastly expanded if the nuclear reactor damage is closer to that of Chernobyl than to Three Mile Island. But if rebuilding is handled skillfully, there is hope that a different kind of Japan will emerge.

Despite its weak starting point, the government holds a few cards. Ninety-five percent of Japan’s debt is owned by its citizens, not foreign hedge funds; it’s unlikely that those citizens would dump their bond holdings if the government takes on more debt to rebuild the city of Sendai, for example. Financially, the government has more maneuvering room than might seem apparent.

Some rebuilding can be financed by redirecting spending from useless white-elephant projects to the higher priority of remaking Tohoku. The quality of public investment in the nation could improve, perhaps permanently, as a result of this crisis.

Japan’s shrinking labor force could constrain the country’s ability to rebuild — thus forcing politicians and the public to confront its misgivings about immigration. Japan has long exerted tight control of its borders and makes it difficult for foreigners to live and work in the country. Among leading industrial nations, only South Korea has a lower share of foreigners in its workplaces. The foreigners now in Japan fall into various niches: highly skilled white-collar expatriates; low-skilled, often illegal, laborers; imported rural brides. Economists have long argued that Japan needs to welcome more workers to remain economically competitive. The imperative to rebuild housing and infrastructure on a massive scale could force this immigration challenge into the open.

The rebuilding process can also help slow, if not reverse, the extraordinary concentration of economic power in Tokyo. Over the past 10 to 20 years, hundreds of Japanese corporations have moved their headquarters from cities such as Osaka and Kitakyushu to the Japanese capital. The nation’s transition to a post-industrial society (with its greater emphasis on white-collar services), the decline of regional financial institutions and a cultural emphasis on face-to-face communication in business have encouraged the clustering of economic life in Tokyo. But post-earthquake rebuilding could help spread economic activity across the country. If pursued creatively, this could help jump-start an entirely new source of economic strength in northern Japan.

But what is really at stake — and what will determine whether these other changes have any chance of coming to pass — is the structure of Japanese politics. If the incumbent DPJ successfully manages this emergency, the episode could reassure Japanese voters that this fledgling party represents a credible alternative to the LDP. Japan would then have a true two-party system in which political power and ideas are genuinely contested.

Such a transformation could make governing Japan more messy and complicated, but it also could allow the nation to confront in a forthright way sensitive issues that it has avoided for too long: the coddling of its heavily subsidized farmers, its self-defeating trade policy, its unwillingness to face immigration reform, its awkward defense policy, and its uncertain place in Asia and in the world. Japan could emerge as a more conventional and modern country with more genuinely democratic politics.

You wouldn't want to bet on it.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


The Elite Turn Against Obama: Even the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual gathering of the country's brightest lights, isn't Obama country anymore. Lloyd Grove on the president's waning support among the intelligentsia. (Lloyd Grove, 3/18/11, Daily Beast)

[Niall] Ferguson called for what he called “radical” measures. “I can’t emphasize strongly enough the need for radical fiscal reform to restore the incentives for work and remove the incentives for idleness.” He praised “really radical reform of the sort that, for example, Paul Ryan [the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee] has outlined in his wonderful ‘Roadmap’ for radical, root-and-branch reform not only of the tax system but of the entitlement system” and “unleash entrepreneurial innovation.” Otherwise, Ferguson warned: “Do you want to be a kind of implicit part of the European Union? I’d advise you against it.”

This was greeted by hearty applause from a crowd that included Barbra Streisand and her husband James Brolin. “Depressing, but fantastic,” Streisand told me afterward, rendering her verdict on the session. “So exciting. Wonderful!”

Brolin’s assessment: “Mind-blowing.”

In a session Tuesday morning, Silicon Valley guru Michael Splinter piled on. “From an industry standpoint, it’s below what a lot of people in industry have viewed as the solution to the jobs problem,” Splinter, president of the Applied Materials solar energy company, complained about Obama’s economic performance. He was speaking to an agreeable audience in an interview with Atlantic Media owner David Bradley. “When I talk to venture capitalists, their companies are starting to move their manufacturing operations out of the United States…Our corporate tax rate, on a worldwide competitive basis, is just not competitive. Taiwan is lowering their rate to 20 to 15 percent in order to stay competitive with Singapore. These countries have made it their job to attract industry. You don’t get that sense here in the United States.”

The great liberal hope has only discredited liberalism....again....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Medical breakthroughs are not always what they seem (WILLIAM REVILLE , Irish Times, 3/17/11)

In 2005, Ioannidis published two papers that shook the medical research community – one in the online journal PLoS Medicine, and the other in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the PLoS article Ioannidis proved mathematically that, when it is assumed that there is a modest researcher bias, commonly imperfect research techniques and a common predisposition to concentrate on exciting rather than plausible hypotheses, research findings will point in the wrong direction most of the time.

The PLoS paper predicted that 80 per cent of non-randomised studies (the most common type), 25 per cent of “gold standard” randomised trials, and 10 per cent of “platinum-standard” large randomised trials must give wrong results. This mathematical prediction corresponds to the rates at which new findings are later refuted. In his JAMA paper, Ioannidis focused on 49 of the most significant medical research findings over the previous 13 years. Forty five of these 49 claimed to have discovered effective new medical treatments. Subsequently, 41 per cent of these claims were shown to be wrong or greatly exaggerated.

Ioannidis is particularly dismissive of the value of nutritional studies, declaring that the methods used in most of these studies are naïve and not nearly discriminating enough to yield meaningful results.

The situation gets even more complicated with the discovery/development of new drugs. Now, not only is individual scientific career progression at stake but big money is involved.

The multinational pharmaceutical companies are a vital part of modern medicine and make great contributions, eg the new drugs that have successfully contained AIDS were largely due to investment in R&D of multinational “big pharma”. These companies must make money.The temptation is obvious if you have spent years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars developing a new drug, and then new research shows that it is not effective. Usually the company will bite the bullet and take the hit, but occasionally . . .

Medical journals and popular accounts of medical research are full of predictions that massive breakthroughs are imminent.

A good current example is the optimistic predictions about the many cures that will spring from embryonic stem cell research.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


Wezen-Ball: The History of the "Greatest Living Ballplayer" (Larry Granillo, 3/17/11, Baseball Prospectus)

Beginning in 1901, here is the chain of players who would be my answer to the question "Who is the greatest living (retired) player?"

* 1901 - 1917: Cap Anson. The greatest ballplayer of the 19th century. Others who might sneak in here: Kid Nichols (starting in 1906), Cy Young (1911), and Nap Lajoie & Christy Mathewson (both 1916)
* 1917 - 1928: Honus Wagner. Still everyone's favorite overlooked all-time great. The only other contender in this time frame is Walter Johnson, who retired in 1927.
* 1928 - 1935: Ty Cobb. "Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son-of-a-bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!" No one doubted his status as the top player in the game, though.
* 1935 - 1948: Babe Ruth. This is the first reign ended by the player's death (Anson and Wagner each gave way to the greater player while living). Never, ever any doubt that Ruth was the greatest while he was alive, though.
* 1948 - 1961: Ty Cobb. There are many players who had retired by Ruth's death who might be considered here: Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Arky Vaughan, Pete Alexander, Eddie Collins... None could supplant Cobb.
* 1961 - 1968: Ted Williams. Cobb's death. And this is where things get dicey. Not only could we argue Joe DiMaggio (who retired in 1951 and who, late in life, had to be announced as "the greatest living ballplayer") and Williams here, we also have to deal with all the legends who retired in the 1960s: Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews. I think I'm sticking with Teddy Ballgame, though, until...
* 1968 - 1973: Mickey Mantle. I almost had Teddy all the way through these years, but, in the end, Mantle has to take the top spot. Sometimes I think Mantle is so overrated he's underrated. Then again, I don't live in New York.
* 1973 - today: Willie Mays. And then there's Willie, arguably the greatest player ever. As long as he's alive, the title is his. Only Barry Bonds has a case to take it away from him, but I'm not sure I'm ready to say that for sure. I like to have a bit of historical perspective. one would contend he was better than Willie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Life expectancy is still rising – despite obesity epidemic (Jeremy Laurance, 18 March 2011, Independent)

We are living longer despite getting fatter, and there is no sign yet that the increase in life expectancy is coming to an end, according to a study.

A baby born today in the West can look forward to between six and eight years of extra life compared with one born in 1970. Moreover, Britons are outliving Americans, despite the US having a higher national income and the highest spending on healthcare.

Some doom mongers have warned that today's children could be the first to die sooner than their parents because of the global explosion in obesity, but researchers say life expectancy is increasing in almost all European countries for the first time in decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Women tend to process pain differently than men (Jenny Fagundo. 3/17/11, MBPE Capital)

A research team from London and Japan led by Professor Qasim Aziz,of the Wingate Institute for Neurogastroenterology,Queen Mary University of London,studied brain activity and reactions of 16 men and 16 women in the anticipation and processing of pain.The study involved healthy volunteers who were told that a tiny balloon would be expanded in the gullet,before the procedure lasting a second.During the period leading up to it,women had less activity in areas that process fear and more activity in areas involved in preparing and planning movements to avoid the impending pain.In men,fear was predominant when they were expecting to feel pain.During the painful event,the opposite reaction was seen among men who were more involved with pain avoidance.

In contrast,women showed greater activity in areas involved in processing emotions and feeling the pain.

The fact that during pain our female subjects showed more activation of the emotion processing areas in the brain could suggest a mechanism whereby females may attribute more emotional importance to painful stimuli which may influence how they perceive,report and respond to pain in comparison to males, the Daily Mail quoted Prof Aziz as saying.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 AM


Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You (PAMELA PAUL, 3/18/11, NY Times)

In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.

“I literally never use the phone,” Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) “Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she’ll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can’t think of anyone else who’d want to talk to me.” Then again, he doesn’t want to be called, either. “I’ve learned not to press ‘ignore’ on my cellphone because then people know that you’re there.”

“I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, ‘Don’t call anyone after 10 p.m.,’ ” Mr. Adler said. “Now the rule is, ‘Don’t call anyone. Ever.’ ”

Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.”

Though the beast has been somewhat tamed by voice mail and caller ID, the phone caller still insists, Ms. Martin explained, “that we should drop whatever we’re doing and listen to me.”

The Wife forbade using the following (overly honest) message on our answering machine: "Howdy! We're likely home but not answering the phone; you can leave a message but we likely won't listen to it for days; and, when we do, we're unlikely to call back."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 AM


The World's Next Great Bust: China and Commodities: China accounts for almost half the global market for metals like steel and copper, whose mining drives the world economy. What happens when China slows down? (Derek Thompson,Mar 17 2011, The Atlantic)

"I'm a China bear," [Vikram Mansharamani, an equity investor, Yale lecturer, and author of the book Boombustolog,] says. "China is exhibiting all the signs you would expect from an unsustainable boom." He first points to the housing market, where investment hit the inauspicious market of 6% of GDP -- the same mark the U.S. hit in 2006 as the bubble was bursting. What's more, outstanding loans for developers and residential mortgages in China have increased by a factor of FIVE in the last decade. Loan balances have nearly doubled in the last three years alone.

Even worse, Mansharamani says, the Chinese government has spent lavishly to create demand that never materialized. He points to ghost towns like Qungbashi, in Inner Mongolia, a city designed for 1.5 million residents, but drew only 20,000 -- hardly one percent. He points to the New South China Mall, not far from Guangzhou, which was built to handle 1,500 tenants. Instead, it houses a few dozen -- hardly one percent. This sort of one-percent success rate creates ludicrous overcapacity that is eerily reminiscent of the empty homes and strip malls lining recession ghost exurbs in Arizona and Nevada. Mansharamani sees it as the prelude to a dramatic slowdown in government spending on buildings and infrastructure.

Well, so what? you ask. What do small towns and empty malls in Nowhere, China, matter to the world economy? The answer is that one engine of the global economy in the last few years has been commodities -- metals like steel and copper and aluminium used to build cities, malls and infrastructure. Countries with commodities, like Brazil and Australia, have thrived. So have US companies that specialize in unearthing commodities, like Bucyrus and Caterpillar.

But as China goes, commodities go. China's share of world demand for leading metals like aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, nickel, and crude steel is about 40 percent, according to research obtained from Goldman Sachs. For steel, China commands nearly half the global market. (In 2000, its share of global demand for those metals was between 6 and 16%.)

Even these numbers understate the breadth of China's impact. "Think how much steel is sold to Caterpillar or John Deere for capital goods that are sent to China," Mansharamani says. "Or how much is sent to Brazil to mine iron for China. Think of the countries that get dragged down with a commodities slow-down -- South Africa, Brazil, Peru. The world shipping sector."

If China slows down even to 5% growth a year, that will take a booming commodities market down with it.

Just wait until the gold that Glenn Beck and company have been telling them to buy readjusts.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 AM


Yak by popular demand: A different kind of farm in Vermont is seeking to corner the locavore, healthier-meat market (David Filipov, March 19, 2011, Boston Globe)

Dolores is one of 40 yaks that belong to five farmers who brought the feisty bovids to the rolling glens of the Green Mountains. Their venture, Vermont Yak Company, aims to satisfy the growing appetite for exotic food that is locally raised, grass-fed, and free-roaming.

The farmers are part of a small but building movement of enthusiasts in the United States who value the yak for its lean meat — one-sixth the fat of grain-fed beef and 40 percent more protein.

Other exotic animals have caught on with niche audiences — bison burgers and ostrich jerky have their fans across the country — but none has gone so far as to replace the beef steer. The yak farmers do not expect to do that either — they know yak meat, with its sweet, slightly gamy taste, is not for everyone — but they figure they will attract the curious and a core market of locavores.

Yaks, which evolved in the Himalayas, make a certain amount of sense in Vermont, with its chilly climate and limited grazing land. They do not require warm barns and can thrive in fields where grass is sparse.

But ask herders what they like best about their yaks and they wax on about the individual personalities of animals that are curious like cats, spirited like ponies, and capable of far more mischief than one might expect from a ruminant cousin of the dairy cows that used to roam Vermont Yak’s 24 acres.

“Every day is different,’’ said Rob Williams, one of Vermont Yak Company’s founders. “Some days I call and they come. Some days they are like, ‘No, we’ll just stay here.’’’

The company supplies a stable of local eateries, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets with yak treats and is exploring direct sales to individual customers. The owners believe that their property, built on the former grazing land of a long-defunct dairy farm in the Mad River Valley, is the only working yak farm in New England. But they would like to be seen as pioneers rather than outliers in a state that they believe could be riding yak to the future.

“I would love to see Vermont become the New England go-to mecca of yak,’’ said Williams, a trim 43-year-old who also publishes an independent newspaper and teaches communications at Champlain College. “I would love to see a yak in every pot.’’

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March 18, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


Veteran US reporter Thomas lashes Israel, again (AFP, 3/18/11)

Jewish lobbies had power across the board in the US, she added. "Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood.

"Same thing with the financial markets. There's total control ... It's real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power," she added.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 PM


House GOP moving cautiously on Wall Street law rollback (Peter Schroeder, 03/16/11, The Hill)

While House Republicans wanted to pass a bill repealing healthcare reform as soon as possible, that all-or-nothing approach has not been present with Dodd-Frank. Republican lawmakers have held several hearings overseeing portions of the law, and have sent letters to federal regulators demanding answers to detailed questions about its implementation.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) introduced a Dodd-Frank repeal bill in the first days of the 112th Congress, but it has thus far been largely ignored, attracting just seven co-sponsors.

The more targeted approach for Dodd-Frank is indicative of the wide variety of opinions about its provisions, as well as the complicated politics surrounding it.

Mark Calabria, the Cato Institute’s director of financial regulation studies, said a hard-charging drive to repeal Dodd-Frank might be absent because lawmakers have not heard from their constituents about it.

While members of Congress famously heard from raucous crowds back home during debate over the healthcare reform law, “there’s not the same sort of visceral reaction” to Dodd-Frank, he said.

In addition, Wall Street banks are still largely out of public favor after driving the 2008 financial crisis, and any broad repeal effort could be painted negatively for Republicans.

“Republicans have to balance that perception that repealing it just makes them look like they’re in for Wall Street,” said Calabria. “They need to be careful about how they do it, and I think that’s the reason we’re seeing it driven in this manner.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Velvet-Voiced Ferlin Husky Dies at 85 (BILL FRISKICS-WARREN, 3/18/11, NY Times)

A monumental outpouring of regret, “Gone” established Mr. Husky as a leading proponent of the lush orchestral sound that became the hallmark of the music being made in Nashville during the late 1950s and early ’60s. Along with hits by Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, “Gone” helped country music rebound commercially at a time when the teenage-oriented rock ’n’ roll of Elvis Presley and others was cutting into mainstream country record sales.

Mr. Husky had previously recorded an unvarnished take of “Gone,” featuring the pedal steel guitarist Speedy West, for Capitol Records in Hollywood in 1952. Released under the pseudonym Terry Preston at the urging of the label’s representatives, who insisted that Mr. Husky’s real name sounded like a fabrication, the single failed to chart. Four years later, performing under his given name and employing a smooth uptown arrangement, he rerecorded “Gone” for Capitol in Nashville. The single went on to spend 10 weeks at No. 1 on the country charts and climbed to No. 4 on the pop chart.

“I talked them into putting more production on the song,” Mr. Husky recalled in a 1998 interview with the Texas disc jockey Tracy Pitcox. He added that the producer, Capitol’s Ken Nelson, “wasn’t thrilled with the arrangement, but after it became a hit he was proud of the song.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM


Will Daniels Step Up to Meet America's Challenges? (Mark Salter, 3/18/11, RCP)

Mitch Daniels has been an exceptional governor; a penny pinching fiscal hawk, and a reformer unafraid of criticism. He views government as a monopoly that's indifferent to its customers' interests, but still essential to creating the conditions, the public infrastructure, that will, as he told the New York Times, "enable and facilitate the flourishing of private life."

His Whig's sensibility about the role of government seems to me the best response to the Democrat's criticism that Republicans' reflexive distrust of government prevents them from governing effectively. And his reforms have been conceived and implemented to transplant to government agencies some of the accountability and efficiencies that businesses must accept to survive in a competitive free market.

Daniels assesses the success or failure of his reforms by their results; by the benefits they provide to Indiana. That is an uncontroversial measurement in most professions, except government, where a policy's failure to improve appreciably the problem it was intended to address is often used to secure an increased appropriation.

According to the Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson, at the inception of his administration, Daniels instructed his agency heads to emulate business and "pursue a single organizational goal" -- raising the net disposable income of Indianans. To that end, he has weathered without losing his nerve severe criticism of some of his reforms, and abandoned others when they failed to produce the results he anticipated. It's a rare politician who has the fortitude to hold himself accountable to the standards he imposes on others.

The results have been impressive. Indiana had a $200 million deficit when Daniels took office. He balanced the budget, paid off the state's debts, and Indiana had a $1.3 billion surplus when the recession began and was well positioned to survive the fall-off in revenues that have roiled politics in other states. Unemployment in Indiana remains high, but the state is adding new jobs at one of the fastest rates in the country. Property taxes have been lowered under Daniels' tenure by an average of 30 percent. Indiana is one of only nine states to enjoy a triple-A bond rating.

He leased a toll road that had suffered years of incompetent government management to a foreign consortium, over widespread and vociferous public opposition, for $3.8 billion dollars. He used the money to clear a huge backlog of road construction projects and pay for additional improvements. He increased access to heath insurance for thousands of low income families by supporting health savings accounts.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Why the Bahrain rebellion could prove calamitous for the West: Saudi Arabia's support for the Gulf state risks drawing Iran into the conflict (Con Coughlin, 3/17/11, The Telegraph)

The Sunni-Shia divide in the country is particularly problematic because of the close family connections many Shia have to Iran. An estimated 30 per cent of Bahraini Shia are of Persian descent, and maintain contact with relatives in Iran. In the past, this has enabled Iran's Revolutionary Guards to establish terrorist cells in the kingdom, aimed at destabilising the monarch. In 1981, a Tehran-organised plot to overthrow the government was uncovered. Bahraini security officials are constantly on the alert for signs of Iranian meddling, and have accused some members of the opposition Shia movement of being funded by Tehran.

The issue is further complicated by Iran's long-standing insistence that it has a legitimate territorial claim over Bahrain. A recent Iranian newspaper editorial claimed that the kingdom was in fact a province of Iran. It is because of these simmering tensions between the states that the royal family's decision this week to call for Saudi reinforcements is fraught with danger.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the ayatollahs have assumed a protective role over the world's Shia.

Actually, it is America that has assumed the role of liberator of the Shi'ites.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Ariz. Senate rejects illegal immigration bills (The Associated Press, 3/17/2011)

The Arizona Senate soundly defeated five bills aimed at illegal immigration on Thursday in a marked departure from last year, when enactment of a tough local enforcement measure put the state at the heart of a fierce national debate over the issue.

March 17, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 PM


Obama’s path still cloudy (A.B. Stoddard - 03/16/11 , The Hill)

As the Republican race begins in earnest, and Obama kicks off his own reelection campaign, it is increasingly clear that the path to an Obama victory is anything but clear. Stubborn joblessness, soaring gas prices, the still-rising cost of healthcare insurance, the apathy of Obama supporters, the erosion of support from white working-class and suburban voters and the considerable sums of secret money conservatives promise to pour into the campaign all pose challenges to his plan to win again. Taken together, they might be insurmountable.

Obama’s money men are traveling the country, making their pitch to wealthy donors, some of whom chose Hillary Clinton in 2008. According to The Wall Street Journal, their slideshow concedes Obama has lost support in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, declaring “POTUS maintains clear but narrowed support” but urging substantial donor support in light of the “significant work to do to increase support among key demographics.”

...the GOP will nominate a successful governor to face him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


OH, HILL NO: Obama's indecision on Libya has pushed Clinton over the edge (Joshua Hersh, March 17, 2011, The Daily)

Fed up with a president “who can’t make his mind up” as Libyan rebels are on the brink of defeat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to the exits. [...]

Clinton is said to be especially peeved with the president’s waffling over how to encourage the kinds of Arab uprisings that have recently toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and in particular his refusal to back a no-fly zone over Libya.

In the past week, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s former top adviser Anne-Marie Slaughter lashed out at Obama for the same reason.

The tension has even spilled over into her dealings with European diplomats, with whom she met early this week.

When French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged her to press the White House to take more aggressive action in Libya, Clinton repeatedly replied only, “There are difficulties,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.

“Frankly we are just completely puzzled,” one of the diplomats told Foreign Policy magazine. “We are wondering if this is a priority for the United States.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


How To Keep Reading the NY Times For Free (Brian Barrett, 3/17/11, LifeHacker)

As much as a paywall might get your hackles up, the folks running the Times understand that no amount of digital subscription revenue would make up for the sting an page view exodus. That's why—in addition to 20 free articles a month, which is pretty generous for your average casual reader—they built in this little clause:

• Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

That's similar to the model that's been employed by the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, and means that if there's ever an NYT article you're blocked from? You can just copy and paste the headline into Google for free and easy access. Even if you hit your unspecified daily limit on Google, you can head on over to Bing or, if you're feeling 2002 about it, Alta Vista.

If that's too labor intensive (all that clicking!), then it's time to make Twitter your new best friend. Between individual journos, print sections, and blogs, there are a whopping 252 Twitter accounts associated with the NYT—none of them shy about pushing out their content. Pick and choose your favorites, or for the full firehose of every single NYT article just follow @freenyt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Princeton vs. UCLA: Reflections on a Historic Upset (Sean Gregory, 3/16/11, TIME)

"Oh, my God."

Gabe Lewullis does not remember uttering those words, under his breath, late one Thursday night 15 years ago. But after he hit one of the most memorable shots in college-basketball history, the national television cameras caught him mouthing that phrase of disbelief. "To this day, I would not believe that I said it, if I didn't see it," says Lewullis, 34, now an orthopedic surgeon in Boston, back then a fuzzy-headed freshman from Allentown, Pa., who was starting for just the second time in 16 games for the Princeton University team. "The moment was just like gray to me. It's weird how that works."

Lewullis had spent a significant portion of the 1995-96 season in his coach's doghouse, which was more like a kennel, since so many Princeton players had a spot. He hurt an ankle, and missed some time with a virus. Even worse for Lewullis, his coach — Pete Carril, who is now enshrined in the hoops Hall of Fame — thought he did not cut fast enough to the basket or bring enough energy to practice. "There's a name for guys like you," Carril told him one day. "Phlegmatic. Why are so you f---ing phlegmatic?"

But now, in front of over 30,000 fans at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, and millions more on CBS, Lewullis had just hit a backdoor layup with four seconds left, giving Princeton a 43-41 lead over UCLA, the defending national champions, and the most storied college-basketball program ever. [...]

That 1996 game was blessed by an epic set of story lines. You had the defending champs, UCLA, the school that won 10 titles under the most revered coach in college-basketball history, the late John Wooden. UCLA was a Hall of Fame factory, the alma mater of Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor, Gail Goodrich and Jamaal Wilkes (Read "The Power of Pete Carril.")

On the other side you had Princeton, with its funny little coach, Carril. A Yoda-looking guy who wore rumpled sweaters, Carril would pound his feet during games, wave his hands in disgust, rip out his hair and practically cry after missed layups. In 1989, his 16th-seeded Tigers nearly knocked off the top team in the country, Georgetown. That game, a 50-49 Georgetown win, may have saved March Madness as we know it. At the time, the NCAA wanted to drop automatic tournament bids for the champs of some smaller conferences. These teams just weren't competing. But Princeton vs. Georgetown became ESPN's highest-rated college-basketball game ever. The duel proved the power of the upset — even the potential upset. The small schools remained in the tournament, and the event soon became a billion-dollar enterprise. In the three years after the Georgetown game, Carril kept falling a hair short of pulling off the upset, losing by four points to Arkansas, two to Villanova and eight to Syracuse.

Since Princeton did not offer athletic scholarships, and its admission standards were so strict, Carril couldn't recruit the country's elite athletes to central New Jersey. So in order for his teams to compete against superstars, he designed an unusual playing style that required patience, precision and deadeye shooting. Though Carril never had the fastest dribblers or highest leapers, the complex motions of the "Princeton offense" tired out opposing defenses, creating open shots for his players. Often, those shots were layups, produced by basketball's ultimate yin-yang play, the backdoor. You think I'm coming to the wing for an outside shot, and since I can shoot, you're playing me tight, so ... bang, now I'm cutting to the basket, and you're trailing me the whole time. Gotcha.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM


We just received:

Which expands on a popular essay from The Atlantic, In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why. (Professor X, June 2008, The Atlantic)

I work at colleges of last resort. For many of my students, college was not a goal they spent years preparing for, but a place they landed in. Those I teach don’t come up in the debates about adolescent overachievers and cutthroat college admissions. Mine are the students whose applications show indifferent grades and have blank spaces where the extracurricular activities would go. They chose their college based not on the U.S. News & World Report rankings but on MapQuest; in their ideal academic geometry, college is located at a convenient spot between work and home. I can relate, for it was exactly this line of thinking that dictated where I sent my teaching résumé.

Some of their high-school transcripts are newly minted, others decades old. Many of my students have returned to college after some manner of life interregnum: a year or two of post-high-school dissolution, or a large swath of simple middle-class existence, 20 years of the demands of home and family. They work during the day and come to class in the evenings. I teach young men who must amass a certain number of credits before they can become police officers or state troopers, lower-echelon health-care workers who need credits to qualify for raises, and municipal employees who require college-level certification to advance at work.

My students take English 101 and English 102 not because they want to but because they must. Both colleges I teach at require that all students, no matter what their majors or career objectives, pass these two courses. For many of my students, this is difficult. Some of the young guys, the police-officers-to-be, have wonderfully open faces across which play their every passing emotion, and when we start reading “Araby” or “Barn Burning,” their boredom quickly becomes apparent. They fidget; they prop their heads on their arms; they yawn and sometimes appear to grimace in pain, as though they had been tasered. Their eyes implore: How could you do this to me?

We'll be hosting the BrothersJudd NCAA Bracket contest again this year, with books as prizes:

PWD: ericjulia

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


North Caucasus: one war lost, another one begins (Andrei Piontkovsky, 16 March 2011 , OpenDemocracy)

What was the reason we fought two Chechen wars? Russia’s territorial integrity, supposedly. However, territorial integrity is not the same as scorched earth without people. We went to war to prove to the Chechens that they are Russian citizens. But we did it by destroying their cities by using airborne power and Grad missiles and by abducting peaceful civilians whose bodies were later found showing signs of torture.

We have consistently proved to the Chechens the exact opposite of what we have proclaimed, demonstrating with our entire behaviour that they are not Russian citizens, that we have long ceased to regard them as Russian citizens and their cities and villages as Russian cities and villages. And we have conclusively proved this not just to the Chechens, but to all the natives of the Caucasus.

There is no more a Russia than there was a USSR.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


An Interview with Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (Richard Madsen, Spring 2011, The Hedgehog Review)

Madsen: Your new book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, is going to be an indispensable reference for anyone who wants to talk seriously about American religion in years to come. Would you summarize some of the main findings in the book, the things that really surprised you?

Putnam: Religion is, of course, a very big part of American life, and in many respects, the book shows that religion makes an important contribution to American democracy. But religion taken in high doses, as you can tell by just looking around the world, is often toxic to democratic comity, so we wanted to know whether and how Americans were able to combine three things that are not typically found together. Americans are religiously devout and religiously diverse but also religiously tolerant.

We found a very high level of tolerance and open-mindedness across religious lines. Americans overwhelmingly believe that people of other religions can go to heaven, and that doesn’t mean just Methodists saying that a few Lutherans are going to make it into heaven. Large numbers, the majority even, of evangelical Protestants say that non-Christians can go to heaven if they’re a good person.

If you looked at the headlines about culture wars, you’d think that most Americans were in one of two extreme categories: They believe there’s very little or no truth in any religion—that amounts to about 6 percent or 7 percent of Americans. Or they believe that one religion is true, namely theirs, and other religions are not true—that’s only about 12 percent of Americans. The overwhelming majority of Americans are actually in the middle, saying there are basic truths in many religions. I was quite shocked that even very religious people say an American without religious faith can nevertheless be a good American. There’s a lot of tolerance across various denominational lines and even across the line between being religious and not being religious. We tried to understand this by exploring the growth of interpersonal connections in families and among friends that cross religious lines, and I think we showed reasonable evidence that this is probably a causal relationship: that making friends with someone who is in a different faith tradition actually does encourage you to be more tolerant across religious lines.

I think both of us would want to emphasize, especially in this venue, that we build on a lot of work that has been done over the last several decades by a lot of other scholars, so to some extent, we are restating and providing new evidence in favor of some generalizations that other folks have made.

Campbell: We were surprised at the evidence we found both in our data and in other data, like the General Social Survey, that your politics can affect your religion. It can go in two directions. On the one hand, it can lead some folks to say, “well, I don’t want to be a part of religion,” because they don’t like what they see as the influence of politics on religion. But it actually also goes the other way. We do find evidence that people who are themselves politically conservative over at least a short period of time become a little more religious. That accumulates year after year, and they become increasingly so and separate from those who are liberal and not religious.

Putnam: For a long time I couldn’t believe that people were making choices about their religious behavior on the basis of their politics because I couldn’t imagine that people would be making choices that might affect their eternal fate on the basis of how they felt about George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Yet, our data show that people make choices either to attend church or not to attend church based in part on their political views. That’s part of the larger story that we tell about how, over the last half century, one major earthquake—the 60s—was followed by two aftershocks—the rise of evangelical Protestantism in the 70s and 80s and then the rise of what we and others call the young “nones,” that is, young people who say they have no religious affiliation at all.

Campbell: When people’s personal friendship networks become more religiously diverse, that seems to make them more accepting of other faiths, but it also turns out that if you add friends within a congregation, more church friends, you actually become more civically engaged.

People who are religious are more likely to be involved in their communities, they’re more likely to be volunteers, and they’re more likely to engage in philanthropic giving. They’re actually more likely to give blood and behave in other ways that we might call simply being nice, but the explanation for exactly why that is the case has remained murky. One possibility is that it’s the beliefs that religious people hold. They believe in the need to be like the Good Samaritan, or they believe that, if they do good things here on earth, they’ll be rewarded in heaven. We actually thought that seemed quite plausible, so we tested a variety of beliefs to try to explain the relationship between being religious and doing good things in your community. It turns out that beliefs are not the things that actually drive that relationship. Instead, it’s your social networks, not simply having lots of friends, but whether or not you have a lot of friends in your religious congregation.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


A Clever End Run Around the Movie-Streaming Gremlins (DAVID POGUE, 3/16/11, NY Times)

[W]hat if I told you that there’s a new streaming-movie service,, that eliminates every single one of those drawbacks? It lets you listen to the director’s commentary, turn on subtitles and change languages. It lets you enjoy your movie for two weeks instead of 24 hours, starting and stopping at will. It offers the 100 biggest movies for streaming on the very same day the DVD comes out. It sidesteps any meddling by the movie companies, HBO contracts and studio lawyers.

And here’s the best news of all — are you sitting down on your favorite movie couch? The price is only $2 for one movie or $1 if you buy a 10-pack. There’s no signup fee, no monthly fee, no hardware to buy.

Zediva’s secret is so outrageous, you may think it’s an early April Fool’s prank. But it’s no joke.

At its California data center, Zediva has set up hundreds of DVD players. They’re automated, jukebox-style. You’re not just renting a movie; you’re actually taking control of the player that contains the movie you want. The DVD is simply sending you the audio and video signals, as if it were connected to your home with a really, really long cable.

It’s kind of hilarious to think that this arrangement is the solution to the future of online movies: data centers stacked to the ceiling with DVD players. (And you think it’s hard for you to find the right remote on the coffee table?)

This sneaky setup neatly explains how you get those languages, subtitles and director’s commentaries.

It also explains why Zediva isn’t subject to the availability windows and restrictions that hobble the cheap movie services like Redbox and Netflix. Zediva is just buying dozens of copies of each popular movie on the day it comes out, and presto, it’s yours to rent by long distance.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


The true heroes of the Battle of Marathon: The Athenian victory put the fledgling democracy beyond any threat of challenge or coup (Peter Thonemann , 3/16/11, TLS)

[A]s Peter Krentz argues in The Battle of Marathon, Billows’s picture of the classical Greek hoplite as a kind of bronze-clad human Panzer is untenable. The full hoplite panoply may have weighed as little as twenty-eight pounds, and most of the 22,000 Athenians at Marathon would have carried only part of the full kit: spear, shield and maybe a helmet. The Athenian democratic army at Marathon probably looked little different from any Greek military force of the preceding three centuries: a loose formation of poorly trained, variously equipped farmers and fishermen, with the odd flash of aristocratic bronze among a lot of leather and cornel-wood. Greek hoplite forces of the early fifth century had not really evolved far from the rag-tag armies of Homer’s Iliad; certainly not enough to inspire a political and cultural revolution.

Krentz’s disencumbering of the Athenian hoplite seriously undermines Billows’s military determinism, and incidentally goes a long way towards vindicating Herodotus’ account of the Athenian charge at Marathon. Indeed, in most respects, it is hard to imagine that Krentz’s account of the events of that sweltering day can be improved on: the maddeningly elusive topography of the Marathon plain, in particular, has never been better treated. If only he had taken the democratic character of the Athenian army a little more seriously. Both Krentz and Billows credit the victory over the Persians to the generalship of an unattractive Athenian aristocrat by the name of Miltiades. “Miltiades had developed a uniquely innovative and complex plan of battle”; “Miltiades decided to take the risk of thinning out his phalanx”; “Miltiades deserves to receive more credit as a brilliant general and leader than he generally gets”.

I disagree. Miltiades was not in command of the Athenian forces. In his account of the lead-up to the battle, even Herodotus (no detractor of Miltiades and his family) makes it quite clear that the army was run on strictly democratic lines. Operational strategy was formulated by vote among the ten elected generals of the ten tribal contingents, Miltiades among them. The most that Herodotus claims is that when the ten tribal generals found themselves divided five against five over whether to force a battle, it was Miltiades who persuaded the overall commander of the army, Kallimachos the War Archon, to deliver his casting vote in favour. On the day of the battle itself, Miltiades held the presidency of the ten generals, but the army remained under the overall command of the War Archon, an elected official of the Athenian state.

We should insist on this radical dimension to the Battle of Marathon and its commemoration. This was a victory without a hero. No single individual, not even Miltiades, ever succeeded in claiming the victory as his own. The other nine tribal generals, democratically elected and exercising collective leadership by vote, were quietly forgotten. Despite a lavish monument in his honour on the Athenian Acropolis, even Kallimachos, who died in the course of the battle, never became a name to conjure with. At the unveiling of Kallimachos’ monument at the new Acropolis Museum at Athens in October last year, Pavlos Geroulanos, the Greek Minister of Culture, got it exactly right: “Today we are not unveiling the monument of just another ancient general, but rather a monument to a democratic decision, a democratic vote, that changed the course of history”.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


SXSW 2011: Yuck, Live In Concert (Stephen Thompson, 3/16/11, NPR)

Standing out for reasons far greater than just drummer Jonny Rogoff's heroically gigantic Afro, Yuck captures the frayed noise and hooky, guitar-driven melodies of '90s rock, even though its members, at 20, are too young to have experienced it firsthand.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


Nate Dogg, Hip-Hop Collaborator, Dies at 41 (JON CARAMANICA, 3/17/11, NY Times)

Born Nathaniel Dwayne Hale on Aug. 19, 1969, Nate Dogg spent much of his childhood in Clarksdale, Miss., where he sang in the choir of the church where his father was the pastor, before moving back to Long Beach. There, following a stint in the Marines, he formed the group 213, after the local area code, with his high school friends the rappers Snoop Doggy Dogg and Warren G.

The group’s demo was heard by the superstar producer Dr. Dre, who eventually got Nate Dogg signed to the emerging hip-hop powerhouse Death Row Records. He made his recording debut in 1992 on Dr. Dre’s multiplatinum album “The Chronic” (Death Row/Interscope), which became the foundational document of G-funk, the smooth, lethargic style pioneered by Dr. Dre that was a central element in hip-hop’s crossover to the pop mainstream.

Nate Dogg remained in the orbit of Death Row Records for a few years, appearing on Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Doggystyle” and 2Pac’s “All Eyez on Me” among other albums. His 1994 duet with Warren G, the platinum single “Regulate” (Def Jam), was one of the most popular hip-hop songs of the era.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, as hip-hop began to experiment more with melody and as the lines between rap and R&B became more porous, Nate Dogg remained an in-demand collaborator, working with 50 Cent, Fabolous, E-40, Mos Def and dozens more. A chorus by Nate Dogg, in his signature voice that spanned tenor and baritone ranges, became an imprimatur of a certain brand of hip-hop: tough yet accessible, menacing yet alluring. He also served as a template for later generations of male singers who gained notice primarily as collaborators on rap songs — Akon, T-Pain and Bruno Mars, among others — though none had his stoic force.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 AM


With Fifth Third Out, Banks Have Repaid 99% of TARP (JEFF BATER AND JOHN KELL, 3/16/11, WSJ)

Six banks repaid nearly half a billion dollars in funds they received from the government bailout of Wall Street, the Treasury Department said, bringing the total bank repayment under the Troubled Asset Relief Program to 99%.

...and only the Beltway Right could have opposed it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 AM


Democrats wonder: What's our plan? (JONATHAN ALLEN, 3/17/11, Politico)

Democrats in Congress are grappling with a question as they negotiate a spending deal: Who's in charge?

The top two Democratic leaders in the House have twice split on whether to approve short-term government funding bills that cut billions from federal accounts. Senate Democrats haven’t put forward a long-term spending plan that can move through their chamber, and Democrats on both sides of the Capitol say they have no idea where the White House stands or who’s running the show.

The result is a rank and file that is confused about its direction and unhappy with the leadership — or lack of it — on when to go along with the Republican-controlled House on budget matters and when to stand and fight.

March 16, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


Reel China: Hollywood tries to stay on China's good side: Without Beijing even uttering a critical word, MGM is changing the villains in its 'Red Dawn' remake from Chinese to North Korean. It's all about maintaining access to the Asian superpower's lucrative box office. (Ben Fritz and John Horn, 3/16/11, Los Angeles Times)

When MGM decided a few years ago to remake "Red Dawn," a 1984 Cold War drama about a bunch of American farm kids repelling a Soviet invasion, the studio needed new villains, since the U.S.S.R. had collapsed in 1991. The producers substituted Chinese aggressors for the Soviets and filmed the movie in Michigan in 2009.

But potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies, not to mention other U.S. products.

As a result, the filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from "Red Dawn," substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


SunShot: Lowering the Price of Electricity from the Sun: The U.S. Department of Energy aims to make electricity from the sun cheaper than that from burning coal or natural gas (David Biello, March 14, 2011, Scientific American)

Silicon translates sunshine into electricity—and Earth receives enough sunshine in a daylight hour to supply all of humanity's energy needs for a year. But despite being as common as sand, photovoltaic panels made from silicon—or any of a host of other semiconducting materials—are not cheap, especially when compared with the cost of electricity produced by burning coal or natural gas. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) aims to change that by bringing down the cost of solar electricity via a new program dubbed "SunShot," an homage to President John Kennedy's "moon shot" pledge in 1961.

"If you can get solar electricity down at [$1 per watt], and it scales without subsidies, gosh, I think that's pretty good for the climate," notes Arun Majumdar, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA–e), the DoE's high-risk research effort. "With SunShot, the goal is to reduce the cost of solar to [$1 per watt] in the next six years." [...]

Already, electricity from the sun costs roughly the same as that generated from burning fossil fuels in places like Hawaii, which remains the only state to rely on imported oil for the bulk of its power. And solar power represents the fastest-growing sector of electricity generation. U.S. solar production in 2010 increased by nearly one gigawatt (billion watts), although that represents roughly the amount of electricity one nuclear power plant can produce. But even at that pace of adoption—spurred by both federal and state government largesse—solar still produces less than 1 percent of all U.S. electricity. And in 2035, by which time the DoE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that solar will have grown fastest among all energy resources (increasing sevenfold), all renewables put together, solar included, will only provide 14 percent of U.S. electricity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


U.S. a safer haven amid global financial turmoil (Tom Petruno and Nathaniel Popper, 3/15/11, Los Angeles Times)

Global upheaval "makes the U.S. a better safe haven," said Gail Dudack, head of Dudack Research Group in New York.

Investors often gravitate to the biggest and most liquid securities in times of trouble, which typically means markets in the U.S., Japan and Europe.

But Japan can't play that role now, given the massive uncertainty about its economy in the near term.

And concerns about Europe's government debt crisis still pervade those markets, despite the European Union's decision last week to beef up a bailout fund for the most financially distressed countries.

Late Tuesday, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Portugal's debt rating to A3 from A1 and said the outlook was negative. Although the country may be able to reduce its crushing debt costs by using the EU's bailout fund, "Questions would remain as to when the government would be able to re-access the capital markets and on what terms," Moody's said.

Although the U.S. government's soaring debt burden remains a source of deep concern to many investors, Uncle Sam still has no trouble borrowing. And as stock markets have crumbled in recent weeks, safety-seeking investors have flocked back to Treasury securities, pushing their yields down.

The annualized yield on five-year T-notes plunged to a six-week low of 1.98% on Monday from 2.05% on Friday. The yield fell further early Tuesday before ending at 1.96%.

Falling interest rates mean bonds are rising in value.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM


Barack Obama, Where Have You Gone? Oh, There. (Sharon O'Connell, March 14, 2011, Huffington Post)

Young Barack learned to create his life by conciliation, by avoiding all appearance of being an angry young black man. By always avoiding conflict. By developing an abiding belief in his own gifts -- powers of charm and persuasion and conciliation -- to wend his way to what he wants. This is why our president, a fondness for whom many are no longer insisting upon, may not 'feel' clear and simple anger and has not yet channeled it to power. He has never had to before. Still, too much wending can result in a different kind of want, all process and no delivery -- the avoidance of the power of real power.

Some of this we already know, but have we acknowledged the real hold this has on Obama, and how much it explains where he lives?

He got what he wanted, another line on his resume.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Who’s the greatest living player for each team? (Craig Calcaterra, Mar 16, 2011, Hardball Talk)

Giants: Say Hey! And actually, the Mays-Bonds combo may rival the Musial-Pujols one depending on how we define “greatest.”
Dodgers: Harder than you’d think. Their good teams were always populated by lots of good players, not one mega-stud. Koufax? Dare I say … Garvey? Help me people.
Padres: Has to be Tony Gwynn.
Rockies: Todd Helton may be the most boring Greatest Living Player for any team.
Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson probably is the one Greatest Living Player who did the most good stuff for other teams. But you’ll have that when you’ve only been around since 1998.

...Mike Piazza trumps Sandy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Do We Still Need Unions? No.: Let’s end a privileged class. (Mark McKinnon, February 27, 2011, Newsweek)

Public unions are big money. Paul Krugman is correct: we do need “some counterweight to the political power of big money.” But in the Alice in Wonderland world where what’s up is down and what’s down is up, Krugman believes public unions do not represent big money. Of the top 20 biggest givers in federal-level politics over the past 20 years, 10 are unions; just four are corporations. The three biggest public unions gave $171.5 million for the 2010 elections alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s big money. [...]

The primary purpose of public unions today, as ugly as it sounds, is to work against the financial interests of taxpayers: the more public employees are paid in wages and uncapped benefits, the less taxpayers keep of the money they earn. It’s time to call an end to the privileged class.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Our real employment problem? Too many people e-mailing spreadsheets: Our labor force is increasingly dominated by so-called metaworkers who analyze the work of others and get paid more – often enormously more – than the people who actually work. (Rod Beecham / March 16, 2011, CS Monitor)

Government bureaucracy, as we have long known, is characterized by an excess of metaworkers and a dearth of workers who can actually improve people's lives. But, in an era of layoffs, downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, and offshore operations, this bureaucratic phenomenon has invaded the private sector, filling offices and balance sheets with staff members who use computers to generate spreadsheets and Word documents, send e-mail, and arrange meetings.

In US agriculture, you are more likely to be a quality systems coordinator than a tractor driver. In manufacturing, you are more likely to be a quality and process supervisor than a welder. In health care, it feels as though it won't be long before general managers outnumber nurses. And if present trends in education continue, operational coordinator numbers will soon rival those of teachers.

Meta, meaning "not."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


Sarah Palin’s 2012 Hopes Dimming? Favorability Slips In New Poll (MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER, 3/16/11, ABC News)

According to fresh numbers from a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Palin’s favorability rating among members of her own party has fallen to a new low. Not only that, but negative views of Palin are much higher than those of other possible Republican presidential candidates.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 37 percent see Palin unfavorably, exceeding former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s unfavorable rating by 11 points, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s by 16 points and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s by 19 points. [...]

“The results,” according to ABC News’ polling analyst Gary Langer, “indicate continued challenges for Palin in public opinion. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll in December, 59 percent of Americans said they would not consider voting for her for president (including 36 percent of leaned Republicans); Barack Obama led her in general election preferences by a 15-point margin. Last fall, moreover, 67 percent described her as unqualified for the position, including 49 percent of leaned Republicans.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


I Have Come to Praise High Gasoline Prices, Not to Lower Them (IRWIN M. STELZER, 3/16/11, Weekly Standard)

First, high gasoline prices will help wean us off oil coming from countries that use the money we send them to finance terror attacks and the preaching of the doctrines of radical Islam. They will help us to import less, and increase the incentives to conservation and domestic investment in exploration and development. No, they won’t make us energy independent -- that is a ridiculous and anyhow unattainable goal. But they will enable us to curb consumption, and to rely more for what we do use on countries that have no desire to see our political and social system consigned to the dustbin of history.

Second, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is not the answer. Sure, it might bring a temporary drop in prices, but we live in the long-run, not the short-run, no matter what John Maynard Keynes said about us all being dead in the long run. But the SPR should be reserved for times when supplies are cut off, such as in an embargo.

Third, the pinch caused by high gas prices can be offset by another cut in payroll taxes. Instead of attempting to roll back gasoline prices, reduce payroll taxes again and either get those checks mailed promptly or the fatten the pay envelopes immediately. That would offset any threat high prices pose to the recovery, while at the same time preserving the benefits of high gasoline price.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Bahrain Could Learn From Morocco's Model: The king is proposing major democratic reforms without a shot being fired. (AHMED CHARAI, 3/15/11, WSJ)

Amid uncertainty in Tunisia and Egypt, and a brutal dictator's war against his people in Libya, a phenomenon emerged last week in Morocco that might offer a new kind of hope for the region. Some locals have dubbed it the King's Revolution, and neighboring countries and Western policy makers would do well to examine its implications.

On March 9, the 47-year-old ruler, Mohammed VI, appeared on national television flanked by his brother and son. He tasked a group of esteemed Moroccans—including a former dissident who has bitterly fought the monarchy—to draft a new constitution that would cede roughly half the king's authority to an elected prime minister.

He called for a separation of powers, including an independent judiciary, a more even distribution of governance across the country's provinces, and a series of amendments that would enshrine individual liberties, human rights and gender equality. And in a nod to the region's indigenous inhabitants, the Berber, who make up 40% of the population, he called for their mother tongue of Amazigh to become an official language alongside Arabic.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Fewer Americans worry about climate change: poll (AFP, 16 March 2011)

Just 51 percent of Americans - or one percentage point more than in 1998 - said they worry a great deal or fair amount about climate change, Gallup's annual environment poll says.

In 2008, a year after former US vice president Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize, two-thirds of Americans were concerned about climate change.

The rate of concern among Americans has fallen steadily since then to 60 percent in 2009 and 52 percent last year.

The poll also found that for the first time since the late 1990s, a minority of Americans - 49 percent - believe global warming has already begun to impact the planet, down sharply from more than six in 10 Americans who three years ago said climate change was already impacting the globe.
...but they want us to believe that the environment is primarily a function of human activity?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


A Libyan Leader at War With Rebels, and Reality (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 3/06/11, NY Times)

Many of the people in Green Square lashed out at the Arabic news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, calling them liars that had confused and inflamed Libya’s young people. The crowd’s fist-pumping ardor was a testament to the strength of the mythology of epic heroism that Colonel Qaddafi has instilled since he seized power at the age of 27.

He did it in part by making sure that his was virtually the only voice in public life. News reports try not to refer to other top government officials, or even soccer players, by name, ensuring that Colonel Qaddafi is virtually the only public figure in Libya.

Colonel Qaddafi has also built a persona, in particular as a revolutionary still tilting at distant colonial powers, that in some ways resonates with Libyans who remember their bitter experiences under Italian rule. His personal mythology has helped him stay on top of a fractious, tribal and deeply divided society for longer than any other living leader in North Africa or the Middle East.

“He may have been mad,” said Prof. Diederick Vandewalle, of Dartmouth, a Libya specialist. “But there was certainly a method.”

It is hard to know what combination of fear, opportunism and sincere adoration drives supporters to attend the Qaddafi rallies that have erupted across Tripoli this week — the manic crowds chanting “God and Muammar and Libya, enough.” But the cult of Qaddafi began to take shape in 1975, just six years after the bloodless coup that brought him to power, when he published the Green Book, a grandiose and quasi-coherent work of a Stalin who aspired to become a Marx.

Government institutes were set up for its exegesis. A generation of Libyans grew up studying it as a great work of social and political theory. Tabletlike statues of its three volumes were erected in seemingly every town.

And in keeping with its precepts, Colonel Qaddafi eventually gave up any official title in the Libyan government, giving rise to one of the prime examples of Libyan doublespeak. While everyone in Libya regards Colonel Qaddafi as the all-powerful ruler behind every decision of state, he often answers critics calling on him to surrender power by saying it is too late — he already has.

After he led the revolution, he said in a speech last week, “I went back to my tent.”

Behind his aloof and flamboyant public image, though, Colonel Qaddafi has remained not only in charge but intimately involved in even minor details of the Libyan government. Cables from the United States Embassy in Tripoli that were published by WikiLeaks reported that he personally managed the cases of high-profile political prisoners, and even dictated the response to a specific travel request from the embassy.

He personally vets every Libyan government contract worth more than $200 million and examines many of much less value as well, the cables said. He doles out “plum contracts” to loyalists who can extract various fees for themselves, in part to buy their support, the cables said. He also displayed a mastery of details involved in complicated transactions, like an attempt to revive an aborted 1970s deal to buy C-130 cargo planes from the United States.

“Al-Qadhafi’s mastery of tactical maneuvering has kept him in power for nearly 40 years; however, the unholy alliance of corruption and cult-of-personality politics on which the system has been based is ultimately limiting,” Ambassador Gene Cretz wrote in one cable, adding, “The reality is that no potential successor currently enjoys sufficient credibility in his own right to maintain that delicate equilibrium.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


End of the Road: Some thoughts on the death of the station wagon. (Greg Beato, Smart Set)

The station wagon is dead — again — and like the many demises it has already suffered in its long fruitful life, this one comes with an asterisk. The reason for the asterisk is that there are still dozens of vehicles on the market that answer to the name “station wagon.” The reason for the declaration of death — and subsequent obituaries — is Volvo’s recent announcement that it will soon stop selling station wagons in the U.S.

In 1999, the niche purveyor of sensible transport for NPR-Americans sold 40,000 station wagons and felt its fortunes were on the rise thanks to the quirky, post-ironic aesthetic sensibilities of a new generation of car buyers. “It used to be that when you were married and expecting your first child, it was time for a Volvo wagon,” company spokesman Daniel Johnston told the Wall Street Journal in 2000. “Now Gen-Xers are buying them because they think wagons look cool.” Jump-cut to 2010 when, according to Fortune, Volvo sold just 480 station wagons in the U.S. Clearly, Gen X has moved on.

While Volvo never sold the kind of boxy land barges that exist in our collective consciousness as the archetypal station wagon, the company has been selling its own take on the form since the days when those massive machines were bruising highways from coast to coast. And thus its departure from the market feels momentous, or at the very least, it gives us an opportunity to mourn the passing of a vehicle we find easy to live without and yet hard to let go of.

What is it about the mid-century station wagon that calls to us so strongly?

We just looked for a car to replace our Yukon--which is just too big for The Wife to be comfortable driving and which doesn't have three benches (like our Suburban did), so I don't love it. We routinely--as in multiple afternoons per week and weekends--carry three to five kids/teens and karate, ski or hockey equipment. But modern vehicles are seemingly built on the core assumption that no car will ever have more than two people, and maybe two small children, in it. Where's a Country Squire when you need one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 AM


Heavy Duty: In 1930, Willis Hawley predicted that his tariff bill would bring 'a renewed era of prosperity.' (JAMES GRANT, 3/15/11, WSJ)

Passage of the Republican-sponsored Fordney- McCumber tariff of 1922, which had lifted the average tariff rate by 64%, had approximately coincided with the start of the gorgeous prosperity of the 1920s. Smoot-Hawley, in contrast, raised the average dutiable rate by a mere 15%-18%, Mr. Irwin reckons. It wasn't the handiwork of Smoot and Hawley that brought down the world, in the author's opinion, "futile" though that bill was. "The magnitude of the tariff shock in the Smoot-Hawley legislation, which increased the domestic price of imports by 5% at a time when dutiable imports were just 1.4% of GDP, was simply not large enough to trigger the kind of economic contraction experienced after 1930," Mr. Irwin concludes.

If not the Smoot-Hawley tariff, then who or what put the "Great" in Great Depression? Mr. Irwin tosses out a number of possibilities, including the monetary arrangements of the day, which promoted lending and borrowing in ways that the pre-World War I monetary regime never did.

...and there's no other result you can get.

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March 15, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


Hispanic Population Surges to Outnumber Whites in New Mexico (Arlette Saenz , 3/15/11, ABC news)

The number of Hispanics in New Mexico surged to become the largest group in the state, making up 46.3 percent of the population. Whites now make up 40.5 percent of the state.

This is a stark change since 2000 when 44.7 percent of the state’s population consisted of whites. At that time, Hispanics made up only 42.1 percent of the population.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


The Fourth Wave: Where the Middle East revolts fit in the history of democratization—and how we can support them. (Carl Gershman, March 14, 2011, New Republic)

It is early to assess the global impact on democracy of this new Arab awakening, but there are four reasons to think that what has happened in the Middle East could have much broader ramifications for democratic progress. The first is that the events in the Middle East offer powerful and, I would argue, conclusive evidence supporting the idea that democracy is a universal value. The Arab Middle East was the only major region of the world that the Third Wave had bypassed completely, leading some commentators to coin the phrase “Arab exceptionalism” to characterize this phenomenon. The Economist magazine, in an article that appeared, ironically, just two weeks before the beginning of the uprising in Tunisia, summarized the various arguments that had been offered to explain the democracy deficit in the Arab world—among them the undemocratic character of Islam and Arab culture, the colonial inheritance of artificial borders and states that weakened a focus on citizen rights, the manipulation by Arab rulers of the conflict with Israel and the fear of the Islamists, and the abundance of oil which both enriched the regimes and freed them from having to serve the needs of tax-paying citizens. All of these are strong arguments, but the fact that they have now been refuted by millions of Arab citizens ready to risk their lives for freedom affirms with remarkable force the message that all people have dignity and should be treated with respect. This message has certainly been heard in countries far beyond the Middle East.

A second reason the Middle East events have the potential to mushroom involves popular attitudes towards democracy. The protests succeeded in Tunisia and Egypt, and stimulated further protests in other countries, partly because democracy enjoys broad popular support in the Middle East. Such support was reflected in the Casablanca Call for Democracy and Human Rights that was approved in October, two months before the start of the uprisings, and approved by over 2,200 Arab intellectuals. In addition, the World Values Survey and other opinion polls conducted over the past decade in Algeria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine and Kuwait show that between 80 and 90 percent of the people want their countries to be ruled by democratic systems. These numbers are similar to the level of support for democracy in other regions. Summarizing the data, Larry Diamond observed last summer that “Public opinion surveys in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the post-communist states, and the Arab states all show majorities of the public within each region prefer democracy as the best form of government. Strikingly, this is true even in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia, and in Arab countries with no direct experience of democracy.” Thus, the demand for democracy that we’ve seen in the Middle East could easily spread to countries in other regions that are still ruled by authoritarian governments.

This suggests a third reason democracy could spread, which is that autocratic regimes in the world today are all, to one degree or another, vulnerable and unstable. This is true, for example, of the three regimes I mentioned earlier that took repressive measures at the end of last year. Putin may be in control in Russia, but he has lost the support of the political elite which fears that his return to the presidency will usher in a period of Brezhnev-like stagnation and continued economic and societal decline. Lukashenko’s decision to crack down in Belarus was taken to head off a popular challenge to the election result, which most opinion analysis and observer reports showed did not give him a victory in the first round. And Chavez assumed decree powers to neutralize the National Assembly, where the opposition has a far greater presence after its victory in the popular vote in last September’s parliamentary election.

Other autocracies are also showing signs of trouble. Fidel Castro has conceded that “the Cuban model doesn’t work for us anymore;” and the China model, for all its economic success, appears less stable in light of what The Economist called Beijing’s “disastrous” response to Liu Xiaobo’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, which it said “betrays the government’s insecurity at home.” The Iranian regime succeeded in repressing the Green Revolution, just as the military in Burma crushed the Saffron Revolution two years earlier. But both uprisings had mass popular support and exposed the inherent illegitimacy of each regime. The inexorable erosion of the grotesque dictatorship in North Korea continues apace, with South Korea discreetly preparing for the eventual reunification even as international attention remains focused on the nuclear threat from the North. Tocqueville’s recollection of the 1848 revolutions applies to many contemporary autocracies: “Society was cut in two: those who had nothing were united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror.”

The principal new factor responsible for the vulnerability of autocratic regimes today is the rapid growth of new communications technologies and social networks, and this is the fourth reason to think that the contagiousness of the Middle East uprisings could spread. These technologies were a key factor in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. Without the Internet, the corruption of Ben Ali and his cronies would not have inflamed public opinion the way it did, leading to the sudden eruption of outrage following the death of Mohamed Bouazizi. And before the Internet, the murder in Alexandria by two police officers of Khaled Sa’id, a young blogger who had posted a video of them sharing the spoils of a drug bust, would have received little attention. But in this new age a half-million Egyptians joined the “We Are All Khaled Sa’id” Facebook page, and it was this page that initiated the January 25 revolution.

Of course not every networked movement is successful. The fact that the Green Revolution in Iran used Twitter, Facebook pages and blogs to great effect as tools for mobilization did not prevent its being crushed by the police and Basij. And China employs more than 50,000 cyber police to enforce the government’s Great Firewall of Internet censorship to control and keep tabs on what is now, at some 400 million people, the world’s largest population of Internet users. We can expect these and other autocratic regimes to use all the means at their disposal to prevent the use of the Internet by political opponents, including hacking and social malware attacks on opposition websites and even shutting down the Internet entirely, as the Burmese and Egyptian governments did during their respective uprisings. Nonetheless, they cannot change the underlying reality, which is that there is a sharpening the contradiction today between closed and repressive states and increasingly networked, informed and awakened populations, creating a revolutionary crisis of the political order.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Whether Chronic Diseases Are Diagnosed May Depend on Where You Live: Regions with most diagnoses had lower fatality rates, but why is unclear, researchers say (Jenifer Goodwin, March 15, 2011, HealthDay)

It would stand to reason that whether a person is diagnosed with a chronic disease has to do with how ill they are, the researchers said.

But instead, the findings suggest that chronic disease diagnosis is influenced by the "intensity of health care" in a particular region, which includes how many doctors and specialists are operating in a particular region, access to those doctors and the likelihood of doctors to send you to a specialist or to order lab and imaging tests.

"The study suggests disease diagnosis is not only a property of the patient, but associated with the intensity with which health care is delivered in a region," said senior study author Dr. John Wennberg, a professor emeritus and founder of the Dartmouth Institute. "For example, if in certain regions people see lots of doctors, have lots of visits to doctors and lots of lab tests, that could be because there is a perfect relationship between illness and the amount of care that's delivered. But it could be that the more doctors you see, the more diagnoses you get."

The study, conducted by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt., and colleagues, appears in the March 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging.

One goes to the doctor to have her find something "wrong."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


In 20 years, 20% more men than women (Kounteya Sinha, 3/15/11, TNN)

India will have 20% more men than women in the next two decades, thanks to sex-selective abortion and craze for male child in some states, according to a new study.

Conducted by Dr Therese Hesketh and co-authors from the UCL Centre for International Health and Development, London, and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Tuesday, the study says easy access to sex-selective abortions, has led to significant imbalances in the male/female population in China, India and South Korea.

...since China will have a similar problem, they can solve it in the traditional manner, via war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


No Face, but Plants Like Life Too (CAROL KAESUK YOON, 3/15/11, NY Times)

My entry into what seemed the moral high ground, though, was surprisingly unpleasant. I felt embattled not only by a bizarrely intense lust for chicken but nightmares in which I would be eating a gorgeous, rare steak — I could distinctly taste the savory drippings — from which I awoke in a panic, until I realized that I had been carnivorous only in my imagination.

Temptations and trials were everywhere. The most surprising turned out to be the realization that I couldn’t actually explain to myself or anyone else why killing an animal was any worse than killing the many plants I was now eating.

Surely, I’d thought, science can defend the obvious, that slaughterhouse carnage is wrong in a way that harvesting a field of lettuces or, say, mowing the lawn is not. But instead, it began to seem that formulating a truly rational rationale for not eating animals, at least while consuming all sorts of other organisms, was difficult, maybe even impossible.

If only she'd stopped there and had a burger to celebrate her revelation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


House overcomes Tea Party opposition to pass short-term spending bill (Stephanie Condon, 3/15/11, CBS News)

Following a debate in which Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for the nation's out-of-whack balance sheets, the House today passed a bill to keep the federal government funded for another three weeks while cutting $6 billion from this year's budget.

The bill's passage came in spite of dissent from Tea Party Republicans who said they could not support piecemeal spending cuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Thousands in W. Bank, Gaza protest Hamas-Fatah rift (JPOST.COM, 03/15/2011)

Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah, Gaza City, and Bethlehem Tuesday to stage protests calling for an end to the division between Hamas and Fatah.

Palestinian news sources reported that mostly young people organized the events and comprised the demonstrators, calling the rallies the "March 15 Youth Movement" and chanting "no to division, no to split." [...]

The official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported that the protests were organized "for the sake of restoring unity on the way towards liberation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Crushing the Democrats' Base: Republicans aren't just attacking Democrats' policies -- they're attacking the fundamentals of what it means to be a Democrat. (Paul Waldman, March 15, 2011, American Prospect)

Put simply, Republicans are conducting a radical attack on the Democratic Party, aimed at the roots of Democratic power and sustenance. The battle is occurring in Washington and around the country, and even if the right doesn't succeed completely, the fight will almost certainly leave Democrats weakened and defensive.

Look at the targets conservatives have taken aim at in the last couple of years: access to the ballot box, unions, organizations representing the poor, organizations protecting reproductive rights, and more. The assault is not just on ideas or policies (though there's plenty of that, too) but on the institutions that undergird the Democratic Party and the progressive movement.'s on to crushing the machine. The fact that the Democratic Party is just an agglomeration of interest groups is its fundamental weakness, because those groups share so few interests that it's easy to pit them against each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


President Obama staying in background on deficits (CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, 3/15/11, Politico)

When President Barack Obama opened the first meeting of his fiscal commission last April, he promised to be “standing with them” as they produced recommendations for curbing the nation’s escalating debt.

Republicans and Democrats say they are still waiting. [...]

Obama’s reluctance to join the debate in a sustained way has provoked rising frustration among lawmakers from both parties, who are speaking more forcefully about what they view as his absenteeism on one of the most pressing issues before them.

March 14, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM

SOUL STOOGES (appropriateness alert):

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, "Scandalous" (L. Kent Wolgamott, 3/14/11, Journal Star)

James Brown meets John Lee Hooker meets The Stooges in Texas.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


What the Luddites Really Fought Against: The label now has many meanings, but when the group protested 200 years ago, technology wasn't really the enemy (Richard Conniff, March 2011, Smithsonian magazine)

One technology the Luddites commonly attacked was the stocking frame, a knitting machine first developed more than 200 years earlier by an Englishman named William Lee. Right from the start, concern that it would displace traditional hand-knitters had led Queen Elizabeth I to deny Lee a patent. Lee’s invention, with gradual improvements, helped the textile industry grow—and created many new jobs. But labor disputes caused sporadic outbreaks of violent resistance. Episodes of machine-breaking occurred in Britain from the 1760s onward, and in France during the 1789 revolution.

As the Industrial Revolution began, workers naturally worried about being displaced by increasingly efficient machines. But the Luddites themselves “were totally fine with machines,” says Kevin Binfield, editor of the 2004 collection Writings of the Luddites. They confined their attacks to manufacturers who used machines in what they called “a fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labor practices. “They just wanted machines that made high-quality goods,” says Binfield, “and they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns.”

So if the Luddites weren’t attacking the technological foundations of industry, what made them so frightening to manufacturers? And what makes them so memorable even now? Credit on both counts goes largely to a phantom.

Ned Ludd, also known as Captain, General or even King Ludd, first turned up as part of a Nottingham protest in November 1811, and was soon on the move from one industrial center to the next. This elusive leader clearly inspired the protesters. And his apparent command of unseen armies, drilling by night, also spooked the forces of law and order. Government agents made finding him a consuming goal. In one case, a militiaman reported spotting the dreaded general with “a pike in his hand, like a serjeant’s halbert,” and a face that was a ghostly unnatural white.

In fact, no such person existed. Ludd was a fiction concocted from an incident that supposedly had taken place 22 years earlier in the city of Leicester. According to the story, a young apprentice named Ludd or Ludham was working at a stocking frame when a superior admonished him for knitting too loosely. Ordered to “square his needles,” the enraged apprentice instead grabbed a hammer and flattened the entire mechanism. The story eventually made its way to Nottingham, where protesters turned Ned Ludd into their symbolic leader.

The Luddites, as they soon became known, were dead serious about their protests. But they were also making fun, dispatching officious-sounding letters that began, “Whereas by the Charter”...and ended “Ned Lud’s Office, Sherwood Forest.” Invoking the sly banditry of Nottinghamshire’s own Robin Hood suited their sense of social justice. The taunting, world-turned-upside-down character of their protests also led them to march in women’s clothes as “General Ludd’s wives.”

They did not invent a machine to destroy technology, but they knew how to use one. In Yorkshire, they attacked frames with massive sledgehammers they called “Great Enoch,” after a local blacksmith who had manufactured both the hammers and many of the machines they intended to destroy. “Enoch made them,” they declared, “Enoch shall break them.”

This knack for expressing anger with style and even swagger gave their cause a personality. Luddism stuck in the collective memory because it seemed larger than life. And their timing was right, coming at the start of what the Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle later called “a mechanical age.”

People of the time recognized all the astonishing new benefits the Industrial Revolution conferred, but they also worried, as Carlyle put it in 1829, that technology was causing a “mighty change” in their “modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand.” Over time, worry about that kind of change led people to transform the original Luddites into the heroic defenders of a pretechnological way of life. “The indignation of nineteenth-century producers,” the historian Edward Tenner has written, “has yielded to “the irritation of late-twentieth-century consumers.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM

The Strokes are streaming their new album at their website.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


The silver lining of Japan’s earthquake: A massive earthquake and tsunami have accomplished what Japan's fiscal policy and central bank could not. Rebuilding a large swath of Japan will stimulate domestic growth and global demand, energy-efficient technologies, while helping to integrate China and Japan. (Nathan Gardels / March 14, 2011 , CS Monitor)

Japan has been wallowing in stagnation for years despite massive government stimulus programs and zero-interest rates because, simply put, in such an advanced, mature economy, there was too little demand to generate sufficient returns to attract private investment. Thus the famous “bridges to nowhere” and other projects that amounted to pushing a string.

By taking Japan’s mature economy down a notch, Mother Nature has accomplished what fiscal policy and the central bank could not. Now there are more bridges to somewhere to be built than one can count. Entire cities and regions need to be reconstructed in toto, from housing and commercial buildings to roads, rail lines, information networks, the energy grid, and even the tsunami warning system that must be digitally revamped. Twitter- and Facebook-like platforms will need to be integrated into a system reliant on old technologies like warning sirens and radio or TV broadcasts.

Best of all, the work will be done by mass immigrant labor. If the Japanese could adjust to the idea of that immigration being permanent their country would have a future. Otherwise, they're just polishing the brass on the Titanic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Good Cop, Bad Cop: On counterterrorism, the only difference between Republicans and Obama is rhetorical. (Adam Serwer, March 10, 2011, American Prospect)

The Obama administration kept the Bush-era FBI investigative guidelines, which are more lax on matters of racial and ethnic profiling. The rules allow FBI agents to initiate surveillance without suspicion of criminality, allow domestic intelligence gathering in religious spaces, and even allow agents to gather information on "concentrated ethnic communities."

The UR seemed to have realized two things early on in his presidency: (1) he was in way over his head; and (2), W had done a rather good job. To his credit, Mr. Obama then determined that he'd just try and serve his time as insignificantly as he could, leaving everything virtually unchanged from the way it was handed to him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


The Arabs Did It...What About the West? (Tariq Alhomayed, 3/14/11, Asharq Alawasat)

The Arab foreign ministers have now taken another important and responsible decision regarding Libya. After suspending Libya's membership to the Arab League, the Arabs decided to call on the international Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities by immediately imposing a no-fly zone on Libyan military planes, and to establish a safe zone in areas that are facing bombardment, in order to protect the Libyan people from the regime.

This of course is an important and responsible resolution. It followed a similar move, which in turn paved the way for this decision, namely the call made by the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] last week to the international community, to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace. Therefore, today the ball is in the court of the international community, which must carry out its duty to protect the people of Libya from the tyranny that it is being subjected to at the hands of the regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 AM


A Man, A Plan (David Remnick, March 21, 2011, The New Yorker)

The stubborn ideological legacy that, in part, blocks such a transformation runs deep. During Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minister, in the late nineteen-nineties, I met with him in his office, in Jerusalem, and he fondly recalled how his father encountered David Ben Gurion, in 1956, not long after Israel captured the Sinai. Ben Gurion had vowed to keep the Sinai for a thousand years, but Benzion was convinced that he would lose it. Why? Ben Gurion asked.

“Because the U.S. will force you to,” the elder Netanyahu said.

“Of course, he was right, unfortunately,” the son said. “That was the first and last time an Israeli Prime Minister succumbed to an American diktat.” This ingrained wariness toward Israel’s most stalwart ally and benefactor is just part of Netanyahu’s inheritance. On that same trip to Israel, Benzion, who is now a hundred and one, invited me to his house for lunch, and I am not sure that I have ever heard more outrageously reactionary table talk. The disdain for Arabs, for Israeli liberals, for any Americans to the left of the neoconservatives was chilling. The bitter ideological resentments were deepened by genuine loss: another of Benzion’s sons, Yoni, was the Israeli commando killed in the extraordinary rescue of the hostages at Entebbe, in 1976. In books, speeches, and action, Benjamin Netanyahu has proved himself his father’s son.

Now in his second term and ruling in a coalition government that includes anti-democratic, even proto-fascistic ministers, such as Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu has stubbornly refused the appeals of Washington and of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal. In the midst of a revolution in the Arab world, Netanyahu seems lost, defensive, and unable or unwilling to recognize the changing circumstances in which he finds himself.

The occupation—illegal, inhumane, and inconsistent with Jewish values—has lasted forty-four years. Netanyahu thinks that he can keep on going, secure behind a wall. Late last month, he called the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to register his displeasure that Germany had voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish settlements. According to an account in the Israeli daily Haaretz, a German source said that Merkel could hardly contain her outrage. “How dare you?” she said. “You are the one who has disappointed us. You haven’t made a single step to advance peace.” The U.S. vetoed the resolution, but sources in the Administration say that the vote was debated intensely.'s actually better that the Palestinians declare their state unilaterally than that they accept it as a product of negotiations with Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


Democrats vs. Obama on Trade: A 'no brainer' for everyone except the White House. (WSJ, 3/12/11)

The pressure on the White House to drop its passive-aggressive opposition to the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements is now officially bipartisan. That news came last week when Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus announced that "The time is here. The time is now. In fact, the time has passed to ratify the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. It's long passed. We're losing market share hand over fist."

The occasion was a hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Senatorial impatience was evident. "It is time to quickly resolve the outstanding issues on our pending FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and Korea, and we must approve all three agreements this year," Mr. Baucus told Mr. Kirk. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, on the way to another meeting, took the floor briefly and told Mr. Baucus that he wanted the "record to reflect" his desire "to associate myself with your remarks. I think they are very important and I appreciate them."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


How evolutionary theory's other discoverer could heal the Darwin divide (David Klinghoffer, 2/22/11, Washington Post)

The seemingly ineradicable opinion divide on evolution calls to mind Mark Twain's quip that everyone talks about the weather, mostly to complain, but nobody does anything about it. Pro-Darwinian educators were frustrated this week to find that most public high school biology instructors in their teaching do not wholeheartedly endorse evolution. The teachers reflect a stubborn division across American culture. For the past three decades, Americans have been locked into a basically unchanging split of views on the subject, with only about 16 percent believing in Darwin's theory of unguided evolution. [...]

Lately Wallace's renown has enjoyed a revival with a spate of new biographies, most recent among them "Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life" by University of Alabama science historian Michael Flannery (who's also a colleague of mine with the Discovery Institute). Yet Wallace's thinking remains unfamiliar to most people. That's too bad because he wonderfully transcends the familiar, tiring and false dichotomy pitting evolution versus creationism, science versus religion.

Wallace never backed off from his original insight about how natural selection works. However, culminating in 1910 with his magnum opus, "The World of Life: A Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose," he illuminated his own picture of evolution. The title of the book says it all. Wallace perceived that the world must be permeated by life and intelligence not perceptible directly to our senses but whose existence may be inferred from the biological phenomena that it shapes -- human consciousness above all, but also the intricate functioning of the living cell and the hemoglobin molecule, bird wings and feathers, butterfly coloration and insect metamorphosis and much more.

Beyond the "self-acting agency" of undirected evolution, he argued, there must be some "creative power," a "directive mind," and an "ultimate purpose." Wallace was not speaking about God. He rejected Christianity and all religious orthodoxy. He wrote, "To afford any rational explanation of [life's] phenomena, we require to postulate the continuous action and guidance of higher intelligences; and further, that these have probably been working towards a single end, the development of intellectual, moral, and spiritual beings."

After Wallace's death in 1913, his ideas were largely eclipsed, though they reflected more of the advanced science of their day than Darwin's did. Wallace lived for 30 years after Darwin died. Unlike Darwin, he survived to see dramatic advances in microscopy and cellular science that influenced his scientific perspective. In fact, from the middle 20th century on, fields as diverse as genetics, biochemistry, paleontology, taxonomy and cosmology have yielded their secrets and Wallace seems in the process of being vindicated.

His thinking seems more modern in other ways. While Darwin supplied a basis for later pseudo-scientific racism, inspiring eugenic movements in Europe and America, Wallace grew up poor and lived for years with supposedly primitive "Third World" peoples, praising their cultures as in some ways superior to European civilization. Wallace emphasized the dignity of all men and, as a committed socialist, agitated for political freedom and equality.

His view is not Biblical literalist creationism, certainly, nor intelligent design -- at least as the latter is portrayed by its critics. Professor Flannery calls it "intelligent evolution."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


PROMISES, PROMISES: Little transparency progress (AP, 3/13/11)

Two years into its pledge to improve government transparency, the Obama administration handled fewer requests for federal records from citizens, journalists, companies and others last year even as significantly more people asked for information. The administration disclosed at least some of what people wanted at about the same rate as the previous year.

People requested information 544,360 times last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act from the 35 largest agencies, up nearly 41,000 more than the previous year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of new federal data. But the government took action on nearly 12,400 fewer requests.

The administration refused to release any sought-after materials in more than 1-in-3 information requests, including cases when it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law. It refused more often to quickly consider information requests about subjects described as urgent or especially newsworthy. And nearly half the agencies that AP examined took longer — weeks more, in some cases — to give out records last year than during the previous year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 AM


'She's becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition' (JONATHAN MARTIN & JOHN F. HARRIS, 3/14/11, Politico)

Palin’s politics of grievance and group identity, according to these critics, is a betrayal of conservative principles. For decades, it was a standard line of the right that liberals cynically promoted victimhood to achieve their goals, and that they practiced the politics of identity—race, sex and class—over ideas.

Among those taking aim at Palin in recent interviews with POLITICO are George F. Will, the elder statesman of conservative columnists; Peter Wehner, a top strategist in George W. Bush’s White House, and Heather Mac Donald, a leading voice with the right-leaning Manhattan Institute.

Matt Labash, a longtime writer for the Weekly Standard, said that because of Palin’s frequent appeals to victimhood and group grievance, “She’s becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition.”

Conservative intellectuals, while having scant ability to drive large blocks of votes on their own, traditionally have played an outsized role in the early stages of Republican nominating contests. Their approval has lent credence to politicians from Ronald Reagan onward hoping to portray themselves as faithful adherents to an idea-driven conservative movement.

This year, the conservative intelligentsia doesn’t just tend to dislike Palin — many fear that her rise would represent the triumph of an intellectually empty brand of populism and the death of ideas as an engine of the right.

All of which makes her the perfect representative of the Tea Party, which is premised on the bizarre notion of the white middle class as victims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 AM


A Flowering of Freedom: Reconsidering Iraq amid Revolutions in the Middle East (Akim Reinhardt, March 2011, 3Quarks Daily)

Not invading another nation is also a policy that has an element of inherent morality to it.

March 13, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


Dead Men Risen: The snipers' story (Toby Harnden, 13 Mar 2011, The Telegraph)

The arrival at the newly-established Patrol Base Shamal Storrai (Pashto for “North Star”) in late August 2009 of Serjeant Tom Potter and Rifleman Mark Osmond marked the start of an astonishing episode in the history of British Army sniping.

Within 40 days, the two marksmen from 4 Rifles, part of the Welsh Guards Battle group, had achieved 75 confirmed kills with 31 attributed to Potter and 44 to Osmond. [...]

On one occasion they killed eight Taliban in two hours, ‘I wasn’t comfortable with it at first,’ said Osmond, ‘you start wondering is it really necessary?’ But the reaction of the locals soon persuaded him. ‘We had people coming up to us afterwards, not scared to talk to us. They felt they were being protected’.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


Man of substance: Derrick Rose and the rebirth of Chicago style (Ric Bucher, 3/13/11, ESPN the Magazine)

The same springboard of big-city aggression and heartland work ethic that launched the first black man to the White House has now catapulted Rose to the highest office in the NBA. "Chicagoans appreciate Midwestern values," President Obama says. "Like hard work, humility and giving back to those around you."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM

Greatest site ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Sayings of Chairman Maobama (Michael Goodwin, March 13, 2011, NY Post)

A beleaguered Presi dent Obama has told aides it would be so much easier to be the president of China, The New York Times reports.

There are two ways to read the remark, which is attributed to anonymous aides. One is that Obama resents the burden of global leadership that comes with the American presidency. The other is that he longs for an authoritarian system, where he need tolerate no dissent.

Under either or both interpretations, his confession carries a dose of self-pity that means Obama has hit a wall.

He is in over his head, and he knows it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


US training nurtured Arab democrats (CHARLES J. HANLEY, 3/12/11, AP)

[B]ehind this story of political upheaval lies another, quieter story of outside organizations that, with U.S. government and other money, tutored a young Arab generation in the ways of winning in a political world.

All involved emphasize that what has happened sprang from deeply rooted grievances in the autocratic Arab world, not from outside inspiration. But they say the confidence-building work of democratic coaches, led by the U.S. but also including Europeans, was one catalyst for success.

That success, meanwhile, points up a core paradox: A U.S. government that long stood by Mubarak and other Arab leaders as steadfast allies was, at the same time, financing programs that ultimately contributed to his and potentially others' downfall.

Some see American shrewdness at work, covering multiple political bets in Egypt and elsewhere. Others see an America too big and complex to be consistent.

"Speaking as a Canadian, one of the beauties of the U.S. system is that there are many, many entry points in many centers of power, and they can have conflicting policies," said Les Campbell, Middle East chief for the U.S. National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The NDI, affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the GOP-affiliated International Republican Institute (IRI) are links in the nurturing "democratic assistance" web, key conduits for grants from the State Department's Agency for International Development (USAID) and from the National Endowment for Democracy, a private organization funded by the U.S. Congress.

National Endowment money, $100-million-plus a year, is at work in more than 90 countries worldwide. But it's the USAID grants, from an $800 million budget for developing "political competition" and "civil society" in 67 nations, that have proved vital to activists in a half-dozen Arab lands, from Morocco to Yemen. Some $104 million was requested for them in the proposed 2011 budget.

In post-Mubarak Egypt, that help is about to balloon.

Of a $150 million Egyptian "transition fund" announced by Washington, $50 million will go toward democracy and governance programs like the ones that have nurtured hundreds of Egypt's rising democrats, The Associated Press has learned. That would triple the 2011 funding previously planned.

"We need more support, and fast," said Abdallah Helmy, 34, co-founder of Egypt's dissident Reform and Development Party and one who benefited in recent years from "hundreds and hundreds of hours" of U.S.-supported training in everything from managing campaigns and elections to using Twitter, Facebook and other social media for political messaging.

It's estimated more than 10,000 Egyptians since 2005 have participated in USAID-financed democracy and governance programs, carried out by NDI, IRI and 28 other international and Egyptian organizations — not only political training, but also projects to prepare judges, build PTA-style school associations and otherwise deepen civic involvement.

The American democracy promotion campaign dates back to the 1980s, when Poland's Solidarity movement was one beneficiary. But for Egypt, 2005 was the watershed year, when Campbell's NDI opened a Cairo office and through Egyptian groups trained 5,500 election observers to monitor Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election, which gave Mubarak another six-year term, his fifth.

Other peoples assemble our trinkets and ship them to us. We send them our ideas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Union chief's ego gets in way as he overplays players' hand: When NFL dust settles, owners still will be rich and the players will have gained … what? (David Haugh, March 12, 2011, Chicago Sun Times)

The NFL said the offer Smith walked away from included the following:

1) Maintaining a 16-game schedule through 2012; 2) implementing a rookie wage scale and funneling savings to veterans and retired players; 3) cutting the number of offseason workouts and organized team activities; and 4) contributing $82 million into a fund for retired players and offering current players lifetime health coverage.

The league also vowed to disclose limited audited profitability information and reduce the money owners should be given off the top of league revenues from $1 billion to $325 million. A lawyer for the former NFLPA responded by saying the league had "lied.''

That's always a possibility. The NFL spins better than a new toy on Christmas morning. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners deserve a measure of blame for not doing a better job of building or earning trust. But lost in Friday's inflamed rhetoric assessing the failure were two key points.

•If current players really wanted to do something profound for those before and after them, they would have focused on the league's offer of lifetime health coverage and increased retirement benefits instead of the disparity in profit. That's sacrifice in the name of something.

•Smith consistently sought to present the players as partners in the league with the owners. As much as the ability and charisma of players have put America's most popular sport at its apex, they are employees. The owners are employers.

Players and owners aren't partners on equal footing. Without the NFL, most owners still would be filthy rich. Dare I suggest you can't say the same about many of the 1,900 players.

And there are 1900 other guys just waiting to accept the riches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


South Africa's new race controversy: What place do mixed race South Africans have in the new non-racial society? (Erin Conway-Smith, March 13, 2011, Global Post)

Racial issues in South Africa are usually portrayed in black and white, a legacy of apartheid in which blacks were disenfranchised.

But South Africa is now rocked by a fierce new debate about racism and the spotlight is on the tense relationship between two racial groups that were both oppressed under apartheid: blacks and “coloreds.” [...]

The new debate was sparked by government spokesman Jimmy Manyi, who said there is an “oversupply” of colored people in the Western Cape. The controversy has exposed the complex fracture lines created by apartheid that continue to exist today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


The Gadgets of Your Dreams: Introducing a series on how technology will change over the next decade. (Farhad Manjoo, March 13, 2011, Slate)

One of the reasons I love writing about technology is that everything changes in a flash. One year we're waiting for some super-secret tablet from Apple. By the next year, 15 million have been sold, every other tech company is making something similar, and we're all wondering whether the age of the PC has come and gone. Five years ago, few people had even heard of Facebook; now everyone agrees it's taking over the Web.

As tech users, we've all seen massive changes over short periods of time. For the next few weeks, I'll be writing a series of articles on the next wave of transformations—the trends that will affect our lives over the next five or 10 years.

Having had reason to give this some thought lately, it strikes me that the fundamental trend of what we already call the Information or the Computer Age is the increasingly universal and instantaneous human access to data.

But one peculiarity of the moment we're in is that there is no uniform instrumentality for accessing and sharing said data. On a recent trip we took at least one netbook, kindle, ipod, cell phone, keyless car key, credit card, passport, etc., when there's no reason there shouldn't be one device capable of fulfilling the tasks of each of these tools.

The interesting question going forward would seem to be whether that device will be something we have to carry with us in our hands or whether it will actually be embedded in our bodies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Why is it so hard to find happiness? (David Malouf, March 11, 2011, Sydney Morning Herald)

Ask any one of your friends or neighbours if they are happy and the answer they will probably give is that they have nothing to complain of.

What they mean is that the good life as previous generations might have conceived it has been attained. Medical science ensures that fewer children die in infancy, that most infectious diseases have been brought under control and the worst of them — smallpox, plague, TB, polio — have in most parts of the world been eliminated; that except for a few areas in Africa famine is no longer known among us; that in advanced societies like our own we are cared for by the state from cradle to grave.

We do complain, of course, but our complaints are trivial, mostly ritual. Our politicians lack vision, interest rates are too high, the pace of modern living is too hectic; the young have no sense of duty, family values are in decline. The good life, it seems, is not enough. We have nothing to complain of, we are "happy enough"; but we are not quite happy. We are still, somehow, unsatisfied, and this dissatisfaction, however vaguely conceived, is deeply felt. [...]

For most of us the possibility of death or dying is no longer of immediate daily concern. The way we live now has seen to it that all this side of life and living is kept tidily out of sight. Dying is no longer a household occurrence. The old and the newborn no longer die at home. Except for the occasional horror of a road accident, dying is a managed affair of intensive-care units where life-support systems glow and hum till they flatline and are turned off, then the piped music and tippy-toed formalities of the crematorium.

Our worst fear these days is not the finality and nothingness of death, or even the agony of dying — there are drugs to take care of that. It is that life may go on too long: to the point where we no longer have control of either our bodily or mental faculties and have slipped into the half-life, the virtual death-in-life, of that "second childhood and mere oblivion / Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" with which Jaques in As You Like It ends his account of our "strange eventful history".

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


GOP's Muslim stand isn't helping the country or the party (Dick Polman, 3/12/11, Philadelphia Inquirer)

It's well-established that the Republicans are broadly unpopular with all kinds of minorities - blacks, Jews, gays, Latinos, Asians. Not content to rest on its laurels, however, the white people's party is now working assiduously to alienate yet another minority group: Muslim Americans.

Those voters, who are heavily concentrated in swing states such as Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia, had long been trending Democratic anyway, thanks to the conservatives' post-9/11 scapegoating rhetoric. But the new House Republican hearings on the "radicalization in the American Muslim community" - and the implicit message that the rest of us should Be Very Afraid - will likely put the kibosh on the GOP outreach efforts that George W. Bush successfully pioneered a scant decade ago. [...]

To chart the GOP's swift descent into demonization, let's begin with what President Bush said just six days after 9/11: "America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. . . . They love America just as much as I do." But here is King in 2004, speaking to Sean Hannity: "You could say that 80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists" - a claim he has since reiterated.

You can claim it, but that doesn't make it true. In 2008, ethnicity experts at Tufts University and the University of Washington, working with the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, created the Muslim American Public Opinion Survey - the most ambitious poll ever conducted in the community - and found that its eight million denizens were "middle class, assimilating quickly, and highly supportive of the American political system." The mosques are key to the assimilation process; 95 percent of regular mosque attendants say they believe Islam is compatible with U.S. political values. As the researchers put it, "The more religious American Muslims happen to be, the more they participate in American politics."

March 12, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Michele Bachmann Butchers American History in New Hampshire (Robert Schlesinger, March 12, 2011, US News)

Michele Bachmann continued her 2012 presidential flirtation today with what is quickly being called the “gaffe her ’round the Internet.” Speaking at a Manchester, New Hampshire event sponsored by the Republican Liberty Caucus, the Tea Party favorite tried to establish a rapport with her audience and with the Granite State generally over a common love of freedom. “You’re the state where the shot was heard ’round the world at Lexington and Concord,” Bachmann told the crowd. (WMUR has the video.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 AM


How to detect terrorist plots: Old-fashioned digging (Peter Finn, October 20, 2010, Washington Post)

A study of 86 terrorist plots since 1999 found that 80 percent were discovered through old-fashioned police work or tips from the public, not technology-driven counter-terrorism operations.

The study by the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, a research consortium between Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and RTI International, an independent research institute, emphasized the need for local law enforcement, in particular, to recognize "potential terrorist activity during the course of routine criminal investigations."

Noting that 40 percent of all foiled plots resulted from tips from the public or well-placed informants, the researchers said the authorities should cultivate good relations with "communities with persons in or near radical movements, an ability that is jeopardized by indiscriminately targeting individuals and groups due to their race, ethnicity, religion or ideology."

The study, called "Building on Clues: Examining Successes and Failures in Detecting U.S. Terrorist Plots, 1999-2009," looked at not only cases associated with al-Qaeda and its affiliates and supporters, but terrorist attacks planned by white supremacist or anti-government militias, animal rights groups, environmental activists and opponents of abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Alliance with India in U.S. interest (STEVE HUNTLEY, Mar 11, 2011, Chicago Sun-Times)

Fortunately there’s a natural ally for America in countering the Pakistani and Chinese challenges. It’s India, the world’s most populous democracy. To their credit, Presidents Obama and George W. Bush have cultivated ties with India.

The interests of America and India coincide. India, like America, has been the victim of devastating terrorist attacks. Metastasizing radical Islamism, with the potential to turn Pakistan into a failed state with nuclear weapons, is a vital national security issue for Washington and New Delhi. A U.S. decision to aid India with, for example, missile-defense technology would be a powerful message to Pakistan.

China and India fought a war in 1962, and today their emerging economic rivalry matches their growing military arsenals. Japan, South Korea and other neighbors of China also have been alarmed by China’s military buildup and have sought to bolster their own defenses. India constitutes the logical hub for a new American alliance with Asian and Pacific nations to balance Beijing’s growing military clout and to maintain stability in the region.

Washington can’t anticipate every foreign upheaval, but closer ties with India could prepare for what may be gathering storms on the other side of the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Eye of the Newt (GAIL COLLINS, 3/11/11, NY Times)

The presidential race is barely under way, but already we have had our first Big Thought. I am speaking, of course, of Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that he was driven into serial adultery by hard work and patriotism.

“There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” he told an interviewer on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

You can imagine how much discussion this sparked. “Will ‘feeling passionate about this country’ become the new ‘hiking the Appalachian Trail’? ” asked Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair.

Really, the concept explains quite a bit. New York’s former governor, Eliot Spitzer, worked a lot. And right now New York City is reeling over the indictment of a powerful state senator, who turns out to have had a secret life in a waterside mansion that he shared with two male gynecologists and their mother. We are still sorting out the details, but I can tell you that this guy used to be the chairman of the Finance Committee. You can only sit through so many hearings on tax policy before the call of the wild starts ringing in your ears.

Also, whenever I hear “former Mayor Rudy Giuliani” I think of patriotism and round-the-clock dedication to the job. Also, about the time he called a press conference to announce that he and his wife were separating and the wife, who hadn’t heard, started telling reporters about an affair she believed Rudy had had with a female staffer.

...but it's generally not recommended that you kick off your campaign by making yourself a laughingstock.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Darkness Falls (Leon Wieseltier, March 11, 2011, New Republic)

Barack Obama’s policy toward the Libyan struggle for freedom is no longer a muddle. It is now a disgrace.

Here is what his administration and its allies have told the world, and the Libyan dictator, and the Libyan rebels, in recent days. The director of national intelligence declared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a chilling example of self-fulfilling prophecy, that “over the longer term Qaddafi will prevail.” The secretary of defense continued to insist that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya is too much for America to do, and to frighten the public with the warning that it would constitute a military operation, as if all military operations are like all other military operations, and therefore the prelude to the sort of wars that would require us, as he put it in an earlier outburst about Iraq and Afghanistan, to have our heads examined. Of course nobody is suggesting that a single American soldier step foot on Libyan soil: Gates’s exaggeration of the logistics and the implications of a no-fly zone, which the Libyan resistance is begging for, is the purest demagoguery, a way of inhibiting the discussion of what really can be done in this plainly just cause, a revival of Powellism, a cheap slippery slope argument tricked out as a responsible concern about the ladder of escalation. The secretary of state, also on Capitol Hill, insisted that a no-fly zone must have the support of some international authority. “Absent international authorization,” she instructed, “the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation the consequences of which would be unforeseeable.” Of course the United States, which is after all still the United States, could go and arrange international authorization, as it has sometimes done in the past; but this would require American leadership, and the Obama administration seems to regard American leadership as an early form of American hegemony. It may be, as Clinton said, that the consequences of a no-fly zone would be unforeseeable, but the consequences of the absence of a no-fly zone are entirely foreseeable. They are even seeable. We see them daily, most recently in the massacre at Zawiyah. And in a press briefing prior to the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, the secretary general of the alliance began by intoning that “the whole world is watching” and then announced that “NATO has no intention to intervene in Libya.” He did not grasp the heartless illogic of what he said—though if his remark could be construed as saying that the whole world is watching NATO have no intention to intervene in Libya, there was some truth to it. And he followed with these unforgettable observations: “If these systematic attacks against the Libyan people continue it may amount to a crime against humanity. And many people around the world may be tempted to say let’s do something to prevent this massacre against the Libyan civilian population.” Some of us may indeed be so tempted. But “on the other hand,” Rasmussen continued, “there are a lot of sensitivities in the region as far as foreign military intervention is concerned, or what might be considered a foreign military intervention.” Get it? We will not act to prevent a crime against humanity because by doing so we will offend—who, exactly? Not the Libyans who are clamoring for Western assistance, or the Egyptians who looked to us for unequivocal support in their fight for freedom, or the Iranians who made a similar mistake. No, we will offend only a certain doctrinaire Western notion of what the contemporary Arab world thinks about the West, a notion that the democratic upheavals in the Arab world are making manifestly obsolete. We will offend not their assumptions, but our assumptions about their assumptions. It was no wonder that Gates, when he emerged from the meeting in Brussels, told reporters that whereas NATO planning for the possibility of a no-fly zone would continue, “that’s the extent of it.” We are only planning. Why don’t these people just come right out and tell the Libyan resistance to drink poison? Perhaps they fear that they may then have to provide the poison.

In sum, the situation is ominous. Darkness is descending on the Libyan struggle for freedom, and we are helping to lower it.

So much for that international test we're supposed to pass, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Darkness Falls (Leon Wieseltier, March 11, 2011, New Republic)

Barack Obama’s policy toward the Libyan struggle for freedom is no longer a muddle. It is now a disgrace.

Here is what his administration and its allies have told the world, and the Libyan dictator, and the Libyan rebels, in recent days. The director of national intelligence declared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a chilling example of self-fulfilling prophecy, that “over the longer term Qaddafi will prevail.” The secretary of defense continued to insist that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya is too much for America to do, and to frighten the public with the warning that it would constitute a military operation, as if all military operations are like all other military operations, and therefore the prelude to the sort of wars that would require us, as he put it in an earlier outburst about Iraq and Afghanistan, to have our heads examined. Of course nobody is suggesting that a single American soldier step foot on Libyan soil: Gates’s exaggeration of the logistics and the implications of a no-fly zone, which the Libyan resistance is begging for, is the purest demagoguery, a way of inhibiting the discussion of what really can be done in this plainly just cause, a revival of Powellism, a cheap slippery slope argument tricked out as a responsible concern about the ladder of escalation. The secretary of state, also on Capitol Hill, insisted that a no-fly zone must have the support of some international authority. “Absent international authorization,” she instructed, “the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation the consequences of which would be unforeseeable.” Of course the United States, which is after all still the United States, could go and arrange international authorization, as it has sometimes done in the past; but this would require American leadership, and the Obama administration seems to regard American leadership as an early form of American hegemony. It may be, as Clinton said, that the consequences of a no-fly zone would be unforeseeable, but the consequences of the absence of a no-fly zone are entirely foreseeable. They are even seeable. We see them daily, most recently in the massacre at Zawiyah. And in a press briefing prior to the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, the secretary general of the alliance began by intoning that “the whole world is watching” and then announced that “NATO has no intention to intervene in Libya.” He did not grasp the heartless illogic of what he said—though if his remark could be construed as saying that the whole world is watching NATO have no intention to intervene in Libya, there was some truth to it. And he followed with these unforgettable observations: “If these systematic attacks against the Libyan people continue it may amount to a crime against humanity. And many people around the world may be tempted to say let’s do something to prevent this massacre against the Libyan civilian population.” Some of us may indeed be so tempted. But “on the other hand,” Rasmussen continued, “there are a lot of sensitivities in the region as far as foreign military intervention is concerned, or what might be considered a foreign military intervention.” Get it? We will not act to prevent a crime against humanity because by doing so we will offend—who, exactly? Not the Libyans who are clamoring for Western assistance, or the Egyptians who looked to us for unequivocal support in their fight for freedom, or the Iranians who made a similar mistake. No, we will offend only a certain doctrinaire Western notion of what the contemporary Arab world thinks about the West, a notion that the democratic upheavals in the Arab world are making manifestly obsolete. We will offend not their assumptions, but our assumptions about their assumptions. It was no wonder that Gates, when he emerged from the meeting in Brussels, told reporters that whereas NATO planning for the possibility of a no-fly zone would continue, “that’s the extent of it.” We are only planning. Why don’t these people just come right out and tell the Libyan resistance to drink poison? Perhaps they fear that they may then have to provide the poison.

In sum, the situation is ominous. Darkness is descending on the Libyan struggle for freedom, and we are helping to lower it.

So much for that international test we're supposed to pass, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Dubai on Empty: Its skyline erupting from the desert in just two decades, Dubai is a cautionary tale about what money can’t buy: a culture of its own. After gorging on the Viagra of easy credit, the emirate has the world’s tallest building, the world’s most expensive racetrack, and a financial crisis to match. From the Western mercenaries and Asian drones who maintain the gaudy show to 100-odd families who are impervious to any economic reality, A. A. Gill discovers that no one truly belongs in Dubai, where the legacy of oil has made everything worthless. (A. A. Gill, April 2011, Vanity Fair)

The only way to make sense of Dubai is to never forget that it isn’t real. It’s a fable, a fairy tale, like The Arabian Nights. More correctly, it’s a cautionary tale. Dubai is the story of the three wishes, where, as every kid knows, with the third wish you demand three more wishes. And as every genie knows, more wishes lead to more greed, more misery, more bad credit, and much, much, much more bad taste. Dubai is Las Vegas without the showgirls, the gambling, or Elvis. Dubai is a financial Disneyland without the fun. It’s a holiday resort with the worst climate in the world. It boils. It’s humid. And the constant wind is full of sand. The first thing you see when you arrive is the airport, with its echoing marble halls. It’s big enough to be the hub of a continent. Dubai suffers from gigantism—a national inferiority complex that has to make everything bigger and biggest. This includes their financial crisis.

Outside, in the sodden heat, you pass hundreds and hundreds of regimented palm trees and you wonder who waters them and what with. The skyline, in the dusty haze, looks like the cover of a dystopian science-fiction novella. Clusters of skyscrapers lurch out at the gray desert accompanied by their moribund cranes, propped up with scaffolding, swagged in plastic sheeting. Dubai thought it was going to grow up to be the Arab Singapore—a commercial, banking, and insurance service port on the Gulf with hospitality and footballers’ time-shares, an oasis of R&R for the less well endowed. But it hasn’t quite worked out. The vertical streets of offices are empty. A derelict skyscraper looks exactly the same as one that’s teeming with commerce. They huddle around the current tallest building in the world—a monument to small-nation penis envy. This pylon erected with the Viagra of credit is now a big, naked exclamation of Dubai’s fiscal embarrassment. It was going to be called Burj Dubai, but as Dubai was unable to make their payments, they were forced to go to their Gulf neighbor, head towel in hand, to get a loan. So now it’s called Burj Khalifa, after Abu Dhabi’s ruler, who coughed up $10 billion to its over-extended neighbor.

Dubai has been built very fast. The plan was money. The architect was money. The designer was money and the builder was money. And if you ever wondered what money would look like if it were left to its own devices, it’s Dubai.

My driver gets lost more than once. He’s lived here all his life. He says he always gets lost. The roads keep changing. It’s a confusion of orange traffic cones and interlocking barriers; access roads peter out into long drops to rubble and dust. Nothing actually goes anywhere. The wide lanes loop around endlessly, and then there’s no place to go. No plaza or square, no center. Nowhere to hang out, nowhere to walk. Why would you walk? In this heat? You pull over and throw your keys to a valet, and get indoors as quickly as possible, generally in one of the countless shopping centers that look like the airports of lesser nations or Egyptian tombs. They echo with the slow footfalls of the security guards. In the boutiques, the glossy assistants stare at mannequins with a mutual mime of cashmere-folding despair. Dubai has been mugged by its own greed. Its consumer economy is being maintained by oil-rich families to whom depressions, booms, lottery wins, and recessions mean little. Riches and wealth are relative terms. But not ones we’re related to. There is an indoor ski mountain, probably the biggest indoor ski mountain in a desert, where the Arab boys queue for suits and boots and skis. The smarter locals arrive in their own designer après-ski gear, with fur and moon boots. You walk through the doors and it’s like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—the land of permanent winter. The fat boys push past carrying their snowboards toward the Tyrolean chocolate shop and Swiss fir trees and slide down the hill with a practiced arrogance. The girls slither, splay-legged, hijabs fluttering, in the manufactured snow.

No one dreamed of this. Twenty years ago, none of this was here. No Narnia. No seven-star hotels. No tallest prick buildings. Just a home of pastoralist tented families herding goats, racing camels, shooting one another. And a handful of greasy, armed empire mechanics in khaki shorts, drilling for oil. In just one life span, Dubai has gone from sitting on a rug to swiveling on a fake Eames chair 100 stories up. And not a single local has had to lift a finger to make it happen. That’s not quite fair—of course they’ve lifted a finger; to call the waiter, berate the busboy. The money seeped out of the ground and they spent it. Pretty much all of it. You look at this place and you realize not a single thing is indigenous, not one of this culture’s goods and chattels originated here. Even the goats have gone. This was a civilization that was bought wholesale. The Gulf is the proof of Carnegie’s warning about wealth: “There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


A Hero in His Own Mind: Hitler Biography Debunks Mythology of Wartime Service (Georg Bönisch, 3/10/11, Der Spiegel)

Thomas Weber, a 37-year-old historian from the western German city of Hagen who teaches at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland, examined a group of documents that -- astonishingly enough -- had remained virtually untouched under layers of dust in Bavaria's main state archive. The find includes documents relating to Hitler's regiment, brigade and division, court documents complete with witness testimony, and confiscated letters that had been sent with the field post -- a treasure trove for any researcher.

In his book "Hitler's First War" (published in German for the first time this week), Weber uses these documents to help rebut the widely held views about Hitler's early years and demystify certain legends about them. For example, Weber concludes that the unit Hitler served with was by no means a sort of precursor to the Nazi Party, as some have claimed. In fact, as Weber and his researchers discovered, only 2 percent of the soldiers in that unit would later go on to join the Nazi Party.

What's more, Weber finds that Hitler was never the front-line soldier that he and the Nazi propagandists would later make him out to be. Instead, he says that this historical whitewashing was a highly political act in the run-up to the so-called Machtergreifung, the Nazi seizure of power. Indeed, as historian Gerd Krumeich writes, this was necessary because there was "hardly any other overlapping of the opinions of society at large and the so-called Nazi 'revolution'" that was as solid as their shared opinion of the legacy of World War I and all the dramatic events associated with it. In reality, however, Hitler spent almost the entire four years of World War I a few kilometers behind the main battle line and therefore often outside the most dangerous areas. His job as a runner also meant that he was by no means in the "midst of bombardment."

According to Weber's provocative conclusion, Hitler's political identity was hardly burned into his consciousness by traumatic experiences at the front. In fact, Weber writes, Hitler was "confused" when he returned from the war, and his political identity "could have still developed in different directions." [...]

After his failed putsch attempt in 1923 and a brief time in prison, Hitler and his minions cleverly used the supposed wartime experiences of the would-be World War I hero to win more votes on his way to the top. "It was thus really in the period of 1925 to 1933 that the myth of the List Regiment took center stage in Hitler's rhetoric," Weber writes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Playing for pride: the Palestinian football team kick off at home: Hope that first competitive international in West Bank can pave way for statehood (James Corbett, 3/09/11,

Forty-nine years after the Palestinian FA's formation and 13 since it was formally recognised by Fifa, this game was the first competitive international match ever played on Palestinian soil. Before the kickoff the players knelt and kissed the pitch, venerating the soil on which they were finally allowed to play.

With big screens catering for 10,000 hopeful fans outside, 17,000 crammed into the Faisal al-Husseini stadium in Ram, north of Jerusalem, which four years ago was used as a parking lot for Israeli tanks during its campaign of West Bank incursions. Just 100m from the stadium gates lies the West Bank barrier, a reminder of the tensions that rupture the occupied territories.

Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian FA, said: "For us it is a historic event and we are committed to bringing it a humanitarian dimension." Rajoub, a member of the Fatah central committee and seen as a potential future president, also heads Palestine's national Olympic committee. He recognises the importance of sport as a symbol of statehood.

"We cannot exclude ourselves from the political aspect of this event. We are looking to expose Palestine as a cause to the world through the ethics and values of sport," he said. "Sport can pave the way to statehood for Palestine."

The Palestinian prime minister, Salman Fayyad, welcomed the game. "It is an important symbol," he said. "The national football team is a symbol of its country. For us Palestinians this is of enormous significance."
Any people that has a national team is a nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


He Went to the Desert to Face Himself (Monsignor Dennis Clark, Ph.D., 3/12/11, Catholic Exchange)

Things are not always as simple as they seem! Sometimes we’re not even clear about our own motives, what we really value, and what makes us tick. That’s why the Spirit led Jesus far out into the desert, to a place of absolute silence, for 40 days and 40 nights: to face Himself, to look deep inside and see the gifts the Father had entrusted to Him, and to see that those gifts could be wasted and betrayed, if He forgot His vocation.

Jesus didn’t forget His vocation. He didn’t get lost inside His own ego. He took those extraordinary gifts of His — His understanding heart, His ability to forgive, His calm and total trust in His Father, His delight in being alive, His special talent for friendship, and finally, His very life — He took it all, and He gave it all to us. And in giving it all, He found His life’s purpose and His joy.

The Spirit is calling us now to face ourselves, to name our gifts and rejoice in them, to see where those gifts are calling us, and to see also the dark side of our gifts — how they can be, or perhaps are being, misused, betrayed, or wasted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Lockout, decertification leave NFL in limbo (Howard Fendrich, 3/12/11, Associated Press)

By dissolving and announcing it no longer represents the players in collective bargaining, the union cleared the way for class-action lawsuits against the NFL, which exercised a CBA opt-out clause in 2008. The antitrust suit — forever to be known as Brady et al vs. National Football League et al — attacked the league’s policies on the draft, salary cap and free-agent restrictions such as franchise-player tags.

Invoking the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust statute from 1890 that limits monopolies and restrictions on commerce, the players are seeking triple the amount of damages they’ve incurred. That means the stakes could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

It could take a month for there to be a ruling on the union’s injunction request, and antitrust judgments should take longer.

Depending on what happens in court — a Minnesota judge has held jurisdiction over NFL labor matters since the early 1990s — next season could be threatened. The last time NFL games were lost to a work stoppage came when the players struck 24 years ago, leading to games with replacement players.

And the replacement games demonstrated that fans couldn't care less about the players. They root for the helmet decals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


Carbon Taxes: An Opportunity for Conservatives (Irwin Stelzer, March 2011, Hudson Institute)

Forget about the battle over global warming. The earth either is or isn’t warming. If it is,

that is either the result of human activity or it isn’t. If it is the result of human activity,

either an American initiative will shame China and India into following suit, or it won’t.

No matter. The appropriate policy towards carbon emissions has little or nothing to do

with those controversies, or at least should not for conservatives. They should focus on

multiple opportunities to advance the conservative agenda:

advance national security interests by reducing dependence on oil imports;

stem the flow of dollars to the bad guys;

lower taxes on jobs;

eliminate the rationale for subsidizing uneconomic energy sources;

reduce the drive for regulation of the energy economy;

gain a revenue source that might be needed when the grand bargain over

entitlements is struck.

Not a bad list of gains to be had by rethinking conservative positions on carbon taxes. [...]

A tax on carbon, whether it takes the form of a levy on emissions, or a second-best

substitute, a tax on gasoline, would accomplish a host of conservative goals. First, by

reducing oil consumption it would reduce the security threat posed by the increasing

possibility that crude oil reserves will fall under the control of those who would do us

harm, either by cutting off supplies, as happened when American policy towards Israel

displeased the Arab world, or by using the proceeds of their oil sales to fund the spread of

radical Islam and attacks by jihadists. No one doubts that the execrable Hugo Chávez

survives only because we pay millions for Venezuelan oil, or that Saudi funding of

radical Islam is made possible in good part by our payments for the Kingdom’s oil. If we

curtail our use of oil we reduce our overall imports and, thereby, the flow of funds that end up in hostile hands. Needing less oil, we can concentrate the reduction in our demand

on supply sources we consider the greatest danger to our security and/or have the highest

externalities associated with their use.

A tax on carbon would make all of that possible. And need not swell the government’s

coffers — if we pursue a second, long-held conservative objective: reducing the tax on

work. It would be a relatively simple matter to arrange a dollar-for-dollar, simultaneous

reduction in payroll taxes as taxes on, say, gasoline, increased. Anyone interested in jobs,

jobs, jobs should find this an attractive proposition, with growth-minded conservatives

leading the applause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 AM


In depth: How Rovio made Angry Birds a winner (and what's next) (Tom Cheshire, 07 March 11, Wired)

Angry Birds is the first waste of 75 millions people's time that can be accurately quantified. Every day, users spend 200 million minutes -- 16 years every hour -- playing the mobile game. Three trillion pigs have been popped. It has filled billions of those interstitial moments spent riding the bus, on a plane or in important work meetings, and it is or has been the number-one paid app on iTunes in 68 countries, as well as the best-selling paid app of all time. It went straight to the top of the new Mac App Store in January, selling 150,000 copies in its first week. Sixty thousand Angry Birds soft toys have been sold. In January, the trailer for the new Angry Birds Rio racked up 500,000 YouTube views in a weekend; on official videos alone, Angry Birds has had 27 million total views. In total, the "brand" has taken more than €50 million: not bad for a game that cost €100,000 to make. On the first anniversary of its release, 2,405 people in 756 cities worldwide wasted even more of their time holding events in celebration of "Angry Birds Day". David Cameron and Justin Bieber say they are fans. So do Paul Gascoigne and Salman Rushdie.

On an island in the Pacific, the goal is to fling a squadron of kamikaze birds at gormless green pigs. The birds have just cause: the pigs stole their eggs. The swine took refuge in, and on, easily collapsible structures. The game is physics-based -- you adjust the trajectory and power of the slingshot with your finger -- and very, very addictive. Rovio, the Finnish developer behind the title, certainly got lucky. But Mikael and Niklas Hed, the cousins who run the company, also realised in early 2009 that the smartphone was about to become a new mass medium -- just one without the mass-media economics. So they methodically set out to create a new type of blockbuster, one with universal appeal, and use it to build an entertainment empire that would extend far beyond the iPhone. It would be Disney 2.0. "We set out to minimise the amount of luck that was needed," says Mikael Hed. "We felt we had done our best game so far. But the idea always was, this is the first step."

First they had to save a company in crisis: at the beginning of 2009, Rovio was close to bankruptcy. Then they had to create the perfect game, do every other little thing exactly right, and keep on doing it. The Heds had developed 51 titles before Angry Birds. Some of them had sold in the millions for third parties such as Namco and EA, so they decided to create their own, original intellectual property. "We thought we would need to do ten to 15 titles until we got the right one," says 30-year-old Niklas. One afternoon in late March, in their offices overlooking a courtyard in downtown Helsinki, Jaakko Iisalo, a games designer who had been at Rovio since 2006, showed them a screenshot. He had pitched hundreds in the two months before. This one showed a cartoon flock of round birds, trudging along the ground, moving towards a pile of colourful blocks. They looked cross. "People saw this picture and it was just magical," says Niklas. Eight months and thousands of changes later, after nearly abandoning the project, Niklas watched his mother burn a Christmas turkey, distracted by playing the finished game. "She doesn't play any games. I realised: this is it."

March 11, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM


Arrest made in MLK parade bomb plot (NBC, 3/10/11)

A man with ties to the white supremacist movement was arrested and charged Wednesday in the foiled bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in this city last January. [...]

Harpham was also in the Army in 1996 and 1997, serving with the 37th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash., the Southern Poverty Law Center's records showed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


Range Anxiety: Fact or Fiction? (Josie Garthwaite, 3/10/11, National Geographic News)

[R]ange anxiety does exist, at some level, among the general public. A survey conducted last year by the Consumer Electronics Association found 71 percent of respondents feared running out of charge on the road—placing range anxiety among the most common perceived disadvantages of electric vehicles, according to the study.

A number of strategies for putting range anxiety to rest have emerged in recent years, and the pace is poised to pick up as more electric cars roll out. Governments from the United States to China to Ireland are investing millions of dollars to install charging infrastructure so drivers needn't stray too far from a plug. Software developers are building applications for smartphones and in-car telematics systems that make it easy to find charge points on a map.

The startup Better Place, based in Palo Alto, California, aims to set up large networks of charge points and stations where batteries can be swapped out in five minutes or less—theoretically affording the convenience and ubiquity of gas stations. The company has just opened its first European location where consumers can sign up for Better Place service plans and order a Renault Fluence Z.E. vehicle, designed to be compatible with Better Place's automated battery-swap system. General Motors, meanwhile, has opted to equip its plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt with a small gas engine to power the car for about 250 miles beyond the battery pack's estimated 25-50-mile range.

"It's a logical notion that a car with less range creates anxiety," said Marc Geller, a longtime electric vehicle advocate and co-founder of Plug In America. "Automakers and critics have long suggested that it was a critical flaw," he said. As a hurdle for electric vehicle adoption, however, Geller believes the issue has been overblown. Whether you are driving a Hummer or a Prius or a Leaf, he reasoned, "When you're nearing empty, there's anxiety." So the important question, he said, is not whether this anxiety exists, but whether it increases or decreases when people drive an electric vehicle.

People who are new to electric cars generally come to the experience with some level of apprehension about range, said Geller, "If only because they've been told to." But for most people, it drops off over time. "The number of people who actually run out of juice," he said, "is very small."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


GOP spending plan plays better with Dems than conservatives (Erik Wasson, 03/11/11, The Hill)

House Republicans unveiled a three-week continuing resolution Friday that funds the government through April 8 and cuts $6 billion in spending.

Senate Democrats immediately signaled that they could accept the measure, which includes proposed spending cuts backed by the White House.

But three conservative groups said they opposed passage of another short-term spending measure, and warned they would negatively record votes in favor of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


Congressional Hearing Puts Muslim Civil Rights Group in the Hot Seat Again (SCOTT SHANE, 3/11/11, NY Times)

Representative Chip Cravaack of Minnesota went further, telling a witness, Leroy D. Baca, the Los Angeles County sheriff, “Basically, you’re dealing with a terrorist organization.”

Sheriff Baca, the only law enforcement official invited to testify, said he worked regularly with the CAIR chapter in his area and pushed back. “I have not experienced anything that suggests that CAIR supports terrorism,” he said. He suggested that such accusations should not be cast about recklessly in the absence of solid evidence.

For the casual observer, it may have been a puzzling set of comments. But it is an old argument for CAIR, an aggressive civil rights organization that has long been pilloried by conservatives as the American Civil Liberties Union with a Muslim spin. A representative of the group was not invited to testify at the hearing on Thursday but submitted 30 pages of written testimony — including a list of dozens of CAIR statements dating back to 1997 condemning terrorist attacks around the world, among them attacks in the United States and Israel.

“We are the answer to violent extremism,” said Nihad Awad, a Palestinian-American who is the executive director of CAIR, noting the group’s longstanding campaign against religious violence, called “Not in the Name of Islam.”

....Muslims point out that they routinely denounce extremism but the Right apparently feels they don't do it loudly enough, so why not divert conservative think tank money to CAIR for such campaigns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Little Support for Terrorism Among Muslim Americans (Pew Forum, December 17, 2009)

As the title of Pew Research's 2007 study suggests, Muslim Americans are "middle class and mostly mainstream." Compared with their co-religionists in other Western societies, they are relatively well integrated into mainstream society. Unlike Western Europe's Muslim populations, Muslims in the U.S. are generally as well-educated and financially well-off as the general population. Most (72%) say their communities are good or excellent places to live, and most believe in the American dream -- 71% say that in the U.S., most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard.

When asked whether they think of themselves first as an American or as a Muslim, 47% of Muslims in the U.S. think of themselves first in terms of their religion, while 28% identify themselves first as Americans and 18% volunteer that they identify as both. At 46%, French Muslims are about equally as likely as those in the U.S. to think of themselves first as Muslim. However, Muslim Americans are less likely to identify primarily with their religion than are Muslims living in Britain, Germany, and Spain.

Primary identification with religious affiliation is not unique to Muslims. Religious identity is almost equally as high among American Christians, 42% of whom say they think of themselves first as Christian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


Obama Seeks a Course of Pragmatism in the Middle East (MARK LANDLER and HELENE COOPER, 3/10/11, NY Times)

Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Taking Naps Could Boost Your Brainpower (Marianne English, Mar 9, 2011, Discovery)

Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley studied 44 college-aged participants at two different times of day -- once at noon and again at 6 p.m. Half the group was allowed to take a nap from 2 p.m. to 3:40 p.m., while the rest stayed awake throughout the day.

At noon and 6 p.m., researchers measured how both groups performed in facial memory tests, finger tapping memory tests and an alertness test.

The "Nap" group performed significantly better at learning tasks when tested later in the day in comparison to subjects who did not take a lengthy nap.

The team also measured brain activity while subjects napped using an electroencephalogram. They found that success in learning correlated with the amount of stage-2 non rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, the stage preceding deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Let There Be More Efficient Light (ROGER A. PIELKE Jr., 3/11/11, NY Times)

[I]n 1901, the United States became the last major economic power to establish an agency to set technological standards.

The result was a boom in product innovation in all aspects of life during the 20th century. Today we can go to our hardware store and choose from hundreds of light bulbs that all conform to government-mandated quality and performance standards.

Technological standards not only promote innovation — they also can help protect one country’s industries from falling behind those of other countries. Today China, India and other rapidly growing nations are adopting standards that speed the deployment of new technologies. Without similar requirements to manufacture more technologically advanced products, American companies risk seeing the overseas markets for their products shrink while innovative goods from other countries flood the domestic market.

To prevent that from happening, America needs not only to continue developing standards, but also to devise a strategy to apply them consistently and quickly.

The best approach would be to borrow from Japan, whose Top Runner program sets energy-efficiency standards by identifying technological leaders in a particular industry — say, washing machines — and mandating that the rest of the industry keep up. As technologies improve, the standards change as well, enabling a virtuous cycle of improvement.

At the same time, the government should work with businesses to devise multidimensional standards, so that consumers don’t balk at products because they sacrifice, say, brightness and cost for energy efficiency.

Innovate or die off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Terror Hearing Puts Lawmakers in Harsh Light (ALESSANDRA STANLEY, 3/11/11, NY Times)

One member of Congress broke down and cried. Another was so incensed that she waved a pocket-size copy of the Constitution and declared, “This breathing document is in pain.” And there were so many angry charges of McCarthyism and countercharges of “political correctness” that it sometimes seemed that the topic at hand on Thursday in Washington was the radicalization of the House Homeland Security Committee, not American Muslims. [...]

[A]t Thursday’s hearing, there was no single institution summoned to the hot seat. The few outside witnesses who appeared were eager to combat radical extremism, not defend it. Mostly, it was the committee itself that seemed to be on trial.

Maybe Mr. King was secretly trying to undermine Islamophobia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


A Man Escaped (Ron Reed, 1/01/2004, Christianity Today)

While it may sound like A Man Escaped is an extended allegory about the hope of escaping "the prison of this life" through some sort of spiritual transcendence, the film is far too particular for that. Its overwhelming realism uses endless visual details and all the tactile sensation they suggest to draw us vicariously into an experience of imprisonment in WWII France. Confinement, waiting, fearing, hoping. The inscrutable capriciousness of the mostly-unseen prison authorities. The way our senses strain to pick up minute details when denied of almost any stimulation. The way stolen scraps of conversation must satisfy the craving for human contact and community, the way smuggled scraps of Scripture speak to a starved human spirit. The mechanics of hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


The Moroccan exception, and a king's speech: Morocco is not immune to the forces of change sweeping across the Arab world. But the response of its head of state reflects its distinct political character (Valentina Bartolucci, Open Democracy)

First, Morocco is a monarchy whose King Mohammed VI is widely believed to act as the guarantor of political stability and social cohesion, and arbitrator between opposed factions. The consequence is that very few people in Morocco want to depose the king or seek outright revolution. Rather, people have generally demanded constitutional reforms that would limit the monarch’s powers (as well as other measures such as more transparency and less corruption in government).

Second, the king combines in his figure the highest political and religious authority - a unique status embodied in the formula amir al-muminine (Commander of the Faithful). A leader who is considered a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed himself is ultimately untouchable.

Third, since Mohammed VI’s accession in 1999 Morocco has already undertaken limited democratic reforms, notably of the Moudawana (family code). Stephen O Hughes writes that soon after coming to power the new king “impressed many with his willingness to listen, his interest in advanced technology, his relaxed manner when not surrounded by courtiers, and his sympathetic concern for social betterment of the poor” (see Morocco Under King Hassan [Ithaca Press, 2001]). His attention to social issues even earned him the nickname “king of the poor”. This popularity is further owed to an effective strategic approach in defusing the ostensible threat of political Islam, something that has also won praise from western observers (see Nelcya Delanoe, "Morocco: a journey in the space between monarchy and Islamism", 5 February 2003)

Fourth, there is an overall sense that Morocco is still “exceptional” within the Arab world - its people believed to be moderate and peaceful Muslims, devoted to their king, and deeply hostile to violence. These perceptions mix with self-perceptions to affect the collective mood, though they are quite compatible with demands for reform (see Laila Lalami, “Morocco's Moderate Revolution”, Foreign Policy, 21 February 2011).

These ingredients of Moroccan political reality were on display when King Mohammed VI told his people that by 30 June 2011 a committee reporting to him would propose significant changes to the country's political and judicial system. They include the appointment of the prime minister by parliament (rather than, as at present, by the king himself); moves to guarantee judicial independence; the introduction of direct elections at a local level; and constitutional amendments that would guarantee more civic and gender rights. All this, the king said, would amount to "comprehensive constitutional reform".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


!!! On World Cafe (NPR, 3/08/11)

With its eight members calling diverse music scenes (New York, Sacramento and Portland) home, !!! is a dance-punk band that isn't afraid to get down and dirty — and also isn't afraid to mix things up. Pronounced "chk chk chk", this group has been on the radar of fans and critics alike since 2000, with the release of their eponymous debut. Taking their name from the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, the !!! stand for Bushmen's clicking—though band members say that the three exclamation marks can stand for three sounds of any kind, such as Pow Pow Pow, Bam Bam Bam, or Uh Uh Uh. Very fitting for a band all about the beats.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


World Cup's Unlikely Heroes: A tournament in need of excitement has found a savior in the unpredictable England team (JONATHAN CLEGG, 3/11/11, WSJ)

With its jaw-dropping comeback against South Africa last Sunday, preceded by nail-biters against the Netherlands, India and an almighty upset loss to the Irish, England is in the midst of a World Cup campaign for the ages. "You can't take your eyes off this England team right now," said Michael Holding, a former West Indies bowler and now a cricket analyst.

As England prepares to play Bangladesh in Chittagong on Friday, it's become the only team to watch at this World Cup. The English have contrived to lose to Ireland in the same week they beat South Africa. They managed to tie with India days after barely squeaking past the Dutch. At cricket.

More significantly, its string of improbable upsets, topsy-turvy epics and wild finishes has helped revive a tournament many felt was nearing extinction. "We've brought the competition alive a bit," said Jonathan Trott, the England batsman.

For one thing, England's collection of unexpectedly close games hasn't come a moment too soon for cricket's one-day international format. Introduced in the early 1970s, one-day games were devised to offer instant appeal—a day's excitement instead of the strung-out epics over five.

But these days, the 50-over game is starting to look less like a colorful alternative and more like an unwanted gray area between Test cricket, the traditionalist's favorite, and the new dominant form of the game, Twenty20—which is basically one-day cricket without the boring bits.

"The problem with one-day cricket is that it's neither one thing nor the other," said Stefan Szymanski, an economics professor at London's City University and an advisor to the Indian cricket board. "So nowadays it can seem a bit ho-hum."

Last year, television audiences in Australia for one-day international matches reached a 10-year low, while England and South Africa have scrapped their domestic 50-over competitions amid waning interest from fans, players and broadcasters. Former cricket stars including Australia's Shane Warne and Imran Khan, of Pakistan, have even led calls for one-day internationals to be removed from cricket's overcrowded calendar.

At this World Cup, though, England's electrifying displays have highlighted the one-day format's enduring capacity to enthrall. The team's heart-stopping tie with India drew a television audience of 42 million in India, making it the most-watched World Cup game there for more than a decade, according to TAM India, a media research firm. Of all the games not involving the host nation, England's loss to Ireland is the highest-rated. The win over the Netherlands with seven balls to spare is third-highest.

"We're definitely doing our bit to advertise the 50-over format," said Andrew Strauss, the England captain.

March 10, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Public-sector unions claim outsized share of U.S. pension assets (Patrice Hill, 3/10/11, The Washington Times)

More than a third of the nation’s $9.3 trillion in pension assets belong to state and local government employees, even though they make up only 15 percent of the U.S. work force, a study shows.

Research by the Spectrum investment group found that public-sector employees, primarily through powerful unions, have accumulated by far the most generous retirement programs in the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


Obama's low-key strategy for the Middle East (David Ignatius, March 6, 2011, Washington Post)

Though the White House's response to these whirlwind events has sometimes seemed erratic, the policy, which has been evolving for many months, goes to the core of Obama's worldview. This is the president as global community organizer - a man who believes that change is inevitable and desirable, and that the United States must align itself with the new forces shaping the world.

An Israeli official visiting Washington last week sounded a note of caution: "We are too close to the eye of the storm to judge," he said. "We need to be more modest in our assessments and put more question marks at the end."

But the Obama White House doesn't feel it has the luxury of deferring judgment; history is moving too fast. Says one official, "It's a roll of the dice, but it's also a response to reality." If Obama has seemed low-key, he explains, it has been a calculated "strategic reticence" to send the message: This is your revolution; it's not about us.

Hopefully they really have thought it out this fully, because there is a great advantage to a people taking their rights rather than asking for them.

Of course, this is the strategic calculation that George H. W. Bush made at the end of the Cold War, and it worked reasonably well in Eastern Europe. But the recalcitrance proved disastrous in China, where we wasted the opportunity that Tiananmen afforded, and in Iraq, where his son had to go in and finish the job of removing the regime.

Little about the UR would lead one to believe that he'll handle a Syria any better, if the movement spreads there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM

THE ONE REDEEMING FEATURE OF THE KING HEARINGS...: that this is the only takeaway:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


National Private Radio: Even if NPR loses its federal funding, conservatives will still attack it for bias. (David Weigel, March 10, 2011, Slate)

"We can't afford it and they don't need it," said Sen. Jim DeMint Wednesday, referring to the $422 million the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gets from the federal government. "We're facing a $1.5 trillion deficit and spending hundreds of millions on public broadcasting makes no sense today when they are raising millions from private donors and Americans already have thousands of media choices."

This is the good argument for slashing the CPB's funding. The lousy argument is that cutting the funding would save NPR, at long last, from its wretched existence as a Republican punching bag. BREAKING, as they say in the news business: NPR is always going to be a Republican punching bag.

...they don't have to care what Republicans say, which accidentally illustrates the real problem with government funding: they are captives of government. Vote them a big endowment and let them be independent, but with a charter to serve the public interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (King Arthur Flour)

2/3 cup (10 2/3 tablespoons) butter
2 cups + 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon butterscotch flavor or vanilla-butternut flavor, optional
3 large eggs
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 cups chocolate chips; or a combination of different flavored chips, or chips and nuts
*Use 1 teaspoon salt if you use unsalted butter.


1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

2) Melt the butter, and stir in the brown sugar. Add the salt, vanilla, and flavor, stirring until well combined.

3) Allow the mixture to cool slightly (if it's very hot to the touch), then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl midway through this process.

4) Add the baking powder, espresso powder, and flour, stirring to combine.

5) Stir in the chips or other additions of your choice.

6) Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges with a wet spatula (or your wet fingers). Smooth the top as best you can.

7) Bake the bars for 30 to 32 minutes, until they've risen, and their top is shiny and golden. A cake tester inserted into the center won't come out clean; in fact, the center of the very middle of the pan may look quite molten when you dig into it. But so long as no wet batter is showing farther out towards the edges, the bars are done. As they cool, the center will solidify.

8) Remove the bars from the oven, and use a heatproof spatula to press down the risen edges; this will make bars with flat, rather than humped tops. Let the bars cool completely before cutting; overnight is best.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


So unfav: Palin's poll plunge (ANDY BARR, 3/10/11, Politico)

The former Alaska governor’s numbers are astonishingly upside-down, according to a new Bloomberg poll showing a 32 percentage point spread between those who have an unfavorable rating of Palin and those who view her favorably. [...]

The new poll is a dip from a December Bloomberg poll showing Palin with a net favorable rating of 33 percent and a net unfavorable rating of 57 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


Union vote triggers liberal wrath (SEUNG MIN KIM, 3/10/1, Politico)

Progressive activists say they’re more energized than ever after the Wisconsin Senate’s vote to strip the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry accused Gov. Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans of denying the state’s residents a “voice” by pushing the bill through Wednesday night, by using a procedural move that separated the union component from the fiscal measures.

The tricky bastards held a vote. How undemocratic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Zakaria's World: Are America's best days really behind us? (JOSEPH S. NYE JR., MARCH 8, 2011, Foreign Policy)

Americans are prone to cycles of belief in decline, and the term itself confuses various dimensions of changing power relations. Some see the American problem as imperial overstretch (though as a percentage of GDP, the United States spends half as much on defense as it did during the Cold War); some see the problem as relative decline caused by the rise of others (though that process could still leave the United States more powerful than any other country); and still others see it as a process of absolute decline or decay such as occurred in the fall of ancient Rome (though Rome was an agrarian society with stagnant economic growth and internecine strife).

Such projections are not new. As Zakaria notes, America's Founding Fathers worried about comparisons to the decline of the Roman Republic. A strand of cultural pessimism is simply very American, extending back to the country's Puritan roots. English novelist Charles Dickens observed a century and a half ago: "[I]f its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, [America] always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise."

In the last half-century, polls showed Americans believed in their decline after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, after Richard Nixon's devaluation of the dollar and the oil shocks in the 1970s, and after the closing of Rust Belt industries and the budget deficits of Ronald Reagan's administration in the 1980s. At the end of that decade, a majority of Americans believed their country was in decline; yet within the next 10 years they believed that America was the sole superpower. And now, after the 2008 financial crisis and recession, polls show a majority believes in decline again. These cycles of declinism tell us more about Americans' collective psychology than underlying shifts in power resources, but as British journalist Gideon Rachman argued in these pages recently, maybe this time decline is real. After all, as the Congressional Budget Office warns, on current trends the U.S. national debt will be equal to its GDP in a decade, and that will undermine confidence in the dollar.

After all, the last time we hit that ratio was in the aftermath of WWII and look at the catastrophic American decline that triggered. It was almost as bad as the collapse of Great Britain after its debt reached 250% of GDP while they were defeating Napoleon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


White House struggles to lead on spending (GLENN THRUSH & CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, 3/9/11, Politico)

The White House has tried to keep its distance from Senate and House negotiators, fearing being dragged into another partisan food fight after the bipartisan triumph of the December lame-duck session. But White House officials now see the political initiative they enjoyed just weeks ago slipping away, amid divisions among Senate Democrats and an emerging GOP strategy of dragging Obama into an endless string of stopgap spending measures that could have long-term drawbacks for the White House. [...]

“For Republicans, it’s phenomenal to do all these little deals because it makes them look like they are actually doing something when they are really doing nothing,” said an administration official, who predicted passage of a three-week extension before the looming March 18 deadline to keep the government running. [...]

Obama’s team — which had anticipated a messy internal GOP fight between mainstream Republicans and tea party faithful — now worry that the contours of a winning GOP strategy on the budget is coming into focus: a series of small deals, with escalating cuts that force the president to defend his pet social and development programs at a time when he had hoped to position himself as a fiscal hawk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


Don't Freak About Oil Prices!: With oil above $100 a barrel, and gas nearing $4 a gallon, doomsayers wrongly predict the end of the recovery. Zachary Karabell on how the economy no longer lives and dies with energy. (Zachary Karabell, 3/09/11, Daily Beast)

The common formula used by economists is that for every 10 percent increase in the price of a barrel of oil, the U.S. loses 0.2 percent of annual growth. Those figures, however, are derived from past patterns when oil increased, such as 1973-1974, 1979, and again a few years ago. The problem is that lots of other things were going on at the same time, so it is impossible to say that oil was the reason. There is a correlation, but is there causation? In addition, oil and energy has been steadily declining as a percentage of overall spending. It was as much as 9 percent of spending in the 1970s, and it has been between 4 and 6 percent in the past decade. That means that oil has to rise much more to have the same effect as it did in the past, and for a real oil shock comparable to earlier periods, the price would have to rocket up to nearly $200 a barrel in a matter of a few months.

Sentiment is a fuzzier issue. Another argument used to stoke concern of an oil crisis is that higher prices freak people out. They see $4 at the pump, and bang, their wallets snap shut and no more meals at Cheesecake Factory. First of all, the only evidence of that is anecdotal, and it is easy enough for a politician to pull out a constituent letter or a journalist to find a quote of someone saying that is what they are doing. But why people spend or don't is one of life's greater mysteries, and sentiment has been an extraordinarily unreliable guide to spending patterns. that we aren't extracting them ourselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


What Wisconsin Can Teach Washington (E.J. Dionne, 3/09/11, RCP)

Consider the contrast between two groups of Democrats, in Wisconsin and in the nation's capital.

The Washington Democrats, including President Obama, have allowed conservative Republicans to dominate the budget debate so far. As long as the argument is over who will cut more from federal spending, conservatives win. Voters may think the GOP is going too far, but when it comes to dollar amounts, they know Republicans will always cut more.

In Wisconsin, by contrast, 14 Democrats in the state Senate defined the political argument on their own terms -- and they are winning it.

By leaving Madison rather than providing a quorum to pass Gov. Scott Walker's assault on collective bargaining for public employees, the Wisconsin 14 took a big risk.

And lost. The idea that Beltway Democrats should flee in order to avoid the consequences of elections speaks volumes about the state of political thought on the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Why Conservatives Turned on Sarah Palin: The inside story. (Noreen Malone, March 9, 2011, New Republic)

It’s never easy to extricate yourself from a fling that got way too serious. But that’s exactly what many conservatives are trying to do after a few heady years of Sarah Palin infatuation. In the wake of Palin’s deeply unserious reality TV show and her embarrassing “blood libel” video, the bloom’s worn off the rose, rather definitively. In fact, those incidents may have provided just the convenient excuses the GOP establishment was looking for.

Now, with the 2012 election looming, Palin’s former backers are fleeing left and right. The following is a closer look at the Republican bigwigs who have fallen out of love with her: Some are former cheerleaders who’ve done a 180-degree turn, some are critics who once held their tongues but are now emboldened to oppose her, and—perhaps worst of all—many are her onetime biggest fans, who have taken to damning her with conspicuously faint praise. [...]

Republican Voters

When an ABC News reporter at the CPAC conference interviewed attendees about her no-show, one 24-year-old Texan dressed in an Uncle Sam suit offered that "Sarah is in our hearts. Sarah is probably on TV. I don't know, but I don't really care. She's just a media personality to me." It’s a sentiment borne out by the polls: According to a late January CNN accounting, while 70 percent of Republicans still have a favorable view of her, just 19 percent say they would support her in a presidential primary.

...but now she's up against governors who didn't quit when the going got tough. It's a grown-up party and she defined herself as childish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


Picking on Mitch Daniels (Robert M. Goldberg, 3.10.11, American Spectator)

To establish HIP Daniels shifted authority to state government and made personal responsibility central. Cannon claims Daniels "made Medicaid more attractive: Under his plan, the government hands out coverage plus something a lot like cash." By this logic, the 1996 welfare reform bill and Daniels' recent proposal to extend Indiana's school voucher program to every family promote big government because they both "hand out coverage."

Similarly Cannon has to denigrate the design and impact of HIP to portray Daniels as Obama's healthcare doppelganger. Cannon is half right when claiming HIP spending was higher than expected. Most HIP participants are older and sicker than the rest of Indiana and have had less care to boot. Short-term per patient costs of care were higher, at first. But after three months the average amount spent on participants and the amount of services consumed steadily declines.

There's a reason for that: unlike Medicaid, HIP is not an entitlement but a way to get well. It pays for preventive care. It pays doctors more for treating the most vulnerable. And it rewards staying healthy. If participants use preventive services they can keep HIP contributions to their POWER accounts. Participants are getting healthier, using fewer services. and saving more in their POWER accounts.

HIP has 24,906 adults with dependent children and 20,514 other adults enrolled. It also has a waiting list of more than 40,000 childless adults. That's not increasing dependence, it's unmet need. The federal government bars Indiana from enrolling more people in HIP. Daniels asked for more control over Medicaid dollars to expand the program. Obama said no.

The citizens of modern democracy consider health care to be a right, so we're going to have universal care. There are a number of ways we can deliver it, but all of them involve our paying for the care of our poorest fellow citizens. A universal and mandatory program along the lines of Indiana's, which re-imports market forces into health care, is preferable to one where government picks and chooses, or actually delivers, services. But if we don't have one like the former it will be one like the latter.

Real Health-Care Reform: We don’t need top-down, centralized health-care reform; we need governance reform. (Leo Linbeck III & Eric O’Keefe, 3/08/11, National Review)

In order to effect real change, the president should support the idea of states’ assuming the primary authority and responsibility for health care. In other words, he should support the Health Care Compact.

A growing number of states are uniting around the Health Care Compact, which would give states both the primary responsibility for health-care regulation and full control over federal taxes spent on health care within their borders.

The Health Care Compact is a governance reform, not a health-care-policy reform. It would change who decides health-care policy, not who or what is covered. The Health Care Compact is needed because no centrally planned, top-down reform can fix health care throughout the United States. Instead, each state should craft its health-care policies to fit its specific needs. Some states may choose a single-payer system, while others may opt for a health-savings-account system with subsidies for seniors and low-income residents. Under the Health Care Compact, each state decides which plan is best for its citizens.

March 9, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


Wis. GOP bypass Dems, cut collective bargaining (Scott Bauer, Associated Press)

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday separated from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which spends no money, and a special committee of lawmakers from both the Senate and Assembly approved the bill a short time later.

The unexpected yet surprisingly simple procedural move ended a stalemate that had threatened to drag on indefinitely. Until Wednesday's stunning vote, it appeared the standoff would persist until Democrats returned to Madison from their self-imposed exile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Yuck (No 714): Don't pay any attention to their name – these north London newbies are not yuck at all, they're pretty good, sounding like a shoegazey Sonic Youth (Paul Lester, 1/28/10,

Older readers might remember a rather excitable New Band of the Day column from way back in March 2007, written about a band called Cajun Dance Party who were about to release their first single, The Next Untouchable. "That riff, the actual sound of the African highlife-tinged guitar, the sheer texture of it," we raved, almost indecently ecstatic. "It's one of those happy accidents, the sort that keeps you coming back for more, keeps you interested in rock'n'roll year after year ... Their debut single is amazing, a new indie classic."

Well, Cajun Dance Party, despite being the Drums of their day (only from north London and obsessed with Dylan and the Cure, not mid-1980s Factory Records and the Shangri-Las) are no more. Defunct. Split. History. Laugh if you like, but in our defence we did say that The Next Untouchable "could be their This Charming Man, their I Wanna Be Adored, their one unrepeatable moment ..." And so it proved, and all the members have since gone their separate ways, to work in banks and shops and pretend furiously that blazing briefly like a comet then fading to grey was all part of their masterplan. Oops, one of them was a girl. Mistressplan – whatever.

Actually, there's a coda to this story that may yet make a decent second chapter. Because two of CDP – singer Danny, the one with the Highway 61-Isro, and Max the bassist who's now on guitar – have formed a new band with a bassist from Hiroshima and a drummer from New Jersey who's apparently amazing, plus a mystery female on ethereal backing vocals who may or may not be Danny's schoolgirl sister. We know a bit: Danny and Max write the songs but they don't sound much like CDP; Danny met Jonny in the desert; Danny was wearing a Daniel Johnston T-shirt; Jonny was wearing an Animal Collective one. They bonded over iced-tea and a mutual love of J Mascis and decided to create their own freak scene. Yuck was born.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Certainty Principle: Donald Rumsfeld was discredited when he left the Bush Administration in 2006, but the recent Middle East uprisings might be vindication for both Bush’s Freedom Agenda and the man who helped shape it. The former Defense secretary talks to Tablet Magazine. (Lee Smith, Mar 9, 2011, Tablet)

“George W. Bush believed deeply that people desire to be free,” Donald Rumsfeld tells me in his downtown Washington office, only a few blocks from the White House. “And that free people act more responsibly.” When I ask if events in the Middle East these last two months prove that Bush’s Freedom Agenda was smart, Rumsfeld pauses thoughtfully. “I wish I knew for sure,” he says. [....]

Rumsfeld’s worldview is a combination of a conservatism that springs from the experience of witnessing first-hand the limits of political activism and an optimism that is inevitable for any American who believes, in spite of human nature and the course it has charted throughout history, that sometimes the better angels of our nature gain the upper hand. His style is warm and personable, and it’s not difficult to see how he had the press corps eating out of his hands after Sept. 11—up until, that is, the Iraq war.

Overall, he says, he is disappointed in how the Obama Administration has handled the developing situation in the Middle East. “They should have been quicker off the mark with Libya,” Rumsfeld says. “You would be happy to encourage revolts and uprisings in Iran, Syria, and Libya. We almost can’t lose. It’s hard to think those circumstances could get much worse than they are. Qaddafi’s behavior has been harmful to us.”

Egypt is a different matter. “How you behave with an ally tells other allies how you behave,” Rumsfeld says of the White House’s marching orders to Mubarak. Rumsfeld explains how he had just seen a video [5] in which Niall Ferguson ripped into what the Scottish-born NYU professor believed was the administration’s lackluster response to the crises in Tunisia and Egypt. “I can’t help but agree with what Ferguson said, but it’s easier for him than someone who has been in those positions. I’m slow to judgment.”

Still, as Rumsfeld notes, “Mubarak was helpful in the region and created a period of stability that was helpful to everyone”—Arabs and the United States no less than Israel. “If you were an Israeli that benefited from the Egypt-Israel treaty, which provided a respite from decades of fighting, you just have to be deeply concerned,” he continued. “It’s not that they don’t want the Arabs to have opportunities. But if you were in that situation, you might opt for stability versus opportunity for your neighbors.”

I ask how he sees Israel’s strategic situation in the region and whether the Jewish state will continue to serve as an American asset or turn into a liability. “I don’t look at Israel as an asset for the U.S.,” he says. “Any country that is democratic is an asset to the world, a model. That’s despite all the criticism they get from the U.N., the pressure they get from Iran, and the not-so-latent anti-Semitism in our country and other countries.”

While Rumsfeld’s vision of a smaller, more mobile Army may have been partly responsible for the rocky early years of American occupation of Iraq, it may become even more significant now than when he was in office.

...would have allowed Mookie to settle Sunni hash quicker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


David S. Broder: The best political reporter of his time (Robert G. Kaiser, March 10, 2011, Washington Post)

David S. Broder, who died Wednesday at 81, was the best-known and surely the best political reporter of his time. He was fair, thoughtful and astoundingly hardworking, and he earned the admiration of an extraordinary range of American politicians. His judgments could have great influence, as when he turned against Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigations in 1974. With Broder skeptical, Nixon's chances of survival seemed to shrink.

Broder first made a name for himself as a political reporter at the Washington Evening Star, a fine newspaper in its day. In 1965 he was lured to the New York Times but soon became exasperated with the office politics between the Times's Washington bureau and headquarters in New York. The Post's managing editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, who coveted Broder's help to help make a mediocre Washington Post into a great newspaper, promised him the moon. When Broder accepted the offer in August 1966, for the princely sum of $19,000 a year - the highest salary at The Post at the time - he was the first journalist to leave the Times for The Post.

From the moment he arrived, Broder was much more than a Post reporter. He was always an informal political editor, shaping the paper's coverage and making it better. In a business dominated by hard-driving egos, Broder was an anomaly: a Midwestern gentleman, gentle in manner, always eager to help fellow reporters and to preserve the reputation of his newspaper. His standards never slipped, save perhaps when yielding to his perennially unfulfilled dreams for his beloved Chicago Cubs.

Colleagues who worked with him share similar memories about his dogged approach to reporting and his generosity. He wanted us all to care about politics, and especially about the voters. He loved voters.

Interviewing them, Broder once said, invariably reminded him "that the American people don't always have all the information in their hands, but their judgment is just about always sharp. You'll find that they don't make a hell of a lot of mistakes." This was not a cynical reporter.

One of the sad things about our current press and politics is how little the practitioners seem to enjoy the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


The Degradation of Modern Democracy: A review of The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life, by Kenneth Minogue (Harveuy Mansfield, Claremont Review of Books)

Thus the fundamental problem in Western democracy now, as Minogue sees it, arises from inequality not in wealth but in wisdom or competence. That is why he focuses on the mind. That is also why he does not speak much of rights. The intellectual elite behind the politico-moral project that he opposes does not say this is the problem they see, but in fact it is. Despite what they say, they do not merely, or mainly, want to equalize wealth; they want to equalize competence, through government programs that equalize power—to compensate for society's (perhaps nature's) unequal distribution of intelligence.

To do this it is not enough to ensure equal rights for everybody, because some will exercise those rights more effectively than others. Offensive differences will remain and become even more intense as merit takes over from privilege. Civil rights having to do with behavior are not enough; nor is the indifference of toleration. One must get to the thinking behind the behavior. The less competent and the more competent must be taught to think differently; and to accept that their own degree of competence comes from external conditions rather than individual merit. Those conditions can be changed, or in the case of natural privilege, compensated for, by government action, so that it is reasonable for government to become responsible for them.

In taking this responsibility, government negates and replaces individual responsibility, by which individuals can be praised or blamed for their merit and behavior. But again, to accomplish this government must first change behavior by taking over the thinking of individuals, by getting them to believe that only the government, not the individual, can be responsible for the fate of individuals. The poor, the deprived, the oppressed must be taught to look to government for solutions to their ills—all of which are social conditions—and the rich and powerful must be taught to submit to government, not grudgingly but in good humor, with "deference." As once Walter Bagehot spoke of the deference of the lesser sort to the better sort, now deference must flow in reverse, from better to lesser. Equalization must be applied to all, the less competent equalized up and the more competent equalized down. Then all will see that no one is individually competent. This equalization takes place in the mind, not merely in society by the redistribution of wealth. Freedom, in the governing elite's view, is a collective enterprise that depends on the creation of the servile mind. The servile mind is one that has learned that there are no free individuals, that everyone is a creature not of God or nature but of society.

There are echoes of Friedrich Hayek in this analysis, but Minogue does not go to the libertarian extreme of supposing that individual responsibility can be presumed, and that morality is superfluous to achieving it. It is not enough to agree on minimal laws and then let "spontaneous order" take over so as to produce a self-regulating society of freedom. Individual responsibility must be nourished with morality, which shows individuals how through acquiring the virtues, they can live in charge of their own lives; and it must be protected against the elite's counter-teaching that virtue is subject to the conditions of society, hence nothing to be proud of.

For Minogue, wisdom is the fundamental problem, but wisdom is shown sufficiently in competence to run one's life and thus in the maintenance of freedom. You don't have to be a philosopher—and not being a philosopher does not doom you to a servile mind (as in Plato's cave). Competent individual freedom is the proxy for wisdom that a democratic society needs, and so the contrary of the servile mind is not the philosophic mind but the free mind that operates by its own free will. Without a free mind, free will is enslaved to the opinion that freedom comes only from government. To free the mind, morality is necessary. Morality is not the end of freedom but rather freedom is the end of morality, and morality must be fashioned politically to make us free as competent, responsible individuals. For the sake of freedom, morality must be wary of justice, especially of "social justice" that empowers only government. Morality must be tolerant of mistakes if they are freely and deliberately chosen democratically, but this does not extend to tolerance for the mistake of denying morality and freedom together, in the project of the servile mind.

"Of course," writes Minogue, the project for achieving freedom through servility does not succeed in its goal. His book is liberally sprinkled with of courses that remind the reader of a reality that stands in the way of the project's goal—a recalcitrance in things that is either democratic or simply human or both. One feature of the servile mind that does not work is its internationalism, which demands that governments transcend borders in order to thwart national majorities. This is the well-known "democratic deficit" evident in the European Union, aimed at elevating government above the democratic prejudice in favor of one's own national democracy, which means elevating government above politics itself.

Another feature of the politico-moral project is the abandonment of trust in the decent conduct of others, replacing it instead with regulation or with lawyers and lawsuits. At the same time there is a loss of belief in the fallen condition of man and of the humility appropriate to it, as well as the consequent need to blame God, rather than man, for human ills. The trust of decent believers is replaced by the optimism of part-time cynics, worldly-wise about morality and delusional about politics.

...that we have the most conformist free society on Earth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


More than half of California children Latino, census shows (Carol Morello and Dan Balz, 3/09/11, Washington Post)

More than half the children in California are Latinos, according to new census statistics that show the nation's most populous state rapidly approaching the day when Hispanics overtake whites as the largest minority.

Barely one in four Californians under age 18 are non-Hispanic whites, who declined in number along with black children as the number of Asian American and Hispanic children soared. Because of differing birth rates and migration patterns, the total number of children remained relatively stagnant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


The Means Testing Temptation (Ross Kaminsky, 3.9.11, American Spectator)

America's fiscal need for entitlement reform is pushing the discussion about Social Security inexorably toward "means testing," a policy both the left and the right have long avoided. Both sides realize that means testing, namely reducing or eliminating payments from the program to higher income senior citizens, would recast Social Security from its current perception by citizens as a retirement program to one of outright redistribution or welfare.

Many Americans see Social Security as a savings plan, albeit a coerced one, and a recent poll by the AARP (which certainly knows how to write poll questions geared to suggest as much approval for the program as possible) shows wide support for Social Security with equally wide skepticism about the program's future.

The fact that it's seen as a savings plan, that it has been seen as such for at least a generation despite two Supreme Court rulings that Social Security payroll taxes are not savings, not investment, not insurance, indeed not anything other than another tax levied by government, suggests that means testing in any substantial way will require jumping a substantial political hurdle.

The hurdle has been lowered by the fiscal debacle created under this president and the last one, leaving a substantial subset of both parties ready to attempt to clear it.

...with O'Neill Accounts, HSAs, and personal unemployment insurance and Social Security, pretty much no one will qualify.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Chernobyl, My Primeval, Teeming, Irradiated Eden: Twenty-five years after the Soviet-era meltdown drove 60,000 people from their homes in the Ukraine, a rebirth is taking place inside the exclusion zone. With Geiger counter in hand, the author explores Europe's strangest wildlife refuge, an enchanted postapocalyptic forest from which entirely new species may soon emerge. (Henry Shukman, March 2011, Outside)

From Pripyat we drive on to the old power station itself. It's a large area of vast concrete buildings. One of them is the stricken Reactor 4, some 200 feet tall, with a giant chimney still rising out of it. For almost 25 years it's stood encased in a "sarcophagus" of cement, but the seal is far from perfect, and it leaks dangerously. We park 200 yards away to look at it but stay only a few minutes. A new steel sarcophagus is slowly being built; when finished, it will be the world's largest movable structure.

There are canals threading through the giant buildings, which provided water for the old coolant system, and in one of them the catfish have grown to prodigious sizes. We stop on a metal bridge and gaze down into the brown water. Suddenly the monsters rise to the surface, some of them a good ten feet long, black, whiskered, curling around as they hunt for the bread people feed them.

They're not big because of radiation, Sergey insists. It's just that they haven't been fished for a quarter of a century.

The whole area is like this: fecund, scary. Later Sergey takes us to an army barracks where some soldier friends of his keep a few wild pets. From the dark doorway of one of the sheds issues a terrific subterranean grunt, and a moment later, as if in a hurry, out trots another wild boar. It comes straight at the fence, presses against it with the weird, wet sucker of its long, long nose, then raises its bristly head and eyeballs me as if I'm something from another planet.

In a pen next door there's another forest sprite—the barsuk, a very close relative of our badger. When it comes out of its kennel, it runs up a woodpile, turns at the top, and proceeds to stare right into me with deeply strange eyes. Something in me seems to recognize something in it, and I feel a pang of longing. Is it for the deep forest, the pushcha? For the trees, the smell of autumn leaves, of mushrooms and mold? For the freedom to live our own way, far from society?

Nukes just aren't that big a deal and the environment can shrug us off pretty easily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Baseball Prospectus: Best of fearless forecasters (Gordon Edes, 3/08/11, ESPN)

Here is how I describe it: The most entertaining, always challenging, occasionally confounding, wickedly funny preview of a baseball season that you could possibly wish for. It is not for the statistically faint of heart, but just as you don’t have to be a theoretical physicist to enjoy Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time, you don’t have to be a sapling on Bill James’ family tree to learn plenty from BP’s offering.

Goldman and his team of contributors (which no longer includes the inestimable Joe Sheehan, who now publishes his own, highly recommended newsletter) live to deconstruct anything that claims to be conventional wisdom on a given subject. Like David Ortiz’s claim, for example, that Fenway Park’s distant right-field fences have cost him “around 100” home runs over the years.

Team BP collected data, watched five years’ worth of video of balls Ortiz hit to the wall, sketched a diagram of where the Sox had contemplated moving the fences in, and concluded that Ortiz lost about 10 home runs in that span, not 100, or an average of 2 a year.

They can be unsparing in their criticism of the great (here’s BP on Derek Jeter: “For years, Jeter’s bat more than made up for the singles he allowed with his leather. That is still true, but the margin is shrinking and will soon vanish altogether”) and the obscure (On Daniel Nava: “On defense, Nava is lost: If his first instinct were to fall down and then run after the ball, it would look about the same as his current outfield strategy”).

But mostly, they’re smart, informed and bold in predicting how teams, players and prospects will fare in the coming year. Put it this way: It’s an oversized paperbound book too large for me to put in my laptop bag, but it goes with me wherever I go on the road.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


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

After Abraham Foxman waded into the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, opposing plans to construct an Islamic community center a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, the Anti-Defamation League chief was assailed by critics who charged that the ADL was giving license to bigotry and betraying its historic mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.” A week after initially coming out against the mosque, Foxman announced that the ADL was bowing out of the controversy, but the damage to the group’s reputation had been done.

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.

They're too busy hating to make up new slurs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Eco-farming can double food output by poor: U.N. . (Alister Doyle, 3/08/11, Reuters)

Many farmers in developing nations can double food production within a decade by shifting to ecological agriculture from use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, a U.N. report showed on Tuesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


Obama Ratifies Bush (WSJ, 3/08/11)

No one has done more to revive the reputation of Bush-era antiterror policies than the Obama Administration. In its latest policy reversal, yesterday Mr. Obama said the U.S. would resume the military tribunals for Guantanamo terrorists that he unilaterally suspended two years ago, and he may even begin referring new charges to military commissions within days or weeks.

The political left is enraged by what it claims is a betrayal, but we're glad to see Mr. Obama bowing to security reality and erring on the side of keeping the country safe—with one exception, about which more below.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Idaho OKs bill limiting bargaining (JENNIFER EPSTEIN, 3/8/11, Politico)

As Wisconsin politicians stay locked in a stalemate over a proposed law governing public employees’ unions, Idaho’s legislature on Tuesday passed a bill restricting collective bargaining rights for the state’s unionized teachers.

Under the bill, which is expected to be signed into law by the state’s Republican governor, collective bargaining for the state’s 12,000 unionized teachers would be limited to salary and benefits only, and could not be used to negotiate course loads, class sizes and other working conditions.

Having made a fetish of one state's tussle the Democrats are letting the GOP do whatever it wants everywhere else.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 AM


Off the Rails: Why do conservatives hate trains so much? (David Weigel, March 8, 2011, Slate)

What, exactly, do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have against trains? Seriously, what? Why did President George W. Bush try to zero out Amtrak funding in 2005? Why is the conservative Republican Study Committee suggesting that we do so now? Why does George Will think "the real reason for progressives' passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism"?

"You need to distinguish between Republicans and conservatives and libertarians when you look at this," says William Lind, the director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. "It's the libertarians who push this crap."

And it's because they hate anything that isn't atomizing.

March 8, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Fitz and the Tantrums perform in The Current studio (Bill DeVille, 2/24/11, Minnesota Public Radio)

Emerging from Los Angeles' growing indie-soul scene, Fitz & the Tantrums began as the one-man project of Michael Fitzpatrick, but has now expanded into a seven-piece band. Fitzpatrck--"Fitz" for short--plays the church organ and shares vocal duties with singer Noelle Scaggs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


Elderly half as likely to see pedestrians (UPI, 3/07/11)

Elderly drivers are half as likely as others to see pedestrians on the sidewalk due to a limited field of view, researchers in Israel suggest.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev studied reaction times and perception of pedestrians as hazards, comparing experienced elderly and non-elderly drivers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Hezbollah on Offense (Nicholas Blanford, Bilal Y. Saab, March 8, 2011, National Interest)

Despite the massive arms build-up, recruitment and training drive since 2006, history suggests that Hezbollah is perfectly capable of maintaining peace with Israel when it suits its interests and those of its benefactors in Tehran and Damascus. Since the end of the 2006 war (which began when Hezbollah miscalculated Israel’s response to the kidnapping of two soldiers along the border), the Lebanese group has not fired a single shot in anger toward its Israeli adversaries.

Whether Hezbollah launches a war depends a great deal on Tel Aviv. [...]

For over a decade, Israel has been eyeing Hezbollah’s arms build-up (a process that rapidly accelerated after the 2006 war) with discomfort. The dilemma facing Israel is whether it is worth attempting to degrade Hezbollah’s military capabilities and upset what has been the quietest four-year period along its northern border since the late 1960s. Of course, the longer Israel takes to weigh the options, the stronger Hezbollah becomes.

Rather than sucking up to a dictator, there's a moral option available: recognize Hezbollahstan as a state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


The Arab Westphalia (Franck Salameh, March 7, 2011, National Interest)

Still, British designs prevailed, and new, unitary, Arab-defined creations emerged—bereft of historical precedents and legitimate political bases. Today the foundations of this “Arab” edifice are being shaken, and new states—perhaps even new nations—are beginning to take shape, arguably redeeming the early twentieth century French. What does the future hold for Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and the rest? Could it be that Arabism as the sole, overarching parameter of selfhood has run its course? Is it a spent force in a Middle East intent on slaying its Arab nationalist heroes of yore; its Qaddafis, Mubaraks, and others?

Clearly, and despite many claims to the contrary, the dismantlement of the anciens régimes of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya point to a defrocking of the Arab nationalist order, not its “rebirth”; it signals the emergence of new nation-states, not the mending of an old ideology. Much has been written of late about the region’s turmoil bearing the markings of Eastern-Europe-1989. The comparison is tempting. However, it is not unlikely that future historians might revise this parallel and re-christen this year’s momentous events as the early stirrings of a Middle Eastern “Peace of Westphalia”; the breakup of the imperial Arab order and the birth of new free nations. Eastern-Europe-1989 did not only bring about the fall of the Iron Curtain; it raised a Velvet Curtain to reveal the birthing of new nations. Not Egypt, not Libya, and not Tunisia; Sudan is the glimpse into the future of the Middle East. In 2003 former Iraqi dissident, Kanan Makiya, wrote that the new Iraqi state he yearned for had to be federal and non-Arab in order for it to be viable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


The Sleeping Cure: I’d seen four shrinks in my life, and they’d all dozed off mid-session. Was it them—or me? I went back to find out. (Stephen Metcalf, Mar 6, 2011, New York)

I have consulted four therapists in my life, and all four have fallen asleep on me. The ritual—forms, waiting rooms, Kleenex—starts up again, only each time with my own special twist: I pay someone to explore my unconscious mind and instead they sink into theirs. So consistently did I lose wakeful contact with my shrinks that I began to suspect—honest to God—that feigning sleep was a technique for provoking patients to confront their fears of abandonment. “Once in a 40-year career,” said a friend’s shrink, an ancient and cheerful Jungian, when I asked him if he’d ever drifted off while on the clock—making me, I suppose, the Ted Williams of narcissistic monotony.

A little while ago, at a dinner party, I met a prominent analyst, a Kleinian. He is the first therapist I’ve known socially, and I confided in him. “I’d like to go back into therapy, but all four therapists I’ve seen in my life have fallen asleep.” He didn’t laugh. Nor did he ask me how I felt. Instead he took it in, turned it over in his mind, then said, very carefully, “Well, the common denominator here is you.”

Don't they make up stuff in these sessions just because they'd be so boring otherwise?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Canon vs. Creator: The writer dies, but the work can never escape. (Jessa Crispin, 3/04/11, Smart Set)

Say the name Knut Hamsun, on the other hand, and the first thing in your head is probably “Nazi.” Not Hunger. Not “brilliant Norwegian writer,” but “Nazi.” And while our reaction should be one of disgust, the fact that Hamsun was in his doddering old age showing signs of mental decline even before he went all rah-rah Hitler (he was 80 at the time Germany invaded Norway) — whereas Céline was an intelligent, mentally competent writer in the bloom of youth — it makes you wonder how arbitrary are these reactions. When Norway recently tried to honor its native son, the response was immediate and furious: How dare you, after what he’s done?

And yet Hunger, the syllabus-friendly novel about a writer starving in the late 19th century, is perhaps a greater achievement than Journey. With its psychological depth, its taut and lean structure, it’s almost impossible to believe the book is a 19th-century work. Hamsun manages to portray a man on the brink of starvation without a shred of pity. Above all, the narrator wishes to maintain a sense of dignity — and he sacrifices opportunities for food and housing with his stubborn pride. Hamsun obliges his character. Even when hunger turns his thoughts obsessive and unhinged, there’s a begrudging respect for a man who wants to earn his keep, even if every day he can’t, he becomes physically and emotionally weaker, making it harder and more unlikely he’ll be able to work his way out of it.

...his novel is wildly over-rated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM

First Listen: Trio Mediaeval, 'A Worcester Ladymass' (Ashalen Sims, 3/07/11, NPR)

The members of Norway's Trio Mediaeval have a pure, lustrous sound that's perfect for the ancient works they sing. After a foray into folk music on 2007's Folk Songs, they've returned to the Middle Ages for their fifth album, on which they dig up a collection of florid polyphonic music from the 13th century.

The material on this recording was uncovered at a Benedictine abbey in Worcester, England. It's purely accidental that the music survived — most of it was used as binding for other books and codices. Trio Mediaeval went through these fragments and, using other sources from the period, reconstructed a 13th-century votive Mass. From a lengthy "Kyrie" to the minute-long "Beata Viscera," the music they collected honors the Virgin Mary, who was highly venerated by the Worcester monks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM

PSSSST... (via John Thacker):

Mitch Daniels Does Not Have an ‘Obamacare Problem’ (Grace-Marie Turner, March 07, 2011, National Review)

Governor Daniels devised a unique plan to expand health coverage to the uninsured through a Medicaid waiver and a new cigarette tax. But rather than creating a path to dependency, as Cannon charges, HIP creates incentives for people to spend and utilize health services wisely.

Traditional Medicaid promises virtually unlimited medical services, if people can find a doctor or hospital to provide them, with few if any financial obligations.

By contrast, HIP helps people transition from an entitlement program to a plan that operates much more like private insurance. It requires members to make monthly contributions (i.e., premiums) to a Personal Wellness and Responsibility (POWER) account. The state and the member both contribute on a sliding income scale, for a total of $1,100 a year.

Anything the member spends on health care comes out of the account first. If the account is exhausted, then “catastrophic” coverage is provided through Medicaid. State spending is capped at the revenues that are available, so enrollment is limited.

Cannon calls this a “taxpayer-funded health savings account” and makes is sounds like the state is handing out cash. It’s not. He needs to get his facts straight. The state and the participants work in partnership to jointly fund the POWER account. Those closest to the income limit — 200 percent of poverty, about $22,000 for an individual — fund the account almost entirely on their own.

Three-quarters of those participating in the program make monthly contributions to their POWER accounts. (The rest don’t contribute because their incomes are below thresholds.) If people don’t make the required contribution to their account, they are tossed out of the program. Because of that, 97 percent make the payment, according to a Mathematica Policy Research study.

It sounds to me like Governor Daniels got the incentives right.

...when they're universal they're going to be tax-payer funded.

March 7, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Helping Themselves to Freedom (Ann Marlowe, 3/07/11, The Daily)

While I supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the recent uprisings in the Arab world have given me pause. I defended our intervention in Iraq partly on the grounds that it showed that the U.S. valued Muslim people’s freedom. It was a way of saying that their lives are worth no less than ours, that they are no less capable of democracy and self-rule than we are. The invasion seemed to me to be egalitarian, non-racist, in the best American tradition. I also used to tell people that if I thought the Allies ought to have made a much bigger effort to save Europe’s Jews in the 1940s, it was incumbent upon me to support a similar effort to punish genocide now.

But now that two Arab countries have liberated themselves, it occurs to me that our Iraq intervention might have been the result of condescension, too. We assumed they couldn’t free themselves. But now we can wonder whether the Iraqis might have overthrown Saddam Hussein this winter, as the uprisings moved east from Tunisia. (The problem with this counterfactual is that under Saddam, Iraq had no mobile phone network or public Internet access, and if that had still been the case now, it would have been very tough to organize

That's not the biggest problem, which is that the Sunni had no interest in a liberation that would bring the Shi'a and Kurds to power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Utah G.O.P. Adopts Immigration Alternative (JULIA PRESTON, 3/07/11, NY Times)

In the first move by a state to extend legal recognition to illegal immigrant laborers, the Utah Legislature has passed immigration bills that include a guest worker program that would allow unauthorized foreigners to work legally in the state.

With the immigration package, passed in both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature late Friday, Utah made a sharp break with the hard-line trend in state immigration legislation that has been led by Arizona, which passed a strict enforcement law last April. [...]

The guest worker bill came after intense lobbying by business and farm groups as well as by some immigrant advocates, and it enjoyed the quiet but all-important endorsement of the Mormon Church.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Republicans in solid shape to take control of Senate next year (Shane D'Aprile, 03/05/11, The Hill)

An early spate of Democratic Senate retirements has put Republicans in solid shape to retake the majority in the upper chamber next year.

The first edition of The Hill's 2012 race ratings puts five Democratic-held seats in the toss-up column. Republicans need a net gain of at least three seats to win the Senate.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) are the two incumbents that top of the list of vulnerable Senate Democrats in 2012. And, thanks to retirements, another three Democratic-held seats are toss-ups -- the ones held by Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Jim Webb (Va.).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM

DID W GET ANYTHING WRONG? (via The Other Brother):

White House Says Tribunals Can Resume at Guantánamo (Reuters)

In a setback to hopes for a quick closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Obama administration on Monday lifted a stay on filing new charges in military tribunals there and set up a process for continuing to hold detainees who have not been charged.

President Barack Obama said he ordered the Defense Department to lift an order that had suspended the filing of new charges in the military tribunals at the camp. Obama had suspended such charges when he announced his review of the detainee policy in early 2009, shortly after he took office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


As Rep. Peter King's Muslim hearings approach, his past views draw ire (Peter Finn, 3/05/11, Washington Post)

In 1985, the Irish government boycotted the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City, the biggest celebration in the Irish-American calendar. The cause of its umbrage was Peter King, that year's grand marshal and someone the Irish government said was an "avowed" supporter of a terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army.

King, then a local politician on Long Island, was one of the most zealous American defenders of the militant IRA and its campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland. He argued that IRA violence was an inevitable response to British repression and that the organization had to be understood in the context of a centuries-long struggle for independence.

"The British government is a murder machine," King said. He described the IRA, which mastered the car bomb as an instrument of urban terror, as a "legitimate force." And he compared Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, to George Washington.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


Celtics' Jeff Green Angling for Spot Among NBA's Best Sixth Men (Evans Clinchy, Mar 7, 2011, NESN)

Jeff Green You know you've got a championship-caliber roster when you can take the third-leading scorer off a strong playoff team and mix him into your rotation as a sixth man.

That's what the Celtics have done with Jeff Green, picking him up from the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline and quickly integrating him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


Hugh Bonneville: ‘New Downton script like unwrapping a Christmas present’ (Telegraph, 3/07/11)

He says that the response from the public to Downton has been unusual. “The reaction I get is ‘Thank you for Downton Abbey. Thank you for making my Sunday evening so important to me. And it’s rare that a show does that.

“I’ve never once been bored of being asked about it because what’s not to like? To be in something that I was incredibly proud of doing, with very high standards and production values – and then to see the reaction that it got and is now getting in America. It’s a once in a lifetime, once in a career, once in a decade feeling, to have so many people react in such a positive way.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


Democrats to End Union Standoff (KRIS MAHER And AMY MERRICK, 3/07/11, WSJ)

Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they'll taint the state's Republican governor and legislators.

The Republicans rejected the idea that the legislation would hurt the GOP. "If you think this is a bad bill for Republicans, why didn't you stand up in the chamber and debate us about it three weeks ago?" said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. "People think it's absolutely ridiculous that these 14 senators have not been in Wisconsin for three weeks."

What negative effects will the bill have had on voters come next election?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM

Steve Riley And The Mamou Playboys: Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen, 3/07/11, NPR)

This Mardi Gras will be a bittersweet celebration for Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. For 23 years, accordionist Steve Riley has been making music with his friend and fiddler, David Greely, but this Mardi Gras will be their last together. Greely is leaving the Mamou Playboys to save his ears; the loud volume of dancehall shows has been harmful to his hearing, and his doctor has told him that he needs to stop. So this Tiny Desk Concert is one of his last shows with the Grammy-nominated Cajun band.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


Study: Staring at breasts increases heart health (Gene Lavanchy, 3/04/11,

Five-hundred men participated in the German study. Half were told to refrain from looking at breasts for five years, the other half were told to ogle them daily.

The study found the men who stared at breasts more often showed lower rates of heart problems, a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Sadly, it's a hoax

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


The Decline of Glenn Beck (James Downie, March 3, 2011, New Republic)

Meanwhile, as a group, prominent conservatives have seemed more willing to speak out against Beck recently. Though some on the right always disparaged him—several profiles last year included anonymous Fox insiders criticizing Beck—almost none were willing to do so with their names attached. Recently, however, conservatives have been criticizing Beck openly. Bill O’Reilly, who feted him for an hour after the Restoring Honor rally, has rapidly become more and more dismissive. The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol has criticized Beck’s “rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East.” Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin called Beck a “ranting extremist,” and former Bush administration staffer Pete Wehner wrote for Commentary’s website, “If conservatism were ever to hitch its wagon to this self-described rodeo clown, it would collapse as a movement.”

What happened? Beck built a following by making outlandish, conspiratorial claims—about ACORN, Obama, and so on. (Bizarrely, his extremism may have augmented the number of curious liberal viewers tuning in: A Pew Research Center poll from last September found that 9 percent of Beck’s Fox viewers identified as Democrats, and 21 percent as moderates or liberals.) But “anytime you have extreme stimulus,” says Alexander Zaitchik, author of the unauthorized Beck biography Common Nonsense, “you’ll have diminishing returns.” Beck, says Zaitchik, was caught “in a vicious circle”: To keep viewers coming back, he had to keep creating new, more intricate theories. Last November, in a two-part special that indirectly invoked anti-Semitism, he accused liberal Jewish financier George Soros of orchestrating the fall of foreign governments for financial gain. During the Egyptian Revolution, Beck sided with Hosni Mubarak, alleging that his fall was “controlled by the socialist communists and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Beck is now warning viewers not to use Google, accusing the search-engine giant of “being deep in bed with the government.” In recent months, it seems, Beck’s theories became so outlandish that even conservatives—both viewers and media personalities—were having a hard time stomaching them. Now, each new idea appears to be costing Beck both eyeballs and credibility. “At some point,” says Boehlert, “it doesn’t add up any more.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


A new dawn for Cuba as capitalism eclipses communism: As state control rolls back, 500,000 are about to lose their jobs. In the first part of a new series, (David Usborne, 5 March 2011, Independent)

Cuba is changing. The roof-garden fete, with its decadent pulse, was not something you see in Havana on your average Saturday night. Some may have thought of it as an aberrant flashback to the pre-revolution days when frolicsome behaviour was the norm. But to others it seemed like a back-to-the-future experience. Was this a glimpse of this grand but crumbling city 10 or 20 years from now, raring once again for fun? A reporter meanwhile tries to straighten out those Castro sightings. The surprise: no sons but two grand-daughters had indeed shown up.

Grandfather Raul, who turns 80 this year four years after taking over as President from his ailing brother and founder of the revolution, Fidel, will not have given the party a second's thought. That Cuba is tiptoeing back into the sunlight is of his own personal doing, after all. It was last September that a stunned nation as told that the centrally planned economy was dying and needed radical surgery. By the end of this April, the government decreed, 500,000 Cubans would have been fired from state jobs. In the longer term, the Raul-sanctioned plan would eliminate about 1 million jobs, or roughly 20 per cent of the workforce.

It is an audacious blueprint that will kill the socialist model erected by Fidel and his co-revolutionary Che Guevara 53 years ago or save it from collapse. Its success or failure will depend largely on whether Cuba, with its epic inefficiencies and laid-back rhythms, can rediscover long-suppressed capitalist instincts. Today, the state employs almost 90 per cent of all workers. As many of those are now laid off they will be encouraged to apply for licenses to try their hand at private enterprise. Fidel did something similar 15 years ago, but on a far tinier scale – Havana saw the opening of a handful of family-run restaurants and hostelries for tourists – and he later backed away. This promises to be much bigger.

What it means is that Cuba is in a state of high agitation. Interviews over several days with Cubans of all backgrounds suggested a people uncertain whether to be deeply afraid of what is coming or grateful that after decades of stagnation, their leaders finally are ready for reform. And there have been other signs of movement from the top. In February, the regime with little fanfare lifted the internet firewall that for years had blocked much of what Cubans could see on the web (though only a fraction of the population has access to it). And the months since last July have seen 60 political prisoners released, all originally rounded up in the so-called 'Black Spring' of 2003. Only seven of those arrested in that crackdown now remain behind bars.

Miguel Barnet, the President of the Writers' and Artist's Union, an amiable man about Havana who has a direct line of communication with the Castros (and is therefore not free to speak entirely candidly), accepted that Cuba is in a tricky place but was certain that Raul knows what he's doing. "I am very optimistic for Cuba," he tells me. "What would be tricky is if there was no transition going on. We need to do this."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Why Social Security Is Welfare(Robert Samuelson, 3/07/11, RCP)

In a recent column, I noted that Social Security is often "middle-class welfare" that bleeds the country. This offended many readers. In an e-mail, one snarled: "Social Security is not adding one penny to our national debt, you idiot." Others were more dignified: "Let's refrain from insulting individuals who have worked all their lives and contributed to the system for 50-plus years by insinuating that (their) earned benefits are welfare." Some argued that Social Security, with a $2.6 trillion trust fund, doesn't affect our budgetary predicament. [...]

We don't call Social Security "welfare" because it's a pejorative term, and politicians don't want to offend. So their rhetoric classifies Social Security as something else when it isn't. Here is how I define a welfare program. First, it taxes one group to support another group, meaning it's pay-as-you-go and not a contributory scheme where people's own savings pay their later benefits. And second, Congress can constantly alter benefits, reflecting changing needs, economic conditions and politics. Social Security qualifies on both counts.

The moral case for privatization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


The Fading Power of Beck’s Alarms (DAVID CARR, 3/07/11, NY Times)

Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox — a greater percentage drop than other hosts at Fox. True, he fell from the great heights of the health care debate in January 2010, but there has been worrisome erosion — more than one million viewers — especially in the younger demographic.

He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


The Americanization of Statistics By Premier League Clubs (Kyle Austin, March 7, 2011, EPL Talk)

With crucial, late campaign matches taking place across the Premier League over the weekend, several executives from top EPL clubs took time to cross the Atlantic to discuss analytics. The global game of football, unlike baseball and basketball in America, has yet to reach its analytical tipping point. However, it is ripe for change. With a growing American influence on the business of football across England, the revolution is coming. Steven Houston of Chelsea and Gavin Fleig of Manchester City, who participated on the panel, were hard pressed to argue with that during the day’s discussion. You’d also find them hard pressed to argue that working with American analysts within the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) has been a good thing for their respective clubs and the overall future of the Premier League.

“We like working with American sports franchises,” noted Houston. “One benefit, we’re not competing with them. Secondly, they do so much analysis.” It shouldn’t be surprising to hear Houston say that. The head of technical scouting and data analysis for Chelsea has a deep understanding of statistics in American sports. He cut his teeth within the NBA for the Houston Rockets as an analyst – applying data analytics to international basketball prospects. At which time, he worked for Daryl Morey, current General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Co-Chair of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and the focus of a New York Times feature by the author of Moneyball on his use of analytics in basketball.

Following that impressive apprenticeship, Houston moved to Chelsea in 2009. He now works closely with senior management, including Michael Emenalo and Carlo Ancelotti, on data modeling and visualization, statistical and video analysis, and developing technologies. However, it hasn’t been a necessarily easy transition. Although he joined the English Premier League several years after the introduction of statistical analysis at clubs like Bolton, he didn’t have the data he worked with in the NBA. With the Houston Rockets he had pre-established values associated with literally hundred of points, passes and rebounds. Chelsea, like many other English Premier League clubs, didn’t have league available data and had far less scoring to attribute events to than the NBA or MLB. To solve the problem, he along with other analysts at Tottenham and Fulham – that were also in attendance at Sloan – have worked within their respective clubs to set values for connecting a pass, intercepting a pass, completing a tackle, winning a header and much more.

It is shocking for an American observer how primitive the European understanding of their own game is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 AM


BBC Four buys second series of The Killing (Neil Midgley, 05 Mar 2011, Telegraph)

The first series has become a cult hit for the digital channel BBC Four, which is showing double-bills on Saturday evenings - and scoring audience appreciation figures at almost unprecedented levels of 94 per cent.

Half a million viewers a week have been tuning in to see unflappable detective Sarah Lund, played by Sofie Grabol, unravel the murder of Copenhagen teenager Nanna Birk Larsen - and, with it, a web of intrigue spanning coalition politics, the integration of Muslim immigrants, online dating and removal vans.

The BBC has now announced that it will show the 10-episode second series - which has already been transmitted in Denmark - later this year. A third series has been commissioned for transmission in 2012, and AMC, the network that shows Mad Men, has commissioned an American remake. blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Public employees may face shift to 401(k) plans: Walker’s budget opens door for defined contribution plan (John Schmid, 3/06/11, Journal Sentinel)

The next generation of Wisconsin teachers and other public employees, a sector long blessed with one of the most generous retirement plans in the country, may be facing an entirely different future.

Policy experts say proposed changes to Wisconsin's public-employee pension plan could be the first step toward eventually implementing a 401(k)-style system - shifting the burden of saving for retirement onto workers, and all but eliminating the financial incentive for lifelong loyalty to a single employer.

"It's one of those fiscal inevitabilities," said Todd Berry, president of the Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance research group. "The economics, the demographics - everything about it pushes everybody in the same direction."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Le Pen Is Mightier: Why, just four years after its supposed demise, does France’s National Front have its highest poll ratings ever? (CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, 3/14/11, Weekly Standard)

France needs to reexamine its membership in the European Union (which has robbed great nations of their sovereignty and saddled them with an unworkable currency) and in NATO (which has subordinated the country’s foreign policy interests to those of the United States), and it should not make a dogma of free trade. “This identity-killing globalization,” she said at Tours, “has turned into an economic horror, a social tsunami, a moral Chernobyl.” Then she led into more familiar FN themes—the International Monetary Fund, the “demographic submersion” of France, self-appointed elites, and the need for French citizens to “pick up the flag.” Ms. Le Pen is a candidate in next year’s presidential election, and a poll released in October showed her hovering at a stunning 19 percent in the polls, which put her just a couple of points behind Sarkozy and Socialist hopeful Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille. (Dominique Strauss-Kahn, president of the IMF and a former Socialist finance minister, was at 30 percent, but he has not yet decided whether to run.) French newspapers warn that a repeat of 2002 is possible, with the FN knocking one of the major parties out of the running.

What went wrong with Sarkozy?

It is not immediately obvious why Sarkozy, who promised a wide-ranging program of reform, should be endangered by an antiestablishment candidate. After all, he has delivered reforms. He toughened criminal penalties for repeat offenders. He fixed France’s labor laws to make it harder for public employee unions to bring the country to a grinding halt with strikes. In the face of massive protests, he stuck to his guns and pushed through a new law that will significantly raise French retirement ages. And he has broadened the so-called “fiscal shield,” a government guarantee to taxpayers that no one will pay the state more than half of what he earns. He brought France back into full membership in NATO, four decades after Charles de Gaulle withdrew from the Western alliance.

Sarkozy nonetheless finds himself in a bad political position, from which his formidable skills as a campaigner may be insufficient to extricate him.

Nonetheless? What made him think an aging French population either wanted to work or to take on responsibilities beyond their borders?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 AM


WEEKEND INTERVIEW: Why America Will Stay on Top: Eminent historian Paul Johnson on Sarah Palin, the tea party, and 'baddies' from Napoleon to Gadhafi. (BRIAN M. CARNEY, 3/06/11, WSJ)

Frank judgments like these are a hallmark of Mr. Johnson's work, delivered with almost child-like glee. Of Mahatma Gandhi, he wrote in "Modern Times": "About the Gandhi phenomenon there was always a strong aroma of twentieth-century humbug."

Socrates is much more to Mr. Johnson's liking. Whereas, in Mr. Johnson's telling, Gandhi led hundreds of thousands to death by stirring up civil unrest in India, all the while maintaining a pretense of nonviolence, Socrates "thought people mattered more than ideas. . . . He loved people, and his ideas came from people, and he thought ideas existed for the benefit of people," not the other way around.

In the popular imagination, Socrates may be the first deep thinker in Western civilization, but in Mr. Johnson's view he was also an anti-intellectual. Which is what makes him one of the good guys. "One of the categories of people I don't like much are intellectuals," Mr. Johnson says. "People say, 'Oh, you're an intellectual,' and I say, 'No!' What is an intellectual? An intellectual is somebody who thinks ideas are more important than people."

And indeed, Mr. Johnson's work and thought are characterized by concern for the human qualities of people. Cicero, he tells me, was not a man "one would have liked to have been friends with." But even so the Roman statesman is "often very well worth reading."

His concern with the human dimension of history is reflected as well in his attitude toward humor, the subject of another recent book, "Humorists." "The older I get," he tells me, "the more important I think it is to stress jokes." Which is another reason he loves America. "One of the great contributions that America has made to civilization," he deadpans, "is the one-liner." The one-liner, he says, was "invented, or at any rate brought to the forefront, by Benjamin Franklin." Mark Twain's were the "greatest of all."

And then there was Ronald Reagan. "Mr. Reagan had thousands of one-liners." Here a grin spreads across Mr. Johnson's face: "That's what made him a great president."

Jokes, he argues, were a vital communication tool for President Reagan "because he could illustrate points with them." Mr. Johnson adopts a remarkable vocal impression of America's 40th president and delivers an example: "You know, he said, 'I'm not too worried about the deficit. It's big enough to take care of itself.'" Recovering from his own laughter, he adds: "Of course, that's an excellent one-liner, but it's also a perfectly valid economic point." Then his expression grows serious again and he concludes: "You don't get that from Obama. He talks in paragraphs."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 AM


Obama Goes From Blank Slate to Empty Suit (Jack Kelly, 3/06/11, RCP)

"By the time of Obama's empty speech, even the notoriously lenient Arab League had suspended Libya's participation, and several of Gadhafi's senior diplomatic envoys had bravely defected," noted columnist Christopher Hitchens, who'd supported Mr. Obama in 2008.

Britain and France have taken more action to protect the rebels from Mr. Gadhafi's wrath than the United States. The situation is so bad that one Libyan dissident called upon former President George H.W. Bush for help. " 'Bring Bush! Make a no-fly zone. Bomb the planes,' shouted soldier-turned-rebel Nasr Ali," reported Reuters.

Mr. Obama has mostly been missing in action on big domestic issues, too. His proposed budget "punted" on the fiscal crisis, The Washington Post noted in a caustic editorial. And he's delegated to Vice President Biden the task of negotiating with House Republicans on the budget.

Mr. Obama has backtracked on many of the campaign promises he made in 2008, such as closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay and imposing no new taxes on the middle class. He has even reneged on his implicit promise to be a racial healer. His administration has been the most racially polarizing since Woodrow Wilson's.

In 2008, much of the news media projected onto the blank screen that was Barack Obama what they thought we wanted to see in a president. Mr. Obama's "brilliance" -- which pundits asserted without offering much evidence -- more than compensated for the thinness of his resume, they assured us.

It's time now for them to show us the little man behind the curtain.

March 6, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


Israel’s democratic veneer (T. HERMANN AND D. NEWMAN, 03/06/2011, Jersusalem Post)

Much has been written about the weakening of Israel’s democratic culture. Events of the past few months have posed serious questions in this regard: the Knesset decision to examine the functioning and funding of human-rights and peace NGOs, attacks on academic freedom by right-wing think tanks, rabbis issuing public statements against the renting of property to Arab citizens, the rabbis’ wives’ warnings to Jewish girls not to associate with gentiles, as well as demonstrations in Tel Aviv against foreign workers from Third World countries.

Taken individually, each event may be seen as no more than an aberration by a deviant group. But taken together, we are witnessing a “climate change” in Israeli Jewish public opinion, raising serious concerns about the long-term viability of our democracy.

The conventional explanation for the increase in these anti-democratic attitudes is as a spillover of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But laying the blame at the door of the conflict is too simplistic. Such an explanation is often motivated by political correctness and other agendas which tend to deny the structural and perceptual changes which are taking place within Israeli Jewish society.

What is fast becoming an anti ‘others’ tsunami, is an internal kulturkampf taking place between the declining and politically inactive old elites, and those groups who were, for a long time, at the socio-political periphery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


The season finally catches up with poor United as Liverpool look re-energised - (Oliver Holt's Big Match Verdict, 3/06/11, Daily Mirror)

United were so poor at Anfield yesterday that no amount of mud-slinging at the officials could disguise their mediocrity.

This was not just the kind of performance that raised doubts about their ability to cling on to their lead at the top of the Premier League.

It was a display so wretched that it asked questions about whether Ferguson will be able to halt a slide further and further away from the summit next season.

Plenty of people predicted that this fall would come even when United were clinging on to the long unbeaten record they lost at Wolves.

They may not have had a defeat against their name this season until last month but that run did not fool anyone. This is not a vintage United team and everyone knows it.

Now, finally, the evidence is incontrovertible.

Beaten by Chelsea on Tuesday night, United were overrun by the old enemy on Merseyside on Sunday and even pursuers as inconsistent as Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are beginning to smell blood.

The problemfor United being that if you know you can beat them you will.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Bring Bush (Monica Crowley, 3/06/11, Political Mavens)

On November 19, 2003, President George W. Bush delivered a major address at Whitehall Palace in London. Here’s part of what he said:

“We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. .

“As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

“Now we’re pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.”

In his selfish and narcissistic drive to be the “anti-Bush,” President Obama refuses to embrace the most strategically and morally correct of Bush’s policies: the freedom agenda. This explains in large part his pathetic reluctance to offer clear words of moral support to the Iranian and Libyan peoples who are struggling and dying to free themselves from their terrorist and murderous tyrannies, tyrannies that also happen to be enemies of the United States. Obama is so obsessed with not appearing to embrace Bush’s overt and covert support of freedom and liberty and respect for human rights—-as correct as it was and is—that he is making serious strategic mistakes to the great detriment of U.S. national security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


The Grand Strategy of Rome (Walter Russell Mead , 3/06/11, American Interest)

I may have surprised my students by focusing on something other than the eye-catching details — Hannibal’s route over the Alps, the classic battle strategy at Cannae, or even the struggle between Fabius and his mutinous subordinate that almost wrecked the Roman army. Those are important and they are worth knowing about, but I wanted to draw their attention to the real grand strategy of Rome: the construction of a new kind of state and society that brought Rome to world power despite Hannibal’s best efforts.

In Livy’s account we see a contest between two styles of organization. Carthage has its factions and its politics, but in the Carthaginian system, individual leaders are strong but the state is weak. Hannibal and the Barca clan have one policy; their opponents have another, but one doesn’t get a picture of a central coordinating power center in Carthage overseeing the twists and turns of the war. This is no doubt partly because of Livy’s dependence on Roman sources; history is written by the winners.

But it also seems truly the case that Rome was the first of the ancient city states (in the Mediterranean world) to develop a real system of governance that operated reasonably reliably and consistently. The Romans had their legal system, their political system with its competition for office and its checks and balances, their standardized methods of training and equipping an army, and even (for the time) a well organized method for dealing with the public finance and debt.

Among other strengths, Rome’s solid institutional base gave the city a greater ability to manage power across distance and manage a conflict that was larger and more complex than any other war the city had fought. [...]

Rome’s deep political stability and the capacity of so many Romans to think clearly and act decisively enabled the city to manage the complexities of the conflict; those characteristics also made Rome resilient. Slaughter a legion and kill a consul if you like: Rome can make more. It also made Rome reliable. Promises from Hannibal did not and could not bind Carthage the way that promises from properly constituted Roman authorities vested with imperium bound the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


New merit-pay bill will revolutionize teaching profession (Mike Thomas, 3/05/11, Orlando Sentinel)

This time there will be no Charlie Crist to save teachers from the Republicans.

One of Charlie's last acts as governor was vetoing the infamous Senate Bill 6, which would have tied teacher pay and job security to student test scores. Teachers and their unions cheered, but I knew it was a short-lived victory. The unions are on the wrong side of history.

A new bill has been filed, and Rick Scott will sign it.

This is one of those moments in history. Teaching is transitioning from a unionized, assembly-line employment model to a professional, results-oriented model.

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This started out as a Jeb Bush thing.

And it grew into a Barack Obama thing.

Jeb lost in '94. His brother got to be the Education revolutionary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM

THERE IS NO CHINA (via Bryan Francoeur):

Internal Security Tops Military in China Spending (Jeremy Page, 3/05/11, WSJ)

China projected bigger spending on internal security than on defense in 2011–after spending more last year too–as the government tightens physical and technological controls to quash calls for a “Jasmine Revolution” like the one shaking the Arab world. [...]

[S]pending this year on police, state security, armed civil militia, courts and jails would total 624.4 billion yuan ($95 billion), an increase of 13.8% over 2010.

China’s 2011 military budget, by comparison, is 601.1 billion ($91.5 billion), representing a rise of 12.7% over last year, a government spokesman announced Friday.

That means that China’s internal security spending is growing faster than its defense spending.

The guns point inwards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


REVIEW: of Stalin's Genocides by Norman M. Naimark (Jonathan Leader Maynard, Oxonian Review)

There is a lot to commend about Stalin’s Genocides. Naimark writes with admirable clarity and concision on a subject of extreme complexity. Key explanatory features of Stalinist repression, such as discourses of internal threats and complex relations of power and expectations between periphery and centre, are rightly and succinctly incorporated. Naimark is not blind to the variance in forms and targets of Soviet violence during this period, and openly addresses the greater problems posed by some cases, where intentions are unclear, or target groups not ethnically rooted. And his argument will convince many on the clearer cases, such as the Ukrainian ‘Holodomor’ or the attacks on the annexed Baltic States. Naimark’s fifteen-page outline of the formative history of genocide as a concept is particularly helpful, crucially detailing successful Soviet efforts to exclude political groups from the definition. Given the importance of making issues of such significance accessible to a wider academic and non-academic audience, Naimark’s book is a worthy contribution.

One cannot help but feel, however, that the two dimensions of Naimark’s analysis are fundamentally in competition in a volume of this length. While a history of the origins of genocide is a good step on the road to arguing that the concept should incorporate killing directed at political groups, it nevertheless leaves certain analytical issues unresolved. Why should the original intentions of Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term, override the social connotations ‘genocide’ has now? Is it not valuable to preserve a distinct conception for directed killing of a distinct kind: that which is ethnically targeted? Why is it relevant to invoke, as Naimark frequently does, the moral equivalence between Stalin’s crimes and the Holocaust when discussing how such phenomena should be conceptualised? And even if this is relevant, could there not be a distinct immorality in the attempt to eliminate ethnic or national communities on which individuals’ identities and well-being may uniquely depend? describe the mass murder of your democratic opposition, as opposed to ethnic groups, isn't there something almost racist in the insistence that the former is unworthy of being compared to the latter? Does it matter that much that Dietrich Bonhoeffer died for practicing Christianity instead of for being a Jew?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


Fear of Freedom: Democracy Virus Has Dictators Fretting (Erich Follath, 3/01/11, Der Spiegel)

Have we finally arrived, perhaps not at the "end of history" that some had prematurely predicted after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but at least at the end of the reigns of a host of brutal rulers? Is there a recurring pattern for how best to overthrow governments -- instructions for a peaceful revolution, so to speak -- that applies everywhere from Serbia in 2000, to Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, and now to Tunisia and Egypt?

A Shy Revolutionary

If the young revolutionaries from Kiev to Cairo are to be believed, the answers to those questions can be found with an 83-year-old man who lives in a modest house near Boston. Gene Sharp, who was profiled in a 2005 SPIEGEL story, is the guru of a global network of freedom activists. The former Harvard professor wrote the bible of freedom that was recently used by Egyptian bloggers like Ahmed Mahir.

The thin volume is titled: "From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation." Sharp, an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, lists "198 methods of nonviolent action." He insists that his principles have nothing to do with pacifism. Instead, they are based on the analysis of power in a dictatorship and how it can be broken -- namely by citizens refusing obedience at all levels of state power, including its institutions. Sharp also points out, however, that it isn't enough to topple a dictator: Once he has been ousted, everything possible must be done to prevent a new one from replacing him. Following the euphoria of liberation, the democratic successes achieved in Ukraine and Georgia were largely frittered away. Sharp, who modestly gives all the credit to the courageous protesters, says that the same risk applies in Egypt and Tunisia.

Nonviolent resistance worked in the overthrow of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, because the system was rotten, a civil society was in the making and the autocrats refrained from using excessive violence. But can the same recipe work with despots who are prepared to commit murder?

Only the Strong Survive

The Obama administration has discovered a pattern in the current maelstrom of upheavals in the Middle East. In the words of the New York Times: "The region's monarchs are likely to survive; its presidents are more likely to fall." The advantage the royal families have is that they can replace the governments they have installed, and they are more flexible and willing to compromise. The White House is apparently confident that countries like Morocco, Jordan and Bahrain will be able to reform themselves.

In Bahrain, however, where a Sunni monarch rules an impoverished Shiite majority that makes up two-thirds of the country's population, the American optimism could prove to be premature. Although the ruler withdrew the military's tanks from the square where protestors had gathered in the capital Manama, it was only after shots had been fired and seven people died. In the Gulf emirate, where America's Fifth Fleet is based, more concessions to the protestors will be needed than monetary gifts and the release of political prisoners. The same holds true in neighboring Saudi Arabia, the country with the world's largest oil reserves, should the wave of unrest spread there.

Washington already appears to have written off one of its former strategic partners: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 68, who has been in office for more than 32 years. Saleh, who runs the country with near-dictatorial powers, declared in February that he would not run for reelection in 2013. Though meant as a major concession, the announcement only challenged the regime opponents to stage even angrier protests. Saleh is the type of politician that former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously referred to as "a son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch" -- he may be a brutal dictator to his people, but he is useful to the United States in its war on terror.

This almost cultish worship of stability has routinely failed in international politics: among right-wing politicians, who assumed that military dictatorships could remain a reliable bulwark against communism and then found themselves confronted with their liberal successors; and among leftist politicians who tended to see Eastern European dissidents as troublemakers and not comrades-in-arms, and were then astonished to find that leaders like Poland's Lech Walesa and Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Havel were not gradually changing the old order but sweeping it away instead.

And why shouldn't the revolutionary recipes now being applied in the Middle East be effective in other parts of the world? What should prevent dissatisfied youth in Africa, Asia, Latin America or even Europe from expressing their anger?

SPIEGEL presents an overview of a changed world, with a special emphasis on countries with revolutionary potential.

Globalization is the process of universal infection.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Mitch Daniels' Moment (David Shribman, 3/06/11, RCP)

Daniels has already told the big annual convention of conservatives that nothing matters so much as the deficit and entitlements. And he's already told Republicans they've gone too far with the cultural wars on social issues -- which means he's already had yet another kind of moment, a Sister Souljah moment, long before many people have started to pay attention.

A Sister Souljah moment? That's when a politician tells his best friends, or potential supporters, to buzz off and quiet down. It derives from Gov. Bill Clinton's (altogether calculated but nonetheless brilliant) 1992 repudiation of the hip-hop artist who suggested killing white people. Daniels also used his SS moment to signal that he was a centrist, not an extremist.

The man may have views congenial to the NRA, but he has the soul of a CPA. His radio isn't constantly tuned to conservative talk radio and Rush Limbaugh's fellow travelers.

More than the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is a constantly changing organism, with a constantly shifting profile.

Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio looked positively horrified cradling a red rooster in a Life magazine photo published shortly before the 1952 New Hampshire primary. Daniels looks positively at ease in a much-distributed Associated Press photograph of him riding his Harley Davidson down an Indiana highway.

Do you suppose Taft (or the 1960 GOP nominee, Richard M. Nixon, who in starched shirts strayed far from his Yorba Linda childhood) would wax positively eloquent about a Coney Island hot dog and a butterscotch milkshake at a soda shop in Vincennes?

Maybe Daniels, whose greatest asset is that he is normal, is what the Republicans need.

The better comparison is the way W attacked the congressional GOP for its extremism, which helped position him as a moderate and reasonable alternative to Al Gore and Newt Gingrich.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Competing Muslim Brotherhood visions for Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood is vying to become an official party in post-Mubarak Egypt. The conservative Islamist views of some of the group's members scare many in Egypt and the West, but, as Tim Whewell has been finding out, many members, particularly young activists, are much more moderate. (Tim Whewell, 3/06/11, BBC)

For many, the ultimate model for Islamists to follow is Turkey, a country that appears to them to be fulfilling its economic and strategic potential under a proudly Muslim government, and is an ally, but not a lackey, of the West.

Abdullah Massoud, a 22-year old pharmacy student and Brotherhood member, I spoke to said:

"We want our freedom so that we can form political parties in a pluralist civil society - and you see some shining examples like Turkey and Malaysia. You cannot judge us until you give us the chance. We Islamists need a chance."

His friend Youssef Mosallamy, 27, a civil engineer, added: "When we talk about Islamic society that doesn't mean like in Saudi Arabia. We will not cut off hands.

"The West has a lot of fears about Islamic regimes like Iran. But I think it is completely different. Iran is a terrible thing."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Popularity of Europe’s railways keeps on growing (AFP, March 04, 2011)

Eurail, the company which sells InterRail tickets for train travel around Europe, reported last week that the number of passes it sold to visitors to Europe jumped by 11.9 per cent last year, to 427,000.

Interestingly, although there were predictable rises in the number of people buying rail passes from growing markets in Asia, it appears that the biggest jump has been in travellers from South America, where sales were up by a third.

It seems that more people than ever are looking to take the train — even Europeans, often unreservedly critical about their own rail systems, bought 6.2 per cent more passes to explore their continent by rail last year.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Why Democrats Should Fear a Government Shutdown: Beltway wisdom suggests a budget stoppage would be a boon to the Democrats and a disaster for the GOP, but David A. Graham says not so fast—Boehner is no Gingrich, and Obama's no Clinton. (David A. Graham, 2/28/11, Daily Beast)

While Democrats might be justly wary of taking advice from their opponents, here are five reasons things might play out more to Republicans’ advantage than expected.

1. The public is thirsty for cuts.

It’s tough to quantify, but even Democrats acknowledge that the desire for cuts to the federal government is strong. That’s why moderate Senate Democrats—notably Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection campaign in 2012—have been leaning on their leadership to make concessions. But liberals maintain that while voters may voice support for cuts in the abstract, they won’t feel the same way when those cuts become concrete (a January Gallup poll, for example, showed a majority of Americans backed cuts to foreign aid, but not seven other areas of discretionary spending). [...]

2. There’s no Newt Gingrich.

After he led Republicans to victory in 1994 midterm elections, Gingrich came out against Clinton with guns blazing. By the shutdown, the public had already begun to see him as petulant. Boehner, by contrast, has consciously avoided styling himself as the chief of the opposition, as Peter Boyer reported in December. What’s more, he enjoys a much higher favorable vs. unfavorable rating. Boehner’s low-key demeanor and repeated opposition to closing the government would make it hard for Democrats to pin a shutdown on anyone in particular. "The only thing that's missing right now is the Newt Gingrich-type foil,” says Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Gingrich's petulance is what drove it the last time around. The Tea Party could play that role—too strident for the American people." But pinning blame on a diffuse group of lesser-known representatives isn’t easy.

...then the GOP is the compromise between them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic Turning Celtics Into Quick Winners of Oklahoma City Trade (Evans Clinchy, Mar 5, 2011, NESN)

What was going through your mind with 4:58 left in the second quarter on Friday night as Jeff Green sailed through the air, heading for the rim to finish an alley-oop off a Rajon Rondo assist?

Maybe you were awed by Green's athleticism.

Maybe you were impressed that Green and Rondo had developed such quick, easy chemistry.

But for me, the first thought was this: You won't be seeing Kendrick Perkins or Nate Robinson do that anytime soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Sick note: Faking illness online: Why would someone fake a serious illness online? Jenny Kleeman on the strange world of Münchausen by internet (Jenny Kleeman, 2/26/11, The Guardian)

Anyone following her updates online could see that Mandy Wilson had been having a terrible few years. She was diagnosed with leukaemia at 37, shortly after her husband abandoned her to bring up their five-year-old daughter and baby son on her own. Chemotherapy damaged her immune system, liver and heart so badly she eventually had a stroke and went into a coma. She spent weeks recovering in intensive care where nurses treated her roughly, leaving her covered in bruises.

Mandy was frightened and vulnerable, but she wasn't alone. As she suffered at home in Australia, women offered their support throughout America, Britain, New Zealand and Canada. She'd been posting on a website called Connected Moms, a paid online community for mothers, and its members were following every detail of her progress – through updates posted by Mandy herself, and also by Gemma, Sophie, Pete and Janet, Mandy's real-life friends, who'd pass on news whenever she was too weak. The virtual community rallied round through three painful years of surgeries, seizures and life-threatening infections. Until March this year, when one of them discovered Mandy wasn't sick at all. Gemma, Sophie, Pete and Janet had never existed. Mandy had made up the whole story.

Mandy is one of a growing number of people who pretend to suffer illness and trauma to get sympathy from online support groups. Think of Tyler Durden and Marla Singer in Fight Club, only these support groups are virtual, and the people deceived are real. From cancer forums to anorexia websites, LiveJournal to Mumsnet, trusting communities are falling victim to a new kind of online fraud, one in which people are scammed out of their time and emotion instead of their money. The fakers have nothing to gain from their lies – except attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


The Zero-Sum Politics of a Slow Growth Era (Noah Millman, 3/01/11, American Scene)

The big Obama Administration initiative that the GOP governors are so unified in opposing is the health-care law. You can make an argument that this law – if it works – is a pro-growth initiative. That by planting the seeds of a real individual insurance market, it begins the process of decoupling health insurance from employment, increasing labor market flexibility and making it possible for more people to commit to an entrepreneurial career path. That by providing health insurance to more of the uninsured, it will reduce the drag that ill health poses on their productivity. That, by restraining spending over time on some of the least “productive” kinds of health expenditures, it will free up resources both for more productive uses, whether in health care or in other sectors. And so forth.

That’s if it works – and if its reforms are extended by further reform. And that’s a big “if.” What it does immediately, of course, is transfer resources from the “haves” to the “have-nots.” It takes resources from the elderly and gives them to the young, from the rich to the poor, from those with “Cadillac” health benefits to the uninsured. All of those transfers are, of course, defensible on moral and practical grounds – but it’s not surprising to see the “haves” fight back.

The big state-level initiative of the GOP governors that the national Democrats are trying to blunt is the effort to kill, or at least maim, public sector unions. The states in aggregate are in terrible fiscal shape, and unless we enter a period of rapid economic growth they will remain in lousy shape indefinitely. Somebody is going to have to lose in the huge budgetary battles in statehouses around the country. GOP governors want that “somebody” to be public sector workers who, in many cases, have seen their position improve relative to their private-sector equivalents (which, I think, is the important comparison – not whether they are over- or under-paid in an absolute sense, but whether one group of workers has been gaining or losing ground relative to the other).

This effort could also be pro-growth – if it was part of a larger effort to restructure the public sector to make it more productive.

Note that both productive alternatives involve making public goods and services more market responsive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


In Mideast, peace map is in sight (H.D.S. Greenway, March 1, 2011, Boston Globe)

The good news is that majorities in both Israel and the West Bank favor peace and a two-state solution, polls show. And leaders on both sides have agreed in principle to land swaps to allow some Jewish settlements to stay inside Israel. These poll numbers decrease when you get to the specifics, but in general both peoples are for it.

The Palestinians will insist on an equal, acre-for-acre swap. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, in a move for which he has not been given enough credit, has said Israel need not annex the Jordan River Valley, which goes beyond other Likud Party positions. This makes an equal land swap possible without too much disruption. Of course, Israel would have to be assured that the Jordan-West Bank border would not be a tunnel-ridden sieve like the Egyptian-Gaza border. That might necessitate stationing Israeli border guards within a Palestinian state. But border controls are not an insurmountable obstacle.

Israel wants to leave as many Jewish settlers in place as possible, rather than go through the social and political agony of removing them. Palestinians care more about the equality of the swap: getting good land back for what they give up.

Enter David Makovsky, former editor of the Jerusalem Post and now director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process. In a report entitled “Imagining the Border,’’ Makovsky offers three detailed maps of possible land swaps that are all within the parameters of what former Israeli and Palestinian leaders have already agreed upon in previous negotiations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


The Middle East's Other Boom: Entrepreneurship: Just as 1960s counterculture was responsible for the '80s high-tech explosion, the revolutionary wave sweeping the Middle East will trigger a boom in entrepreneurship—but this time the change will be measured in months, not decades. (John Kao, 3/06/11, Daily Beast)

Time will tell, but I believe these events have set the stage for an explosion of entrepreneurial energy in the Middle East, especially in the Internet and related tech sectors. I see the emergence of a new socially minded entrepreneur in this part of the world—one willing to challenge the status quo, speak out, eschew the trappings of establishment career paths for something new, and take risks. Little of this has been possible, except with difficulty, in most of the Middle East until now. When repressive forces—direct or subtle—guide the young in the direction of conformity, compliance and conservatism, entrepreneurship may be thwarted. But it doesn't die; it only sleeps.

Now we see a massive outpouring of self-organized social entrepreneurship and activism, using technology as the medium of exchange. What will follow almost inevitably, I believe, is a similar tidal wave of business entrepreneurship and innovation as those radicalized by recent events and exposed to the power of new technologies quickly find ways to adopt them in every niche of a newly fluid society. The freedom that is on everyone's mind in that part of the world is the freedom to be one's own person—and also the freedom to be entrepreneurial in challenging conventional wisdom and established ways of doing things.

...the message is Western culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


It must be bliss to be alive, young and Arab in this dawn of revolution: Spend time in Tunisia or Egypt and it is clear that the protests are not driven by ideology but the search for equity (Henry Porter, 3/06/11, The Observer)

To spend time with the protesters is to understand the scale of the change underway in the Arab world. There is almost a shift of consciousness: people are beginning to think differently about themselves and they are exhilarated by the possibilities of political debate. I lost count of the number of young women and men who spoke about self-respect and dignity and how those two could only be attained with freedom.

Tunis-based banker Adel Dajani told me that everyone he knows has become political. Hip-hop artists such as Balti are rapping about Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and the 40 Thieves. The newspapers, once a dire noticeboard for the regime, have become racy and are full of scurrilous stories. Suddenly, life is a hell of a lot more fun.

In the Kasbah, Ahmed Maaioufi, a language teacher in his mid-50s, translated the words of the crowd around us into very good English. We were both moved by what we heard and after a little while he confessed that his generation had completely failed to understand and trust their children. And it is true that young Arabs are tired of the paternalism that decides everything for them and tells them what to think. They're especially sick of abusive father figures who steal their country's money and blame everything on Israel and America. Only once was the United States mentioned in these conversations and that was by a young man commending the honesty of American diplomats, as revealed in US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Haley Barbour's mixed message on Medicaid (SARAH KLIFF, 3/6/11, Politico)

Mississippi’s Medicaid program covers 22 percent of the state’s population, far above the 16 percent national average. That puts it among the top five states in terms of Medicaid’s reach into the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. “I do think the one thing that stands out most in my mind, about our Medicaid program, is we cover such a large percentage of our population already,” says Therese Hanna, executive director of the Mississippi Health Policy Center.

And while Barbour opposed the Democrats’ health care reform law, Mississippi actively sought out new programs made available under it, applying for voluntary grant opportunities under the Affordable Care Act that have the potential to bring new money and coverage opportunities into the state.

With the entitlement program playing such a crucial role in the state’s health delivery system—and, more practically, its providers’ salaries—it has traditionally offered a higher match rate of about 15 percent above the national average.

“We have a very high match rate because we have such a large population, so it has a tremendous impact on how doctors are paid,” Hanna said. “From the provider standpoint, Medicaid is a very important payer. In some areas like the Mississippi Delta, where there’s a higher concentration of low income residents, those providers are very dependent.”

The state has also disproportionately relied on federal funding to bolster the program, with approximately 83 percent of the state’s Medicaid funds coming from Washington.

Even Barbour admits that the state has no intention or interest in leaving the federal entitlement program.

“I can’t imagine Mississippi opting out,” he said at a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “We’re a poor state, and it’s an important program. We want to run it better for taxpayers and beneficiaries. … I am not an opt-out advocate and I’m just being forthright about that.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Niall Ferguson: why the West is now in decline: For 500 years Western civilisation was full of self-belief, but now, historian Niall Ferguson argues in his new Channel 4 series, its dominance is coming to an end. (Niall Ferguson, 06 Mar 2011, The Telegraph)

There was a time when we believed in Western civilisation. By “we”, I mean Europeans and their cousins in the colonies of European settlement, above all the United States.

You can chart the rise of that self-belief if you go to Google’s latest gizmo, Google labs, which allows you to search the huge number of books Google has scanned to date to see how frequently a word occurs in them.

In English, “civilisation” (from the French) was a term scarcely used until the later 18th century. Thereafter – not coincidentally, as European empires spread to rule more than half the world – the C word’s popularity with authors grew steadily, reaching a peak in the middle of the 20th century.

Interestingly, that peak came in the period of maximum conflict within Western civilisation, between 1914 and 1945, when writers in the English-speaking world insisted that their countries were defending civilisation against German “barbarism”. arguing this even as the East is Westernizing on your tv every night. The stumbling block here would appear to be that countries run by non-Europeans can still be Western.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 AM


Pep Guardiola the purist and pragmatist oiling Barcelona's machine: The Catalan manager would have supporters believe he has little bearing on Barcelona's brilliance. Don't believe a word of it (Sid Lowe, 3/06/11, The Observer)

[I]f Guardiola is given the credit for his work at Barcelona, there remain misconceptions that come with Barcelona's style; assumptions. Yes, they work hard now: "We had let ourselves go," Rafa Márquez said. But the way they play, well that's simple, natural. Autóctono, the product of 20 years' commitment to a footballing ideal, traceable to Johan Cruyff. Guardiola, captain under the Dutchman, said it: "This team will respect a philosophy," and one friend describes him as having "suckled from the teat of Cruyff". Xavi talks about the rondo – piggy in the middle – as the cornerstone of everything.

Which it is. But that makes it sound too simple, too unwavering. There has been much talk about how Arsenal will play Barcelona, but not very much about how Barcelona will play Arsenal. Well, the answer goes, like they always do.

Yes. But no. Under Frank Rijkaard, one insider claims, the exaggeration serving to make the point: "Barcelona found out who was in the team on the morning of the game." Guardiola could hardly be more different. Even as a player he was a coach, a thinker, a talker. "A talker?" says Fernando Hierro, the former Real Madrid captain, laughing. "He pretty much commentated the matches."

When he was offered the job in 2008, Guardiola asked his assistant, Tito Vilanova, if they were really ready. "Well," came the reply, "you certainly are." Charly Rexach, Cruyff's assistant, recalls that Guardiola was "the man we explained the tactical variations to. If we needed them, he implemented them." He had learnt too in Italy and in Mexico with Juanma Lillo, who coached in La Liga before he was 30. Guardiola had embarked upon a kind of pilgrimage – to meet Marcelo Bielsa, who has coached Argentina and until last month Chile, and the former's 1978 World Cup-winning coach, César Luis Menotti. The conversations lasted well into the night.

What some would describe as principle he believes is pragmatism. Guardiola designs his approach around the ball. Not because he is a puritan, although he is, but because like any other coach he wants control. Like any other coach, he is fearful and seeks to protect his team. It is just that his way of achieving control is different: defending well means attacking well. He will look at Arsenal and wonder how to protect himself from them, by trying to work out how best to do them damage.

"We play in the other team's half as much as possible because I get worried when the ball is in my half," he says. "We're a horrible team without the ball so I want us to get it back as soon as possible and I'd rather give away fouls and the ball in their half than ours." The stats bear that out: Dani Alves makes the fourth highest number of touches in the opposition half in La Liga. He is a full-back. Typically, only the two centre-backs and the goalkeeper spend more than 50% of the game in their own half.

Then there is possession: the top nine passers in La Liga are all Barcelona players. But that is not just an attacking option, it is a defensive one too. "There is no rule like in basketball that says you have to hand over possession or shoot after a certain amount of time, so 'attack' and 'defence' don't exist," Lillo says. Not in Barcelona's model. Barcelona attack to defend; when they lost to Arsenal, Guardiola was angry with Alves not for attacking too much but for attacking badly. That Barcelona lost because they were caught up the pitch is one reading; Guardiola's reading is that had they scored they would not have been caught on the break.

"Barcelona are the only team that defend with the ball; the only team that rests in possession," Lillo says. "They keep the ball so well, they move so collectively, that when you do get it back, you're tired, out of position and they're right on top of you." Lillo knows: his Almería side were defeated 8-0 by Barcelona.

Michael Laudrup, the Mallorca coach, said: "They move the ball so fast that by the time you get there, it's gone. You end up desperate, and shattered." As Rexach notes, Barcelona even waste time with possession. Most teams would go down to the corner; Barcelona would rather keep the ball between themselves. that too many teams play into a Barcelon's hands, and play them defensively, yielding possession entirely and hoping for a tie, when they could put out an offensive lineup and blow up their fragile back line.

March 5, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM


Baseball’s Loss of Innocence: When the 1919 Black Sox scandal shattered Ring Lardner’s reverence for the game, the great sportswriter took a permanent walk (Douglas Goetsch, Spring 2011, American Scholar)

While Lardner was establishing himself as a writer, the sport he covered was undergoing a transformation: from its 19th-century origins as a club sport among the aristocracy to the game of the masses. The phenomenon of a spectator sport of national proportion was new to America. Football would remain secular to collegiate life for decades, and the two other contenders, boxing and horse racing, operated under increasingly strict regulation. By the turn of the 20th century, every major American city had a major league baseball team—New York, St. Louis, Chicago, and Boston each fielded two—and every substantial municipality had a minor league team. The rival National and American Leagues called “a truce” one winter and staged the first “World Series” in 1903. Major league baseball attendance rose steadily, from 3.5 million in 1900 to double that in 1908. That year the New York Giants alone drew nearly a million fans. Attendance rose throughout the 1910s and exceeded nine million in 1920.

But baseball had its problems. The sport was highly sensitive to the economic condition of the nation. The American and National Leagues were nearly bankrupted by financial crises in the 1890s, the recession of 1904/05, a panic in 1907/08, and another slump in 1915. The 1917 and 1918 seasons brought a severe drop in profits due to the war. More threatening were baseball’s internal struggles. Even after the American and National Leagues united, there was still the nemesis of the Federal League, which had ballparks and teams in some of the same cities as the majors, sucking away revenue and attendance. Additionally, there were constant battles among owners and players over contract issues that could alter the game radically.

There’s no surprise here: big money, big problems. What’s noteworthy is how organized baseball tailored its image—not as a business trying to survive and thrive, but rather as a “pastime” to be cherished and preserved. Enter Albert Spalding, the sporting-goods magnate who, in 1907, spearheaded a campaign to discover baseball’s roots. Spalding commissioned a blue-ribbon panel, which included two U.S. senators, to disprove those who held that the national pastime was a bastardized version of some snooty British game. The tale they came up with—of Union Civil War General Abner Doubleday inventing baseball one historic day in 1839 in Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture, just off Main Street in Cooperstown, New York—would become part of American mythology. No matter that Doubleday would have had to be awol from West Point Military Academy on the day in question, or that his obituary informs us that he “did not care for or go into any outdoor sports.” No matter that baseball was in fact a bastardized version of a snooty British game—rounders—already nicknamed “baseball” in Tudor England, where two teams alternated between hitting and fielding.

Spalding’s blue-ribbon panel may seem silly, but in terms of public relations it was the stuff of legend. As soccer fans have repeatedly found out, mass spectator sports don’t catch on in America unless they are seen to have originated in America. The further association of baseball, once called “The New York Game,” with a pastoral setting (in a town named for the father of James Fenimore Cooper, no less) put it in perfect alignment with the progressives’ embrace of agrarian values—the notion that rural life provides a spiritual counterpoise to the degrading effects of city life. As historian Steven A. Riess points out, although the game was entirely an urban product, fans nevertheless “saw baseball as an extension of rural America into the cities.” Ballparks were “green oases in a largely concrete world . . . where spectators could readily slip back into an idyllic, rural past.” This rustic image was so important to Charles Wrigley, chewing-gum king and owner of the Chicago Cubs, that he prohibited the display of advertising in his park. Why spoil the best billboard you could have—the park itself?

Baseball owners had to be thrilled when their franchises were seen as a source of civic pride. The Dial magazine credited baseball with drawing the chaotic multitudes into “mystic unity” with the life of their city. Even the highbrow New York Times gave the sport its due: “Local patriotism is so rare with us that it is refreshing to see it manifested even about baseball.” The promotion of civic pride was in part a response to the growth of cities—the United States shifted from a mostly rural to a mostly urban population between the censuses of 1910 and 1920—and the disturbing sights of urban squalor. The rituals of spectatorship would, it was hoped, provide a kind of safety valve, giving vent to the pent-up anger and frustrations of those living in immigrant ghettos.

In the new Progressive Era lexicon, the cousin of civic pride was melting pot, a notion fueled by old-stock Americans’ fear of being overrun by a plurality of “alien cultures” and their hope of assimilating the immigrants. In a 1910 Baseball Magazine article titled “The Baseball Melting Pot,” sportswriter W. A. Phelon taps into this cocktail of fear and hope as he offers an afternoon at the ballpark as the panacea for assimilating “the seething mass of 40 different nations”: “The ball field is the real crucible, the melting pot wherein the rival races are being mixed, combined and molded to the standards of real citizenship and the requirements of the true American.” Phelon thought that baseball would teach “the lessons learned by pioneers and yeoman farmers.” That’s ridiculous, of course. But when baseball successfully marketed itself as our national pastime, and when revered writers such as Ring Lardner used athletes to elucidate a moral code, the ridiculous yielded to the mythological.

The presentation of baseball as a public institution belonging to the fans, as opposed to a lucrative industry run by private entrepreneurs, is one of the great public relations stunts in the history of American business, which continues to this day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Frogs Evolve Teeth—Again (Christine Dell'Amore, 2/10/11, National Geographic News)

Lower-jaw teeth in frogs re-evolved after an absence of 200 million years, a new study says. The discovery challenges a "cornerstone" of evolutionary thinking, according to experts. [...]

The discovery runs counter to a principle called Dollo's law, which states that physical structures lost during evolution are never regained, according to Wiens, an evolutionary biologist at Stony Brook University in New York State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Discovery's Booster Rocket Films a Stupendous Full-Length Video (Paul Adams, 03.04.2011, Pop Sci)

NASA could go a long way toward solving its budgetary issues if they charged audiences to watch amazing movies like this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Why Are Easy Decisions So Hard? (Jonah Lehrer, March 2, 2011, Wired)

I recently stumbled upon a working paper, “Decision Quicksand: When Trivial Choices Suck Us In,” by Aner Sela (University of Florida) and Jonah Berger (Penn). Their hypothesis is that my wasted deliberation in the drugstore is a metacognitive mistake. Instead of realizing that picking a floss is an easy decision, I confuse the array of options and excess of information with importance, which then leads my brain to conclude that this decision is worth lots of time and attention. Call it the drug store heuristic: A cluttered store shelf leads us to automatically assume that a choice must really matter, even if it doesn’t. (After all, why else would there be so many alternatives?) Here are the scientists:

Our central premise is that people use subjective experiences of difficulty while making a decision as a cue to how much further time and effort to spend. People generally associate important decisions with difficulty. Consequently, if a decision feels unexpectedly difficult, due to even incidental reasons, people may draw the reverse inference that it is also important, and consequently increase the amount of time and effort they expend. Ironically, this process is particularly likely for decisions that initially seemed unimportant because people expect them to be easier.

To demonstrate their point, Sela and Berger conducted a number of clever experiments. In one test, they gave people a selection of airline flight options. One group was given these options in a small, low-contrast font (high-difficulty condition) while a second group was given the same options in a larger, high contrast font (low-difficulty condition). Not surprisingly, the hard-to-read font led to increased deliberation time, as people were forced to decipher their alternatives. What was more interesting is that this extra effort led to perceptions of increased importance: The flight options now seemed like a weighty decision with profound consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software (JOHN MARKOFF, 3/04/11, NY Times)

When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” — providing documents relevant to a lawsuit — the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for a platoon of lawyers and paralegals who worked for months at high hourly rates.

But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. In January, for example, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


Poll: Evangelicals have high views of Huckabee, low of Obama (Michael Foust, 3/04/11, Baptist Press)

Obama, though, is viewed favorably by only 6 percent of evangelicals. Ninety-four percent view him unfavorably.

March 4, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


NJ Gov. Christie calls Ill. governor 'a disaster' (Beth Defalco, Associated Press)

Christie's comments come as ads are set to appear in several New Jersey publications on Monday, including NJ Biz, criticizing the state's business climate. They were paid for by the advocacy group For a Better Chicago and are in retaliation for an ad campaign Christie launched to encourage businesses in Illinois to relocate to New Jersey.

"Let me tell you something: We won't lose any business to Illinois as long as Pat Quinn's the governor," Christie, a Republican, said during a news conference Thursday. "He's a disaster."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM

HE HAD A LOT OF GROWING UP TO DO (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Remembering Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address (ANDREW FERGUSON, 3/04/11, The Weekly Standard)

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, stop whatever irrelevant busywork you're engaged in and take a moment -- well, half an hour -- to read one of the greatest of presidential utterances.

First Inaugural Address (Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, Washington, D.C.)

Fellow-citizens of the United States:
In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of this office."

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace, and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this, and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves, and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."

I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause -- as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it, for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the law-giver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution -- to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause, "shall be delivered," their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law, by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by state authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him, or to others, by which authority it is done. And should any one, in any case, be content that his oath shall go unkept, on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well, at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States"?

I take the official oath to-day, with no mental reservations, and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws, by any hypercritical rules. And while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to, and abide by, all those acts which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them, trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our national Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens, have, in succession, administered the executive branch of the government. They have conducted it through many perils; and, generally, with great success. Yet, with all this scope for [of] precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years, under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper, ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever -- it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade, by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it -- break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was "to form a more perfect Union." But if [the] destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union, -- that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion -- no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality, shall be so great and so universal, as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable with all, that I deem it better to forego, for the time, the uses of such offices.

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed, unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper; and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised according to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles, and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step, while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to, are greater than all the real ones you fly from? Will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union, if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right, plainly written in the Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human mind is so constituted, that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution -- certainly would, if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities, and of individuals, are so plainly assured to them, by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government, is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority, in such case, will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy, a year or two hence, arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments, are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new Union, as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit; as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be over-ruled, and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink, to decide cases properly brought before them; and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections, than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction, in one section; while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all, by the other.

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence, and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory, after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the national Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it.

I will venture to add that to me the Convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions, originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution, which amendment, however, I have not seen, has passed Congress, to the effect that the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose; but the executive, as such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope, in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth, and that justice, will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.

By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals.

While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well, upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied, hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM

MADE IT TO 65 (via Glenn Dryfoos);

Greg Goossen, Baseball Player Who Broke Mold, Dies at 65 (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 3/04/11, NY Times)

The Goossen saga began in 1964 when he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers for a six-figure bonus and then surprisingly sent to the Mets the next year for $8,000. Mets coaches saw promise in him for several years before giving up and dealing him to the hapless Pilots, who lasted one season, 1969, before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers.

In Seattle, Goossen, a free-swinging right-handed hitter, led the team in batting with a .309 average. “I would have played here my whole career,” he told an interviewer.

Tommy Davis, a much-traveled power-hitting teammate at the time, interrupted the interview to blurt, “You did!”

Not by a long shot. Goossen played for 37 teams in the minor, Mexican and major leagues over eight years as a catcher, first baseman and outfielder. “Either everyone wanted me or everyone wanted to get rid of me,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1996.

Goossen earned a niche or two in baseball history. As a Met, he caught Nolan Ryan’s first big league game in 1966 and broke up a perfect game by Larry Jaster of the Cardinals with a two-out eighth-inning single in 1968. But as a lifelong Roman Catholic he was perplexed in 2009 when Howard Megdal, in his book “The Baseball Talmud,” called Goossen the seventh-greatest Jewish first basemen ever. (When asked about the choice, Mr. Megdal said he was an expert on baseball, not Judaism.)

It was Casey Stengel who made Goossen a baseball trivia legend with one remark in 1966. Stengel, having retired as the Mets manager the previous season, was visiting the Mets’ training camp when he pointed at Goossen and was reported to have said, “Goossen is only 20, and in 10 years he has a chance to be 30.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Would Universal Healthcare Coverage Actually Improve Health? (Jim Manzi, 03/04/11, The American Scene)

To my knowledge, the only large-scale randomized experiment in the U.S. that has tested the actual effects on health of providing various kinds of healthcare financing was the RAND Health Insurance Experiment (HIE). In this experiment, thousands of families were randomly assigned to one of five different health insurance plans that ranged from something like a plan that provides free health care, to something like a pure catastrophic-only plan in which consumers pay out-of-pocket for day-to-day healthcare. The study tracked what exact health care services each group used, and how their health varied over a period of 3 – 5 years.

Ezra Klein describes this experiment as “the best evidence we have,” and writes that it “suggests that health-care coverage does much more for the health of poorer people than it does for the health of well-compensated, highly educated people.” His statement is correct, but as a summary of the results of this experiment, seems to me to be radically incomplete. In fact, the experimenters wrote of the findings that “cost sharing reduced the use of nearly all health services,” but “the reduction in services induced by cost sharing had no adverse effect on participants’ health.” Think about that. Providing people coverage of their medical costs caused no average improvement in health.

Klein is correct that there appeared to be a net health benefit for the poorest participants, but this was for a tiny proportion of the population, and for a small subset of medical conditions. According to the study, “The poorest and sickest 6 percent of the sample at the start of the experiment had better outcomes under the free plan for 4 of the 30 conditions measured.” There are technical reasons why conclusions from such a experiment are not reliable for post hoc subgroups in the way that they are for average comparison of a test group versus a control group; but even if we were to accept this finding as valid, it’s not obvious to me that we would want to devise a health care financing system for the United States around helping 6% of the population partially ameliorate about 10% of their potential health problems, as opposed to developing some specific supplementary programs for these issues, if they could be addressed feasibly.

Klein clearly has a very sophisticated take on the issue, and wrote in 2009 that health care reform is not primarily about improving health, but in reducing how much we spend on it. As he put it, “The purpose of health reform, in other words, is to pay for health care — not to improve the health of the population.” Fair enough. But the real debate, then, would be about whether market forces or bureaucratic control would be better at reducing costs, not about which would be better at promoting health for the “poorest and sickest” or anybody else. It wouldn’t be about getting better health outcomes.

A single experiment like the RAND HIE is not definitive. Among other things: it finished in 1982, and we live in a different world; any such experiment requires replication; it might be that the important health effects take much longer than 5 years to materialize, and so on. But as an observer of the health care debates, it always struck me as fascinating that the fact that the “best evidence we have” showed that providing health care coverage doesn’t actually improve average health wasn’t treated as more central.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


Huntington’s Clash Revisited (DAVID BROOKS, 3/04/11, NY Times)

Huntington correctly foresaw that the Arab strongman regimes were fragile and were threatened by the masses of unemployed young men. He thought these regimes could fall, but he did not believe that the nations would modernize in a Western direction. Amid the tumult of regime change, the rebels would selectively borrow tools from the West, but their borrowing would be refracted through their own beliefs. They would follow their own trajectory and not become more Western.

The Muslim world has bloody borders, he continued. There are wars and tensions where the Muslim world comes into conflict with other civilizations. Even if decrepit regimes fell, he suggested, there would still be a fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. The Western nations would do well to keep their distance from Muslim affairs. The more the two civilizations intermingle, the worse the tensions will be.

Huntington’s thesis set off a furious debate. But with the historic changes sweeping through the Arab world, it’s illuminating to go back and read his argument today.

In retrospect, I’d say that Huntington committed the Fundamental Attribution Error. That is, he ascribed to traits qualities that are actually determined by context.

He argued that people in Arab lands are intrinsically not nationalistic. He argued that they do not hunger for pluralism and democracy in the way these things are understood in the West. But it now appears as though they were simply living in circumstances that did not allow that patriotism or those spiritual hungers to come to the surface.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


Burying Pan-Arabism (Leon Hadar, March 1, 2011, National Interest)

What is happening now in the Middle East may be another chapter in a series of nationalist insurgencies that have been shaping regional politics since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Pan-Arabism and Zionism have been the two nationalist movements that have helped mold the balance of power in the region while interacting with global players like Britain and France, and later with the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, as Iran and Turkey were hedging their bets.

The old Middle East order had already started to shatter during the last decades of the Cold War: Iranian-Shiite nationalism defied U.S. power while backing regional Shiite offshoots; Egyptian nationalism challenged Soviet influence and embraced peace with Israel.

The U.S. tried to maintain the regional status quo in the aftermath of the Cold War by using its military power during the two Gulf wars and through its support for Israel and the autocratic Arab regimes. But these efforts only helped accelerate the revival of nationalism and other forms of ethnic, sectarian, and tribal identities. The “liberation” of Iraq and the ensuing Freedom Agenda have not given birth to liberal democracy in Mesopotamia. The entire project empowered the Shiite majority and the Kurdish minority in Iraq—while emasculating the old Sunni elite.

The resurgence of Shiite identity demonstrated not only in Iraq but also in Lebanon and the Persian Gulf helped shift the balance of power in the direction of Iran. At the same time, Turkey has emerged as a regional power, trying to fill the vacuum created by the decline of effective U.S. power to shape outcomes in the region.

From the perspective of the nationalism narrative, what we are witnessing today is the continuing erosion of a U.S.-backed order by national-based insurgencies. In fact, the first episode in the current series of political changes in the Middle East was not Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, but the collapse of Lebanon’s pro-American government under pressure from Hezbollah, a development that clearly doesn’t fit into the liberal-democracy narrative.

Like those in Saddam's Iraq. the Shi'a of the Lebanon are an oppressed majority. We won self-determination for the former; the latter are taking it themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Application Adventure: A Dad’s College Essay: a review of CRAZY U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College By Andrew Ferguson (DWIGHT GARNER, NY Times Book Review)

Mr. Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and he’s a valiant guide through this emotional territory. He’s got a big, beating heart, but he tucks it behind a dry prose style that owes a little bit to Mark Twain and Tom Wolfe — to name the first two white-suited writers who come to mind — and also to Dave Barry (who I suspect wears Dockers).

He made me laugh early, and often. Why do high school kids look so disoriented on SAT day? It’s not the test. It’s that their cellphones have been pried from their clammy fingers. “None of them had gone four hours without sending a text message,” Mr. Ferguson writes, “since middle school.”

“Crazy U” is a chronicle of Mr. Ferguson’s attempts to help place his son, who is 16 when this mini-odyssey begins, in a decent college. Mr. Ferguson’s boy (he is never named) is only an average student, and his father fears for him in a process that’s become a nationwide talent hunt favoring teenage extroverts and self-marketers. “I wasn’t sure,” he writes, “my son had the personality for it.” He means that as a compliment.

As this story moves forward, Mr. Ferguson makes short, shrewd detours into areas that include: the history of American education, how college guidebooks compile their rankings, the SAT tests and its critics, and the headache-making intricacies of college loans and financial aid. He talks to an expensive admissions guru who learns of his late start and fumbling progress and says, smiling: “Oooooh. Baaaaaaad Daaaaaad.”

These detours might have been, as they often are in memoirish surveys like this one, potted histories: breaded, deep-fried, dead on the palate. Mr. Ferguson’s taste buds are wide awake as he samples this material. His chapter on the SAT is a fine, provocative example. It may invite some flaming e-mail into his in-box.

An earlier version of the SAT chapter appeared in The Weekly Standard.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


The Rage Against God:The other side of the story.: a review of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens (Jonathan Sprowl, 3/04/2011

In adulthood, Peter and his brother's paths diverged (the brothers have only recently been reconciled), with Peter becoming a Christian and Christopher becoming Christopher Hitchens.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Wanda Jackson On World Cafe (NPR, 3/03/11)

Teaming up with the notable Jack White under Third Man Records, Jackson taps into her love of gospel, country and of course, rock 'n' roll, for her latest album The Party Ain't Over. Featuring 12 covers, performed in a distinctly Jackson-esque style, The Party Ain't Over is purely a celebration of life and the range of musical styles that make it worth living. Having Jack White on lead guitar and an entire backing band on horns, vocals, pedal steel and the like, the album is vibrantly filled with danceable fun.

Hear Jackson play with White live, and talk to David Dye about what it's like to work in the studio together with White.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


The Desire for Liberty Is Universal: A rebellion against a cruel dictator is not the same as a choice for a polity of law and rights. But it's an important first step. (MICHAEL NOVAK, 3/03/11, WSJ)

Do Americans believe in natural rights? Do they hold that all men are created equal—in the sight of God, but obviously not in terms of talent, application, industry or zest—and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights?

Then what on Earth is the puzzle about the sudden outburst of huge throngs demanding respect for their rights throughout the Middle East? It seems to me that we went through this argument before the second Iraq war, in early 2003.

...but it still took a hundred years for people to accept the truth after the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Libya's escalating drama reopens the case for liberal intervention: Iraq gave it a bad name. Blair nearly killed it. But there are responsible versions of a much abused doctrine (Timothy Garton Ash, 3/03/11, The Guardian)

The whole debate about so-called "liberal interventionism" is bedevilled by two big distortions. First, intervention is usually reduced to armed intervention. That ignores a panoply of ways in which states can intervene in the internal affairs of other states. Even to offer humanitarian aid to the victims of what is beginning to look like a civil war in Libya is, in some important sense, to intervene.

Starting with this almost universally accepted work of humanitarian aid agencies, there is then a whole range of forms of intervention – from economic carrots and sticks, through diplomatic pressure, all the way to often controversial forms of overt or covert assistance to independent media and opposition groups, training in forms of non-violent action, and so on. Many of the most genuinely liberal forms of intervention – those which help people help themselves to be free – are to be found somewhere along this spectrum, but well short of armed force. We used them far too little in the Middle East over the last 30 years.

The other massive distortion in the debate about liberal interventionism is that the military actions now most closely associated with the term (Afghanistan, Iraq) were not really liberal at all – or, at least, they were not primarily liberal. Some of the justifications of them used liberal arguments, and some liberals supported these actions, but the core of the case was not liberal in the way that the west's military interventions in Bosnia (far too late), Sierra Leone and Kosovo genuinely were.

The irony is that it was W who believed in the liberal case and made it, but Tony Blair and Colin Powel;l believed the Left could only be dragged into doing the right thing by the threat (bogus) of WMD.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 AM


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 2 qt. casserole dish with PAM.

Combine in a saucepan:

2 cups milk (nonfat is fat)

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 cup uncooked oatmeal (not instant)

1 large apple, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup raisins

2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons maple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat pan until milk is warm and butter is melted, stirring frequently to keep ingredients from burning. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir. Bake another 15 minutes. Put about 3/4 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts in a baking pan. Put into the oven the last 10 minutes of cooking time for the pudding. Serve the pudding hot with the peanuts sprinkled over the top.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 AM


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 2 qt. casserole dish with PAM.

Combine in a saucepan:

2 cups milk (nonfat is fat)

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 cup uncooked oatmeal (not instant)

1 large apple, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup raisins

2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons maple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat pan until milk is warm and butter is melted, stirring frequently to keep ingredients from burning. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir. Bake another 15 minutes. Put about 3/4 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts in a baking pan. Put into the oven the last 10 minutes of cooking time for the pudding. Serve the pudding hot with the peanuts sprinkled over the top.

March 3, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Maple-Bacon Biscuit Bake (King Arthur Flour)


* 1/2 pound bacon, cooked until medium-brown
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 2 tablespoons maple syrup
* 1 tablespoon melted butter


* 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 2 teaspoons Bakewell Cream*
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter
* 1 cup cold milk or cold buttermilk
* *If you don't have Bakewell Cream, substitute 2 teaspoons baking powder and omit the baking soda.


1) Preheat the oven to 475°F. Lightly grease an 8" square or 9" round pan.

2) Syrup: Chop the cooked bacon into 1/2" pieces. Combine the bacon with the remaining syrup ingredients, stirring until well combined. Spread in the bottom of the prepared pan.

3) Biscuits: Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

4) Work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly; some larger, pea-sized pieces of butter may remain intact.

5) Add the milk or buttermilk, stirring to make a sticky dough.

6) Drop the dough in heaping tablespoonfuls atop the syrup in the pan. A tablespoon cookie scoop, slightly overfilled, works well here.

7) Bake the biscuits for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, and leave them in the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until they're golden brown.

8) Remove the biscuits from the oven, and immediately turn the pan over onto a serving plate. Lift off the pan, and scrape any syrup left in the pan onto the biscuits. Pull biscuits apart to serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


Ohio senator: GOP tries to take down unions, and so did Hitler and Stalin (Jordan Fabian - 03/03/11, The Hill)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) took to the Senate floor Thursday to defend labor unions, saying that dictators like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin opposed them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Obama suggests Indonesia, Chile as models for Egypt (Ben Smith, 3/03/11, Politico)

At the White House meeting, Obama suggested that Egypt could transform itself into a democracy on the model of Indonesia, Chile, or South Korea, according to a person at the event and to another's detailed, contemporaneous notes provided to POLITICO.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


Stars and stripes in our eyes: what's so special about the American way?: America's cultural influence is stronger than ever – as British excitement at the Oscar success of The King's Speech shows (Jonathan Jones, 3/03/11, The Guardian)

In Britain, we are past masters at the hypocritical game of lauding our own parochial culture, while expecting Americans to embrace us with a cosmopolitan generosity we never even acknowledge. Take the Booker prize. We feel no shame about excluding US writers by limiting it anachronistically to the Commonwealth – knowing full well that if the likes of Roth were included, they would win almost every year. By that logic, Hollywood could say the Oscars were for the Americas only.

It has no need to, however, because even when a British film like The King's Speech wins, the joy we feel only confirms our investment in the prestige of all things American, even as we pretend otherwise.

Hard American power may or may not be in decline. But American cultural influence is prevailing. It has infected us deep inside. We may indeed be about to see an epochal moment in global perceptions of the United States, as the unexpected, profoundly Earth-shaking revolutions of young Arab democrats continue. People across the Middle East are saying they care about freedom more than anything; this is about as American a politics as you can get. It is an Arab 1776. No wonder America is confused: everyone wants the American way – so long as it is not imposed by America or called American. A paradoxical victory may be coming for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Labor Loses Big In Ohio (Josh Kraushaar, March 3, 2011, Hotline)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) owes his Wisconsin gubernatorial colleague Scott Walker (R) some serious gratitude. While nearly all the media attention and labor activism has been centered in Madison over Walker's controversial budget bill, Kasich is on the verge of passing an equally significant bill restraining collective bargaining rights in the Buckeye State.

The bill passed the state Senate by the narrowest possible margin - and now is virtually assured of being signed into law by the governor next week. It's awfully similar to the legislation Walker has struggled to pass, in a more politically-consequential state for the 2012 presidential battle. The bill would make Ohio the first state to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Intimidating Muslims One Shariah Ban at a Time: Shariah bans in 15 states are unconstitutional and unnecessary -- and they misunderstand Shariah altogether. (Beenish Ahmed, March 3, 2011, American Prospect)

Last week, Tennessee state senator Bill Ketron introduced a law that would prosecute any practice of Shariah law -- defined as a "legal-political-military doctrine" that promotes spread of "homegrown terrorism" -- as a felony, punishable with a minimum of 15 years of jail.

In no unclear terms, the law equates the practice of Shariah -- the oft-debated guidelines of the Muslim faith -- with treason. "[K]nowing adherence to Shariah and to foreign Shariah authorities is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the United States government -- with the aim of imposing Shariah on the people of this state.," it reads.

Since sharia adjudicates on matters of faith, not unlike the Catholic Canon or Jewish Halacha, both of which are are also guided by the decisions of "foreign authorities" the legislation proposed in Tennessee unfairly impinges upon the very structure of belief for practicing Muslims. Through his bill, Ketron, who hails from a district where plans to build a mosque this summer were impeded by city leaders and arsonists alike, appears not only to profile Muslims as terrorists, but in essence, to criminalize Islam on the whole.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


Bruins, Celtics Bringing Spirit Back to North End, Primed to Give Boston Sports Fans a Spring to Remember (Tom Caron, Mar 3, 2011, NESN)

We are poised for the kind of spring-into-summer sports run we haven't seen in a while around here. The Celtics have been dubbed the team to beat in the East for months and made several daring moves last week. The Bruins, with fans still hesitant to climb aboard a bandwagon after last spring's historic collapse, have made several equally impressive moves and are home after their best road trip in decades.

Wednesday night at the Garden, Kevin Garnett showed the world that he is not that angry about the loss of Kendrick Perkins after all. He dropped a season-high 28 points on the Phoenix Suns, dominating for much of the first half. The Suns had beaten the Celtics by 17 points earlier this season in Arizona, and KG exacted his revenge in a big way.

Things got so bad for the Suns that Steve Nash, so frustrated by Rajon Rondo, sat and watched much of the second half. [...]

The Bruins, meanwhile, haven't been to the Stanley Cup Finals in 21 years. They face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night in a matchup of division leaders, and the Garden should be brimming with optimism. The team is back home after a 6-0-0 road trip, its best since 1972. Also happening in 1972? The B's hoisted Cup.

I'm not suggesting these are the Big, Bad Bruins of days gone by. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Bobby Orr isn't walking through that door. Derek Sanderson isn't walking through that door. Yet Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley are walking through that door, ready to play a home game for the Bruins for the first time.

The B's roll back into town with two goalies playing well. They're playing with toughness, moving the puck well and scoring timely goals. The line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci scored nine goals on the trip. There were times last season when the entire team wouldn't score that many goals in six games.

Are the Bruins going to hoist the Cup in June? They could. They are certainly one of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (along with Philadelphia) and should play deeper into the playoffs than they have in any season since the early '90s.

All of which should lead to the best run of two-sport playoff action at the Garden (old or new) in a very long time.

It's starting to feel like old times around here ... and that's a very nice feeling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:36 PM


This is what anti-Muslim hate looks like (Justin Elliott, 3/02/11, Salon)

A protest of a Muslim fundraising event in Orange County last month devolved into chants of "Muhammed was a pervert," "you beat your wife and rape your children," and the like, according to a new video of the demonstration (see below). [...]

At one point, Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly noted that she had a young son who is in the Marines, then added: "I know quite a few Marines who would be happy to help these terrorists to a, uh, early meeting in paradise." That line was met with laughter and applause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


Post-Post-Imperialism (Leon Wieseltier, March 2, 2011, New Republic)

One of the most striking features of the democratic revolts has been the absence from them of any significant anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli expressions. The ideas and emotions that animated these uprisings have been inward-looking and inner-directed: the crowds are outraged by what Egyptians have done to Egypt, what Tunisians have done to Tunisia, what Libyans have done to Libya, what Iranians have done to Iran. They blame their own. They do not direct their critical energies, so as to divert them, at others. This reckoning is a self-reckoning—which is to say, it is the end of the post-imperial era in Arab history. The force of the ancient sense of colonial victimization seems to be spent. First imperialism hobbled them, and then the remembrance of imperialism hobbled them. The scar continued to do the work of the wound. It introduced into Arab life a prior anger and a prior despair, which were easily manipulated by autocrats and clerics. The aftermath of oppression is usually a period of hardening and contraction. A grievance is not a basis for progress. But the democratic eruption of recent months marks the advent of a post-post-imperial moment, in which the future is finally allowed a greater claim upon the present than the past. Post-post-imperialism is another term for self-reliance, for an internal renovation, for what an early Zionist writer called “auto-emancipation.” There is no deeper emancipation. The blessing of the post-post-imperial moment is not that the terrible history has been forgotten, but that the lachrymosity it left in its wake, the lowered expectations that derived from the belief that there is only one story and only one enemy, the pessimistic effects of unceasing commemoration, have been dispelled. (For Jews, the establishment of the state of Israel was the post-post-Amalek moment, though Israeli political culture is presently struggling, and not sufficiently, with a revival of post-Amalekism.) It is not ignorance, or treason, to escape the shadow of great pain; it is the condition of a normal life. If the men and women in the streets of Tehran and Cairo and Tripoli and Tunis continue to understand their fate with primary reference to imperialism, why do they implore the American president to help them? Clearly the peril of authoritarianism looms larger for them than the peril of imperialism. Democracy, for these protesting peoples, is no longer defined, or tarnished, by its largely Western provenance. This is a milestone. Indeed, the post-imperialist analysis of the Arab uprisings is now the desperate and hallucinatory work of Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who would suspend all Muslims in eternal grief and eternal rage. They are the losers in the Arab apotheosis. Reality is shattering their conspiracy theories, in a grand historical rebuttal.

The United States and its president should also grasp the post-post-imperialist moment in the Arab world. It ought to transform our own sense of how we may act. No, it is not a neo-colonialist license; and anyway we are not an empire, and those who think otherwise do not grasp the American innovation in internationalism.

..., now universally accepted, was to add a normative component to sovereignty, requiring that government be consensual to be legitimate. Forcing conformity to our standards can certainly be said to be imperialism, provided that one does not automatically assume the term to be pejorative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Roll Over Copernicus! It Turns Out We Are The Center Of The Universe (Adam Frank, 3/02/11, NPR)

We are, it turns out, the center of the universe and it's anything but meaningless.

For this claim to be true there is no need to insert your favorite, or most hated, religion. There is no need to demand a deity exist or posit that it fine-tuned the cosmos to give us a warm, safe, cozy home. To see our vital, central role in the cosmos you need only look out from your own perspective and understand that is all you, or anyone else, will ever get.

Because it's all about perspective.

We like to believe we can study the Universe (with a capital 'U') as a thing in itself. But in truth what we actually get are universes (with a lower case 'u'). We only ever get glorious but partial views of the ever-greater "whole." Science, in this perspective, is not a means to a "final theory" but is, instead, our most extraordinary means of continuing a never-ending dialogue with the world. That dialogue, formed through science and art and all forms of culture make us co-creators of the universes we inhabit and they are always suffused with meaning

There is the old story of a group of blind philosophers studying an elephant. One feels the tail and declares an elephant is like a snake. Another feels the ear and declares the elephant is like a palm frond. A third feels the foot and declares the elephant is like a tree. The relationship between the universe in-and-of-itself and the universe each culture, each instantiation of science, invents for itself is much like that between the philosophers and their elephant.

Perhaps it is time to see the universe as an infinite elephant or, better yet, as a diamond with infinite facets. Different facets come into view as culture and science change. We gain a deeper understanding even as the universe in-and-of-itself remains ultimately larger than all our accounts.

In the end, it is our dialogue with the universe that matters most. Acknowledging the intertwined evolution of culture and cosmic vision does not diminish the power of science; it allows us to see more clearly our role as participants in the universe.

To put it bluntly, we can never be taken out of the narrative of creation. We are always, in some partial but essential way, its co-creators.

The Anglosphere avoided much agony by not wandering off down that 500 year detour.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Meet the White Supremacist Leading the GOP's Anti-Sharia Crusade: States across the country are considering far-right bills to ban Islamic law. For that, we have hate-group leader David Yerushalmi to thank. (Tim Murphy, 3/01/11, Mother Jones)

[I]t's not just Muslims who draw Yerushalmi's scorn. In a 2006 essay for SANE entitled On Race: A Tentative Discussion (pdf), Yerushalmi argued that whites are genetically superior to blacks. "Some races perform better in sports, some better in mathematical problem solving, some better in language, some better in Western societies and some better in tribal ones," he wrote.

Yerushalmi has suggested that Caucasians are inherently more receptive to republican forms of government than blacks—an argument that's consistent with SANE's mission statement, which emphasizes that "America was the handiwork of faithful Christians, mostly men, and almost entirely white." And in an article published at the website Intellectual Conservative, Yerushalmi, who is Jewish, suggests that liberal Jews "destroy their host nations like a fatal parasite." Unsurprisingly, then, Yerushalmi offered the lone Jewish defense of Mel Gibson, after the actor’s anti-Semitic tirade in 2006. Gibson, he wrote, was simply noting the "undeniable Jewish liberal influence on western affairs in the direction of a World State."

Despite his racist views, Yerushalmi has been warmly received by mainstream conservatives; his work has appeared in the National Review and Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace. He's been lauded in the pages of the Washington Times. And in 2008, he published a paper on the perils of Sharia-compliant finance that compelled Sen. Minority Whip John Kyl (R-Ariz.) to write a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Chris Cox.

More recently, Yerushalmi co-authored a report on the threats posed by Islamic law—among other things, he worries Sharia-compliant finance could spark another financial collapse—that earned plaudits from leading Republicans like Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra. The report was released by Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, for which Yerushalmi is general counsel.

In 2007, he pushed legislation to make "adherence to Shari'a" a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. That same proposal called for the deportation of all Muslim non-citizens, and a ban on Muslim immigration. The United States, he urged, must declare "a WAR AGAINST ISLAM and all Muslim faithful."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


THE CURIOUS JOURNEY OF CURIOUS GEORGE : The little storybook monkey had many big adventures, but none so dramatic as what his German Jewish creators experienced (Erica Grieder, More Intelligent Life)

The Reys made their way to the south of France, and spent several weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in a high-school gymnasium before proceeding to Lisbon. From there they arranged passage to Brazil, and months later to New York. They carried with them the first drawings for the Curious George books, and showed them to police as proof of their occupation. The first book, "Curious George", was published in 1941. The little monkey arrives in New York and strolls off of the ship with a smile, holding his papers in one hand and a little red valise in the other. A policeman salutes in welcome.

Curious George has his share of troubles in America. For example, he had to go to the hospital after swallowing a puzzle piece. The emotional clarity of Hans’ illustrations is brilliant in these scenes of setback. Sitting alone in his hospital bed, with a single fat tear rolling down his cheek, the little monkey is the picture of distress. And he is occasionally naughty. The exhibition displays a hand-written list, from Hans, of Curious George’s infractions: obstructing traffic by sitting on a light, escaping from jail, monkeying with the police.

But these were just bumps in the road. George’s intentions are never malign, and order is quickly restored from chaos—sometimes with an assist from the man in the yellow hat, sometimes with reassurance from other understanding adults. Over time, George becomes fully integrated. He goes to Hollywood. In 1957 he travels to outer space, just weeks before Laika became the first animal to actually do so. He visits the circus, an interesting venue. Janet Davis, a sociologist, has explored the circus as a place where 20th-century Americans worked out some of their feelings about social and cultural change. George’s adventures there bring out his status as both outsider and insider. He’s a monkey, sure, but he’s also a hero, and a highly relatable character.

The Curious George stories were an international hit, allowing for a few cultural variations. In Britain his name is given as Zozo; the publishers thought it would be disrespectful to have a mischievous monkey named after the sitting king. Whatever the case, children around the world were taken with George’s unwitting mischief, and charmed by the cheerful, brightly coloured illustrations. But his story of travel, migration and cultural collision has a paradigmatically American dimension.

Against the backdrop of the Reys’ own dramatic travels, these children’s stories assume a poignant cast. The Reys became American citizens in 1946, and stayed in New York the rest of their lives. They never talked much about their narrow escape, and even today the story is not widely known.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Republican McCarthy Says U.S. Budget Will Tackle Entitlement Program Cuts (Lisa Lerer, 3/02/11, Bloomberg)

U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, third-ranking Republican in the House, places politicians in two camps, “thermometers” and “thermostats.” He says President Barack Obama is playing “thermometer” to Republicans.

“He’s letting everything take its course, and he’s just standing out, telling you what the temperature is after everybody already knows it,” McCarthy, of California, said during a Bloomberg Breakfast with reporters in Washington yesterday.

The Republican leadership, McCarthy said, “takes the temperature of the room, but tells you where you need to get to, and it may be uncomfortable.’

Just reset the temperature and the UR will change his clothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


The Long Arm (and Broad Shoulders) of the Law: In praise of Timothy Olyphant, the time-displaced, Old West hero of the best cop show on television, FX's Justified (Alex Pappademas, March 2011, GQ)

Honestly, though, we knew this show was something special the minute one of our straight male friends, during a discussion of how well its star, Timothy Olyphant, wears his urban-cowboy denim shirt/skinny tie/Stetson ensembles, commented without missing a beat, "It's his shoulders. They're nice and wide." But as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a time-displaced Old West hero who goes down mean, meth-belt roads but is not himself mean, wearing his emotions close to the Kevlar, resolving standoffs with steel nerves as often as hot lead, Olyphant isn't just America's Next Top Man Crush.

-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Elmore Leonard, Still Delighting Readers – and Interviewers (Bill Thompson, March 1st, 2011, Eye on Books)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Democratic State (Lee Smith, 3/02/11, Tablet)

Recent history and statistics show that in order to survive Arab and Muslim societies are going to have to forget about the notion of an Islamic alternative to modernity and will instead have to adopt what they have typically described as Western values but are in reality the universal values of political modernity. Learning to live like the West is not going to come through buying more Western goods—from cell-phones to tanks—or even earning more Western diplomas but by embracing those values as embodied by the one country in the region that lives them. The Arab model for success is not Iran, or Turkey, but Israel.

In its essence, Israel is the West—a culmination of its successes and a symbol of its failures, a reminder of a millennia-old madness, anti-Semitism, and the failure of the Enlightenment. Criticism of Israel is very often a reflection of the bad faith of a Western intelligentsia and political class uncomfortable with its history and unsure of its moral bearings. That Europeans frequently hold negative attitudes toward Israel while the vast majority of Americans are favorable to it can be explained in part by how each society came out of World War II.

Of course, Israel too started out French, in its socialist founding, but has moved as far as it can into the Anglosphere without formally converting to Christianity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Natalie Portman, Oscar Winner, Was Also a Precocious Scientist (NATALIE ANGIER, 3/01/11, NY Times)

The Intel Science Talent Search is considered the nation’s most elite and demanding high school research competition, attracting the crème de la milk-fats-encased-in-a-phospholipid-and-protein-membrane of aspiring young scientists. Victors and near-victors in the 69-year-old contest have gone on to win seven Nobel Prizes in physics or chemistry, two Fields Medals in mathematics, a half-dozen National Medals in science and technology, a long string of MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants — and now, an Academy Award for best actress in a leading role.

On Sunday night, the gorgeously pregnant Natalie Portman, 29, won an Oscar for her performance as Nina, a mentally precarious ballerina in the shock fantasy “Black Swan.” Among the lesser-known but nonetheless depressingly impressive details in Ms. Portman’s altogether too precociously storied career is that as a student at Syosset High School on Long Island back in the late 1990s, Ms. Portman made it all the way to the semifinal rounds of the Intel competition.

For those who know how grueling it can be to put together a prize-worthy project and devote hundreds of hours of “free” time at night, on weekends, during spring break and summer vacation, doing real, original scientific research while one’s friends are busy adolescing, the achievement is testimony enough to Ms. Portman’s self-discipline and drive. [...]

“I’ve taught at Harvard, Dartmouth and Vassar, and I’ve had the privilege of teaching a lot of very bright kids,” said Abigail A. Baird, who was one of Ms. Portman’s mentors at Harvard. “There are very few who are as inherently bright as Natalie is, who have as much intellectual horsepower, who work as hard as she did. She didn’t take a single thing for granted.”

Ms. Portman is one of a handful of high-profile actors who happen to have serious scientific credentials — awards, degrees, patents and theorems in their name.

Hedy Lamarr, the actress habitually regarded as “that most beautiful woman in Hollywood,” was a rocket scientist on the side, inventing and patenting a torpedo guidance technique she called “frequency hopping,” which thwarted efforts to jam the signals that kept the missiles on track.

Danica McKellar, who has appeared on such shows as “The Wonder Years,” “The West Wing,” “NYPD Blue” and “Young Justice,” graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she helped devise a mathematical proof for certain properties of magnetic fields — a theorem that bears her name along with those of her collaborators. She also writes popular books about math with clever PG-13 titles like “Math Doesn’t Suck” and “Kiss My Math.”

As a teenager in the 1990s, Mayim Bialik starred in the title role of the hit kid-com “Blossom.” Now she appears in another hit sitcom aimed at slightly older kids, “The Big Bang Theory,” playing the adorably frumpy-nerdy Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist and sometime love interest for the adorably nerdy germophobic physicist Sheldon Cooper. The actress is pleased with her new role. After all, Dr. Bialik has a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. in ... neurobiology. “I tell people, I am a neuroscientist, and I play one on TV,” said Dr. Bialik.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 AM


Diplomat: I can no longer represent Israel (Ynet, 03.02.11)

A veteran diplomat says he has resigned from his post because he had a hard time defending the policies of Israel's current government, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday.'

Ilan Baruch says he quit because "Israel's foreign policy is wrong," pointing to the Palestinian issue.

Should this trend continue, he warned, Israel will turn into a pariah state and face growing de-legitimization. [...]

"Identifying the objection expressed by global public opinion to the occupation policy as anti-Semitic is simplistic, provincial and artificial," he wrote. "Experience shows that this global trend won't change until we normalize our relations with the Palestinians."

Since the end of the Cold War it's just been an internal Israeli argument over the pace at which they concede the inevitable. The foot-dragging--as compared, in particular, to South Africa and Northern Ireland--has done much damage to the soul of the nation.

Unsettled: An IDF vet with ‘a great sense of discomfort about my own personal behavior’ when he patrolled the Occupied Territories now leads a group called Breaking the Silence dedicated to exposing the messy work of occupation (Michelle Goldberg | Feb 17, 2011, Tablet)

By now, the military police and the settlers in Hebron all know Mikhael Manekin, the co-director of the Israeli anti-occupation organization Breaking the Silence [1]. Once or twice a week, the New York-born, Baltimore-raised 31-year-old is there, leading small tour groups through the eerie, desolate zone around the central settlement in Hebron’s old city, where 800 ultra-rightist Jews are protected by about 500 Israeli soldiers. As Manekin showed me and several other journalists around on a walking tour last fall, an armored car trailed us. He said not to worry—they were protecting us from the settlers, who have attacked him in the past.

At first glance Manekin, with his trim black beard and kippa, could be one of them. Indeed, part of what makes him such a formidable peace activist is how much Zionist credibility he has. He’s an Orthodox Jew and a veteran of the elite Golani battalion, where, among other things, he protected settler roads and liaised with settler security. His last position in the military was an instructor in an officer-training academy. Like other members of Breaking the Silence, an organization of young Israeli army veterans, he can discuss the occupation with authority, because he was one of the people charged with carrying it out.

Other than the armored car, a few kids in knit skull caps, and some Orthodox women pushing baby carriages, the streets of Hebron were empty. They are, in IDF parlance, “completely sterilized,” meaning that Palestinians aren’t allowed on them. Those who need to traverse the area must cut through a nearby cemetery. Most of the Arabs who once lived near the settlers’ encampment have since left. The few that have remained mostly stay inside their apartments. Bars protect their windows and balconies from the settlers’ stones. If they must go out, they have to climb onto the roof and down a fire escape into a back alley, because the concrete outside their front doors is reserved for Jews. If they get seriously ill, they’re in trouble. “The Jewish subset of the Red Cross doesn’t treat Palestinians here,” says Manekin. “What you see a lot of times is Palestinians carrying people by foot to an area with an ambulance.”

As he talks, our driver, a bluff man in his 50s who lives in Netanya and speaks English with a heavy Israeli accent, shakes his head. “I didn’t know,” he says. “People don’t know.”

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March 2, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Akaka Won't Seek Re-Election (Sean Sullivan, March 2, 2011, Hotline)

On the Republican side, former Gov. Linda Lingle would be the obvious frontrunner if she enters the race. In November, Lingle said she would take six months before deciding whether she would run, but Akaka's decision to step aside only makes it more likely that she will enter the race.

Democrats have a 34 point registration advantage in Hawaii, and with President Obama -- who is viewed very positively in the state he grew up in -- on the top of the ballot in 2012, the party appears to be in good position to hold on to the seat. If Lingle should enter the race, her high name identification across the state and ability to fundraise could cause some concern for Democrats as they seek to hold on to the seat. Still, it will be very tough for Lingle -- or any Republican -- to pickup the seat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


Trade as a means to consolidate the Arab revolutions: Political turmoil has swept across the Arab world. This column argues that the movement towards more open and representative societies could create the conditions for a big push toward greater trade integration within the region – and the rest of the world. A good place to start would be to complete the Pan-Arab Free Trade Agreement. (Jean-Pierre Chauffour, 2 March 2011, Vox)

Today's historical circumstances present an opportunity for the Arab world to make a big push toward greater regional and global integration. Until now, the region has suffered from discretionary and arbitrary implementation of policies, and from lack of government credibility to really change a deeply rooted status quo of privileges and unequal treatment of investors (World Bank 2009). While the current political turmoil in the Arab region could end up further entrenching those privileges or creating new ones, it could also create the conditions for more open, non-discriminatory, and rule-based economies. In this scenario, the Arab world could start reaping the full benefits of global and regional integration.

As far as regional integration is concerned, completing the Pan-Arab Free Trade Area (PAFTA) would be a good place to start. This would essentially consist of:

1. completing the free movement of goods within PAFTA, notably through the elimination of unnecessary non-tariff measures;
2. implementing the regional initiative to liberalise services trade, including identifying a number of services sectors for early regional liberalisation (e.g., trade facilitation and transport, banking and finance, and communication and information); and
3. strengthening the institutional rules and discipline applicable to regional trade and other policies of common interest (Chauffour 2011).

Free movement of goods

Completing the free movement of goods within PAFTA, notably through the elimination of unnecessary non-tariff measures (NTMs), and integrating better the region into global supply chains and production networks would create the conditions for the emergence of the “Arab factory”. A concerted effort to streamline all unnecessary NTMs in PAFTA countries will remove one of the major remaining bottlenecks to intra-regional trade in goods.

This would involve reviewing the substance of existing NTMs, streamlining them using methodologies experimented in other regional agreements around the world, including a guillotine approach when appropriate, and establishing regulatory impact assessments to improve the process through which new NTMs are created.

To facilitate the integration of the region into global supply chains and production networks, countries in the region could unilaterally reduce their most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs, especially tariff peaks, to the level of the most competitive regions of the world (e.g., East Asia). Such unilateral liberalisation has proven to be a successful strategy in a number of emerging economies that are now sustainable growth poles (Figure 1).

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


Epigenetics and Society: Did Erasmus Darwin foreshadow the tweaking of his grandson’s paradigm? (Andrew D. Ellington, The Scientist)

Erasmus anticipated Charles in many ways, but surprising results in the field of epigenetics—heritable (and reversible) changes in gene expression—suggest that he may have been very far ahead of his time indeed. In the current issue, David Berreby cites the increasing body of work that correlates childhood trauma with DNA methylation with suicide. One’s personal epigenome is modified by environmental perturbations, and that influences behavior. Certainly the Victorians could have related to the notion of an Original Sin that made its heritable mark on the genomes of parents created innocent, passing the curse down to their descendants. That said, the Victorians did have their biases, and it was of course the father who had the predominant influence over the child. But recently published studies of genetic imprinting show that the two parents’ influence on their offspring is more akin to a tug of war.

The Lamarckian idea that giraffes’ reaching for leaves resulted in longer-necked progeny seems silly to us today, primarily because we know so very much about the underlying mechanisms of genetics. And yet Lamarck may have a last laugh—think inheritance patterns in ciliates, or the effect of diet on the coat color of agouti mouse offspring. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in our understanding of how evolution can act…on evolution, yielding mechanisms that allow both adaptation and heritability within the course of a lifetime.

It's a canny alternative to a theory everyone knows has failed, flattering us with the notion that we design ourselves.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Poll: Government Workers Should Pay More For Benefits (Jon Lender, March 2, 2011, Hartford Courant)

By a margin of 63 percent to 31 percent, Americans think that government workers should pay more for their benefits and retirement programs, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Obama's 'Where's Waldo?' presidency (Ruth Marcus, March 2, 2011, Washington Post)

For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action - unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, m

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Wisconsin governor is waging 'jihad' against unions (Mark Mellman, 03/01/11, The Hill)

Because, at the end of the day, is there any real difference between waging war and telling our employees they need to help fund their own retirement?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Politico Requested E-Mails of Other Reporters in 2009 (MICHAEL D. SHEAR, 3/01/11, NY Times)

Politico, the news Web site that on Monday revealed that a Congressional aide had been secretly sharing e-mails with a New York Times reporter, itself sought correspondence between government officials in numerous federal agencies and other news organizations.

In a 2009 Freedom of Information Act request distributed to at least half a dozen cabinet departments, Ken Vogel, a Politico reporter, made a broad request for all government communications with reporters or editors of 16 news organizations. [...]

Politico was the first to report this week that Kurt Bardella, the chief spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa of California, had been giving copies of Mr. Bardella’s e-mail correspondence to Mark Leibovich, a reporter for The New York Times who is on leave to write a book about the political culture in Washington.

Politico reported that its editor in chief, John F. Harris, wrote to Mr. Issa that the practice would be “egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances” and called for an investigation into whether “journalists may have had their reporting compromised by this activity.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Done deal on a $4 billion cut gives Republicans spending victory (Russell Berman, 03/01/11, The Hill)

The House approved a stopgap spending resolution Tuesday in a landslide 335-91 vote, with more than 100 Democrats joining all but six Republicans in voting to slash federal spending by $4 billion over the next two weeks.

Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the upper chamber would likely approve the measure, which would send it to President Obama for his signature.

With a final Senate vote expected Wednesday morning, House Republicans are poised to win the first significant budget cuts of their new majority.

Madame Tussaud's Obama exhibit should just be a teleprompter and an autopen in wax.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


The Baffling Book: The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book by Timothy Beal (Adam Kirsch, February 24, 2011, New Republic)

AN OLD JOKE declares that America and England are divided by a common language. In the same way, you could say that Judaism and Christianity are divided by a common Bible—except that, historically speaking, the consequences of that division have not been a laughing matter. It is exactly because Jews and Christians agree on the divine status of the Hebrew Bible that their disagreement about the New Testament has been so fraught. To a believing Christian, a Hindu who venerates the Vedas would simply be an unbeliever, a heathen, and so he would present no particular theological challenge. But a Jew, who accepts part of the Christian Bible but not the whole, is something more troubling—a critic, a breeder of doubts. From the Jewish perspective, meanwhile, the Christian demotion of the Hebrew Bible to the Old Testament is especially bitter: the suggestion that Judaism has been superseded is even more objectionable than the idea that it was never true in the first place.

No one is better on the reason Jews and Christians ought to be reconciled than the late Richard John Neuhaus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Band Of Heathens On Mountain Stage (NPR, 3/01/11)

The soulful Austin rock group Band of Heathens was founded by songwriters Colin Brooks, Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi, who were nominated for "Best Duo or Group" by the Americana Honors & Awards in 2009. The band's debut CD was produced by a longtime friend of Mountain Stage, Ray Wylie Hubbard, who first told host Larry Groce about the group.

On the band's second studio album, One Foot in the Ether, the trio showcases a soul-drenched, guitar-heavy style of country-rock. The group, which performed at Lollapalooza last year, appears here on Mountain Stage for the second time.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Mind Games: Why Rolling Stone's article on the military's domestic psy-ops scandal gets it so wrong. (MATT ARMSTRONG | MARCH 1, 2011, Foreign Policy)

[A] huge reality check is required here. The Smith-Mundt Act does not apply to the whole of government, the Defense Department, or even the whole of the State Department. It applies to -- and was only ever intended to apply to -- the part of the State Department that had been the USIA until it was abolished in 1999 and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body overseeing the U.S. government's international media efforts. It does not apply to the State Department's office of counterterrorism; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; or Bureau of Public Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley. (Crowley once noted from the podium that "I, as the head of public affairs, can communicate both domestically and internationally.") In short, even if the allegations by Holmes are correct, the Smith-Mundt Act would still not apply. There is other legislation that does apply, including "anti-propaganda" language in congressional authorizations and appropriations, Defense Department directives, and in the case of the activities of PSYOP units, explicit prohibition against targeting Americans.

The original purpose of the Smith-Mundt Act was to give America a voice in the building war of information around the world. Introduced in Congress in October 1945, the prohibition on domestic dissemination of material intended for foreign audiences by the State Department was to protect the government and the American public from the "drones," "loafers," and "men of strong Soviet leaning" within the department. In other words, it not an anti-propaganda law, but a protective measure against a department of questionable loyalty. If it had been, or currently is, a broad brush law, we would not have had the campy "perils of communism" films or administration officials appearing on Sunday talk shows. It is ironic that a law intended to counter disinformation is subject itself to so much misinformation.

This is ultimately another cautionary tale about people doing something they are not trained for and the media commenting on something they know little to nothing about. Both of which must be fixed for the sake of U.S. national security.

Meanwhile, as was said of Mitt's dad, it's not like you need to brainwash pols, "only a light rinse is required."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


AWOL Dems defy ballot box (Nolan Finley, 3/01/11, Detroit News)

American-style democracy holds together because no matter how nasty the political game gets, the players honor a few inviolable rules. We obey the laws, even the ones we disagree with. We respect the ballot box. And after even the most bitterly contested election, the loser accepts the results, works within the system and awaits another chance to prevail with voters.

These guidelines kept the nation from shearing apart in 2000, when supporters of Al Gore (wrongly) believed the presidential election was stolen by George W. Bush. A tense period of uncertainty ended when Gore, in perhaps his finest moment, conceded and urged his backers to work to heal the country.

But what's happening in Wisconsin and Indiana breaks that tradition and puts a crack in our democratic foundation. [...]

Instead of staying on the field to defend their positions, Democratic lawmakers in both states fled to neighboring Illinois, where they hope to win with their absence what they couldn't at the ballot box — namely, the right to control policymaking.

Without the Democrats, the legislatures don't have the required quorums to pass budget measures, including cutting pay and benefits for public workers.

The lawmakers in exile call this a defense of democracy. In truth, it's a step toward anarchy. If it catches on as a practice, it will officially end government by, of and for the people.

It's part of a disturbing trend by Democrats to embrace a by-any-means-necessary approach to governing.

Except, of course, that Al Gore went to the courts to try to overturn the election result, an action that, incredibly, demonstrated less class than Richard Nixon had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Preparing kids for fate of Bambi’s mom a must: Death of a parent offers ‘launching point’ for talks (Christian Toto, 3/01/11, The Washington Times)

The film’s iconic sequence involves the death of Bambi’s mother at the hands of hunters. The action occurs off-screen, but the sound of gunfire burned itself into the psyche of many young moviegoers. Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman has said “Bambi” was the first film he ever saw and insists he still suffers from it.

A few modern animated films deal with similarly dark story lines. In last year’s “Toy Story 3,” Woody and crew stare down the maw of an incinerator in the final reel. The 2003 film “Finding Nemo” featured the loss of the main character’s mother in the opening minutes, and the 1994 feature “The Lion King” also involved the death of a childlike character’s parent.

“Bambi” endures as a symbol of Walt Disney Studio’s enduring artistry — even if it means a few tears are shed along the way. But will today’s young audiences appreciate “Bambi” for its animated splendor, nightmares and all?

The Mother Judd took me and I bawled my eyes out. The Father Judd took me the next day...sadist....

Why couldn't they whack that rabbit instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


To The Shores Of Tripoli: Empires Fell; Dictators Arose; Republicanism Prevails (Ralph Benko, 2/28/11, Forbes)

It took World War II to bring democracy and human rights to Western Europe, and to Japan and to the world’s largest democracy, India. America was the force, intellectual and military, that brought this about.

It took American victory in the Cold War, World War III, led by Reagan and proclaimed by him at Moscow State University, to bring basic democracy and human rights to the former constituent republics of the USSR and to Eastern Europe. Victory brought republicanism to Latin America, no longer a venue of proxy wars dominated by military dictatorships, ruling juntas, and corporals’ coups. Latin America, in the wake of American victory in the Cold war, is a continent full, the atavistic despot Hugo “Huey Long” Chavez, aside, full of vibrant republics.

After the Cold War China, beginning with Deng Xiaoping, liberalized. China embraced capitalism and was moving toward democracy when the USSR broke up. China too is vulnerable to break up, which would be bad for China and for the world. China is far more fragile than it might seem. Moving from within a 6,000 year history China moves far more deliberately than the impetuous West. Yet China reveres Sun Yat-sen. Dr. Sun left an unambiguously republican testament. China leans toward reform.

Left behind, so far, is Africa, still struggling through its post-colonial period, shamefully neglected by the wealthy nations of the world. And left behind, of course, was the Middle East. The Middle East, except for our ally Israel, is the world’s last major refuge of kings and dictators.

It looked as if America went to Iraq to wage World War IV — removing its monstrous dictator in our epochal revolutionary spread of democracy and human rights, militantly bringing republicanism to the world’s last bastion of monarchs and dictators. Our effort to spread democracy and human rights throughout the region faltered. Many find it unsettling to watch an American president, Barack Obama, bowing low before monarchs like the King of Saudi Arabia.

World War IV seemed, as an advance for democracy and human rights, thwarted. Yet perhaps it is premature to say so. People inherently fear the motives of outsiders, particularly those of the world’s hyperpower, America. Now, exactly as it becomes clear that America is disengaging, rather than staying on as an occupying power, the citizens of the Middle East are taking a stand in, and for, their dignity. The “Arab Street” is demanding principled republican self-government.

...but it's important to recognize that this is just a coda to the Long War that began with the French Revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Blood Brothers: In 1984 two soldiers, an Iranian and an Iraqi, meet on the battlefield. Amazingly, 20 years later, in Vancouver, they meet again (Timothy Taylor, Feb 28, 2011, Vancouver Magazine)

The date is May 24, 1982. It's called Day of Martyrs in Iraq and Liberation of Khorramshahr in Iran, both labels referring to what happened that day in one of the bloodiest battles of the Iran/Iraq war: the battle for Khorramshahr. A port city in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in southwestern Iran, Khorramshahr was an affluent city before the war. But situated on a crucial waterway, it was also a strategic prize. When the Iraqis invaded in September 1980, Khorramshahr was among the first objectives.

The fighting was brutal. Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to have died in the assault. And despite committing thousands of troops, a lengthy artillery barrage, and as many as 500 tanks, Iraq faced tenacious opposition. They took two months to secure the area, losing over 6,000 men in the process. As a result, Khorramshahr became an emblem of resistance to Iranians. In one widely told story, a 13-year-old Iranian travelled to the city without telling his parents after hearing of the invasion. He fought alongside adult soldiers before being killed disabling an Iraqi tank with a hand grenade. Within months of the boy's death and the news that Khorramshahr had fallen, thousands of Iranian boys had volunteered. Haftlang was one of them.

He'd been living east of Khorramshahr in Masjed Soleyman. He was 12 and had nine sisters and five brothers. Home life was difficult, especially with his father. One incident in particular spurred him to action. He was caught stealing money from his father to go to the movies. His father punished him by branding his heel with a skewer heated to red hot in the stove. Haftlang recuperated at a friend's house, where they concocted a plan to run away to war.

Without telling their parents, the boys enlisted in the Basij regiment and were shipped out the same day. A volunteer paramilitary group founded by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Basij was notorious. As Jon Lee Anderson wrote for the New Yorker: "Very young Basijis were encouraged to offer themselves for martyrdom by clearing minefields with their bodies in what became known as ‘human waves'-literally walking to their deaths en masse so that more experienced soldiers could advance against the enemy."

Haftlang wasn't asked to do that. After proving himself less squeamish than his friends, he was made a paramedic instead. He was appalled by the horrors at first but eventually became proficient and confident in this work.

In Khorramshahr, meanwhile, 18 months had passed since the Iraqi takeover and the Iranians were now planning for the city's recapture. Haftlang's Basij battalion was sent to help. The Iraqis had dug a deep trench along the front, the western wall of which-nearest the Iraqis-had been filled with dynamite. To start the attack, around midnight, the Iranians flooded this trench with water from a nearby dam that had been closed and filling for several weeks. Then they blew the trench wall, flooding the Iraqi defences.

"We thought we were under attack, but it was just the opposite," Haftlang recalls. "The Iraqis were flooded and their equipment, tanks and troops were ripped away. Many were buried alive in their shelters. The water flowed onto the Plains of Shalamcheh, leaving behind an army lost in its path."

Over the next two days, 70,000 soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Army fought their way into the city. The youngest and greenest Basiji were held back to use in a second wave, which was unleashed May 24. Haftlang was among them. And when he entered the city, still under gunfire and shelling, he was tasked with going through a row of bunkers to ensure there were no survivors.

The significance of Haftlang's assignment was plain. Captured Iraqis were being taken prisoner but, he says, "most of the prisoners ended up dead." Indeed, various accounts suggest that up to 2,000 Iraqi prisoners were executed in Khorramshahr around May 24 in retaliation for the rape of Iranian women during the original 1980 takeover. Haftlang's orders were to kill any surviving Iraqi or deliver him to his almost-certain death at the hands of others.

Hoping he wouldn't find anyone alive, Haftlang began moving through the bunkers. In the third one he entered-grimacing against the pressing smell of corpses bubbling from decomposition, his small flashlight held aloft for its meagre light-Haftlang heard a voice. It cried out. It cried out for mercy. It was a man. He spoke Arabic words Haftlang couldn't understand but could intuit. The man said: Brother, brother, we are both Muslim.

Haftlang acted as he'd been ordered to do. He seized the Iraqi's weapon. Then he stood, his rifle aimed at the helpless man, poised to fire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM


Get Ready for a Growth Supercycle: Emerging markets could propel a global boom comparable to the industrialization of the United States. (IAN BREMMER, 3/01/11, WSJ)

With the turmoil rattling the Middle East these days, it's easy to miss the rising tide of optimism about the global economy. The good news is coming from multiple sources. A recent CEO survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, found a sharp spike in the number of business leaders who see strong growth for the year ahead. And for a long-term forecast, a report from analysts at Standard Chartered bank has produced the biggest buzz.

Standard Chartered argues that about 10 years ago, the global economy entered a "new super-cycle" of extended growth, one "driven by the industrialization and urbanization of emerging markets and global trade." The expansion is likely to last for "a generation or more." Forecasts in the report run through 2030.

We've seen this kind of surge before, say the bank's analysts. The first supercycle, driven by the industrial revolution and the emergence of the United States, developed between 1870 and 1913. The second wave, powered primarily by Europe's postwar reconstruction and a rise in Asian exports, ran from the end of World War II until the early 1970s.

The especially good news, according to the report's authors, is that though the third super-cycle will be driven mainly by emerging-market countries, particularly in Asia, "the winners will be global."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM

Chocolate Coconut Crispies (NestMeg, 2/22/11)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown packed sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled**
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat softened butter in a bowl, then add both sugars and beat for two minutes. Add egg and beat until creamy.

Pour in melted chocolate. (**You can also use cocoa: three tablespoons of cocoa and one tablespoon of butter for every ounce of baking chocolate needed.)

Stir in flour, baking powder and baking soda until just combined. Add oats and coconut.

Drop slightly rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool briefly on the pans before removing to a storage container.

March 1, 2011

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Silver screen star Jane Russell, abortion sufferer and pro-life advocate, dies at 89 (Kathleen Gilbert, 3/01/11,

Several decades after an abortion left Jane Russell unable to bear children and spurred her to become an outspoken pro-lifer and adoption advocate, the silver screen beauty died yesterday at the age of 89. In lieu of flowers, the family of the born-again Christian actress is asking for donations in her honor to Care Net, a pro-life pregnancy resource center network.

Jane Russell, the brunette bombshell of the films Mad Men and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, whose image became a popular pinup for World War II servicemen, passed away of respiratory failure at her Santa Monica home Monday.

Leading a wild lifestyle early on, Russell later became, in her words, “a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot” - but not before an illegal abortion caused her to lose her fertility.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Supreme Court rejects 'personal privacy' for corporations in Freedom of Information Act case (David G. Savage, 3/01/11, Los Angeles Times)

Corporations do not have a right to "personal privacy," the Supreme Court ruled unanimously, at least when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act and the release of documents held by the government.

Once a Court succumbs to ideology its rulings become completely arbitrary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


WikiLeaks’ Assange accuses journalists of Jewish conspiracy (JTA, 3/01/11)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused British journalists of a "Jewish conspiracy" against him.

The accusation came in remarks published in the British magazine Private Eye, which was reporting on a phone call Assange made on Feb. 16 to the magazine's editor complaining about British coverage of WikiLeaks, The New York Times reported.

Private Eye had published an article on Assange associate in Russia, Israel Shamir, saying that he had denied the Holocaust. Assange called the article "an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organization of Jewish support and donations,” according to the Jewish Chronicle.

He also said the magazine was “part of a conspiracy” led by “Jewish” writers and specifically cited The Guardian newspaper, naming Editor Alan Rusbridger, a non-Jew, and investigations editor David Leigh.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


In U.S.-Libya Nuclear Deal, a Qaddafi Threat Faded Away (DAVID E. SANGER, 3/01/11, NY Times)

Senior administration officials and Pentagon planners, as they discuss sanctions and a possible no-fly zone to neutralize the Libyan air force, say that the 2003 deal removed Colonel Qaddafi’s biggest trump card: the threat of using a nuclear weapon, or even just selling nuclear material or technology, if he believed it was the only way to save his 42-year rule. While Colonel Qaddafi retains a stockpile of mustard gas, it is not clear he has any effective way to deploy it.

“Imagine the possible nightmare if we had failed to remove the Libyan nuclear weapons program and their longer range missile force,” said Robert Joseph, who played a central role in organizing the effort in 2003, in the months just after the invasion of Iraq. [...]

The cache of nuclear technology that Libya turned over to the United States, Britain and international nuclear inspectors in early 2004 was large — far larger than American intelligence experts had expected. There were more than 4,000 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium. There were blueprints for how to build a nuclear bomb — missing some critical components but good enough to get the work started.

The whole package of goods came from a deal the Qaddafis struck with Abdul Qadeer Khan, one of the architects of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, who built the world’s largest black-market network in nuclear technology. The $100 million to $200 million that the Central Intelligence Agency later estimated that Libya spent on the nuclear project has never been recovered. For their part, the Libyans could never get the system working; many of the large centrifuges were still in their wooden packing crates when they were turned over.

The haul was so large that President George W. Bush, with photographers in tow, flew to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to celebrate a rare victory against nuclear proliferation. He briefly noted the success in his recent memoir, “Decision Points,” saying that with the surrender of the weapons Libya “resumed normal relations with the world.” Mr. Bush lifted restrictions on doing business with Libya and praised Colonel Qaddafi, saying his action have “made our country and our world safer.” [...]

Today Obama administration officials say that whether or not the Bush administration carried through on its promises, the deal deprived Mr. Qaddafi of far more fearsome weapons that he might have reached for as he attempts to stay in office.

While the stuff would have been useless in practice, in theory it would have intimidated Democrats into acquiescence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Pension Funds Strained, States Look at 401(k) Plans (STEVEN GREENHOUSE, 2/28/11, NY Times)

Lawmakers and governors in many states, faced with huge shortfalls in employee pension funds, are turning to a strategy that a lot of private companies adopted years ago: moving workers away from guaranteed pension plans and toward 401(k)-type retirement savings plans.

The efforts come as the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, citing dire budget problems, are engaged in bitter showdowns with public-employee unions over wages, pensions and collective bargaining rights.

The new plans allow states to set a firm, upfront limit on the amount they will contribute and leave it up to the employee and the financial markets to make the money grow. In a traditional pension system, the employer promises a certain benefit, then must find a way to pay for it.

Like private employers, which in droves have terminated traditional pension plans, many government officials like the idea of shifting much of a pension plan’s risk to the worker. And some workers prefer a 401(k)-type system because it gives them more control over their retirement assets, including the ability to take the money with them when they change jobs.

Presumably the Times, which suddenl;y seems to understand the Third Way, never had Mr. Greenhouse look at W's SS reform plan?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


The Diplomacy of the Blind (Dominique Moisi, 2/28/11, Project Syndicate)

The United States managed to get it right, albeit very slowly, whereas many European countries erred on the side of the status quo for a much longer time, if not systematically, as they refused to see that the region could be evolving in a direction contrary to what they deemed to be in their strategic interest. Historical and geographic proximity, together with energy dependency and fear of massive immigration, paralyzed European diplomats.

But there is something more fundamental underlying diplomats’ natural diffidence. They are very often right in their readings of a given situation – the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, for example, include a slew of masterful and penetrating analyses. But it is as if, owing to an excess of prudence, they cannot bring themselves to pursue their own arguments to their logical conclusions.

Revolutionary ruptures upset diplomats’ familiar habits, both in terms of their personal contacts and, more importantly, in terms of their thinking. A fast-forward thrust into the unknown can be exhilarating, but it is also deeply frightening. In the name of “realism,” diplomats and foreign-policy strategists are naturally conservative.

Indeed, it is no accident that Henry Kissinger’s masterpiece, A World Restored, was devoted to the study of the recreation of the world order by the Vienna Congress after the rupture of the French Revolution, followed by the Napoleonic adventures. Is it more difficult to predict, and adjust to, the coming of a fundamental change, than to defend the present order, under the motto of “the devil you know is always preferable to the devil you don’t know!”

But, beyond these mental habits lie more structural reasons for the conservatism of foreign policymakers and diplomats. By emphasizing the relations between states and governments over contacts with the opposition or civil societies (when they exist in an identifiable form), traditional diplomacy has created for itself a handicap that is difficult to overcome.

By requiring their diplomats to limit their contacts with “alternative” sources of information in a country, in order to avoid antagonizing despotic regimes, governments irremediably limit diplomats’ ability to see change coming, even when it is so close that nothing can be done.

When regimes lose legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens, it is not reasonable to derive one’s information mainly from that regime’s servants and sycophants. In such cases, diplomats will too often merely report the regime’s reassuring yet biased analysis.

Diplomats, instead, should be judged by their ability to enter into a dialogue with all social actors: government representatives and business leaders, of course, but also representatives of civil society (even if it exists only in embryonic form). With proper training and incentives, diplomats would be better equipped to anticipate change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


New Jersey public workers in eye of benefit-cut storm (Cynthia Burton, 2/28/11, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Within 15 minutes, Gov. Christie had a crowd of about 400 applauding as he talked about a "dumb" pension hike and "Cadillac" health care for public workers.

He noted again and again that those were benefits many in the group didn't have but were financing with their taxes in a state on the brink.

As potent as his comments were for the group, his words were directed mostly at an audience of one: New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, who will play a pivotal role in negotiating the state's $29.4 billion budget. [...]

In his budget address last Tuesday, Christie said that if the Democratic-controlled Legislature agreed to health-care concessions, he would give people earning less than $75,000 a property-tax credit - a direct appeal to middle- and working-class voters to pressure the Legislature.

Sweeney and Christie already agree that public employees should pay more for their pension and health-care benefits. They disagree on how much.

The fact, though, that they've both made proposals without negotiating with the public-employee unions has some Democrats and union leaders scratching their heads because Sweeney is a business agent for Ironworkers Local 399.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Obama Backs Easing State Health Law Mandates (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and KEVIN SACK, 2/28/11, NY Times)

President Obama, who has stood by his landmark health care law through court attacks and legislative efforts to repeal it, told the nation’s governors on Monday that he was willing to amend the measure to give states the ability to opt out of its most controversial requirements right from the start, including the mandate that most people buy insurance.

In remarks to the National Governors Association, Mr. Obama said he supported legislation that would allow states to obtain waivers from the mandate as soon as it took effect in 2014, as long as they could find another way to expand coverage without driving up health care costs. Under the current law, states must wait until 2017 to obtain waivers.

The announcement is the first time Mr. Obama has called for altering a central component of his signature health care law, although he has backed removing a specific tax provision that both parties regard as onerous on business.

It's easy to be accommodating when you don't believe anything.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


When Players Like Duke Snider Were Also Neighbors (MANNY FERNANDEZ, 2/28/11, NY Times)

[Florence] Cozzolino lived a few houses down from Duke Snider, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ center fielder who died on Sunday at the age of 84. These days, no one brags about living next door to professional baseball players, because the only people who can afford to live next to them have too much money to brag about that sort of thing. But in the 1950s in Bay Ridge, Dodgers fans lived next door to Dodgers players.

Mr. Snider and a few of his teammates who lived in the neighborhood — like Pee Wee Reese or Carl Erskine — would car-pool together to their home games at Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds, where their National League rivals, the New York Giants, played. Mr. Snider used to go to his neighbor Gus Barwood’s block parties in the summer, used to greet the children and teenagers waiting for him outside 178 Marine Avenue after a game.

“He would always tell us to keep out of trouble,” said Mrs. Cozzolino, 69, a retired public school teacher who has lived in a house on 97th Street all her life. “We just got used to it. A friend of mine used to walk Pee Wee Reese’s daughter to school. They were so unpretentious. They really were. Baseball was different then. They weren’t playing for the multimillions.”

To most New Yorkers, Mr. Snider was the Duke of Flatbush, the Hall of Fame player who hit the last home run at Ebbets Field. To longtime residents on and around Marine Avenue, Mr. Snider was a friend and neighbor. He played for the Dodgers for 11 seasons, from 1947 to 1957. For several years in the 1950s, Mr. Snider, his wife and his children rented the house on Marine Avenue during the baseball season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Is Scott Walker the Next Calvin Coolidge? (Jeffrey Lord on 3.1.11, American Spectator)

"There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time…"
-- Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge to AFL leader Samuel Gompers on the "right" of Boston police to strike, September 14, 1919

"…I can't afford to have a fire or crime committed where there's a gap in service. And it ultimately just boils down to public safety…. This is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history."
-- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to NBC's Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, February 27, 2011

Is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker the next Calvin Coolidge?

Is America witnessing once again the rise of an unassuming, non-charismatic anonymous state governor -- who suddenly rockets onto a national ticket and eventually into the White House by popular demand? All because of an unflinching stand against government unions?

...should Bryce Harper be elected to the Hall of Fame?

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