November 30, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


For the Iraqis, a Missile Deal That Went Sour (DAVID E. SANGER and THOM SHANKER, Nov. 30, 2003, NY Times)

It was Saddam Hussein's last weapons deal — and it did not go exactly as he and his generals had imagined.

For two years before the American invasion of Iraq, Mr. Hussein's sons, generals and front companies were engaged in lengthy negotiations with North Korea, according to computer files discovered by international inspectors and the accounts of Bush administration officials.

The officials now say they believe that those negotiations — mostly conducted in neighboring Syria, apparently with the knowledge of the Syrian government — were not merely to buy a few North Korean missiles.

Instead, the goal was to obtain a full production line to manufacture, under an Iraqi flag, the North Korean missile system, which would be capable of hitting American allies and bases around the region, according to the Bush administration officials.

It's a trifecta: Iraq, Syria, and North Korea in one shot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


The Chant Not Heard (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, November 30, 2003, NY Times)

[T]he Bush team is such a partisan, ideological, nonhealing administration that many liberals just want to punch its lights out — which is what the Howard Dean phenomenon is all about.

"nonhealing"? Is that what passes for an epithet on the Left? And they wonder why we don't take them seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


America Tunes In for the Money Shot (Frank Rich, 11/30/03, NY Times)

[W]holesale wallowing in pedophilia is no anomaly. Dozens of Web sites are devoted to counting down to the 18th birthday of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, twin kid stars of a 1990's sitcom who are now branding their emerging sexuality to move a merchandise line. We are only just recovering from the marathon bookselling tour enthusiastically taken by the parents of Elizabeth Smart, the abducted Utah 14-year-old. (The "money shot" everyone was looking for in that case was succinctly summed up when Oprah told the couple, "I think we all assume your daughter was sexually assaulted.") Still going strong is R. Kelly, the R & B singer due in court tomorrow on 21 counts of child pornography involving a 14-year-old girl. His new CD debuted at No. 1 in Billboard after he was charged. He also collaborated with Mr. Jackson on the one new song (titled "One More Chance," if you please) on the singer's compilation CD — just as he has with Britney Spears on her new CD.

Ms. Spears, her ex-beau Justin Timberlake and her rival Christina Aguilera were all first spotted as pubescent sex symbols when converging as mouseketeers on the Disney Channel's "All New Mickey Mouse Club" in 1993, the year of the last Jackson sex scandal. The media assembly line moved her along from chaste child star to Lolitaesque jailbait in record speed; her trajectory is nothing if not an Internet-time version of Mr. Jackson's progress since his early days as a child star. By 16, Ms. Spears was wearing a Catholic school uniform in the video for her hit ". . . Baby One More Time." Her image, a fusion of sex and dewy ersatz innocence out of the Jackson family playbook, was bought not only by kids who might not know better but by the parents who shelled out for her merchandise.

It's hard to imagine many Americans complaining about Calvin Klein ads anymore. Perhaps pedophilic chic is growing because in a porn-saturated nation, it's the one taboo left (and barely at that). Perhaps it's because of our culture's ever-increasing panic about growing old, as manifested in our favorite new spectator sport, plastic surgery, for which Mr. Jackson is the unfortunate poster boy. Whatever the explanation, this phenomenon is worthy of far more debate than the jurisprudence surrounding the singer's legal fix. After all, that debate is over; he's already been declared guilty by the court of public opinion. Aside from Elizabeth Taylor, who would so much as entertain the notion that Michael Jackson might be the innocent victim of a hysterical "Capturing the Friedmans" scenario? Only those prudes who would pour cold water on the nation's most popular erotic pastime.

What exquisite irony to see Mr. Rich make precisely the kind of slippery slope argument--from the midpoint of the slope no less--that he would deny to others. Remind us again how the social acceptance of deviant sex isn't leading us to the point where paedophilia will be seen as just another lifestyle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


As Stimulus, Tax Cuts May Soon Go Awry (LOUIS UCHITELLE, 11/30/03. NY Times)

LAUDING the Bush tax cuts isn't easy. They have turned a comfortable budget surplus into a constraining deficit, and they are enriching the wealthy far more than families with only five-figure incomes.

The one mitigating factor is stimulus. The tax cuts are helping to revive the economy by putting more spending money into people's pockets. But even that will soon backfire. [...]

Hyped-up entrepreneurs are indeed a benefit, but when it comes to lifting the economy, 70 years of experience has demonstrated that rising demand is crucial, and must come first. Only then do suppliers really become active, to satisfy the customers knocking on their doors.

THE Bush tax cuts encourage this customer demand, though not efficiently. They work best if every dollar of forgiven taxes is spent. Unfortunately, only a third is being spent, according to Joel Slemrod and his colleagues at the Office of Tax Policy Research at the University of Michigan. The rest has been saved or used to pay down debt, the office found in recent surveys.

By this reckoning, the Bush tax cuts will not do much to lift the economy. The $117 billion in fiscal 2003 gives birth to only $40 billion in effective stimulus. Much more of the cuts, perhaps every nickel, would have been spent if the money had been channeled to the states instead, to pay the salaries of teachers who were fired to balance budgets. The economy surged in the third quarter, but as Mr. Slemrod notes, "the tax cuts were not a major part of that growth."

This is pretty much the definitive exhibit in the case for the Timesmen not getting it. The money is ours, not the government's. If letting us have it back produces some of the kind of stimulus he's talking about, that's great; such economic benefits are worthwhile. But the primary purpose of tax cutting is moral, to return what's rightfully ours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


The Rise Of India: Growth is only just starting, but the country's brainpower is already reshaping Corporate America (Manjeet Kripalani and Pete Engardio With Steve Hamm, DECEMBER 8, 2003, Business Week)

Plenty of Americans know of India's inexpensive software writers and have figured out that the nice clerk who booked their air ticket is in Delhi. But these are just superficial signs of India's capabilities. Quietly but with breathtaking speed, India and its millions of world-class
engineering, business, and medical graduates are becoming enmeshed in America's New Economy in ways most of us barely imagine. "India has always had brilliant, educated people," says tech-trend forecaster Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. "Now Indians are taking the lead in colonizing cyberspace."

This techno take-off is wonderful for India -- but terrifying for many Americans. In fact, India's emergence is fast turning into the latest Rorschach test on globalization. Many see India's digital workers as bearers of new prosperity to a deserving nation and vital partners of Corporate
America. Others see them as shock troops in the final assault on good-paying jobs. Howard Rubin, executive vice-president of Meta Group Inc., a Stamford (Conn.) information-technology consultant, notes that big U.S. companies are shedding 500 to 2,000 IT staffers at a time. "These people won't get reabsorbed into the workforce until they get the right skills," he says. Even Indian execs see the problem. "What happened in manufacturing is happening in services," says Azim H. Premji, chairman of IT supplier Wipro Ltd. "That raises a lot of social issues for the U.S." [...]

Tech luminary Andrew S. Grove, CEO of Intel Corp. (INTC ), warns that "it's a very valid question" to ask whether America could eventually lose its overwhelming dominance in IT, just as it did in electronics manufacturing. Plunging global telecom costs, lower engineering wages abroad, and new interactive-design software are driving revolutionary change, Grove said at a software conference in October. "From a technical and productivity standpoint, the engineer sitting 6,000 miles away might as well be in the next cubicle and on the local area network." To maintain America's edge, he said, Washington and U.S. industry must double software productivity through more R&D investment and science education.

But there's also a far more positive view -- that harnessing Indian brainpower will greatly boost American tech and services leadership by filling a big projected shortfall in skilled labor as baby boomers retire. That's especially possible with smarter U.S. policy. Companies from GE Medical Systems (GE ) to Cummins (CUM ) to Microsoft (MSFT ) to enterprise-software firm PeopleSoft (PSFT ) that are hiring in India say they aren't laying off any U.S. engineers. Instead, by augmenting their U.S. R&D teams with the 260,000 engineers pumped out by Indian schools each year, they can afford to throw many more brains at a task and speed up product launches, develop more prototypes, and upgrade quality. A top electrical or chemical engineering grad from Indian Institutes of Technology (IITS) earns about $10,000 a year -- roughly one-eighth of U.S. starting pay. Says Rajat Gupta, an IIT-Delhi grad and senior partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Co.: "Offshoring work will spur innovation, job creation, and dramatic increases in productivity that will be passed on to the consumer."
Whether you regard the trend as disruptive or benefical, one thing is clear. Corporate America no longer feels it can afford to ignore India. "There's just no place left to squeeze" costs in the U.S., says Chris Disher, a Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. outsourcing specialist. "That's why every CEO is looking at India, and every board is asking about it." neoIT, a consultant advising U.S. clients on how to set up shop in India, says it has been deluged by big companies that have been slow to move offshore. "It is getting to a state where companies are literally desperate," says Bangalore-based neoIT managing partner Avinash Vashistha. [...]

Throughout U.S. history, workers have been pushed off farms, textile mills, and steel plants. In the end, the workforce has managed to move up to better-paying, higher-quality jobs. That could well happen again. There will still be a crying need for U.S. engineers, for example. But what's called for are engineers who can work closely with customers, manage research teams, and creatively improve business processes. Displaced technicians who lack such skills will need retraining; those entering school will need broader educations.

Adapting to the India effect will be traumatic, but there's no sign Corporate America is turning back. Yet the India challenge also presents an enormous opportunity for the U.S. If America can handle the transition right, the end result could be a brain gain that accelerates productivity
and innovation. India and the U.S., nations that barely interacted 15 years ago, could turn out to be the ideal economic partners for the new century.

Regardless of whether it's a good or a bad thing, the astonishing thing is that American political and intellectual elites continue to ignore India and to pretend that Europe matters. India is the single most important nation to our future--both economic and geopolitical--but when's the last time you heard a politician so much as mention it?

-Wake-Up Call for the West: SPECIAL REPORT.Concern is growing at the exodus of British jobs to call centres in India ... but we have seen nothing yet. (Douglas Fraser, 30 November 2003, Sunday Herald)
-Call Centre Kings: In a world without borders a booming India is poised to clean up. And Kiran Karnik, a leading architect of the Bangalore boom, is determined to make the most of it (30 November 2003, Sunday Herald)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


‘Add to the fact they voted for a PM who makes Bush look like a statesman with gravitas, no wonder Italians are giu (down)’ (Duncan MacLaren, 11/30/03, Sunday Herald)

[A]ccording to a recent scientific poll published in a reputable Italian magazine (they do exist), the happiest people on Earth are the Nigerians and the most miserable sods in Europe are the Italians. One in four people in the bel paese is unhappy with life – and that’s without being gutted in international football. Such unhappiness, say the pundits, is a sign of deep-seated psychological malaise. Italians were happier in the Sixties when the family was stronger, Fellini was making films of global renown and vast motorways were being thrust through mountains and over steep valleys as symbols of the new technocratic might of post-fascist Italy. It’s all been downhill since then.

“After all, look at us now,” declaimed Graziana, also known as Grace, parfumière extraordinaire and chardonnay grappa imbiber, in a Trastevere wine bar. “We have the lowest birth rate in Europe because women prefer their own Smart car to children. I can count on only three (beringed and usually with cigarette poised) fingers of one hand the number of decent Italian film directors around, and our only good actors are dead or nearly so. And these days our engineering skills are such that houses often collapse without the excuse of an earthquake.

“Add to that the fact that we voted for a Prime Minister who makes Bush look like a statesman with gravitas, then no wonder we’re giù (down). Where is the Italy of high culture and engineering genius? Where are the great writers? Where is the dolce vita?” (I can almost hear her say) “Wherr’s wur anima?”

On discovering that the happiest people in Europe were the Swiss, Grace went ballistic and one of her rings flew off her hand hitting Arturo the barman in the teeth. All she could blurt out contemptuously was that their best-known dish was melted cheese, that they spoke the language of drowning cows and were responsible for what the Italians call ‘il blackout’ (stress on the ‘out’ and with the breathy hint of a vowel after the ‘t’), when the peninsula was plunged into darkness for up to 24 hours in September, forcing Romans to camp in the metro stations overnight and imprisoning some temporarily in lifts.

Not quite Wells:
In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

but not bad, Grace. Unfortunately, all of Europe is becoming Swiss--more in love with secure peace and quiet than with the tumult of freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


God on the Quad: New England's liberal college campuses have become fertile ground for the evangelical movement, which is attracting students in record numbers. But after they graduate, will they keep the faith? (Neil Swidey, 11/30/2003, Boston Globe Magazine)

When he arrived on campus, Gomes recalls, the evangelicals were "rather beleaguered -- a small group of confessing Christians fighting godless Harvard." The university's push to diversify changed that. "People tend to think of affirmative action as only affecting racial minorities," he says, "but the change in Harvard demographics in the late '70s and early '80s meant that a lot of Midwestern white-bread Protestant Christian evangelicals at whom Harvard would never have looked in the past, and who would have never looked at Harvard, suddenly became members of the university."

Over the last decade, the evangelical scene has itself become more diverse. This brand of Christianity is particularly well suited to campus life, since it is propelled by "parachurch" groups like InterVarsity and Campus Crusade that don't recognize denominational lines. In fact, there is no uniform definition of "evangelical." Some define it merely as a style of expressing beliefs, incorporating a wide range of Protestants and even some Catholics. Others emphasize central building blocks: a conversion experience leading to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, an acceptance of the Bible as the inerrant word of God, and a commitment to save souls by spreading the Word. This elasticity makes it impossible to determine a precise number of American evangelicals, though several surveys have estimated it to be at least a third of the US population.

Whatever the definition, the evangelical presence on campus is a big, rowdy tent. Many students buy into all the tenets of the national parachurches, no matter how incompatible they may be with the ethos of the Eastern liberal arts college. Other students function more like "cafeteria Catholics," picking and choosing the tenets they can get behind.

And somewhere along the way, evangelical Christianity -- which a generation earlier had been a mark of embarrassment, a sign that you had checked your brain at the gate -- became not just tolerated but cool.

You can see this in the throngs of students from around Boston who cram into Harvard's Science Center on Friday nights to sing, "We are hungry for more of You/We are thirsty, oh Jesus." The event is called RealLife Boston, which is Campus Crusade's name for its 500-student Boston-area ministry, and the SRO crowd is made up of well-built athletes, attractive faces, even artsy types with chin hair and trendy black glasses. The emcee is Aaron Byrd, an easygoing junior from Abilene, Texas, who plays safety on the Harvard football team.

How did evangelicals get this hip?

Part of it is marketing. The whole RealLife approach, for instance, came from a marketing firm that Campus Crusade hired in the 1990s to help it expand its footprint in Boston. There are catchy print ads (one features a pair of wedding rings and the message "For the best sex, slip on one of these") and flashy websites (, The Boston University chapter of Chi Alpha holds regular "The Gospel According to The Simpsons" gatherings.

But a bigger reason for their new coolness involves Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. When students from those religions began arriving on campus in larger numbers and continued to practice their traditions in public, others on campus were intrigued.

"It's very chic to be a believer now," says Gomes. "In a place which is so dispassionate, so rational, and in many ways so conformist intellectually, if you want to break out of the pack, you say your prayers in public. It is the example of religious practice elsewhere that has emboldened American evangelicals to exercise their own practice."

C-SPAN 2 this weekend features a talk by Tom Wolfe (repeat tonight at 6:30pm), which ends with him discussing the current age as one in which America is experiencing the Fifth Freedom: freedom from religion. That is to say that a country whose first freedom was the freedom of the individual to practice his own religion is going through a bout in which the very idea of moral limitations on the individual are viewed as anathema. The danger in this, as he notes, is that American freedom has only been made possible because of the ferocity of religious belief here and the manner in which Americans regulate themselves internally, which lessens the need for external restraints. Those who are attacking those internal restraints are in all likelihood creating the conditions under which greater external restraints are required--a process that's clearly visible in the simultaneous rise of secularism and of the regulatory State over the second half of the 20th Century. If the value of self-restraint can be inculcated in the coming generation of young people--as polling on issues like divorce and abortion suggests is taking place--then reductions in the authority exercised by the State will be possible. This is the conservative challenge and the promise of the current political transformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


The reformer: To his admirers, Tariq Ramadan is Europe's leading advocate of liberal Islam.To his detractors, he's a dangerous theocrat in disguise. (Laura Secor, 11/30/2003, Boston Globe)

WHEN TARIQ RAMADAN delivers a lecture, the room is invariably packed to capacity. Afterwards, dozens of young Muslim men are likely to throng the stage, seeking his definitive guidance on everything from veiling to animal rights to how to live with dignity in a secular society.

"What I am doing with them is at the same time important and dangerous," Ramadan says of his work with these young men. "It could be dangerous if you let them think you have the answers. I try to tell them, `I am not what I'm saying. I'm only trying to be."'

At age 41, Ramadan, an elegant, Swiss-born intellectual, imam, and activist, has become a magnet for young Muslims in France, Switzerland, and Belgium. He's done it partly by making himself personally accessible to the devotees who purchase audiotapes of his lectures and often travel for miles just to hear him speak. And he's also done it with his unstinting criticism of their community's inclination toward insularity.

Outside the Muslim community, Ramadan is the object of both admiration and suspicion. He's the Muslim Martin Luther, the American and French press have sometimes rhapsodized: He advocates that European Muslims use their unique experiences to lead a movement toward reform within Islam. He is "two-faced," critics reply: He sounds like a moderate, having adopted a vocabulary that he knows will be accepted by secular Westerners, but he is actually herding Francophone Muslims down the path of extremism.

Traveling with Ramadan on a whirlwind November lecture tour in France, I found no particular discrepancy between the sermons he delivered to Muslim audiences and his published work. (Ramadan has written some 10 books in French, and Oxford University Press has just brought out his "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam.") Nonetheless, Ramadan's message is itself fraught with the complexities and contradictions of Europe's Muslim community, which often seems to occupy two worlds -- one traditional and religious, the other fast-changing and secular. [...]

Secular France can't seem to decide if Ramadan is friend or foe. He is, after all, an Islamist, meaning that he believes Islam furnishes a political as well as a spiritual worldview. For majority Muslim societies like those of the Middle East, Ramadan envisions a reformed, moderate, but nonetheless Islam-based political and legal system. In the end, such a system would look a lot like Western secular democracy, he says, though its legitimacy would derive from Islamic sources.

Ramadan's vision may be a radical improvement on nearly every existing Islamic system of government; indeed, he is a harsh critic of virtually all the world's Muslim rulers, and Saudi clerics have issued fatwas condemning him. But is Ramadan trying to square the circle when he says a reformed Islamic system is compatible with secular values?

Take, for instance, the harshest Islamic corporal punishments, such as stoning adulterous wives or cutting off the hands of thieves. Ramadan personally finds such penalties unacceptable and un-Islamic. He believes a moratorium should be called on them while Islamic scholars ask themselves three questions: What is in the texts? How does the contemporary context affect how we read the texts? Is the policy implementable?

Ramadan seems confident that this reevaluation will lead to radical reform. What's more, he believes he is providing language and tools to dismantle abuses from the inside, rather than simply flatly condemning the Islamic system from without, as secular critics do.

But what if the best efforts of Muslim scholars still reveal a God who insists on cruel and discriminatory punishments? There can be no recourse to extrinsic principles, such as human rights or equality. The final word lies in the Koran and with those who interpret it.

So are reformists like Ramadan mitigating the worst excesses of a cruel political system, or are they simply sugarcoating it? If the former, moderate Islamism is perhaps the greatest hope for human rights in countries ruled by sharia (Islamic law). If the latter, moderate Islamism, whatever its advocates' intentions, looks more like a potentially deceptive sales pitch.

Perhaps, at a minimum, we could demand that the radical reform of Islam precede its use as a basis for the State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:19 PM


Winter blunderland: It's no joy ride as UMass can't weather Colgate (Joe Burris, 11/30/2003, Boston Globe)

Complaints about the venue had long since subsided. By Friday, the fifth-ranked University of Massachusetts team had arrived in upstate New York primed for the first round of the Division 1-AA football playoffs. The Minutemen clung to a positive mind-set yesterday during the two hours it took to drive through a snowstorm from their hotel in downtown Syracuse to Colgate University -- a trip that usually takes 50 minutes.

Their offense never arrived.

Save for James Ihedigbo's punt return for a touchdown with 6:43 left in the first quarter, the UMass team that entered the contest averaging 30.1 points per game couldn't score. Amid 29-degree temperatures, a 14-degree windchill, and snow that covered the field at Andy Kerr Stadium, the Minutemen sputtered, hampered by slips and dropped passes.

Sixth-ranked Colgate, meanwhile, played much better, scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter, then adding one in the fourth for a 19-7 triumph before 4,197 that ended the Atlantic 10 cochampion's season at 10-3.

Quarterback Chris Brown completed 17 of 37 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns -- both to wide receiver J.B. Gerald -- as Colgate (13-0) became the first Patriot League team to win 13 games in a season and extended the longest winning streak in 1-A/1-AA to 19 games.

It also marked the third straight season that a Patriot League champion knocked out an Atlantic 10 champion in the first round. Last season, Fordham bounced Northeastern, and in 2001, Lehigh ousted Hofstra.

UMass's offense was held without a touchdown for the first time since a 31-6 loss to Hofstra Sept. 29, 2001. It was also the first time in coach Mark Whipple's six seasons that UMass held an opponent to fewer than 20 points and lost. And it marked only the third time UMass has scored fewer than 10 points against a 1-AA opponent under Whipple.

Credit Colgate, a team that came in 10th in the nation in rushing offense and averaging just 13.8 completions per game, for its effectiveness passing in adverse conditions.

Adverse? It's like that from October to April in Hamilton. What kind of momo's would even think to stay in Syracuse and drive down?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Bush presses funding for faith groups (Mary Leonard, 11/30/2003. Boston Globe)

Through executive orders, an aggressive wooing of religious groups, and his unflagging commitment to use the bully pulpit, President Bush has bypassed a reluctant Congress and is fulfilling his inaugural promise to bridge the historic separation of church and state and make his administration the most faith-friendly in memory.

The effort, carried out by Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and branches in seven federal agencies, is starting to bear fruit as it encourages religious groups to compete for public funds and directs millions of dollars in social-service grants to ministries and houses of worship, which can retain their religious identity and sidestep federal civil rights laws that bar discrimination in hiring. [...]

As he campaigns for reelection, Bush hopes to energize his important base of evangelical Christian voters by citing the faith-based initiative as a domestic-policy accomplishment and to convince African-Americans, who gave him only 8 percent of their vote in 2000, that his administration's outreach to inner-city churches proves he is a compassionate conservative, said a White House official who asked not to be named.

Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, said the faith-based initiative holds out the promise that billions of dollars in federal contracts will reach religious charities that in the past were barred or discouraged from seeking public funds.

"What has happened is substantial and right, and maybe even historic, in terms of how the initiative has leveled the playing field for faith-based groups," Sider said. "Evangelicals are going to see this as an example of Bush articulating a vision and moving policy in their direction."

In how many stories assessing Mr. Bush's first term have you seen this clear success listed as a failure? It's no surprise that a commentariat that can barely figure out how the legislative process works is completely bamboozled when it comes to the functioning of the Executive, but it does do a disservice to readers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


That Man in the White House: Reading the Bush bashers. (Andrew Ferguson, 12/08/2003, Weekly Standard)

Gasket Disease was closely linked to Bill Clinton. The man I call Billy Bob Gasket had been involved in Arkansas politics for thirty years or more. He was used to its homegrown scandals and the mostly harmless diversions enjoyed by members of its ruling class. In this spirit, back in the early 1970s, he became an energetic booster of the young Rhodes Scholar who'd come home from Oxford and Yale with the impressive hair and the glimmering eye and the semi-permanent catch in his voice.

Then, along about Clinton's first term as governor, Gasket noticed something. Bill Clinton was different. He was not just another in the long line of amiable cads and genial roués who had grasped power in Arkansas since Reconstruction. The new governor was, Gasket came to believe, the least principled, sleaziest politician he had ever seen at work. That the lack of principle and sleaziness were lacquered over with twinkly charm and vaguely progressive politics made the situation, for Gasket, all the more maddening.

And maddening is the word. As Clinton was returned again and again to office, Gasket was at first disbelieving, then agog, and finally crazed. Why couldn't his fellow Arkansans see the truth? Why couldn't they penetrate the governor's sheath of bogus empathy and concern to see the creature of seething ambition and power hunger and raw cynicism that writhed so self-evidently beneath? Gasket became a hair-puller, a lapel-grabber, a mid-sentence interrupter, a nut. When, in the late 1980s, national reporters began trickling into the state to look over the promising young governor with national ambitions, their search for knowledgeable Clinton watchers led them inevitably to Gasket, and they found a madman. [...]

To explain today's politics it is tempting to cite the old and excellent joke about feuds among college professors: The fights are so furious because the stakes are so low. The slow and stable advance of the federal government is unlikely to be undone by a president of either party, and the frenetic activities of political enthusiasts will redirect it in only the most marginal ways. Yet the joke doesn't really explain Gasket Disease. Bush-haters hate Bush for the least articulable reasons, the visceral kind that never quite rises to the level of rationality. They're often at a loss even to explain who it is they hate--the Yalie plutocrat or the hill-country Bible-thumper? The failed businessman or the cunning Babbitt? The calculating liar or the master of malaprops, the wimp or the caveman, the evil genius or the boob?

THE BUSH-HATERS know they must scramble for more high-minded reasons to explain themselves, and this year's stack of new books is the unpersuasive product of their efforts. Taken together the books make plain, if only inadvertently, that the cause of our most recent outbreak of Gasket Disease is something much deeper than policy, much deeper even than politics, plunging down and down into the mysteries of cultural identity in fractured America. At the end of "Bushwhacked," Molly Ivins speaks for all Bush-haters when, with typical artlessness, she sums up our present state of affairs: "There is something creepy about what is happening here." But they can't quite put their finger on what it is.

Here's the kind of line that sets Andrew Ferguson head and shoulders above his peers: "AMONG THE MANY TIES that bind them, the authors are unanimous in claiming inspiration from Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times, who, to borrow a term from epidemiology, seems to be Patient Zero in this most recent outbreak of Billy Bob Gasket Disease."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


These five regimes must go: Mark Steyn lists the countries that must be dealt with if we are to win the war against terrorism (Mark Steyn, 11/29/03, The Spectator)

Profound changes in the above countries would not necessarily mean the end of the war on terror, but it would be pretty close. It would remove terrorism’s most brazen patron (Syria), its ideological inspiration (the prototype Islamic Republic of Iran), its principal paymaster (Saudi Arabia), a critical source of manpower (Sudan) and its most potentially dangerous weapons supplier (North Korea). They’re the fronts on which the battle has to be fought: it’s not just terror groups, it’s the state actors who provide them with infrastructure and extend their global reach. Right now, America — and Britain, Australia and Italy — are fighting defensively, reacting to this or that well-timed atrocity as it occurs. But the best way to judge whether we’re winning and how serious we are about winning is how fast the above regimes are gone. Blair speed won’t do.

What about Cuba, Libya, Vietnam, China, and Venezuela?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Bush and the liberal tradition (PETER BERKOWITZ, Nov. 13, 2003, Jerusalem Post)

What kind of conservatism is embodied in the new doctrine proclaimed by President George W. Bush in his November 6 speech in Washington to honor the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy?

It insists that "freedom has a momentum," and it will "not be halted." It proclaims that we are in the midst of a "great democratic movement": since the early 1970s the number of democracies in the world has tripled, growing from about 40 to around 120.

It attributes this bracing progress to the "military and moral commitments" made to the countries of Europe and Asia over the last half century by the United States, itself a democracy and the world's most influential nation, as well as to the increasingly well-established proposition that "over time, free nations grow stronger, and dictatorships grow weaker." It recognizes that millions still live under oppression around the globe - in Cuba, in Burma, in North Korea, in Zimbabwe, in China - while taking special notice of the Arab Middle East, both because democracy there seems scarcely to have taken root and because of the region's "great strategic importance." It declares that the main obstacle to the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the region, as to all regions, is authoritarian government.

And it identifies the principles that should guide democratic reform: limited, representative government; the rule of law; multiple political parties and a free press; the protection of individual liberty; market-based economies that reward initiative; and government investment in the health and education of citizens. [...]

[W]hat the president has given voice to are convictions central to the liberal tradition. Freedom is not just good for Americans or for the British. It is good for all people everywhere, because it reflects a universal aspiration, a permanent inclination of the human heart. While forms of government for securing individual rights will vary, as will the choices individuals and peoples make about how to take advantage of the blessings of freedom, no individual wishes to be imprisoned, tortured, or enslaved. Individuals should not be forced to be free, but free nations may be compelled to use force to counter the threat posed by governments that subjugate their own people and threaten the liberties of other nations.

These convictions are nurtured by the tradition of John Locke, who maintained that all men and all women are by nature free and equal. And the tradition of the authors of The Federalist, who believed that the experiment under way in America was relevant to all mankind, because all mankind had interest in discovering whether government based on the consent of the governed and devoted to protecting the rights of individuals was possible. And the tradition of John Stuart Mill, who identified the "permanent interests of man as a progressive being" with the spread of liberty in a manner consistent with the principles of liberty.

The hard part, which may not be exportable, is that the principles have to precede the spread across the society or be accepted at pretty much the moment of spread. Since the first principle is a near universal moral order--to act as a self-imposed restraint on excessive personal freedom, so that one can predict and have trust in the likely behavior of one's fellow citizens--rather few societies start out ready for liberty, so order must be imposed first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Faith emerging as new fault line in U.S. politics (STEVEN THOMMA, 11/29/03, Knight Ridder Newspapers

Want to know how Americans will vote next Election Day? Watch what they do the weekend before.

If they attend religious services regularly, they probably will vote Republican by a 2-1 margin. If they never go, they likely will vote Democratic by a 2-1 margin.

This relatively new fault line in American life is a major reason that the country is politically polarized. And the division over religion and politics is likely to continue or even grow in 2004.

A new poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center For The People & The Press this fall confirmed that the gap remains; voters who frequently attend religious services tilt 63-37 percent to Bush and those who never attend lean 62-38 percent toward Democrats.

"We now have the widest gap we have ever had between Republicans and Democrats," said Andy Kohut, the director of the Pew survey.

"It's THE most powerful predictor of party ID and partisan voting intention," said Thomas Mann, a political scholar at the Brookings Institution, a center-left Washington research center. "And in a society that values religion as much as (this one), when there are high levels of religious belief and commitment and practice, that's significant."

This is the ultimate choice we face: religion or statism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Rockers Unite to Oust Bush: Moby, Henley, Matthews ask fans to "get involved" (DAMIEN CAVE, November 26, 2003, Rolling Stone)

Bruce Springsteen told a crowd of 50,000 New Yorkers on October 4th to "shout a little louder if you want the president impeached." Two weeks later, John Mellencamp posted an open letter to America on his Web site, declaring, "We have been lied to and terrorized by our own government, and it is time to take action." Meanwhile, Moby, Eddie Vedder and Michael Stipe are organizing a TV-ad campaign that will run anti-Bush commercials during the week of the State of the Union address in January; Dave Matthews is railing against the war in Iraq in interviews; and at press time, at least three multiband rock tours planned to take aim at Bush-administration policies. Green Day, NOFX, Tom Morello, Dixie Chicks, Don Henley, Willie Nelson and Steve Earle have all played (or plan to play) for political candidates or causes. Hip-hop stars have also gotten involved. "We have a voice and a responsibility to speak out," says Jay-Z, a member of Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit, which aims to register 4 million voters before the 2004 election. "People listen to us."
Welcome to the increasingly partisan world of popular music -- where President George W. Bush is a marked man. Thirty major artists interviewed for this story cited many concerns: U.S. policy on Iraq, the Patriot Act, the Bush administration's assault on the environment, the economy and the media. But they all agreed that as the 2004 presidential election gets closer, it is time to mobilize. "The America we believe in can't survive another four years of George Bush," says Moby. Adds Lou Reed, "We must all unite and work for whomever opposes Bush, regardless of whatever differences we may have. Our motto: Anything but Bush."

At least when the great jazz men were alienated they relocated to Paris. Couldn't rockers do the same?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


A Spiritual Struggle for Democrats: Silence on Religion Could Hurt Candidates (Jim VandeHei, , November 27, 2003, Washington Post)

The nine Democratic presidential candidates all consider themselves religious, though most keep their faith and spiritual views to themselves when campaigning.

Their silence stands in contrast to President Bush, among the most overtly religious presidents in generations, and could undermine the Democratic nominee, as polls consistently show that voters want to hear more about faith from their national leaders.

Democrats "have been very hesitant to talk about faith . . . and in doing so we have lost a connection with a lot of people," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), an Orthodox Jew and one of only two candidates who frequently talk about God. Long-shot candidate Al Sharpton, an ordained minister, is the other. "Democrats ought to pay attention to the fact that the two Democrats who have been elected president since [Lyndon] Johnson were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton . . . and both talked a lot about their faith," Lieberman said.

In interviews, most of the candidates said they are uncomfortable discussing their faith as publicly as Bush does or Clinton did. Yet most agreed the party must do a better job of connecting with religious voters, or risk not winning the White House in 2004. [...]

An overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves religious. A recent poll conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that nearly 70 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans expressed strong religious beliefs when asked questions designed to measure these attitudes.

A Pew study in June found that nearly twice as many respondents said "There has been too little reference to religious faith and prayer by politicians" (41 percent) than said "There has been too much" (21 percent). While Bush is sometimes criticized for his references to New Testament theology, only 14 percent said he mentions faith too often; nearly two-thirds said he is striking the right balance.

If you're evangelical you don't really have the option of not talking about it.

November 29, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


You calling me anti-American?: Matthew d’Ancona has prepared a quiz for those who are wondering whether they are Americo-sceptics, or just a bit wet (The Spectator, 11/29/03)

Let’s face it: these are tough times for us Atlanticists. People fall quiet at dinner when we say that we admire America. They shuffle their feet, splutter into their soufflés and tap their watches when we suggest that President Bush isn’t a moron. They shake their heads and catch each others’ eyes as if to say: he just doesn’t get it.

And the sad thing is that they have fashion on their side. You see, Euroscepticism is so 1990s. The new and most virulent cultural contagion to grip the nation is Americo-scepticism. Taking a pot shot at Uncle Sam — kicking a Black Hawk when it’s down, as it were — has become as, Quentin Tarantino would say, too cool for school. It’s everywhere. Everybody’s doing it: Damon Albarn, Noam Chomsky, Max Hastings, Matthew Parris know, anybody who’s anybody. No middle-class gathering is complete without a papier-mâché effigy of the President to pull down.

But are you an Americo-sceptic? To help you evaluate your position, The Spectator has devised the following psychometric test:

Here's the funniest, because most true:
7. The ‘spell-check facility’ on your computer will not accept that the noun ‘practice’ is spelt in Britain with a ‘c’, not an ‘s’. The red curly line that says ‘you are thick’ refuses to budge. Do you
(a) Write an angry letter to Bill Gates
(b) Ignore the provocation
(c) Accept that this is a small price to pay for the spread of freedom around the globe

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


2004 Is Now for Bush's Campaign: Early Advantage in Funds, Voters Sought (Dan Balz and Mike Allen, November 30, 2003, Washington Post)

President Bush's reelection team, anticipating another close election, has begun to assemble one of the largest grass-roots organizations of any modern presidential campaign, using enormous financial resources and lack of primary opposition to seize an early advantage over the Democrats in the battle to mobilize voters in 2004.

Bush's campaign Web site already has signed up 6 million supporters, 10 times the number that Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has, and the Bush operation is in the middle of an unprecedented drive to register 3 million new Republican voters. The campaign has set county vote targets in some states and has begun training thousands of volunteers who will recruit an army of door-to-door canvassers for the final days of the election next November.

The entire project, which includes complementary efforts by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties, is designed to tip the balance in a dozen-and-a-half states that both sides believe will determine the winner in 2004.

"I've never seen grass roots like this," said a veteran GOP operative in one of the battleground states.

Our old friend Patrick Ruffini has played a key role in the web operations of the campaign. Note that the Bush operation has four times the registered participants of the much ballyhooed

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Darwinian poetry tests whether art is a product of evolution or inspired genius (Michael Dinan, November 29, 2003, Stamford Advocate)

"Darwinian Poetry," the brainchild of David Rea, is an experiment in the interbreeding of selected words and phrases to form poems.

Here's how it works:

Take 1,000 randomly generated groups of words, or "poems," and subject them to a form of natural selection, in which "bad" ones are killed off and "good" ones are bred with each other. Repeat until you have a good poem or two.

What distinguishes good poems from bad? Votes.

Since August, more than 115,000 votes have been cast at Rea's Web site,

The popularity of his experiment surprised Rea, 36, who hopes it will convey the true meaning of evolution.

"One of my unstated goals is to share with people the power of evolution, so that people get a tactile feel for it," said Rea, a technical adviser at a Greenwich investment firm. "It's so abstract. I want to allow people to understand evolution, to feel its power and its beauty."

The beauty of the experiment is that this is how laymen understand Darwinism, even though what Mr. Rea is implementing is a form of intelligent design.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM

"BIG"OTRY? (via The Wife):

As Obesity Rises, Health Care Indignities Multiply (RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA and GRANT GLICKSON, 11/29/03, NY Times)

When Mark Rosenthal suffered a stroke, he was too heavy and wide for a stretcher, so he made the jarring, bouncing dash to the hospital lying on an ambulance floor. The ride injured his back, and he felt as if his own weight would suffocate him. At the hospital, doctors wanted to give him an M.R.I. scan, but he could not fit into the machine.

But in that ordeal last June, Mr. Rosenthal's gravest humiliation came from something as simple as having to go to the bathroom. He was in no shape to walk to the cramped bathroom — he might not have been able to fit, anyway — and the hospital's portable commodes and bedpans could not hold his 450 pounds. So, he recalled, hospital workers told him to go in his bed, on himself, saying they would clean it up afterward.

"I just cried," said Mr. Rosenthal, 51, the treasurer of District Council 37, the New York City employees' union. "I refused to eat anything for six or seven days, hoping I wouldn't have to go again."

Obesity is the fastest-growing major health problem in the United States. In 2000, 31 percent of American adults were obese, up from 23 percent in 1990 and 13 percent in 1960, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And those, like Mr. Rosenthal, who are classified as "morbidly obese" tripled in number in just a decade, to 2.2 percent of the population in 2000.

The perils of morbid obesity are not limited to life-threatening ailments like Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure; merely getting the health care other people take for granted is beyond their reach.

Severely overweight people cannot fit into standard wheelchairs, waiting-room armchairs, blood pressure cuffs, hospital beds and gowns, or M.R.I. and CAT scan machines.

X-rays often cannot penetrate far enough into their bodies to produce useful images, and wall-mounted toilets snap off under their weight.

For the morbidly obese, trips to doctors or hospitals are more reminders that they literally do not fit, like paying for two seats on a plane, hunting for clothes, or enduring people's curiosity and derision. The indignities mean that obese people, who need medical treatment more than most, often refuse to seek it.

Lose some freakin' weight, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Is There an American Empire? (Michael Walzer, Fall 2003, Dissent)

When Rudyard Kipling called empire "the White Man's burden," he was stating, in the ideological idiom of his time, a simple fact: power brings responsibility with it. But the burdens of hegemony can't be borne alone; they have to be shared. A rationally governed hegemonic power doesn't act unilaterally to repel aggression or stop massacres or take on the (very difficult) work of nation building; it marshals coalitions. These will be coalitions of the willing, obviously, but the willingness has to be won by consultation, persuasion, and compromise. In recent years, our government has sought to avoid any serious version of these three necessary processes, as if its leaders want to manage the world all by themselves. That ambition is probably a better explanation of the Iraq War than any provided by the theory of imperialism. But America's leaders can't manage the world. In the aftermath of what has turned out to be a very incomplete victory in the war against Saddam, they obviously need help managing a single country. As I write, they are looking for help, but still without committing themselves to consultation, persuasion, and compromise. It is hard to gauge the learning curve of the Bush administration. But it will learn sooner or later that hegemony, unlike empire, rests on consent.

What kind of left politics follows from this understanding of American power? We need a long response to this question, and right now I have only a short one. In Britain, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, leftists were "little Englanders," that is, they advocated independence for the colonies. The United States is already committed to independence-even Bush & Co. are against "microadministration"!-and also, rhetorically, at least, to democracy. One thing the left can do is to insist that this commitment be honored not only in words but also in performance, even when the performance compromises hegemonic power. Is the United States prepared, for example, to help create a government in Iraq capable of saying no to its American patron, the way the Turks did? (I don't mean that we have to work for a Shiite theocracy.) How many "interests and tendencies" contrary to its own is our government ready to acknowledge and accommodate for the sake of global stability? What sort of "equilibrium," with what other groups, is it willing to accept? V. I. Lenin once wrote that "the task of the intelligentsia is to make special leaders from among the intelligentsia unnecessary." He didn't mean it, but the idea is useful. The task of a democratic hegemon is to make its own role less central, the exercise of power more and more consensual.

This will never be the chosen task of the people currently in power in Washington. Even the minimal goal of a better equilibrium, a more compromised hegemony, a more effective defense of democratic government, can only be achieved through oppositionist politics. Opposition will have to come first from inside the United States: American liberals and leftists should be advocates of self-limitation, which would be the real meaning of signing on to (and then upholding) instruments such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, or the Kyoto accords, or the International Criminal Court-and also of accepting greater mutuality in world trade and opening our doors to third world imports. All these involve qualifications of hegemony, the acceptance of universal rules, equally applied, and hence they constitute "sacrifices of a corporate nature." As Gramsci suggests, however, these sacrifices don't eliminate hegemonic power; they modify it in ways useful to humanity, but at the same time they represent a form of intelligent maintenance. The Democratic Party should certainly be capable of that much (though its leaders seem, right now, barely capable of anything). But those of us who want more than this, who are worried about and opposed to the rule of a single hegemon, need external allies-first in the society of states and then in international civil society.

It's almost necessary to feel sorry for Mr. Walzer, a decent seeming man left floundering by the reluctant realization that it is the Right enacting his ideals globally, not the Left.

MORE: (via Mike Daley):
The Selective Solidarity of the Left (Danny Postel, 11.24.03, In These Times)

Why are American progressives by and large silent about the situation in Iran today?

How many American progressives knew who Shirin Ebadi was before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month? Almost no one. By the same token, how many of us knew who Rigoberta Menchú was before she won the prize in 1992? Many, if not most of us: We’d seen her speak, read her autobiography, or simply had come to know her story by osmosis in activist circles.

Consider the number of Guatemalan solidarity groups that have come onto the scene over the years. How many American progressives, at some point between the early ’80s and the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, were involved, at one level or another, in solidarity work around Guatemala? Tons of us. Why the difference?

What is going on in Iran doesn’t lend itself to the kind of analytical prism through which progressives made sense of Central America during the high tide of our solidarity activism, the Reagan years. In Central America, military juntas and death squads, in concert with feudal elites and corporate oligarchs, were running the show with the active support of the United States. In a nutshell, a bloodbath of imperial domination, rapacious exploitation, scorched earth terror, and mass murder—in which the United States was complicit from top to bottom.

But what happens when people are struggling against tyranny and repression that is not being perpetrated by the United States or its proxies and when—to take the case of Iran today—the regime in question is a sworn enemy of the United States.

Let’s face it: It’s just plain uncomfortable for progressives to say anything that sounds like it could also come out of the mouth of George Bush or Paul Wolfowitz.

Jeremy Brecher argues in Foreign Policy in Focus, however, that “failure to defend human rights in such circumstances only plays into the hands of the Bush juggernaut.” Progressives must, he contends, be known as “people whose fundamental solidarity is not with one or another government but with all people who are struggling for liberation from oppression.”

The solidarity, of course, is against America, not in favor of the freedom of other peoples.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Hugh Kenner, Commentator on Literary Modernism, Dies at 80 (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, 11/25/03, NY Times)

Hugh Kenner, the critic, author and professor of literature regarded as America's foremost commentator on literary modernism, especially the work of Ezra Pound and James Joyce, died yesterday at his home in Athens, Ga. He was 80.

He had been suffering from heart problems, his wife, Mary Anne Kenner, said.

The variety of Mr. Kenner's interests was contained in 25 books of his own (he contributed to 200 more) and nearly 1,000 articles, as well as broadcasts and recordings. He wrote commandingly on everything from Irish poetry to geodesic math and Li'l Abner's pappy (Lucifer Ornamental Yokum), to the Heath/Zenith Z-100 computer (one of which he built for himself and then wrote the user's guide) and the animated cartoons of Chuck Jones.

But it was for his pioneering guide to English-language literary modernism and for his books "Dublin's Joyce" (1956), "The Pound Era" (1971) and "Joyce's Voices" (1978) that Mr. Kenner was best known. In these works and others he employed the techniques proposed by the writers themselves to define new standards by which to judge their work.

In "The Pound Era," perhaps his masterwork, he tried to show how the American expatriate poet absorbed the altered sense of time created by Einstein's revolution and helped to pass it on to artists like Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Eliot, William Carlos Williams and the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

While some faulted Mr. Kenner for attributing to Pound too much prominence in the scheme of modern art, no one failed to be impressed by the vigor and importance of Mr. Kenner's analysis.

Interesting that just recognizing the greatness and influence of Pound and Eliot made him a "conservative" within academia.

-ESSAY: Vladimir Nabokov, Tyrants destroyed (Hugh Kenner)
-That's Not All, Folks!: "Of course you know this means war." Who said it? (TERRY TEACHOUT, November 25, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
-A Critic Whose Scholarship Gleamed With His Writing (BENJAMIN IVRY, November 29, 2003, NY Times)
-Hugh Kenner, Modernist Literary Scholar, Dies (Adam Bernstein, November 26, 2003, Washington Post)
-Hugh Kenner: Literary critic with a passion for Ezra Pound (Jon Elek, November 28, 2003, The Guardian )
-INTERVIEW: HUGH KENNER: THE GRAND TOUR (Interview by Harvey Blume, March 2001, BookWire)
-ARCHIVES: Hugh Kenner (NY Review of Books)
-A Special Double Issue : Essays in Honor of Mary Ellen Solt and Hugh Kenner (William Carlos Williams Review)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


Democratic arrogance keeps Bush off ballot
(THOMAS ROESER, November 29, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)

How can Bush lose Illinois a year before election? Because the Republicans will hold their national convention in early September and the Illinois Election Code requires certification of ballots in August, a minor change needs to be made in state law. Madigan, who is also the state chairman, and Jones are holding up certification -- for a price.

Madigan and Jones say Bush will be put on the ballot if the GOP caves on two points. One would be to agree that the Illinois Board of Elections could, at any time, dismiss without prejudice any matters currently pending before the board -- especially applying to violations that were levied after the original state gift ban act. That means that Democrats fined for dozens of campaign disclosure violations would not have to pay fines -- fines running as high as $797,600 for Secretary of State Jesse White and 14 Senate members, all Democrats. A second condition, requested by the Cook County clerk, Democrat David Orr, would be to remove the requirement that voters who register to vote by mail must vote in person the first time they vote.

Republicans in the House reluctantly went along, but Senate Republicans, under Frank Watson, said no. Watson's refusal to buckle under led Republicans to stand opposed, and so the bill lost. As of now, George W. Bush will not be on the Illinois ballot. Was Watson wrong not to cave? Nope: Let the heat go to those who seek to deprive Illinoisans of their right to vote for president. Normally, lawmakers with a conflict of interest abstain from voting on legislation affecting them. On this issue, Democratic senators facing fines did not abstain from voting.

This could well be an issue worth losing on--the President doesn't need the state but the state GOP would be extremely motivated for the open Senate seat race and nationally the story would be horrible for Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


New giant on Dems' stage (Martin Sieff, 11/29/2003, UPI)

Suddenly is everywhere. And as Gore's choice of its venue to delivering his blistering Nov. 9 attack on Bush shows -- in a development that may come to signal his eventual availability as a "stop Howard Dean" candidate for the Democratic right -- the upstart Web-based Internet organization has suddenly become the market place for aspiring Democratic national leaders to hawk their wares and reach out to the party grass roots.

It is quite a leap for a group that was founded half a decade ago. But, started in 1998 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, has come a long way fast by flouting conventional wisdom and making visionary leaps that so far have paid off amazingly often.

The group seeks to revive liberal fortunes by marrying middle-class, baby-boom yuppie frustration, and even horror, at the repeated political triumphs of President George W. Bush and the conservative Republicans with the wonders of Internet technology and it has swept the high-tech, suburban middle-class Web-surfers like a tidal wave.

Once you've got the liberal "high-tech, suburban middle-class Web-surfers" on your side, it only takes another 45% of America to get to 50.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


AUDIO INTERVIEW: 'New York Times' Iraq Correspondent John Burns (Fresh Air: NPR, November 25, 2003)

We catch up with him about the latest news from Iraq. He's in the United States for just one day, and then he goes back to Baghdad. Burns has won several Pulitzer Prizes for his overseas war reports.

You'll recall that Mr. Burns said the following about the despicable behavior of his peers in pre-war Iraq:
Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


'In an Uncertain World': The Man Behind the Surplus (Remember?) (DAVID WARSH, 11/30/03, NY Times)

One is prepared, on reading this headline from the Book Review, for yet another biography of Ronald Reagan--it was after all the ending of the Cold War and the cutting of military spending in half that created the surplus. Then again, it's the Times...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 AM


Those pesky Poles: In which old members offer new ones some lessons in negotiation (Charlemagne, Nov 27th 2003, The Economist)

[A]ll the huffing by current members of the EU about the need to think of the “European interest” would be more convincing if they were to apply the same principle to themselves. Where is the European interest in the Franco-German decision to trash the stability pact, simply because the French and Germans cannot control their budget deficits? Where is the European interest in France's dogged defence of the wasteful and protectionist common agricultural policy, which just happens to shovel huge wads of cash to French farmers? Where is the European interest in Britain's insistence on keeping its budget rebate, no matter what? Or in Spain's relentless determination to cling on to a disproportionate share of EU regional aid?

The Poles, however, are newcomers, and relatively poor at that. As a result, they seem to be expected to mind their manners and just be grateful for all the EU money that will soon head their way. Even when current members try to sound sympathetic, their attitude is deeply condescending. Viscount Etienne Davignon, a Belgian former vice-president of the European Commission, and the epitome of the EU's great and good, says: “We have to remember that the Poles have only recently regained their national sovereignty and are new to the European Union. It takes many years of membership before people really understand how Europe works.” The notion that the Poles and the other seven central European countries that are joining next year (along with Malta and Cyprus) might just possibly have ideas that are as valid as those of the six “founder members” is apparently too fanciful to contemplate.

The fact is that the entry of Poland into the EU is profoundly unsettling to traditionalists. European integration began with Franco-German reconciliation after the second world war. The EU's main institutions are still strung out along the Franco-German borderlands, in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. For French and German politicians, it is axiomatic that their relationship should remain the fulcrum around which the EU revolves. But enlargement will shift the centre of gravity. The decision of the Poles (and most other central Europeans) to take a pro-American line over Iraq went down particularly badly in France, prompting Jacques Chirac's now infamous remark that the newcomers had “missed a good opportunity to shut up”. Now that the constitutional negotiations are reaching a crunch, the Poles are again being invited to “shut up”. So far, they have declined the invitation. How very shocking.

Given the historic ties between Poland and America, and the debt we owe them, why not offer them trade and mititarly alliance with us instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


His season in the sun: Dow Mossman wrote 'The Stones of Summer' 31 years ago, but his book tour has just begun (David Mehegan, Globe Staff, 11/29/2003, Boston Globe)

He grew up in Cedar Rapids, went first to Coe College, then finished his bachelor's degree at the University of Iowa. While still in his teens, he wanted to be a novelist. By the time he went to the prestigious Writers' Workshop, he says, "I was totally driven. . . . My idea of writing a novel is, you get the biggest pile of clay you can and start carving. It's like sculpture." Some readers have found the result to be a challenging read. The book is long -- 586 pages -- poetical, and relatively plotless.

Like many writers "totally driven" to write a first novel, he couldn't write another. He was married and living in New York, and in 1978 he and his wife (they were divorced eight years ago) moved back to Cedar Rapids to start a family. Mossman got a job as a shop welder. He kept that job for 20 years, shaping, forging, and fabricating heavy equipment. "I loved welding," he says, until the work became more of a mindless assembly line. Before that happened, he was truly building things: "stainless-steel scale systems, bucket elevators, all kinds of conveyers."

He dabbled at writing but published nothing, and turned increasingly to reading. After 1975 he began to read more nonfiction, especially social history, though he was steeped in such classic authors as Shakespeare, Balzac, and Conrad.

"He was extremely literary," says mystery novelist Ed Gorman of Cedar Rapids, one of Mossman's close friends for 40 years. "If somebody said to him, `Do you watch this TV show?' No. `Ever read any popular novels?' No. He only wanted to read first-rate art. Over the years, I introduced him to such writers as Charles Bukowski, John Fante, and Graham Greene. In turn, he introduced me to writers such as Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Giacomo Casanova, and Emile Zola. He's the brightest guy I've ever known and certainly the most talented." [...]

"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me," Mossman says. "It's a happy tale. I was frustrated for a lot of years, but I was reading. Writer's block doesn't mean you're trading your brain in. I was in the game, in my own way."

The story here about how Barnes and Noble revived the book itself is quite neat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


The Promised Land (DAVID BROOKS, 11/29/03, NY Times)

The history of American conservatism is an exodus tale. It begins in the wilderness, in the early 1950's, with Russell Kirk, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley Jr. writing tracts for small bands of true believers.

Conservatives crashed into the walls of power during the Goldwater debacle of 1964, and then breached those walls with Reagan's triumph 16 years later. But even with Reagan in the Oval Office, Republicans were not the majority party. Democrats controlled the House, and few Reaganites actually knew how to run a government.

In 1994, with the Gingrich revolution, the conservatives strode closer to the center of power. But even then, they were not quite there. For the rule of exodus tales is that the chiefs who lead in the wilderness and storm the citadels do not get to govern once their troops have occupied the city. Renegades are too combative to govern well.

It was only this week that we can truly say the exodus story is over, with the success of the Medicare reform bill. This week the G.O.P. behaved as a majority party in full. The Republicans used the powers of government to entrench their own dominance. They used their control of the federal budget to create a new entitlement, to woo new allies and service a key constituency group, the elderly.

From now on, as Tony Blankley observed in The Washington Times, if you work at an interest group and you want to know what's going on with your legislation, you have to go to the Republicans. The Democrats don't even know the state of play.

One does wish that Ronald Reagan were in possession of his senses so that he could see his people arrive in the Promised Land.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Hamming It Down in Japan (SETH STEVENSON, 11/30/03, NY Times Magazine)

The Nippon-Ham Fighters are the ''Fighters,'' not the ''Ham Fighters.'' That is, Nippon-Ham is the owner of the team, which plays in the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan. It's simply a bit of misfortune that the organization's full name suggests lunch-meat gladiators.

As it happens, the Fighters are no strangers to misfortune. They are perennial doormats in Japan's major league. They have been awful for decades on end, with exceedingly rare exceptions, and -- as if to highlight their ineptitude -- they play in the same city and stadium as the legendary Yomiuri Giants. While the Giants draw 50,000 passionate fans to the Tokyo Dome for each game, the Fighters are lucky to get 10,000. One Japanese sports executive says the team's image is so dismal that the team ''could actually devalue the ham brand.''

Is it any wonder Fighters management ached for a change? So this off-season the team is moving far, far away from Tokyo and the Giants in order to establish a brand-new identity on the northern island of Hokkaido. There the Fighters will play in the Sapporo Dome -- a gorgeous modern stadium named for Hokkaido's largest city -- and they won't even have to share it with another baseball team.

New city, new stadium, with luck some new fans -- perfect time for a total image overhaul. And that includes the most important element of all, the key to any brand and, above all, to any sports franchise: the logo.

To not feature a seething pig in their logo is to waste one of the truly great sports names.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Apartment Glut Forces Owners to Cut Rents in Much of U.S. (DAVID LEONHARDT, 11/29/03, NY Times)

Renting an apartment in much of the country these days can feel a little like waking up on your birthday.

Waiting for the tenants in some building lobbies around Memphis every morning are free cups of Starbucks coffee. In the Atlanta suburbs, people who move into one garden-style apartment building receive $500 gift certificates to Best Buy, the electronics chain. In Cleveland, Denver and many other cities, landlords have been giving new tenants gifts worth $1,000 or more: one, two or even three months of rent-free living.

While rents have continued to rise in many big cities on the coasts, including New York and Los Angeles, they are falling in more than 80 percent of metropolitan areas across the country. Low interest rates in recent years have persuaded many families to move out of rented apartments and buy their first homes at the same time that developers have been putting up thousands of new rental buildings, leaving many landlords desperate to fill apartments.

The portion of apartments sitting vacant this summer rose to 9.9 percent, the highest level since the Census Bureau began keeping statistics in 1956.

"I've been doing this for 30 years, and this is the worst rental climate I've ever seen," said Leonard Richman, president of the Sunshine Corporation, which manages almost 4,000 apartments in Memphis. "Rents have gone down to where they were about three or four years ago."

Remind us again where inflationary pressures are going to come from?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM

60-40 FILES:

CHALLENGING DASCHLE? (Robert Novak, November 29, 2003, Townhall)

National Republican strategists have grown more optimistic that former Rep. John Thune will run against Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota next year.

Thune was thought inclined not to run for the Senate again after being narrowly defeated last year by Sen. Tim Johnson. However, he has been convinced that the South Dakota Republican turnout will be much better in 2004, with George W. Bush heading the ticket, than in 2002.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Hell's 25-Year Echo: The Jonestown Mass Suicide: A reporter who was in the vortex of the cult catastrophe finds survivors still coping. (Tim Reiterman, November 19, 2003, LA Times)

On a grassy slope in Oakland, more than 400 take their final rest, mostly children who were unclaimed or unidentified.

And across San Francisco Bay, a U.S. congressman is buried in a national cemetery not far from a park that bears his name.

Their lives converged 25 years ago Tuesday in a South American jungle clearing that has come to symbolize the worst that organized religion, cults and madness can reap.

"The people of Jonestown were a precious people, family people," the Rev. Jynona Norwood, who lost 27 relatives in Jonestown, told mourners in Oakland. "It is an injustice when people say they were unintelligent.... They had a natural desire for a better life for themselves and their children."

Jungle reclaimed Jonestown years ago. But even now I can see them together in the open-air pavilion there — Rep. Leo Ryan (D-San Mateo) on stage, microphone in hand, addressing a rainbow of Peoples Temple members from the heartland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Taking their cues from the Rev. Jim Jones, they applauded Ryan on the opening night of his mission to find whether the settlement was the brutal work camp described by escapees or the utopia extolled by supporters.

Within 24 hours, virtually all would be dead. Ryan was shot to death on a nearby airstrip, along with a church defector and three of my fellow newsmen. Then the temple members were killed at the pavilion in a ritual of mass suicide and murder. The final toll: 913.

"We need to remember to remember," Norwood said. "If you can say 1,000 people died and it can easily fall from your lips, you are remembering to forget."

I had the standardized Achievement tests the day the story hit the papers, including English with Essay. The essay question was:
"We have met the enemy and he is us" Discuss.

The Reverend Jones, tragically, gave me all the material needed to answer.

November 28, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


Curate's court action over abortion (Colin Blackstock, November 19, 2003, The Guardian)

A curate is taking legal action to force police to investigate a late abortion on a woman who did not want to have a baby with a cleft palate.

Joanna Jepson is taking Paul West, chief constable of West Mercia police, to court because she says he sanctioned an illegal abortion by failing to investigate a pregnancy termination after the six month legal limit.

An unnamed woman chose to abort the foetus after finding out it would be born with a cleft lip and palate - although the pregnancy was past 24 weeks. After this time an abortion can only be carried out if there is a risk of serious handicap.

\Eu*gen"ics\, n. The science of improving stock, whether human or animal. --F. Galton.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


Schilling will waive no-trade clause (Jayson Stark, November 28, 2003,

After three days of negotiations, the Red Sox and Curt Schilling have agreed to a deal on a two-year contract extension. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say the deal will be announced later Friday night.

It's hard to overstate the magnitude of what last Summer & Fall did to an already Red Sox crazy region. At dinner yesterday, all anyone could talk about was Game 7--folks elsewhere may know where they were when Kennedy was shot; here we know where we were when Pedro came out for the 8th--and the possibility of getting Schilling and A-Rod.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Bush in Baghdad (Eleanor Clift, 11/28/03, Newsweek)

George W. Bush's daring secret trip into the heart of Baghdad was such a triumph of political choreography that it left Democratic strategists gasping for mercy. Senator John Kerry had just begun airing a television spot in Iowa mocking Bush's swaggering "Mission Accomplished" photo op of May 1. Bush's genuinely emotional thanking of the troops on Thanksgiving Day wipes away that earlier image, and makes it harder to belittle the president's commitment to Iraq.

BUSH'S TRIP TO the front had all the trappings of a James Bond movie as Air Force One, its windows shuttered and the press corps outfitted in bullet-proof vests, landed at the Baghdad airport under cover of darkness. Americans getting ready for a day of feasting and football were let in on the news only after the president was safely back in the air en route to Texas. The element of surprise gave the trip an added boost, and coming as it did on the heels of Congress passing prescription drug coverage for seniors, the outlines of Bush's election strategy are coming into focus.

After weeks of bad news from Iraq, culminating in the humiliation of rocket launchers fired at U.S. targets from a donkey cart, Bush reasserted himself as commander-in-chief. For good or ill, this is his war, and he seems to have concluded that he can't run away from it. Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" and a former Capitol Hill staffer, advises politicians that, rather than duck controversy, they should "hang a lantern" on their problems. Bush has taken heat in recent weeks for not attending military funerals and for seeming to distance himself from Iraq as the security situation worsened. With this visit, Bush wrapped himself in the war, which may prove smart politically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


GOP has many reasons to give thanks: Party stole Democrats' thunder (Marc Sandalow, November 28, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)

The Democrats' straightforward attack on Republicans as more conservative than compassionate suddenly got a lot more complicated.

Developments on a range of complex policy matters -- from Medicare to marriage -- have confused rather than clarified distinctions between the two parties, and by most accounts made the Democrats' uphill fight to unseat President Bush and reclaim a majority in Congress an even steeper challenge.

This past week, Republicans were joined by more than a handful of Democrats in passing a $400 billion drug plan for seniors that marked the largest expansion in the liberal Medicare program in its 38-year history. The week before, Democrats running for president had a hard time distinguishing themselves from Republicans when reacting to a Massachusetts court's ruling on gay marriage. As Congress finally adjourned for Thanksgiving, Democrats stood up to Republicans on a pork-laden energy bill, but only after the GOP spent the final hours branding them as obstructionists.

And the week was capped when Bush made a top-secret Thanksgiving Day visit to the troops in Iraq, giving him another chance to appear as commander in chief.

While partisans are able to construct scenarios where each of the events might eventually help Democrats, most neutral observers -- and even many party strategists -- acknowledge that the new terrain favors Republicans.

How can such a straightforward man as George W. Bush manage to confuse his opponents so much?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


AFL-CIO Facing Major Financial Woes (LEIGH STROPE, 11/28/03, AP)

The AFL-CIO is enduring a budget shortfall so severe that its own workers are taking two days of unpaid leave to avoid layoffs, even as the labor federation attempts to mobilize its largest-ever political campaign. [...]

Other belt-tightening measures are being taken in response to a dismal economy that slammed many unions with layoffs, and to launch a "do-or-die" election effort next year to defeat a cash-flush President Bush. [...]

"It's safe to say we will put as much as we possibly can of all of our resources into the political campaign," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Some union presidents have asked Sweeney to trim fat from the AFL-CIO's overall budget and to apply any savings to the federation's political program. [...]

About $5 million was diverted from the labor federation's organizing efforts to help fund what Sweeney said is "the biggest, earliest, most aggressive grass-roots political program in our history."

The federation has about $35 million budgeted for member mobilization and politics in the election cycle, Sweeney said. That's less than the $42 million spent in 2000.

Is President Bush really worth a futile kamikaze mission?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM

ONLY IN AMERICA (OR BAGHDAD) [via Best of the Web]:

Can You Keep a Secret? Hop On (Edwin Chen and Maura Reynolds, November 28, 2003, LA Times)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the president was sneaking past his own Secret Service detail, wearing a baseball cap and riding in an unmarked van with darkened windows. He was without his customary motorcade and, during the 45-minute drive, experienced rush hour and red lights for the first time since he became president.

"The president encountered and witnessed traffic for the first time in three years on the way to the airport," Bartlett said. "That was a little amusing to those who were riding with him."

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice rode with him in the van, also with a baseball cap pulled low over her face.

"We looked like a normal couple," Bush recounted later. [...]

As the plane sped toward Andrews at 665 mph, an incredulous Bloomberg reporter, Richard Keil, leaned out of his seat and declared to the rest of the press cabin: "The president of the United States is AWOL, and we're with him. The ultimate road trip."

Reporters felt the plane land two hours and 40 minutes later but were not allowed to look outside until the plane rolled to a stop inside a top-secret hangar at Andrews. Under the hangar's bright lights, they descended from one presidential 747 and boarded another — both are designated Air Force One whenever the president is aboard.

The pool reporters got their first glimpse of the president during the switch. Bush, wearing jeans, a work shirt and a baseball cap, appeared in a good mood as he caught sight of the entourage. Over the noise of the aircraft engines, he raised his hand to his ear in a gesture mimicking the use of a cellphone, then waved his arms and drew his finger across his throat and mouthed the words, "No calls, got it?"

"The president's manner was that of a stern father reprimanding his children, but in good humor," Allen said.

The wisecrack about him and Condi Rice speaks volumes about the man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Raised to be a King, Shah's Son Preaches Democracy: Pahlavi appeals to young Iranians who hate clerical rule and don't remember his father's regime (Borzou Daragahai, Nov 28, 2003, Star-Ledger)

With his plastic watch and blue suit, Reza Pahlavi blends easily into the strip malls and bedroom communities that sprawl beyond the Capital Beltway.

But the son of Iran's deposed king has far greater aspirations than the white-collar professionals and stay-at-home moms who populate suburban Washington: He wishes to lead the Iran of his youth -- the nation that sent him into a quarter-century of exile -- from dictatorship to democracy. [...]

In a historic meeting, Pahlavi recently sat down for an afternoon tea with dissident Iranian cleric Hossein Khomeini, grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the fiery cleric who led the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979.

The young Khomeini was in Washington to give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. "We talked about issues such as civil disobedience, such as secularization, such as separation of religion from state, such as self-determination, such as a referendum," Pahlavi said.

"Basically we had a common vision on all these points." [...]

Just as Khomeini used cassette tapes recorded in exile to distribute his revolutionary messages inside Iran, Pahlavi has been using satellite television and radio broadcasts.

He has shored up his presence inside Iran, calling for the end of a theocratic rule and a referendum on the country's future government.

"When I see him on television, I feel comforted," said Mina, a woman in her 50s who says she avidly watches Iranian satellite television broadcasts from abroad, which are illegal but generally tolerated.

"The people sense that they can't make any change through any of the internal forces in Iran, so they look abroad," said an Iranian dissident intellectual, recently released from jail and afraid of being sent back, who asked to remain anonymous.

"They've also forgotten the bad things about the previous government, and Pahlavi's satellite broadcasts have a great impact on the young generation." [...]

Unlike his father, who in 1953 returned to his throne in a CIA-backed coup d'etat, the younger Pahlavi says he would return to lead Iran's monarchy only if Iranians opted for its restoration.

"As an Iranian I would shudder under the fact that my country would have to come under foreign attack of any sort," he said.

"It is in fact insulting for me to hear that people are not willing to believe that Iranians are capable of managing their own affairs and would require a foreign force doing it for them."

In Iran, however, at least a sizable number of the youth -- frustrated by social controls and the lack of economic opportunities -- have succumbed to the fantasy that Pahlavi will rescue the country from abroad.

"There's a perception that he's going to come and save us," said the dissident intellectual, who himself opposes restoration of the monarchy as a step backward for Iran.

"If the situation doesn't change, he has a good chance of coming back."

Now there's an alliance that would have to scare the Iranian clerics, the sons of the Shah and the Ayatollah, working together for democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Why Bush is still the man to beat: Much of the world hates him, but many Americans think their President is the man for the age (Graham Barrett, November 29, 2003 , The Age)

Get used to the thought of another five years of George Bush as the most powerful person on earth. Astonishing as it may seem, he is moving into re-election mode with just about everything going for him.

This appears counter-intuitive. Just look at the laundry list that will be making the papers between now and next November. The Middle East is an expensive shambles, the case for invading Iraq is still shifting from one confection to another, the rise of terrorism has exposed the most dramatic intelligence failure since Pearl Harbour, the US deficit is the biggest in history, several million American jobs have been lost, environmental pollution is worsening, American diplomacy is in tatters and American global popularity is to be found in a compost bin.

Bush would seem to possess no chance of staying on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until early 2009. Why, then, are the US Democrats so worried?

They know that American presidents are not elected by sophisticated European or Australian critics or by Arab adolescents throwing stones in the streets of the Gaza Strip, but by a small number of swinging voters in places called Sarasota or Louisville, who are starting to resent the antipathy of the outside world. They vote for the individual, not the party or policy platform. [...]

A hint of steel has entered the heart of many American voters in what remains one of the most patriotic countries in the world, persuading them - for now - that those body bags from Baghdad are a tragic but necessary price to pay for preserving their nation and its values.

There is a countervailing resentment among the American people, who are learning what a former British foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, said about another great power in history: "When we ran the world in the 19th century, which I think we did rather well, we were cordially disliked. Jealousy and hostility, not gratitude, was our experience."

As a former US national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, puts it: "American power worldwide is at its zenith. American global political standing is at its nadir." It is a combination that compels many American voters to rally behind an incumbent who, however flawed he may appear, possesses one big advantage.

Unlike his predecessor, Bush appears strong, decisive, focused, moral and relentless. These are characteristics to which Americans, or indeed most people, warm in a time of national stress.

Pollution? Do foreigners know anything about this country that they don't read in DNC handouts?

Multilateral Mantras: The fantasies of the old world meet the realities of the new. (Victor Davis Hanson, November 26, 2003, National Review)

American and European intellectuals think they can explain the current furor directed at the United States. In fact, they have fashioned a standard exegesis that goes back to the last decade or so of American foreign-policy efforts. Our supposed post-9/11 unilateralism is summed up by something like this: chances lost; sympathy wasted; opportunities let slip; dialogue spurned; etc.

That is, after eight careful years of Clintonian multilateralism — characterized by deference to the U.N., consultation with the EU, and various apologies to aggrieved countries from Greece to South Africa — the United States was once again (say, by 2000?), ever so slowly, beginning to be liked in the world. Indeed, we were on the collective bus, so to speak, and supported the foundations for a new global framework that would give us racial bliss at Durban, environmental salvation at Kyoto, and international justice at The Hague.

We all wished it was true. Those who had doubts kept quiet for the most part — lest they appear as the dour and glum Reaganites who had once caricatured Jimmy Carter's human-rights policies as naïve and conducive to subsequent hostage-taking, SS-10s, and Afghanistan.

Indeed, we are now supposed to be quite nostalgic about the old aura of multilateral harmony. Everyone from Madeline Albright to Al Gore lectures us about how we were once beloved of the Europeans and admired by the Arabs. But then the story darkens, as Bush administration boorishness, ineptness, and chauvinism forfeit all their predecessors' hard-earned capital, the fruit of careful past diplomacy. Perhaps the hysterical slurs about "Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld" reflect the deep hurt that former officials presently feel when they travel abroad and are no longer treated with the deference of old. Their apologia "We tried to tell them" is met by their sympathetic hosts' "Don't worry, we know it's them, not you."

But how accurate — or important — is the charge of unilateralism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


Report: Hesitancy to be called 'occupiers' hurts US in Iraq (Tom Regan, 11/28/03,

A leaked postwar self-evaluation by the Army's 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) showed several serious problems during the invasion of Iraq, and after Baghdad fell. The report shows that American military commanders did not impose curfews, halt looting or order Iraqis back to work after Saddam Hussein's regime fell because US policymakers were reluctant to declare American troops an occupying force.

Political correctness and Great Power politics makes for an uncomfortable fit, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Food for Holiday Thought: Eat Less, Live to 140? (DAVID HOCHMAN, 11/23/03, NY Times)

"I'm definitely not one of these guys who says, `Ooo, 18 more years and I can retire,' " said Mr. Sherman, 46, who runs a biotech company in California near his Silicon Valley home. Now that he's acclimated to the diet and is somewhat bulked up from weight lifting, he looks more like a cyclist than a "Survivor" finalist. "I feel very much like I did at 20," he said. "Nothing but blue sky ahead of me." Mr. Sherman is part of a curious subculture of scientists, philosophers, futurists and assorted high-minded anorectics who believe that saying no to dessert (and sometimes to breakfast, lunch and dinner, too) will be the ticket to superlongevity.

Advocates of the strategy, known as calorie restriction, or C.R., insist they're not dieting to get skinny but rather to have the last laugh. Eat smart enough, they say, and you can live to see great-great-grandchildren, not to mention postpone the onset of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.

"Aging is a horror and it's got to stop right now," said Michael Rae, a vitamin researcher from Calgary, Alberta, and a board member of the Calorie Restriction Society, which has about 900 ultralean members worldwide.

This kind of fear of and attempt to deny death is rooted in the secularization of the culture and an almost pathological hatred of that which makes us human.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM

MUTABILITY (via Mike Daley):

Blacks Balk at Gay Marriage-Civil Rights Links (JAY LINDSAY, 11/28/03, Associated Press)

A new controversey has erupted around the issue of gay marriage, as some black leaders have been outraged by comparisons being drawn between the civil rights movement and the right of homosexuals to marry.

Observers have been drawing similarities between the two movements since the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled last week that the state's constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry. The court cited landmark laws that struck down bans on interracial marriage, but conservative black leaders object to the comparisons, arguing that sexual orientation is a choice.

The Rev. Talbert Swan II said the two struggles are not similar because blacks were lynched, denied property rights and declared inhuman.

"Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle," he said. "I could not choose the color of my skin. ... For me to ride down the street and get profiled just because of my skin color is something a homosexual will never go through."

A poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press on Nov. 18, the day of the ruling, indicated 60 percent of blacks opposed gay marriage.

As the Reverend Sawn suggests, the issue is quite simply one of morality and choice--one is or is not a certain race or ethnicity; one chooses one's sexual partners.

Undermining Society's MoralsAlan Charles Raul, November 28, 2003, Washington Post)

The promotion of gay marriage is not the most devastating aspect of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's recent decision. The more destructive impact of the decision for society is the court's insidious denial of morality itself as a rational basis for legislation. This observation is not hyperbole or a mere rhetorical characterization of the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision. The Massachusetts justices actually quoted two opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court (the recent anti-anti-sodomy ruling in Lawrence v. Texas and an older anti-antiabortion ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey) to support the proposition that the legislature may not "mandate [a] moral code" for society at large. The courts, it would seem, have read a fundamental political choice into the Constitution that is not apparent from the face of the document itself -- that is, that individual desires must necessarily trump community interests whenever important issues are at stake.

These judicial pronouncements, therefore, constitute an appalling abnegation of popular sovereignty. In a republican form of government, which the Constitution guarantees for the United States, elected officials are meant to set social policy for the country. They do so by embodying their view of America's moral choices in law. (This is a particularly crucial manner for propagating morality in our republic because the Constitution rightly forbids the establishment of religion, the other major social vehicle for advancing morality across society.) In reality, legislatures discharge their moral mandates all the time, and not just in controversial areas such as abortion, gay rights, pornography and the like.

Animal rights, protection of endangered species, many zoning laws and a great deal of environmental protection -- especially wilderness conservation -- are based on moral imperatives (as well as related aesthetic preferences). Though utilitarian arguments can be offered to salvage these kinds of laws, those arguments in truth amount to mere rationalizations. The fact is that a majority of society wants its elected representatives to preserve, protect and promote these values independent of traditional cost-benefit, "what have you done for me lately" kind of analysis. Indeed, some of these choices can and do infringe individual liberty considerably: for example, protecting spotted owl habitat over jobs puts a lot of loggers out of work and their families in extremis. Likewise, zoning restrictions can deprive individuals of their ability to use their property and live their lives as they might otherwise prefer. Frequently, the socially constrained individuals will sue the state claiming that such legal restrictions "take" property or deprive them of "liberty" in violation of the Fifth Amendment, or constitute arbitrary and capricious governmental action. And while such plaintiffs sometimes do and should prevail in advancing their individual interests over those of the broader community, no one contends that the government does not have the legitimate power to promote the general welfare as popularly defined (subject, of course, to the specific constitutional rights of individuals and due regard for the protection of discrete and insular minorities bereft of meaningful political influence).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Telling the Truth, Facing the Whip (MANSOUR AL-NOGAIDAN, 11/28/03, NY Times)

The most recent government crackdown on terrorism suspects, in response to this month's car-bombing of a compound housing foreigners and Arabs in Riyadh, is missing the real target. The real problem is that Saudi Arabia is bogged down by deep-rooted Islamic extremism in most schools and mosques, which have become breeding grounds for terrorists. We cannot solve the terrorism problem as long as it is endemic to our educational and religious institutions.

Yet the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs have now established a committee to hunt down teachers who are suspected of being liberal-minded. This committee, which has the right to expel and punish any teacher who does not espouse hard-core Wahhabism, last week interrogated a teacher, found him "guilty" of an interest in philosophy and put on probation.

During the holy fasting month of Ramadan, imams around the country stepped up their hate speech against liberals, advocates of women's rights, secularists, Christians and Jews — and many encouraged their congregations to do the same. I heard no sermons criticizing the people responsible for the attacks in Riyadh, in which innocent civilians and children were killed. The reason, I believe, is that these religious leaders sympathize with the criminals rather than the victims.

I cannot but wonder at our officials and pundits who continue to claim that Saudi society loves other nations and wishes them peace, when state-sponsored preachers in some of our largest mosques continue to curse and call for the destruction of all non-Muslims. As the recent attacks show, now more than ever we are in need of support and help from other countries to help us stand up against our extremist religious culture, which discriminates against its own religious minorities, including Shiites and Sufis.

But we must be aware that this religious extremism, which has been indoctrinated in several Saudi generations, will be very difficult to defeat. I know because I once espoused it. For 11 years, from the age of 16, I was a Wahhabi extremist.

The frequency with which such voices are being heard post 9-11 gives one some hope for the necessary Islamic Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Untying the Knot: For Better or Worse: Marriage's Stormy Future (TAMAR LEWIN, November 23, 2003, NY Times)

Political and religious conservatives maintain that the word "marriage" must be reserved for the union of men and women. Since 1996, 37 states have passed laws declaring that marriage must join male and female, and a push is under way for a constitutional amendment along those lines.

But some conservatives recognize a need for new social forms like civil unions. "I'm not opposed to civil unions," said James Q. Wilson, the social scientist and author of "The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened
Families." "I understand that people who wish to live together may want to manage their affairs."

The most radical structural change being discussed these days is taking the state out of the marriage business.

"People who wanted religious ceremonies could still have them," Ms. Sanger said. "People could also write their own contracts formalizing individual agreements. To some extent, it's already happening, with prenuptial agreements, and homosexual couples' ceremonies that have nothing to do
with the state. We're not used to thinking of commitment outside marriage, so the social status of other arrangements is unclear: Do you have to give presents if someone has a civil union, or registers a domestic partnership?"

Most conservatives say that the state must keep its central role in marital arrangements - both because marriage is such a central institution and, as a practical matter, because when a private union dissolves, the state may have to decide what becomes of the children and the property.

"The state has to be involved in marriage," Mr. Wilson said. "Marriage is the foundation of organized society, our way of coping with intractable problems like getting men to take responsibility for children, managing the allocation
of property, settling questions of custody. The argument that we could do it all by contract comes mainly from law professors, who have a much stronger belief in the power of contracts than other people."

Undoubtedly, marriage maintains unique symbolic value. For many homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, a civil union, a commitment ceremony or a registered partnership simply lacks the emotional, psychological and spiritual weight that centuries of tradition added to marriage.

"Marriage is more than a bundle of rights and privileges," said Nancy Cott, a history professor at Harvard and author of "Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation." "It's a word that's sacred to many people, and because of its symbolic value, its customs and history, it has superior status."

Separation of State and Marriage seems the ideal solution. Let only religious institutions perform marriages. Let states grant civil union status to anyone they choose. Let couples who are Married receive automatic recognition as being entered into a civil union. The only folks who would be unhappy at that point are those who insist on "marriage" as a way of forcing society to not merely allow but to accept homosexuality.

One Man, One Woman: The case for preserving the definition of marriage. (ROBERT P. GEORGE, November 28, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


Meeting of Iraqi Leaders Gives Lift to U.S. Plan on Power Shift (JOEL BRINKLEY, 11/28/03, NY Times)

The American plan to transfer power to Iraq regained some momentum on Thursday, after a meeting between two leading Iraqi political figures.

Jalal Talabani, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, traveled to Najaf to confer with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Iraqi cleric who had raised objections to the American plan for indirect elections for a new provisional government. Afterward, both sides appeared to be moving toward a possible compromise.

Ayatollah Sistani exercises strong influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, and on Wednesday his spokesmen said he was insisting that the election planned for next June must be a direct, popular ballot and not the indirect caucus election called for in the American plan.

That threw the future of the plan for speeding up self-rule into doubt. The American authorities have maintained that popular elections are impossible in the absence of a census, which cannot be completed by next summer. But at a news conference on Thursday night, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric and member of the Governing Council who is close to Ayatollah Sistani, said there was room for negotiation.

"There are different proposals for getting the opinion of the Iraqi people," he said. "The best way would be to have a census and election law, and elections. But in these circumstances, there are other ways you can reach the views of the Iraqi people."

"The most important thing," he added, "is to end the occupation."

Our interests converge--they don't want us there and we don't want to be there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Official: Al-Qaeda plans something big (Kevin Johnson, 11/27, USA TODAY)

A top counterterrorism official says al-Qaeda operatives dropped plans this year for several small attacks in the USA to focus on plotting a "more spectacular" assault comparable to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The U.S. counterterrorism official, who has access to all intelligence on the terrorist group, told USA TODAY this week that officials have no specific evidence to indicate how or when al-Qaeda might try to launch a massive strike on U.S. soil.

But, the official said, interviews with al-Qaeda detainees, intercepts of communications from suspected operatives and other sources have yielded evidence that Osama bin Laden's network still has a command structure and a determination to launch an attack that might rival the suicide hijackings.

We should announce in advance what steps we'll take if they strike again, for instance: arrest and try Arafat; depose Syria's Ba'athists; bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities; remove Qaddafi; etc.. Make it clear to the Islamic world what the cost of such terror is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM

THAT ONE WON'T PLAY (via Mike Daley):

Some Understand Covert Journey; Others Fear Bad Precedent (Howard Kurtz, November 28, 2003
Washington Post)

Former White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, who worked for President Bill Clinton, said: "There's no way to do this kind of trip if it's broadcast in advance, for security reasons. My problem with this is not that he misled the press. This is a president who has been unwilling to provide his presence to the families who have suffered but thinks nothing of flying to Baghdad to use the troops there as a prop."

Last week, Democrats complained that he didn't care about the military, because he wasn't going to every funeral. Now he visits them in a war zone and they're just "props"? They need some work on their talking points.

UPDATE: Oops, may have spoken to soon--apparently the Europeans and Arabs agree with Mr. Lockhart, Bush's Iraq Visit a Pre-Election PR Stunt (November 28, 2003, Agence France-Presse)

"Electoral raid on Baghdad" read the caustic headline in the left-wing Paris daily Liberation which summed up European newspaper editorial reaction to President George W Bush's Thanksgiving Day visit to US troops in Iraq. [...]

"Bush 'infiltrated' Baghdad for two hours," scoffed the front-page headline of the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat.

In Beirut, Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, announced that "Bush's secret visit to Baghdad opens presidential election season."

A front-page editorial in Lebanon's leading An-Nahar newspaper compared Bush to Roman emperor Julius Caesar, but said the US president could not repeat the phrase: "I came, I saw, I conquered."

November 27, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Schwarzenegger Paroles Woman Who Killed Her Husband's Mistress (The Associated Press, 11/27/03)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to parole a woman who killed her husband's mistress in 1987, the second time in a week the newly elected governor has granted the release of a convicted murderer.

Schwarzenegger's decision Wednesday marks a departure from former Gov. Gray Davis, who during his five years repeatedly refused to grant paroles approved by the state's Board of Prison Terms. [...]

Schwarzenegger did not comment on his decision to parole Munoz, a 51-year-old mother of three who was convicted in 1989 of killing her husband's lover in Los Angeles.

The board's approval of Munoz's parole was based on her apparent remorse for the killing, psychological evaluations that showed a slim chance of her offending again and her efforts to raise money for the victim's daughter by selling portraits, said board spokesman Bill Sessa.

It's her husband she should have whacked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


The Key to Genius: Autistic savants are born with miswired neurons - and extraordinary gifts. The breakthrough science behind our new understanding of the brain. (Steve Silberman, December 2003, Wired)

There is no single unified memory function in the brain. Just as there are many types of remembering - retaining a phone number long enough to dial it, recollecting Proustian panoramas after a bite of madeleine - there is a diverse set of subsystems for imprinting experience in the mind.

The memories of savants run deep but narrow. They can recite, forward or backward, the contents of a book they've read and tell you the number of steps they took to the store. Their memories are high-fidelity - concrete, precise, and comprehensive - but there is little emotion in them. Musical savants are frequently described as human tape recorders.

This oddly adhesive memory is what binds together every domain of savant skill. In the brains of savants, Treffert believes, associative memory systems located in the higher regions of the cortex fail, and older parts of the brain - the ancient pathways in the basal ganglia known as habit memory - take over.

Habit memory is Pavlovian, an archive of involuntary stimulus/response loops - the memory that never forgets how to ride a bike. To reproduce a Bach sonata with slavish accuracy requires an inner tape recorder and a book of rules. But to play Bach with fire and originality requires Proustian memory, with its nuanced webs of association and metaphor. This higher-order memory, like a living text, is constantly under revision. It's not just that savants remember everything, says Treffert, it's that they are unable to forget anything, like the protagonist in Jorge Luis Borges' short story, "Funes the Memorious."

Treffert is convinced that some savants don't have to learn the algorithms involved in tasks like calendar calculating. The software comes preinstalled. "You have to go beyond talking about traits," he says, "and start talking about the genetic transmission of knowledge."

The drawing abilities of most savant artists, for example, burst forth with no preparation, no training, and no practice - as if their skills were already there, fully fledged, needing only access to a pencil or a brush.

Children who seem to come into the world with profound artistic gifts have been objects of fascination for centuries, but recent discoveries suggest we may all carry a savant inside us waiting to be born.

Why couldn't mine have been born when I was failing College Math?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


"Sharon eating babies" cartoon wins British prize (Ellis Shuman, November 27, 2003, Israel Insider)

The United Kingdom's Political Cartoon Society selected a cartoon published by The Independent in January depicting a naked Ariel Sharon biting off the bloodied head of a Palestinian child as helicopter warships hovered overhead blasting out "Vote Sharon" from loudspeakers as its "Cartoon of the Year." In his acceptance speech, cartoonist Dave Brown thanked the Israeli Embassy in London for its angry reaction to the cartoon, which he said had contributed greatly to its publicity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


"Conservatism" (David Warren, 11/16/03, Sunday Spectator)
Consider, if you will, what might be meant today by the term, "social conservative". It is applied to people who have strangely backward views about society; who are against things like killing unborn children, or publicly celebrating homosexuality. And they are categorized with persons in other cultures who advocate, e.g., stoning rape victims for adultery.

This can only mean, that a person who does not agree to the revolutionary overthrow of the social order is a "social conservative", beyond the pale. The term has, in other words, been twisted so far around, that it has come out right-way-up again, but on a wheel off its axle. For what was previously "normal" is now labelled "abnormal", and vice versa.

This fills me with hope. It suggests the possibility that with further twisting, other ideas may come out right again, albeit in a crazy, off-the-spindle sort of way.

In the meantime, I'm looking for another word to communicate the idea of "conservative", other than the word "conservative" which must inevitably communicate something else. I am playing with the word "traditionalist", which might, at the minimum, have the advantage of not being understood at all.

The idea itself is that all sound action within a society will come out of a development of that society's own traditions, rather than from a negation or inversion of them. For it is a secret of society and nature, that few things are improved by turning them upside-down. It is one of those things that just works, like gravity; always worth another try.
Or, as Michael Oakeshott put it:

The general characteristics of this [conservative] disposition are not difficult to discern, although they have often been mistaken. They centre upon a propensity to use and to enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be . . . an appropriate gratefulness for what is available, and consequently the acknowledgment of a gift or an inheritance from the past.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


Georgian interlude (David Warren, November 26, 2003)

The future need not be grim. The economic prospects for a country that offers the only possible transit to the high seas for oil from the Caspian basin, which does not pass through Iran or Russia, are potentially very good. (It is largely from fear of this potential competition, that the Russians have fished so assiduously in Georgia's troubled waters.)

It is an experiment that, alas, cannot be repeated easily in any Muslim country of the Middle East (Georgia was an ancient Christian kingdom, one of the few Christian polities to survive the Islamic conquests). And yet it is a very significant event for the region, especially for Iran, where a huge student movement continues to lead opposition to the tyranny of the ayatollahs, and where the young are also increasingly inspired by "the American way" of doing things.

For Georgia has just created a shining example of what the fall of the Berlin Wall might look like, transposed and translated into the Middle Eastern vernacular. Mr. Shevardnadze's highly personal way of ruling was in the regional mould, and even his Communist background was suggestive of the ideological formations that underlie many of the region's most powerful statesmen.

The tinder has been struck. While the situation in Georgia is necessarily desperate (freedom invariably begins in chaos), and the Russians may well do everything they can to undermine the new Georgian government that emerges, the flame is lit. Christian Georgia has given the Muslim Middle East an example of "how it is done", even without the help of the U.S. Army. It is close enough to home to be noticed.

And the power of example in a moral vacuum should never be underestimated.

Georgia as Shining City?

-Where Europe Vanishes: Civilizations have collided in the Caucasus Mountains since the dawn of history, and the region's dozens of ethnic groups have been noted for "obstinacy and ferocity" since ancient times. Stalin was born in these mountains, and it was also here that the Soviet empire began to crumble. The story of the Republic of Georgia illustrates that the peoples of the Caucasus may prove as incapable of self-rule as they were resistant to rule by outsiders (Robert D. Kaplan, December 2000, The Atlantic)
-Many Roles, Many Acts (Jim Hoagland, November 27, 2003, Washington Post)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Free Damascus (NIR BOMS & ERICK STAKELBECK, Nov. 27, 2003, Jerusalem Post)

[T]he Reform Party of Syria (RPS), a fledgling US-based political movement comprised of resident Syrians and Syrians living abroad... was formed shortly after 9/11 to express a voice that has been virtually nonexistent in Syria under 40 years of oppressive Ba'ath Party rule: a voice of freedom.

For members of RPS, the president's castigation of "dictators in Iraq and Syria" who "promised the restoration of national honor [and] left instead a legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin," represented an anchor of hope for a new Syria, one free from extremism, terror and iron-fisted rule.

While talk of Middle East reform usually centers on Iraqi de-Ba'athification or the student protesters of Iran, RPS has become increasingly visible during the last few months, spearheading a pro-democracy message framed in the context of a new Syrian constitution.

For members of RPS, the post-9/11 reality presented both a challenge and an opportunity. The time had come to speak out against the perpetual police state their homeland had become under decades of Ba'ath Party rule.

Next year in Damascus...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


For the moment, the dean of his class: Dean becomes a heavyweight while maintaining the look of a political outcast. (Liz Marlantes, 11/28/03, CS Monitor)

A former dark horse who's catapulted to the front of the Democratic pack, Howard Dean is a rare hybrid candidate - an increasingly established heavyweight who maintains the look of a political outcast. As his profile rises, the former Vermont governor's network of support is rapidly expanding to traditional constituencies, with congressional and union endorsements drawing blue-collar workers and minorities. But at its core, the Dean phenomenon still seems shaped by a legion of fervent young people like these, drawn to his antiestablishment rhetoric and bold political stances.

The campaign's energy is fueled by a devoted base that's helped Dean weather gaffes and attacks. He's parlayed that support into stunning financial success, raising enough cash to opt out of the public financing system, with one-quarter of his money coming from people under 30.

Yet this youthful base, combined with Dean's opposition to the Iraq war, has evoked unflattering comparisons to George McGovern, and causes some to question the ultimate breadth of Dean's appeal. While students cram into auditoriums to hear him, it's unclear how much of that enthusiasm will translate into votes. In Iowa - where polls show him in a dead heat with Rep. Richard Gephardt - the caucuses tend to weed out all but the most committed voters, making them a key early test of Dean's strength.

The problem for Mr. Dean is that he can hardly portray himself as a fresh new outsider next Fall, when he'll have been his party's frontrunner or nominee for almost two years. He'll have grown terribly stale by then.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Johnny Cash's Legacy of Emotions, on CD's (NEIL STRAUSS, 11/27/03, NY Times)

I'll play you one song," the record producer Rick Rubin said over the telephone. Two clicking sounds could be heard in the background. Then a voice, singing, came through the earpiece: "I never thought I needed help before/Thought that I could get by by myself."

The voice was that of Johnny Cash, accompanied only by a softly strummed guitar, the song by Larry Gatlin. Cash's voice cracked and wavered with each word, at times falling out of tempo and tune as if fighting against extinguishment. Yet it continued, slow, determined, choking back emotion: "But now I know I just can't take it anymore/And with a humble heart on bended knee/I'm begging you please for help."

The song, Mr. Rubin said, was recorded two months after the death of Cash's wife, June, and two months before Cash's own death on Sept. 12 at 71.

It is one of 40 to 50 songs that Cash had recorded for "American V," the fifth CD in a 10-year collaboration between Cash and Mr. Rubin, who started his career producing the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. The disc is expected to be released next year. In the meantime a five-CD box set that includes 64 previously unreleased Cash recordings was released this week under the title Cash Unearthed, a name that Cash helped select.

The CD includes collaborations with Joe Strummer, Carl Perkins, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Nick Cave and, in a moving version of the Cat Stevens song "Father and Son," Fiona Apple. The solo material ranges from bittersweet new tracks like "Singer of Songs" to stripped-down classic gospel and country, like an organ-enhanced "Big Iron" that rivals the Marty Robbins hit.

"Isn't it amazing that my father would pass away and such a body of work would come out?" said Cash's son, John Carter Cash. "It looks like a 30-year section of music, but it was all recorded in the last few years. And what's amazing is how much more there is."

Ammo for your Amazon Wish List.

Johnny of the Cross (Peter M. Candler, Jr, December 2003, First Things)

In the world of popular music, one generally becomes a “legend” only in death—as if death accomplishes for a musician all that he was unable to do for himself in life. Legends are often made in the manner of their death—in a helicopter crash, say, or collapsed on the bathroom floor. But Johnny Cash’s death at seventy-one on September 12 was decidedly un-legend-like: silent, slow, and unspectacular. Yet “legend” seems, if anything, not big enough a word to describe Johnny Cash.

We all knew the end was coming, particularly after June Carter, to everyone’s shock, beat him to it. But the impact of the news was not thereby diminished. On that Friday we lost possibly America’s most singular individual. I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch to say that in Johnny’s death a little bit of what is best about America died, too.

The only word that seems to suffice here is magnanimity. The OED defines it poetically: “In Aristotle’s sense of megalopsuchia . . . loftiness of thought or purpose, grandeur of designs, nobly ambitious spirit. Now rare.” That was Johnny Cash: great-souled, rare. Everything about him was as big and black and broad as the Arkansas delta, from his physical stature and persona to “that” voice.

Yet his life cannot be reduced to a metaphor. It was more than just one of noble ambition or grandeur of design; Johnny’s virtues were just as hard-fought as his vices. In life Johnny Cash struggled for and against the God whose grip on him was so frustratingly and thankfully relentless that it was able to absorb all that fierce rage and all those addictions. Johnny could sing about murder and God in the same song and with the same voice because to do otherwise would have been dishonest. At the same time, he let that despair, agony, and rejection stand on their own—he lent them integrity. There was no serious salvation unless there was first some serious sin. Cash echoed St. Paul: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” But there is at least one thing that Cash never was, and that is a moralist. He did not chalk doubt up to a misunderstanding. Rather, Cash showed that doubt is itself proper to faith. A God who could not stomach the darkest moments of His creation was not worth our worship, much less a song.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

.406+ :

Revised lawsuit-reform bill wins Democratic converts (Charles Hurt, 11/26/03, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Three Democratic senators changed their stances after language was inserted they say better protects consumers while still reining in many frivolous lawsuits and preventing lawyers from "venue shopping" in search of sympathetic judges and juries that award the biggest settlements.

Those supporters now include Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, all of whom opposed the bill last month. The bill was defeated by a single vote in a filibuster lodged by mainly Democrats. [...]

The bill is designed to usher more class-action lawsuits into the federal courts and prevent lawyers from guiding their cases to states where judges and juries are viewed as generous to plaintiffs. It will also prevent plaintiffs from getting coupons of little or no value while attorneys make millions of dollars.

"Businesses and consumers victimized by the current system can give thanks tomorrow that the days of class-action abuse are numbered," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said yesterday, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day. "We urge the Senate to pass the Class Action Fairness Act at the earliest opportunity." [...]

The Bush administration has listed tort reform as one of its top domestic priorities and the president's signature would be widely expected.

Ted Williams wasn't this hot in '41.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


Fast-rising young challenger eyes Chirac's crown: Hugely popular French interior minister makes his ambitions plain (Jon Henley, November 27, 2003, The Guardian)

France's young, hard-hitting and hugely popular interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has made his intentions clear: he will be running for president in 2007 - against Jacques Chirac if necessary. [...]

A recent poll showed that Mr Sarkozy, diminutive, pugnacious, plain-speaking but somehow always human, is regarded as "the man most capable of changing things in France" by 42% of the population, against 9% for Mr Chirac. Fifty per cent said the 48-year-old would be an "excellent" or "good" rightwing presidential candidate.

Since his appointment 18 months ago, the man the French press often refers to as Goldfinger (because all he touches succeeds) has resolved the long-running dispute with Britain over the Sangatte refugee camp; sent thousands of asylum seekers home; cracked down on juvenile delinquency, crime and prostitution; hired the first of 15,000 new police officers; dramatically reduced traffic offences and road deaths and overseen the capture of France's most wanted terrorist in Corsica.

His extraordinary rise (he has won praise from such political opposites as the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and the communist mayor of Calais) is due not just to his energy but to his determination, highly unusual in French politics, to call a spade a spade and, if it is a problem, to do something about it. In Sarko-speak, drunken drivers are "murderers", teenage gang-rapists "barbarians" and misbehaving youths on run-down council estates "yobs" and "thugs". He sees part of his job, he has said, as curing "a French disease: the notion that because we cannot tackle everything, we end up tackling nothing".

The Chiracs' personal dislike for him is a good sign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Spain, Poland lead EU opposition (Roland Flamini, 11/26/2003, UPI)

Standing shoulder to shoulder, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Polish counterpart Leszek Miller led the attack Tuesday against a European Union decision designed to let Germany and France off the hook.

The occasion was a meeting of European economic and finance ministers in Brussels at which the EU system of imposing fines on member states that exceeded budget deficit limits was suspended to avoid punishing Berlin and Paris.

"This decision deals a hard blow to the common (European) effort to maintain economic stability," Aznar declared. He went on to warn that the move "will obviously have consequences in the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference."

Spanish sources said Aznar's argument was that no agreement could be reached on the constitution if budget discipline has collapsed. But this was taken as a bold threat to carry on the battle against France and Germany when talks on a new EU constitution come to a head next month. [...]

Both Poland and Spain want NATO to remain the stalwart of European defense, free from the competitive challenge of an EU rapid reaction force, as proposed by Berlin and Paris.

Similarly, both countries are against any change in the EU "vote weighting," the distribution of votes to each country in relation to population size. At the moment both Spain and Poland have 27 votes each in the Council of Ministers, while Germany, with a far bigger population, has 28 votes. The constitution would switch to a new voting system that, smaller nations say, will give France and Germany more power.

Pretty much the only countries to resist both the USSR and Hitler now stand together to fight the latest threat to European freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Why the Democrats Are All Boxed In: Why Democrats are losing the political game and Republicans are betraying their convictions (JOE KLEIN, Nov. 23, 2003, TIME)

The Democrats' opposition to the Medicare bill was both tortured and intemperate. Some of the gripes are legitimate—the proposed drug benefit is complicated and in many cases insufficient. But Ted Kennedy voted for that benefit last summer. The sticking points now involve matters of Democratic Party theology, and they require a brief explanation. Medicare currently is a fee-for-service program, which means it works the way old-fashioned medicine did—essentially, you get whatever services you request. This is fabulously expensive and bound to grow more so as the baby boomers retire. Most Republicans and many moderate Democrats want to restrain costs by moving toward a system of managed care—which is what most nonelderly Americans now receive through HMOs and preferred-physician networks. The Medicare bill contains a six-city test of managed care, which would begin in 2010. This tiny experiment is what sent the Democrats up a wall. "We're not going to let seniors be herded into HMOs," Dick Gephardt harrumphed. Their alternative? Well, they don't have one. "Medicare should be left alone," said Howard Dean, who used to be more creative—and honest—about such things.

The vehemence of the Democratic assault was astonishing. The AARP, formerly a linchpin of the liberal coalition, was trashed by various liberals as a den of insurance-peddling moneygrubbers. House Democrats told me that minority leader Pelosi was twisting arms with unprecedented avidity—anyone who voted in favor was "no longer a Democrat," and plum committee assignments would go only to loyalists. I suspect this reflects desperation as much as principle. The Bush Administration is outsmarting the Democrats at every turn. The economy seems to be recovering. If Iraq is stabilized—a huge if—what will the Democrats run on? Their intellectual cupboard is bare, and the election may be slipping away.

Campaign Finance Reform? Gone. Prescription Drugs? Gone. Education? Gone. Abortion? It works in favor of the GOP now. Taxes? Democrats want to raise them. The Economy? It's booming. The war on terror? Democrats seem to oppose it. Iraq? Maybe, but by next Summer it's likely to have calmed down and Iraqis are likely to be at center stage, not us.

So what are the big new ideas for the Democrats? Ideas comparable to privatizing social services, voucherizing the social welfare net and education, reforming the tax code, and democratizing Islam?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Power in Washington is shifting (Tony Blankley, 11/26/03, Washington Times)

So complete was the FDR Democrats' acquisition of power in this city, that it has until now withstood the erosive assaults of Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Gingrich. Their total possession of the federal government from 1932-1946 engendered and brought to maturity the Democratic Party's sense of a birthright to power.

The first cornerstone of their actual power was, of course, the presidencies of FDR and Truman from 1932-1952. Their second cornerstone was control of the House of Representatives (the purse strings of government) for 40 straight years (and 58 of the 62 years) prior to the Republican take over in 1994. (They also controlled the Senate for almost as many of those years.) The third cornerstone was their domination, both physical and spiritual, of the unofficial power sources of Washington: the great law firms, lobbyists, trade associations, publicists, news organs, federal bureaucracies and think tanks. The fourth cornerstone was, in fact, their sense of a birthright to power. Republican presidents, when they came to Washington, couldn't deny that birthright, and felt like self-conscious interlopers — playing a perpetual away game against the hometown team.

Even when the first and second cornerstones (the White House and Congress) were taken away, the Democratic power edifice stood firmly on the real, but less visible, remaining ones. But slowly, the remaining cornerstones have begun to crumble, as the Democrats have become more attenuated in time from the House of Representatives — for 40 years their bulwark — and are frozen out of the remaining government. The Republicans — first, Newt Gingrich and now Tom DeLay and Speaker Denny Hastert — have been persistently prying the cold, almost dead, Democratic fingers off the law firms, lobbyists and trade associations. (They also have given and received succor from the new media of cable news, talk radio, the Internet and the now legions of conservative commentators.)

The Republicans have also begun doing to Democrats what Democrats did to Republicans for half a century — cutting them out of both the information and influence loop on legislation. The Medicare legislative process is a prime example. Over the last few months, when ranking Democratic congressmen and senators have spoken before vital trade associations, they have been unable to tell their audiences the status of Medicare legislation, for the simple reason that they have been cut out of the negotiations. On the other hand, key Republicans have been able to provide up-to-the-minute insights into the decision-making that can make or break whole industries.

It seems fair to measure the next cycle in American politics from the starting point of the GOP being able to reform an entitlement program on its own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Europe's Anti-American Obsession (Jean-Francois Revel, The American Enterprise)

For skeptics of democratic capitalism, the United States is, quite simply, the enemy. For many years, and still today, a principal function of anti-Americanism has been to discredit the nation that stands as the supreme alternative to socialism. More recently, Islamists, anti-modern Greens, and others have taken to pillorying the U.S. for the same reason. To travesty the United States as a repressive, unjust, racist society is a way of proclaiming: Look what happens when modern democratic capitalism is implemented!
This is the message of critics not only in Europe, but also in the United States itself, where anti-Americanism continues to prosper among university, journalistic, and literary elites. But in Europe, these ideological reasons for blaming America first are multiplied by simple jealousy of American power. The current American "hyperpower" is the direct consequence of European powerlessness, both past and present. The United States fills a void caused by our inadequacies in capability, thinking, and will to act.
Americans might ask themselves what interest the United States could have in plunging into the bloody quagmire of the Balkans, that centuries-old masterpiece of Europe's matchless ingenuity. But Europe found herself incapable of bringing order by herself to this murderous chaos of her own making. So it devolved upon the United States to take charge of operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The Europeans thanked the Americans afterwards by calling them imperialists--although they quake with fright and accuse the Americans of being cowardly isolationists the moment they make the slightest mention of bringing their soldiers home.
Certainly America, like all societies, has many defects and deserves criticism. But the intentional ignoring of facts begins with sociological preconceptions of the U.S.--the alleged absence of social protection, the notorious "poverty line," the supposed unemployment level. The fact that unemployment in the U.S. fell to below 5 percent in the 1990s, whereas in France it shot up to 12 percent, implied nothing good about America according to our commentators, who reassured us with the myth of America's omnipresent minimum-wage jobs!
At the advent of America's 2001 economic slowdown, French newspapers ran gleeful headlines announcing "The End of Full Employment in the USA." At the same time, the French government was frenetically heaping praise on itself for reducing unemployment levels to 8.7 percent--almost twice the American level (not counting the tens of thousands of the effectively unemployed who in France are artificially excluded from the statistics). By September 2001, unemployment in France had already climbed back to over 9 percent.
"The End of the American Economic Dream" was Le Monde's headline when there was a pause of the practically uninterrupted 17-year period of U.S. economic growth from 1983 to 2000. In truth, the U.S. has led a technological revolution without precedent, creating tens of millions of jobs while absorbing a tremendous population increase (from 248 million in 1990 to 281 million in 2000). All this was but a "dream"? Americans are regularly reproached for wanting to "impose their economic and social model" on others. But whenever there is an economic slowdown, other countries anxiously await an American-led "recovery."
While the U.S. is vilified and blamed, its financial and military aid is universally desired. America is the sole power at once capable of saving Mexico from economic collapse (in 1995), dissuading communist China from attacking Taiwan (repeatedly), mediating between India and Pakistan in the matter of Kashmir, and working with some chance of success toward the reunification of the two Koreas under a democratic regime. When the European Union sent a delegation, headed by the Swedish prime minister, to Pyongyang in May 2001, the delegation could find nothing better to do than grovel before Kim Jong Il, the criminal chief of one of the last totalitarian jails on the planet.
The fundamental role of anti-Americanism in Europe in general, and particularly among those on the Left, is to absolve themselves of their own moral failings and intellectual errors by heaping them onto the monster scapegoat, the United States of America.

Just glad we can help.

November 26, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Who Can Beat George W. Bush?: The pundits are whispering that either Dean or Gephardt is likely to be the Democratic nominee. Which one of them can win? (Jack Beatty, 11/26/03, Atlantic Monthly)

Another candidate could emerge, but let's assume this primary sprint will come down to Dean vs. Gephardt. Which man would be the stronger candidate against the President?

They share a liability that makes them weaker candidates than the other Democratic prospects: they would repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. Senators Kerry, Edwards, and Lieberman, as well as General Wesley Clark, would repeal only the cuts for the wealthiest Americans, leaving in place the child tax credit and other elements of the cuts for the middle class. In the first presidential debate, if either Dean or Gephardt is the nominee, George W. Bush will point to his opponent and say, "If your family income is $40,000 a year, this man will raise your taxes by over $1,200"—and for once, he'd be telling the truth about the distribution of his tax cuts. Gephardt or Dean would counter, "Yes, Mr. President, but with that $1,200 we will fund health insurance and education programs worth much more than that to middle-income families." But the programs are promises; the $1,200 savings is cash in hand.

That debate moment is the best argument for nominating someone other than Gephardt or Dean.

The answer to Mr. Beatty's question, as even he seems to realize, is: no one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Reviving Mideastern Democracy: We Arabs need the West's help to usher in a new Liberal Age. (SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM, November 26, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

For about a century...from around 1850 until about the time of the Free Officers' coup that toppled the monarchy and brought Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser to power in 1952, there flourished in Egypt a Liberal Age that is all too often unjustly forgotten in discussions of Arab politics today. Leading thinkers and writers such as Taha Hussein and the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naghib Mahfouz characterize that period, but there were literally hundreds of others. This was also a time of relative sectarian peace and tolerance. The great Oxford historian Albert Hourani's "History of the Arab Peoples" is a good primer on this and other aspects of political development in that period.

The Liberal Age came to an end after the Arab defeat at the hands of Israel in the 1948 war and the subsequent rise of military regimes across the Arab world. With ideological roots in populist nationalism, these governments soon became entrenched autocracies. Civil society groups, political parties, trade unions and the independent judiciary were among their early victims.

When we founded the Ibn Khaldun Center and as we guided its work throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, we had the Liberal Age very much in mind. We saw ourselves not as builders from scratch, but as revivers of a great (but not perfect) tradition that had existed not only in our country but also in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Morocco and elsewhere. We were and we remain determined that this liberal tradition--and the Egyptian Court of Cassation, as witnessed in our legal case, is part of this legacy--will not be forgotten. We believe that if these ideas receive the exposure they deserve, the memory of this tradition and, more importantly, the still-living relevance of its core teachings on rights, freedom, transparency, and justice, can play a large role in showing that democracy does indeed have a reasonable chance of putting down roots and growing in the Middle East.

Instead of the "paralysis by analysis" that comes from cataloguing all the familiar reasons why our peoples will "never" be ready for democracy, we choose to remind ourselves of the liberal options that were once open and can be open again.

Perhaps the appropriate posture to take is dubious, but hopeful?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Yemen Pursuing Second Top al-Qaida (The Associated Press, 11/26/03)

Yemeni security forces are pursuing a second top al-Qaida figure after capturing the alleged mastermind of the terror network's most dramatic attacks in Yemen, the bombings of the destroyer USS Cole and a French oil tanker, government officials said Wednesday.

Abu Ali al-Kandahari is one of two top al-Qaida leaders in Yemen, according to security reports published in the Yemeni press.

The other, Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, was arrested by security forces that surrounded his hide-out west of the capital, San'a, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Four men, believed to be al-Ahdal's guards, were also arrested.

Al-Kandahari is believed to be hiding in the northern provinces of Marib and Jawf, and security forces are closing in on him, said officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

He is reported to have replaced Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi after he was killed by a missile fired from a U.S. drone last year. Al-Harethi was thought to have been Osama bin Laden's top deputy in Yemen.

Lemme hear you say, Yemen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


For Democrats, A Wake-Up Call (David Von Drehle, November 26, 2003, Washington Post)

The wily and experienced Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) had his pocket picked. It was humiliating.

"It's an odd dynamic," said Eric Hauser, a strategist on the party's liberal wing. "When I came to Washington in the mid-'80s, the idea that Democrats ran things was just like the sun coming up in the east. Now, with each passing year, Democrats are less relevant."

Kennedy's experience with the Medicare bill was repeatedly cited as both pivotal and highly instructive. Earlier this year, he joined with Republican sponsors to get a prescription drug benefit moving, hopeful that the details would become more to his liking during the conference to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions.

"What Kennedy didn't realize is that the tide has changed," said James A. Thurber, an expert on congressional politics at American University. Instead, GOP leaders shut Kennedy out of the conference, stiffened the spines of their own party and enticed Breaux, Baucus and a few others with a few targeted tweaks to the bill.

Is this a sign of resignation to a long stretch in the minority? "Maybe," Thurber said. "These interest groups and some lawmakers may already be thinking there will be more Republicans in the Senate and the House next Congress and Bush will be reelected. And they think this is the best they're going to get."

Medicare Monstrosity (E. J. Dionne Jr, November 18, 2003, Washington Post)
The problem is that many conservatives, especially in the House, don't like Medicare as it is. They would prefer a system in which the government guaranteed everyone a certain amount of money that could be used to buy private health insurance. Ending Medicare as we know it is their long-term goal. They call this "expanding choice." [...]

Now, what does any of this have to do with a prescription drug benefit? Good question. If this were only about providing a limited prescription drug benefit, Congress could have debated the best ways to cut up the $400 billion it has allocated for this purpose. The amount covers a little more than a fifth of seniors' drug costs. Logically, this limited sum would have been best used to help the poorest seniors who are not now covered by Medicaid, and the sickest -- those whose drug costs are especially high.

Instead, Republican negotiators, joined by Democratic Sens. John Breaux and Max Baucus, went behind closed doors and decided to use the public's demand for drug coverage as an opening wedge to change Medicare. The shame of it is that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate had already reached a real compromise. The bipartisan proposal, crafted in cooperation with Sen. Ted Kennedy, was inadequate. Yet it was better than this bill. It passed the Senate overwhelmingly because it left the larger Medicare issues open for real debate later.

But House conservatives weren't willing to go that far. They want medical savings accounts, a tax cut for the wealthy in disguise, and they insisted on experiments with privatization.

At some point the question may well become not whether the Democrats are going to be a minority party, but whether they're going to be the minority party. If you're going to be in the minority, why not return to your principles, as Ronald Reagan forced the GOP to do. Yes, Republicans came to accept the New Deal to some degree, but they didn't return to power until they moved far to the Right. No one in the Democratic Party seems really interested in doing something similar and becoming forthrightly the party of big government again. This would seem to set the stage for the rise of a third party, perhaps growing out of the Greens, which would appeal to the faithful by moving Left and, as it became the more serious alternative to the Republicans, eventually force moderate Democrats into the GOP. The Democrats would go the way of the Whigs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


AARP Support for Medicare Bill Came as Group Grew 'Younger' (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MILT FREUDENHEIM, 11/26/03, NY Times)

Critics question just who AARP represents, and whether the interests of the elderly — in particular those 65 and older, who are eligible for Medicare — are really being served. They do not understand how AARP, a group whose mission has long included protecting the Medicare program, could support a bill that includes experiments with private competition and a means test that will require wealthy people to pay a bigger share of their premium.

"We've always felt Medicare was very important and should not be means-tested and should not be privatized," Lovola Burgess, AARP's national president from 1992 to 1994, said. [...]

But with the aging of the boomers, AARP officials said, they decided they needed to pitch to younger members. They also brought younger people onto the board; at 64, Mr. Parkel said he is the youngest president AARP has ever had.

The membership age was lowered to 50 from 55 and, to shed the word "retired," the group shortened its name to AARP. This year, for the first time, Mr. Novelli said, a majority of AARP members still work.

Marilyn Moon, a former director of public policy for AARP, said it had also become politically bolder. "They want to be players in the political arena," she said. "They want to be considered partners with people in Congress," which, she said, means "working with Republicans."

That is bad news for Democrats, who have long counted on the elderly as a reliable voting constituency. Among those most angered by the endorsement was Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who has long worked with AARP on health care issues, but broke with it over the bill. "I think they didn't speak for their constituency on this one," Mr. Kennedy said.

If "fiscal conservatives" are right and this bill has no reform potential in it, the Left has done a brilliant acting job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


India and Russia have much to lose (Ramtanu Maitra, 11/25/03, Asia Times)

Both Moscow and New Delhi are worried that the Taliban are gaining ground and that, despite the firepower Washington possesses, they could be back in the saddle in Kabul. What then?

According to a report by Agence France Presse, during the November summit discussions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the latter voiced concern over the Taliban threat in Afghanistan. "Events in Afghanistan cause anxiety; there exists a threat of the Taliban's return in one form or another," Vajpayee told Putin. The Russian president's reply, if there was one, was not reported.

But in a joint declaration following the summit, a paragraph was dedicated to Afghanistan, and the last sentence in that paragraph showed the concern: "India and the Russian Federation strongly believe that Afghanistan should emerge as a peaceful, strong prosperous, united and independent nation that would be free from external interference and living in peace and harmony with its neighbors." It is now on the record that neither India nor Russia really believes that Afghanistan, as it stands today, is emerging as a peaceful nation free from external interference. What they will do about it remains to be seen, but a review of the reasons for their mutual concern suggests some likely steps.

Perceive a threat? Get involved. Stop trying to ride our coat tails.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Dismantling al-Qaida (Fawaz A. Gerges, November 23, 2003, Baltimore Sun)

Since Sept. 11, U.S. officials and outside analysts agree, nearly 65 percent of al-Qaida's leaders have been killed or captured. About 3,400 al-Qaida suspects have been arrested in the United States and overseas, from Tunisia to Indonesia. Important logistical networks in Spain, Italy and Germany have been dismantled.

According to U.S. intelligence, most of the operatives who helped plan Sept. 11 have been accounted for, and those who have been captured have described their roles in the attacks. Al-Qaida's financial infrastructure is being steadily dismantled worldwide.

Much of the strength and growth of the organization during the 1990s resulted from its ability to operate from a geographical base with impunity, first in Sudan and then in Afghanistan. The training camps, safe houses and caves were the critical infrastructure for al-Qaida. That base is now gone. The leadership has splintered and gone underground.

Bin Laden appears to be in hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan and no longer in regular communication with his foot soldiers or his most senior deputy, Mr. Zawahiri. The London-based Control Risks Group said last week that al-Qaida's network has been largely dismantled and is leaderless.

So, that seems fairly comforting, eh? However, Who Is Fawaz Gerges?: Another problem Mideast scholar. (Jonathan Calt Harris, July 21, 2003, National Review)
Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, has emerged as a foremost media interpreter of the Middle East. He is a frequent guest of Paula Zahn on CNN, has appeared recently on The Charlie Rose Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is now a regular Middle East analyst for ABC News.

Gerges is typical of his field: He's yet another Middle East specialist who minimizes the threat of militant Islam while presenting the United States as a sinister force. Let's look at his thinking on four key issues. [...]

Militant Islam. Gerges consistently downplays the threat of militant Islam in general and Osama bin Laden in particular. One year before 9/11, he found that Osama bin Laden was "exceptionally isolated," and "preoccupied mainly with survival, not attacking American targets." He also ridiculed "exaggerated rhetoric" in Washington about the Bin Laden threat. Al Qaeda was no longer more than a "shadow of its former self," Gerges had the misfortune of writing, as bin Laden was "confined to Afghanistan, constantly on the run," and, "hemmed in by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt." Not just that, but his "resources are depleting rapidly." Gerges drew the bizarre conclusion that the U.S. government must have its reasons for "inflating his importance." Six months before 9/11, Gerges publicly ridiculed what he called "the terror industry" — his term for specialists voicing concerns about militant Islam — for fomenting an "irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on far-fetched horrible scenarios."

Plenty of other folks agree with the analysis of Mr. Gerges, but one takes his opinion with some caution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM

ENFLESHED (via Mike Daley):

Tolkien and the Gift of Mortality (Anna Mathie, November 2003, First Things)

Clearly, mortality is at the heart of this story. The subject has become a hot topic today, with Leon Kass and other "mortalists" arguing against a research culture that sees death and aging merely as foes to be overcome. If medicine succeeds in making man immortal, or even much longer-lived, the mortalists argue, much that makes human life worthwhile will be lost. Kass has used the wisdom of such ancient authors as Homer to illustrate his vision of mortality's benefits. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien makes a Christian case for the same claim. In Tolkien's world, immortality and long life lead even the noblest creatures to a spiritual dead end, or to outright corruption.

The virtues of mortality are most obvious in the great paradox of the book: that the very mortal Hobbits are the only ones who can resist the Ring's seduction and destroy it. Seemingly the most insignificant and lowliest race of all, they spend their (relatively) short lives in small pursuits. They have little use for lofty "elvish" ideas. As most characters in The Lord of the Rings remark, they are unlikely saviors of the world. In fact, their lowly mortality may be their greatest asset.

The Hobbits are firmly enfleshed. They love gardening, visiting, eating and drinking-"six meals a day (when they could get them)"-and parties and presents. Also, unlike the other lands we see, the Shire is full of children, for Tolkien tells us that Hobbits have very large families, Frodo and Bilbo being "as bachelors very exceptional." This is true of no other people in Middle Earth. The immortal Elves, of course, need few children. Arwen seems to be spoken of as one of the youngest of her people; they call her their "Evenstar." Legolas has apparently been his father's heir for aeons. The Dwarves, though mortal, are very long-lived, and they have
children so seldom that many believe they are not born, but grow from stones. They have few women, and even fewer children, as many women choose not to marry; likewise with the men, "very many also do not desire marriage, being engrossed in their crafts." The Ents seem to live more or less forever, but even they are dying out. "There have been no Entings-no children, you would say, not for a terrible long count of years," Treebeard tells the Hobbits. "The Ents gave their love to the things they met in the world, and the Entwives gave their thoughts to other things." Finally the Entwives disappeared altogether.

It is not only the older and the lesser races that have ceased to bear children. Barrenness also characterizes Gondor. Once great, the city has declined. Pippin sees there many houses that have fallen empty, so that "it lacked half the men that could have dwelt at ease there." Beregond the guard tells him, "There were always too few children in the city." When Faramir, younger son of the Steward of Gondor, meets Frodo, he explains his country's decay more fully:

Death was ever present, because the Numenoreans still, as they had in their own kingdom and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging. Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords
sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered old men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars. And the last king of the line of Anorien had no heir.

Personal immortality, or the lure of it, seems to turn members of all these races in on themselves. The Elves dwell more in their memories than in the present; the long-lived mortal races turn to glorious deeds in an attempt at personal immortality. For the Elves and the Ents, the result is a kind of lethargy. For men it can be far more sinister: in Boromir and especially in Denethor, Tolkien shows the pride and despair that come from the pursuit of personal immortality through individual glory.

The Hobbits have no illusions that they can in any sense live forever. As a result, they concentrate on immediate and animal concerns. They pursue immortality only by a far humbler and more mortal path, the ordinary, impersonal, animal immortality of parenthood. It's no accident that everyone who meets the Hobbits mistakes them for children at first. Even after long acquaintance, they are to Legolas "those merry young folk" and to Treebeard "the Hobbit children." Something about the Hobbits is so lively and natural that they invariably turn the minds of others toward childhood and children.

This fertility, this willingness to pass life on to a new generation rather than grasping for "endless life unchanging," is the Hobbits' great strength, as it should likewise be mankind's proper strength. It makes them at once humbler than immortals, since they place less confidence in their own individual abilities, and more hopeful, since their own individual defeats are not the end of everything. The life that lives for its offspring may never achieve perfection, but neither is it ever utterly defeated or utterly corrupted. Some hope always remains. The Elf Legolas and the Dwarf Gimli discuss this tenacity of mortals when they first see Gondor. Gimli observes in the older stonework of the city a promise unfulfilled by the newer:

"It is ever so with the things that men begin: there is a frost in Spring or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise."

"Yet seldom do they fail of their seed," said Legolas. "And that will lie in times and places unlooked for. The deeds of Men will outlast us, Gimli."

Here and throughout the book, seed is Tolkien's symbol for the hope peculiar to mortals.

Perhaps the saddest admission we can make about Western society is that we've shifted our hope for the future from our heirs to ourselves and to the futile dream of living forever, unencumbered by dependents. What makes it such a melancholy spectacle to behold is not just the selfishness it entails but that it is a denial of our nature--indeed, a denial of Nature itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Georgia's partner in democracy: US: A decade of US aid helped bring democracy to Georgia. (Scott Peterson, 11/26/03, CS Monitor)

From Paris to Pakistan, Americans have grown used to television footage of American flags going up in flames or being trampled under foot by angry crowds.

But in Georgia, a handful of American flags have been held high among the sea of opposition banners that protesters used to usher in their revolution - waved in gratitude for Washington's role in facilitating democratic change here.

"We are so grateful to the US and European Union, our friends that have supported us," says Giorgi Baramidze, a chief strategist of interim President Nino Burjanadze. "We can now teach our children how to defend democracy, using Georgia's 'Rose Revolution' as the example."

Senior US officials pushed diplomatic buttons before and throughout the crisis - in concert with Russia and others - making clear to all sides the dangers of a forceful crackdown or street violence. But untidy as the opposition's seizure of power has been, analysts say that billions in Western aid - and steady prodemocracy brow-beating - proved a key to regime change, one achieved without a shot being fired.

Iraqis' impatience, guarded hope: A week's travel through the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, and Sulaymaniyah yields a collage of intensely held views on new freedoms and the US occupation. (David Clark Scott, 11/26/03, The Christian Science Monitor)
Muayab Jajo hasn't written a poem about the fall of Saddam Hussein. But he speaks as if he's started one.

"Saddam's exit is like the lid has been lifted off our coffin; the light is pouring in," says the assistant professor of English literature, standing in a packed hallway at Baghdad University. He rhapsodizes about going on the Internet without restrictions and the end of a proscribed curriculum.

"Before, in my Introduction to English Lit class, I had to teach Blake's "The Sick Rose," and "Death of a Salesman," and "Wuthering Heights." All gloomy. All about death," he says. "Now, we read Steinbeck," he beams. "I received my BA, MA, and PhD here in English literature and never once was [John] Steinbeck even mentioned."

The before and after of the Hussein era is still crystallizing for most Iraqis. This is a nation caught in the eddies of a monumental transition. Ask an Iraqi if he's better off almost eight months after the arrival of US troops, and the answers are often contradictory - and based purely on personal experience. The attacks on US soldiers, say some, reflect a simmering anger over how Iraqi civilians are abused in the hunt for what the coalition calls "noncompliant" forces. But the same Iraqis say they would shoot Hussein if they found him.

Ahmed, who didn't give his last name, embodies the collective impression of impatient yet guarded hope that this reporter took away after a week of conversations with Iraqis and homesick US soldiers.

"This will be the last war," he declares firmly. This well-educated, middle-aged Iraqi left his family's computer-controls business last month to work with a Spanish NGO. He's making less money bringing medical care to children here. "The Americans are making a lot of mistakes. They don't understand the Iraqi culture. But I want to be a part rebuilding my country at the grassroots," he says. "This is the time to make a difference."

We may not be too deft, but it's hard to see how anyone can argue we aren't trying to do the democratic thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 AM


Another mugging on Capitol Hill (Albert Eisele, 11/26/03, The Hill)

The Democratic Party, one of the twin pillars of the American political system and a major force in Congress for much of the 20th century, died last weekend while working on Capitol Hill. It was 175 years old. The cause of death was injuries suffered from an apparent mugging while trying to rescue the New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society.

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said the victim’s body was found Monday in the excavation for the Capitol Visitor Center, shortly after Congress cleared the way for overhauling Medicare, the Great Society program created in 1965 that was considered the party’s most important legacy.

The time of death was uncertain, but it probably occurred between early Saturday morning and Monday afternoon, Gainer said.

Even though the body bore signs of a violent struggle, Gainer did not rule out the possibility of suicide, citing reports that the victim had been severely depressed since November 2000. [...]

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said he was sorry to see his party expire. But he expressed confidence that it would reconstitute itself in a few years, “as soon as Ted Kennedy and Zell Miller figure out what we stand for.”

Has our recent political history offered any more inexplicable sight than the Democrats handing credit to the GOP for a prescription drug plan that has been the centerpiece of Democratic campaigns for years now and, in the process, letting them begin the reformation of the entire Medicare program?

November 25, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Highlights of first year of 108th U.S. Congress (Reuters, 11.25.03)

Highlights of the first year of the 108th Congress, which neared completion of its work on Tuesday: [...]

MEDICARE: Congress approved the biggest overhaul of Medicare since the federal health program for the elderly and disabled was conceived in 1965 as a part of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society." The Republican-led House and Senate added a prescription drug benefit to the program along with free-market reforms.

TAXES: Congress passed a $350 billion, 10-year tax cut that accelerated planned income tax cuts and lowered taxes on dividends and capital gains to 15 percent. The tax cut was sought by Bush as a way to boost the economy. Lawmakers put off until early next year further action on legislation that would repeal tax subsidies for U.S. exporters that the World Trade Organization said violate international trade rules.

ABORTION: Congress passed a ban on a procedure critics call "partial birth" abortion after years of debate. If upheld by the courts, it would be the first federal restriction on an abortion procedure since the 1973 "Roe versus Wade" decision upholding abortion rights. [...]

JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS: Democrats blocked six of Bush's most conservative judicial nominees, two after an around-the-clock Senate debate during which Republicans accused them of unprecedented obstructionism. Democrats denied the charge, noting that they helped confirm 168 of Bush's other judicial candidates the past three years.

OVERTIME REGULATIONS: The administration has said that despite objections by most members of Congress it plans to implement changes in work rules that foes say would cost millions of Americans their overtime pay. Foes vow to keep battling the regulations in Congress, and labor promises to challenge them in court.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Duking Bobby Jindal (John Tabin, 11/18/2003, American Spectator)

"If there was a racist backlash against Jindal anywhere, it would be in north Louisiana, in Duke country," Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis told Rod Dreher of National Review Online after the race. To some extent, Blanco laid the groundwork for a such a backlash herself. She dusted off her maiden name and campaigned as Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. Voters encountered the full name on the ballot, where her opponent was listed as "Bobby" Jindal, complete with quotation marks (Jindal's given name is Piyush). Appealing to tribal instincts in the only state where Frenchness is still considered a virtue, Blanco's packaging of herself was designed to make it clear who had the deeper roots in Cajun country.

Such tapping of identity politics for ethnic whites is nothing particularly unusual or scandalous. The shamrock incorporated into Irish-American candidates' names is a staple of local politics across much of the Midwest and Northeast. It would be unfair to suggest that Blanco ran a racist campaign. At the same time, isn't it worth noting that the usual suspects, to whom unfairness rarely gives pause, haven't so much as raised an eyebrow?

It might be useful to file this case away as a yardstick for the future. There was a small amount of coverage of northern Louisiana's racial politics during the race -- Adam Nossiter's AP dispatch from last Friday, a set of quotes culled to make the town of Amite, Louisiana, sound as awful as possible (sample: "Really, you got a foreigner and a woman. So it's a hard choice to make"), was typical -- but the "Babineaux Blanco" appeal to "Duke country" has gone mostly unnoticed. The next time Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or Kweisi Mfume or any similar rabble-rouser announces a whiff of racism (or "racial insensitivity"), measure the grievance cited against this non-event. The comparison might be illuminating.

Nothing wrong with playing racial politics so long as you don't try to maintain you're virginal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Giving Thanks for Turkey (Ariel Cohen, 11/25/2003, Tech Central Station)

The 'Muslim democrats' of the ruling AK Party will inevitably be forced to fight Islamist terror. There are two major wings of the AKP: the liberals -- who seem to dominate the party's decision-making mechanism -- and the conservatives. The latter are led by Bülent Arınç, whose group has until now supported more radical positions when it came to divisive religious issues like wearing head scarves, and relaxed guidelines for religious education. AK religious radicals do not practice violence but are sympathetic to it. As Professor Ahmet K. Han of Istanbul Bilgi University said, "these radicals are creating intolerable legitimacy for terrorism."

In the aftermath of the terrorist bombings, the Turkish military, along with its traditional decision making elites, the "deep state" -- security services and state bureaucracy, the anti-EU groups, the hard-line support of Prime Minister Rauf Denktash of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus -- are all likely to place increased political pressure on the AKP to change its reformist policies. The level of pressure on the ruling party is also likely to be exacerbated by the economic ripple effect of terrorist attacks.

The recent terror attacks will have negative economic consequences on the brittle Turkish economy, which was barely recovering after a painful recession. Phillip Rosenblatt, a U.S. attorney practicing in Istanbul says that the attacks of the past weeks came at a time when the economic stresses had just begun easing up. "With little fanfare, the current Government had put wide ranging reforms in place to align Turkey's economic, social and political legislation with those in the European Community. Turkey hopes to receive a date from the EU at the end of next year to commence negotiations on full membership. Tourism to Turkey, which is $15 billion out of a total GDP of $200 billion, is almost certainly going to be hurt, especially if there are follow-up attacks on tourist targets along the Mediterranean coast."

The Bush Administration should welcome Turkey's firm commitment to fight terrorism and oppose its state sponsors. It should expand security and intelligence cooperation with the Turkish military and security services, initiating joint operations to penetrate Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist terrorist organizations.

Turkish and U.S. security agencies should jointly conduct an audit of potential terror targets, especially on and around the Bosphorus Straits and Incirlik US air base.

Finally, the U.S. should support Turkish economic, legal, and democratic reforms aimed at joining the EU, including declaring a date certain for Turkish accession to the EU by the end of 2004.

Why would we do that to an ally? Offer them their own bilateral free trade agreement and multilateral military pact (including Israel, Russia, India, etc.) instead.

After the bombs: Maureen Freely grew up in Istanbul. After Friday's terrorist attacks she caught the first plane back - and found the city bloodied but defiant (Maureen Freely, November 25, 2003, The Guardian)

This was Istanbul's September 11. They thought they were safe from the war on terror because they thought all Muslims were brothers. Now they know otherwise, and are unified in their condemnation of the terrorists, who cannot be "true Muslims". The fact that the terrorists staged this attack in the last days of Ramadan has added to their outrage. But no one is in any doubt why the city has become a terrorist target. How its residents respond to their new status depends very much on how much support they get (or fail to get) from the allies who dragged them into this. As one shopkeeper put it, "Surely, now that we have suffered this, the EU must open its arms to us." If it doesn't, or if the US gives the impression, as it has sometimes done in the past, that it is taking Turkey's "sacrifice" for granted, the sense of betrayal could be huge.

But right now, everyone's mind is on the present, on trying to survive. By that I do not mean that people are avoiding danger, but that they are quite adamantly refusing to let danger change the way they live. And God only knows they have had practice. In the past three years, they have been playing this game so much they have hardly had time to breathe. Begin with the earthquake, in which the official death toll was 18,000 but may well have been twice that. Continue with the crippling recession, which has yet to ease, and the crimewave that has followed in its wake. Even so, this has remained an exemplary city. To visit Istanbul over the past few years has been to see friends look after each other in ways that we in the privatised west have long forgotten. According to the local code of conduct, the most dangerous thing is solitude, the next worst thing is to sit at home behind closed doors. The worse things get, the more important it is to go out with your friends and do whatever you have to do to laugh adversity away.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Yemen Arrests Mastermind of Attacks on USS Cole (Fox News, November 25, 2003)

One of the top Al Qaeda members in Yemen was captured by security forces Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said, calling him a suspected mastermind of the homicide bombings of the USS Cole and a French oil tanker off the country's coast.

Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal was arrested after Yemeni forces surrounded his hide-out west of the capital, San'a, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried on the official SABA news agency. [...]

A U.S. counterterrorism official in Washington confirmed al-Ahdal's capture. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had been among the top 20 Al Qaeda figures at large.

Al-Ahdal played a role in the terror group's finances, weapons smuggling and operational planning and was well-connected to other extremists in Persian Gulf countries, the official said.

In neighboring Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, security forces foiled a planned terror attack in the capital Tuesday, killing two militants and seizing a car bomb ready to detonate on the first day of festivities marking the end of Ramadan, the Saudi government said.

If only Howard Dean, or someone else who was concentrating on al Qaeda, were president, we'd be capturing guys like this...oops, never mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Iran's hard-liners mourn ascendancy of secular influence: Even if they win the next election, many see change cannot be undone (Robert Collier, November 24, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)

Throughout the country, the religious hard-liners that have ruled since the 1979 revolution are no longer as wolfishly aggressive as they used to be, and that saddens people like Montazer Shubbar.

The 22-year-old medical student at Tehran University is a local leader of the Basij, the religious paramilitary organization that for years has acted as shock troops to intimidate democracy activists, crack heads and break up street demonstrations.

But these days, Shubbar laments, things have become too lax, and even the religious establishment doesn't have the backbone to crack down.

"Women wear their hijab way back, showing most of their heads," he said, referring to the Muslim shawl that should cover the hairline. "Young people play rock music. They insult the velayat-e faqih (Iran's concept of absolute power for top religious authorities) and the worst thing is that we can no longer act like we could before to stop them."

Surrounded by dusty piles of religious leaflets in the six-room cluster of offices at the medical school where the Basij monitors students' comings and goings, Shubbar sighs: "Even if we come back to power, we won't be able to change anything."

Conservatives are widely predicted to win a major victory in February's parliamentary elections, retaking control from reformers loyal to President Mohammad Khatami whose public support has evaporated because of political deadlock. It is expected that millions of disillusioned pro-reform voters will stay home, driving abstention to near-record highs, while the highly organized conservative machine brings its voters to the polls.

But the pace of social change -- mainly driven by the people themselves, not the government -- has gone so far that some say the reform process will continue even if the rightists regain power. Developments such as the Internet and the proliferation of illegal satellite TV dishes have irrevocably changed people's views on lifestyle issues such as the hijab, dating, music and freedom of speech.

If only they had the vision to do so, the clerisy could manage reform so that the necessary liberalization of government and economics doesn't necessarily destroy the good aspects of the faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Fervor and optimism: Scholars are detecting a growing interest in spiritual matters in France and throughout Europe (Uwe Siemon-Netto, 11/29/03, World)

Many Americans think of France as hopelessly godless, yet many young Catholics and Protestants have the fervor and optimism of Rev. LeBlanc. Among
Protestants, the French Reformed Church is no longer a hotbed of extreme left-wing agitation. The new crop of pastors is once again proclaiming the
gospel without political frills. Evangelical congregations are starting up at the rate of one every nine days.

France still appears outwardly post-Christian, but a new groundswell is making itself felt. New Bible translations and commentaries are hot-ticket items. Theological issues are creeping into more and more dinner discussions. Catechism classes for grownups have become so popular that some churches now have waiting lists. The influential publication Le Figaro recently ran an eight-part series about the reemergence of Christian intellectuals, who for the last half century had been hiding in cerebral catacombs. The Roman Catholic Church lacks priests--only 25,000 are left in a country of 60 million--yet committed lay leaders have taken over many tasks once performed by clergymen.

The French surge has its counterpart in other European countries.

We've mentioned before that the thought of African evangelicals re-Christianizing France is simply too delicious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Consumer confidence rises in November to highest level in more than a year (Adam Geller, 11/25/2003, Associated Press)

Steady improvements in the job market helped push consumer confidence in November to its highest level in more than a year, a private research group reported Tuesday.

After rebounding last month, the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose again to 91.7 in November, up from a revised 81.7 in October. The reading, the highest since September 2002, was well ahead of the 85.0 projection by analysts. [...]

Perceptions of the current economy improved, Franco said, a sign that ''consumers believe a slow but sure labor market turnaround is underway. The rise in expectations is a signal that consumers will end this year much more upbeat than when the year began.''

The strong one-month rise in the confidence reading shows that consumers are taking notice of recent reports on the nation's improving employment situation, economists said.

And if you want to see why Democrats are acting so hysterical, check out the subhead on this one: Economy grows at 8.2 percent pace in third quarter: Strongest showing since 1984 (Jeannine Aversa, 11/25/2003, Associated Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


No Child Left Behind Act: Facts and Fiction (Jay Mathews, November 11, 2003,
Washington Post)

The No Child Left Behind Act, in its second year, is the most ambitious federal effort to raise achievement in public schools in 38 years. It is also one of the most complicated education laws passed by Congress, leading to a host of myths and misinterpretations. Here are 10 statements about the law that experts say are heard often but are not firmly anchored in reality.

Reality? The critics couldn't find it with a map.

The Big Lie in Hollywood: The Hollywood Ten Were Not Victims But Villains (Michael Berliner, November 24, 2003, Capitalism)

Lie Number One: By requiring them to testify and then jailing them for refusing, the House Un-American Activities Committee violated the First Amendment, free speech rights of the Hollywood Ten. The truth: No one interfered with their freedom of speech. In fact, freedom of speech was not even an issue. HUAC was investigating a question of fact, the fact being membership in the Communist Party. The Committee did not ask anyone whether he believed in communism, but asked only whether he had joined the Communist Party. By joining the Party (an undisputed fact), the filmmakers were not merely making an ideological statement but were agreeing to take orders to commit actions -- criminal and treasonable actions, since the Party, and the Soviet government it served, was openly dedicated to the overthrow of the U.S. government. Therefore, there was a national security reason for the Committee to determine membership in the Party. In notes to herself prior to testifying as a "Friendly Witness" in 1947, Ayn Rand wrote that "Under American law, there is no such thing as a political crime; a man's ideas do not constitute a crime, no matter what they are. And precisely by the same principle, a man's ideas -- no matter what they are -- cannot serve as a justification for a criminal action and do not give him freedom to commit such actions on the ground that they represent his personal belief." Legal issues aside, there is an obscene irony in the Communist writers complaining that their right to freedom of speech was violated, since that right was precisely what the Communist Party was out to destroy.

Lie Number Two: The Hollywood Ten were persecuted by being refused jobs. The truth: They were denied employment by executives who were exercising the right to hire whom they wished -- a fundamental right in a free society. It was within the employers' right (and self-interest) not to hire writers who wanted to use their positions to eliminate all private property and private business. What the writers wanted -- in refusing to testify -- was the "right" to hide their ideology on the grounds that, were it known, they'd be fired. In other words, they wanted the "right" to defraud their employers. In a free society, there is a private right to boycott (which the Hollywood leftists used against hundreds of anti-Communists). The right to freedom of speech prohibits the government from interfering with the expression of ideas, and that means that an employer cannot be forced to propagate ideas he's opposed to.

Lie Number Three (the biggest lie): The blacklisted writers were humanitarian idealists. The truth: Their "ideal" was the sacrifice of the individual to the collective, a moral viewpoint endorsed by Marxism and put into practice by the Soviet government. It was an "ideal" that destroyed millions of human lives. The Communist Party championed by the Hollywood Ten was the same Party that -- under the leadership of Joseph Stalin -- exterminated millions of peasants in the Ukraine. The "persecuted" writers dutifully paid their dues to the Party whose reign of terror included murdering or banishing to Siberia anyone who remotely threatened its power. The Hollywood Ten littered their movie scripts with Soviet propaganda, the same Soviets who signed a non-aggression pact with Adolph Hitler. While the Hollywood Communists and apologists talked of peace, brotherhood, and workers' rights, their spiritual masters were perpetrating what is arguably the most murderous tyranny in world history, its victims estimated at 20-40 million people -- not including the tens of millions relegated to a sub-human existence. Far from being pitiable victims, the Hollywood Ten and their followers have the blood of millions on their hands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Psychophysics: How fielders arrive in time to catch the ball (Peter McLeod, NICK REED & ZOLTAN DIENES , 11/20/03, Nature)

Tracking an object moving in three dimensions, whether as an insect pursuing a mate on the wing or as a batsman aiming to hit an approaching ball, provides the spatial and temporal information needed to intercept it. Here we show how fielders use such tracking signals to arrive at the right place in time to catch a ball — they run so that their angle of gaze elevation to the ball increases at a decreasing rate while their horizontal gaze angle to the ball increases at a constant rate (unless the distance to be run is small). Allowing the horizontal angle to increase minimizes the acceleration that the fielder must achieve to reach the interception point at the same time as the ball.

Spooky--that's exactly how Mickey Rivers describes catching a fly ball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Best of the Web Today - November 21, 2003

The crybabies at the Council on American Islamic Relations say they're being persecuted in the funny papers. At issue is the Nov. 10 B.C. strip, drawn by Johnny Hart. The first panel features a man walking uphill, approaching an outhouse. Then the word SLAM appears, and the second panel shows the outhouse sitting atop the hill. The third panel has a cartoon bubble, as the man inside the outhouse says, "Is it just me, or does it stink in here?"

That's kind of stupid, but why would it be anti-Islamic? The Washington Post explains:

The first public questioning of this cartoon arose in a chat Tuesday, when a reader noted that the cartoon seemed to make no sense, except metaphorically. The reader noted that the cartoon contained six crescent moons--three in the sky, and three on the outhouse door--and wondered if this might have been a veiled slur on the world's 1 billion practicing Muslims.

The CAIR e-mail mentioned the moons, and also noted that Hart had drawn a prominent sound effect--"SLAM"--between two frames to accompany the closing of the outhouse door. The SLAM was stacked vertically, in the shape of an I, and could be seen to signify "Islam." The cartoon appeared on the 15th day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

First they came for B.C., then they came for the Wizard of Id . . .

Like everyone, we're big fans of Best of the Web, but that's just disingenuous. Based on Mr. Hart's own beliefs (see below) it is entirely reasonable to read the strip as a criticism of Islam. The question is whether it's unfair, not whether that's its intent.

Johnny Hart: Not Caving In: The cartoon characters of "B.C." reflect their imaginative creator, Johnny Hart. Especially his unapologetic faith in God. (Joe Maxwell, Christian Reader, March/April 1997)

Today, the gray-haired "gag man" (his own description) draws a caveman with ever-growing convictions. Hart believes the Lord put him into the cartooning world for a reason. Every prudent chance he gets, he takes advantage of it.

On Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—and many days between—Hart's characters offer messages reflecting the cartoonist's own firm belief in the gospel message. "I find myself trying to put the gospel into practically every strip I create without being obvious about it," he says.

Hart says he wants to create a "spasm" in his reader, putting a new twist on an old truth. [...]

In many ways, Hart is a preacher, only his congregation absorbs his message via America's mainstream newspapers as he brings light into the often dark daily news. People who don't read the Bible or attend church services often do read Johnny's comics.

He was gratified when a woman wrote to say that a "Wizard of Id" strip kept her from committing suicide. "The strip had no real mind-jarring message," says Hart, "so I just knew that [it was] God [who] had used it to reach that precious soul."

MORE: (via ef brown):
An open-and-shut case of hypocrisy (Mark Steyn, 25/11/2003, Daily Telegraph)

[W]hile Islamic lobby groups and the most distinguished semiotics professors in America are analysing Johnny Hart's outhouse joke, the European Union's Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has decided to shelve its report on the rise of anti-Semitism on the Continent. The problem, as reported in The Telegraph, is that the survey had found that "many anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups", and so a "political decision" was taken not to publish it because of "fears that it would increase hostility towards Muslims".

Let's go back over that slowly and try not to get a headache: the EU's main concern about an actual epidemic of hate crimes against Jews is that it could provoke a hypothetical epidemic of hate crimes against Muslims. You couldn't ask for a better illustration of the uselessness of these thought-police bodies: they're fine for chastising insufficiently guilt-ridden whites in an ongoing reverse-minstrel show of cultural self-abasement, but they don't have the stomach for confronting real racism. A tolerant society is so reluctant to appear intolerant, it would rather tolerate intolerance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:19 PM


Psychiatric Association Debates Lifting Pedophilia Taboo (Lawrence Morahan, June 11, 2003,
In a step critics charge could result in decriminalizing sexual contact between adults and children, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently sponsored a symposium in which participants discussed the removal of pedophilia from an upcoming edition of the psychiatric manual of mental disorders.

Psychiatrists attending an annual APA convention May 19 in San Francisco proposed removing several long-recognized categories of mental illness - including pedophilia, exhibitionism, fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism and sadomasochism - from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Most of the mental illnesses being considered for removal are known as "paraphilias."

Psychiatrist Charles Moser of San Francisco's Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and co-author Peggy Kleinplatz of the University of Ottawa presented conferees with a paper entitled "DSM-IV-TR and the Paraphilias: An Argument for Removal."

People whose sexual interests are atypical, culturally forbidden or religiously proscribed should not necessarily be labeled mentally ill, they argued.Different societies stigmatize different sexual behaviors, and since the existing research could not distinguish people with paraphilias from so-called "normophilics," there is no reason to diagnose paraphilics as either a distinct group or psychologically unhealthy, Moser and Kleinplatz stated.

The combination of moral relativism and increased life expectancy has created a unique problem for modern man: we now live long enough that the things we find most reprehensible come to be socially acceptable in our own lifetimes. In a few years people will spit the term "paedophobe" at us with the same venom as they now use the term "homophobe" and we''ll be considered aberrant for thinking that sex between adults and children is evil.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Powell defends US policy on Aids: American Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the US is making a greater contribution to fighting HIV/Aids than any other country. (BBC, 11/17/03)

The US secretary of state also rejected suggestions that it was unrealistic to allocate one-third of the money to programmes that promoted abstinence from sex.

He said: "Abstinence works, we know it works. If you're not actually transmitting the disease through sexual conduct, the disease will not be transmitted."

However, Mr Powell stressed that sexual abstinence was being promoted as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV and Aids that also included education, promotion of safe sex and condoms, treatment programmes and research into a cure.

"Abstinence is a good thing to teach young people before they're ready for the responsibilities of sexual activity," he said.

Colin, they hardly knew ye...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM


Hall of Fame Pitcher Warren Spahn Dies (Bart Barnes, , November 25, 2003, Washington Post)

His first major league season was in 1942, when he broke in with the Braves in Boston and made four uninspired starts. He was sent down to the minor leagues by manager Casey Stengel, reportedly for refusing to brush back Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He spent the next three years in an Army uniform, fighting in World War II in Europe. More than a half century later, Mr. Spahn was asked at a news conference in his native Buffalo if he'd ever felt more pressure than pitching in the World Series.

"Well, there was the Battle of the Bulge," Mr. Spahn answered, according to the Buffalo News. His Army service included duty with an engineering unit that worked on the bridge at Remagen, the last bridge left standing over the Rhine River, and he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

After the war, pitching major league baseball seemed easy, he said. "After what I went through overseas, I never thought of anything I was told to do in baseball as hard work. You get over feeling like that when you spend days on end sleeping in frozen tank tracks in enemy-threatened territory. The Army taught me something about challenges and about what's important and what isn't," Mr. Spahn was quoted as saying in Gary Bedingfield's "Baseball in World War II."

That seems a compelling reason for the draft--to teach an ever more juvenile citizenry what really matters in life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


FLORIDA (3/9 primary): Lieberman Leads Dem Primary Matchup; Bush Leads WH '04 Dems By At Least 20 (Hotline, 11/25/03)

General Election Matchups
Bush 56% Bush 59% Bush 56% Bush 58% Bush 57%
Lieberman 36 Dean 36 Clark 33 Gephardt 36 Kerry 34

[Pollster Brad] Coker said Bush's 54% "approval on conduct of the war" and 52% "confidence on the economy" mean "it will be very difficult for the Democrats to win in Florida" in '04 (Tallahassee Democrat, 11/25).

President Bush basically can contest the Pacific Coast states and then from Iowa to the East without having to worry about any state to in between or to the South.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM


Q3 economic growth revised up to 8.2% rate (Reuters, 11/25/03)

Robust business and consumer spending powered the U.S. economy ahead even more than first thought in the third quarter, the government said Tuesday in a report that showed corporate profits growing at the fastest rate in more than a decade.

Gross domestic product, or GDP, shot up at an 8.2% annual rate, more than double second quarter's 3.3% gain and the strongest quarterly advance in 19-1/2 years.

A month ago, the Commerce Department said GDP advanced at a 7.2% rate. Its revision surpassed Wall Street economists' forecasts for a 7.8% gain.

Well, those who were skeptical about the economic were right that they were wrong. They were just spectacularly wrong themselves about which direction the error lay in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Fury as France and Germany Escape Rule Breach Punishment (Geoff Meade, 11/25/03, PA News)

A decision not to punish France and Germany for consistently breaking single currency rules triggered a political backlash today. [...]

Conservative MEP and finance spokesman in the European Parliament Theresa Villiers said:

“Surely this must be the end of the Stability Pact.

“Why should any country comply with it, when the two biggest Euroland economies are flouting it and getting off scot-free?

“This is also another blow to the credibility of the euro. The Pact was billed as an essential way to make the euro work – now it is coming apart at the seams.”

European Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson MEP said:

“This shabby deal will endanger the ratification of Europe’s new constitution. Citizens may well ask what is the point of agreeing new rules to run the European Union if the big countries will ride roughshod over them when the going gets tough.”

“The European Parliament will want to conduct a thorough post-mortem on this sorry affair. The Commission has attempted to apply (the Pact) but has been overridden by self-interested member states. The onus now will be on the governments which have killed off the Stability Pact to create a workable framework to ensure the future stability of Europe’s currency.”

Those transnational institutions seem so wonderful when they're all in your mind, but give them substance and no powerful nation will ever bind itself by them.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 10:49 AM


Feeling Stuck? (Chronicle of Higher Education, Career Talk, 11/21/2003)

Question: I've been at my campus for many years and I'm tenured. But I'm not happy. The job isn't what it was when I took it. Everything is different now -- standards have risen, and if my job was advertised today, I wouldn't be competitive for it. I can't see myself languishing here for years in what I've come to find a toxic environment, but I don't think I could find a job with equivalent salary and benefits, which are barely enough to sustain us as things are. [...]

Mary: If you're an older faculty member in a tenured position that makes you unhappy, you may have more reason to hold back before abandoning academe.... Sometimes you are truly "stuck" and it may be the best decision to stay in your tenured job, do your best, and leave your work at the office at the end of the day. Don't take a bad work situation home and brood. Find something that will provide some joy in your life!...

Julie: If you can't move (at least for the time being), you have several options: You can start to distance yourself emotionally from your job ...

We know people in academe who are unhappy with their work but unable to leave their jobs, for a variety of reasons. We would like to end by listing some of the things those people have done to keep themselves going:

  • Worked to preserve a local watershed.
  • Raised show dogs.
  • Taken up aikido.
  • Taught aerobics and Pilates fitness programs.
  • Joined a rock band.
  • Participated in all kinds of writing.
  • Researched and written family histories.
    They've developed other interests and taken steps on their own to enhance their lives. You can, too.

  • Of course, the taxpayers, the ultimate source of the salaries of tenured professors, will not object if professors devote themselves to aikido, raising show dogs, and local political activism; nor will young would-be professors, or students, mind. So just follow this career advice and everyone will be happy!

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


    Refuting the Cynics (DAVID BROOKS, 11/25/03, NY Times)

    [A]round the middle of the 1980's, the U.S. and Europe started to diverge. The American work ethic shifted, so that the average American now works 350 hours a year — 9 or 10 weeks — longer than the average European.

    American fertility rates bottomed out around 1985, and began rising. Native-born American women now have almost two children on average, while the European rate is 1.4 children per woman and falling.

    Economically, the comparisons are trickier, but here too there is divergence. The gap between American and European G.D.P. per capita has widened over the past two decades, and at the moment American productivity rates are surging roughly 5 percent a year.

    The biggest difference is that over the past two decades the United States has absorbed roughly 20 million immigrants. This influx of people has led, in the short term, to widening inequality and higher welfare costs as the immigrants are absorbed, but it also means that the U.S. will be, through our lifetimes, young, ambitious and energetic.

    Working off U.N. and U.S. census data, Bill Frey, the indispensable University of Michigan demographer, projects that in the year 2050 the median age in the United States will be 35. The median age in Europe will be 52. The implications of that are enormous.

    Well, the divergence began with the differences between the American and the French Revolutions, but the rest is valid.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


    How Nietzsche Found Jesus: Was the antichrist really religious? (Stephen N. Williams, November/December 2003, Books & Culture)

    What if we need to correct our account of Nietzsche? What if the literature has avoided or missed important and positive things he has to say about religion, even about Christianity? What if Nietzsche found a friend in Jesus? Alistair Kee, of the University of Edinburgh, strikes out in the direction of answering these questions in his provocative book, Nietzsche Against the Crucified.

    Seven chapters conduct us quickly through some of the major Nietzschean themes. God is dead and, with God, Truth. Morality is gone and aesthetics is applied physiology. Christianity offers the ultimate in decadent resistance to a proper will-to-power. Then comes a hinge chapter, dealing with Nietzsche's thought on eternal recurrence. Here, Kee's thesis that Nietzsche is a fundamentally religious thinker, comes into its own, as he interprets this notoriously controverted teaching as a sign that the numinous mantle of mystical religious experience had settled on his subject.

    The way is opened for some reassessments. Nietzsche was a man of faith, a philosophical faith akin to religious faith. He even passes the christological test. For Nietzsche not only called Jesus the noblest human being‚ he meant it. He not only said that, from the earliest times, Jesus'
    followers had corrupted his message‚ he meant that, too, but, more significant still, he thought it important actually to say it. Why bother to do so unless you want to make a point of rehabilitating Jesus?

    Nor does Nietzsche embrace a free and independent human Jesus in the context of sheer godlessness. There is a concept of deity worth entertaining, the holy storm-God Jehovah, wreathed not in the holiness of moral goodness or of aesthetic beauty, but in a dreadful uncanniness. Believe in him or not, at least he would be a worthwhile character, president of an order that is neither benign nor moral, an order adequately represented in religion only by the God beyond good and evil that Nietzsche discerns in parts of the Old Testament. Cut it as you will, you will therefore find a religious thinker, if you take Nietzsche at his word. Indeed, Nietzsche is re-opening the question of religion for us‚ and on terms that are counter to the postmodernism foisted on him by familiar contemporary description. The bottom line is that Nietzsche experienced some kind of revelation that led him to perceive the natural order as religiously colored at its very roots. His is a knowing form of natural, pagan religion.

    My account is cryptic, but it just summarizes where the author more or less leaves his readers, with swirling waters surrounding Nietzsche's own position. Kee bequeaths to us the task of ordering our religious life and constructing our religious thought with the aid of Nietzsche's insights. This book is an example of those projects that seek both to separate the inspiration of Jesus from what later Christianity has made of him and to requisition the thoughts of a putative opponent of religious faith for the service of religion.

    It's all too easy to take "God is dead" as a shout of triumph, rather than to hear the undertone of lament that Nietzsche may have intended, On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemical Tract: Third Essay: What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals? (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1887, Translated by Ian Johnston):
    Isn't it the case that since Copernicus the self-diminution of human beings and their will to self-diminution have made inexorable progress? Alas, the faith in their dignity, their uniqueness, their irreplaceable position in the chain of being has gone. The human being has become an animal, not a metaphorical animal, but absolutely and unconditionally—the one who in his earlier faith was almost God ("child of God," "God-man" [Gottmensch]) . . . Since Copernicus human beings seem to have reached an inclined plane. They're now rolling at an accelerating rate past the mid-point. But where to? Into nothingness? Into the "penetrating sense of their own nothingness"? . . .Well, then, wouldn't this be precisely the way into the old ideal? . . .

    All scientific knowledge (and not just astronomy, whose humbling and destructive effects Kant understood remarkably well, "it destroys my importance". . . )—all scientific knowledge, natural as well as unnatural (the name I give to the self-criticism of knowledge) is nowadays keen to talk human beings out of the respect they used to have for themselves, as if that was nothing more than a bizarre arrogance about themselves. In this matter we could even say scientific knowledge has its own pride, its characteristically acrid form of stoical ataraxia [indifference], this laboriously attained self-contempt for human beings as its ultimate, most serious demand for respect, for the right to hold itself erect on its own (and, in fact, that's justified, for the one who despises is always still one more person who "has not forgotten respect" . . .). Does that really work against the ascetic ideal? Do people really think in all seriousness (as theologians imagined for quite a while) that somehow Kant's victory over dogmatic theological concepts ("God," "Soul," "Freedom," "Immortality") succeeded in breaking up that ideal?

    In asking that question, it's not our concern at the moment whether Kant himself had anything like that in mind. What is certain is that all sorts of transcendentalists since Kant have once more won the game. They've become emancipated from the theologians. What a stroke of luck! Kant showed them a secret path by which they could now, on their own initiative and with the most sincere scientific decency, follow their "hearts' desires". And similarly who could now hold anything against the agnostics, if they, as admirers of what is inherently unknown and secret, worship the question mark itself as their God? (Xaver Doudan once spoke of the ravages brought on by "l'habitude d'admirer l'inintelligible au lieu de rester tout simplement dans l'inconnu" [the habit of admiring the unintelligible instead of simply staying in the unknown]; he claimed that the ancients had not done this). If everything human beings "know" does not satisfy their wishes and, beyond that, contradicts them and makes human beings shudder, what a divine excuse to be allowed to seek the blame for this not in "wishes" but in "knowledge"! . . . "There is no knowledge. Consequently, there is a God"—what a new elegantia syllogismi [syllogistic excellence]! What a triumph of the ascetic ideal!

    Indeed, who that cares about the dignity of Man, as Nietzsche unquestionably did, could celebrate such self-dimunition?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


    The Three-State Solution (LESLIE H. GELB, 11/25/03, NY Times)

    President Bush's new strategy of transferring power quickly to Iraqis, and his critics' alternatives, share a fundamental flaw: all commit the United States to a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities. That has been possible in the past only by the application of overwhelming and brutal force. [...]

    The only viable strategy...may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.

    Almost immediately, this would allow America to put most of its money and troops where they would do the most good quickly — with the Kurds and Shiites. The United States could extricate most of its forces from the so-called Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, largely freeing American forces from fighting a costly war they might not win. American officials could then wait for the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences.

    This is okay as far as it goes, but raises the question of why the Kurds and Shi'ites should tolerate a Sunni state in their midst, rather than driving them south into Saudi Arabia and/or West to Syria.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


    Judging Michael Jackson and ourselves (Cal Thomas, November 25, 2003, Townhall)

    If Michael Jackson did, in fact, as it is alleged, have sex with a minor boy, what's wrong with that? The question is not meant to be cute; I am serious. If a male child was fondled or sodomized by Michael Jackson, why shouldn't he and the boy be allowed the orientation of their choice? If you disagree, who are you to impose your morality on them?

    Are you outraged by this? Do you think we have gone too far? Not far enough, some say. Yesterday's unacceptable (divorce, premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, group sex, domestic partnerships and, soon, same-sex marriage) are today's acceptable. It's just a matter of conditioning. Groups exist that promote adult-child sex. Expect an alliance - composed of academics, theologians and cultural commentators - to ram this home through the media, crushing whatever resistance remains.

    Nothing shames us. In pursuit of freedom we have embraced license and now licentiousness, throwing off all restraint.

    Folk on the libertarian Right will be quick to protest, but it's worth recalling that one of their icons, Pim Fortuyn, favored exactly this sort of thing.

    Jacko's the sick king of industry that preys on kids (Stanley Crouch, Nov. 25, 2003, Jewish World Review)

    [P]edophilia is the essence of the pop music industry, where children are exploited in every possible way by products arriving in the form of lyrics or images or dehumanizing perspectives.

    Our children are made hungry for things they cannot digest. Their narcissism is used against them, which is the exact technique of the pedophile who says to the child that he or she - unlike all those other kids! - is mature enough to be treated like an adult and to do things that other kids either don't understand or are too lame to appreciate.

    Our children are told that hostility, vulgarity, shock and sex are the weapons that best express their freedom from the adults who - hidden inside the industry like the Wizard of Oz - are setting them up to consume even more demeaning products.

    From any angle, Michael Jackson is no longer the man in the mirror. He is now the mirror itself.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


    The politics of Medicare: GOP sees victory; Dems await backlash (David S. Broder and Ceci Connolly, 11/25/03, The Washington Post

    With the Senate moving toward final congressional approval of his Medicare prescription-drug bill, President Bush has made a bid to break the historic political alliance between Democrats and senior citizens — a feat that could change the dynamics of next year's election and perhaps long-term partisan patterns in this country.

    But some Democrats, reeling from defeat on an issue they long saw as their own, said a voter backlash against a measure they consider deeply flawed could still work to their benefit. [...]

    During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush introduced a plan to subsidize drug purchases for low-income seniors and promised to "make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them." Republican ads, backed by extensive independent spending by pharmaceutical companies and business associations, were credited with reducing Democratic opponent Al Gore's advantage on the Medicare issue.

    "This is another core Democratic issue that will be in the Bush column come Election Day, alongside education," said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

    "It is a big short-term victory for Bush," said Democratic consultant Anita Dunn. "He can say he has actually done something on domestic policy and health care."

    Regardless of what one thinks of any of the many things he's done, Mr. Bush has certainly demonstrated that it is possible to govern America, even when it's as narrowly divided and bitterly partisan as it has been for the last 20+ years. Think back to December 2000 and the numerous predictions that he'd find it impossible to do anything significant because of bad blood over the election, losing the popular vote and only having a one vote margin in the Senate and then look at the list of things he's achieved--partial birth abortion ban, multiple tax cuts, Education reform, Free Trade authority, etc., not to mention two wars. If he does, as he seems intent on doing, run on a significant agenda for the second term (entitlement, tort, and tax reform) and works to increase the GOP margin in the Senate, he's well on his way to being the most important president since FDR, which was what his supporters dreamed he could be and why they stuck with him over John MCCain, who would have won easily in 2000, but was such a mainstream politician that he'd have made not a dent on the nation.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM

    PECK VS. THE PACK (via Mike Daley):

    Hatchet man: Dale Peck is the scourge of literary America, laying into everyone from Julian Barnes to Don DeLillo. Is aggression a critical virtue, and should British reviewers follow his lead? (Kate Kellaway, November 23, 2003, The Observer)

    There is a new verb in the US: to Peck. Or an old verb with a new meaning. Dale Peck is a literary one man bandit - he trashes everything he reads. Is this a dagger I see before me? Or a review by Dale Peck? He specialises in opening lines such as: 'Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation.' No one is let off lightly: Philip Roth, Julian Barnes, Jim Crace - name an author and they have all been Pecked. He has published three novels himself and is hyperactively well read, with an eye for detail and a transparent personal agenda about what the contemporary novel ought to be (as close to his own as possible). In the US, his reviews have caused a sensation. And in May, his collected criticism is to be published, on both sides of the Atlantic, under the title Hatchet Jobs.

    Reading his reviews, there is a sense that Peck's writing is motored by a rage that has little to do with literature. There are clues in his biography. He grew up on Long Island, the son of an alcoholic plumber. His mother died in mysterious circumstances when he was three and he has put it on record that 'violence' may have had something to do with it. When his father discovered his son was gay, he beat him up. Peck's father is important here, if only because his latest book is a 'memoir' about his father's childhood (What We Lost, published in February by Granta). Dale Peck emerges as a fighter with the evangelical zeal of a Jehovah's
    Witness for whom the End of the Novel is Nigh. He was educated at Drew University in New Jersey and took a creative writing course at Columbia. He was talent-spotted as a critic by James Wood, who commissioned him to write in the back pages of the New Republic, back pages that were to make front-page news.

    Peck's admirers value him because of the scale of his ambitions as a critic. There is an almost suicidal valour about seeing off so many writers with such assurance. And Peck is as scathing about the fiction of the past as he is of the present. The modernist tradition, he writes, 'began with the diarrhoeic flow of words that is Ulysses, continued on through the incomprehensible ramblings of late Faulkner and the sterile inventions of Nabokov, and then burst into full, foul life in the ridiculous dithering of Barth, Hawkes and Gaddis, and the reductive cardboard constructions of
    Barthelme, and the word-by-word wasting of a talent as formidable as Pynchon's; and finally broke apart like a cracked sidewalk beneath the weight of the stupid - just plain stupid - tomes of DeLillo'. In a single sentence: class dismissed.

    There's a far simpler, and more coherent, explanation than his being the gay son of a plumber: he's right.

    Critics on Reviews (Mary Gannon, March 2003, Poets & Writers)

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to call book reviewing a labor of love, except for the fact that it is so often a vilified profession. Reviewers are accused of having agendas and of cronyism, are called show-offs and career-killers. It’s a lot of heat to take for some free books, a few bucks, and a byline.

    So what’s the draw?

    “I think a lot of people have this itch to be in something that might be called the cultural conversation. [Reviewing] is one of the most direct paths in,” says Sven Birkerts, whose reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Esquire, and the Boston Globe, among other publications. “You really are interacting with authors and readers. You’re playing the culture sport, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing that.”

    For Laura Miller, Salon senior writer and biweekly columnist for the New York Times Book Review, the appeal of writing reviews is the appeal of writing in general—“getting a chance to work out what you think and to put your point of view out there as part of the big conversation. And it’s great to be able to read all these books that I might not have the time to read otherwise if it weren’t my profession.”

    Of course, not all books provide a singular reading experience, but there’s the thrill of finding those that do. “When you come across that sense of amazing discovery you think, ‘Boy, all those mediocre books—it was worth slogging through them to get to this,’” says Jonathan Yardley, Dirda’s colleague at the Washington Post Book World and also a Pulitzer Prize winner in criticism.

    Dirda says that the happiest hours of his life are those six hours in the evenings when he writes his weekly piece for Book World. The act of writing and the idea that his work serves “to keep reading going, to keep the excitement of books alive for another generation or two,” compels him.

    “Reading of any kind is a leisure activity,” says Miller, “and if we make people feel like they’ve wasted their time, they’re bored, they could have been watching Sex and the City, then all we do is discourage them from reading again the next time they have a choice. Our job is to be interesting and to make people feel like they’ve added something to their lives by reading what you’ve provided, even if all they’ve done is laugh.”

    But not everyone is laughing. Book reviewers and the state of book reviewing itself are often under assault, especially by authors. In the inaugural (March 2003) issue of the Believer, a monthly literary magazine, novelist and coeditor Heidi Julavits wrote in her introductory essay, “I fear that book reviews are just an opportunity for a critic to strive for humor, and to appear funny and smart and a little bit bitchy, without attempting to espouse any higher ideals—or even to try to understand, on a very localized level, what a certain book is trying to do, even if it does it badly. This is wit for wit’s sake—or, hostility for hostility’s sake.… I call it Snark, and it has crept with alarming speed into the reviewing community, infiltrating the pages of many publications.”

    November 24, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


    Hall of Famer, 82, won 363 games (Associated Press, , November 24, 2003)

    Warren Spahn, the Hall of Fame pitcher who won more games than any other left-hander in history, died Monday. He was 82. [...]

    Spahn was the mainstay of the Braves' pitching staff for two decades, first in Boston and then in Milwaukee. He pitched for 21 seasons, winning 363 games and posting 20 or more victories 13 times.

    The remarkable part was that he was 25 before he got his first major league win. [...]

    In 1943, Spahn went into the Army. He served in Europe, where he was wounded, decorated for bravery with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart and was awarded a battlefield commission. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge and in the battle for the bridge at Remagen, Germany, where many men in his company were lost.

    Spahn returned to baseball in 1946, and had an 8-5 record for the Braves.

    The next season, he emerged as one of baseball's best pitchers with a 21-10 record. He led the NL with a 2.33 ERA and became part of a pitching partnership with Johnny Sain that took Boston to the NL pennant the next year. Because of the Braves' thin staff, Boston's pitching was described as "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."

    Starting in 1947, Spahn won 20 or more games in 13 of the next 17 seasons. Only Christy Mathewson had as many 20-win seasons in the NL. Strangely, one of the years he missed that plateau was 1948, when he was 15-12 as the Braves won their first pennant since 1914.

    Equipped with a high-kicking delivery that baffled batters, Spahn became a dominant pitcher after that season, a consistent 20-game winner. Only once between 1953 and 1961 did he fail to win 20 games.

    Spahn led the NL in victories eight times, including five in a row from 1957-61, and led the league in strikeouts from 1949-52.

    He once said, "When I'm pitching, I feel I'm down to the essentials -- two men with one challenge between them."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 PM


    Balls of Glass: The New Republic has no shame. (Mugger, 11/24/03, NY Press)

    A few thoughts struck me while watching Shattered Glass. One, as an artistic achievement, it’s the Yanks’ Enrique Wilson, as compared to Gentleman’s Agreement or All the President’s Men taking on a Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays role. Second, the self-aggrandizement of the New Republic itself continues to be fairly repulsive; not only has the magazine advertised Shattered Glass constantly on its website, but the film’s conclusion, in which Lane is portrayed as a ticker-tape-parade-worthy hero for firing Glass, is just silly. It’s not as if the Glass saga at the weekly–Lane found out that nearly 30 of his articles were made up–was something to brag about. And the magazine’s Nov. 10 cover has a picture of Glass to accompany Jonathan Chait’s story "What the Media Can Learn from Stephen Glass: And What It Can’t."

    Talk about making lemonade out of rotten lemons.

    In addition, there were two galling factual inaccuracies in the film. When then-proprietor Marty Peretz (he now owns a third of TNR) fires Lane’s predecessor, the late Michael Kelly, it’s not mentioned even in passing that the bombastic Peretz canned one of the most influential journalists of the past generation because Kelly was unrelenting in his criticism, within TNR’s pages, of the magazine’s pet Al Gore. Also, gladiator Lane (who was a paid consultant for the film) is identified at the end as simply now working for the Washington Post, when in fact he, too, was let go by Peretz in 1999, in favor of Peter Beinart.

    (Beinart, actually, after a rocky start, has emerged as a talented editor, producing a mostly liberal magazine that nonetheless is eclectic enough to attract readers who can’t abide doctrinaire Bush-is-a-moron competitors such as the American Prospect, the Nation and the Washington Monthly.)

    Most obviously, that Shattered Glass could even be made–and that book publisher Simon & Schuster would pay real money to Stephen Glass to write a silly novel called The Fabulist, released last May–is an enormous statement about pop culture (of which the media’s an integral cog) today. Can anyone imagine that in 1981, after Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke had a Pulitzer Prize rescinded after it was revealed her winning series of stories was based on a composite character, that a movie would be made celebrating the Post’s soul-searching over the deception?

    Are there really enough journalists in America to make such a film profitable? Because, who else would want to see it?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


    Free trade negotiations continue (ABC, 11/24/03)

    Trade Minister Mark Vaile is in Washington this week to push along free trade negotiations between Australia and the United States.

    Mr Vaile will meet his US counterpart Bob Zoellick to identify any sticking points that must be resolved, if the two countries are to complete talks by the end of the year.

    The final round of negotiations start next week.

    Mr Vaile has confirmed access for Australian agricultural products to the US market is still being debated.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


    Czech warning (Arnaud de Borchgrave, 11/24/2003, UPI)

    Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Europeans are living "in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions, and cradle-to-grave social security" and are yet to realize "they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana."

    The Czech republic is a candidate for European Union membership, but in an interview with UPI, Klaus, who was elected president last February, made clear his distaste for the European Union. But he conceded "the political unification of Europe" is now in "an accelerated all aspects and in all respects."

    Klaus said the forward motion to a single political entity of 25 European nations "will not change until people start thinking and realizing they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana." The Czech president remains "convinced you cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state."

    Asked whether he could see the nation-state disappearing "with untoward consequences," Klaus replied, "That could well be the case. Remains to be seen whether it will be the nominal disappearance or the real disappearance. We could see the scaffolding of a nation-state that would retain a president and similar institutions, but with virtually zero influence. That's my forecast. And it's not a reassuring vision of the future." [...]

    The Czech republic is one of 33 nations in the coalition of the willing with boots on the ground in Iraq, but Klaus has been critical of the post-war transition to an Iraqi civilian government. "My concern was always what to do after the end of the war because I know something about the transition from a totalitarian regime to a free society," the Czech president told UPI. "This cannot be done by soldiers, or by foreigners. After we won back our freedom at the end of the cold war, there was a proposal to bring back Czechs who had escaped to Western countries and make up a new government of those people who had been living in free countries. Those who had lived the tragic communist experience said no the idea of foreigners organizing our transition back to freedom. We said we had to do this ourselves without outside influence dictating what we should do."

    Mr. Klaus seems wise on both counts--the danger of the EU and the importance of rapid Iraqification--though the latter is of more immediate concern.

    UPI interview with Czech president (Arnaud de Borchgrave, 11/24/2003, UPI)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


    -REVIEW: of Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy by Richard A. Posner (Richard Rorty, Dissent)

    Richard A. Posner, a federal appellate judge who is one of the most admired figures in the American legal system, thinks we...should put aside the illusion that the American public will gradually become better informed and wiser. He asks us to recognize that modern democratic
    governments, including our own, are better described as what Alan Ryan has called "elective aristocracies" than as examples of popular rule. We should take note of the tautologous but depressing fact that half the population has an IQ below 100. We should admit that "ordinary people have as little interest in complex policy issues as they have aptitude for them."

    Posner concludes that "deliberative democracy, at least as conceived by Dewey, is as purely aspirational and unrealistic as rule by Platonic guardians." What we have, and what we should be satisfied with, is an understanding of democracy that "accepts people as they are, does not think it feasible or desirable to try to change them . . . and regards representative democracy as a pragmatic method of controlling, and providing for an orderly succession of, the officials who (not the people) are the real rulers of the nation."

    To see the American political system in this way is to substitute what Posner calls "Concept 2" democracy for Deweyan "Concept 1" democracy. For
    Concept 2 democrats, democracy is "not self-rule" but is "rule by officials who are, however, chosen by the people and who if they don't perform to
    expectations are fired by the people." Concept 2 democrats "don't think that jawing in the agora is the most productive way for people to spend their time. They don't believe that politics has intrinsic value or that political activity is ennobling." Concept 2 democracy is a matter of balancing competing interests, not of debating the worth of ideas, and so is no more ennobling than commerce.

    Posner, a philosophy buff who cheerfully calls himself a "moral relativist," is happy to endorse Dewey's anti-foundationalist and contextualist views
    about knowledge, rationality, and morality. But he thinks, rightly, that "pragmatism has no political valence" and that Dewey's social hopes have
    nothing in particular to do with these views. "The connection between the liberal-visionary and the pragmatic" is indeed, as he says, "purely historical and contingent." Nor does he think that philosophical pragmatism has much to contribute to legal thought. Judges will not learn how to do their job better by reading Dewey and William James. Still, he says, "the pragmatic mood, the pragmatic culture that Tocqueville described, has given rise to a different pragmatism-what I call 'everyday pragmatism'-which has much to contribute to law." This latter sort of pragmatism is embodied in Posner's own distinctive "law and economics" brand of judicial decision-making. This approach relies on cost-benefit analyses of the socio-economic consequences of deciding a case in one way rather than another.

    "Everyday pragmatism," Posner continues, "is the mindset denoted by the popular usage of the word 'pragmatic,' meaning practical and businesslike,
    'no-nonsense,' disdainful of abstract theory and intellectual pretension, contemptuous of moralizers and utopian dreamers." Posner contrasts the
    application of this kind of pragmatism to law with the originalism of a Robert Bork and the moralizing of a Ronald Dworkin. In rejecting both, he
    sees himself as carrying through on Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes's criticisms of legal formalism. He is quite willing to drop the pretense that
    the federal judiciary is above the battle and to admit that it is as political an institution as are the other two branches of the federal government. [...]

    Still, there is something missing in Posner's account of American democracy. Maybe politics is not ennobling, and perhaps Hannah Arendt was wrong, as Posner argues she was, to try to invest the United States with the glamour of the Greek polis. Perhaps Dewey was overly nostalgic for the Burlington, Vermont, of his own youth-a period when the United States could still revel in its Tocquevillian newness. But just as Pericles was right when he said there was something ennobling about being a free citizen of Athens, there is still something wonderful about being an American-something that Posner has trouble taking account of.

    It is not for nothing that our democracy has been seen, by millions of people throughout the last two centuries, as more than just another arena of
    competition between interest groups. The United States has not been a beacon of hope for the world merely because American voters have been able to fire politicians who fouled up. Our country's self-image is still shaped, and its history is still being molded, by a Lincolnesque narrative of moral
    progress-progress made by appeals to the better angels of our nature.

    What both Mr. Posner and Mr. Rorty would appear not to have recognized is that there's something almost madly idealistic in the conservative faith that, though Man is Fallen and most men are dolts, a free nation can be made of them and you can on occasion get them to listen to the angels of their better nature.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


    Womb with a View: Why the feminists can't admit that most women favor the partial-birth abortion ban. (Noemie Emery, 11/24/2003, Weelkly Standard)

    If the sisters could tear their eyes away from the picture and read words instead, they might discover some interesting things.

    ONE is that over the past decade support for abortion has been dropping steadily among old and young people; women and men. A second is that sex does not effect people's views on abortion, except that women are slightly more likely to be pro-life than men. And a third is that, as Will Saletan's "Bearing Right" tells us, the arguments made by Quindlen and Goodman have always been losers outside of selected newsroom and neighborhoods, and that abortion-rights advocates have only been able to prevail among broad swathes of voters when they use the "conservative"/libertarian "hands-off-my-[anything]" language favored by the NRA.

    Polls taken over the preceding decade have not brought the sisters good news. Polls taken in 2003 showed those who described themselves as "pro-life" and "pro-choice" for the first time at parity and showed that support for abortion among college students had fallen 10 points in 10 years. Worse, a poll commissioned by a former head of Planned Parenthood showed that 5l percent of all women questioned (a great number of them with wombs, presumably), were opposed to abortion in all circumstances, except those of incest and rape.

    As CNN's Bill Schneider explained on the AEI website, "Only 30 percent of women endorsed the view that 'abortion should be generally available to those who want it,' down from 34 percent two years earlier." Thirty-four percent thought it should be "against the law except in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother," while 17 percent thought it "should not be permitted at all." Worse still, Republicans are shrinking the gender gap among women, who do not share this aversion to Bush and his programs. All of this is not exactly a secret, which makes the sisters' hysterics a matter of truly willed ignorance. They are not fighting the fringe--they are the fringe, camped out in the exurbs of public opinion in a state better known as denial. As Bush said in the bill-signing ceremony, the public isn't ready yet for a ban on abortion, and perhaps never will be. But it is moving, somewhat, in that direction, and away from les girls, and their theories. And everyone sees it but them.

    There's a lesson for the GOP here that's applicable with regard to gay marriage: if your message is righteous, just keep hammering it home and you can prevail in the long run, even when the social tide seems to be running against you.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


    Hawaii hosts Marshallese baby market (Kristen Sawada, 11/24/03,
    Pacific Business News)

    Hawaii has emerged as a staging ground for Marshallese women who come here to give birth and relinquish their newborns to American adoptive parents.

    It has become a free enterprise marketplace for Marshallese babies -- a lucrative industry that has skyrocketed since the late 1990s.

    So far this year, the state has had 47 adoption referrals for Marshallese children born in Hawaii, according to Child Welfare Services, which says adoptions have increased over the last few years though statistics weren't readily available. The cost to adopt a child is estimated at between $25,000 and $35,000.

    "It's really human trafficking and no one is really accountable," said Julie Kroeker, an anthropologist and program director for Small Island Networks, a federally funded nonprofit agency that works with Marshallese and Micronesians living in Hawaii. "It's not illegal but it's certainly unethical in my mind."

    The trade in babies stands to be big business as the developed world becomes desperate for youngsters, though the resurgence of nativism will probably mitigate against bringing in Marshallese babies.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


    Shevardnadze toppled by his political offspring (Straits Times, NOV 25, 2003)

    Like Shakespeare's tragic hero King Lear, 75-year-old Eduard Shevardnadze was ruined by those he loved the most.

    The young opposition leaders who toppled him from Georgia's presidency last weekend were people he had befriended, nurtured and launched on their political careers before they turned against him.

    At the climax of the drama, these opposition leaders who had been spearheading the protests invited themselves to his official residence just outside the capital to demand that he step down.

    Sitting across the table from the Georgian leader at that meeting were three politicians whom Mr Shevardnadze had done more than anyone to create.

    This story really does seem a tragedy. To the extent that any Soviet leader deserves credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union it would seem to be Mr. Shevvadnadze, who harbored few of Gorbachev's delusions that the system could be reformed and saved and who had the courage to resign when Gorbachev moved towards reimposing strict dictatorship. Alas, he stayed to long at the ball and retires in disgrace. In the final irony, he was shown the door by Russia and America working in concert.

    In Georgia, high hopes, hurdles: Acting president Nino Burjanadze pledged Monday to hold new elections within 45 days. (Scott Peterson, 11/25/03, CS Monitor)

    Led by interim president Nino Burjanadze, today's leaders - who were yesterday's opposition - will have to move immediately, analysts say, to balance Georgian dreams with the harsh realities of the dysfunctional kleptocracy Mr. Shevardnadze left behind. [...]

    The new leadership is focused on efforts to "move forward" with the economy, says a Western diplomat, though corruption remains a "very difficult issue." Graft permeates the Caucasus nation from the top, on down to the cops on the street, who, paid just $25 to $30 per month, take fines from motorists, send a portion "up the ranks," and then use the cash to "put bread on the table for their children," the diplomat says. Customs officials, he adds, are "presented with enormous temptations."

    It's issues like these that most rankle Georgians, despite weightier strategic questions about Georgia's possible suitability for EU membership or its role in a long-standing regional tug-of-war for influence between the US and Russia. "All Shevardnadze did was the deeds of a dictator, who uses his power for his own profit," says David Kikilashvili, a former factory worker, who was among those tending dying fires outside the parliament building Monday at dawn, as street cleaners began sweeping up the garbage left after Georgia's wild victory party just hours earlier. "Salaries, pensions, jobs. Nothing is working now."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM

    BLAME MOBIL (via Buttercup):

    Silence on sex selection This is the first in a series of editorials on the challenges raised by the October report of the President's Council on Bioethics. (Washinghton Times, 11/24/03)

    Some technologies seem to sneak up on the public. Their application becomes the norm before any thought has been given to their implications. That seems to be the case with sex selection, according to the recently released report from the President's Council on Bioethics, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Sex selection is simply choosing a child based upon its sex. It can be done through several different techniques: amniocentesis or sonogram screening followed by abortion; preimplantation genetic diagnosis followed by transfer of embroys of the selected sex; and pre-fertilization separation of sperm of the desired sex followed by fertilization and implantation. While some of those techniques were originally developed to screen for diseases, they are now being put to non-therapeutic purposes.

    While the oldest of those techniques have only been available since the 1970s, their application is already having a significant societal impact. On average, Mother Nature provides for 105 boys to be born for every 100 girls. However, with those human interventions, that ratio has become skewed in some societies, particularly those in the developing world. The ratio is 108.7 to 100 in Egypt, it is 110.9 in Pakistan and it is 117 to 100 in China. Some nations in the Caucasus region have seen ratios as high as 120 to 100. Such effects have not yet been seen in the United States, but they have appeared in other Western nations.

    Based on speculation about greenhouse gases, folks are prepared to dramatically scale back industrial growth. But where there's a measurable effect our own actions are having on the biosphere, no one wants to so much as acknowledge the problem. Perhaps we should start a rumor that the oil companies are paying for gender selection abortions.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


    The Origins of the Modern American Conservative Movement (Lee Edwards, Ph.D., November 21, 2003, Heritage Lecture #811)

    The central idea of The Conservative Mind, upon which American conservatism is essentially based, is ordered liberty. It is a blending of the sometimes contending requirements of the community and the individual, of individual freedom and individual responsibility, of limited government and unlimited markets.

    Kirk described six basic "canons" or principles of conservatism:

    A divine intent, as well as personal conscience, rules society;

    Traditional life is filled with variety and mystery while most radical systems are characterized by a narrowing uniformity;

    Civilized society requires orders and classes;

    Property and freedom are inseparably connected;

    Man must control his will and his appetite, knowing that he is governed more by emotion than by reason; and

    Society must alter slowly.

    The Conservative Mind was an impressive feat of scholarship--a synthesis of the ideas of the leading conservative Anglo-American thinkers and political leaders of the late 18th century through the early 20th century. The work established convincingly that there was a tradition of American conservatism that had existed since the Founding of the Republic. With one book, Russell Kirk made conservatism intellectually acceptable in America. Indeed, he gave the conservative movement its name.

    However, the intellectual pedigree of American conservatism goes much farther back in time than the 18th century. In a subsequent book, Russell Kirk wrote that the roots of American order were first planted nearly three thousand years earlier.

    Kirk used the device of five cities--Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia--to trace their development. The roots first appeared in Jerusalem, with the Hebrew perception of a purposeful moral existence under God. They were strengthened in Athens, with the philosophical and political self-awareness of the Greeks. They were nurtured in Rome, by the Roman experience of law and social awareness. They were intertwined with the Christian understanding of human duties and human hopes, of man redeemed. They were joined by medieval custom, learning, and valor.

    The roots of American order were then enriched by two great political experiments that occurred in London, the birthplace of parliaments and the guardian of common law, and in Philadelphia, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were written. The miracle of Philadelphia was that the delegates were able to resolve, for the most part, the conflicting demands of freedom and order. They created a true national government but not an absolute government. They designed something new under the political sun--a federalism which carefully enumerated, separated, and restrained the powers of the national government.

    1953--the year of The Conservative Mind--was a critical year in American politics and conservatism. Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated as President, signaling an end to the New Deal era. Conservatives such as Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, Clinton Rossiter, and Leo Strauss published works that could not be ignored. It was the year that conservatives began to coalesce, arguing and disputing all the while, into a political movement.

    Over the next 50 years, a succession of conservative philosophers, popularizers, philanthropists, and politicians marched across the American political stage. First came the philosophers, who presented their ideas usually in an academic forum. Next came the popularizers, journalists and the like, who translated the often obscure language of the philosophers into a common idiom. Finally came the politicians, whose attention was caught and whose imaginations were fired by the popularizers and who introduced public policies and campaign platforms based on conservative ideas. Throughout this period, prescient philanthropists underwrote the thinking of the philosophers, the journals of the popularizers, and the campaigns of the politicians.

    The history of American politics suggests that a political movement must experience these successive waves of ideas, interpretation, and action along with sufficient financial resources to be successful. [...]

    The liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in 1947 that "there seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals." Five-and-a-half de-cades later, the conservative columnist George Will wrote that we had experienced "the intellectual collapse of socialism" in America and around the world.

    The one political constant throughout those 50 years has been the rise of the Right, whose Long March to national power and prominence was often interrupted by the death of its leaders, calamitous defeats at the polls, frequent feuding within its ranks over means and ends, and the perennial hostility of the prevailing liberal establishment. But through the power of its ideas--ever linked by the priceless principle of ordered liberty--and the unceasing dissemination and application of those ideas, the conservative movement has become a major, and often the dominant, player in the political and economic realms of America.

    It's fascinating to watch the American Left try to revive itself by skipping to step three--setting up radio and television networks without bothering to reckon with their complete lack of ideas. Give the GOP an hour of free airtime on the networks to present a vision of the next four years and you'd get democratization and free trade abroad and an "ownership society", faith-based social programs, and radical tax reform at home. These are ideas about transforming America and the world. Give the Democrats an hour and you'd get...what?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


    Hugh Hefner's Hollow Victory: How the Playboy magnate won the culture war, lost his soul, and left us with a mess to clean up. (Read Mercer Schuchardt, December 2003, Christianity Today)

    One of the occupational hazards of Christian cultural analysis is the tendency to see Satan behind every sociological phenomenon with which you've personally struggled. One of the secret pleasures of this habit, however, is that occasionally you really do find him. [...]

    Hiding in plain sight in the June 2001 issue of Philadelphia magazine is Ben Wallace's essay "The Prodigy and the Playmate." In it Sandy Bentley, the Playboy cover girl and former Hefner girlfriend (along with her twin sister Mandy), describes Hefner's current sexual practices in just enough detail to give you a good long pause:

    "The heterosexual icon [Hugh Hefner] … had trouble finding satisfaction through intercourse; instead, he liked the girls to pleasure each other while he masturbated and watched gay porn."

    This statement may seem either shocking or trivial. But it points to that which Hefner's detractors have been saying for years: Pornography stifles the development of genuine human relationships. Pornography is a manifestation of arrested development. Pornography reduces spiritual desire to Newtonian mechanics. Pornography, indulged long enough, hollows out sex to the point where even the horniest old goat is unable to physically enjoy the bodies of nubile young females.

    Ultimately, Hugh Hefner is an old joke: a solitary master baiter. Armed with two-thirds of the truth and a well-lubricated marketing machine, he has played a large role in manipulating society into accepting his adolescent fantasy of false desire and technological gratification—a legacy that amounts to our generation's toxic dump.

    And, now in his late 70s, it's unlikely that Hefner will ever grow out of his self-serving, adolescent phase. You and I will have to wipe up his mess.

    Hard to decide which of the perma-Peter Pans in the news is the more the embarrassing case study, him or Michael Jackson.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


    Master and Conundrum: Can a Russell Crowe movie help the Democrats in 2004? (Knute Berger, 11/19/03, Seattle Weekly)

    The film's central figure is Aubrey alone, and best pal Maturin is demoted to the role of a nag who pricks the captain's conscience at inconvenient moments. In this, he's a bit like the Democrats. But though Aubrey is a Tory superhero fighting the French, let's also be clear about another thing. I've read Patrick O'Brian. I knew Patrick O'Brian. And George W. Bush is no Jack Aubrey. You never would have found Aubrey strutting around on deck crowing, "Mission accomplished!"

    In some ways, Aubrey has more in common with Bill Clinton. [...]

    He is an optimist. Aubrey is unafraid of long odds and is always confident of victory. He runs a positive campaign and offers his crew a clear vision of how things will turn out.

    He's a man of action. In battle, Aubrey's motto, from Lord Nelson, is "Go right at 'em." If need be, he'll run to live and fight another day. But Aubrey also believes you won't win by being on the defensive.

    He's cunning. And smart. In the film, Aubrey and his men overcome overwhelming odds by tricking the enemy. Stealth, trickery, inventiveness are all part of the arsenal. If you're outgunned, change the terms of battle and turn the tables on the enemy.

    He makes tough decisions. In the movie, Aubrey must literally cut loose a man to save his ship. Aubrey doesn't need a sign on his desk to tell you where the buck stops.

    He's compassionate. Aubrey doles out the occasional flogging, but he understands his people and is deeply loyal. He knows their needs, their desires, their ways--and he attends to them, without pandering.

    He's charismatic. Democrats tend to think rightness is more important than popularity--a fatal flaw. Natural confidence, smarts, sex appeal, and luck are essential parts of power (another Jack, Kennedy, had these). The Democratic candidate will need at least three of these four qualities to win.

    Some assertions defy comprehension.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


    -Culture of Vice (Robert R. Reilly, Orthodoxy Today)

    In The Ethics Aristotle wrote, “men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives.” This is also true when revolutionary changes are cultural. What might these “private” reasons be, and why do they become public in the form of revolutionary changes? The answer to these questions lies in the intimate psychology of moral failure.

    For any individual, moral failure is hard to live with because of the rebuke of conscience. Habitual moral failure, what used to be called vice, can be lived with only by obliterating conscience through rationalization. When we rationalize, we convince ourselves that heretofore forbidden desires are permissible. We advance the reality of the desires over the reality of the moral order to which the desires should be subordinated. In our minds we replace the reality of moral order with something more congenial to the activity we are excusing. In short, we assert that bad is good.

    It is often difficult to detect rationalizations when one is living directly under their influence, and so historical examples are useful. One of the clearest was offered at the Nuremberg trials by Dr. Karl Brandt, who had been in charge of the Nazi regime's Aktion T-4 euthanasia program. He said in his defense: “...when I said `yes' to euthanasia I did so with the deepest conviction, just as it is my conviction today, that it was right. Death can mean deliverance. Death is life.”

    Unlike Dr. Brandt, most people recover from their rationalizations when remorse and reality set back in. But when morally disordered acts become the defining centerpiece of one's life, vice can permanently pervert reason. Entrenched moral aberrations then impel people to rationalize vice not only to themselves but to others as well. Thus rationalizations become an engine for revolutionary change that will affect society as a whole.

    The power of rationalization drives the culture war, gives it its particular revolutionary character, and makes its advocates indefatigable. It may draw its energy from desperation, but it is all the more powerful for that. Since failed rationalization means self-recrimination, it must be avoided at all cost. For this reason, the differences over which the culture war is being fought are not subject to reasoned discourse. Persons protecting themselves by rationalizing are interested not in finding the truth, but in maintaining the illusion that allows them to continue their behavior. For them to succeed in this, everyone must accede to their rationalization. This is why revolutionary change is required. The necessity for self-justification requires the complicity of the whole culture. Holdouts cannot be tolerated because they are potential rebukes. The self-hatred, anger, and guilt that a person possessed of a functioning conscience would normally feel from doing wrong are redirected by the rationalization and projected upon society as a whole (if the society is healthy), or upon those in society who do not accept the rationalization. [...]

    Controversies about life, generation, and death are decisive for the fate of any civilization. A society can withstand any number of persons who try to advance their own moral disorders as public policy. But it cannot survive once it adopts the justification for those moral disorders as its own. This is what is at stake in the culture war.

    One can observe this process at work today as folks argue that gay marriage represents no significant change to the institution.

    Posted by Paul Jaminet at 2:40 PM


    It's worth a few minutes to review photos from Iraqi mass graves. (Via Healing Iraq.) May Saddam's victims rest in peace. May tyranny be banished from the earth.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


    A Mind That Grasped Both Heaven and Hell (JOSEPH LOCONTE, 11/23/03, NY Times)

    Forty years ago today, as the world mourned the assassination of an American president, the passing of the 20th century's most influential Christian writer was hardly noticed: Clive Staples Lewis, professor of English literature at Oxford and Cambridge, died on Nov. 22, 1963. In his ability to nurture the faithful, as well as seduce the skeptic, C. S. Lewis had no peer.

    Lewis was an atheist for much of his adult life, an experience that may have helped immunize him from the religious cliché, the reluctance to ask hard questions, the self-righteousness of the zealot. "Mr. Lewis possesses the rare gift," according to an early reviewer, "of being able to make righteousness readable." Lewis was not a theologian, but he expressed even the most difficult religious concepts with bracing clarity. He was not a preacher, yet his essays and novels pierce the heart with their nobility and tenderness.

    The lessons found within his writings continue to resonate today. In fact, it's hard to imagine a time when the need for sane thinking about religion was more momentous. Cite an act of terror, from the sniper shootings in Washington to the bombings in Baghdad and Istanbul, and faith is close at hand. Many are now tempted to equate piety with venality — or worse — and it's here that Lewis may have the most to teach us. [...]

    Many modern liberals dismiss Lewis's concept of the diabolical as a "medieval" superstition. Yet many religious conservatives seem to make evil the brainchild of God himself. For them, all individual and social sin — including the terror of Sept. 11 — is the perfect will of a Divine Judge (as the Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed at the time). Lewis disagreed: Evil is always man's doing, yet it is never his destiny. The power of choice makes evil possible, but it's also "the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having."

    The modern mantra of tolerance is evil disguised, precisely because it denies that one's choices matter.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


    Crash Course in Jewish History #67 - The Miracle of Jewish History (Rabbi Ken Spiro,

    Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: "Why, the Jews, your Majesty -- the Jews."

    An astonishing answer. The best proof of the supernatural that Pascal could think of was: "The Jews."

    We don't have to speculate what Pascal meant when he gave this answer, because he took the trouble to spell it out. (See Pensees, para. 620, p. 285.) Pascal said that the fact that the Jewish people survived until the 17th century -- to the time period when he was living -- was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon.

    There simply was no logical explanation for it.

    As we have seen from this series, Jewish history simply doesn't comply with the rest of history; it does not make sense. [...]

    Today there are approximately 12-14 million Jews in the world, where there should be 500 million. The reasons why: 1) persecution, and 2) assimilation.

    The greatest strength of the Jewish people is also their greatest weakness.

    Jews are a "stiff-necked" people. They have stubbornly clung to their beliefs and as a result outlasted all of the ancient empires of history while changing the way the entire world looks at morality and the concept of God. Jewish ideas -- of one God, of a loving God, of a universal vision for humanity -- have been at odds with the philosophies of all these empires, and to hold up that vision has required an unbelievable strength of character.

    And yet, what is the greatest weakness of the Jewish people? Their stubborn individuality makes them unbendable. Every Jew thinks he/she is right. The hardest job on earth must be to unify and lead the Jewish people.

    Of course, when unified, the Jewish people are an unbeatable force in human history.

    Folks like Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, and the Europeans say that we need to be impartial brokers between Israel and Palestine.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


    Raiders get home playoff game: Colgate hosts Massachusetts Saturday (CRAIG MUDER, Nov 24, 2003, Observer-Dispatch)

    The Raiders learned Sunday that they will host Massachusetts Saturday in first-round playoff game at Andy Kerr Stadium. Colgate got into the playoffs via the Patriot League's automatic berth - and was awarded the No. 4 seed in the 16-team field.

    Saturday's game, which starts at 12:30 p.m., will mark the first playoff game in Hamilton since the Raiders hosted Boston University in 1982 -- and just Colgate's sixth playoff berth ever. [...]

    The Minutemen (10-2, 8-1 in the Atlantic 10) are ranked No. 7 in the country. UMass's only two losses this year came against Delaware, another member of the I-AA playoff field, and Division I-A Kansas State. [...]

    If Colgate wins, the Raiders would host the winner of Saturday's Montana/Western Illinois game Dec. 6.

    The Raiders will enter Saturday's game with the longest active winning streak in Division I: 18 games. Tailback Jamaal Branch, a leading candidate for the Walter Payton Award -- I-AA football's version of the Heisman Trophy -- rushed for a school-record 280 yards and three touchdowns against the Crusaders, leaving him with a school-record 2,026 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season.

    "I'm biased, but for what Jamaal has done for us, he's deserving of consideration for the Payton Award," Biddle said. "Regardless of what league he's playing in, he's won games for us.

    The BU game in 1982 was played in the kind of ice and freezing cold that makes football nearly tolerable.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


    Candidates Plan Responses to G.O.P. Commercial on Terrorism (JIM RUTENBERG, 11/24/03, NY Times)

    The campaigns of Senator John Kerry and Howard Dean said on Sunday that they would begin showing television commercials in Iowa heavily criticizing a new Republican Party advertisement that portrays the Democratic presidential candidates as undermining President Bush while he fights terrorism.

    The plans for the two Democratic spots were evidence that the Republican advertisement served at least one of its intended purposes. It drew the Democrats into a debate on national security, which Republican Party officials believe to be the president's strong suit.

    Even the Democrats can't be this foolish. "I oppose the war" is a principled position, even if wrong. "We all support the war, but..." is just politics.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


    In disarray, U.S. anti-war movement struggles to make an impact (John Jurgensen 11/23/03, THE HARTFORD COURANT)

    What's an anti-war activist to do after war breaks out?

    Judging from the peace movement in the eight months since the invasion of Iraq, there seem to be three options: Admit defeat, find a new cause or keep up the fight. [...]

    Despite the unflagging efforts of core activists to keep the fires of public protest burning, there's no avoiding the fact that the anti-war movement failed. War happened in Iraq. It was, by definition, a crippling blow to the peace movement.

    "I think it's moribund. It's on life support," said Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology and journalism at Columbia University and author of "Letters to a Young Activist." After the war began, he said, "The movement shrunk back to its core of go-for-broke activists. Some of the sentiments are alive, but the movement demonstrated a few weeks ago in Washington that it's not capable of turning out the numbers that it did last winter."

    Gitlin was referring to the Oct. 25 march in the nation's capital, the first major street demonstration there since Baghdad fell in April. Although tens of thousands gathered to show their disapproval of White House policies, attendance was sparse compared with the coordinated protests that drew millions of people in February. [...]

    Besides the stamina required to protest an open-ended occupation of Iraq, the groups opposing White House policies are, as in the past, dogged by their many competing agendas: environmental degradation, globalization, human rights, the Patriot Act.

    "We have so many important issues. Where do we put our energy?" said Jim Galvic of Hartford, a regular at the Monday gatherings at the meeting house. "It's like we're getting sucker-punched from all sides. If we had one laser-like issue to rally around, it would make it easier. But what do you choose?"

    The point being that they weren't protesting the war, as such, in the first place, but hopping on a convenient vehicle to push their own petty personal causes.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


    George W Bush, tragic character (Spengler, 11/24/03, Asia Times)

    It is hard to label "tragic" anyone as cheerful and optimistic as President George W Bush. Perhaps more than any leader in history, Bush is a Christian. Religious conversion is the defining experience of his life, and it is in his nature to convert others. Because he is a 21st-century American and not a 12th-century Crusader, he preaches the ballot box rather than the cross; as I have argued elsewhere (Mahathir is right: Jews do rule the world, October 28) that amounts to the same thing. Telling in this regard was the president's London oration last week. No less than five references to "ideals" and "idealism" showed where his heart lies; recall his campaign declaration that Jesus Christ was his favorite political philosopher.

    Mephistopheles introduced himself to Faust as "ein Teil von jener Kraft, die stets das Boese will und stets das Gute schafft. (a part of that power, which always wants to do evil, but always does good)." Reverse this, and you have the tragedy of Bush: he wants universal good, but he will end up doing some terrible things. [...]

    "American tragedy" (despite Theodore Dreiser's dreadful novel) is something of an oxymoron, for America is the land of new beginnings. Tragedy invariably takes the form of a shadow from the past darkening the present and future. But something like the River Lethe girds the American continent, through which immigrants forget their past and with it their past tragedies. One might say that the American tragedy is the incapacity of Americans to understand the tragedy of other peoples. America can cherry-pick out of the nations those individuals who wish to be Americans, but it cannot force back on the nations its own character. Its efforts to do so have perpetually destabilizing consequences for other peoples. Not idly does Osama bin Laden denounce Americans as "crusaders".

    Spengler is right in so far as he goes, which is nowhere near far enough. America is unquestionably the most lethal and successful military power the world has ever known. But it has framed every one of its wars in messianic terms and has failed to achieve its stated goals in each. The Civil War saved the Union and freed the slaves, but left the South a much despised region and blacks an oppressed minority. In WWI we beat Germany, but left the Bolsheviks in power and the French and the British carving up the Third World. We'd destroyed enough of Germany and Japan in WWII that we felt compelled to help rebuild them, but left the Soviet Union in control of all of Eastern Europe. We more or less managed to contain the Soviets in the Cold War, but never asked ourselves why we weren't forcing them to contract if we really cared about the freedom of other peoples--meanwhile, the Korea and Vietnam wars and the confrontation with Cuba all left communist powers in place. And in the first Iraq War we easily expelled Saddam from Kuwait, but left his brutal regime in place at home. It's a pretty abysmal record.

    Now we confront Islam generally and insist that democratic forces be brought to bear on the entire region--via military power and/or political pressure--but there's no reason to believe that we'll stay committed for as long as it takes. Already--just two years after 9-11 and after improbably minimal military losses--the elites and the Democrats have pretty much abandoned ship and as the media, academics, etc. pound away at the war public support always fades too. If you were a betting man, you'd side with Spengler here and say that the clash of civilizations will be called off long before we reach its conclusion and that will indeed be tragic for the folks we leave behind.

    However, there are a few caveats that should be mentioned. First, just as in those prior wars, there have already been extensive successes, which are nothing to sneeze at--in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine people have the opportunity to choose more popular governments than they had before this all started. Likewise, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia to Iran and beyond, there's a recognition that if the Islamic world is to provide its people the standard of living and the basic human freedoms they desire, massive reform will have to occur. This is obviously not to say that Iraq will emerge as a full-fledged liberal democracy. It might even slip back into chaos or totalitarian oppression. But its people have an opportunity, unique in their history, to determine their own fate. That's a worthwhile thing.

    Meanwhile, it seems Spengler somewhat misses his own point: the necessity of the American tragedy. George W. Bush is more willful, clear-sighted and articulate in his advocacy of democracy than someone like Al Gore would have been, but the fact is that a President Gore would have cast this war in precisely the same light. America is so powerful and so isolated from the world (and has been for so long) that its own self-interest is never really implicated in global wars. In order to rouse the nation to war two things are necessary: a precipitating attack on us, no matter how dubious; and that the war conform to our vision of ourselves, as Spengler says, as crusaders for democracy (though he's quite wrong that we're 21st century crusaders--rather, we are the last 18th century nation). The President, whoever he be, has no choice in his war aims and his rhetoric if he hopes to lead America to world war. We actually believe all that stuff in the Declaration of Independence and think it applies to all men everywhere. We aren't unintentionally destabilizing; it's our national purpose whenever we go abroad (which we only do, John Quincy Adams not withstanding, seeking monsters).

    Last week we quoted the Battle Hymn of the Republic--it's worth citing one verse again:

    In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
    As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.

    That's the kind of vision that does indeed lead to tragedy--precisely because it is so grandiose--but it is also the vision that has made us history's singular nation. That other peoples do not measure up to our vision is a mild tragedy for us, but a great tragedy for them. If the Islamic world is impervious to globalization and remains backwards, corrupt, and totalitarian, it will put a dent in our view of humankind, but it will ruin a billion non-American lives. The American tragedy is minor from that perspective, isn't it?

    Last, Spengler (and everyone else) would do well to remember that, for America, these wars can never have a truly tragic ending. We will win the war on Islamicism, one way or another. If the Islamic world chooses not to reform and if attacks recur on our soil then this war will just be waged more brutally. Sure, we're in the midst of the warm fuzzy phase of the war, when we think we can bring democracy to people who must want it, but we've never been terribly bashful about destroying entire nations when they prove resistant to our initial offer. From Sherman's march to the sea to the firebombing, and eventual nuclear bombing, of WWII, we've shown the will to beat people until they have no choice but to change their ways.

    The Islamicists could avert this fate by turning their violence totally inwards and waging their war only upon Arab regimes. At that point we'd be quite likely to withdraw altogether and leave Islam to destroy itself, while we enjoyed the kind of free and affluent lives we'd offered to help them realize. That would be tragic to some degree. But it wouldn't be an American tragedy. We might even say that this is the American comedy: people go to war with us, with catadtrophic results for them, when all we really want is to be left alone, or, at worst, to help them be more like us. Who's the loser if they refuse?

    -ARCHIVES: The Complete Spengler (Asia Times)
    -The Break-Fast Club: Kuwaitis think America should be more assertive in the Arab world.
    (MATTHEW KAMINSKI, November 21, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

    The first stop tonight is the diwaniya run by Mr. Bishara's cousin. As I shake the hands of the dozen men there, I let slip that I'm heading up to Iraq the next day. Braced for a taste of Yankee-bashing, I get an earful of Americanophilia instead. It's soon clear this Ramadan is uniquely joyous: the first without Saddam Hussein, who overran Kuwait in 1990 before Uncle Sam kicked him out half a year later.

    Revenge is sweet, and profitable. Hotels are full and business is booming, a USC graduate who runs a catering business tells me. Kuwait's former finance minister, Youssef Ibrahim, whispers in my ear that "being next to Iraq is a golden opportunity." What about all the violence and political trouble? "I have no doubt the Americans will make it work," he says. At least someone's confident.

    Between the various stops, Mr. Bishara explains that of all the non-Iraqi Arab states, Kuwait alone can claim first-hand experience of the U.S. and Saddam's Iraq. For that reason, Kuwaitis believe in the U.S. project for remaking Iraq, and the Middle East.

    Mr. Bishara does have a gripe, however. "The U.S. made a mistake here," he says, thinking back to the 1991 liberation. "They had a free hand to liberalize this country and instead they packed up their troops and moved out. We had to fight even to restore Parliament."

    Today Mr. Bishara heads a pro-democracy group--no easy job in a state ruled by infirm septuagenarian emirs and permeated with a Saudi-style strain of religious and social conservatism. But educated Arabs have no trouble discussing democracy on "our" terms. Along with every Kuwaiti I meet this evening, Mr. Bishara studied in the U.S., getting his undergraduate degree at Columbia during the turbulent 1960s. "Those SDS guys were friends of mine," he says, before insisting that their protest tactics--taking over buildings, holding people hostage--wouldn't translate well to Kuwait.

    I ask how a Western-educated liberal can keep his wife from the diwaniyas or let his daughter live in a country as a second-class citizen. He responds with an understanding smile. "My wife wouldn't want to come here," he says, pointing to his roomful of friends at our final destination, a diwaniya organized by the deputy speaker of Kuwait's Parliament. "What's more, she would think it strange if I didn't come here."

    In this room, America and democracy come to dominate conversation.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


    No battles, no bombs … just the silent war: A sedate way of life in the Golan Heights masks the dispute over Israeli occupation. (Robert Tait, 11/23/03, Sunday Herald)

    Unlike the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the atmosphere here is sedate. But true peace it is not. For the Golan Heights is the site of Israel’s silent occupation, the one the world rarely hears about.

    No suicide bombers leave from here. There is no violent resistance from the indigenous Arab population. Israeli F16s do not carry out assassination strikes. Road blocks and checkpoints are not a feature. [...]

    Unlike their Palestinian counterparts, the mainly Druze Arabs of the Golan Heights are quiescent. In contrast to the residents of the West Bank and Gaza, the Golan Heights Arabs have benefited from higher living standards. Yet many express a yearning to be a part of Syria once again.

    In Majdal Shams, a town whose main square features a memorial to local leaders of a popular uprising against the French colonial rulers of Syria in 1925, Abu Jabil, 60, said he would never accept Israeli rule.

    “We still feel like we are living in Syria,” said Jabil, a ring-leader of a local rebellion in 1981 against a government attempt to impose Israeli identity cards on local people.

    But why does this national yearning not explode into the open? “The Palestinians are fighting to build a country,” Jabil said. “We have a nation, Syria, already. We are just waiting for this part to be given back.”

    The desire of local Druze to be reunited with their kinsmen in Syria is expressed at the “screaming hill”. Here, twice a year, people on either side of the border gather, microphones in hand, to shout their family news to relatives across the international frontier.

    But in nearby Massade a different view was expressed.

    Israeli soldiers relax at the Restaurant Nidal, a scene unthinkable in the West Bank. “It’s good for us here,” said the restaurant owner, Khaled Hassan, 30. “ People are scared that, one day, they will be returned to the Syrians.

    Would you want to be ruled by the Assads?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


    THOSE DIVIDED DEMOCRATS (Michael Barone, 12/1/03, US news)

    If the un-Dean wins, Dean's enthusiastic supporters will be bitterly disappointed. Some will not want to vote for a Democrat who voted for military action in Iraq. The Green Party nominee, whether Ralph Nader runs or not, could easily exceed the 3 percent Nader won in 2000. That would hurt with the electorate this closely divided. Just ask Al Gore.

    The Democrats' problem will be different if Dean is nominated. Their problem will be with American exceptionalism. That is the idea, shared by most Americans, that this country is unique and special, with unique virtues and special responsibilities--a city on a hill, as John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan put it, with the responsibility to spread freedom and democracy around the world. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were all American exceptionalists. So, as we have seen with ever increasing clarity, is Bush. Dean doesn't seem to be, and neither do most of his followers. When they say they want to take their country back, they mean they want the United States to take its place as just one of many nations, with no claim to moral superiority, heeding the cautions of France, Germany, and Russia; deferring to the United Nations or NATO; seeking the respect of the protesters in the streets of London or the opinion writers in Le Monde.

    Bad enough to project as much anger as Mr. Dean does, but conveying dislike for your own country is a truly dubious strategy.

    November 23, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 PM

    DALLAS DUPERY (via Mike Daley):

    How Moscow Undermined the Warren Commission (Max Holland, November 22, 2003, Washington Post)

    How is it that Americans have come to embrace a conspiracy theory that reads like a script written by the KGB, the CIA's mortal Cold War adversary? Well, it turns out that Moscow's relentless propagation of that virulent theory and its prevalence here are no mere coincidence. One of the more amazing stories to seep out of the former Soviet empire is the role Moscow played in exploiting Americans' psychological vulnerability after the assassination, and in preying on their devotion to due process. We can piece together this concerted effort only now with the release of documents from Soviet archives -- some disclosures authorized, some not. Taken together, they prove that the KGB played a central, pernicious role in fomenting the belief that the CIA was involved in Kennedy's assassination.

    The first inkling of an aggressive KGB posture is revealed in a document gratuitously cited by Boris Yeltsin in his 1994 memoir. In a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union dated Nov. 23, 1963 -- when Oswald was still alive -- KGB Chairman Vladimir Semichastny recommends publishing in a "progressive paper in one of the Western countries," an article "exposing the attempt by reactionary circles in the USA to remove the responsibility for the murder of Kennedy from the real criminals, [i.e.,] the racists and ultraright elements guilty of the spread and growth of violence and terror in the United States."

    Two months later, R. Palme Dutt, the Stalinist editor of a Communist-controlled British journal called Labour Monthly, published an article that raised the specter of CIA involvement without offering a scintilla of evidence. "[M]ost commentators," he wrote, "have surmised a coup of the Ultra-Right or racialists of Dallas. That may be; but the trail, if followed up seriously, seems to reach wider . . . on the face of it this highly organized coup (even to the provision of a 'fall guy' . . . and rapid killing of the fall guy while manacled in custody, as soon as there appeared a danger of his talking), with the manifest complicity necessary of a very wide range of authorities, bears all the hallmarks of a CIA job."

    Five months later, in June 1964, a freelance journalist named Joachim Joesten posited a strikingly similar analysis in his book "Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy?" Following a chapter on "Oswald and the CIA," Joesten asserted that the agency was beyond presidential control and bitterly opposed to Kennedy's policy of "easing the Cold War." It has long been a matter of record that Joesten's book was the first published in the United States on the subject of the assassination. Until the notes of a former KGB archivist named Vasili Mitrokhin were published in 1999, however, it was not known that Joesten's publisher, the small New York firm of Marzani & Munsell, received subsidies totaling $672,000 from the Central Committee of the Communist Party in the early 1960s.

    These early efforts to implicate the CIA met with little apparent success. But the KGB kept on trying and finally hit the jackpot once a relatively unknown New Orleans district attorney named Jim Garrison took a sudden interest in the assassination in late 1966. The word "dupe" has long been out of favor, but that's precisely what Garrison turned out to be after he arrested Clay Shaw in March 1967 and charged him with conspiring to assassinate Kennedy.

    That's the kind of intelligence work that we should be better at. Instead, it's up to the Weekly World News to report on Saddam and Osama's marriage and recent adoption of a baby.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM

    A VERY NECESSARY SAINT (via Michael Herdegen):

    From Village Boy to Soldier, Martyr and, Many Say, Saint (SETH MYDANS, 11/21/03, NY Times)

    Portraits of this young man, Yevgeny Rodionov, are spreading around Russia — sometimes in uniform, sometimes in a robe, sometimes armed, sometimes holding a cross, but always with his halo.

    He is Russia's new unofficial saint, a casualty of the war in Chechnya who has been canonized not by the Russian Orthodox Church but by a groundswell of popular adoration. [...]

    In pamphlets, songs and poems, in sermons and on Web sites, Private Rodionov's story has become a parable of religious devotion and Russian nationalism. The young soldier, it is said, was killed by Muslim rebels seven years ago because he refused to renounce his religion or remove the small silver cross he kept around his neck.

    It is the story his mother says she was told by the rebels who killed him and who later led her, for a ransom of $4,000, to the place they had buried him. When she exhumed his body late one night, she said, the cross was there among his bones, glinting in the light of flashlights, stained with small drops of blood.

    "Nineteen-year-old Yevgeny Rodionov went through unthinkable suffering," reads an encomium on one nationalist Web site, "but he did not renounce the Orthodox faith but confirmed it with his martyr's death.

    "He proved that now, after so many decades of raging atheism, after so many years of unrestrained nihilism, Russia is capable, as in earlier times, of giving birth to a martyr for Christ, which means it is unconquerable."

    As his story has spread, pilgrims have begun appearing in this small village just west of Moscow, where his mother, Lyubov, 51, tends his grave on an icy hillside beside an old whitewashed church.

    Some military veterans have laid their medals by his graveside in a gesture of homage. People in distress have left handwritten notes asking for his intercession.

    In a church near St. Petersburg, his full-length image stands at the altar beside icons of the Virgin Mary, the Archangel Michael, Jesus and Nicholas II, the last of the czars, who was canonized three years ago.

    No Church needs more to be reformed from the ground up, nor any society to be reformed by religious faith, nor any war revitalized with a sense of crusade.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 PM


    Democrats Insist Republicans Pull Bush Ad (JENNIFER C. KERR, 11/23.03, Associated Press)

    Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is demanding that Republicans stop showing their first television ad of the 2004 presidential race, which he called "repulsive and outrageous."

    The 30-second ad, featuring clips of Bush during his State of the Union address last January, portrays the president as a fighter of terrorism as Democrats retreat from the fight.

    "It's wrong. It's erroneous, and I think that they ought to pull the ad," Daschle told NBC's "Meet the Press" program on Sunday.

    "We all want to defeat terrorism," the South Dakota senator said. But "to chastise and to question the patriotism of those who are in opposition to some of the president's plans I think is wrong." [...]

    Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy called it an "attempt to stifle dissent." On ABC's "This Week," Kennedy said "dissent is a basic part of what our whole society is about."

    Senator Kennedy has it just about right--Democrats do have a right to dissent from the war on terror and advocate retreat.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM

    DAWKINS VS. DARWIN (via Mike Daley):

    Oxford Scientist Launches Sharp Critique of Religion (ASYA TROYCHANSKY, The Crimson)

    Despite the massive costs religion has imposed on human society, it persists because children do not question their parents' beliefs, renowned Oxfordscientist Richard Dawkins argued in a fiery lecture last night at Lowell Lecture Hall.

    Before a packed house of 450 community members, faculty and students, Dawkins argued that the widespread presence of religion -despite its lack of obvious benefits-suggests that it was not an evolutionary adaptation.

    Rather, he argued, religion is a societal norm that stems from children's psychological tendencies.

    "It is their unique obedience that makes them vulnerable to viruses and worms," Dawkins said.

    Society provides a breeding ground for the "virus" of religion by labeling children with the religion of their parents. Children, in turn, absorb these beliefs because they are conditioned to do so.

    Though it is universal, Dawkin said, religion is not widely beneficial.

    Rejecting the theory of many of his contemporaries, Dawkins argued that religion has not helped people to adapt or to survive.

    As a skeptic about evolution, I agree with Mr. Dawkins, but it's hard to see how anyone who does believe in it could.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


    Blair plans new laws to curb civil liberties: UK wants similar powers to controversial US Patriot Act (James Cusick, 11/23/03, Sunday Herald)

    SWEEPING new emergency legal powers to deal with the aftermath of a large terrorist attack in Britain are being considered by the government.

    The measures could potentially outlaw participation in a protest march, such as last week's demonstrations during President Bush's state visit, making it, in effect, a criminal offence to criticise government policy.

    In an attempt to give the UK government similar powers to those rushed through in the US after the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001, it is understood that a beefed-up version of current civil contingencies law is being considered. It will allow the government to bypass or suspend key parts of the UK's human rights laws without the authority of parliament.

    In the US, the Patriot Act has been widely condemned by civil rights groups throughout the US. Many lawyers have blamed the Patriot Act as an excuse for eroding civil rights that dated back to the founding principles of the US constitution.

    That the UK government is considering seeking similar power in a crisis situation indicates the heightened level of concern following the terrorist bombings in Istanbul.

    Somebody wanna hand Mr. Cusick a copy of the Constitution and the Patriot Act--such a law would be unconstitutional here.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


    Echo Sounder: Still going strong after 25 years: how do the Bunnymen do it? It’s all down to my je ne sais quoi Ian McCulloch tells Leona Gillan (Sunday Herald, 11/23/03)

    IAN McCulloch has been “belting towards” Echo And The Bunnymen’s 25th anniversary tour since early summer. “We wouldn’t be touring if it wasn’t for the fact that Warners were remastering five albums,” he cackles, “and I thought, ‘Bloody hell, it’s our 25th anniversary!’ Even though we had nine years off for bad behaviour.” [...]

    Without getting misty-eyed, the tour has forced Mac to appraise the Bunnymen’s place in rock history, darkly persuasive and hugely influential. Recently, it’s helped to have such high- profile fans as Chris Martin of Coldplay, but even at the height of their fame, the Bunnymen seemed to be born outsiders.

    “It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do. We were never tucked into a kind of age, it was never about rock’n’roll rebellion, it was always about thought and feeling and those kind of things. Timeless. That’s why the music has stayed timeless. I suppose the fact that I’ve still ‘got it’ helps. If I thought I didn’t have the je ne sais quoi I think I’d jack it. But it seems to be getting better.”

    As ever, he is completely earnest in his self-aggrandisement and forces you to ride along with his cast-iron belief that the Bunnymen are the best band in the world.

    They were a great band, but who knew they were even still together?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM

    GOP TAILWIND (via Kevin Whited):

    Istook changes vote, backs bill (Chris Casteel, 2003-11-23, The Oklahoman)

    His approval made the Oklahoma congressional delegation unanimously in favor of the sweeping Medicare bill. Reps. Brad Carson, D- Claremore; Tom Cole, R-Moore; Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne; and John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, also voted for it. [...]

    [C]arson, who is running for the U.S. Senate, broke with most members of his party to support the bill.

    "Adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare is a major step forward," Carson said in a prepared statement after the vote."This package is not perfect, but at least it gives us a basis to improve upon at a later date. AARP believes, as do I, that it is better to have a working piece of legislation on the table providing a prescription drug benefit than no assurance at all."

    As Brother Whited points out, Mr. Carson's vote is a pretty good indicator of where the political winds are blowing on this one.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


    Sharon floats plan that might include eventual dismantling of small settlements (RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, November 23, 2003, Associated Press)

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is floating a plan to draw a border with the Palestinians and dismantle small Israeli settlements if there is no progress on a U.S.-led peace plan, newspapers reported Sunday.

    The plan was leaked at a time when Sharon faces growing criticism at home. Several former security chiefs have said he is stalling on renewing peace talks because he wants to avoid making concessions and his support is slipping.

    Sharon told the Yediot Ahronot daily that he would present his new plan soon. "I just wanted the Israeli public to know that its prime minister has not stopped thinking about how to get out of the impasse with the Palestinians," he told the newspaper.

    The plan, as published in the major Israeli dailies, would kick in if efforts to resume implementation of the "road map" peace plan fails.

    In that case, Israel would draw its own border -- along the West Bank security barrier currently under construction to keep out Palestinian militants -- and uproot a few small settlements, the newspapers said. Some of the settlers would be moved to the Negev Desert and others to larger settlement blocs in the West Bank. Israel would also withdraw from Palestinian towns and release some Palestinian prisoners.

    This has been the inevitable--because best for Israel--outcome all along; it's just a shame they've wasted so many years getting to it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM

    PARADOX? (Via ESR: Musings):

    Where is the Middle East’s Sakharov (ASLA AYDINTASBAS, Jerusalem Post: Upfront)

    Historian Bernard Lewis explains this as the great paradox of the modern Middle East: the so-called moderate regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have populations irate with anti-American and anti-Western sentiments, while among the people in rogue regimes like Iran, Iraq and Syria, there is sympathy for the West and support for the new American mantra for regime change.

    Skeptical? Go take a cab in Teheran — where the drivers feel free to curse at the government in front of a total stranger and move on to discuss ways Iranians could achieve freedoms.

    In fact President George W. Bush’s speech earlier this month about promoting democracy in the Middle East could not have arrived at a better time for the Middle East. Predictably, the Arab (and European) media dismissed Bush’s idealism; scoffed at his mea culpa; banished the call for freedoms as a smoke screen to cover up the US occupation of Iraq. No surprises here.

    Instead of self-criticism, the official Middle East and its intelligentsia would rather revel in discussions of America’s past support for Saddam, the looting at the Baghdad archeological museum, the failures to find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, how the US companies are milking Iraqi oil, and so forth.

    BUT WHAT cannot be ignored by anyone is the quiet beginnings of an uprising against autocratic, repressive, and corrupt governments in the various corners of the Middle East and the Muslim world. The fact that practically all Muslim nations — with the exception of Turkey and perhaps Bangladesh — are run by regimes that are characterized as anti-democratic is an abomination first and foremost to Muslims. And we know it.

    "Any regime that represses is bad. But a dictatorship that combines state and religion is especially unacceptable. There is nothing Islamic about this," Hussein Khomeini, a Shiite cleric and the grandson terrible of Iran’s revolutionary radical Ayatollah Khomeini, told me a few months ago in New York. He looked exactly like his grandfather, but could he possibly be any further from the man who gave us the Islamic revolution?

    Mr. Khomeini is certainly right where Shi'a Islam is concerned, but it seems an open question whether Sunni Islam, as currently understood in most of the Middle East is inherently totalitarian.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


    Full Disclosure: The X Files: Forty years later, the CIA is still stonewalling. Time for the agency to come clean (Gerald Posner, 11/24/03, NEWSWEEK)

    “I am afraid ... they’ll kill me. Let me in,” the young man pleaded in halting Russian, sobbing in front of several KGB agents in the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. He desperately needed a visa to travel to Cuba, to help the Castro government protect itself against future attacks by the CIA.

    BUT THE CUBAN and Soviet governments had already turned him down. The KGB agents were his last hope. Growing increasingly hysterical, the man reached for his .38-caliber revolver, and swung it about in the air. “See?” he cried. “This is what I must now carry to protect my life.”

    The man: Lee Harvey Oswald. The date: Sept. 28, 1963—less than two months before he would be arrested in Dallas for assassinating John F. Kennedy.

    The accounts of Oswald’s desperate visit to those communist embassies in the weeks before his rifle shots would change the course of history have long been one of the case’s most troubling issues. Was Oswald alone or with someone when he went to the embassies? Did he threaten to kill the president? Did either Cubans or Soviets encourage him to undertake the assassination? While Cuban and Soviet officials—decades after the event—provided accounts of what transpired, there might be definitive answers closer to home, inside CIA files, in documents never released by the agency.

    From 1992 to 1998, an independent federal body, the Assassination Records Review Board, released thousands of records previously deemed too sensitive for the public. But more is needed. While the massive document release of the past decade reinforces the growing consensus that Oswald alone killed the president, there is a continuing failure by key government agencies—particularly the CIA—to disclose everything of relevance. Over the past 40 years the agency has too often served its own interests in this case, at the expense of truth and history.

    The CIA covering its bureaucratic butt instead of seeking the truth? Hush yo' mouf.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM


    Regime change (Christopher Shea, 11/23/2003, Boston Globe)

    MOVE OVER POLLSTERS, pundits, and other political psychics. Over the last few years, a "little-discussed theory of the American presidency" has had "startling, if unnoticed, success as a crystal ball," Swarthmore political scientist Rick Valelly argued last month in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The theory, he said, has predicted Clinton's impeachment, the Bush tax cut, and even the war on Iraq.

    Valelly was talking about a theory laid out by Yale political scientist Stephen Skowronek in his 1993 book The Politics Presidents Make. [...]

    Skowronek's theory rejects the pendulum metaphor in favor of a sequence of political creation, decline, and reconstruction. Only a few presidents, he argues, get to set an agenda that lasts for decades, and they are those who come into office when the nation has hit some kind of dead end: Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan. They "repudiate" the old order and set up a new "regime."

    Successive presidents from the same party will try to build on their predecessor's vision (as Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson built on Roosevelt's and the two Bushes built on Reagan's). But it gets harder and harder to do this with each new chief executive. Success breeds factionalization. Late-arriving presidents are apt to start "muscle-flexing" foreign wars, like Vietnam, to prove the continued potency of their political vision and consolidate their party's support.

    Finally, every regime dies. The last president it coughs up gets treated by history as a loser (unjustly, Skowronek thinks): James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter (who arrived long after the New Deal). They muddle through until the way is cleared for a new Great Repudiator.

    Of course, there are wild cards: presidents like Nixon (a Republican in a basically Democratic era) or Clinton (vice versa). As these chief executives follow their pragmatic paths, they get vilified, even by their own party, as slippery, calculating, and mongrel -- and suffer brutal personal attacks.

    How well does this theory account for George W. Bush? For all his talk of bipartisanship, he's a Republican trying to build on the Reagan legacy, which explains his aggressive tax cuts. And Iraq is a "classic muscle-flexing war," Skowronek says.

    One surprise is the absence of internal division within today's Republican party, which ought to be splintering by now. "There are two explanations," Skowronek offers. "One is that this Republican Party really is a new animal in American history, that is, a nationally organized, ideologically homogeneous party.... No regional differences or Main Street/Wall Street rifts." In that case, Reagan's regime might be proving even more robust than FDR's. The other is that 9/11 delayed the inevitable intra-party fits -- over fiscal discipline or gay marriage, say -- which may yet emerge in a Bush second term.

    If the theory has some validity--and it would seem to--we wouldn't expect to see fissures in the Reaganesque regime for several more decades. As other scholars have noted, the typical American regime tends to last about 70 years.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


    Primary colors: How a little-known task force helped create Red State/Blue State America (Mark Stricherz, 11/23/2003, Boston Globe)

    There have been a number of attempts to explain this growing divide. In their 1991 book "Chain Reaction," Thomas and Mary Edsall argued that the Democratic Party's embrace of the civil rights movement, followed by Nixon's Southern Strategy, caused many working-class whites to desert their ancestral party in favor of the GOP. In 1991, E.J. Dionne Jr. extended the argument in his book "Why Americans Hate Politics," contending that Republicans "were able to destroy the dominant New Deal coalition by using cultural and social issues -- race, the family, 'permissiveness,' crime -- to split New Deal constituencies."

    But both explanations are overly broad and incomplete. If region and culture divide the parties, it is not simply the legacy of the upheavals of the 1960s. It is also the legacy of a forgotten 28-member body called the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection (1969 -- 72), better known as the McGovern or McGovern-Fraser commission.

    The McGovern commission, chaired first by Senator George McGovern and then Congressman Don Fraser of Minnesota, ended the old boss system of choosing presidential nominees and helped create the modern presidential primary system. This led to a class shift in each party, as affluent liberals gained more power in the Democratic Party while working-class conservatives won more say in the GOP.

    Perhaps most importantly, the commission changed the rationale for choosing presidential nominees: Picking a candidate who was likely to win became less important than choosing one who represented the views of primary voters and special-interest groups. Today the legacy lives on in the insurgent candidacy of quintessential "blue-state" candidate Howard Dean. [...]

    The McGovern commission brought the old system to an end. No longer would party bosses have control over two-thirds to four-fifths of the delegates. Not only could they no longer appoint ex-officio delegates, but just as importantly -- and against the desires of many on the commission -- a number of state legislatures decided to institute new elections in order to comply with the jumble of new rules. Thus the modern presidential primary was born. In 1968, 16 states held primaries. By 1972, 28 did -- and George McGovern himself became the Democratic nominee. In 2004, primaries are scheduled in 33 states.

    The McGovern commission also changed the makeup of the party's followers. No longer would nonunionized working-class whites have the same influence in party affairs. As polls have consistently shown, they don't tend to vote in primary races, while college-educated professionals do. The latter are not only more civically engaged in general than their working-class counterparts, they are more knowledgeable about party affairs. As a result, more upper-middle-class voters joined the party and had more say within it. [...]

    Some conservative pundits have lately been chortling over the prospect of a McGovern-style debacle in 2004. But the point of the McGovern commission wasn't to win elections, but to transform the party. As McGovern himself says today of his commission's work, "I'm not saying we'd get a better presidential nominee. It just means that whoever we nominate would go through a democratic process. Democracy has always been a gamble, and if we make mistakes, at least they are our mistakes."

    Who but a man of the Left could say with a straight face that a system rigged in order to transfer power from the working and middle classes to the upper-middle represents a triumph of democracy?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


    For White House, 2 Bills Offer Route to Political High Ground (ELISABETH BUMILLER, November 23, 2003, NY Times)

    As President Bush flew over the North Atlantic on Friday, heading home from three days as the houseguest of Queen Elizabeth, he switched his attention from the glamour of royal Britain to the grit of American politics.

    From Air Force One, with his politically critical Medicare bill in precarious straits on Capitol Hill, Mr. Bush placed calls to pressure wavering House Republicans. Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political aide, had already made calls from Buckingham Palace, House Republicans said.

    So when the presidential helicopter landed at 6:20 p.m. on the White House South Lawn, it was no surprise that Mr. Bush strode over to the waiting television crews, quickly dispensed with pleasantries about his trip - ``Her Majesty the Queen was a great host'' - and made a pitch for the Medicare and energy bills, his top two legislative priorities, which were at that moment embroiled in frantic negotiations on Capitol Hill.

    The normally early-to-bed president made calls to the Hill into the small hours of Saturday morning, White House officials said, and kept up the pressure on Congress to pass the Medicare bill in his weekly radio address. ``I urge all members of Congress to remember what is at stake,'' Mr. Bush said.

    What was at stake for the White House was command of the high ground in the 2004 re-election campaign. [...]

    The goal of the White House, administration officials and Republicans said, was to get the two bills off the table and to leave national security and the economy as the chief focus of the president's 2004 campaign.

    One would merely note that the Democrats have spent 2003 trying to focus voter attention on national security and the economy in the mistaken belief those issues would help them. In the words of the sage: Duh?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


    Time for a new Boston Tea Party (Pat Buchanan, November 23, 2003, Townhall)

    "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it," thundered Andrew Jackson of the legendary chief justice.

    From the sublime to the ridiculous, we have one Margaret Marshall, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, ordering the state legislature to enact, in 180 days, a law giving homosexuals the right to marry. What is to be done with this Justice Marshall?

    The legislature and Gov. Mitt Romney should ignore the court, defy the order and submit to Massachusetts voters a constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between a man and woman, as God and nature intended.

    Massachusetts has been given an opportunity to lead the nation as it did in the 1770s, in breaking the power of a tyrrany. If Bay State legislators will refuse to pass the law demanded by the court, and Romney will refuse to sign such a law and orders the bureaucracy to ignore the court, what could the court do? Order his arrest? Declare him in contempt. So what? Reasonable people already hold the Massachusetts court in contempt.

    It's long past time to stop letting courts have the final say on constitutions.

    November 22, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


    Colgate Extends Its Winning Streak to 18 (The Associated Press, 11/23/03, NY Times)

    Jamaal Branch scored three times yesterday, including an 87-yard game-winning touchdown run, as visiting Colgate outlasted Holy Cross, 45-38, for its 18th straight victory.

    Branch's performance, in which he rushed for 280 yards, was needed for Colgate (12-0, 7-0 Patriot League) to win.

    Colgate led, 31-17, at halftime, but Holy Cross (1-11, 1-6) scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and held Colgate scoreless in that period to take a 38-31 lead into the fourth.

    Branch then rescued Colgate with two touchdowns, scoring on a 24-yard run to tie the score at 38-38 with 13 minutes 47 seconds left. Ryan McManaway of Holy Cross then punted to the Colgate 13, setting the stage for Branch to run 87 yards for the winning touchdown with 11:24 left.

    The Red Raiders of the Chenango Valley are the only football team that can call an undefeated season something of a disappointment, since they are measured against the immortal 1932 team that went: "undefeated, untied, unscored-upon, and uninvited."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


    U.S. takes first step away from S. Korea (RICHARD HALLORAN, 11/12/03, The Japan Times)

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit to South Korea this past week should be seen for what it really was, an early step in a long, gradual disengagement of U.S. land forces from South Korea and a greater reliance on sea power to maintain an American security posture in Asia.
    As he flew through Northeast Asia, Rumsfeld sprinkled clues about the future of U.S. military dispositions there even as he reaffirmed the American treaty commitments to South Korea and Japan. Other U.S. officials explained what the hints meant.

    A primary reason for pulling back from South Korea is that the U.S. needs the 17,000 soldiers of the Second Infantry Division elsewhere. As Rumsfeld and military leaders have said repeatedly, U.S. forces are stretched thin. The U.S. Army has only 10 divisions and cannot afford to have one tied down in South Korea.

    Related to that need has been the refusal of South Korea to send a division of 12,000 soldiers to secure a sector in Iraq, as requested by the U.S. Instead, Seoul will post only 3,000, and that will include the 700 already there.

    Moreover, anti-Americanism is so widespread that moving American troops out of Seoul and positions north of the capital will ease tensions only slightly. In a discussion of South Korea and North Korea, an American officer said, only half joking, "Sometimes I wonder which one is really our adversary."

    The cream of their crop is already here.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


    It's Time to Tear Down the 'Arab Wall' (Shafeeq N. Ghabra, November 23, 2003, Washington Post)

    [T]he Arab status quo has been challenged -- by President Bush's Nov. 6 speech urging the Arab world to adopt liberal democracy, by the war in Iraq and, above all, by internal forces such as the growing population of young and discontented subjects. Arab regimes that before Sept. 11, 2001, seemed stable and enduring now seem vulnerable to a militant brand of Islam such as al Qaeda's.

    As a result, there is now a faint possibility of a third way that navigates between the two dismal poles in an Arab world. This new form of politics could begin by opening up debate in the press, schools, streets, civic organizations and even in the mosques and husayniyyas (the annexes to Shiite mosques where political discussion often takes place). It could adopt laws that protect expression and political rights. And it could nurture forces that mediate differences between state and society, between religious and secular authorities, and between government and the radical opposition. These new forces in Arab society should then defend certain elements of the status quo as if the extremists were on the verge of taking power while seeking reform and democracy as if the radicals were not there threatening to fill the vacuum.

    The evolution of this third way in Arab politics will require years of expanding freedoms and reforms. And it will, inevitably, be something of an experiment. Yet the Middle East has experimented -- unsuccessfully -- with most of the last century's political faiths: socialism (in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen since the 1950s), communism (South Yemen in the 1960s), and state capitalism fused with monarchy (the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco). The Middle East has even experimented with homegrown ideologies, including Nasserism, Baathism and Khomeiniism. Just about the only ideology the region hasn't tried is liberal capitalist democracy of one form or another.

    If that admission weren't so poignant it would be funny--the only system they haven't tried is the only one that works.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM

    THE 13TH STEP:

    Recovery. It Can Be So Addicting (Mark Gauvreau Judge, November 23, 2003, Washington Post)

    Now that he's out of rehab and back on the job, there's no shortage of people offering Rush Limbaugh advice on his new life as a recovering drug addict. But I think I can offer the pugnacious radio talk show host some advice he's probably not getting: Listen, Rush. Whatever people tell you, recovery is not endless -- and it should not remain the center of your life.

    In 12-step circles, this is heresy. Once you get bounced into what alcoholics call "the rooms" of Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups -- those church basements where the recovering meet -- it's hammered into you that recovery must be the center of your life, every day, for the rest of your life. This is a self-defeating proposition. Admitting powerlessness and asking for help are signs of honesty and maturity. But making a fetish out of a long-ago disorder and engaging in groupthink are not.

    As someone once addicted to alcohol, I've logged many hours in the rooms. I've heard lots of self-aggrandizing stories of debauchery, which are common in the recovery culture. In most of these stories, individuals battle addiction to arrive at the truth that the world doesn't revolve around them -- yet often they still manage to make themselves the center of the universe. They spend years of their lives in a stupor of addiction; then, once sober, they spend years of their lives talking about it.

    AA and similar programs do remarkable, life-saving work, but Mr. Judge has it precisely right when he says that they've a tendency to leave the addict totally focused on self. The last step really needs to be the recognition that the Universe has a Center, and you aren't it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


    The Quiet Revolution: All eyes are on Iraq, but the most breathtaking democratic reforms in the Muslim world are happening in Turkey—with Islamists leading the way. (Stephen Kinzer, 12/01/03, American Prospect)

    The Turks, hoping more fervently than ever to join the European Union, are sliding out of the American orbit and steadily closer to Europe. Their new government has embarked on one of the most sweeping reform campaigns in the country's history. If this effort succeeds, Turkey will become important in a new way: It will be the counter-model to Muslim fundamentalism and a living example of how an Islamic country can progress by embracing what Kemal Ataturk called "universal values." That would make Turkey an even greater asset to the West than it was at the height of the Cold War. In the past, Turkey was strategically vital because of where it is; in the future, it may be vital because of what it is.

    The political earthquake now shaking Turkey was set off by two events. The first and more dramatic was the election of November 2002, which brought to power the first stable, single-party government the country has had in more than a decade. It was an amazing triumph for the Justice and Development Party, which had existed for less than two years, and also an expression of disgust with the encrusted political establishment.

    Then, just after that stunning election, European Union leaders promised that in December 2004 they would vote on whether to begin talks with Turkey about joining their elite club. These two events sent Turkey onto a frenzied course of reform that is breathtaking in its ambition—but also full of dangers.

    The new government has used its large parliamentary majority to pass a series of profound reforms aimed at expanding civil and political freedoms. One package was designed to reduce the military's power in politics. Another legalized broadcasting and education in Kurdish languages, a major breakthrough in a country where promoting Kurdish culture has long been considered seditious. Parliament also voted to expand the rights of religious minorities, impose heavy penalties on abusive police officers, and make it harder to punish citizens for what they say or write.

    Such reforms would be extraordinary in any Muslim nation. But what makes this scenario especially fascinating is the fact that the party leading this peaceful revolution has its roots in Islamic politics. Its leaders, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, shun the Islamist label and prefer to be called "conservative democrats." Both, however, pray regularly, avoid alcohol and are married to women who wear headscarves. Such people are often assumed to be intolerant. In Turkey today, however, their party is turning out to be more committed to democracy than any of the corrupt "secular" parties that bled the country for decades.

    A lot of folks got their panties in a twist when Turkey refused to co-operate during the Iraq war, but their interests in Kurdistan conflicted with ours and it's hard to see why they should have acted against self-interest. Our relations may well be difficult, but we'd be foolish to ignore things like Mr. Erdogan's recent visit to the bombed synagogues, which Turks themselves recognized as an extraordinary gesture.

    'Such Events Will Only Strengthen Our Resolve' (Engin Ansay [consul general of Turkey in Los Angeles], November 21, 2003, LA Times)

    The terrorism that took place Saturday in my country and again Thursday morning should not be classified as actions against a certain group, a particular people or religion, or political decisions and choices that Turkey has made. Rather, these are acts against all humanity, bearing the apparent signature, once again, of Al Qaeda. [...]

    The cowardly acts of recent days will also receive the appropriate response and the hand of justice. The perpetrators' only achievement is an evil, criminal notoriety and worldwide condemnation of their actions.

    Turkey, like Israel, is a democracy in an otherwise extremely volatile and unstable region. Last month, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic by Kemal Ataturk. We take pride in our democracy and in our secular way of life. The Turkish Republic is a living testimony to the idea that a country with a majority Muslim population can be a strong democracy.

    We regard the bombings of the synagogues, and Thursday's double bombing in Istanbul, as horrific attacks aimed at undermining our country. Who would be poisoned and naive enough to think that such an act of inhumanity would make a country do or not do something?

    How unlucky we are to witness the horror of ignorance that culminates in an act of despair such as this one. But we will not give up. Such events will only strengthen our resolve.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


    Congress Drops Fight for Overtime: Acceptance of New Labor Dept. Rule Ends Spending Bill Stalemate (Eric Pianin, November 22, 2003, Washington Post)

    Congressional leaders last night handed President Bush a major victory by dropping objections to his plan to revamp the nation's overtime pay policies, even though many lawmakers say it will cost millions of workers overtime benefits.

    A stalemate between the White House and lawmakers over the issue has held up passage of a $284 billion multi-agency spending bill needed to let Congress adjourn for the year. House leaders may seek passage of the spending measure as early as today.

    Bush's proposed new Labor Department rules would redefine eligibility for overtime pay, typically time-and-a-half after 40 hours of work in one week. Workers earning more than $65,000 a year could be denied overtime pay if their employers categorized them as administrators, professionals or other exempt employees.

    The administration says the changes would better reflect modern workplace realities, and make many low-income workers newly eligible for overtime pay.

    The House last month had joined the Senate Appropriations Committee in opposing the administration's plan. It marked a significant victory for Democrats and labor leaders, and Bush threatened to veto the spending package unless the overtime language was removed.

    No wonder Terry McAuliffe when asked if he feared being replaced in his job as DNC Chairman asked: Who would want it?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM


    Euro strong but endangered (Martin Hutchinson, 11/21/2003, UPI)

    The Cato Institute's 21st annual monetary conference Thursday, on the future of the euro, achieved more or less unanimous consensus: the euro can be expected to be very strong against the dollar in the next two years, soaring to $1.50 or more, but is in severe danger of disintegration in the long term.

    As Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund said, the euro was "a religion" and many of the reasons for inventing it in 1998 were non-economic. Nevertheless, it has had a fairly successful first 5 years, and now looks likely to be very strong against the U.S. dollar, because of the U.S. trade deficit, now 5 percent of gross domestic product, and the likely increase in the share of central bank reserves denominated in euros. [...]

    In the longer term, however, the euro has serious structural weaknesses, because of the unfounded pension liabilities in a number of eurozone countries. This would not be such a big problem if all countries of the euro zone had the same problem; the currency would simply enter a period of serious structural weakness and substantial inflation, as the problem was overcome.

    Jose Pinera, Chilean health minister 1978-1980, and instigator of the world's first privatized pension system pointed out that in the eurozone this was not the case. Some eurozone countries, Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg, have sound public finances, and others, such as the Netherlands (and, outside the eurozone, Britain) have substantial well funded private pension systems. However, there are a number of core eurozone countries, in particular Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Austria that have pay-as-you-go public sector pension systems, which appear attractive in their early years but the bills for which are now coming due as baby boomers retire and birth rates have fallen substantially below replacement levels. Immigration may mitigate the problem somewhat but is unlikely to solve it, since a solution would require that in 2030-50 young immigrants would be paying very high taxes to fund the social costs of aged locals -- a prospect unlikely to be politically feasible.

    The long term solution to this, according to Pinera, is for these countries to move to a privatized, fully funded pension system, similar to that now found in 23 countries, and abandon the pay-as you go system, originally invented by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who now "threatens to damage Europe in the 21st Century by this invention as much as he damaged it in the 20th by his other invention of a militarized German super-state."

    Not every country is lucky enough to have a Pinochet.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


    Spoiling (Carefully) for a Fight (MATT BAI, 11/23/03, NY Times Magazine)

    The general consensus this fall is that there are too many candidates and too many debates, and that they sound about as spontaneous as a George Foreman infomercial.

    ''They're not debates,'' Paul Begala, one of the party's leading debate strategists, said. ''You have a collection of people with their canned lines, some of them good and some of them not good, and they just recite them in random order. In fact, maybe we should just do that. 'Senator Kerry, could you please give us your line on Medicare?'''

    Begala said the best way to fix this mess would be to somehow winnow the field, giving a smaller number of candidates more time to answer each question. When I repeated this suggestion to Sharpton, who has clearly been the most agile debater thus far, he scoffed. ''What are we really talking about?'' he asked. ''A minute or two? It's not like some of them were on the verge of brilliance and then somebody cut them off!''

    I asked Sharpton to rate the debating skills of his rivals. Gephardt and Kucinich show the most passion, Sharpton said, while Lieberman is the most sure of his convictions. ''He don't care if they heckle or boo, that's who he is. I respect it.'' Dean, he said, ''can come off as arrogant or even mean-spirited.'' Sharpton likened Kerry to a prizefighter who scores well in every round but never lands the knockout punch.

    I asked him about Edwards. ''He suffers from his handlers maybe building something up that he couldn't live up to,'' Sharpton said, sympathetically. ''I don't blame him for that. I think sometimes you can be overpromoted, and it can hurt you in the end.''

    Some Democratic insiders, including at least one friend of the senator's, suggested to me that Edwards might have something to gain by remaining tepid. The 50-year-old candidate, who has already said that he will give up his Senate seat, would be a natural pick for vice president should he lose the nomination, and his chances will be better if he doesn't savage the eventual nominee.

    Nothing fires up the faithful like positioning yourself as the most tepid option in the race.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:17 PM


    Real Bush 'At Odds with Media Caricature' (Chris Moncrieff, 11/21/03, The Scotsman)

    US President George Bush is “totally at odds” with his media image, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said today. [...]

    “He is personally extremely engaging. He has a well-developed sense of humour, is self-deprecating and when he engages in a discussion with you he is warm and concentrates directly on you.

    “He looks you straight in the eye and tells you exactly what he thinks.”

    Mr Campbell, stressing that the President was “totally at odds” with his media image, went on: “I was not persuaded by what he said, but I was most certainly surprised at the extent to which the caricature of him was inaccurate.”

    As opposed to those accurate caricatures.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


    Conservatives leave 'closet' during rally (Bridget Smith, 11/21/03, [Penn State] Collegian)

    More than 100 students gathered on the steps of Old Main yesterday to announce their decision to come out of the "conservative closet."

    A little after noon, Penn State College Republicans chair Brian Battaglia began "Conservative Coming Out Day" by encouraging the audience to register to vote as Republicans and to research each candidate.

    Collegiate conservatives sure seem to have more fun than their opposition.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


    Is the deficit too small? (Richard W. Rahn, 11/20/03, Washington Times)

    The conventional wisdom is our federal government deficit is too large. However, the empirical evidence suggests the deficit might be too small. [...]

    The total federal government debt held by the public (which is the relevant number to be concerned about) dropped from 42 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1962 to a low of 25 percent in 1975, then rose to a high of 50 percent in 1993, and then dropped back to 33 percent in 2001. Currently, debt as a percent of GDP stands at about 35 percent.

    Since 1963, we have had 14 years when debt has been below 33 percent of GDP and 26 years when it has been higher. Conventional wisdom is that economic performance should have been better in the years when we had less relative debt, but the facts are the opposite. Real economic growth averaged 3.47 percent in the high debt years, which was almost 1 percent higher than the 2.59 percent average growth of the low debt years.

    Unemployment was also lower in the high debt years averaging 5.65 percent as opposed to 6.43 percent in the low debt years. Inflation averaged a whopping 7.6 percent in the low debt years, almost 3 times as high as the average 2.95 percent of the high debt years.

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates federal debt could grow to as much as 40 percent of GDP by 2005 and then begin declining again. From 1986 to 1999, it was above 40 percent, and we did quite well during most of those years. Recent data showing both much higher economic growth and higher inflation (meaning much higher nominal GDP) than the CBO forecasted means the debt GDP ratio in fact is likely to remain almost constant. [...]

    Finally, the analysis of the historical data clearly indicates that if we had properly structured tax cuts (like the first Reagan and the most recent Bush tax cuts) in 1969, 1973, 1979, 1989 and 2000 we may have avoided the recessions, with all their human misery and unemployment, that occurred the year following each of the above dates. Unfortunately, policymakers in all of those years were more preoccupied with reducing the deficits rather than keeping the economy growing.

    The lesson is clear, economic prosperity can continue, even if the federal government never balances its budget, provided it keeps government spending from growing as a percentage of GDP, and has an ongoing program of removing tax and regulatory impediments to growth.

    This has only been obvious for two hundred years now.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


    ABIZAID OF ARABIA: General John Abizaid has driven big changes in the American
    military. Now, as he commands U.S. forces in the Middle East, his ideas are being put to the test. (Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 12/03, Atlantic Monthly)

    This past July, a week after taking charge-as the chief of what the military calls Central Command-of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, the four-star Army general John Abizaid stepped over the line. He deliberately used the loaded word "guerrilla" to describe the escalating Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation-something his civilian superiors had gone out of their way to avoid. Reporters pounced, even as soldiers quietly applauded Abizaid's candor. The Administration let it go-testimony to Abizaid's standing in the Pentagon, where he is said to be one of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's favorite officers.

    And not only Rumsfeld's. To a remarkable degree Abizaid is admired by his fellow officers, many of whom have said outright that he is uniquely suited to oversee the increasingly complex and bloody occupation of Iraq. Indeed, Abizaid's entire life seems to have prepared him to be the military proconsul of an Arab country in chaos. But now the question is whether he can step up from a career of triumphs in smaller arenas to take on the nation-building challenge of the decade.

    Lieutenant Colonel Hank Keirsey (now retired) got a firsthand look at Abizaid's approach when the general commanded an airborne brigade in a war-games exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana, back in 1995. "He was probably at his best in the chaos of the 'low-intensity' fight," Keirsey recalls, "the one that most usually confuses the modern American commander." In the phase of the exercise simulating a "high-intensity" war, against a conventional, tank-heavy force, Abizaid's performance was unspectacular, marred by gaps in the performance of his staff. But in the phase simulating a "low-intensity" war, against Third World insurgents, Abizaid's unit killed more guerrillas than any other Keirsey had ever seen. Discarding standard procedure ("He operated that brigade almost by ignoring his staff," Keirsey recalls), Abizaid improvised quick counterstrikes and repeatedly turned the tables on his would-be ambushers. This unconventional approach to warfare was not how the Army had taught Abizaid to fight. It was something he had largely taught himself.

    It's helpful to find your Creighton Abrams six months into the war instead of six years.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


    Bid to Change Social Security Is Back: Bush Aides Resurrect Plan for Personal Retirement Accounts (Mike Allen, November 21, 2003, Washington Post)

    Bush aides said he will make the longtime conservative goal more palatable by discussing changes to Social Security as part of a set of plans encouraging what he calls an "ownership society" in which minorities receive help buying homes, seniors have a choice of health care, and employees control part of their retirement savings.

    "We are going to do everything we can to encourage a healthy public dialogue about Social Security reform," a senior administration official said. "The politics works on this because it is accepted in the general public that Social Security has a long-term solvency problem."

    A Republican official said the White House has signaled Capitol Hill that Bush's campaign "wants to spend a lot of money" on advertising promoting the issue.

    A presidential adviser said Bush is intent on being able to say that reworking Social Security "is part of my mandate" if he wins. Bush made modernization of the retirement system one of the six core issues of his campaign in 2000, but he has said little about it since a commission he had appointed issued an inconclusive report at the end of 2001.

    Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who worked for Vice President Al Gore in 2000, said Bush was able to wage this debate somewhat theoretically last time because he was a challenger. "This time the debate will be very different and much more concrete," he said. "It's a high-risk strategy. I hope they do it."

    Despite a belief by some that Reaganauts are blind to his faults, you'll find that most regret his failure to push a big agenda when he ran for re-election and his focus on boosting his landslide instead of trying to win seats in Congress. Actually, the two are inextricably linked. Reagan won in '80 running on a, for the time, extremely conservative platform and carried the Senate against all expectations. Similarly, in 1994, the GOP ran on the Contract and won huge. George W. Bush and Karl Rove seem to recognize that it is by nationalizing elections that Republicans can win down-ticket. Running on a vision this immense is certainly risky, but win and the payoff is a paradigm shift. That seems a worthwhile gambit.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


    Nothing to lose but their chains: Michael Ledeen says that our most potent weapon in the war against terrorism is democracy: people everywhere want to be free (Michael Ledeen, 11/22/03, The Spectator)

    The most controversial part of George W. Bush's vision of the war against terrorism is his insistence that this is a war against tyranny, and that we will not be able to win the war until we have helped democratic revolutions succeed in the key countries, those that provide the terrorists with much of their vital wherewithal. It's controversial for varying reasons, depending on the critic. Some say that countries are marginal in the terror universe; it's transnational organisations like al-Qa'eda which we must defeat. Others are upset because they think the President is declaring war on any country, anywhere, that helps the terrorists, and they ask where the money and the troops will come from. Still others are critical of Bush's belief that the Middle East can be successfully democratised at all, and wish that the United States would either give up this crazy dream, or get serious about building an empire and find proper viceroys, etc. [...]

    I think we are on the verge of the same kind of revolutionary transformation in the Middle East today. The real question is not whether it can be done, but whether we have the will to do it. We haven't been very good in Afghanistan, where American negotiators unaccountably agreed to the creation of an 'Islamic Republic' when we should have vetoed the very idea. We haven't been nearly as active as we should have been in embracing the Iraqis, who have proved many of the pessimists totally wrong: there hasn't been a religious or ethnic civil war, the Iraqi Shiites have not been manipulated by the Iranians, and there are plenty of talented and educated Iraqis who, given the chance, could do a thoroughly presentable job of managing their country. We're getting better, but the people of the region are running ahead of us whenever they can. There was a brief 'Prague Spring' in Damascus after the death of the old tyrant, but it was crushed soon after. I don't think it will be that difficult to find suitably democratic forces in Syria in the future, especially if we deal effectively with Iran.

    The main thing is to see the situation plainly: we are at war with a group of tyrants who sponsor a network of terrorists. Our most potent weapon against them is their own people, who hate them and wish to be free. We don't need to invade Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia, but we certainly need to support the calls for freedom coming from within those tyrannical countries.

    And that's the Dubya Doctrine.

    The kids were marching around the house today to the tunes of a Walt Disney cd of patriotic songs and the Battle Hymn of the Republic came on--long version:
    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
    His truth is marching on.

    I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
    They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
    I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
    His day is marching on.

    I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
    "As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
    Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
    Since God is marching on."

    He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
    He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
    Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
    Our God is marching on.

    In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
    As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.

    The thought occurred: George W. Bush's democratic messianism is of rather ancient vintage, isn't it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


    He's Spoiling for a Chance to Take On Schumer (RAYMOND HERNANDEZ, 11/10/03, NY Times)

    In New York Republican circles, Michael Benjamin has become a bit like the kid on the basketball court begging the other players to pass him the ball.

    Even as the party has all but given up any hope of finding a candidate who can beat New York's well-funded senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, next year, Mr. Benjamin has been trying to convince the party's leaders that he is the man for the job.

    Mr. Benjamin, 33, has put more than 40,000 miles on his Ford Explorer in the last nine months, visiting every one of the state's 62 counties in an effort to round up support from local party leaders and rank-and-file Republicans.

    He has also managed to arrange meetings with some leading Republicans in the state, including Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, and Alexander F. Treadwell, the state party chairman.

    He even cornered Gov. George E. Pataki at a recent fund-raiser in Westchester County to press his case, though the governor's response was something on the order of "Don't call us, we'll call you," according to people familiar with the encounter. [...]

    Politically, Mr. Benjamin has sprung up from virtually nowhere. The son of immigrants — his father is Iranian, his mother Honduran — he lived in Central and South America because of his father's job with the Bank of America, the biography on his Web site says. Fluent in Spanish, Mr. Benjamin points out that he would be the first United States Senator of Hispanic origin from New York if he defeats Mr. Schumer.

    Thus are Republicans known as the Stupid Party. In 1994, another Republican landslide held Daniel Moynihan, a far more popular Senator, to 55%, against a relatively unknown Republican, Bernadette Castro, who received almost no help from the National Party because her cause was considered hopeless.

    Similarly, in 1994 the GOP failed to invest any resources in VT on the assumption that Bernie Sanders was unbeatable, but he barely escaped anyway, with under 50% of the vote. The Party seems unable to process the fact that when elections get nationalized they can carry seemingly unwinnable seats. If they'd recruit top drawer candidates and fund them, they'd not only stand to pull off upsets but would inevitably help other races down-ticket.

    With that in mind, here are a few races to watch--states where the GOP is currently given no prayer to beat veteran incumbents (unlike SD, NV, WA & CA, LA--which are at least recognized as possibilities) but which will at some point in the process be recognized as lon--okay, very long--shot possibilities: Patrick Leahy, VT; Daniel Inouye, HI (assuming he decides not to run); Russ Feingold, WI; and Byron Dorgan, ND.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


    THE MYTH OF AN ISLAMIC GOLDEN AGE (Srdja Trifkovic, Speech to the Highland Park-Highwood Lions Club, November 6, 2003)

    The task facing a narrow segment of urban intelligentsia in the Muslim world that seeks to reform Islam into a matter of personal choice separated from the State and distinct from the society is frankly impossible. This has always remained a minority view in the world of Islam, and even its apparent triumph in Turkey under Mustafa Kemal remains tentative at best. If and when Turkey becomes a true democracy, that instant it will become Islamic and anti-Western.

    The predominant response of the Muslim world to the crisis caused by western superiority has been the clamoring for “Islamic solutions.” Both traditionalists and fundamentalists postulate the superiority of their faith and its divinely ordained world leadership, and both regard the early success of Islam as a natural result of the strict and uncompromising observance of all tenets of that faith. The subsequent decline and the temporary superiority of the unbelievers is both resented—creating the culture of anti-Western otherness—and feared. The failure of the umma was understood as a consequence of the failure of the Muslim world to be “truly Islamic.” The revival of the model of early Islam in a modern form absolutely mandates the reaffirmation of uncompromising animosity to non-believers and the return to violence as a means of attaining political ends. Islamic terrorism, far from being an aberration, became inseparable from modern-day jihad. It is legitimized by it, and it is its defining feature.

    While it would be simplistic to claim that Islamists routinely cheat in representing their history to the rest of us, it is closer to the mark to say that they are prone to construct an invented reality for themselves. To understand the reality of Islam’s record with its non-adherents, one should not compare it to Judaism or Christianity but match it against modern totalitarian ideologies, notably Bolshevism and National Socialism. Each explicitly denied the legitimacy of any form of social, political, or cultural organization other than itself. In the name of Allah and Islam, more people were killed in one year of Khomeini than during the preceding quarter-century of the Shah. It is easy to eliminate enemies who have been dehumanized, like when Khomeini announced, “In Persia no people have been killed so far, only beasts.” Hitler’s or Stalin’s forma mentis was different from that of Khomeini only in quantity, not in quality. The latter’s statement that the Muslims have no choice but to wage “holy war against profane governments” until the conquest of the world has been accomplished—an eminently orthodox and “mainstream” statement of Islamic world outlook, different only in its frankness from the pitch of Muslim apologists in the West—had a familiar ring to it. It was Nikita Khrushchev’s “We shall bury you” wrapped in green instead of red. The Kremlin ruse called “peaceful coexistence” was but jihad under another name.

    Always reliant on the plunder of its neighbors and robbery of its non-Muslim subjects, Islam was unable to create new wealth once the conquerors had run out of steam and reduced the vanquished to utter penury. Pre-Islamic Egypt was the granary of Europe, just like the pre-Bolshevik Ukraine; now both have to import food. Pre-Islamic Syria and Asia Minor suffered a similar fate under Caliph Umar to the highly developed and prosperous East Germany and Czechoslovakia after 1945. Both Islam and Communism oppose the preconditions for successful economic development in principle as well as in practice. In both cases, attempts to copy Western methods of production failed because they were not accompanied by the essential changes of social, political, and legal structure; the problem of Ottoman experiments with modernization were remarkably similar to the tinkering with various “models of socialism” a hundred years later.

    This analysis recurs too often, from Karen Armstrong (unintentionally) to Bernard Lewis to Paul Berman--of Islamicism as a rather standard variant of totalitarianism--to be dismissed.

    -ESSAY: The Golden Age of Islam is a Myth (Srdja Trifkovic, November 15, 2002, Front Page)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


    US reorganizes its military might (Alan Boyd, 11/20/03, Asia Times)

    Thailand, the Philippines and Australia have been targeted as possible US defense staging posts just days after the United States announced that it would restructure its forces in Asia, and as the Pentagon is considering a partial pullout from its remaining Asian bases in Okinawa and South Korea. [...]

    "Some allies are obviously going to be more important than others. Japan, Korea and Australia will remain the linchpins because they operate the same basic defensive platforms as the US and are more in tune politically," said a diplomat. "Staging points are a logistics rather than a strategic concept. Singapore is the model, as it has performed the role through Changi [naval base] for a number of years, to the extent that it is now servicing Nimitz-class carrier groups."

    The US, Japan and Australia formed a liaison group last year to study how East Asia's security and defense capabilities could be enhanced, and it is currently meeting in Canberra. Frontline countries will be offered more training and equipment, but will also be expected to assume increased responsibility for their own defense once the US streamlines its presence in the region.

    Despite the obsessive focus of Atlanticists on our relations with yesterday's nations--like France and Germany--Australia, the Philippines, India, and the like are far more important to our future.

    November 21, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


    An Administration of One: Bush has made it clear that the only exit strategy from Iraq is a victory strategy, with victory defined as "democracy." (Robert Kagan and William Kristol, 12/01/2003, Weekly Standard)

    WHEN GEORGE W. BUSH first entered the White House, the conventional wisdom was that his inexperience and lack of vision in foreign policy would be compensated for by his wise and experienced cabinet. This may or may not have been a reasonable view at the time. Right now, however, it is clear that the most visionary and, yes, the wisest and most capable foreign policy-maker in the Bush administration is the president himself. [...]

    [B]ush has broken from the mainstream of his party and become a neoconservative in the true meaning of the term. For if there is a single principle that today divides neoconservatism from traditional American conservatism, it is the conviction that the promotion of liberal democracy abroad is both a moral imperative and a profound national interest. This is a view of America's role in the world that has found little favor in the Republican party since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. Reagan was a modern exception--the product, no doubt, of his own roots as a Truman Democrat--but this aspect of Reaganism was largely abandoned by Republicans after 1989. And so we are not surprised to see traditional Republican conservatives, of whom there is no more esteemed intellectual spokesman than George Will, now denouncing the supposed folly of such ambitious ventures. Nor are we surprised that in Bush's own cabinet, neither his secretary of state nor his secretary of defense shares the president's commitment to liberal democracy, either in Iraq or in the Middle East more generally. Indeed, the only thing that surprises us, a little, is the failure of American liberals--and European liberals--to embrace a cause that ought to be close to their hearts.

    Liberals and conservatives alike these days seem willing to consign the Arab peoples to more decades of tyranny. "The West," argues Fareed Zakaria, "must recognize that it does not seek democracy in the Middle East--at least not yet." President Bush rejects this counsel. "In the West," Bush noted in London, "there's been a certain skepticism about the capacity or even the desire of Middle Eastern peoples for self-government. . . . It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty. It is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it."

    What has also become clear this past week is that Bush is determined to promote democracy in Iraq--and right now.

    These two change their minds about W so often, even they must have to pick up that week's magazine to see whether they think he's wobbling or ascending Mount Rushmore at any given moment.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


    Wannabe Yanks: Theodore Dalrymple regrets that we import many of America’s vices but none of her virtues (The Spectator, 11/23/03)

    American virtues are much harder to convey, let alone imitate, than American vices. These virtues are, in a loose sense, spiritual, or at least philosophical. As Marx wrote in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, ‘Theory becomes a spiritual force when it is gripped by the masses.’ And Americans, en masse, believe that their lives are what they themselves make of them. It is from this belief that their wealth arises; and it is from their wealth that their high culture arises. What Virtual America does not convey is that the world’s best universities, best libraries, best scientific research laboratories, best cultural institutions are American. America is simultaneously demotic and elitist, but only the demotic is communicated to consumers of Virtual America. But it is the products of the elitism that are admirable, and so essential to American affluence.

    The consumers of Virtual America see the affluence and are embittered that it is not theirs, but they do not understand the culture or effort that created it. They are like Africans who see the wealth of Europe but have no idea where it came from, or of the depth of the intellectual tradition that created it. Like Africans, they become cargo-cultists, expecting wealth to drop from the skies by supernatural delivery. When this fails to happen, they grow bitter and enraged.

    In fact, a combination of American demotic culture and expectations inculcated by the welfare state is a disastrous one. When the demotic culture is not combined with or ameliorated by a belief in personal striving for material improvement, but rather with the idea that affluence is delivered by the government through confiscation and redistribution — that is to say by the promotion of ‘social justice’ — a uniquely horrible, new culture is forged, the culture of embittered slovenliness. The British are increasingly a nation of angry slobs.

    Well, that crack about baseball caps was unnecessary.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


    Setting The Bar: When our standards don't live up to our standards (Cullen Murphy, December 2003, The Atlantic Monthly)

    Some standards aren't worthy of the name in the first place, and in any event standards will always be in flux. But surely there are a handful on which we might all agree to hold the line—this far and no further, unto the end of days. To start this long-overdue public conversation, I'll propose ten.

    I. "EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK" ("Los empleados deben lavarse las manos antes de regresar al trabajo").

    II. "Women and children first" (except maybe Ann Coulter). [...]

    IX. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."—the Golden Rule (worth a try?)

    Mr. Murphy is a terrific essayist and the rest of the column pretty good, which makes it all the more disconcerting that in the middle of a discussion of the need to restore social standards he plunks a gratuitous shot at Ann Coulter.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


    Friend William Sulik found something neat: two JFK speeches that went undelivered. As he points out, they could be given today by the current White House occupant.

    Merriman Smith's account of JFK death: From the UPI Archives -- Merriman Smith received the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his coverage of the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (Merriman Smith, Nov. 23, 1963, UPI)

    It was a balmy, sunny noon as we motored through downtown Dallas behind President Kennedy. The procession cleared the center of the business district and turned into a handsome highway that wound through what appeared to be a park.

    I was riding in the so-called White House press "pool" car, a telephone company vehicle equipped with a mobile radio-telephone. I was in the front seat between a driver from the telephone company and Malcolm Kilduff, acting White House press secretary for the president's Texas tour. Three other pool reporters were wedged in the back seat.

    Suddenly we heard three loud, almost painfully loud cracks. The first sounded as if it might have been a large firecracker. But the second and third blasts were unmistakable. Gunfire.

    The president's car, possibly as much as 150 or 200 yards ahead, seemed to falter briefly. We saw a flurry of activity in the Secret Service follow-up car behind the chief executive's bubble-top limousine.

    Next in line was the car bearing Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Behind that, another follow-up car bearing agents assigned to the vice president's protection. We were behind that car.

    Our car stood still for probably only a few seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime. One sees history explode before one's eyes and for even the most trained observer, there is a limit to what one can comprehend.

    I looked ahead at the president's car but could not see him or his companion, Gov. John B. Connally of Texas. Both men had been riding on the right side of the bubble-top limousine from Washington. I thought I saw a flash of pink which would have been Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy.

    Everybody in our car began shouting at the driver to pull up closer to the president's car. But at this moment, we saw the big bubble-top and a motorcycle escort roar away at high speed.

    We screamed at our driver, "Get going, get going." We careened around the Johnson car and its escort and set out down the highway, barely able to keep in sight of the president's car and the accompanying Secret Service follow-up car.

    They vanished around a curve. When we cleared the same curve we could see where we were heading -- Parkland Hospital, a large brick structure to the left of the arterial highway. We skidded around a sharp left turn and spilled out of the pool car as it entered the hospital driveway.

    I ran to the side of the bubble-top.

    The president was face down on the back seat. Mrs. Kennedy made a cradle of her arms around the president's head and bent over him as if she were whispering to him.

    Gov. Connally was on his back on the floor of the car, his head and shoulders resting in the arms of his wife, Nellie, who kept shaking her head and shaking with dry sobs. Blood oozed from the front of the governor's suit. I could not see the president's wound. But I could see blood spattered around the interior of the rear seat and a dark stain spreading down the right side of the president's dark gray suit.

    From the telephone car, I had radioed the Dallas bureau of UPI that three shots had been fired at the Kennedy motorcade. Seeing the bloody scene in the rear of the car at the hospital entrance, I knew I had to get to a telephone immediately.

    Posted by David Cohen at 10:59 AM


    Americans rally behind officer who foiled plot. Family shares stress of assault charges, girls hear at school: 'Your daddy is no hero' (Art Moore,, 11/05/03)

    "The fact is," the attorney said, "two trained interrogators, both female, worked with [the Iraqi policeman] for hours and hours, and he wouldn't talk, so they called their commander."

    West strode into the room, according to Puckett, and said to the Iraqi, "If you don't give us this information, I'm going to kill you."

    The policeman, "as a demonstration of his seriousness," responded to West with a smile and said, "I love you."

    West then took the Iraqi outside and, with the help of colleagues, forced his head down. With one hand on the man's head – to provide protection – and the other holding the pistol, West fired into a weapons-clearing barrel filled with sand.

    "There was an immediate outpouring of information," Puckett said. The man told my client everything he wanted to know."

    The article has links for emailing Col. West, his wife, their attorney and Congress.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


    The voting gender gap narrows (Steve Sailer, 11/20/03, UPI)

    Data extricated from the collapse of the lone national exit poll in the 2002 congressional elections show that the gap between how men and women vote declined to the narrowest difference since before the 1994 House elections.

    A United Press International analysis of the results of election night surveys of 17,872 voters shows that much of the GOP's 5-percentage-point improvement in the House voting last year came from its increased appeal to women.

    Republican candidates' share of the male vote grew from 54 percent in 2000 to 55 percent last November. Their fraction of the female vote, however, rose from 45 percent to 50 percent. This was the first time in several decades that at least half of women's votes went to GOP House candidates. [...]

    The media has tended to view the GOP's difficulties attracting women's votes as a larger problem than the Democrats' equivalent struggles winning men's votes, although under the Constitution, both sexes' ballots are counted equally.

    The enormous amount of publicity the gender gap has received is probably due in part to it being widest among the well-educated -- the people most likely to write and read articles about politics.

    In reality, though, the celebrated gender gap is dwarfed by the seldom-mentioned disparity within each sex between the married and the unmarried. In 2002, 56 percent of married women voted for the GOP (similar to their husbands' 58 percent) compared to 39 percent of unmarried women (and 44 percent of unmarried men). There's an exceptionally large partisan difference between married women with children (58 percent Republican) and unmarried women with children (32 percent).

    One hesitates to give intellectuals credit for too much intelligence, but it can hardly be a coincidence that single people--women and mothers in particular--depend for their sense of economic security on the State and that the Left has mounted a sustained assault against marriage and families. Atomization of society feeds statism.

    But the GOP can steal a march on them if it uses private accounts to create a social welfare net that provides security but does so largely by relying on individuals to fund it themselves. Coupled with some restoration of traditional family structures it might be possible to start to undo some of the damage that the 19th Amendment has caused.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


    Soros, Europeans: Die Juden sind unser Unglueck! Holocaust II? (Nicholas Stix, November 24, 2003, A Different Drummer)

    On November 5, 2003, billionaire financier George Soros arose at a function to say, in so many words, "Die Juden sind unser Unglueck!" He blamed the Jews, Israel, and the policies of Pres. George W. Bush, for the rise in world anti-Semitism in recent years, most dramatically, since 911.

    "There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that. It's not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I'm critical of those policies.

    "If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish. I can't see how one could confront it directly."

    Soros also responded to recent remarks by powerful anti-Semites, such as Mahathir Mohammad, who just stepped down as Malaysia’s prime minister, that the Jews, particularly, Jewish financiers like Soros, rule the world.

    Mohammad: "The Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."

    Soros: "I'm also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world. As an unintended consequence of my actions, I also contribute to that image."

    There are, of course, huge differences between Kristallnacht and Sorosnacht. First and foremost, Hungarian-born George Soros, whose family fled the Nazis, is a Jew! During the Nazi era of 1933-1945, it was unheard of for Jews to blame Jews for anti-Semitism. There were Jews who aided the Nazis in the killing of Jews, but that involved the extraordinary case of the "Kapos," Jews in the death camps who bought themselves a little time, by leading other Jews to the “showers,” where they were gassed to death.

    There is, however, precedent for Jews letting other Jews die, through deferring to murderous anti-Semitism. Once Hitler began carrying out his "Final Solution" in early 1943, Rabbi Stephen Wise and other American Jewish leaders found out about the genocide, but refused to publicize it, out of deference to Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR was in a position to bomb the death camps, or at the very least, the rail lines leading to them, but instead did nothing, costing millions of Jews their lives.

    But this is a different time, a time of wealthy Jewish prostitutes, Jewish anti-Semites, and even Jewish Nazis.

    And George Soros was not speaking before an audience of genocidal anti-Semites, a la Yassir Arafat, UN Human Rights Commissar Mary Robinson, or the al Qaeda leadership. Rather, he was speaking before the Jewish Funders Network, a group of multimillionaire Jewish philanthropists and their bureaucrats, in Manhattan’s Harvard Club.

    Rather than vilify Soros, the prostitutes, er, philanthropists, were polite to a fault. Event organizers Michael Steinhardt and Mark Charendoff, said nice things, and even saved Soros from further embarrassing himself. According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reporter Uriel Heilman, Steinhardt interrupted Soros’ defense of anti-Semitism. "’George Soros does not think Jews should be hated any more than they deserve to be,’ Steinhardt said by way of clarification, eliciting chuckles from the audience."

    George Soros was on NPR one night, talking about how Vladimir Putin was threatening Russian democracy. The correspondent, after letting him do his shtick for awhile, asked if having first helped pass Campaign Finance Reform and then spending $25 million of his own money to defeat George W. Bush, he too isn't a threat to democracy--American democracy. Mr. Soros answered that CFR got special interest money out of politics but that as an individual he could have no special interests and, at any rate, had nothing to gain from his personal political activity. The correspondent failed to laugh, never mind follow up on these absurd assertions. If only Mr. Stix had been conducting the interview.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


    Rockets fired at oil ministry, two hotels in Baghdad (AP, 11/21/03)

    More than a dozen rockets fired from donkey carts slammed into Iraq's Oil Ministry and two downtown hotels Friday morning — brazen, coordinated strikes at some of Baghdad's most heavily protected civilian sites that defied a U.S. crackdown.

    Two more rocket launchers mounted on donkey carts were found within hours, one of them 30 yards from the Italian Embassy, the other near the Academy of Fine Arts, both in the Waziriya neighborhood north of downtown. Neither appeared to have been fired.

    Rockets Hit Two Hotels and Ministry in Baghdad (JOHN F. BURNS, 11/21/03, NY Times)
    Guests in the room close to where the rockets struck - including this reporter, whose room was 50 feet away from one of the strikes - heard what appeared at first to be a single explosion, suggesting that the weapon used against the hotel might have been a multiple rocket launcher of the type used on Oct. 26 against the Rashid Hotel, base for many senior American military and intelligence officials. One person was killed in that attack.

    The attack on Friday was potentially the most serious strike on a major target involving foreigners in Baghdad since the Oct. 27 suicide bombing of the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of a series of suicide bombings that day across the city that killed more than 25 people.

    The pattern of several of the most serious attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq in recent months has appeared to have been aimed at driving as many Westerners out of the country as possible, isolating the American and British troops who carried the brunt of fighting in the war to topple Saddam Hussein, and making impossible the implementation of plans to spend billions of dollars on reconstruction here.

    A voice purporting to be that of Mr. Hussein said in an audiotape released Sunday that those mounting the attacks on the Americans should also concentrate on "foreign agents" who were assisting in the occupation of Iraq, and that the defeat of "the evil ones" meaning the Americans was inevitable.

    Gotta wonder why you'd stay in such an obvious target?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


    Istanbul's Nightmare Returns (Walid Phares, November 21, 2003,

    Let's read the message of yesterday's bombings --  not just the release sent to the wires by the Jihadists inside and outside Turkey, but the substance of it. Why did al-Qaida and its sub-entities aim at the British consulate and a British bank in the former capital of the Ottoman Empire? The geographical setting is clear. Turkey -- or secular Republican Turkey - is a passage for Democracy to the Muslim region. Weakening the Ankara fortress is a must for the radical Islamists. It remains the real and most imminent reason behind the blasts: It is a blow to Great Britain. Unlike the message trumpeted by some journalists, al-Qaida doesn't fight the United Kingdom because of its alliance with the United States, but because of what the British culture and commitment to freedom mean.

    Aiming at London from Istanbul, the Jihadists know who their enemies are: President Bush of America and Prime Minister Blair of England. The two leaders have decided to meet amidst raging demonstrations to reset the course of the War on Terrorism. Bin Laden and Ayman al-Thawahiri know very well that after Afghanistan and Iraq, the next stage is a global campaign to support the democratic dissidents in the Middle East. President Bush's latest speech on "Democracy in the Middle East" was a lethal weapon of mass dissemination. Al-Qaida knows this speech, if allowed to germinate in the minds of a thinking people, could harm its control over the masses now pledging their sons -- and daughters -- for a violent jihad against civilization. It is watching students foment political dissent in Iran, intellectuals denouncing fundamentalism in Kuwait and Syrian reformers meeting in Washington, D.C. If the Baathist-Wahabi alliance doesn't break the will of the United States and Great Britain in Iraq, a Mesopotamian tidal wave of anti-terrorism will soon take off. Bin Laden wanted to strike inside the U.S.-British alliance before free Arabs would strike inside his jihad.

    Killing British diplomats and British bank employees in Istanbul is al-Qaida's effort to fuel anti-Americanism in London at a time when the two Trans-Atlantic leaders are consolidating their plans (and when tens of thousands of American leftists are meeting to express their hatred of these same targets, Bush and Blair). A reporter for a main TV network illustrated this fall into al-Qaidaís trap. Out of the British capital, the correspondent rushed to conclude that most men and women in the British Isles would punish Blair for pausing with Bush, because this alliance with the President caused English people to be slaughtered in Istanbul. That was exactly what al-Qaida ultimately wanted to achieve: another rift in the Atlantic alliance. Although the bombs hit Istanbul, Osama bin Laden wanted to blow a crater in the U.S.-UK partnership forged on the battlefields of Iraq. What the master of jihad wanted to achieve to turn the West's most powerful weapon to fight terrorism against itself; he wants to defeat the West through their own democracy.

    You'd think that al Qaeda would have figured out by now that their campaign has been totally counter-productive. They've even managed to steel Italian spines. In fact, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that a sufficiently lethal bombing in Paris would wake the French up. Okay, that's the outer edge of the realm...

    -Al-Qaeda reviles Turkey's ties to the West: Though a secular state, religious resentments fester (Peter Goodspeed, 11/21/03, National Post)

    There is one chilling realization to draw from yesterday's terror attacks in Istanbul -- al-Qaeda's acolytes are trying to broaden their war with the West and they don't care who suffers.

    Yesterday, for the fourth time in less than a week, Turkey was the target.

    It is not hard to see why.

    Overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkey is a moderate secular state crucially situated at the crossroads of East and West. More importantly, Turkey has moved closer to the West than any other Muslim nation in the world. It is a member of NATO, is seeking to enter the European Union and has close ties with both the United States and Israel.

    Since Sept. 11, 2001, Turkey has been on the front lines of Washington's war on terror. Istanbul has provided the United States with military support, tracked suspected financial networks, shared intelligence and, like Canada, participated in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) peacekeeping operation in Kabul.

    For al-Qaeda's leaders, Turkey is a model of everything they think a Muslim nation shouldn't be.

    -Attacks on Turkey Try to Sever a Bridge Between Islam and West (CRAIG S. SMITH, 11/21/03, NY Times)
    With its foothold on the European continent and the bulk of its territory in Asia, Turkey has been the site of sweeping ideological battles before. Once part of the Christian Byzantine Empire, and later the center of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, the country in its modern incarnation has tried to finesse its identity by paying lip service to the Islamic world while defining its future among the dynamic economies of the West.

    Turkey was the first among Muslim nations to recognize Israel and has developed extensive ties with it since then. It has been a model NATO member and has tried hard in recent years to win the favor of the European Union, which Turkey wants to join.

    All of this has made the country suspect among Muslim countries, particularly in the Arab world.

    Meanwhile, decades of economic malaise have haunted a generation of frustrated, underemployed youth and turned many toward conservative Islam.

    An often brutal effort to force the assimilation of the country's restive Kurdish minority into the larger Turkish population also fed passions among Kurdish youth and spawned a generation of closet separatists with a hardened fringe of fighters.

    The religion-inspired wars of the 1990's drew some young Turks north into Bosnia or across Iran to Chechnya and Afghanistan. In those places, terrorism experts say, the young men were vulnerable to the ideological zeal and global designs then coalescing into Al Qaeda.

    The war in Iraq may have tipped the balance toward actual terrorism. "Before, the threat was more or less theoretical," said Rifat Bali, a writer in Istanbul.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


    Church and family can save kids (Miranda Devine, November 16, 2003, Sydney Morning Herald)

    We seem to shrug helplessly at the soaring rates of children's mental illness, emotional distress, attention and conduct disorders, substance abuse and suicide.

    The response of the babyboomer Left to this epidemic of youth misery has been to blame government and economic rationalism.

    You will hear them moaning about the boring 1950s, when they grew up in a war-weary society that valued order, civility, domesticity and tranquillity. You will hear them fondly reminisce about the 1960s sexual revolution, their Kombi vans, their often-still-active ponytails.

    Never will you hear them accept responsibility for trashing precious social institutions, destroying taboos, devaluing motherhood or squandering the moral capital built up by their forebears. Now, when their children and grandchildren are suffering the consequences, they see higher taxes as the cure. They seem not to listen even when scientific evidence emerges like a slap in the face to say childhood suffering is caused by a lack of spiritual meaning, an absence of expectations and limits and a breakdown in authority structures.

    This is the message from an extraordinary American study recently released by 33 psychiatrists, neurologists and social scientists, Hardwired To Connect: The New Scientific Case For Authoritative Communities. The Dartmouth Medical School study says the human brain is "biologically hardwired for enduring attachments to other people and for moral and spiritual meaning". [...]

    The study says we needn't be a captive of our genes any more than we are a blank slate for social engineers to mould. Most unpalatable for moral relativists is the study's emphasis on religion and spirituality, finding that the human brain is physically designed, or hardwired, to seek answers to life's purpose and meaning. For adolescents, religion has a protective effect against depression and loneliness. "Personal devotion" or a "direct personal relationship with the Divine" is associated with reduced risk-taking and better mental health.

    Finally, the report stresses the importance of "authoritative communities" that set moral frameworks for children, the most important being the family. The "decline in social connectedness", the loss of civic and community groups and falling church attendance is thought to contribute "significantly" to childhood problems. [...]

    Parents know how inherently conservative small children are, how they crave routine, discipline, defined limits and a distinction between good and evil. But if their parents and the society rearing them are locked in a perpetual state of adolescence, no wonder so many are anxious and vulnerable.

    If you keep hammering away at the foundations, you have no right to act surprised and helpless when the structure teeters.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


    Mums to get $55,000 in fertility rescue plan (Cosima Marriner, November 21, 2003, Sydney Morning Herald)

    All mothers should be paid $11,000 a year, tax free, for the first five years of their child's life to arrest the decline in the fertility rate, a Liberal Party think tank has suggested.

    The Menzies Research Centre study says the payment, which would not be means tested, would allow mothers to stay at home and supplement the family income, or return to work and pay for child care.

    It found that none of three models - free child care and paid maternity leave (Sweden), the male breadwinner (Spain) and part-time work (Australia) - had proved successful in encouraging women to have enough children to maintain the population.

    Instead, it argues, the Government should provide a home carer's allowance to all families during the child's first five years, ensuring maternal nurturing and easing the financial blow of one partner leaving work.

    France and Norway have recently introduced a "mother's salary" with some apparent success.

    There should also be tax and/or future benefit consequences for not having enough children.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


    Who Can Win Ohio? (Harold Meyerson, November 19, 2003, Washington Post)

    The Democrats' scenario for picking up the White House next year looks increasingly like drawing to an inside straight.

    That doesn't mean they won't be able to do it. A number of states could fill their hand. But with the continuing rightward gallop of the South, the Democrats are going to have to perform near-perfectly in the swing states of the Midwest.

    Like Richard Nixon before him, George W. Bush has waged a war in a way that has polarized the American people -- infuriating Democrats while strengthening his support among conservatives. But as a recent mega-survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press makes clear, the American people were drifting apart -- and the South was going south for the Dems -- even before Bush used his war as a wedge.

    There's an alternative reason that Republican-waged-wars tend to be wedge issues in a way that Democrat-waged-ones don't: patriotism. Republicans even tend to support Democrat wars--like the Cold War and Vietnam--long after the Democrats have run up the white flag.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

    New Potatoes With Sun-Dried-Tomato Mash (Grady Spears, November 1998, Texas Monthly)

    2 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup cilantro
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup coarsely chopped rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes (about 1 ounce or .06 pound dry weight)
    1/4 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    4 pounds new potatoes, washed and thinly sliced

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place all of the ingredients except the potatoes in a food processor and blend until they form a paste (or mash), thinning with a little water if necessary. Thoroughly coat the sliced potatoes with the tomato mash and place in layers in a baking dish, seasoning each layer with additional salt and pepper to taste. Cover with foil and cook for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


    Man vs. Machine (Charles Krauthammer, November 21, 2003, Washington Post)

    In Game 3 the computer lost because, being a computer, it has (for now) no imagination. Computers can outplay just about any human when the field is open, the pieces have mobility and there are millions of possible tactical combinations. Kasparov therefore steered Game 3 into a position that was utterly static -- a line of immobile pawns cutting across the board like the trenches of the First World War.

    Neither side could cross into enemy territory. There was, ``thought'' Fritz, therefore nothing to do. It can see 20 moves deep, but even that staggering foresight yielded absolutely no plan of action. Like a World War I general, Fritz took to pacing up and down behind its lines.

    Kasparov, on the other hand, had a deep strategic plan. Quietly and methodically, he used the bit of space he had on one side of the board to align his pieces, preparing for the push of a single pawn down the flank to queen -- and win.

    Meanwhile, Fritz was reduced to shuffling pieces back and forth. At one point, it moved its bishop one square and then back again on the next move. No human would ever do that. Not just because it is a waste of two moves. It is simply too humiliating. It is an open declaration to your opponent that you have no idea what you're doing, and that maybe checkers is your game.

    The observers loved it. ``This move showed that the computer doesn't feel any embarrassment,'' said grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov. It was a moment to savor.

    Compare to Mr. Kling, below.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


    What it Means To Be Conservative (Owen Harries, Winter 2003, Policy)

    If the complexity of the object of change-society, the political order-was one reason why Burke feared radical and rapid change, a second and just as powerful reason was his reservation about the proposed engine of change; that is, the role of reason in human affairs. Burke rejected the Enlightenment view of man as a predominantly rational, calculating, logical being. His rational side exists, but it is a small part of his total make-up. 'We are afraid', said Burke, 'to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small'. Habit, instinct, custom, faith, reverence, prejudice-the accumulated practical knowledge acquired consciously and unconsciously through experience-all this was more important than abstract reasoning. Collectively, and for better or worse, it constituted man's nature, his human nature.

    Burke was not alone in expressing these views. The great Scottish philosopher, David Hume, had insisted on the importance of habit and custom in the human make-up a generation earlier. And a year or two before Burke wrote, across the Atlantic the shapers of the American Constitution and authors of The Federalist Papers-Alexander Hamilton and James Madison-were insisting that in constructing a political order, the aggressive, selfish, acquisitive aspects of man's nature must be taken fully into account. 'A man must be far gone in Utopian speculation', thought Hamilton, 'to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive and rapacious.' [...]

    They were all arguing against the prevailing intellectual tide of the times, the Age of Enlightenment, which insisted on the primacy of reason and which saw customs and habits and prejudice as impediments that should, and could, be swept aside to restore the human mind to its pristine state as a clean slate-the famous tabula rasa-on which reason could then write its message. At the same time as Burke was responding to the Revolution, his radical-anarchist contemporary, William Godwin-now forgotten but a very influential and representative intellectual figure in his time-was writing of children as 'a sort of raw material put into our hands', their minds 'like a sheet of white paper'. Dealing with adults, the task was to erase what, over time, had disfigured the white sheet. It was in that act of restoration that the revolutionaries in France saw themselves engaged. For them, what passed for human nature was not something to be taken into account as a given, and either accommodated or curbed, as the authors of The Federalist Papers believed, but to be altered. [...]

    When, in what circumstances, do conservative ideas become relevant and attractive? The obvious and usual answer to that question is given by Michael Oakeshott: when there is much to be enjoyed, and when that enjoyment is combined with a sense that what is enjoyed is in danger of being lost. It is the combination of enjoyment and fear that stimulates conservatism.

    That seems convincing until one considers: if one is living in and enjoying, say, a liberal or a social democratic or a capitalist society; and if that society suddenly comes under threat, why can't one defend it with liberal arguments, or social democratic or capitalist arguments? Why does one need conservative arguments?

    An interesting answer to that question was advanced by a young Samuel Huntington, about 40 years before he wrote The Clash of Civilizations, the book that made him famous beyond academic circles. In an article on 'Conservatism as an Ideology', published in 1957 in The American Political Science Review, Huntington observes that unlike nearly every other ideology, conservatism offers no vision of an ideal society. There is no conservative Utopia. Indeed, conservatism has no substantive institutional content. It can be, and has been, used to defend all sorts of different institutional arrangements, from traditional to feudal to liberal to capitalist to social democratic ones. That is because it is concerned not with content but with process: with change and stability, particularly as they affect political institutions. Its true opposite is not, as is often said, liberalism but radicalism-which is also about change. Conservatism advances arguments that stress the difficulty and danger of rapid change, and the importance of stability and continuity and prudence; radicalism expresses enthusiasm and optimism concerning innovation, and boldness in embracing change.

    So when does conservatism become an appropriate ideology? It is, maintains Huntington, the product of intense ideological and social conflict, when consensus breaks down, and when an existing institutional order can no longer be defended in its own terms. 'When the challengers fundamentally disagree with the ideology of the existing society and affirm a basically different set of values, the common framework of discussion is destroyed.' When, say, it is precisely liberal values and institutions that are being rejected, there is no point in appealing to those values to defend them. It is then that conservative arguments become indispensable: arguments which defend the established institutions precisely because they are established, which warn against the destructive affects, the unanticipated consequences of overturning them. When radicalism prevails, conservative arguments must be resorted to in order to counter it.

    What could be more radical than the assault on the central social institution of human history: marriage.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


    When Moore is less (David Aaronovitch, November 19, 2003, The Guardian)

    Here's a paradox. In the Independent last Friday, Paul Taylor was writing about a recent renaissance in political theatre, both here and in America. He had recently been on Broadway for a performance of Arthur Miller's witch-hunt play, The Crucible. Many present, Taylor said, had watched through tears because the play "had clearly spoken with a piercing directness to that audience as the United Sates enters yet another period where dissent is seen as synonymous with 'unpatriotic' ".

    At the same time, the writer and TV personality Michael Moore was celebrating yet another tremendous success. Whereas his previous book, Stupid White Men, had taken a year to sell a million copies in the US, his new offering, Dude, Where's My Country?, had, he told his fans, sold the same number in just three weeks.

    It just showed, said Moore, "the level of concern/frustration/anger in the country right now over what the Bush administration is up to". What it did not, however, seem to show was an America "where dissent is seen as synonymous with 'unpatriotic' ". Far from it.

    But this idea of being under siege is an important part of the radical's self-image in 2003.

    As long as they feel a need to be persecuted, couldn't we oblige?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


    Survey: Afghans overwhelmingly optimistic, despite violence (PAUL HAVEN, November 19, 2003, Associated Press)

    Afghans in relatively stable areas of the country are overwhelmingly optimistic about the future of their nation, despite continued violence and political uncertainty, according to a survey released Wednesday.

    Some 83 percent of the Afghans surveyed said they feel safer than they did three years ago, when the hard-line Taliban regime was in power. More than three-quarters of those questioned said Afghanistan will be safer still in another year.

    The survey was conducted between April and June in eight Afghan provinces by The Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium, which includes some major international aid groups like Save the Children, CARE and Oxfam International, as well as Afghan agencies.

    That's a higher rigt track/wrong track number than in most Western nations.

    November 20, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM


    German Sept 11 theory stokes anti-US feeling (Kate Connolly, 20/11/2003, Daily Telegraph)

    A former German cabinet minister is drawing huge crowds and stoking the fires of popular anti-Americanism with a book arguing that the US government mounted the September 11 attacks in a plot to win global domination.

    Andreas von Bulow has gone further than Michael Meacher, Tony Blair's former environment minister, who was widely criticised for claiming that America knowingly failed to prevent the attacks.

    Mr von Bulow, 66, a former research minister in the German government, believes that September 11, when more than 3,000 people died, was staged to justify the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Berlin has made no official response to the book, but behind closed doors ministers have tried to distance themselves from his radical views.

    However, his ideas are very popular in Germany, which is wallowing in a wave of anti-Americanism. Polls show that a fifth of the population, and one in three of those under 30, believe the US government ordered the attacks. [...]

    The World Trade Centre collapsed due to explosives, not the impact of the Boeings; no planes flew into the Pentagon or crashed in Pennsylvania; and mobile phone calls made by those on the latter flight were simulated by the CIA.

    Mr von Bulow also argues that the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, was involved in the attacks, warning Israelis to avoid the Twin Towers in the preceding days. His "proof" is that only one Israeli died in the attacks.

    In a way it's really kind of flattering--it's been so long since they mattered that the last bestseller about Germany was William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Of course, Mr. von Bulow probably thinks that's all a lie too.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


    Blair's black day: Bombs, demos and serious mid-term drift - and all the direct result of the prime minister's own decisions (Polly Toynbee, November 21, 2003, The Guardian)

    The prime minister has waited for months now with a deadly certainty that the terror attacks would come. "When, not if," he warned spine-chillingly about the threat to Britain. Once he had decided to take the country to war, terrorist retaliation was certain and if ever there was a prime time to expect it, then it was now, during George Bush's state visit. The wonder is only that Britain has escaped for so long. London was fortified beyond endurance this week, but there will always be soft underbellies exposed to Islamist extremist fury. There is no defence against terror. [...]

    These bombs made yesterday one of the darkest days of Tony Blair's prime ministership. As if that horror were not enough, too many other disparate pigeons came fluttering home to roost at once. Whichever way he turned, things looked black. They were no mere accidents, for everything that happened came as a direct result of his own decisions, all of them taken against the better instincts of most of his party. [...]

    Bombs in Istanbul are the only outcome from this presidential visit. George Bush brought no gifts to thank his ally for taking so much damage to support this politically alien president. Nothing has been gained on US illegal trade tariffs: a promise to obey the WTO might have given Blair something to show the Europeans the value of engaging with America. No sign was given of serious intent to intervene in the Israel/Palestine conflict. The president leaves unabated alarm that the US will cut and run from Iraq to suit the presidential election timetable and not the needs of Iraqis. This visit has been all downside for our prime minister.

    Never mind the delusion that al Qaeda is killing Westerners because of what we do or don't do, maybe Ms Toynbee could acknowledge that it was a black day for Britain, not just for one man who happens to lead it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


    Daniel, 1988-2000: A child's suicide, unending grief and lessons learned (SARA FRITZ, November 16, 2003, St. Petersburg Times)

    Our son, Daniel, was 12 years old when he hanged himself with a belt in his bedroom.

    On the night of Oct. 27, 2000, my husband and I found him dangling by his neck from a chin-up bar in the doorway between his bedroom and bathroom.

    At first, I had difficulty grasping what had happened. His feet were only a few inches off the floor. It looked as if he could have lifted his neck out of the belt by pulling on the bar above him. I found myself searching for some indication that it was a prank.

    But when we freed his neck from the makeshift noose and eased his body onto the floor, his head hit the carpet with a heavy thud. His eyes were open, but he was motionless.

    Dead. Our precious son was dead.

    The horror of that moment still lives within us. Panic rises in our throats whenever our minds begin to re-create the scene. We get a sick, grinding pain deep inside whenever we think of Daniel and all he missed by ending his life so young. After more than three years of grieving, we still cannot fully accept our loss.

    Daniel had seemed like a pretty normal kid. He was popular, good-looking and growing up with all the advantages of a well-educated, middle-class family in Arlington, a comfortable suburb of Washington, D.C.

    Yet, Daniel's father and I had suspected our son was troubled in ways he wouldn't admit. He never threatened to harm himself, but he seemed depressed and sometimes agitated in the months leading up to his suicide. And even though we sought help for him, we failed to get him what he needed.

    Suicide among young people is not uncommon. Experts say it is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 19. Each year, about 1,600 American teenagers die by suicide, 1-million attempt it, and 1 in 5 consider it.

    Our son's death was particularly shocking because he was so young. Only 60 to 70 preteens kill themselves in the United States each year.

    My husband, Jim Kidney, and I have chosen to share our story of Daniel's life and death as a cautionary tale for parents of all children, whether they appear to be troubled or not. Many child and teen suicides could be prevented, experts say, if parents and professionals were more attentive and better informed about what causes kids to take their lives.

    David Shaffer, a professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University and a leading expert on the subject, cautions that child and teen suicides are not random events, as experts once thought.

    "We now know that it's nearly always a fatal complication of an undertreated, mistreated or untreated condition," he says.

    Although we will never know what Daniel was thinking when he put his neck into that noose, there is little doubt that he was misdiagnosed by his psychologist and a neurologist, who were treating him for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

    There is some evidence that the drugs he took for ADHD could have led to his suicide.

    NPR's Here and Now did a story with Ms Fritz earlier in the week and her tragedy is just horrible to contemplate. It offers the more insidious flip-side of the problem with bogus ADHD diagnoses. Not only are some kids treated as if they had a genuine disorder when all they are is rambunctious or inattentive, but more serious conditions can go untreated or even, as may have been the case here, exacerbated when profoundly ill kids get pigeon-holed with the rest. Postmodernism has done damage to everything it's touched, but the politicization of medicine and disease is killing people. Especially if you're a parent or work with kids, this is a must read.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM

    WHEN PC = VD:

    Syphilis increase sparks AIDS concerns (Steve Mitchell, 11/20/2003, United Press International)

    Syphilis rates rose dramatically for the second straight year in the United States, particularly among gay and bisexual men, a finding that has health officials worried about an increase in HIV/AIDS cases in the coming years.

    Overall, the U.S. syphilis rate rose by 9 percent between 2001 and 2002, the second consecutive increase from an all-time low in 2000, according to figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

    The bulk of the increase occurred among men, rising by about 27 percent overall, including a staggering increase of more than 85 percent among white men and a nearly 36 percent increase among Latino men. Information on sexual orientation is often not collected by health departments but the CDC estimates 40 percent of the increase was in gay and bisexual men.

    The total number of syphilis cases increased from 6,100 to more than 6,800, but CDC officials think this probably is only the tip of the iceberg because many cases go undiagnosed.

    "The overall number is probably significantly higher," Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDCs division of sexually transmitted diseases, said during a teleconference about the new figures, which appear in the Nov. 21 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

    The rise in syphilis infections indicates a growing number of gay and bisexual men are having unprotected sex, which worries health officials because the men could be spreading other diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

    Maybe the culture should stop pretending that homosexuality is no different than heterosexuality?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 PM


    Man vs. Machine (Arnold Kling, 11/20/2003, Tech Central Station)

    The results of the latest match between Gary Kasparov and the top computer X3D Fritz ended in a draw, vindicating Tyler Cowen and Jeff Sonas, who believe that computers have not yet overtaken the top human player. Sonas argues that "Although computers obviously must be improving in recent years, the strongest humans seem to also be improving at about the same rate."

    As a fan of Moore's Law, I am disappointed by the outcome of the latest chess match. As Cowen implies, the strength of the computers should be doubling each year or two. Yet they seem to be improving no faster than the best humans.

    Cowen describes the following process by which computers beat humans at chess.

    "The human grandmaster carries a significant advantage out of the opening or early middle game, where it is harder for the machine to calculate all relevant possibilities and positional judgment is at a premium. But as the game progresses, the machine plays perfect defense and the human cannot convert the advantage into a win."

    The implication is that the computer only wins by wearing down the human opponent. In Cowen's view, the human is really the better player.

    In fact, it is often the case in games between humans that the inferior player takes an early advantage and appears to be "worn down" by the better player. But that is the way games proceed between players of slightly uneven abilities.

    How can you be disappointed when your own species retains superiority?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


    The 9/11 Cover-up: What did Bush know about the al Qaeda threat? (David Corn, 11/03, LA Weekly)

    [W]hile the World Trade Center ashes were still glowing, Bush and his aides told the public that they had had no reason to suspect this type of horrific attack was about to occur. Yet, as the final report of the joint inquiry of the House and Senate intelligence committees notes, for years the intelligence community had collected information reporting that terrorist outfits, including al Qaeda, were interested in mounting 9/11-like attacks — that is, hijacking airliners and crashing them into high-profile targets in the United States. U.S. intelligence services, the Pentagon, and the Federal Aviation Administration during the Clinton and Bush II years apparently did not take action in response to these reports. That was a systemic failure. Bush has never addressed it publicly, but if pressed he could blame the bureaucrats at the CIA, the Defense Department and the FAA for ignoring clear-and-present hints. [...]

    [T]he preliminary evidence is that the White House has been protecting itself. According to the House and Senate intelligence committees’ final report on 9/11, the committees were told by an intelligence community representative that an August 2001 intelligence report included information that bin Laden wanted to conduct attacks in the United States, that al Qaeda members had been residing and traveling to the United States for years and had apparently maintained a support structure here, that bin Laden was interested in hijacking airliners (to trade for prisoners), that the FBI had discerned patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings, and that bin Laden supporters were planning attacks in the United States with explosives.

    That sure is different than a general warning about al Qaeda.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Corn's own accusation, it sure is different than a warning that "terrorist outfits, including al Qaeda, were interested in mounting 9/11-like attacks" too. There's no point defending either the government agencies involved or the Clinton and Bush administrations--obviously 9-11 represented a catastrophic breakdown of the core function of the state. Everyone and everything that was supposed to prevent such things failed, leaving those poor passengers as the nation's last line of defense, and even they couldn't have known how dire their situation was until after the 2nd plane hit, which seems to have been too late for the third (though one wonders if it was really intended for the Pentagon) and just in time for the folks on the 4th to die as heroes.

    It's easy to forgot now, but prior to that awful day it had been some time since there'd been a domestic hijacking and the standard operating procedure was to not offer resistance--just get the plane back on the ground and let the authorities negotiate the demands. Indeed, had al Qaeda taken those planes for the purposes of a prisoner swap, it would have been a shocking event, but one that had been gamed out thoroughly and about which volumes had been written--a disaster for America in propaganda terms but an almost mundane problem in terms of how security forces would have responded. Obviously, in hindsight, we'd like to have imposed such drastic measures that the course of events might have been changed, but the very absence of hijackings made it appear that the security system worked and the relative nonlethality of past hijackings made them seem almost predictable. The wicked genius of 9-11 was that it diverged so completely from prior hijackings, that it was so unlike what was apparently warned of in those intelligence briefings. In retrospect we think we knew what they were capable of because we'd read it in Tom Clancy or we knew in our hearts that the first Trade Center bombing was serious--but we kid ourselves. Summon up your memories of that day and preceding the furor and the grief you'll recall stunned disbelief. No amount of fiction and expert prognostication could have prepared us: evil on such a scale dwarfs imagination before hand and daunts comprehension even after.

    Want proof of the latter? Just look at how bitchy the media gets about Orange Alerts, or whatever, from the Department of Homeland Security after 9-11. Imagine if these intelligence briefings had revealed the precise plans for the attack beforehand and the administration had grounded the airlines or closed the Trade Center until the plotters could be found? No, we can't imagine it, can we? No one would have tolerated such a thing. Heck, we wouldn't now, not for more than a day or two.

    If Mr. Corn needs someone to blame, he may as well blame the President. Folks who seek great responsibility have to be prepared to accept great blame when things go wrong--and things have seldom gone more radically wrong than they did on 9-11. So, there. Do we all feel better? Does that advance the ball any in the fight against terror? Does Mr. Bush seem like a guy who needs to be reminded that he's responsible for our national security and that he's already presided over one massive lapse in that responsibility? Seems bloody unlikely.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:48 PM

    TOUGH TIMES FOR FULL-MOONERS (via Mr. Whipsnaade):

    Kennedy's assassin acted alone: Expert (TIMES OF INDIA, NOVEMBER 20, 2003)

    It is a tantalizing tape recording, full of static hiss, popping sounds, and eerie faraway voices. And for years, there has been debate over whether it proves there was a plot to kill President Kennedy.

    Now, a new analysis of the tape recorded by a Dallas police officer on the day Kennedy was assassinated casts further doubt on the lingering conspiracy theories.

    Although some previous studies have suggested that one of the sounds on the tape is a gunshot from the infamous "grassy knoll," forensic acoustics expert Bob Berkovitz said it was extremely unlikely that the sound was gunfire.

    "The theory that the noise represents a 'grassy knoll' gunshot is not supported by the computer-based analysis," said Berkovitz, chairman of Sensimetrics Corp., which specializes in research on speech and hearing.

    Berkovitz studied the tape for Court TV for its special ˜ "The JFK Assassination: Investigation Reopened" ˜ which was to air Wednesday.

    For those who believe a conspiracy was at work on the day JFK was shot ˜ Nov. 22, 1963 ˜ the tape is considered a key piece of evidence. [...]

    Berkovitz seized on a snippet of conversation that can be overheard on the recording right at the point where the supposed grassy knoll "shot" is heard. The words "hold everything secure" appear to come from a second radio channel being operated by police that day.

    The problem for conspiracy theorists is that the time of the transmission of the words "hold everything secure" on the second radio channel was about a minute after the assassination, meaning that the sound identified as the shot actually came a minute after the shots, according to Berkovitz.

    Next they'll try to prove we really did put a man on the moon...

    Posted by David Cohen at 3:41 PM


    Attack Geography. Hey, buddy, who do you think you're calling "bucolic"? (Michael Kinsley, Slate, 11/20/03)

    Republicans have had a talent for geographical chauvinism since Nixon's southern strategy. Wherever a Democratic candidate happens to be from, that place turns out to be isolated and unrepresentative and not part of the real America. They are having a good time at the moment dissing Vermont, home of former Gov. Howard Dean. It's way up there in the Northeast somewhere. (Yeah, not too far south of the Bush family hangout in Maine.) It doesn't have any black people. Its best-known product is some hippie ice cream. Worst of all, it's (gasp!) "bucolic." . . .

    In 1988, Republicans painted Massachusetts as a foreign country and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis as an elitist, compared with that po' boy from Texas, the elder George Bush. Massachusetts, to its credit, is a bit south of Vermont. On the other hand, it is full of universities. Need we say more?

    When Bill Clinton emerged as Democratic front-runner in 1992, Republicans went to work denigrating Arkansas. . . .

    The GOP will be making meat out of Dean's New York background, too. They will have a harder time of it since they have chosen to hold their convention in New York next summer. This was a cynical decision, intended to provide a backdrop for yet one more presidential victory lap in the war on terrorism.

    I suppose you have to give Kinsley credit for getting a whole column out of Republicans making fun of New England and Arkansas, and it might indicate that things are going pretty well for the administration. But, truth to tell, I haven't seen any Republicans making fun of Vermont. That seems to be coming mostly from Democrats, who believe that not having blacks in his state makes Governor Dean ineligible for the presidency.

    As for the convention, is there a non-cynical way to decide where to hold a political party convention? I'm not even sure that "cynical" means anything in this regard. Kinsley complains that, in 1992, Republicans dismissed New York, the site of the Democratic convention, as "not the real America. Urban. Ethnic. Noisy, crowded, dirty." Can he really not think of any thing that's happened since then (or two things, maybe) that makes New York and the Republican party a more natural fit?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


    Medicare Reform: The Real Winners
    (Jonathan Cohn, Nov. 20, 2003, The New Republic)

    [G]iven the fundamental irrationality of the American health care system, sometimes doing the right thing in the long-term -- i.e., reforming Medicare -- requires doing the wrong thing in the short-term -- i.e., buying votes by subsidizing politically influential interest groups. But far from doing the right thing in the long-term, this bill actually makes Medicare less efficient and undermines its long-term financial stability.

    It does this, first, by trying to introduce more competition into Medicare -- a cause Breaux and others have championed for years. In addition to authorizing a future demonstration program in which private insurers would bid for business against traditional Medicare in up to six communities, competition advocates secured financial incentives that would entice more insurance companies to offer Medicare benefits under the existing Medicare-plus-choice program. If this works, it would shift more people out of the old, government-run program and into private managed care plans.

    As in the Middle East, stability does not serve our purposes.

    Posted by David Cohen at 2:24 PM


    In Mourning, an Intersection of Faiths Funerals for Istanbul Bombing Victims Mix Jewish and Muslim Symbols (Molly Moore, washington Post, 11/19/03)

    On Tuesday morning, the simple wooden coffins of Anet and her grandmother were lowered simultaneously into side-by-side graves at Istanbul's Ashkenaz Jewish Cemetery, as rain from a gray sky drenched sobbing relatives and friends. Four other Jews killed in Saturday's truck bomb attacks at Beth Israel and another Istanbul synagogue, including a woman whose husband was one of 19 Muslims killed in the blasts, were buried nearby.

    In a striking marriage of cultural symbols, each of the six coffins was embossed with the Star of David and draped in the crimson Turkish flag with its white Islamic crescent and star -- an honor reserved for soldiers and government officials or civilians who die as martyrs in the eyes of this predominantly Muslim nation. The brilliant red-covered coffins appeared to float through clouds of black, rain-beaded umbrellas as bearers shouldered them through the crowd. . . .

    Throughout the services, Anet's fourth-grade classmates stood at the foot of her tiny coffin, clutching a poster-sized photograph of their friend framed in white carnations. Anet's broad smile and sparkling brown eyes peered from beneath a thick fringe of black bangs, contrasting sharply with the tear-streaked faces and trembling lips of the small mourners.

    Her teacher, Necla Ozturk, stood above her young charges, her face grim, her head covered in a long black shawl. "She was the smallest child in the class," Ozturk told reporters who visited her primary school classroom on Monday. "Because of that, we always tried to protect her. But we couldn't protect her from the terrorists." . . .

    The coffin of Berta Ozdogan, who was five months pregnant, was lowered into the grave next to Anet's. Her husband, Ahmet, a Muslim, was buried the day before in a Muslim cemetery. The couple had been married six years and acquaintances said that although members of the two families originally opposed the marriage, they had grown to understand and respect the couple's love for each other.

    To show his support for his wife, Ahmet often accompanied her to Jewish services. The couple had just entered the Neve Shalom synagogue complex to attend the bar mitzvah of Berta's 13-year-old cousin when the second truck bomb exploded, according to family members.

    At Ahmet's funeral, his mother, Inci Ozdogan, said: "Today I'm saying goodbye to my son. Tomorrow I'm saying farewell to my Berta. I don't know what they wanted from my kids. Were they jealous of their happiness? They will meet again on the other side."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


    Republicans Reach Deal On D.C. Vouchers Plan (Spencer S. Hsu, November 20, 2003, Washington Post)

    Congressional Republican leaders struck agreement yesterday on legislation to launch the nation's first federally funded school voucher program next fall in the District, tentatively rolling the $13 million measure and the District's $5.6 billion budget into a giant federal spending bill that Democrats conceded they would not filibuster.

    The deal leaves the D.C. voucher program poised to clear final hurdles in House and Senate floor votes as early as this weekend, as time winds down before Congress adjourns for the year. The agreement also puts majority Republicans in position to deliver a long-sought victory to conservative education activists and President Bush, though admittedly one based on the slimmest of partisan margins.

    Legislation agreed upon last night by a House-Senate conference would permit Secretary of Education Roderick R. Paige to start a five-year pilot program -- in consultation with Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) -- that would provide taxpayer-funded grants of as much as $7,500 to at least 1,700 District schoolchildren for attending private and parochial schools. These "opportunity scholarships" would be limited to children in families earning up to 185 percent of the poverty level -- about $35,000 for a family of four -- and priority would go to children attending low-performing schools.

    $7500 is enough to get them into a better school and buy them a home computer.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


    Britain and the United States must sign a new Atlantic Charter (Daniel Johnson, 20/11/2003, Daily Telegraph)

    What would be the benefits? It may be hard to conceive of even closer Anglo-American co-operation than already exists, but experience has revealed an unnecessary level of friction between the two armed forces. The British envy the Americans their firepower and mobility; the Americans admire the British for their experience in counter-insurgency and peacekeeping. Integration of equipment and intelligence would be more complete. A sharper focus on the real threats facing the West would liberate resources.

    Britain's greatest gain would be to preclude our absorption into a European army. Unless the drift towards European control of security and diplomacy is arrested, it is more than likely that Britain will never again be able to take America's side against the Franco-German axis, as it did over Iraq. By anchoring Britain in a formal bilateral alliance with the United States, the charter would preserve our freedom of action.

    Earlier this month, I spent time in Washington discussing the idea of a new Atlantic Charter with several of America's most influential opinion formers. They agreed that it is an idea whose time has come. Tony Blair should seize an opportunity that may never recur.

    We've been dating for over two hundred years; isn't it time to make an honest woman of Britain?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


    U.S. October Index of Leading Economic Indicators Rises 0.4% (Bloomberg, 11/20/03)

    The index of leading U.S. economic indicators rose in October for the fifth time in the last six months, suggesting the economy will continue to expand through early next year.

    The Conference Board's gauge of how the economy will perform over the next three to six months rose 0.4 percent, more than forecast, following no change in September. Fewer initial jobless claims, improving consumer confidence, rising stock prices and a jump in building permits paced the increase.

    Builders started construction on new homes at the fastest pace in almost 18 years in October and regional reports suggest manufacturers ramped up production this month to keep up with demand. The economy may grow at a 4 percent rate this quarter and maintain that pace in the first half of 2004, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, as the economic expansion enters its third year.

    "Folks are going to commit to this recovery,'' said Geoffrey Somes, a senior economist at Fleet Bank in Boston, before the report. Falling claims and higher confidence "will make for a strong holiday shopping season and will help us transition from a recovery to a sustained expansion.''

    Economists had forecast a 0.2 percent in the leading indicators index, based on the median of 60 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey, following a previously reported decrease of 0.2 percent. Projections for October ranged from minus 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent.

    The economy may expand at a 4 percent annual rate in the first three months of 2004 and at a 3.9 percent rate from April through June, according to the median estimate of 57 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News this month. The U.S., the world's largest economy, grew an average 3.6 percent a year during the record expansion from 1991 to 2001.

    It's time to start discussing what we're going to do with the surplus again.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


    New Hampshire Baseball

    Manchester, NH is getting a Double A team and they're having a contest to name it. They first proposed The Primaries, but reaction was quite negative--too political. We're pulling for The Freemen.

    Posted by David Cohen at 9:20 AM


    Fla. Woman Has Stroke, Gets British Accent. Roberts Diagnosed With Extremely Rare 'Foreign-Accent Syndrome' (, 11/19/03)

    A University of Central Florida speech expert has diagnosed an extremely rare disorder in a Sarasota, Fla., woman that caused her to speak with a British accent after she suffered a stroke.

    The case of foreign-accent syndrome is one of fewer than 20 reported worldwide since 1919, according to Jack Ryalls, professor of communicative disorders at UCF.

    I'd like to see a computer do that.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


    You Gotta Have Friends (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, November 20, 2003, NY Times)

    It is amazing, British officials say, how little the Bush team has done to shore up Mr. Blair for taking his hugely important (and unpopular) pro-war stance. Mr. Blair needs the U.S. to drop its outrageous steel tariffs, to provide a workable alternative to Kyoto, to hand over the nine U.K. citizens held in Guantánamo Bay (which is a big story here) and to let London play around with the E.U. on a European defense force, which is not a threat to NATO. But so far, he appears to be getting nothing.

    Tony Blair was too principled for his own good. He was so convinced that the war was right, he never played hardball with the Bush team to get it to adopt the other policies needed to sustain British support, and which would also have increased Mr. Bush's authority throughout Europe.

    And all we need is for Europe to drop its steel subsidies and to recognize that Kyoto is a non-starter in the U.S. and for Britain to turn away from the EU and toward an Anglosphere. This would destroy the authority of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush in Europe, but, so what? Europe is a dead letter, the future lies elsewhere, let's move on.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


    Universal soldier: George Bush in London (Leader, November 20, 2003, The Guardian)

    Mr Bush's father struggled during his presidency with the "vision thing". His son evidently entertains no such confusions. This Mr Bush's philosophy is nothing less than revolutionary - his own word yesterday. He sees a world in which the forces of liberty, democracy, free speech and free markets, underpinned by shared moral imperatives, are steadily advancing. He sees a choice, for every nation and every people, between the sort of values he espouses and the old ways of tyranny, oppression and social and economic failure.

    Oh, those naive Americans....

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


    Daschle says he will vote for energy bill (AP, 11/19/03)

    Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is ready to support the broad energy bill and will oppose attempts to scuttle it by a filibuster, one of the senator's aides said Wednesday.

    The decision casts doubt on whether opponents can succeed in blocking the bill through a filibuster over a dispute involving the gasoline additive MTBE, which has been found to contaminate drinking water supplies. [...]

    South Dakota is a major producer of corn-based ethanol. The bill calls for doubling ethanol production to 5 billion gallons a year by 2012.

    Interesting that he was willing to risk Max Cleland's seat over civil service rules, but not his own when corn is involved.

    November 19, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM

    Red Sox Haiku (MPo, 11/05/03)

    My wife says her name
    should be Pedro because I
    never take her out

    Posted by David Cohen at 10:51 PM


    US breadmakers hold crisis talks over impact of Atkins diet (Jeremy Laurance, The Independent, 11/20/03)

    Consumption of bread plummeted in America in the past year with an estimated 40 per cent of Americans eating less than in 2002. The US bread industry is to hold a crisis "bread summit" tomorrow to discuss measures to curb falling sales. . . .

    Sales of sliced and wrapped bread have been declining by 2 per cent a year for the past three years in the UK. John White, a spokesman for the federation, said: "The impact of Atkins in the US is of concern to UK businesses. Everyone seems to be on it."

    In America, Patrick Davis of the National Bread Leadership Council, which organised the summit, said that it was unclear whether the fall in bread sales was a temporary blip or indicative of a more permanent change in eating habits. The average American eats 54lbs of bread a year, barely a third of the quantity consumed by the French and Italians. But the Italians and the French are not notably obese, Mr Davis said.

    If the English decide to stop eating bread, what will they make their sausages out of?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


    How George can really help Tony: As a European country, Britain is torn over Bush. But so is America (Timothy Garton Ash, November 20, 2003, The Guardian)

    Will any change of tone by the Bush administration be enough to bridge the present gulf between America and Europe? Almost certainly not. Most Europeans now have such a settled negative view of President Bush that it's hard to see what could change their minds. This view may be unfair. The Banqueting Hall speech actually contained a lot of very good sense, although one suspects it was much less the speaker's personal work than are Tony Blair's big speeches. In private, Bush can be warm, engaging and pretty sharp. Unfortunately, none of that matters tuppence. Or two cents. In such cases, the image is the reality.

    But here's another reality: half of America agrees. What's happening in London today is a meeting between the prime minister of one divided country and the president of another - and I'm not talking about Korea or Cyprus. As the patriotic unity that followed the 9/11 attacks has faded, and American soldiers keep dying in Iraq, so the great divide that was apparent at the time of Bush's election has reemerged.

    A recent poll by the Pew Research Centre showed a country split down the middle, 50-50, and never more polarised. This is not just the pre-electoral posturing of Republicans versus Democrats. It's a deep cultural divide between the more liberal coasts and the religous, conservative interior and south - sometimes called, rather confusingly to our ears, "red" America (for the conservative part) and "blue" America (for the liberal coasts).

    Blue America has attitudes that are much closer to those of Europeans. For instance, in the Pew poll, 72% of Democrats said government should do more to help needy people, even if it means a larger deficit, against just 39% of Republicans. So you could say, according to taste, that half the Americans are Europeans, or that most Europeans are Democrats.

    That seems a low blow.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM

    60-40 VISION FILES:

    Mel Martinez to Announce for Fla. Senate Bid (NewsMax, Nov. 19, 2003)

    Housing Secretary Mel Martinez will announce that he will be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, perhaps as soon as the next two weeks, informed Washington sources tell

    Martinez’s decision comes after renewed urging by top Bush adviser Karl Rove and the recent decision by incumbent Sen. Bob Graham to retire.

    Martinez has reportedly had recent discussions with Sen. George Allen, R-Va., chairman of the Senate GOP Campaign Committee and sources say that the president wants Martinez to run.

    It also affords a nice opportunity--very rare in this Administration--to fill a Cabinet slot and do so in a way that scores some political points. How about Cory Booker?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 PM


    Housing Construction at 17-Year High, Report Says (AP, November 19, 2003)

    Residential construction sizzled in October, reaching the highest level of activity in 17 years, a fresh sign that the red-hot housing market is helping to fire the economy's recovery.

    The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that builders broke ground on 1.96 million units, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, representing a 2.9 percent increase from September's pace.

    The level of activity in October marked the strongest monthly performance since January 1986 and left economists marveling at the strength of the housing sector, which has hummed along throughout the economy's economic slump as low mortgage rates have beckoned buyers.

    Economists were predicting residential construction would decline in October to a rate of around 1.85 million units.

    "U.S. housing starts blew away estimates,'' said Sherry Cooper, chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns. "The economy is looking increasingly steamy.''

    Posted by David Cohen at 10:06 PM


    The Gettysburg Address (Abraham Lincoln, 11/19/63)

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal"

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

    It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


    War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal (Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger, November 20, 2003, The Guardian)

    International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

    In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

    President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.

    But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.

    French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein".

    Mr Perle, who was speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts at the Old Vic theatre in London, had argued loudly for the toppling of the Iraqi dictator since the end of the 1991 Gulf war.

    "They're just not interested in international law, are they?" said Linda Hugl, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which launched a high court challenge to the war's legality last year.

    Given a choice between what's legal, but evil, and what's right, but illegal, what is the virtue of the former?

    Fledgling democracy taking first steps (LEE HILL KAVANAUGH, 11/19/03, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

    Down a shady river road, where a month ago American coalition troops were ambushed, sits the Kademiyah Advisory Council building.

    Dozens of Iraqi men mingle in the hallways of the single-story building waiting for the Advisory Council to begin. Some are dressed in Western-style suits, others are in elaborate robes and headdresses. American soldiers are here too, wearing body armor, Kevlar helmets, M-16s slung over their shoulders and 9 mm pistols strapped to their legs.

    Here, the fledgling postwar Iraqi democracy is taking its first baby steps.

    With little fanfare, Iraqis in the 85 neighborhoods of Baghdad already have made history. For the first times in their lives, they voted by raising their hands for representatives. Now they are learning how to govern and trust in their own leadership instead of a dictator's.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


    God, man and growth: Two economists go where angels fear to tread (The Economist, Nov 13th 2003)

    IF YOU want to avoid an argument over religion at your next dinner party, you might suppose it safe to invite an economist or two. They, of all people, could be expected to stick to Mammon. Or maybe not, if a new paper by Robert Barro, one of America's best-known economists, and Rachel McCleary, a colleague at Harvard University, is any guide. It explores the influence of religious belief and observance on economic growth. [...]

    In order to sort this out, the authors needed to find measures of religion which are not themselves affected by GDP growth. To do this, they draw on a fundamental tenet of orthodox economic faith: that more competition is better. In some countries, religion is (or was) banned altogether or discouraged. In others, a single strand is sponsored by the state. In others, there is a free-for-all.

    Earlier studies, say the authors, suggest that religion is more likely to flourish where there is less state control and a greater diversity of belief. So they use this to test the impact of religion on growth. Up to a point, their findings corroborate some common perceptions. More prosperous countries seem to have lower rates of church attendance, although America-the best instance of a country of competing sects rather than a state religion-is a conspicuous exception. More urbanised countries tend to be less religious. However, contrary to what many people think, religion seems to have a stronger hold in countries with better educated populations.

    The most striking conclusion, though, is that belief in the afterlife, heaven and hell are good for economic growth. Of these, fear of hell is by far the most powerful, but all three indicators have a bigger impact on economic performance than merely turning up for church. The authors surmise, therefore, that religion works via belief, not practice.

    that's the fascinating paradox of freedom: it only seems to function well when folks have internalized a set of moral restraints on themselves. In effect, outer freedom requires inner repression.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


    Living Wills: Not a Be-All and End-All: They may seem like a good idea, but fate refuses to be controlled. (Angela Fagerlin and Carl E. Schneider, November 12, 2003, LA Times)

    First, people have to be able to accurately predict how they would feel about various treatments down the line. But even patients evaluating contemporaneous treatments are often daunted by the difficulty of making such decisions. They falter in gathering information, they misunderstand and ignore what they do gather, and they rush headlong into choices. How much harder, then, is it for people to conjure up decisions for an indescribable future and unknowable medical conditions with unpredictable treatments?

    Further, their preferences must be stable. Yet on average, studies find that almost one-third of people's preferences about life-sustaining medical treatment change even over a few years. Understandably. Would Christopher Reeve have predicted that he could live so fulfilling a life with quadriplegia?

    People must also grapple with drafting complex instructions. Studies find that living wills regularly contain mutually inconsistent instructions. Nor do the standard forms sufficiently help. One version deploys vague terms like "artificial means" and "heroic measures." Another asks the writer to specify numerous treatments for numerous conditions, a labor of analysis few of us are equipped to undertake.

    Living wills must also reach decision-makers in order to be effective, but many never do, for the road from the drafting table to the ICU bed can be long. For instance, one study of 182 patients with advance directives found only 29 patients with those directives in their charts.

    Ultimately, it is incumbent upon the surrogate decision-maker (typically a family member acting as executor of the living will) to interpret the treatment preferences correctly. But according to a recent study using hypothetical scenarios, surrogates who saw a living will did no better interpreting their loved ones' preferences than did surrogates who didn't see a living will. Even surrogates who had discussed living wills with the wills' writers had trouble.

    The empirical evidence indicates that not one of the requisites to making living wills successful social policy is met now, or can be.

    As long as we're cheapening life, why not televise it and let the audience vote?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


    Just What Is Marriage Anyway?: The gay-rights ruling by Massachusetts' highest court undermines the family as an institution (Douglas W. Kmiec, November 19, 2003, LA Times)

    Reserving marriage to a man and a woman has never been premised on mean-spirited exclusion. It is the rational belief based on millenniums of experience that marriage is a cultural institution, not merely a lifestyle choice. Marriage promotes procreation, ensures the benefits of child rearing by the distinct attributes of both father and mother and makes intimate sexual activity orderly and socially accountable. That not every marriage is blessed with children hardly meant, until now, that states had to fashion laws for the exception rather than the rule.

    As a cultural matter, unless reversed by the people of Massachusetts by constitutional amendment, Tuesday's decision further embeds the highly self-centered notion of marriage as merely gratifying the desire for intimacy. Of course, abiding friendship has always been necessary for a good marriage, but to find, as the Massachusetts court did, that marriage is merely a long-term, permanent commitment while expressly rejecting as its essential aspect the begetting and moral formation of children is to severely injure community by elevating self over obligation to others.

    Massachusetts has declared the thinking of all the nation - except itself - to be irrational. In doing so, it denies that marriage fosters an accountability to family. Construction of a family through marriage forms a bond between husband and wife and thereby invites natural kinship and an interconnectedness that is irreplaceable.

    As a legal matter, Congress has anticipated the Massachusetts aberration. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. It defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as the union of a man and a woman and affirms that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage contracted in another state.

    On its face, DOMA seems constitutionally well drafted, capable of preventing the Massachusetts mistake from spreading nationwide. Congress has express authority under the U.S. Constitution to enact laws concerning the "effect" of out-of-state rulings. It is also well-settled law that although recognition is generally given to out-of-state marriages, they need not be recognized if they violate a strong public policy of the receiving state.

    But does well-settled law or cultural tradition count any longer?

    One admirable thing about Mr. Kmiec--whether you agree with him or not--he continues to leave a paper trail despite speculation that he'll be appointed to the bench by President Bush.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


    Will Bush Exit – or Escalate? (Pat Buchanan, November 19, 2003,

    Should Iraq collapse, Bush would risk defeat in 2004 and enter the history books as a failed president who had blundered into the most ill-conceived war in U.S. history.

    Surely he knows this. Which is why I believe Bush and his War Cabinet may have another strategy in mind, which is this. The president intends to draw down U.S. forces to a hard core of fighters, perhaps 90,000, backed by U.S. air power, a force 15 times as large as the mobile U.S. force in Afghanistan. This force will carry the brunt of battle in a new war against the guerrillas and terrorists, and be less concerned with winning hearts and minds in the Sunni Triangle than killing enemy fighters. Operation Iron Hammer is the dress rehearsal for the new war.

    An Iraqi assembly will be elected and a leader chosen upon whom the United States can rely to fight a "long, hard slog." This leader will, with U.S. training, rapidly expand the Iraq army and police forces. Unlike Vietnam's President Thieu, who was abandoned in 1973, this leader, like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, will be able to call on U.S. firepower to win any battle against attacking guerrillas.

    Goal: Convince undecided Iraqis, who cannot wish to be ruled by Saddam and the Ba'athists, or Islamic radicals, that America and her allies are going to win the war, so it is wiser and safer to cast their lot with us.

    Do not rule out the possibility that Bush escalates rather than retreats, that he puts his faith in winning the war rather than consigning Iraq to the Iraqi electorate and hoping for the best. Use of bombers near Tikrit and gunships around Baghdad may be harbingers of the war to come.

    Let's hope so--this strategy worked in Vietnam.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM

    DON'T THEY CALL THIS EXTORTION? (via Eric Timmons):

    PETA Delays Ad Poking Fun at Clay Aiken (Fox News, November 19, 2003)

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has delayed a new ad campaign with the slogan "Get Neutered, It Didn't Hurt Clay Aiken," while it waits to see if Aiken will apologize for negative comments he made about cats, PETA officials said Tuesday.

    "If Clay Aiken intends on staying famous, he has to learn to take a joke," said Dan Mathews, vice president of the Norfolk, Va.-based animal rights group.

    The ad features the crass puppet Triumph the Insult Comic dog from "Late Night" with Conan O'Brien urging pet owners to spay or neuter their animals. The barb came from Triumph, but PETA allowed the ad because of an interview Aiken gave to Rolling Stone Magazine in June where he said he didn't like cats.

    "There's nothing worse to me than a house cat. When I was about sixteen, I had a kitten and ran over it. Seeing that cat die, I actually think that its spirit has haunted me. I wasn't afraid of cats before. But now they scare me to death," Aiken told Rolling Stone.

    Mathews said if Aiken will post a message on his Web site urging pet owners to spay or neuter their animals, and give an interview for PETA's Web site, the ad campaign will be modified to "Cut 'em off. They don't taste that great anyway."

    Whoever Mr. Aiken is, his next album should be called: "Buy this Album or I Kill the Cat".

    Posted by David Cohen at 3:01 PM


    Prague Revisited. The evidence of an Iraq/al-Qaida connection hasn't gone away (Edward Jay Epstein, Slate, 11/19/03)

    In 1998, an Iraqi defector claimed that, while posted at the Iraqi Embassy in Prague, he had been given $150,000 to arrange a bombing of the Radio Free Europe headquarters in Prague. His replacement was watched thereafter, and surveillance was increased after the replacement was observed taking pictures of Radio Free Europe's building.

    [O]n April 8, 2001, a BIS [Czech intelligence] watcher saw al-Ani [of the Iraqi Embassy] meeting in a restaurant outside Prague with an Arab man in his 20s. This set off alarm bells because a BIS informant in the Arab community had provided information indicating that the person with whom al-Ani was meeting was a visiting "student" from Hamburg—and one who was potentially dangerous. . . .

    The issue re-emerged three days after the 9/11 attack when the CIA intelligence liaison was told by the BIS that the Hamburg "student" who had met with al-Ani on April 8 had been tentatively identified as the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Since al-Ani was an officer of Saddam Hussein's intelligence (and diplomatic) service, this identification raised the possibility that Saddam might have had a hand in the 9/11 attack. It could also be potentially embarrassing, as Kavan pointed out, "if American intelligence had failed before 9/11 to adequately appreciate the significance of the April meeting." . . .

    [After rumours of the April meeting leaked to the press, denials started surfacing claiming that the FBI had proof that Atta had been in the US at the time of the Prague meeting. It turns out, however, that the denials were incorrect and that the claimed proof could not exist.]

    But just because Atta could have been in Prague did not mean that he met al-Ani there on April 8, 2001. Eyewitness identification can often be mistaken. It was known, however, that Atta had business in Prague prior to the 9/11 attack. Kmonicek, the deputy foreign minister, had found a paper trail of passport records showing that Atta had applied for a visa to visit the Czech Republic on May 26, 2000 in Bonn, Germany. Atta must have had business there, since he could have transited through the Czech Republic on Czech Air without a visa.

    Atta's business appeared to be extremely time sensitive and specific to May 30. When Atta learned in Hamburg that his Czech visa would not be ready until May 31, he nevertheless flew on May 30 to the Prague International Airport, where he would not be allowed to go beyond the transit lounge. Although a large part of this area is surveiled by cameras, he managed to spend all but a few minutes out of their range. After some six hours, he then caught a flight back to Hamburg. From this visaless round trip, Czech intelligence inferred that Atta had a meeting on May 30 that could not wait, even a day—and that whoever arranged it was probably familiar with the transit lounge's surveillance. Finally, the BIS determined that the Prague connection was not limited to a single appointment since Atta returned to Prague by bus on June 2 (now with visa BONN200005260024), and, after a brief wait in the bus station, disappeared for nearly 20 hours before catching a flight to the United States.

    Everyone give a big right wing "howdy" to Slate, newest member of the VRWC.

    MORE: Why is the press avoiding the Weekly Standard's intelligence scoop? (Jack Shafer, Slate, 11/18/03)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


    Negotiators adopt a draft creating world's largest free-trade region (JOHN PAIN, November 19, 2003, Associated Press)

    Negotiators trying to turn the Western Hemisphere into the world's largest free-trade zone adopted a draft text Wednesday that would allow countries to opt out of parts of the agreement, officials from the Brazilian delegation said.

    The buffet-style draft, pushed by the Brazil and the United States, will be handed out to trade ministers from the 34 nations in the Americas, excluding Cuba, for two days of meetings starting Thursday to complete the text.

    It's time to withdraw from the WTO and pursue separate agreements with friends and neighbors.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


    Remarks by the President at Whitehall Palace (Royal Banqueting House-Whitehall Palace, London, England, 11/19/03)

    It was pointed out to me that the last noted American to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames. (Laughter.) A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me. (Laughter.) I thank Her Majesty the Queen for interceding. (Laughter.) We're honored to be staying at her house.

    Americans traveling to England always observe more similarities to our country than differences. I've been here only a short time, but I've noticed that the tradition of free speech -- exercised with enthusiasm -- (laughter) -- is alive and well here in London. We have that at home, too. They now have that right in Baghdad, as well. (Applause.)

    The people of Great Britain also might see some familiar traits in Americans. We're sometimes faulted for a naive faith that liberty can change the world. If that's an error it began with reading too much John Locke and Adam Smith. Americans have, on occasion, been called moralists who often speak in terms of right and wrong. That zeal has been inspired by examples on this island, by the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury, the righteous courage of Wilberforce, and the firm determination of the Royal Navy over the decades to fight and end the trade in slaves.

    It's rightly said that Americans are a religious people. That's, in part, because the "Good News" was translated by Tyndale, preached by Wesley, lived out in the example of William Booth. At times, Americans are even said to have a puritan streak -- where might that have come from? (Laughter.) Well, we can start with the Puritans.

    To this fine heritage, Americans have added a few traits of our own: the good influence of our immigrants, the spirit of the frontier. Yet, there remains a bit of England in every American. So much of our national character comes from you, and we're glad for it.

    The fellowship of generations is the cause of common beliefs. We believe in open societies ordered by moral conviction. We believe in private markets, humanized by compassionate government. We believe in economies that reward effort, communities that protect the weak, and the duty of nations to respect the dignity and the rights of all. And whether one learns these ideals in County Durham or in West Texas, they instill mutual respect and they inspire common purpose.

    More than an alliance of security and commerce, the British and American peoples have an alliance of values. And, today, this old and tested alliance is very strong. (Applause.)

    The deepest beliefs of our nations set the direction of our foreign policy. We value our own civil rights, so we stand for the human rights of others. We affirm the God-given dignity of every person, so we are moved to action by poverty and oppression and famine and disease. The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings. Together our nations are standing and sacrificing for this high goal in a distant land at this very hour. And America honors the idealism and the bravery of the sons and daughters of Britain.

    The last President to stay at Buckingham Palace was an idealist, without question. At a dinner hosted by King George V, in 1918, Woodrow Wilson made a pledge; with typical American understatement, he vowed that right and justice would become the predominant and controlling force in the world.

    President Wilson had come to Europe with his 14 Points for Peace. Many complimented him on his vision; yet some were dubious. Take, for example, the Prime Minister of France. He complained that God, himself, had only 10 commandments. (Laughter.) Sounds familiar. (Laughter.)

    At Wilson's high point of idealism, however, Europe was one short generation from Munich and Auschwitz and the Blitz. Looking back, we see the reasons why. The League of Nations, lacking both credibility and will, collapsed at the first challenge of the dictators. Free nations failed to recognize, much less confront, the aggressive evil in plain sight. And so dictators went about their business, feeding resentments and anti-Semitism, bringing death to innocent people in this city and across the world, and filling the last century with violence and genocide.

    Through world war and cold war, we learned that idealism, if it is to do any good in this world, requires common purpose and national strength, moral courage and patience in difficult tasks. And now our generation has need of these qualities. [...]

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have great objectives before us that make our Atlantic alliance as vital as it has ever been. We will encourage the strength and effectiveness of international institutions. We will use force when necessary in the defense of freedom. And we will raise up an ideal of democracy in every part of the world. On these three pillars we will build the peace and security of all free nations in a time of danger.

    So much good has come from our alliance of conviction and might. So much now depends on the strength of this alliance as we go forward. America has always found strong partners in London, leaders of good judgment and blunt counsel and backbone when times are tough. And I have found all those qualities in your current Prime Minister, who has my respect and my deepest thanks. (Applause.)

    The ties between our nations, however, are deeper than the relationship between leaders. These ties endure because they are formed by the experience and responsibilities and adversity we have shared. And in the memory of our peoples, there will always be one experience, one central event when the seal was fixed on the friendship between Britain and the United States: The arrival in Great Britain of more than 1.5 million American soldiers and airmen in the 1940s was a turning point in the second world war. For many Britons, it was a first close look at Americans, other than in the movies. Some of you here today may still remember the "friendly invasion." Our lads, they took some getting used to. There was even a saying about what many of them were up to -- in addition to be[ing] "overpaid and over here." (Laughter.)

    At a reunion in North London some years ago, an American pilot who had settled in England after his military service, said, "Well, I'm still over here, and probably overpaid. So two out of three isn't bad." (Laughter.)

    In that time of war, the English people did get used to the Americans. They welcomed soldiers and fliers into their villages and homes, and took to calling them, "our boys." About 70,000 of those boys did their part to affirm our special relationship. They returned home with English brides.

    Americans gained a certain image of Britain, as well. We saw an island threatened on every side, a leader who did not waver, and a country of the firmest character. And that has not changed. The British people are the sort of partners you want when serious work needs doing. The men and women of this Kingdom are kind and steadfast and generous and brave. And America is fortunate to call this country our closest friend in the world.

    May God bless you all.

    The British correspondent they talked to on NPR expressed surprise that President Bush, who he characterized Brits as thinking is brutal and stupid, was so articulate and passionate about democracy. Similarly, we were surprised that Tony Blair didn't actually chew on a lime while addressing Congress.

    Posted by David Cohen at 2:02 PM


    Dean Calls For New Controls on Business, Democrat Seeks 'Re-Regulation' (Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, 11/19/03)

    After years of government deregulation of energy markets, telecommunications, the airlines and other major industries, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is proposing a significant reversal: a comprehensive "re-regulation" of U.S. businesses.

    The former Vermont governor said he would reverse the trend toward deregulation pursued by recent presidents -- including, in some respects, Bill Clinton -- to help restore faith in scandal-plagued U.S. corporations and better protect U.S. workers.
    Having carefully learned their lessons from the last half-century, the Democrats are going to nominate a Frankencandidate, drawing together George McGovern's foreign policy, Jimmy Carter's economic policy, Walter Mondale's tax policy and Michael Dukakis' biography. Is it possible to get a negative number of electoral votes?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM

    DEMAND MORE, GET MORE (via Michael Hertegen):

    A Hard Look at What Works (Mortimer B. Zuckerman, 11/24/03 , US News)

    The Thernstroms point to what they call the "culture" of learning, which they define as students' attitude toward school. The Thernstroms compare blacks with Asians, who approach school with the kind of outlook the two researchers believe is necessary to succeed. Asian students focus on effort rather than innate ability. When they attend inferior schools, they outperform their black and Hispanic classmates. Same teachers, same schools, different results. Being Asian, the Thernstroms found, is a better predictor of academic success than being rich, having an intact family, or just about anything else. Asian parents don't accept anything less than an A-. The corresponding figure for whites is B-; for blacks, C-.

    According to the Thernstroms, the issue is family culture and upbringing, usually reinforced by the expectations of friends from similar homes. The predominant influence of family on educational results was the conclusion of James Coleman's 1966 landmark study, "Equality of Educational Opportunity." In a different way, Coleman's findings are supported by a recent book by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley called Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. Their research revealed that differences in the quantity of language interactions between children and their parents, up to the age of 3, have an enormous impact on learning trajectories.

    What can schools do? Instill a "culture of success" in learning. Place a high expectation on learning. Ask for sacrifices by parents and students to meet these expectations. Emphasize a content-rich curriculum taught by carefully selected and trained teachers. Stress traditional values like morals, responsibility, and respect for authority. Impose rules requiring students to dress neatly, arrive on time, pay attention, and avoid fighting and foul language.

    The Thernstroms cite a number of schools that have done these things and achieved miracles, no matter what students' home environments were. These are schools that are organized for nonstop learning, in an atmosphere of enforced order, discipline, and civility, with a demanding curriculum and respect for adult authority. This kind of cultural shift can happen only in schools that have the autonomy to construct a radically different kind of approach. So the Thernstroms support charter schools and vouchers.

    Then why not impose rigor in our public schools? Their answer is that public schools are hobbled by inflexibility and the inertia imposed by big city and state public-school bureaucracies and by powerful teachers unions. Egalitarian pay scales based on length of service and the inability to dismiss poor teachers, along with the limits on a principal's freedom of action, make it impossible to incentivize better teachers and hire better principals. The Thernstroms support charter schools and vouchers as the best way of escaping this system and expanding school choice outside the control of the public-school bureaucracy. In charter schools that can adopt these new formulas, even if in low-income neighborhoods, the Thernstroms say, black students will perform above the national average, not below.

    This is the long way of saying it's the soft bigotry of low expectations.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


    Bush in London (David Warren, November 19, 2003)

    Fritz Kraemer died recently. What has this got to do with President Bush's visit to London? Let me explain.

    The monocle-wearing Prof. Kraemer, a curious survival of Wilhelmine Germany, and an accomplished scholar of international law, political philosophy, and history, died of kidney failure at age 95 in Washington on Sept. 8, as I just learned. It could be argued that his was the clearest mind behind the American prosecution of the Cold War against Soviet Communism. From a small office in the Pentagon, he taught a generation of U.S. officers not only the principles of geostrategic warfare; but the reasons why it must be fought and won.

    Kraemer grasped that it takes more than superior man- and firepower to defeat an enemy that is ideologically driven; that geostrategic contests are determined as much by irrational and immaterial factors. He grasped that the great weakness of the United States and the West, after the defeat of Nazism, was identical with the great weakness of Germany that had allowed the rise of Hitler. In each case, it is the existence of an intellectual elite who think about abstractions instead of realities, and whose instinct to appease a mortal enemy is founded in a lazy, cowardly, and conceited moral relativism. Kraemer was father to the phrase, "provocative weakness" -- in two words, the reason why the West is under attack today from such terror networks as Al Qaeda.

    The man himself was a miracle of nature. He was of one piece. In the Germany of his early manhood, in the 1930s, he launched himself physically and fearlessly into demonstrations by both Brownshirts and Reds, as a streetfighting army of one.

    He merits a full hagiography -- I invite readers to Google-search the obituaries -- but my purpose today is to juxtapose him with Henry Kissinger, whose intellectual mentor Kraemer was. Kraemer disowned his protégé in the détente era of the 1970s. He believed Mr. Kissinger guilty of spineless concessions to the political and intellectual zeitgeist. Kraemer was a man who believed in fighting for the truth, regardless of consequences; and of fighting with no option of surrender or even compromise with evil. He was no "mere conservative".

    Donald Rumsfeld is his true protégé in the U.S. government today, and to a lesser extent President Bush. These are men who realize the U.S., and all free peoples, have a mortal enemy in ideological Islamism, and that it must be defeated rather than accommodated. This has made them deeply unpopular with the intelligentsia of our time, and especially with that half-educated reflection of it in the mass media. Europe and Canada are much farther gone down the rat-hole to surrender, but the U.S. itself also teeters.

    Here's a good obituary, -OBIT: Fritz Kraemer: Brilliant geopolitical strategist who launched Henry Kissinger's rise to power (Godfrey Hodgson, November 12, 2003, The Guardian)
    One hot Louisiana day in the summer of 1944, General Alexander Bolling, commanding officer of the US 84th infantry division, was inspecting a training exercise when he spotted a small man, wearing a monocle, perched on a platform, shouting military commands in impeccable upper-class German. "What are you doing, soldier?" asked the general. "Making German battle noises, sir," said Private Fritz Kraemer. The general, impressed by this unusual recruit, attached him to his headquarters.

    Not long afterwards, Kraemer - still sporting his monocle and walking stick - approached a company of the 84th, resting after a 10-mile hike. "Who's in command here?" he barked. A lieutenant colonel admitted that he was. "Sir," said Kraemer, "I've been sent by the general, and I'm going to speak to your company about why we are in this war."

    One of the soldiers who heard his eloquent denunciation of the Nazis that day was a certain Private Henry Kissinger, then a recent US immigrant and accountancy student. For the first - and only time - in his life, Kissinger was moved to send a speaker a note, saying how good Kraemer's talk had been. It was the beginning of a friendship that was to change both their lives.

    Kraemer, who has died aged 95 of kidney failure in Washington DC, became Kissinger's mentor, interesting him in political philosophy and history. He himself went on to have a 27-year-long career as a Pentagon adviser on geopolitics and strategy; he counselled a succession of US army chiefs of staff and defence secretaries, and served on the White House national security staff under 10 presidents. As recently as last year, he was photographed, still with his trademark, silver-topped stick, jokingly saying "No provocative weakness, please!" to Donald Rumsfeld.

    It was almost certainly "provocative weakness" that emboldened (deluded) al Qaeda into believing that 9-11 would serve their purposes.

    -OBIT: Fritz Kraemer, 95, Tutor to U.S. Generals and Kissinger, Dies (MICHAEL T. KAUFMAN, November 19, 2003, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Fritz Kraemer (Daily Telegraph, 10/11/2003)
    -LETTER: KISSINGER'S MENTOR: In response to The Education of Henry Kissinger (October 19, 1972) (Theodore H. Draper, NY Review of Books)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


    Virtual agriculture: The romantic view that food production should not be subject to normal market rules is bad news for the developing world and for our own countryside (Richard H Webb, November 2003, Prospect uk)

    The primacy of agricultural development as a route to progress is a recurring theme in 20th-century history. After 1945, the great powers embarked on ambitious programmes to ensure food security, rural employment and social stability. The Chinese and Soviet nightmares cost tens of millions of lives between them, and destroyed countless local cultures - and for all that, were only partly successful at the most basic task of feeding their people. Today those programmes have been largely abandoned.

    By contrast, the American and western European projects achieved their goals within a decade or so. The problem with them is that they have not been abandoned. Over the past 30 years, the common agricultural policy (CAP) has skewed the European vision, and continues to account for half of the EU's total budget. This, despite the fact that the proportion of Europeans working the land has declined from a fifth to a fifteenth. The US system, though different in structure, is on a similar scale.

    So why is it that in Europe we can contemplate an end to subsidies for shipbuilding and steel manufacture, but not for sugar and starch production? Why do we abandon Welsh coalminers to the chill winds of competition, but subsidise Welsh hill farmers? Why is it that cotton and tobacco remain "strategic" crops, but that we are dependent on the outside world for most of our electronics? The list goes on. We have ferocious planning regulations to protect our landscape, but we let the farmers off. We grudge the Argentine gaucho his living, but do not care that China has more manufacturing jobs than Europe.

    Why do we continue to regard agriculture as a special case? This highly technological, highly systematised commercial activity remains immune to the normal disciplines and incentives of regulated market economies, in a way that, say, the building trade does not. If that seems like an odd comparison, consider that both industries employ millions in enterprises ranging from big business to casual labour, shape our physical and aesthetic environment and provide basic human needs. It is as if we really believe that the practice of farming ennobles the landscape it occupies and the people who work it; as if we really believed that we cannot rely on foreigners for our food; as if there were a food crisis so urgent that only a heroic centralised effort could avert it.

    When our current subsidy structure was designed in the late 1950s, some of the above did still apply. National politics helped to ease the structure into place. In Italy small farmers had to be favoured to shore up the anti-communist vote, and in Germany to secure the support of powerful regional politicians. France, the dominant European producer, was concerned to protect itself from cheap North American and Australian imports. Britain, where agricultural productivity was shooting up, had to be walled out.

    Now, almost 50 years later, much of the structure has been made obsolete by the massive increases in agricultural productivity and international trade, and by the replacement of agricultural by non-agricultural employment in rural areas. Yet the vested interests have changed only their outward appearance.

    Why do they remain so entrenched? Partly because the jobs of thousands of local politicians and millions of uneconomic farmers depend on the continued distribution of largesse. Moreover, the cost can be made to seem almost invisible to the EU taxpayer. And besides, urban voters have got what they wanted: good, cheap, plentiful food, more diverse, more available than ever before.

    Meanwhile much of articulate public opinion continues to favour the farmers. Recall the intensely pro-farmer media coverage of the foot and mouth outbreak in Britain. In France, support for farmers has been explicitly fostered. Foreigners who try to sell us cheap food are cheating (or poisoning) us. Our farmers are the hard-working guardians of our landscape. Lose them and we lose our history, our soul.

    And so the CAP continues, in the teeth of all the evidence that it now works against the things it is supposed to assist.

    Romance is an excellent basis for culture, but generally a rotten one for permanent government programs.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


    Jack Whyte's Blog

    There is no more enjoyable series of historical fiction novels than Mr. Whyte's Camulod Chronicles, which begins in Roman Britain with the forging of Excalibur and continues on to tell the story of Merlyn and Camelot and to set the scene for the coming of Arthur in the most literary fashion since TH White's very different version. If you're trying to find a good book for a guy this Holiday Season (maybe a guy who enjoys Patrick O'Brian), get him started on this series and he'll be most grateful.

    Here's an interview with the author, Great Scott (Linda Richards, January Magazine)

    I'd always been fascinated by the legend and I'd always been angry that no one had been able to tell me how this happened, without saying: Oh, it's magic, you know. And I had never believed that there was any more magic in the world then than there is today. But I believe in legend. My old great grand uncle in Britain who died when he was 95 would have looked at a DVD disc today and the caliber of movie that came from the TV as magic: he would not have believed it. I believe that magic is the word that we apply to phenomena that we have not yet experienced or come to understand. So I believe that Merlin, the magician, his magic is vested primarily and almost uniquely in the fact that -- in a time when the entire area was going illiterate, he was well educated and had a fund of knowledge and information and the natural kind of elevation and dignity that education gives a man and was in a leadership position where people looked up to him and thought: That must be magic!

    So I knew how this was done. I believed -- and still believe -- it was the first and greatest PR stunt in the history of Britain. I'd been trying to figure it out for years and thought: OK, if it was done this way -- if this was a public relations gimmick -- how, where and by whom? I knew that whoever did it had to do it in a public venue that was big enough to accommodate a large crowd of people and that what he did was so spectacular -- whatever it was -- that he appeared to produce a sword out of a stone. And he did it in front of so many people that they all turned to each other and said: Did you see that? Did you see what that guy did? And they were so amazed by it and talked about it so much that we still talk about it today.

    So how could that have been done? Where? Then one day, in 1977, I was talking to a buddy of mine who had the same tastes in reading and literature. We had both just read Mallory again. We were kicking it around and I said: You know, things aren't always what they appear to be. I remember when I was a kid in grade one, something happened.

    I told him about this thing that had happened to me when I was a little boy. I went to a Catholic school. At the end of the War, towards the end of grade one, we had two visiting priests come around to our village. They were doing what was called a mission to sort of just get people stimulated intellectually and spiritually about their religion. They played good cop/bad cop. And their names -- though I was six years old -- their names were Father Teasdale and Father Lumsley-Holmes. They were both Englishmen, which made them very alien in Scotland in those days. Father Teasdale was the good guy and Father Lumsley-Holmes with the double-barreled name was very much the hellfire and damnation.

    One morning Father Teasdale walked into our classroom with a wee attaché case and he said: I'll bet none of you can guess what's in this case? And we all said: No sir! But he said: Come on, try and guess. He let us all pick it up by the handle and lift it up to the table. He said: You don't know, do you? And we said: nope. So he said: Well, I'll show you. And he opened up the case. And inside the case was a block of stone; tall and gray and carved. And he lifted it out of the case by two silk loops. He put it on top of the desk and he said: this is an altar stone. Since the earliest days of the Christian church, before people built permanent churches, wandering bishops would carry their own stone with them. And recessed into it in a little recess here, are buried the bones or the relics of some very holy person. A saint. And at the back of it, there's this little hole into which is clicked the crucifix. And the altar stone is sanctified. So a missionary priest could be in Africa in the Congo -- mind you, we're talking 1946 -- can walk into a hut in any village, put this stone on any table in the hut. The stone is sanctified. The table becomes an altar. The hut becomes a church. Then he just takes the cross and he puts it in the hole in the stone.

    I'm telling my buddy about this. And all of a sudden I thought: Holy s[moke], that's how they did it! And I saw this image of a table in the great theater, which is a big Roman theater, St. Albans in England which we know in the fifth century it could hold 7000 people seated. And it was used as a church.

    So imagine 7000 people sitting there in Lent or at Advent when all the altars and everything are draped in purple and you see the stone. You see the table with a purple apron around it -- concealing it. In the back is the cross, where they expect to see the cross. This is Good Friday. Church is in the morning. And into this convocation come all the bishops of Britain -- and there was a lot of them -- and they bring forward this young man Arthur who has developed a new mobile force the like of which has never been seen in Camelot before; with saddles and stirrups. And the church is being wiped out because the invasions are just escalating every day and Christian priests were easy pickings. The bishops conjoined to crown this young man as their king and, in return, he swears to dedicate his military might to the preservation of the Faith. Right up to the days of Queen Elizabeth, the monarchs of Britain have been called "Defenders of the Faith."

    So, he swears an oath and the bishops call for a sign that he's blessed. He's got his hands on the crucifix on the altar and he swears the oath. They ask for a sign from heaven and he reverses his grip. And out of the altar stone he pulls this sword: because the blade of the sword has been hidden behind the apron of the altar. All they've done is increased the size of the hole in the altar stone and punched it right down through the table top, slipped the sword into it, covered it with a cloth and people look at it and see an altar with a cross on it: which is what they expect to see. So he grabs it and pulls it out. The purple cloth that he's holding over the hilt falls back down over his wrist, the blade stretches up into the air and everybody in the place says: Holy Christ! There's the sword in the stone.

    Now, that was 1977. And I knew. I knew it was right. I knew at least that it was a feasible physical explanation of how it could have happened without magic. But as the people were watching it, it would have been magic. Because this sword is a prototype weapon. They've never seen one like it before because up to that point in history, the sword that conquered the world was a Roman short sword. But as soon as you take a soldier and put him up on a big horse, your short sword is useless. You have to get a long sword. And you can't just double the length of the short sword, because it bends and it breaks. So somebody had to go to the trouble of studying this to find a new way to make a long sword with a tempered blade. That sword, I believe, was Excalibur.

    That's what I talk about in my books. My books are about how all the various elements that have come to us 1600 years later as the Arthurian Legend, were all put in place. So that stories are about the man who made the sword Excalibur, the guy who built the fortress that we have come to call Camelot and the guy who built the mobile cavalry force that we call the Knights of the Round table. All of that stuff.

    If anyone would have told me in 1977 that in the year 2000 -- 23 years later -- I would still be telling the same story and would have already written five novels and have another one out and two more in the pot, first of all I wouldn't have believed them. And, second of all, I would have run away: I would have never started. [Laughs]

    If he knew what he was getting into by starting a blog he'd run faster and further.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


    Government Mapping Out a Strategy to Fight Autism (JANE GROSS, 11/19/03, NY Times)

    Propelled by the skyrocketing number of diagnoses of the perplexing brain disorder autism in children, federal officials have for the first time mapped out a long-term, interagency plan to deal with the problem.

    The plan includes objectives like the development of teaching methods that will allow 90 percent of autistic children to speak; the identification of genetic and nongenetic causes of the condition; and adequate services for all afflicted children in the next 7 to 10 years. [...]

    The three-pronged plan sets goals for more coordinated biomedical research, earlier screening and diagnosis, and effective therapy. The plan demands, for the first time, collaboration between scientists, clinicians, educators and policymakers in an array of federal agencies. [...]

    Nobody knows the cause of the surge, although epidemiologists suspect it is largely a result of refined diagnosis and public awareness. That does not change the dimensions of a problem that strains schools, medical services and families. Nor does it affect forecasts of growing caseloads for decades to come.

    Not that there aren't genuine cases, but Autism, like Attention Deficit Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome, seems mainly a way for parents and teachers to blame an organic condition for the rather normal childhood problems that kids, especially boys, have always had. Want to reduce the number of cases? Tighten the diagnosis standards and don't create incentives for parents and schools to assert that kids have it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


    The Politics of Meaninglessness (MICHAEL A. CASEY, 5 November 2003, Sydney Institute)

    We are not very clear in our society about the relationship between truth and freedom. We are not clear about whether truth exists at all, and we think of freedom, following Hobbes, as absence of impediment. On the one hand we rather lazily assume that truth and freedom have nothing to do with each other, and that in any conflict between them freedom must trump truth. On the other hand we still have a lingering sense that knowledge in some way or other helps to make freedom possible — that the truth will set us free. The freedom that knowledge of the truth brings is important not just for individual fulfilment, but also for the well-being of a community. A community that attempts to resolve the inevitable conflict of preferences and interpretations that characterises every human interaction by reference
    to some concept of the truth, however imperfectly or incompletely or even erroneously understood, is better able to preserve cohesion, generate consensus and maintain public confidence in its institutions than a community where this conflict is resolved more or less arbitrarily through the strategic control of institutions. In its modern form democracy has always been understood as a realm of freedom. But freedom never exists by itself. It is always accompanied — either by power or truth. We use it to assert ourselves against others, or we use it in the service of others and the common good. If democracy is to flourish as a realm of freedom it needs more people who, in one way or the other, choose to live their freedom in truth rather than live it as power. If the proportions are reversed the formal arrangements of democracy can very easily come to be used as cover for thinly-disguised forms of coercion and domination.

    Of course it is often said that the real liberation democracy brings about is precisely liberation from the truth, especially religious truth. A related claim is that genuine democracy can only ever be secular democracy. But are these assertions true? In a situation of meaninglessness many things
    become distorted, not least the need for meaning itself. This distortion extends even to the religious impulse, which might properly be described as the highest form that the need for meaning takes. We flatter ourselves that we are over religion, and until recently this conceit could anchor itself to the concept of secularisation, which presumed that modernity brought with it a steady and irreversible erosion of religious belief and affiliation. But the sociological evidence no longer supports this claim. Far from slowly withering away as it was supposed to, religious belief in its traditional forms has revived dramatically in Latin America, the United States, Africa, the Muslim world, east-central Europe and in parts of Asia like South Korea. But even in what remains of the "secular" West, religion is by no means a spent force, although it has sometimes taken surprising forms.

    The Italian political theorist Emilio Gentile argues that, far from eliminating the "problem" of religion, the sheer scope and pace of change modernity has wrought has created a situation of "crisis and disorientation" which has led directly to "the re-emergence of the religious question". At the beginning of the twentieth century the philosopher Benedetto Croce claimed that the problem of modernity is above all a religious problem. Religion arises from the need for meaning, the need for "orientation" in relation to life and reality.

    Without religion, or rather without this orientation, either one cannot live, or one lives unhappily with a divided and troubled soul. Certainly, it is better to have a religion that coincides with philosophical truth, than a mythological religion; but it is better to have a mythological religion than
    none at all. And, since no one wishes to live unhappily, everyone in their own way tries to form a religion of their own, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

    Modernity has not been the end of religion. Rather it has demonstrated the tenacity of the religious impulse, both in the persistence and growth of traditional religions and in the appearance of new religious forms. As Max Weber predicted, the gods have not been destroyed by the modern world. They have merely assumed some new guises.

    The most important new form the religious impulse has assumed is that of secular religion. In its more extreme forms we can trace this back to the godless religion of the French Revolution. In the twentieth century this particular form of secular religion reached its apogee in the great totalitarian ideologies, and right up to the fall of the Soviet Union Marxism continued to provide some people with a type of religious faith. These particular forms of secular religion had several important features in common, including adherence to the myth of revolution as the source of regeneration; the sanctification of violence; the conferral of sacred status on an entity (the proletariat, the volk, etc.) making it the absolute principle of collective existence and the main source of values for the
    individual and the masses; and an integralist concept of politics which sought to bring about a harmonious, unitary and homogenous community. A key feature which this particular form of secular religion has in common with its more moderate forms is what Gentile describes as "the sacralisation of politics". This is not the same as the politicisation of traditional religion or the sacralisation of political power (for example, in the concept of the divine right of kings). Instead the sacralisation of politics entails conferring a more or less sacred status on some sort of secular
    entity or value, so that it becomes the principle source of orientation for collective existence.

    What typifies the less extreme forms of secular religion is the freedom of the individual from the collective. Examples include the "civic creed" or civil religion that informed the foundation of the United States; nationalism in its milder forms; and Green politics in general. But perhaps the most important form of secular religion in the West is the cult of secularism itself. It looks mild and friendly, and there's no doubt that the recent focus on Islam has certainly revived secularism's stocks. But as Kenneth Minogue remarked recently, behind Western secularism's moderate and
    reasonable facade is "a universalism that yields nothing in conviction and determination to Islam itself". It sustains itself with the conviction that the secular individual is liberated from "the superstitions and prejudices inherited from less enlightened times", the prime example of which is always religion. Instead of the tyranny and division of religion, secularism claims
    to bring tolerance as the means of ensuring social peace. But it is increasingly tolerance of a narrow kind.

    The reason that suchtolerance is no narrow is because, despite its claim that the truth is unknowable, it is premised on the belief that peace is the end toward which human society should aim, that peace itself is our highest value. This too is an assertion of truth and so the "tolerant" have a vested interest in crushing every competing truth.

    November 18, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


    Straw signs surprise deal with Poles on EU veto (Stephen Castle, 19 November 2003, Independent)

    Britain surprised its European Union partners yesterday when it struck an alliance with Poland in an apparent effort to stop France and Germany getting their way with the new EU constitution.

    The move, announced by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, in an unprecedented briefing to journalists from Poland alone, was made a week after plans were floated for a closer union between Paris and Berlin in foreign affairs, defence and economic matters.

    The formation of an informal London-Warsaw axis was disclosed as negotiations reached a climax over the new constitution for the EU, which is due to be finalised next month. Although Poland does not join the EU formally until May, it has veto rights over the constitution which must be approved by the governments of all 15 member states and the 10 nations that join next year.

    Under the deal, Britain will back Polish demands for concessions on moves to change the number of votes it will get in EU decision-making. This is seen as the main roadblock in the negotiations on the constitution. It is a subject in which Britain had played no substantial role until yesterday, although Germany and France oppose the Polish position.

    In exchange, Poland said it would support British efforts to change a draft text of the constitution on defence, and in its attempt to stop moves to end the national veto in areas of limited taxation policy.

    Once again, it's the Poles to Britain's rescue: For Your Freedom and Ours.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


    How Ted cemented filibuster (Alexander Bolton, 11/18/03, The Hill)

    Confidential Democratic memos downloaded from a Senate Judiciary Committee database and leaked to the press show that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) overcame the reservations of 15 Senate colleagues to convince Democrats to wage filibusters against some of President Bush’s judicial nominees. [...]

    A memo prepared for Kennedy in April stated that Democratic staff had “heard that several Democratic senators have expressed concern about any filibuster of a judicial nominee that is based on substance, as opposed to process.”

    The memo listed 15 senators who “may be wavering or opposed to extended debate.” They are: Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Graham (Fla.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mary Landrieu (La.), John Breaux (La.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Fritz Hollings (S.C.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Zell Miller (Ga.).

    Now, some seven months later, only two Democrats, Ben Nelson and Miller, have voted to end the Democratic filibuster of three pending judicial nominees.

    The same memo suggested that Kennedy speak out against 5th Circuit nominee Priscilla Owen during a Democratic Caucus meeting, after charging that Owen was “extremely bad on choice issues, worker’s rights, civil rights, [and] environmental protection.”

    Two months earlier, the committee’s Democratic staff prepared talking points for Kennedy to use in meetings to convince colleagues to oppose Estrada and Owen.

    One document opposing Estrada argued that “the D.C. Circuit is far too important to appoint someone about whom we have so many questions. Key labor, civil rights, environmental, and administrative law cases are decided there, and we know it is a ‘feeder’ circuit for the Supreme Court… . We can’t repeat the mistake we made with Clarence Thomas.”

    A memo accompanying those talking points dated February of this year showed Democrats most adamantly opposed to Bush’s nominees were able to sway their colleagues through a series of one-on-one lobbying sessions.

    “The senator-to-senator conversations continue and things appear to be going well,” the document stated. “That being said, we’ve heard that Breaux will support Estrada. Landrieu is a problem, but many are focused on her. Bayh is also on the fence. [Sen. John] Edwards [D-N.C.] spoke with him without much luck, and [former] Senator Bayh, Sr. [D-Ind., Bayh’s father] is going to speak with him, too.”

    You've got to be able to tar Lincoln and Dorgan with dancing to Ted Kennedy's tune.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM


    Chess Master, Computer End Series in Tie (MADISON J. GRAY, Nov 18, 2003, AP)

    World chess champion Garry Kasparov tied his computerized opponent X3D Fritz in a final match Tuesday, leaving the four-game series in a draw.

    The match pitted Kasparov against a 12-year-old computer program that has recently been developed into a virtual reality game by X3D Technologies.

    The previous three games in the series averaged more than three hours each; Tuesday's clocked in at under two hours.

    "It looked like a short game, but for me it was not a game of chess, it was more of a gamble," said Kasparov, 40. "It's very, very important that we're learning. Machines are getting better but we're also learning." [...]

    Tuesday's draw earned Kasparov $175,000; he would have earned $200,000 if he won and $150,000 if he lost.

    Sure pays better than a slot machine.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


    Saudi Arabia Needs to Confront Its Role in Sept. 11, Prince Says: Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the king and an advocate for change, asserts the country also must accelerate social and political reforms. (Richard Verrier, November 18, 2003, LA Times)

    Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an influential nephew of the king and one of the world's richest men, says his country must accelerate social, political and economic reforms and better confront the causes of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    "You have to ask the simple question. Why 15 Saudis? You can't just say it happened by coincidence," Alwaleed said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, referring to the 15 Saudis among the 19 hijackers in the attacks on New York and Washington. "Clearly, there's something wrong with the way of thinking here, with the way people are raised." [...]

    Known as the Warren Buffett of Arabia, Alwaleed's holdings have been valued at $20 billion and include significant shares in Citigroup, Euro Disney, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Saks Fifth Avenue, among many others.

    The Saudi government has taken some modest steps toward reform, such as authorizing limited elections at the municipal level and abandoning school teachings that promote hatred of Christians and Jews.

    The Saudi royals have promised reforms before, most recently after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Some Saudis are skeptical that the latest proposals will bring meaningful change, citing a recent police arrest of 150 activists involved in a peaceful protest in Riyadh.

    Alwaleed, however, insists that the royal family is committed to genuine reforms. "We have reached the point of no return," he said.

    "We are very slow by nature and that's unfortunate. The members of the royal family who count and who are in government are, without any doubt, backing the reforms."

    Alwaleed said he hopes the municipal polling will pave the way for elections for the majlis al shura, a national council appointed to advise the king.

    Like other royals, Alwaleed favors granting women voting and other rights. Women are barred from voting, driving and traveling on their own.

    "No verse in the Koran says women can't drive," Alwaleed said.

    Economic changes also are needed, he said, to open the kingdom to foreign investment. The prince recently criticized the Oil Ministry's handling of several natural gas deals with foreign oil giants that fizzled in a dispute over terms.

    Al Qaeda may yet prove to be the greatest force for reform in the history of Islam, though the reform will be the opposite of what they intended.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


    Downside Danger: Why the world’s central banks must become more vigilant about falling prices
    (Ben S. Bernanke, November/December 2003, Foreign Policy)

    If a single proposition unites central bankers these days, it is the belief that price stability—in practice, a low and stable rate of inflation—is the bedrock of sound monetary policy. To someone with only a passing knowledge of monetary and economic history, this idea may seem unprogressive, if not downright Victorian. In fact, its validity has been demonstrated, painfully, many times.

    There is now a consensus among economic historians that a particular form of price instability—deflation, or falling prices—was a principal cause of the Great Depression. And nearly all economists agree that the inflationary surge in the United States, the United Kingdom, and several other countries from the late 1960s through the early 1980s was an important source of the economic volatility, slow growth, and high unemployment that characterized those years. [...]

    After a long period in which the desired direction for inflation was always downward, the industrialized world's central banks must today try to avoid major changes in the inflation rate in either direction. In central bank speak, we now face “symmetric” inflation risks. The Federal Reserve recognized the changed circumstances in a statement issued following the May 6, 2003 meeting of its policymaking arm, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The FOMC explicitly recognized that both upside and downside risks to inflation can exist and said the greater risk at this moment is on the downside. It was the first time in decades, if not ever, that the central bank has voiced concern that inflation might fall too low.

    One problem is that it took even uber-genius Alan Greenspan an unconsionably long time to figure out that deflation had becomne as big threat as inflation, if not bigger, thereby inflicting the recent bout of slow growth.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


    House OKs Energy Bill, Sends to Senate (Fox News, November 18, 2003)

    The House passed the bill by a vote of 246-180, sending it to the Senate for final approval, probably later this week.

    Despite the wide margin of victory in the House, the bill could run into snags in the Senate over a provision that would shield the makers of a gasoline additive from liability lawsuits. [...]

    Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer of California said Tuesday they may filibuster the legislation in hopes of getting the MTBE measure removed. Schumer said three or four Republicans were ready to join the effort.

    But Republicans said they weren't worried.

    "I don't think it's a showstopper," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said of the MTBE issue.

    Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the bill's floor leader in the Senate, predicted "support will be overwhelming" because of other provisions in the bill including a doubling of ethanol production and benefits for a wide range of energy sectors from coal companies to manufacturers of wind turbines.

    The provision that would double the use of ethanol in gasoline to 5 billion gallons a year could be especially important since many states have significant numbers of farmers raising corn.

    "Every senator is an aggie. ... It's the political realities of the place," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Tuesday when asked about the MTBE controversy. DeLay, R-Texas, had insisted the liability protection be part of the bill.

    Gotta love Congress--first require MTBE then try not to shield companies that make it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


    Key Shiites soften tone toward US: One of the harshest critics of the US is now willing to work with the Americans. (Howard LaFranchi, 11/19/03, CS Monitor)

    At the gold-domed Kufa Mosque in this holy city south of Baghdad, the young firebrand imam, Moqtada al-Sadr, known for condemning the Americans as Iraq's enemies, has softened and redirected his words.

    "We were the only enemy of Saddam Hussein, and now the Baathists who still support him are our only enemy," he tells rows of fellow Shiites baking in the hot sun at Friday prayers. "We must resist them and the terrorists."

    The US soldiers who recently arrested members of Mr. Sadr's paramilitary army are still "occupiers," he says. But Iraqi supporters of the young sheikh - who rose to the world stage in July, calling for an Iranian-style theocracy - have taken note of his softer tone. The cleric who once called the Americans "infidels" says he is now ready to work with them, spelling hope for the US-led coalition as it looks to transition to Iraqi rule. Last Friday, Sadr praised the American about-face that now favors a faster turnover of authority to the Iraqi people.

    "The Iraqi people only want what is good for the Americans, because they are not the enemy," he recently told the London-based Arabic newspaper, Al Zaman. He even said he hoped to be "attending [the Americans'] meetings soon" to further the common goal of a stable Iraq.

    The evolution in Sadr's tone is emblematic of a wider rejection of violence and extremism among Iraq's faithful - and the importance of their role to a successful political transition. As the US shifts to the creation of a provisional government by next summer, more Iraqi leaders are saying such a government will have to be made up of representatives from a broader spectrum of Iraqi religious, political, and tribal groups than those now on the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. Sadr seems to be among the formerly left-out figures, saying, count me in.

    Get ready for a bunch of soul-searching essays on the Left wondering how they got the quagmire so wrong.

    Posted by David Cohen at 7:56 PM


    President Defends Sanctity of Marriage (11/18/03).


    Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.

    As the SJC gives the President an early Christmas present.

    MORE: Dems Don't Embrace Gay Marriage Decision (Nedra Pickler, AP, 11/18/03)

    The major Democratic presidential candidates continued to back legal rights for gays but declined to go as far as the Massachusetts Supreme Court and endorse gay marriage.

    Only underdog candidates Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun support laws that would allow same-sex couples to wed.

    The leading candidates for the nomination oppose gay marriage, but most say gay couples should get all the legal rights of married couples. It may seem like a dubious distinction, but it's the same position taken by the majority of Americans in public opinion polls.

    The candidates attempted to stick to the fine line separating gay marriage from equal rights for gay couples, despite the Massachusetts court ruling Tuesday.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


    As the most hirsute soccer mom in America, it is my sad fate to get plunked down in the midst of gaggles of mothers awaiting our kids and overhear conversations that often seem to occur in an alien tongue. Today's topic of conversation was a series of clandestine fake Kate Spade bag parties that are sweeping through Hanover, NH. Apparently, they're like Tupperware parties used to be, but you gather in someone's living room to buy counterfeit handbags or something. Bizarre.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


    The Wilder Effect: Why Bobby Jindal lost in Louisiana, despite being ahead in the polls. (Fred Barnes, 11/17/2003, Weekly Standard)

    Why did Jindal lose after leading his Democratic opponent, Kathleen Blanco, in statewide polls in the weeks before the election? In a word, race. What occurred was the "Wilder effect," named after the black Virginia governor elected in 1989. Wilder, a Democrat, polled well, then won narrowly. Many white voters, it turned out, said they intended to vote for a black candidate when they really didn't. Questioned by pollsters, they were leery of being seen as racially prejudiced.

    Jindal's advisers worried that he might lose the "Bubba vote," rural whites unwilling to vote for a black candidate or even a dark-skinned Indian-American. The Jindal camp's fears were realized. A Republican normally needs two-thirds of the white vote to win in Louisiana to compensate for losing nearly all of the black vote. But Jindal got only 60 percent of whites, according to an analysis by GCR & Associates Inc., a political consulting firm. Its findings were reported in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    Had Jindal fared better among blacks, he might have won despite losing white votes. But he got only 9 percent of blacks, this after mounting a highly-publicized effort to attract black voters. Jindal was endorsed by several black political organizations, a former associate of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who is black. Nonetheless, he did only slightly better among blacks than Republicans normally do.

    Jindal, whose parents moved to Baton Rouge from India shortly before he was born, won 70 percent of the white vote in the New Orleans area. But outside that urban hub in the more rural and poorer parts of the state, only 48 percent of whites voted for Jindal, according to the GCR analysis.

    That's what you had to assume happened, but it's pretty ugly.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


    Thunderstorm Research Shocks Conventional Theories ; Florida Tech Physicist Throws Open Debate On Lightning's Cause (Science Daily, 2003-11-06)

    If Joseph Dwyer, Florida Tech associate professor of physics, is right, then a lot of what we thought we knew about thunderstorms and lightning is probably wrong. [...]

    The problem is scientists have searched inside thunderstorms for many years, looking for these large electric fields, only to come up empty handed. Some researchers have suggested that maybe we haven't been looking hard enough; maybe the big electric fields are really there, but they were somehow just missed. Now, Dwyer's new theory shows that these searches were actually in vain; super-sized fields simply don't exist, period.

    "What we've discovered is a new limit in nature. Just as a bucket can only hold so much water, the atmosphere can only hold a certain sized electric field. Beyond that, the electric field is stunted by the rapid creation of gamma-rays and a form of anti-matter called positrons," he said.

    While Dwyer's research shows that lightning is not produced by large, unseen electric fields inside storms, the triggering mechanism remains a mystery.

    "Although everyone is familiar with lightning, we still don't know much about how it really works," said Dwyer.

    Notice the phraseology: "a lot of what we thought we probably wrong." Not "a lot of what we thought", but "a lot of what we thought we knew".

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


    The London Streets: Who are these anti-Bush people? (Amir Taheri, 11/18/03, National Review)

    George W. Bush's visit to London this week will be historic for at least two reasons. He will be the first U.S. president to come to Britain on a state visit. He will also observe a bizarre political marriage: one between the remnants of the Marxist-Leninist Left and militant Islamists. Negotiated over the past two years, the "wedding," will be celebrated in a mass demonstration against Bush's visit.

    The demonstration is organized by a shadowy group called "Stop the War Coalition," part of the Hate-America-International, which has orchestrated a number of street "events" in support of the Taliban and the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein since 2001. [...]

    The coalition was created in London in September 2001, at first as an exclusively leftist concoction bringing together the remnants of the Stalinist "peace movement" of the 1950s, diehard "no nukes" activists, and some fellow travellers.

    The coalition has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. For the first time ever it has brought together all radical leftist and anarchist groups. Under its umbrella march such traditional former archenemies as Stalinists and Trotskyites.

    But the coalition's biggest success is the alliance that it has forged between the extreme Left and militant Islamist groups. This would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago. The Left always regarded Islam as a "relic of feudalism" and an instrument of reactionary Arab regimes. For their part, the Islamists regarded leftists as atheist enemies who had to be put to the sword.

    The first to advocate a leftist-Islamist alliance against Western democracies was Ayman Al Zawahiri al Qaeda's #2.

    All of these demonstrations and stuff seem rather minor compared to the anti-American Freeze Movement that was all the rave during the Reagan administration. Back then even the decent Left was allied with the Marxists, now at least it's only the Islamicists who have joined the Marxists. In some strange sense it seems like progress.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM

    WHY WAIT?:

    Nukes option by U.S. in Korea (Bill Gertz, November 18, 2003, Washington Times)

    The United States is committed to defending South Korea from an attack by the North and would use nuclear forces if needed, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the government here yesterday.

    Mr. Rumsfeld, who finishes his first official visit to Asia today, said the U.S. commitment to South Korea includes "the continued provision of a nuclear umbrella" for South Korea, according to a statement issued after joint security talks.

    "We understand that weakness can be provocative, that weakness can invite people into doing things that they otherwise might not even consider," Mr. Rumsfeld told a joint news conference with South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-kil.

    How about using them pre-emptively to end the North Korean threat?

    Posted by David Cohen at 11:02 AM


    Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court strikes down prohibition of gay marriage.

    This morning, the SJC announced its decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, holding that the Massachusetts' constitution does not allow the Commonwealth to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and giving the legislature 180 days to react as it sees fit. There is a huge amount to be said about this, but in my first quick read through the opinion, I was struck by this paragraph:

    Moreover, the Commonwealth affirmatively facilitates bringing children into a family regardless of whether the intended parent is married or unmarried, whether the child is adopted or born into a family, whether assistive technology was used to conceive the child, and whether the parent or her partner is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. If procreation were a necessary component of civil marriage, our statutes would draw a tighter circle around the permissible bounds of nonmarital child bearing and the creation of families by noncoital means. The attempt to isolate procreation as "the source of a fundamental right to marry," post at __ (Cordy, J., dissenting), overlooks the integrated way in which courts have examined the complex and overlapping realms of personal autonomy, marriage, family life, and child rearing. Our jurisprudence recognizes that, in these nuanced and fundamentally private areas of life, such a narrow focus is inappropriate.
    Here is the slippery slope made manifest. Homosexual adoption, allowing gay custodial parents, recognizing parental rights in gay partners, mandating medical insurance coverage, both private and public, for reproduction technology, all of these things have now contributed to emptying marriage of its meaning and allowing, quite logically, for its transformation. The Court is right: drawing the line at gay marriage is arbitrary. More troubling is that drawing the line after gay marriage is equally arbitrary.

    MORE: Justice John Greaney, concurring in the Court's decision, said the following:

    I am hopeful that our decision will be accepted by those thoughtful citizens who believe that same-sex unions should not be approved by the State. I am not referring here to acceptance in the sense of grudging acknowledgment of the court's authority to adjudicate the matter. My hope is more liberating. The plaintiffs are members of our community, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. As pointed out by the court, their professions include investment advisor, computer engineer, teacher, therapist, and lawyer. The plaintiffs volunteer in our schools, worship beside us in our religious houses, and have children who play with our children, to mention just a few ordinary daily contacts. We share a common humanity and participate together in the social contract that is the foundation of our Commonwealth. Simple principles of decency dictate that we extend to the plaintiffs, and to their new status, full acceptance, tolerance, and respect. We should do so because it is the right thing to do. The union of two people contemplated by G.L. c. 207 "is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions." Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965). Because of the terms of art. 1, the plaintiffs will no longer be excluded from that association.
    First, a disclosure. I clerked for Justice Greaney and I think he's an excellent judge. That said, his plea in this paragraph speaks directly to me and I want to agree with it, if it wasn't for the possibility that this is the straw that breaks civilization. As Peter B once said, the modern conservative dilemma is that we are defending civilization from the barbarians, but they're the nicest, most pleasant, personally decent barbarians you're ever going to meet.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


    GONE SOUTH: In a last surprise, the young Marlins are champs. (ROGER ANGELL, 2003-11-17, The New Yorker)

    It comes to a seventh game—could anyone have doubted it? This will be the twenty-sixth time the Red Sox and Yankees have faced off this year—a record for any two teams in the annals—and while there have been stretches when the latest renewal held all the drama of a couple of cellmates laying out a hand of rummy, this is another killer dénouement. For all we know, it’s up there with the 1978 Bucky Dent playoff and the DiMaggio late return of 1949. There’s a wired, non-stop holiday din at the Stadium, which dies away only with the first intensely watched pitches. Everything matters now. Clemens is back and so is Pedro—but this Roger appears frail and thought-burdened. The No. 2 Boston batter, Todd Walker, raps a safe knock after a ten-pitch at-bat, and Nomar Garciaparra lines out hard to right. An inning later, Kevin Millar singles, and Trot Nixon, from his flat-footed left-handed stance, delivers a businesslike homer into the stands in right: his third two-run job in the post-season. With two out, the bearded, dad-like Jason Varitek doubles into the right-field corner. Johnny Damon’s grounder looks like the last out but—geez!—third baseman Enrique Wilson mishandles the ball and his throw pulls first baseman Nick Johnson off the bag, as Varitek turns the corner and scores. It’s 3-0, and when the teams change sides the Stadium has gone anxious and pissed-off conversational: fans up and down the stuffed tiers complaining to their seatmates or sending the bad news home on their cells, with gestures: . . . plus Wilson is in for defense, right? . . . our only chance was stay close to goddam Pedro.

    Martinez, for his part, survives some first-inning wobbles and is soon in rhythm: the stare-in from behind his red glove, the velvety rock and turn, and the strikes arriving in clusters. After each out, he gloves the returning ball backhand, and gazes about with lidded hauteur. No one else in the world has eyes so far apart. The Yanks go down quickly again, and we’re at the top of the fourth—and the startling sound, it’s like a tree coming apart, of Kevin Millar’s solo shot up into the upper-deck left-field stands. Clemens, down 4-0 and almost helpless, gives up a walk and a hit-and-run single to Mueller and departs, maybe for the last time ever. A ten-year-old Yankee fan I know named Noah has by this time gone down on his knees on the concrete in front of his seat near first base, hiding his head. [...]

    Now, a month later, a little of New England’s pain and anguish may have dispersed, helped along by the Yankees’ loss in the World Series and that late footage of Derek Jeter, still with his cap and spikes and wristbands on, sitting disconsolate in front of his Stadium locker a full hour after the Yanks’ elimination.

    Grady Little has been let go, and the Red Sox have offered waivers on Manny Ramirez, hoping to trade him and his twenty-million-dollar-a-year contract for new pitching. If you want to tap into the Sox fans’ psyche now, you have to consult a new Web site,, where it comes in eloquent triplets:

    Bright leaves falling. Clear
    Blue sky. Frost at dawn. Autumn.
    Red Sox lose again.


    Buckner or Little
    It doesn’t really matter
    Someone will f[oul] up


    Hey, wait till next year:
    Every eighty-six years
    Like clockwork. Go Sox.

    Joe Torre, who called the Red Sox the best team his Yankees had faced during his eight-year tenure as manager, was short of a haiku by a beat or two in the interview room just before that seventh game, but also on target: “This really is fun, but you don’t know it’s fun until it’s over.”

    For Angell fans--which includes anyone who likes baseball and can read--the haiku section here is inevitable, his column on the '86 debacle having had a palindrome for its title: Not So, Boston.

    As if being able to get this essay on-line weren't treat enough, The New Yorker has dipped into its unparalleled archives to give us this one too, Four Taverns in the Town (Roger Angell, 1963-10-26, The New Yorker):

    Already, two weeks after the event, it is difficult to remember that there was a World Series played this year. It is like trying to recall an economy display of back-yard fireworks. Four small, perfect showers of light in the sky, accompanied by faint plops, and it was over. The spectators, who had happily expected a protracted patriotic bombardment culminating in a grand crescendo of salutes, fireballs, flowerpots, and stomach-jarring explosions, stood almost silent, cricking their necks and staring into the night sky with the image of the last brief rocket burst still pressed on their eyes, and then, realizing at last that there was to be no more, went slowly home, hushing the children who asked, “Is that all?” The feeling of letdown, of puzzled astonishment, persists, particularly in this neighborhood, where we have come to expect a more lavish and satisfactory autumnal show from our hosts, the Yankees, the rich family up on the hill. There has been a good deal of unpleasant chatter (“I always knew they were really cheap,” “What else can you expect from such stuckups?”) about the affair ever since, thus proving again that prolonged success does not beget loyalty.

    By choice, I witnessed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ four-game sweep at a remove—over television in four different bars here in the city. This notion came to me last year, during the Series games played in Yankee Stadium against the San Francisco Giants, when it became evident to me that my neighbors in the lower grandstand were not, for the most part, the same noisy, casually dressed, partisan, and knowing baseball fans who come to the park during the regular season. As I subsequently reported, a large proportion of the ticket-holders appeared to be well-to-do out-of-towners who came to the games only because they could afford the tickets, who seemed to have only a slipshod knowledge of baseball, and who frequently departed around the sixth or seventh inning, although all of last year’s games were close and immensely exciting. This year, then, I decided to seek out the true Yankee fan in his October retreat—what the baseball beer commercials refer to as “your neighborhood tavern.” I was especially happy about this plan after the Dodgers clinched the National League pennant, for I well remembered the exciting autumns here in the late forties and the mid-fifties, when the Dodgers and the Yanks, both home-town teams then, met in six different Series in what seemed to be a brilliant and unending war, and the sounds of baseball fell from every window and doorway in town. Those Series were a fever in the city. Secretaries typed only between innings, with their ears cocked to the office radio down the hall, and if business drew you reluctantly into the street (fingering your pool slip, designating your half inning, in your pocket), you followed the ribbon of news via elevator men’s rumors, snatches of broadcasts from passing taxi radios, and the portable clutched to a delivery boy’s ear, until a sudden burst of shouting and laughter sucked you into a bar you were passing, where you learned that Campy or Duke had parked one, or that Vic Raschi had struck out Furillo with two on.

    New England remains very much like it was in days of yore, at least as regards Red Sox baseball. At work, on the night shift, we all had the Sox-Yankees games on the radio and random shouts and groans would arise from scattered cubicles. After the 7th we all breathed a sigh of relief that Pedro was gone and I left, figuring I could stop and get milk and eggs and still make it home before the bottom of the 8th. The FoodStop clerk, of course, had the radio on too and as he rang me up the announcers mentioned how Pedro was really laboring now.

    Me: "What the Heck? Didn't they yank him?"

    Clerk: "Believe me, you don't wannna know..."

    Got back in the car and listened to the rest of the inning on the way home, swearing at Grady Little. The Wife was still up, watching the game, but shut it off because she knew what was coming and couldn't stand to watch. Smart woman, the Wife.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


    Funds and Games (PAUL KRUGMAN, November 18, 2003, NY Times)

    [L]ast year it seemed, for a while, that corporate scandals — and the obvious efforts by the administration and some members of Congress to head off any close scrutiny of executive evildoers — would become a major political issue. But the threat was deftly parried: a few perp walks created the appearance of reform, a new S.E.C. chairman replaced the lamentable Harvey Pitt, and then we were in effect told to stop worrying about corporate malfeasance and focus on the imminent threat from Saddam's W.M.D.

    Now history is repeating itself. The S.E.C. ignored warnings about mutual fund abuses, and had to be forced into action by Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general. Having finally brought a fraud suit against Putnam Investments, the S.E.C. was in a position to set a standard for future prosecutions; sure enough, it quickly settled on terms that amount to a gentle slap on the wrist. William Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts — who is investigating Putnam, which is based in Boston — summed it up: "They're not interested in exposing wrongdoing; they're interested in giving comfort to the industry."

    I wonder what they'll use to distract us this time? 

    You can't blame the poor guy for trying to cover his tracks--after all, it was Mr. Krugman who notoriously predicted:
    [I]t was a shocking event. With incredible speed, our perception of the world and of ourselves changed. It seemed that before we had lived in a kind of blind innocence, with no sense of the real dangers that lurked. Now we had experienced a rude awakening, which changed everything.

    No, I'm not talking about Sept. 11; I'm talking about the Enron scandal.

    One of the great cliches of the last few months was that Sept. 11 changed everything. I never believed that. An event changes everything only if it changes the way you see yourself. And the terrorist attack couldn't do that, because we were victims rather than perpetrators. Sept. 11 told us a lot about Wahhabism, but not much about Americanism.

    The Enron scandal, on the other hand, clearly was about us. It told us things about ourselves that we probably should have known, but had managed not to see. I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.

    If you were that spectacularly wrong about something you too might be forced to develop a conspiracy theory to explain it away.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


    Medicare Plan Covering Drugs Backed by AARP (ROBERT PEAR and ROBIN TONER, 11/18/03, NY TIMES)

    AARP, the largest and most influential organization of older Americans, threw its weight behind a bill on Monday that offers drug benefits to the elderly as part of the biggest transformation of Medicare in its 38-year history.

    President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress stepped up their efforts to win votes for the legislation, which would give private health insurance companies a huge new role in Medicare. AARP's endorsement, long coveted by Republicans in Congress, was considered a critical step in the drive for passage of the legislation this year.

    The endorsement provides a seal of approval from an organization with 35 million members. Republicans hope it also provides political cover against charges by some Democrats that the bill would undermine the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The group will support the bill with $7 million worth of newspaper and television advertising this week, and officials said it was prepared to spend more.

    Still, some Democrats, led by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, escalated their attacks on the legislation. Mr. Kennedy called the legislation a dangerous attempt to privatize Medicare, "using our seniors as guinea pigs." Many Senate Democrats were clearly torn over the bill, which delivers a prescription drug benefit the party has sought for many years but would also, many contend, undermine the program over the long term.

    The ad campaign for the GOP in the '04 elections almost writes itself: "Despite endorsement of this bipartisan plan by the AARP, extremist Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy, deep-sixed prescription drug coverage...."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


    A U.S. General Speeds the Shift in an Iraqi City (DEXTER FILKINS, 11/18/03, NY Times)

    The commander, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., of the 82nd Airborne Division, said in an interview last week that troops stationed in Ramadi might be ready to withdraw as early as January. About 18,000 Americans are stationed in Anbar Province, with several thousand of those in Ramadi, military officials said.

    The plan, if it works, would represent a significant shift in American efforts to pacify areas dominated by Sunni Arabs, who benefited the most from the reign of Saddam Hussein. The plan seems to dovetail with Washington's recent push to accelerate the transfer of political responsibilities to the Iraqis.

    General Swannack said his troops would "stand back" outside the town, ready to help the Iraqi police when needed, but otherwise leaving policing duties to them. To help prepare the Iraqis, he said, the G.I.'s have begun joint patrols with them.

    Ramadi, the provincial capital, with about 250,000 residents, has been a center of armed resistance against the American occupation. About 80 miles west of Baghdad, it is in the heart of the area north and west of the capital known as the Sunni Triangle, which is generating most of the attacks against Americans.

    "By January or February, we will start backing away and letting them do it," General Swannack said of the Iraqi police. "We will become the backup and the checkers if they aren't doing something right," he added in the interview, at his headquarters in Ramadi.

    Many Iraqi leaders have been urging American commanders to take a lower profile, saying their presence alone is prompting resentment and violence against the Americans.

    If you can Iraqify within the Triangle--with our troops standing by prepared to help, but not actually conducting regular patrols--you've got the model for the whole country post-Memorial Day.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


    Energy bill with $23B in tax breaks OK'd (AP, 11/17/03)

    House and Senate conferees approved late Monday a massive energy bill that includes $23 billion in tax incentives, clearing the way for the legislation's final congressional approval, probably this week.

    The House could take up the measure, a top priority for President Bush, as early as Tuesday.

    The conferees rejected dozens of amendments, most of them brought by Democrats, as they left the Republican-crafted bill — the product of weeks of closed-door negotiations — largely intact.

    House negotiators passed it by voice vote, followed by approval from the Senate side by a vote of 8-5. The seven GOP senators were joined by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., in support of the bill.

    For those of you keeping score at home, this means that if the Medicare reform bill passes too, President Bush will have enacted every major piece of legislation he proposed in campaign 2000, except for Social Security privatization, which Lindsey Graham will reintroduce in the Senate today and the President will campaign on in '04. All this despite first a one seat margin in the Senate, then a minority, then a two seat majority. Perhaps no other administration has achieved more with less control of Congress.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 AM

    ON THE FRITZ (via Bruce Cleaver):

    Kasparov beats computer to tie up match (JENNIFER FRIEDLIN, November 17, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)

    World chess champion Garry Kasparov claimed a crucial victory Sunday in the third of a four-game match with his computerized rival X3D Fritz, tying the first virtual-reality showdown at 1.5 points each.

    The match pitted Kasparov against the 12-year-old program that has recently been developed into a virtual-reality game by X3D Technologies, a sponsor of the match.

    "It was just a dominating performance by Kasparov," said John Fernandez, X3D's chess consultant. "He disarmed the computer's biggest weapon, which is its calculating ability."

    Kasparov, 40, tied the computer last week in the first game and lost the second one. Players get 1 point for a win, 0.5 point for a tie and no points for a loss.

    Following the match, a confident Kasparov said that he was "in a very good mood now."

    Unfortunately, the machine doesn't have moods to contend with.

    November 17, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


    Graying Japan needs a road map (The Japan Times, Nov. 18, 2003)

    Fittingly, this year's economic white paper deals with this problem in a chapter headed "Challenges to the Aging and Falling Population." The report says the nation's "total fertility rate" -- the average number of babies a woman is expected to bear in her lifetime -- has been declining since 1947 when it had reached its peak of 4.54.

    The rate has since continued to drop, hitting a record low of 1.32 in 2002. Demographers say a woman needs to bear more than two babies on average if the nation's population is to remain at its existing level. Given the continuing fall in the fertility rate, they say, the population will begin shrinking after 2006 when it is expected to peak at slightly above 127.7 million.

    The elderly population, meanwhile, has been growing rapidly. Those who are 65 and older already make up more than 18 percent of the total population. An international comparison shows Japanese society has been aging a lot faster than in other industrialized societies. In France, it took 115 years before the proportion of the elderly increased to 14 percent from 7 percent. In Germany and Britain, it took 40 to 50 years. In Japan, it took only 24 years.

    Which explains why most of the industrial world is embracing euthanasia.

    Posted by David Cohen at 10:23 PM


    Protests begin but majority backs Bush visit as support for war surges (Alan Travis and David Gow, The Guardian, 11/18/03)

    A majority of Labour voters welcome President George Bush's state visit to Britain which starts today, according to November's Guardian/ICM opinion poll.

    The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world". It explodes the conventional political wisdom at Westminster that Mr Bush's visit will prove damaging to Tony Blair. Only 15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the "evil empire" in the world. . . .

    The ICM poll also uncovers a surge in pro-war sentiment in the past two months as suicide bombers have stepped up their attacks on western targets and troops in Iraq. Opposition to the war has slumped by 12 points since September to only 41% of all voters. At the same time those who believe the war was justified has jumped 9 points to 47% of voters.

    This swing in the mood of British voters is echoed in the poll's finding that two-thirds of voters believe British and American troops should not pull out of Iraq now but instead stay until the situation is "more stable".

    One of the things that Karl Rove and the President know is that most Americans want to support and defend their country. Violent and irrational protests, giant puppets and vandalism against McDonald's and Starbucks were never going to sway the American people. It was always perfectly predictable that they would have the opposite effect, driving Americans to support the President and the war in order to avoid feeling any fellowship with ANSWER and its ilk. It is good to see that the English are still like us in this respect. The left -- genuinely angry at seeing its utopias crushed and its inevitable future glory once again delayed -- just doesn't understand that its anger only drives people to the right. The Democrats who do understand this are the ones who most fear a Dean candidacy.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


    The Democrats' dilemma: As Dean's lead grows, his party worries. (Linda Feldmann, 11/18/03, CS Monitor)

    The former governor of Vermont got a boost last week from two major union endorsements, and from his announcement that he will forgo the federal limits on fundraising and try to go head to head financially against President Bush - a show of confidence that his supporters will write more checks and push the send button on more Internet donations.

    In the wider Democratic universe, however, the prospect of a Dean nomination has sent some party members into paroxysms of private hand-wringing. Not only do they see him losing badly to Bush, they also see Dean hurting Democratic candidates further down on the ticket - rippling into congressional races, and possibly even boosting Republican control of the 100-seat Senate close to the crucial threshold of 60 seats, which would make it filibuster-proof.

    "We could come perilously close to a one-party state," says a longtime Democratic activist with no formal ties to any campaign. "We could wind up with two more Antonin Scalias [on the Supreme Court]," he adds, referring to one of the most conservative justices.

    Someone else must certainly have written this already, but on Special Report tonight they showed Wesley Clark snarling at David Asman, who had questioned his statement on Meet the Press that Iraq is a "sideshow" (Mr. Asman has a son who's a Marine). Even Mara Liasson said she assumed that the Clark campaign had decided he needed to defend his patriotism and service record more forcefully and that this was just a case of his overreacting when trying to do so. At any rate, they noted that he's dropped from 11% to 4% in NH and Ms Liasson said that the "idea" of his candidacy had seemed good but the execution bad.

    In fact, if you think about it, the premise of his military career--being the most political soldier in uniform--has butted up against the premise of his political campaign--the novelty of a Democratic general. If the general were someone like Norman Schwarzkopf, his fundamentally nonpolitical persona and gruff, combative military posture would be a breath of fresh air. Instead, General Clark seems just another politician, one who happens to have been in the military.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


    Study Looks at Race Dialogue: Dartmouth Work Finds Talk With Blacks Drains Some Whites (Sonia Scherr, 11/17/03, Valley News)

    Interacting with someone of a different race affected some students' ability to do well on a mental test, a Dartmouth College study found.

    White students with greater “racial bias,” however unintentional, did worse on a cognitive test after discussing a controversial campus issue with a black male student, according to the study, which was published yesterday in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience. In addition, after being shown photographs of black males, those students had greater neural activity in an area in the front of the brain that has been linked to control of thoughts and behaviors.

    The results suggest that the students were trying to avoid appearing prejudiced when interacting with the black students, said Jennifer Richeson, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth. That effort may deplete their mental resources and impair their ability to complete cognitive tasks, just as exercise tires a muscle and makes it more difficult to perform physically in the short-term, she said.

    Richeson, along with five other Dartmouth researchers and one from Princeton, measured racial bias in 30 white Dartmouth students using a computer test to record the ease with which the individuals associated white Americans and black Americans with positive and negative concepts. They then had students discuss the college's fraternity-sorority system or racial profiling after September 11 with a black student whom they didn't know was part of the study. [...]

    Eric Liu, a senior government major, said the results of the study make sense. “I think, especially with college students, they want to portray themselves as more cosmopolitan (and) openly liberal -- and a lot of times that's a facade,” said Liu, who's from Youngstown, Ohio.

    Discomfort while interacting with a fellow student who's of a different race could have far-reaching implications, said Liu, who's Asian-American and a former editor of the on-campus quarterly journal Main Street, which focuses on Asian Americans and cross-cultural diversity issues.

    “Any interactions that occur at this level are bound to have an effect when we get out into society and into the real world,” he said. For instance, the Dartmouth study might help explain why there are fewer minorities or women at higher levels in the workplace, since those groups might have trouble breaking into a predominantly white environment, he said.

    Robert Baca, a senior English major from Los Angeles, said he sometimes encounters an “exhausting frustration” when students discuss their feeling about racial prejudice that doesn't occur during conversations about everyday matters.

    “You're trying to overcome such and such a bias or you're trying to understand, and that goes for both” minorities and nonminorities, said Baca, who's Mexican-American.

    But if white students were working hard to avoid responding inappropriately around black students, as the study showed, that could be viewed as a positive sign, he said. “They're suppressing for a reason, and hopefully that bodes well or speaks well for change, that there's at least awareness.”

    Liu and Baca both said the study, when looked at in reverse, could illuminate the feelings minority students experience interacting with their white peers. “How exhausting is that?” Baca asked. “Because it would be a constant thing as opposed to an occasional interaction.”

    Hard to imagine anything less worthwhile than asking college students their personal reactions to such a limited study. For instance, note that the students assume racial animus will be reduced by greater interaction, that such obvious attempts to seem tolerant would lead to fewer minorities in the work place, and seemingly that the experience of minorities will reflect a feeling of being seen as inferior, rather than a feeling of racial bias on their own part. All three assumptions seem dubious and none appear to be supported by the study, such as it is.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM


    How Parker Bros. Created Monopoly Mania In a bet-the-company strategy in 1935, Parker Brothers decided to put everything it had behind its new game, Monopoly. Good move.: Excerpt from The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit (Philip Orbanes, Harvard Business School Week)

    In accordance with his ninth principle--bet heavily when the odds are long in your favor--George Parker urged (Parker Brothers President Robert) Barton to put all the company's resources behind the Monopoly game and forget making other games. It was better to apply everything Parker Brothers owned to maximize Monopoly shipments given the marketplace's insatiable appetite for the game. He was convinced that every dollar wagered would return a windfall. Unlike his vacillation with Mah-Jongg, this time he would not hesitate and give his opponents a chance to compete. He would redeem himself.

    The "flood" began after New Year's Day. The post-Christmas trickle of orders for the Monopoly game turned into a torrent. It seemed that every Monopoly game purchased for Christmas had been played by many people--all of whom wanted their own copy, no matter what their financial plight. So many orders for the Monopoly game arrived in the mail and by telegraph that the firm had to store them in wicker laundry baskets in the hallways. All the workers sent home in December were quickly rehired.

    Demand this strong, early in the year, pointed to big success--perhaps the biggest in the long history of his firm. Additional manufacturing and storage space was leased in the city of Salem. Production ramped up. Keeping the books for the deluge of orders soon overwhelmed the small Parker Brothers accounting staff; an outside accounting firm had to be contracted. The first one, a prestigious company in Boston in need of work, took one look at the mountain of uninvoiced sales and politely declined--citing the job as being "impossible."

    The machines inside of Parker Brothers now began to whirl twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Robert Barton persuaded Foster Parker, George's nephew, to leave his auto dealership in Boston and come back to work for Parker Brothers. Barton needed Foster to supervise the nighttime third shift. In appreciation, he was soon elected treasurer. With Foster's help, production reached 20,000 games a week. [...]

    Waddington's enjoyed great sales for its Monopoly versions in both the United Kingdom and France. But in Germany, its licensee (Firma Franz Schmidt) suffered--because the most valuable property on its Berlin-based board (Insel Schwanenwerder) happened to be where most of the Nazi leaders had their homes. Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels did not want his party associated with capitalistic wealth and quickly denounced the game. Leaders of the Hitler Youth petitioned Schmidt to stop producing the game. Ironically, an Allied bombing raid later destroyed the Schmidt warehouse and the remaining copies.

    That's dang near allegorical.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


    Dean: Opting Out . . . (George Will, 11/13/03, Jewish World Review)

    On May 24, 1945, just 16 days after V-E Day, Britain's socialists were sanguine. A Labor Party firebrand, Aneurin Bevan, anticipating the Labor victory that occurred five weeks later, said that privation would be a thing of the past, because essentials would soon be abundant: "This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organizing genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time."

    But socialism rose to the challenge. Two years later, the coal industry having been nationalized and food still rationed, coal and fish were scarce. There are indeed some things that only government can do.

    Which brings us to Howard Dean's decision, made after an East German-style plebiscite among his faithful, to forgo government funding of his campaign for the Democratic nomination, thereby escaping spending limits. He will rely on the voluntary contributions of people who agree with him. What a concept.

    Dean's sensible and entirely self-interested decision means he knows he can get more money on his own than he can from the government. He has discovered the obvious: The government, by its restrictions on the amounts and conduits of political giving, has turned something that exists in wild abundance in America — money — into a scarcity (as the postwar Labor government did with coal and fish).

    That is exquisite.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


    Questions Rise Over Imprisoning Sex Offenders Past Their Terms (LAURA MANSNERUS, 11/17/03, NY Times)

    Mr. Deavers is one of 287 "sexually violent predators" in two high-security psychiatric centers in the state.

    The law has long allowed the commitment of mentally ill people who pose an imminent danger to others. But the detention of these men, many legal experts say, is a striking departure from the principle that people who are not mentally ill may be confined only for their acts, not their thoughts.

    In yearly review hearings, the men are judged by their sexual tastes and fantasies — or what psychiatrists suppose to be their fantasies — as well as their performance on psychological tests, their attitudes toward authority and their willingness to acknowledge their crimes and disorders.

    Many are rapists or child molesters, and the fear that they might commit more of the same crimes is grave. In 1998 New Jersey — like other states reacting to murders by sex offenders with previous convictions — authorized the commitment of anyone who has served time for a sex crime and is found to have a "mental abnormality or personality disorder" that makes him likely to commit another crime. These men are to be given treatment, chiefly group therapy, until they are judged no longer dangerous.

    Five years later, only a handful have been released, and critics of the commitment process — psychiatrists, civil-liberties advocates and even some early supporters of the law — are concerned that it is merely an exercise rigged to keep sex offenders locked up for a lifetime.

    One Kearny resident, committed after five years in prison for having sex with a teenager, said, "I'd be better off if I'd killed him."

    The process is severe for a purpose: dealing with a type of criminal that society regards as dangerous, devious and manipulative.

    Should John Hinckley Go Free? (MICHAEL SOKOLOVE, 11/16/03, NY Times Magazine)
    Fifteen months after the shooting, at the end of a seven-week trial, a jury in Washington rendered its verdict on John Hinckley: not guilty by reason of insanity. The first two words of that verdict -- "not guilty" -- were (and remain) the most important. Their meaning is that Hinckley was held legally blameless -- in the grip, on the day of the shootings, of a psychological defect that roiled his thinking and shut down his judgment.

    Hinckley was 27 years old when he entered St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington on June 22, 1982, the day after the verdict. He is 48 now. The law is clear on what should happen at the point Hinckley is judged to be sane. When he is no longer a danger to himself or to others, he is to be set free.

    This week, a hearing is scheduled to begin on Hinckley's petition for a "limited conditional release." If it is granted, he will be permitted a series of visits off the hospital grounds with his parents -- and without hospital staff. These will be day outings, and if all goes well, overnight visits will follow.

    When he entered St. Elizabeths, Hinckley was given a diagnosis of two major psychological maladies -- psychosis and major depression. According to his doctors, both are now in "full remission." In fact, his treatment team began saying that as far back as 1985.

    In his motion to the United States District Court, Hinckley's lawyer, Barry Levine, called the conditional release "the appropriate next step in Mr. Hinckley's treatment." The hospital also supported Hinckley's conditional release, while recommending a more phased-in series of visits.

    The government opposes any release, because the incremental steps lead ultimately to his full freedom. That Hinckley could live outside a prison or a locked hospital ward is, for many, a profoundly uncomfortable thought. He tried to kill the president. He had an attraction to Nazism and an affinity for Charles Manson.

    But there is a powerful counterargument to be made that Hinckley's release is long overdue. In the disposition of "insanity acquittees," the law does not sort them by whom they shot.

    It seems appropriate to invoke a pretty simple principle here: society has a right to defend itself. If John Hinckley isn't a threat to anyone anymore, let him go. If Mr. Deavers is a threat, keep him locked up by whatever means necessary.

    Posted by David Cohen at 9:38 AM

    SOLDIERS' UNIONS? (Via Best Of The Web)

    Deadly attack on Italians prompts nations to wait (Bassem Mrque, AP, 11/14/03)

    Japan put off a decision on sending troops to Iraq yesterday, a day after the deadliest attack on coalition forces since the war, and South Korea capped its contribution at 3,000 soldiers -- new setbacks to U.S. hopes for easing the pressure on its forces. . . .

    South Korea also decided to limit its contribution to 3,000 troops, President Roh Moo-hyun announced. In addition, Seoul ordered its 464 troops in southern Iraq to suspend operations outside coalition bases.

    Denmark also rejected a push by two Danish soldiers unions to add 100 troops to its 410-member force.

    No matter how screwed up this country is, we're never going to be the most screwed up.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


    World leaders fear new wave of anti-Semitism: Al-Qaeda behind synagogue bombings (Rob Roberts, 11/17/03, National Post)

    The leaders of France and Italy are to hold urgent meetings with Jewish leaders today to discuss car bomb attacks on two Istanbul synagogues and what is being described as a new wave of anti-Semitism.

    A French Jewish body said it was convinced a new type of anti-Semitism was trying to take hold in Europe, responding to both the Turkish bombings and a fire at a Jewish school on Saturday outside Paris that was most likely arson.

    "Today, we are convinced that a new anti-Semitism is trying to take root in Europe, under the cover of anti-Zionism," the French Central Consistory said in a statement. [...]

    Security yesterday was being stepped up around Jewish sites in several European nations, but Muslim Turkey -- Israel's closest regional ally -- sought to reassure the country's tiny Jewish community.

    "We have Jewish citizens in Turkey; there is no division between the two communities," said Abdullah Gul, the Foreign Minister, adding: "An attack against them is an attack against Turkey."

    Standing by Mr. Gul's side on the front steps of a local government building, Mr. Shalom expressed his condolences to families of the Muslim victims.

    "These attacks against prayers were cowardly attacks carried out by extremists who don't want to see countries that are sharing values of democracy, freedom and rule of law," Mr. Shalom said.

    Turks, kept behind security barriers by police, tossed white carnations yesterday in a sign of condolence.

    Turkey, a secular nation that is NATO's only Muslim member, enjoys warm relations with Israel. Turkey and Israel have carried out joint military exercises, and Turkey in 1948 became the first Muslim country to recognize the Jewish state.

    Many Jews said the bombings would not frighten them away from Istanbul, their home for half a millennium.

    About 25,000 Jews live in Istanbul and a few thousand more reside in the Aegean city of Izmir. Dwindling communities remain in the capital Ankara and in Antakya, Adana and Bursa.

    "We are a 500-year-old community, we are part of this nation. People may be afraid, but we will not leave," said Sabi Baruh, 64, born in the historic Jewish quarter of Galata near the Neve Shalom synagogue, rocked by one of the bombs.

    It would help if secular Europe were at least as pro-Zionist as Turkey.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


    John D. MacDonald's Lush Landscape of Crime (Jonathan Yardley, November 11, 2003, Washington Post)

    The subject of this Second Reading could be any of the McGee novels, but I've chosen "The Dreadful Lemon Sky" because it was the first that I read. In 1976 I was the book editor of the Miami Herald, across Florida from MacDonald's home on Siesta Key. He was about to publish "Condominium," his first hardcover, non-genre novel, which had been chosen as a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and I had been commissioned by the club to write a brief piece about him for its newsletter.

    This entailed a hurry-up course in MacDonald's fiction, which I'd never read. I mainlined a couple dozen of his novels, from early mysteries to McGees to "Condominium" itself. I was bowled over. This man whom I'd snobbishly dismissed as a paperback writer turned out to be a novelist of the highest professionalism and a social critic armed with vigorous opinions stingingly expressed. His prose had energy, wit and bite, his plots were humdingers, his characters talked like real people, and his knowledge of the contemporary world was -- no other word will do -- breathtaking.

    MacDonald himself turned out, when I interviewed him in his comfortable, unpretentious house, to be a large, calm, genial, quiet yet talkative man: a gentleman. By then he had established himself, as I wrote in a profile of him for the Herald's Sunday magazine, as "the pre-eminent 'Florida novelist,' " a distinction earned by remarkably close observation of the state: its grifters and operators and big-bucks crooks, its decent ordinary people, its overdeveloped land and polluted water. He had harsh things to say about Florida in "Condominium" and many of his other books. When I asked him about this he said: "I've always recognized that Florida is a slightly tacky state," and added, "You love it in spite of itself."

    Close questioning revealed not merely that he had a complex love-hate relationship with his adopted state (he was born, in 1916, in Pennsylvania) but that he was a constant reader with high standards. He thought some genre novelists were taken too seriously, just as Thomas Pynchon was ("One is overvalued because the critic finds some elements of literacy in it, the other because he can't understand it"), and he was a tough critic who expected others' prose to have "felicity, an element of aptness." One passage from my tapes deserves full quotation:

    "I just cannot read people like Leon Uris and James Michener. When you've covered one line, you can guess the next one. I like people who know the nuances of words, who know how to stick the right one in the right place. Sometimes you can laugh out loud at an exceptionally good phrase. I find it harder and harder to find fiction to read, because I either read it with dismay at how good it is or disgust at how bad it is. I do like the guys like John Cheever that have a sense of story, because, goddammit, you want to know what happens to somebody. You don't want a lot of self-conscious little logjams thrown in your way."

    So, you quite properly ask, how well did MacDonald meet the standards he set for others? Very well indeed.

    Travis Magee is a pleasant enough character to spend time with, but this is one of those series that adhere's to the Ludlum Rule--where the first one you read will be your favorite because the rest are identical.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


    The war on terror may open a Turkish front: Two bombings in Istanbul Saturday killed at least 23 people and wounded hundreds more. (Yigal Schleifer, 11/17/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

    With Turkish officials strongly suggesting that the sophisticated attacks were organized by an international terrorist organization, possibly Al Qaeda, the country could find itself becoming another front in the war on terrorism. That could push Turkey into even closer cooperation with the US and Israel, analysts say - as well as widen Turkey's Islamic-secular divide.

    "Turkey has faced terrorist acts in the past, but they were either ethnic, like the [Kurdish separatist group] PKK, or extreme ideological groups from the left or right. This appears to be part of the international terror campaign, and it is something different," says Sami Kohen, a political analyst and columnist with the Turkish daily Milliyet.

    Saturday's attacks at the temples, which are about three miles apart, killed at least 23 people, most of them Muslim passersby, and wounded more than 300.

    It was the second attack on Neve Shalom, Istanbul's largest synagogue, where gunmen suspected of being associated with Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal killed 22 people in 1986. The Turkish daily Radikal reported that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad had warned Turkish intelligence units twice, most recently in September, about attack plans.

    If this latest strike is connected to Islamic extremists trying to destabilize the region and punish Turkey for its relationship with the US, it could change the public's attitude, says Ali Carkoglu, of Sabanci University in Istanbul.

    "People on the street would be pushed toward a tougher Turkish policy in Iraq," he says. "They would not use this as an excuse to shy away from any active involvement in Iraq. So I don't think this would work towards pushing Turkey towards the margin of the conflict. It will work the other way."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


    Europe's rebellious regions: Why the ambitious regions of Europe have lost faith in Brussels (Charlemagne , Nov 13th 2003, The Economist)

    AS JORDI PUJOL, the gnome-like but powerful boss of Catalonia's government, paces his office in his medieval palace in central Barcelona, he does not look like a man on the brink of retirement. But on November 16th, after 23 years in office, Mr Pujol will leave the stage. He has every reason to feel satisfied. He survived imprisonment by Franco in the 1960s, to see fascism fall in Spain and self-government return to Catalonia. The Catalan language has revived and Barcelona has become one of the most fashionable cities in Europe. Yet Mr Pujol does not seem relaxed. He fears that the Spanish government is trying to roll back some of the hard-won powers of regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country. But, he says, the Catalans (and Basques) want more, not less, autonomy. The next few years, concludes Mr Pujol, will be “a critical period”.

    What happens in Catalonia is of more than local interest. Europe's nation-states are being challenged from above, by the growing powers of the supranational European Union, but also from below, by increasingly assertive regions. Some theorists talk of a new layering of power in Europe. Although national governments continue to dominate such things as the organisation of welfare states, on bigger issues like trade, the environment or monetary policy it is the EU that nowadays decides. But in such matters as education, cultural identity or economic regeneration it is Europe's regions that are coming to the fore. This symmetrical squeeze on the nation-state sounds appealingly neat in theory. But, as the controversies in Catalonia show, the reality can be a lot messier. Across Europe, governments and regions still squabble over how power should be distributed.

    Thus in Germany, the only big west European country with a long-established and reasonably settled federal system, the regions (Länder) complain that their powers are being simultaneously eroded by Brussels and Berlin. In France, the government is committed to decentralisation, but its devolution plan for Corsica was messily rejected in a recent referendum. In Italy, the Northern League, which wants more political and economic power for the north of the country, is threatening to bring down the coalition government of Silvio Berlusconi unless regions are given more clout. In Britain, Tony Blair's government set up a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly in its first term in office; it is now, somewhat reluctantly, adding elected assemblies for some of the regions of England. In Belgium, Dutch-speaking Flanders continues to demand ever-greater autonomy from the rest of the country.

    Where does the EU fit into this back-and-forth struggle?

    The most interesting aspect of the story may be the use of the term "ambitious" in the subhead. This seems quite accurate--most of Europe has decided that it prefers the quiet death that peaceful integration promises a long war-torn continent. It represents the sacrifice of ambition in favor of placidly fading into that good night.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


    Stifled by clerics, Iranians escape online: Uneasy youth abandon politics for chat rooms and porn sites (Robert Collier, November 16, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)

    Despite electoral disaffection, opposition to conservative Islam appears to be growing, reformists say. The trend was acknowledged Friday by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds final power in Iran.

    "Our dear youth should be vigilant against a cultural wave that has been created by the Americans," he told thousands of worshipers in a sermon in Tehran. "This is an injection of moral laxity, atheism and apathy toward morality, apathy toward the disciplined code of ethics of Islam. It is leading young people to promiscuity and permissiveness."

    Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of an outlawed pro-reform political party, the Freedom Movement of Iran, says the movement is gaining strength. "Before the Revolution, secularism was basically an imported idea, imposed on Iran from the West by the shah," he said. "Now, it's domestic. It's different from the shah's time. The internal pressure for reform is strong and deep."

    Another key change, says Yazdi, a former foreign minister and spokesman for the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is the emergence of women in the reform movement. "Before the revolution, the bulk of women stayed at home and were completely apolitical. Under the revolution, they have become politicized, '' said Yazdi, who is currently under indictment for slandering religious leaders. "Now, they are a major factor in the reform movement."

    However, Tehran human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, says secular politics and culture have not become an alternative to Islamic rule.

    "Iranian political parties are not viable, they are weak,'' she said. "But this doesn't mean people can't decide our destiny. Iranians are searching for a correct version of Islam, one that governs society and our daily lives in a way that is not oppressive, especially regarding women."

    An Iran that disposed of even the moral strictures of Islam would be no more worth having than one that is oppressed.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM

    FREEZE TAG (via Tom Corcoran):

    "Under God": The history of a phrase (James Piereson, 10/27/2003, Weekly Standard)

    It is entirely possible that we could wake up some morning next June to learn that the Supreme Court has decided that the Pledge of Allegiance, in its current form, cannot be recited in the public schools. To understand why requires a closer look at the Ninth Circuit's decision.

    IN ARRIVING AT ITS DECISION, the Court of Appeals placed great weight on the fact that Congress inserted the words "under God" into the pledge in 1954 as a means of advancing religion at a time when the nation was engaged in a battle against the doctrines of atheistic communism. The court further noted that when President Eisenhower signed the bill, he stated, "From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim . . . the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." From the Ninth Circuit's point of view, the record amply demonstrated that the purpose of the act was not to advance patriotism (a legitimate secular goal), but rather to promote religion.

    The court also ruled that the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government, particularly when the oath is recited by a captive audience of students in a public school. This conclusion was, in truth, not nearly so radical as some critics have claimed, since the Supreme Court itself has, in recent decades, moved very far in the direction of construing an "endorsement" of religion as an "establishment" of religion. Indeed, in a shrewd albeit somewhat obvious tactical feint, the Court of Appeals was able to draw support from no less an authority than Justice Sandra Day O'Connor--often the swing vote between the Court's liberal and conservative blocs--who is on record as saying that the Establishment Clause prohibits government from endorsing religion.

    It's a strange theory of jurisprudence which holds that the Court must give great deference to its recent decisions overturning four hundred years of American history and two hundred of constitutional law.

    November 16, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM

    ICH BIN EIN MISKITO INDIAN (via Tom Corcoran):

    In Reagan's footsteps on Iraq policy (Jeff Jacoby, 11/13/2003, Boston Globe)

    On Nov. 3 and 4, Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Nicaragua, a country on the front lines of the Cold War when Powell served as Reagan's national security adviser. As he stepped off the plane in Managua, he was greeted by a Nicaraguan honor guard and a military band playing the American national anthem. It was a deeply moving moment -- one that called to Powell's mind the fierce struggle two decades ago to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, who had taken up arms against the country's Sandinista dictatorship.

    "To stand there at attention . . . hearing the Star Spangled Banner," said Powell, triggered a flashback to 1987, "when I was . . . going up to Capitol Hill every three months . . . and fighting all night long with opponents of Contra aid, to keep these guys alive and going with food and ammunition." Reagan had called the Contras "the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance" in World War II -- analogies that infuriated liberal Democrats.

    But Reagan's comparisons were apt. After seizing power in 1979, the Sandinistas had quickly moved to take over Nicaragua's radio and TV stations and to impose strict censorship on La Prensa, the leading newspaper. It arrested independent labor leaders. It vilified the Catholic Church, persecuted the small Jewish community, and treated evangelical Protestants with particular viciousness. It expelled thousands of Miskito Indians from their homes, forcibly relocating them to government camps. With Cuban and Soviet aid, it launched a massive military buildup.

    Like all communists, the Sandinistas were ruthless toward dissenters; by 1983, their prisons held more political prisoners than any Western Hemisphere nation except Cuba. The Sandinistas also produced what all communist regimes produce: a flood of refugees. It was estimated in 1986 that one-10th of Nicaragua's population had fled from Sandinista repression.

    Reagan's explicit support for the Contras was bitterly opposed by the left. Then-congressman Charles Schumer of New York snorted that Reagan offered "the same exact arguments that we were hearing in the mid-'60s about Vietnam"; Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut warned that Americans would be fighting "the tide of history" if it backed the Contras -- "we will . . . find ourselves once again on the losing side."

    But in the end, it was the Sandinistas and their totalitarian dreams that went down to defeat.

    Thank you, Ollie North, Bud McFarlane, and Admiral Poindexter.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


    Bayonne Bleeder Throws a Punch at the Italian Stallion (DAVE ANDERSON, 11/16/03, NY Times)

    AS a heavyweight, Chuck Wepner was often stitched, but he was never stiffed. With skin that cracked like old parchment, Wepner, now 64, was known as the Bayonne Bleeder because he cut so easily, mostly around the eyes. He claims to have been sewn up with 326 stitches, including 23 when he was stopped by Muhammad Ali in 1975 at the Coliseum outside Cleveland.

    "Vito Antuofermo had the most stitches, 345," Wepner said, referring to the middleweight champion of more than two decades ago. "I always wanted to have one more fight to set the record."

    Sport abounds in great nicknames, but few better than "The Bayonne Bleeder".

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


    Manning Stands Up to Heavy Pressure (DAMON HACK, 11/16/03, NY Times)

    In the springtime before football season, a limousine pulled onto the Indiana state fairgrounds carrying a hidden figure to a receiving line of officials and celebrities, among them Peyton Manning, the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.

    The back door opened and out stepped President Bush, who spotted Manning and stuck his arms out, in the manner of a receiver calling for a touchdown pass.

    It disarmed Manning, who was nervous and not even sure what to call him until Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson told him "Mr. President" would do. Bush, in a private moment later on, leaned in and spoke to him.

    "The difference between you and me," Manning recalled Bush saying, "is that if some guy rips you, you have to face him in the locker room the next day and be cordial to him. Me? They don't get close to me."

    you can hear the Bush haters howling about that one already, but it shows a refreshing degree of self-knowledge. A Bill Clinton is no less protected from the press, but imagines himself to joust with his critics daily.

    Posted by David Cohen at 12:35 PM

    O'Brian v. Weir: It's A Master & Commander-athon.

    The following contains spoilers for both the movie and the novels. If you wish to avoid the spoilers, my movie review in a nutshell is: Go See It. The movie succeeds brilliantly on its own terms and is respectful of O'Brian. It is, however, Weir's movie, not O'Brian's movie.

    Starting with the movie as a movie, Weir has created a masterpiece. Though mostly scrubbed of gore, the scenes of 19th century war are convincing. Almost as good are the scenes of Surprise rounding the Horn. In this, and in showing the crowding of almost 200 souls aboard a small frigate, the movie succeeds in outdoing O'Brian in showing what life was like on a man-of-war at sea. Though the movie is not at all a slavish adaptation of the novel (among other things, major parts of four of the books find their way into the movie), a number of O'Brian's major themes are sounded and a number of lines and sights are thrown in for no other reason than to please those who have read the novel.

    Weir's riskiest choice succeeds brilliantly. Rather than "opening up" the novel, Weir closes in on the Surprise and her crew. This is as non-commercial a choice as could be made. Rather than introducing a Hollywood romance, making the entire war depend upon catching the Acheron, or introducing the 19th century equivalent of a red timer ticking down to zero, Weir tosses out source material that might broaden the movie's appeal. O'Brian's The Far Side Of The World includes an adulterous love triangle on board between Hollum, the gunner's wife (who was one of several women on board) and the gunner, who kills the lovers, Higgens the surgeon's mate (who botches an abortion Stephen refuses to perform) and then goes mad and hangs himself. Instead, Weir focuses claustrophobically on the Surprise, the seamen and her Captain. This focus brings the audience to the final battle as a part of the crew, which is now a coherent unit.

    Weir's real triumph is the choreography and filming of the battle scenes, which are done as well as any I've ever seen. Filming a general melee of three hundred men fighting for their lives with one-shot pistols, swords, pikes and knives in a confined space, Weir manages to present three or four themes in such a way that the viewer always can follow the action and tell what is happening to whom. At the same time, the audience feels the confusion and violence that the characters are feeling.

    This triumph allows Weir to return to themes he has dealt with before, as early as Gallipoli, when he presented the insanity of World War I trench warfare as seen by Australian troops. This link comes through most clearly during the speech Jack Aubrey gives (most uncharacteristically) before the Surprise surprises the Acheron. Jack says that the Surprise is England and family and that the men will fight bravely for country and family, which of course they do. The Australians, on the other hand, were fighting and dying in an "European" war and, although they fought bravely, were fighting in the end only for each other. Weir presents their deaths as tragic and odd, where the deaths on the Surprise are presented as worthy, though also tragic. This comes through in the choice of identifiable characters who die on the Acheron, Nagle, Allen and Calamy. Nagle and Allen are not sympathetic characters. Calamy we are not allowed to know, though we are meant to like and admire him, but his death (which is Weir's invention, not O'Brian's) is presented as coming during an opportunity he greatly desired and is the most bitterly regretted death in the movie. Soon after, the Surprise moves on and so do we.

    In an interview about Gallipoli, Weir once said the following:

    Our first approach was to tell the whole story from enlistment in 1914 through to the evacuation of Gallipoli at the end of 1915, but we were not getting at what this thing was, the burning center that had made Gallipoli a legend. I could never find the answers in any books and it certainly wasn't evolving in any of our drafts, so we put the legend to one side and simply made up a story about two young men, really got to know them, where they came from, what happened to them along the way, spent more time getting to the battle and less time on the battlefield.

    The draft fell into place. By approaching the subject obliquely, I think we had come as close to touching the source of the myth as we could. I think there's a Chinese proverb - it's not the arriving at one's destination but the journey that matters. Gallipoli is about two young men on the road to adventure, how they crossed continents and great oceans, climbed the pyramids and walked through the ancient sands of Egypt, and the deserts of the outback, to their appointment with destiny at Gallipoli.

    The end of the film is really all about that appointment and how they coped with it. I don't think we could have sat down in the early stages and got this - it took years of talking, writing, arguing, to finally get back to something incredibly simple.

    The similarities with Master & Commander are clear. The differences are those between a younger man and an older man looking at life. Now the friendship at the heart of the movie is less important to the characters and the audience than the war in which they have chosen to fight.

    But still, the theme from O'Brian's novel that comes through most strongly in the film is the conflict between the high Tory Aubrey and the liberal Maturin. Jack believes in the higher discipline; that men must be led both in order to accomplish anything worthwhile and for their own happiness. Stephen rejects this idea of man as a yoked beast, though more because of its effect on the leader than on the men. Stephen believes, that is, that power corrupts, and that's a shame for the powerful. The resolution of this dispute is perhaps the most disappointing part of the movie. Although Jack's idea of discipline wins out in the end, it does so only because he gives up the pursuit of the Acheron to save his friend's life. I think we are meant to see the need to blend the two philosophies in order to succeed (Jack and Stephen complete each other, blah, blah, blah), but we don't, because the Acheron reappears as a deus ex machina, with no connection to Jack's supposed sacrifice.

    But perhaps this is the message, after all. The movie is almost entirely free of post-modern irony (the only exception, in which Jack wonders at this "modern age we're living in", is one of the movie's few clunkers). This earnestness leads to the movie's greatest surprise. Weir's movie is significantly more Christian -- at least, more explicitly Christian -- than O'Brian's novel. We are hit over the head with this at the end, with perhaps the only non-ironic, earnest Christian service I've ever seen in a major motion picture. Weir might think that Jack, as a Christian hero, is rewarded for his works, but actually he was rewarded out of grace.

    [Still to come, the novel considered in light of the movie.]

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


    Angels, Reagan and AIDS in America (Frank Rich, 11/16/03, NY Times)

    Tonight is the night when Americans might have tuned into Part 1 of "The Reagans" on CBS. But the joke is on the whiners who forced the mini-series off the air. Just three weeks from tonight, HBO will present the first three-hour installment of Mike Nichols's film version of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep. (Part 2 is a week later.) This epic is, among other things, a searing indictment of how the Reagan administration's long silence stoked the plague of AIDS in the 1980's. If "Angels" reaches an audience typical for HBO hits, it could detonate a debate bloody enough to make the fight over "The Reagans" look like an exhibition bout.

    That's not such a big if. "Angels" is the most powerful screen adaptation of a major American play since Elia Kazan's "Streetcar Named Desire" more than a half-century ago. It's been produced not only with stars but at four times the budget of "The Reagans." People are going to talk about it, and, as they do, HBO will replay it relentlessly to rake in more and more of the country. Threats of a boycott against a channel soon to unveil a new season of "The Sopranos" will go nowhere.

    "Angels" is only minutes old when Mr. Pacino appears as a real-life crony of the Reagans — Roy Cohn, in his post-McCarthy-era incarnation as a still-powerful Republican fixer, closely tied to the Ed Meese justice department. A photo on his office wall shows him arm in arm with both the president and his vice president. Cohn is also a closeted gay man dying of AIDS. When he takes a sexual partner to the White House, he gloats, "President Reagan smiles at us and shakes his hand." Eventually Cohn will threaten to reveal "adorable Ollie North and his secret contra slush fund" unless the White House secures him a private stash of AZT, then the most promising AIDS drug and still unavailable to all but a few. Cohn gets his pills while thousands of other dying Americans are placed on hold.

    The bits about Roy Cohn being "closeted" (his homosexuality was used to smear Joe McCarthy in the early '50s), about AIDs being a plague (not unlike George W. Bush referring to the war on terror as a "crusade") and about this movie generating some kind of wide debate are amusing, but what's disappointing is that Mr. Rich never bothers to touch upon the really interesting policy question that surrounds Ronald Reagan and AIDs: simple compassion and human decency requires us to care for the dying, but why would conservatives view it as in the public interest to make immoral and self-destructive behaviors less dangerous?

    AIDs is a difficult disease to give yourself and is very easily avoided. Ronald Reagan and other conservatives believe(d) you're morally obligated to avoid those behaviors that spread this disease and many others. Meanwhile, folks like Dr. Koop, mentioned later in the story, helped to spread AIDs by telling gay men they'd be "safe" if only they used condoms. Who then is more responsible for the AIDs subpandemic (wouldn't want to be judgmental and call it a plague), those who endorsed the behavior that caused it or those who opposed?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM

    A QUADRENNIAL FANTASY (via Tom Morin):

    2004: Wishful Thinking?: The latest Hillary-for-president scenario (Howard Fineman, 11/24/03, NEWSWEEK)

    Is there a chance she would get into the race? “That depends on what you mean by ‘get into the race’,” one of her closest friends and advisers explained to NEWSWEEK.

    THE SCENARIO, as sketched by this hard-boiled insider, calls for Clinton to make an entrance as healer and unifier at the end of the primary season in May or June in the unlikely—but not impossible—event that none of the existing contenders has amassed a majority of the convention delegates. “You’d have to have Howard Dean not wrapping it up, and being an angry, wounded front runner,” this adviser said. “You’d have to have two of the other challengers tearing each other apart in primary after primary. Then Hillary could come in, well in advance of the convention, and say, ‘Look, somebody has to save the party’.”

    In every cpresidential campaign there comes a moment when we can discern who the likely nominees are and they are both always and inevitably disappointing to nearly all of us. So we start to spin out ridiculous scenarios of dead-locked conventions and the like, but they never come true. The only unusual thing is that they've started even before the first vote is cast this time.

    Meanwhile, the entire point of Hilary staying out of the race this Fall was so that she could see how the economy and Iraq were doing. Obviously the economy is going to work in President Bush's favor next year and with a handover of authority in Iraq on track for sometime near Memorial Day, not only is the war unlikely to be an issue, nbut late-May/early-June looks to be the least opportune moment for a new candidate to enter the race.

    The Democrats, sadly for them, look like they are down to Dean or Gephardt, unless someone else jumps in by Christmas.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


    Job One: Solve The Sunni Problem (Fareed Zakaria, Nov. 24, 2003, NEWSWEEK)

    For months before the war, the United States (intentionally or unintentionally) signaled its support for the Shiites and Kurds of Iraq. It made clear it was comfortable with the fact that a democratic Iraq was likely to be a Shiite Iraq (the Shiites make up 60 percent of the country). It cozied up to exiles, almost all of whom are Shiites. It assured the Kurds that they would retain the autonomy that they had developed under the umbrella of American and British air power.

    All these are perfectly understandable, honorable and intelligent goals. (One certainly would not want a Shiite problem in Iraq!) But the effect has been to make the Sunnis of Iraq believe that they will be the victims of the new order. When the Sunnis hear the phrase “Iraqi democracy,” they probably think “tyranny of the Shiites.”

    The Sunnis have good reason to be worried. They know a thing or two about tyranny, having ruled Iraq for all of its modern existence. (And before that, they were the favored sons under two colonial administrations: the British and the Ottomans.) But they are also a key to stability, a powerful and well-connected element in Iraqi society that for centuries has produced the majority of politicians, generals, merchants, professors and doctors. They can help—and they can certainly spoil—the chances of building a new Iraq.

    Beyond effective counter-insurgency operations, the United States will have to develop a political strategy to bring Sunni leaders—tribal, religious and political—into the new order. This might involve political promises, bribes, spending projects in Sunni areas and some symbolic gestures, such as appointing a figurehead Sunni president (to balance the real head of government, a Shiite prime minister). The military historian John Keegan noted last Saturday in The Daily Telegraph that the British have done better in their sector than the Americans because, in part, they have accommodated themselves to Iraqi society rather than trying to reconstruct it along ideological lines. Washington will have to strike a balance because, rightly, it wants to change Iraq, not accommodate itself to it. But first it must end the war. And to do that, it must solve its Sunni Problem.

    Which begs the question: what if the historic dominance of the Sunni, and their resulting view of the roles of Islam and the State, is the problem in a way that Shi'ism is decidely not?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


    Squaring Off (DAVID HAYES, 11/16/03, NY Times Magazine)

    Two years ago, [Andy Camann, a tall, gangly 14-year-old], who lives with his parents and his older brother, Zac, in Newton, Mass., found an old Rubik's Cube that belonged to his mother in the basement. After a few failed attempts, he managed to solve it in four and a half minutes. Curious, he discovered hundreds of sites on the Internet, some offering sophisticated algorithms to solve the cube, and gradually his time dropped below 60 seconds. He also discovered a global community of cubists and found out about the puzzle's origins.

    In 1974, a Hungarian designer named Erno Rubik created a multicolored, six-sided cube as a three-dimensional model to demonstrate geometric principles. Despite its complexity -- there is one correct alignment and 43 quintillion potential wrong ones -- by 1980, Rubik's Cube had developed a cult following. An estimated quarter of a billion cubes were sold between 1980 and 1985. It spawned key chains, songs, ''Saturday Night Live'' skits, an animated TV program and more than a hundred books. But demand exceeded supply, and neither Rubik nor the Hungarian manufacturer had patented the cube in foreign countries. By 1986, with the market flooded with pirated versions that were difficult to turn or quick to break, the toy dropped off the radar.

    Even group theory can't explain how, about half a dozen years ago, a new generation of young people, like Camann, decided that playing with the low-tech plastic cube was cool. But the Internet made it possible for these new fans and cubists rediscovering their passion to connect.

    Yeah, but how is he at Paper, Rock, Scissors?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


    OPTING OUT: Irrelevance Stalks a Post-Watergate Invention (GLEN JUSTICE, 11/16/03, NY Times)

    FOR nearly three decades, the public financing system for presidential campaigns has done the job set out for it in the post-Watergate era: feeding hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to incumbents, challengers, Republicans, Democrats and third-party candidates while placing a limit on spending.

    This time around, though, it is losing traction, and critics are asking if the system has outlived its usefulness and if American taxpayers want to keep financing it. They also wonder if any change can provide enough resources to enable candidates to compete with those who can raise formidable sums without federal help.

    Why not just let any US citizen and no one else--the "no one" including non-persons like corporations, unions, etc.--contribute as much as they want and require candidates and parties to disclose fully who gave what? Isn't greater ease of raising money likely to reduce the influence of givers, rather than boost it?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


    The New Iraq Is Grim, Hopeful and Still Scary (JOHN F. BURNS, 11/16/03, NY Times)

    At the Palestine Hotel, where I was taunted in the last weeks of Mr. Hussein's terror by officials of his information ministry as "the most dangerous man in Iraq" because of my articles about the regime's brutality, some of the same Iraqis, who now work as interpreters for Western news bureaus, caution me against staying in the 16th-floor room I used to inhabit. It is, they say, potentially vulnerable to the rockets and truck bombs of Mr. Hussein's die-hards.

    It is a world upside down, or at least skewed, for anybody familiar with Mr. Hussein's Iraq, a world that challenges much that seemed sure in the days when the drums of war were sounding in Washington.

    Then, many of us believed that Iraqis craved, and deserved, their liberation from Mr. Hussein. Despite all the disappointments of the occupation, there has been little change in that view, judging by what was almost certainly the first scientifically conducted public opinion poll in Iraq, by the Gallup Organization in late September.

    Not all the findings were music to Washington's ears, especially the one in which 47 percent of the 1,178 Baghdadis polled said they were worse off under American occupation, while only 33 percent judged themselves to be better off.

    But against this, and the bedrock on which American prospects here may well depend, was the poll's central finding: that 62 percent believed the ouster of Saddam Hussein was worth any hardships they suffered during and after the invasion. In addition, 67 percent said they believed Iraq would be better off five years from now than it was under Mr. Hussein, against 8 percent who thought it would be worse.

    Baghdad is not Iraq, and it is certainly not Falluja, Ramadi or Tikrit, where crowds have gathered to cheer the killings of American troops, most recently in the shooting down of two helicopters.

    But the random experiences of a week back in the country and among ordinary people I have talked to, by far the most common view has been that for all the American failures, as they see them, a guarantee of greater misery would still be the premature withdrawal of American troops.

    These Iraqis, for the most part, do not make that the first point of any conversation, more often it is the last, but it is their bottom line.

    Mr. Burns earned considerable credibility on the Right with his denunciation of his fellow pressmen. This seemingly well-balanced piece will only strengthen that. In a situation where competing voices seem diametrically oppossed in their assessments, he seems pretty reliable.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


    Deal 'in Principle' for Medicare Plan to Cover Drug Costs (ROBERT PEAR, 11/15/03, NY Times)

    The top Republicans in Congress and two Democratic senators announced Saturday that they had reached an "agreement in principle" on a bill to help millions of elderly people buy prescription drugs. It would be the biggest expansion of Medicare since the program was created in 1965.

    The White House said it would join Republican leaders in an all-out effort to push the bill through Congress, where it faces opposition from some conservatives and from many Democrats.

    Besides adding drug benefits to Medicare, the bill would inject competition and market forces into Medicare and establish a new mechanism to help hold down Medicare costs. It would also offer tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and other aid to employers to encourage them to continue providing health benefits, including drug coverage, to retirees. [...]

    Senator Max Baucus of Montana, one of the two Democrats in the talks, said, "When the final agreement becomes public and the details are announced, it will get more votes in the House and the Senate than some might think."

    The other Democrat, Senator John B. Breaux of Louisiana, said, "The only thing that can prevent this from being passed is unnecessary political partisanship."

    Like any government program, this one will never be more popular than it is before it takes effect. Thus, Democrats run considerable risk bottling it up in the Senate and letting the GOP run against obstructionism next year.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


    Will al-Qaeda bring the royal house down?: The Riyadh attack, believed to be the work of bin Laden’s supporters, was a challenge to the ruling House of Saud, finds Trevor Royle. Now they must decide whether to appease or confront the critics (Sunday Herald, 11/16/03)

    Despite a tightening of security and a crackdown by police on suspected terrorist groups, the country is bracing itself for further attacks in the wake of the Muhaya bombing. At first, most Saudis did not want to believe the bombing was the work of fellow Muslims, especially during Ramadan, and conspiracy theorists were not slow to point the finger at Mossad [the Israeli secret service] or the CIA. Apart from a visceral hatred of the US and Israel the main impetus for the rumour came from the fact that the victims were Muslims and it was unthinkable Islamic terrorists would slaughter their co-religionists.

    While it would have been a neat solution to blame non-Muslim or Western-backed groups, according to the Saudi internal security forces, there is enough evidence to prove that the attack was the work of Arab terrorists with links to al-Qaeda. The claim was given substance by US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who was in Riyadh in advance of the re-opening of the US embassy: “It is quite clear to me that al-Qaeda wants to take down the royal family and the government of Saudi Arabia.”

    Certainly, Osama bin Laden has never made any secret of his dislike of the Saudi regime or his desire to see it removed from power. He has criticised its links with the US, but until last week the main targets of terrorists in Saudi were workers from the West. In the past 10 years there have been attacks on US military bases and foreign workers’ compounds, but last week’s switch in targets prompted fears that bin Laden might be intent on making a push to destabilise a Saudi administration which is not universally popular.

    It's hard to see any downside for the West in an Islamic Civil War.

    Bringing Jihad Home (Jim Hoagland, November 16, 2003, Washington Post)

    The blood that the bombers of al Qaeda shed in the Saudi capital of Riyadh belonged primarily to Lebanese, Egyptian and other Arab families observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They were victims of a well-planned mass murder that has brought al Qaeda's war home, where it will be won or lost.

    The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq led by the United States have put a misleading veneer on the overlapping political and civil wars that have roiled the Persian Gulf region for three decades. These conflicts swirl within Islam and within individual nations of the greater Middle East, which must finally come to terms with the direct dangers posed by al Qaeda and its loose network of nihilistic terrorists. [...]

    However linked or unlinked they are, the killers in Iraq and Saudi Arabia -- and in Turkey yesterday and in other Islamic countries that are probably next in line for the expanding attacks -- clearly see Ramadan as an important psychological moment to intensify operations. They are throwing all they have into spreading insurgency and shaking the resolve of those who stand in the way of their taking control of Islam and of the region's politics.

    -Al-Qaida’s Saudi War (Walid Phares, November 10, 2003, FrontPage)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


    Shoot-to-kill bodyguards protect Bush: London protesters fear ‘trigger-happy’ agents (Neil Mackay, 11/16/03, Sunday Herald)

    ARMED US Secret Service agents will have the right to "shoot to kill" when they provide the bodyguard for President George W Bush on his controversial state visit to the United Kingdom this week.
    Special agent Ann Roman, an official spokeswoman for the US Secret Service (USSS), told the Sunday Herald that the estimated 200 agents who will be in Britain to guard Bush would open fire if he were in danger or under threat.

    When asked if US agents would use lethal force, Roman said: "We are trained to protect the President, so we will evaluate the situation and if the situation warranted action to that level then we'd do it."

    The UK's security services have now been put on the second highest possible state of alert amid intelligence of a possible al-Qaeda attack. The Home Office said that SO19, the police firearms unit, also had the power to use lethal force. A spokesman said: "Our officers are allowed to shoot someone if it is deemed necessary, and the Americans will be under the same regulations."

    Anyone know the last time, if ever, a Secret Service guy discharged his weapon while defending the president?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


    Syrian opposition meets in Washington (Lou Marano, 11/14/2003, UPI)

    The Washington businessman who heads the pro-democracy Syrian opposition credits the Iraq War for "catapulting" his group into viability.

    "None of this would have happened if we didn't have the Iraq War," Farid N. Ghadry said in an exclusive interview Friday with United Press International. "It was like water in a desert. Flowers are sprouting everywhere (in the Middle East). All we have to do is nurture these flowers, and we will have a field of dreams."

    Opposition members are gathering in Washington for a closed, two-day session over the weekend just days after the Senate passed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, the provisions of which are expected to be approved by the House of Representatives. The reformers are scheduled to issue a statement Monday afternoon at a National Press Club Newsmaker event. [...]

    Ghadry has spoken with tribal leaders and the heads of other parties. "We have come to the conclusion that this is a good time for us to talk about democracy and start deploying the hidden majority within the Syrian diaspora and inside Syria that really wants to see regime change."

    Someone has to be the next domino--may as well be Assad.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


    Conservative Crack-Up: Will libertarians leave the Cold War coalition? (W. James Antle III, 11/17/03, American Comnservative)

    [T]he decline of conservative anti-statism is mainly attributable to two factors: political considerations and the perception that bigger government will buy better security against terrorism. Conservatives have come to the conclusion that cutting spending programs that benefit middle-class constituencies is a losing proposition at the ballot box. Spending cuts are as unpopular as tax increases, and while conservatives score points by raising the specter of higher taxes when campaigning against liberal Democrats, the liberals counterattack by playing to fears that Republicans will cut funding for education, Social Security, and Medicare. Rather than continuing a fruitless effort to persuade the electorate that big government is economically and socially harmful, it is easier and politically more advantageous to play to the public’s contradictory desire for both high spending and low taxes.

    The difference, of course, is that Republicans govern and, therefore, political considerations are quite important. People want a social safety net, so there's going to be one. If the libertarians in question were primarily concerned about the size and shape of government they'd stay involved with the GOP and help to privatize those social programs. This is sub-ideal for them--as government will necessarily coerce individual "contributions" to retirement accounts, educational funds, MSA's, etc.--but it's the best they're going to get--in reality, as opposed to fantasy.

    The problem is that libertarianism is in large part the philosophy of young white technocrats, who favor libertinism (their primary disputes with the GOP come over access to drugs, sex, & abortion) and disfavor taxes, mostly because they aren't responsible for anyone but themselves and make enough to pay their own way (just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in the unemployment line). We all--all white men anyway--go through a libertarian phase--usually in college, when Ayn Rand suddenly seems the most brilliant seer of the age--but most of us grow out of it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM

    3 for 4:

    Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco wins Louisiana governor's race ADAM NOSSITER, November 15, 2003, Associated Press)

    Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco became the first woman ever elected governor of Louisiana on Saturday, defeating a conservative Indian-American and scoring a rare gain for Democrats in an election season that has seen a string of Republican victories.

    Blanco's victory puts the Louisiana governorship back in the Democratic column for the first time since GOP Gov. Mike Foster won the first of his two terms eight years ago. He could not run again because of term limits.

    With all 4,143 precincts counted, Blanco had 52 percent, or 730,737 votes, to Bobby Jindal's 48 percent, or 676,180. [...]

    Blanco carried her native Cajun area and swamped Jindal in New Orleans, where Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin had endorsed the Republican. She held her own in Jindal's home city of Baton Rouge and in northern Louisiana. Jindal ran strong in the GOP-dominated suburbs of New Orleans.

    When the exit polling comes in, this looks like it will have been determined by race--blacks socking it in for the Democrat and whites resisting voting for a "colored". It's kind of a Doug Wilder effect, where the former black governor of VA would have huge leads in polling--as whites lied about voting for him--then win or lose in squeakers. Here's the story that served as the first big warning where Jindal was concerned, La. governor's race defies stereotypes (Lee Hockstader, Washington Post, 11/15/2003)
    The Republican candidate for governor in Louisiana is Bobby Jindal, a wunderkind son of Indian immigrants, a Rhodes scholar, and a health policy wonk. The Democrat is Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a soothing Cajun grandmother easily flustered in debates. What's a Bubba to do?

    "Listen, man, we're looking at a guy who's not even from this country! And then we're looking at a woman!" said Jubal Vallot, 38, a handyman sporting tattoo-spangled forearms, a Chevy pickup, and a fist-size clump of keys at his belt.

    He hooted and shook his head. "I go to church, I believe in the good Lord and this and that," he said. "I never ever dreamed in my whole life -- I been right here in Louisiana -- that I'd be in this kind of dilemma."

    The Bubba's voted Bubba.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


    The Golden Rule Apologetic (Bob Passantino, Cornerstonemag)

    Nearly everyone is familiar with the "Golden Rule" even if they don't realize that it comes to us in its perfect form as a command of Jesus: "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). This command to deal fairly with others should govern everything we do as Christians, including how we defend our faith.

    Taken within the context of Jesus's other teachings, the Golden Rule is a minimalist argument, that is, the conduct commanded in the Golden Rule is the least one can do acting in imitation of the love of God. As a matter of fact, in many other places Jesus tells us that the superior commandment is not merely to be fair to others, to treat them as we would like to be treated, but even to excel in love toward others. He tells us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27, 35) and to forgive someone repeatedly (Matt.18:21-22). Jesus Himself provided the best example of this Better-than-the-Golden-Rule: He sacrificed Himself willingly for us while we were still sinners, deserving nothing better than God's condemnation:

    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

    The maximalist argument we could call the "Platinum Rule," exemplified in Paul's command to the Christians in Philippi, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3).

    Whether minimalist or maximalist, the command to treat others fairly is a command Christians can't ignore, even when we are practicing apologetics, which is defending the faith. Years ago I was disturbed by the attitudes and arguments some Christians were using as they defended the faith, arguing with non-believers, cultists, and those of other faiths. Far too often I saw Christians making fun of the beliefs of others, taking unfair advantage of them in discussions, even misrepresenting the truth or their opponents' arguments if they thought they could get away with it. I began to encourage others to remember the Golden Rule when they were practicing apologetics. At first I called this the "Golden Rule of Apologetics" - the Golden Rule has a place in our apologetics. Although that is true and sufficient, I quickly began to see people respond to my encouragement by using the Golden Rule selectively in their apologetics - when it served their purpose and they thought they couldn't get away with anything else.

    Over the years I have modified my principle and now I call it the "Golden Rule Apologetic" - the only apologetic system worth pursuing is the apologetic system that is governed by the Golden Rule.

    Mr. Passantiino summons us to be better people than at least I am capable of being.

    November 15, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


    Tough Questions for Defenders of the New Deal (Jim Powell, 11/15/03,

    1. Why did FDR triple federal taxes during the Great Depression? Federal tax revenues more than tripled, from $1.6 billion in 1933 to $5.3 billion in 1940. Excise taxes, personal income taxes, inheritance taxes, corporate income taxes, holding company taxes and "excess profits" taxes all went up. FDR introduced an undistributed profits tax. Consumers had less money to spend, and employers had less money for growth and jobs. [...]

    5. Why did FDR destroy all that food when millions were hungry? FDR promoted higher food prices by paying farmers to plow under some 10 million acres of crops and slaughter and discard some six million farm animals. The food destruction program mainly benefited big farmers, since they had more food to destroy than small farmers. This policy and subsequent programs to pay farmers for not producing victimized the 100 million Americans who were consumers.

    7. Why did FDR break up the strongest banks? FDR broke up the strongest banks, which diversified with both commercial banking and investment banking. FDR's federal deposit insurance didn't stop bank failures, but it transferred the cost to taxpayers. About 90% of bank failures occurred because of unit banking laws that prevented small banks from diversifying through branches. Canada, free from branching restrictions, didn't have a single bank failure during the Depression. [...]

    9. How did the Tennessee Valley Authority become a drag on the economy? FDR taxed 98% of the American people who didn't live in the Tennessee Valley, then used this revenue for the TVA power-generating monopoly, exempt from federal and state taxes and regulations. But non-TVA Southern states such as North Carolina and Georgia grew faster than TVA states, because there was a faster exodus out of farming and into manufacturing and services, which offered higher incomes.

    But, on the positive side, he transferred Eastern Europe from Hitler to Stalin.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


    Empire Falls: How Master and Commander gets Patrick O'Brian wrong. (Christopher Hitchens, Nov. 14, 2003, Slate)

    Unlike Forester, O'Brian set himself not just to show broadsides and cutlass work and flogging and the centrality of sea power, but to re-create all of the ambiguities and contradictions of England's long war against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. (This, I argue, was the true and real "First World War," because it extended itself to every ocean and almost every nation, not exempting this one.) The summa of O'Brian's genius was the invention of Dr. Stephen Maturin. He is the ship's gifted surgeon, but he is also a scientist, an espionage agent for the Admiralty, a man of part Irish and part Catalan birth—and a revolutionary. He joins the British side, having earlier fought against it, because of his hatred for Bonaparte's betrayal of the principles of 1789—principles that are perfectly obscure to bluff Capt. Jack Aubrey. Any cinematic adaptation of O'Brian must stand or fall by its success in representing this figure.

    On this the film doesn't even fall, let alone stand. It skips the whole project. As played by the admittedly handsome and intriguing Paul Bettany, Maturin is no more than a good doctor with finer feelings and a passion for natural history. At one point he is made to say in an English accent that he is Irish—but that's the only hint we get. In the books, for example, he quarrels badly with Aubrey about Lord Nelson's support for slavery. But here a superficial buddy movie is born out of one of the subtlest and richest and most paradoxical male relationships since Holmes and Watson.

    Note that, for Mr. Hitchens these stories are about himself. As he describes Maturin, the good doctor is, like Mr. Hitchens, a revolutionary who switched to the very side he'd been revolting against, because the revolution's original, "noble" ideals were betrayed. Perhaps Bill Bennett can play Aubrey.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


    Evolutionary Economics: Foundation of Liberal Economic Philosophy (Jason Potts, Autumn 2003, Policy)

    Contrary to common perception, the concept of evolution was not first invented by Darwin and it was not first observed in the Galapagos Islands. Rather, evolution was first conceived as a process at work in the economic realm, and it was first observed in 18th century European and Scottish society by the likes of Voltaire, Vico, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and David Hume. It was generalised in the 19th and 20th centuries by Darwin and his followers into the natural realm. Since then it has spread to such contemporary domains as evolutionary psychology, evolutionary politics and evolutionary computation.

    Evolutionary economics is a modern recapturing of that primacy. It is not an historical footnote, but an essential insight into the relation between evolutionary theory, economic theory and liberalism. The common ancestry of both evolution and economics stems from the moral philosophers of the 18th century Continental and Scottish Enlightenment, amongst whom were Hume and Smith. They were the first to think clearly about the nature of human knowledge in a world of change, and it was they who furnished us with the idea of evolution. Darwin’s Origin of Species was a brilliant and far-reaching application of this existing concept.

    Economic evolution is about how knowledge grows. Some ideas are tested and found reliable. Others are tested and rejected, and then regenerated by new conjectures that are often variations upon those same rejected ideas. Knowledge grows by this evolutionary process. Evolutionary economics is the study of the mechanisms by which this occurs. [...]

    For evolutionary economists, market capitalism—by which we mean a set of institutions relating to the exchange of property rights—is at heart an experimentally organised process of competitive rivalry, driven by the discovery of new ideas and ways of doing things.

    For evolutionary economists, the concept of competition does not mean a large number of identical firms in a market for a homogeneous good. Rather, it means that someone is looking at a particular way of doing things and speculating that they could do it better, or, perhaps, that they could do something that would make it unnecessary to do what was being done in the first place.

    Competitive or entrepreneurial actions create new knowledge and/or destroy old knowledge, and the market—the democracy of economic agents—decides whether or not it is a good idea. People are motivated by private gain, but if they succeed, then it becomes a public gain: an old problem is better solved, or a new problem is solved. This is what entrepreneurs do, and it is why they are central to the health of an economic society. Entrepreneurs drive economic evolution, and thereby, if harnessed, economic growth.

    Humans are all biologically similar, but economically different, and that is what matters. We do not all carry the same knowledge, and this is why our economies can grow. Indeed, if we were all the same there would be no need to interact, to access the web of knowledge, because there would be no gains from specialisation and trade. Each economic agent is a specialised component of knowledge, and the central economic problem is how to coordinate this specialised knowledge. Provided interaction is preserved and remains open, both production and growth are possible. The upshot is a society of knowledge into which agents fit (in both the biological sense of ‘fitness’) and within which agents can move around by acquiring new specialisations and making new connections.

    This is market capitalism. Entrepreneurs propose, institutions facilitate, markets decide, and knowledge grows. And when knowledge grows, societies progress. As new knowledge is discovered and used to solve problems, invariably generating further problems, the economy evolves as an ever-changing structure of opportunities and constraints in an ever-present cloud of uncertainty and rival conjecture.

    Obviously in economics it is Man who proposes ideas, tests them, chooses among them, then proposes adaptations. No one would question the brilliant insight of Darwin that Nature seems to have proceeded similarly. But the question arises: in Darwinism, who is doing the proposing and disposing? Natural forces appear to suffice for the kind of slight variation within species that was evident to him from studying how local farmers bred animals. But large-scale changes that create genuinely new species likewise appear to be quite similar to new ideas that are being tried out.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


    Louisiana Secretary of State: Unofficial Election Results Inquiry (Results for Election Date: 11/15/03)

    -Final Real Clear Politics Update
    -Gumbo, Zydeco and Jobs: What I'll do for Louisiana. (BOBBY JINDAL, November 15, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
    -Bobby Jindal's date with destiny (Times of India, NOVEMBER 15, 2003)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


    Kennedy Calls Bush Minority Nominees 'Neanderthals' (News Max, 11/14/03)

    Sen. Ted Kennedy called President Bush's judicial nominees "Neanderthals" on Friday, a group that includes Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada and African-American Judge Janice Rogers Brown.

    Boasting of his party's resolve in the face of GOP attempts to stop the Democrats' filibuster, Kennedy told the Senate, "What has not ended is the resolution and the determination of the members of the United States Senate to continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president of the United States for any court, federal court in the United States."

    Hilarious bit on Fox News: Special Report last night, with Mort Kondracke arguing that Neanderthal isn't derogatory, but a simple description of retrogressive political views. Yeah, right, Mortimer...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


    Surgery Breath Of Fresh Air For Christopher Reeve: Actor Reeve 1 Of 5 Patients To Have New Ventilator Procedure (November 14, 2003, WCVB-TV)

    A new procedure using an implantable ventilator is allowing people like actor Christopher Reeve a level of independence they once only dreamed of.

    NewsCenter 5's Liz Brunner reported that there are over 10,000 people with spinal cord injuries in the United States and of those, about 5 percent need a ventilator to breathe.

    A spinal cord injury suffered in a horseback riding accident eight years ago left the actor reliant a ventilator to breathe.

    But Reeve received a new lease on life in the form of an implantable ventilator. The device has been around for decades, but the actor is one of only five people in the nation to have undergone a new twist on the procedure.

    Does your living will allow for you to be killed before your new lease comes in?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM

    THE PERMANENT PARTY (via Buttercup)

    Right Turns: a review of 'Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans' by Lewis L. Gould (James W. Ceaser, November 16, 2003, Washington Post)

    Even though Gould's account emphasizes the discontinuities in GOP history, it also provides some evidence of permanence. Despite all their shifts, Republicans have shown an abiding commitment to four principles. First, the GOP has been the party of the idea of the nation, stressing this theme at its origins even when half the country denied it. Republicans have retained this pride in the nation, and it has always marked their brand of internationalism, so clearly on display today. Second, Republicans have placed great reliance on the "rising" individual and the self-made man. The horror of Republicans is for the wealth and property of society to be thought of as being owned collectively, to be distributed on the basis of "social justice." Third, the party has always been concerned with maintaining traditional standards of morality. From its early opposition to polygamy (coupled with slavery in the 1856 platform as one of "the twin relics of barbarism"), to the "just say 'no' to drugs" campaign, the party has stressed the connection between moral restraints and ordered liberty. Finally, the Republican Party has adhered to "Nature and Nature's God" as the transcendent source of truth. It has asserted this position in opposition to those who claim that standards derive only from evolving conceptions of morality, or from the social construction of values, or from humanitarian norms temporarily affirmed by bodies of international lawyers. A recourse to natural right was the first principle of Abraham Lincoln, just as it is the first principle of George W. Bush.

    This entirely accurate description brings to mind an immensely silly essay from earlier this week, W Is for What?: Bush may be compassionate, but he's no conservative. (Jacob Sullum, 11/14/02, Reason)(via Kevin Whited):
    Given that Bush is happy to endorse spending for which Congress has no constitutional authority (on education, prescription drugs, and farm subsidies, for example), perhaps it's not surprising that he has so little respect for the separation of powers between the federal and state governments. Still, it's disheartening to see a self-proclaimed constitutionalist abandon federalism whenever it conflicts with his personal impulses.

    The most recent example is the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which President Bush proudly signed earlier this month.

    Libertarians like to cast themselves as true conservatives, even though their philosophy doesn't manage to actually conserve anything and as the party of liberty, even though their politics requires countenancing such things as slavery and abortion, both of which seem significant impositions on the individual in question.

    Much as they'd like to think that Republicans have diverged from some libertarian ideal, the continuities of the nation's conservative party do seem obvious and intellectually coherent.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


    Democrats fear a Dean debacle: The front-runner, but he may be unelectable (Sheldon Alberts, 11/15/03, National Post)

    [T]he more some Democratic strategists see of Dean, the more they think: Mondale, McGovern, Dukakis.

    Not only do they think he is too socially liberal to carry the swing states where the presidency will be won or lost, but they also fret he is too stubborn and too temperamental to handle the pressure of a long campaign.

    Dean has shown an uncanny ability to say stupid things, such as how he wants to be the candidate for Southern whites who drive around with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

    Worse yet, he gets all ticked off and self-righteous when people point out the stupid things he says.

    Anti-Dean Democrats look at the good doctor from Vermont and see someone ready to implode. Maybe not now. Maybe next November, which would be worse.

    Right or wrong, these people are now searching for an alternative. Right or wrong, that man seems to be Richard Gephardt.

    When Dick Gephardt is your savior, you need a new religion.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM



    Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave terror lord Osama bin Laden's thugs financial and logistical support, offering al Qaeda money, training and haven for more than a decade, it was reported yesterday.

    Their deadly collaboration - which may have included the bombing of the USS Cole and the 9/11 attacks - is revealed in a 16-page memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee that cites reports from a variety of domestic and foreign spy agencies compiled by multiple sources, The Weekly Standard reports.

    Saddam's willingness to help bin Laden plot against Americans began in 1990, shortly before the first Gulf War, and continued through last March, the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, says the Oct. 27 memo sent by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

    Two men were involved with the collaboration almost from its start.

    Mamdouh Mahmud Salim - who's described as the terror lord's "best friend" - was involved in planning the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

    Another terrorist, Hassan al-Turabi, was said by an Iraqi defector to be "instrumental" in the relationship.

    Iraq "sought al Qaeda influence through its connections with Afghanistan, to facilitate the transshipment of proscribed weapons and equipment to Iraq. In return, Iraq provided al Qaeda with training and instructors," a top-level Iraqi defector has told U.S. intelligence.

    One big problem you can develop in politics is to begin to believe your opponents are like you tell your supporters they are. Democrats have this trouble when it comes to the Administration generally, but they have it as regards the President, VP, and neocons particularly. When Dick Cheney keeps going on Meet the Press and saying there's an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda you can either assume he's a complete pathological liar, as Democrats have, or that he knows something you don't, yet.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


    His Conservative Connections Help to Put Novelist on Best-Seller List (DAVID E. ROSENBAUM, 11/15/03, NY Times)

    A year ago at this time, Joel C. Rosenberg was a conservative Republican political operative with a deep evangelical faith, three small children, no connections in the Bush White House or the Congressional leadership and no particular prospects for a steady job.

    Just before Thanksgiving last year, his first novel, "The Last Jihad," was published. It begins with a suicide pilot crashing his private plane into the president's motorcade and ends with the president saying a silent prayer as the nuclear bombs he ordered are dropped on Iraq. By December, it was on The New York Times best-seller list, where it stayed for 11 weeks.

    Based on those sales, Mr. Rosenberg, 36, received an advance of more than $1 million for a sequel, "The Last Days," which also involves terrorism in the United States and mayhem in the Middle East. It went on sale three weeks ago and is already No. 24 on The Times's expanded best-seller list.

    "No one had ever heard of me," Mr. Rosenberg said over lunch the other day. "Now I feel like I'm playing in the major league with the Yankees."

    By conventional standards, these are not very good novels. The plots streak along at breakneck speed. But there is no subtlety and no attempt at character development.

    The Washington Post review of "The Last Jihad" called the writing "an act of terrorism on the reader's brain."

    Publishers Weekly said of "The Last Days," "The author singularly fails to suspend readers' disbelief."

    But Mr. Rosenthal has an advantage few writers of fiction enjoy — his friendships in the conservative political network.

    Is it just us, or does the Left seem particularly upset that conservative books, particularly novels, end up on the bestseller lists these days?

    Meanwhile, there's Joshua Gilder: New Novelist Makes Waves (NewsMax, 12/02/02)

    Until now, Joshua Gilder, author of the critically acclaimed new novel "Ghost Image," was best known as "ghost writer" of some of Ronald Reagan's most memorable speeches.

    "A lot of unmemorable ones, too," says Gilder. "I must have written over 50 speeches on tax reform. I don't know how many on the budget."

    He also penned the famous "Go ahead, make my day!" line, which stopped a giant tax hike dead in its tracks, and the speech at Moscow State University during the 1988 summit that helped bring down the evil empire.

    So, what's different now? Gilder is still writing about the conflict between good and evil, but now it's interpersonal rather than international, a not-so-cold war taking place inside the human heart.

    Says Gilder: "'Ghost Image' is ultimately about redemption. It's a murder mystery, so by definition bad things happen. There are dark passages. But in the end, there's light."

    -REVIEW: of Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music By Robert R. Reilly (Joshua Gilder, National Review)
    -INTERVIEW: with Joshua Gilder (Kate Shulman, Politics and Prose)
    -INTERVIEW: Introducing our new featured author, Joshua Gilder.  Author of Ghost Image, an exciting and breath-taking new thriller! (New Mystery Reader)
    -REVIEW: of Ghost Image (Patrick Anderson, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Ghost Image (NANDITA KHANNA, Washingtonian)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


    Murdoch papers may switch to Tories (Matt Wells, November 15, 2003
    The Guardian)

    The media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, last night signalled that his newspapers may switch their allegiance to a reinvigorated Tory party at the next election, in comments likely to cause further alarm among Labour's already jittery high command.

    Mr Murdoch, who owns the Times and the top-selling Sun, said the "jury's out" on Tony Blair and warned that his publications would be "torn" if the new Conservative leader, Michael Howard, turns the Tories into a viable alternative.

    The Sun's endorsement of Labour was seen in Westminster as being crucial to the party's success in the 1997 general election. Loss of that support would be regarded as a serious blow.

    Mr Murdoch signalled for the first time last night that he was thinking about transferring his patronage.

    Stressing his high opinion of Mr Blair's stance on Iraq in the face of world opposition, he told the BBC's Ten O'Clock News: "We'll have to see how the Tory frontbench looks, if it looked like a viable alternative government, which it hasn't so far. And we will not quickly forget the courage of Tony Blair in the international sphere in the last several months, so we may be torn in our decision. So let's wait and see."

    How about a British version of Fox News?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


    The General and the flag (Robert Novak, November 15, 2003, Townhall)

    The disenchantment of prominent New York City liberals with retired Gen. Wesley Clark's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination hit new levels Tuesday when he endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

    Some two months ago, these Democrats were charmed by a general who appeared to take dependably liberal positions on all issues. Since then, they have been disappointed by Clark's performance. But what startled them was Clark's Veterans Day speech at an American Legion hall in Manchester, N.H., backing a House-passed flag amendment sponsored by Republicans.

    What does it say about the Democrats that almost twenty years after Michael Dukakis they still can't disentangle themselves from flag issues?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


    Exit Plan Or Victory Strategy? (William Kristol and Robert Kagan, Nov. 10, 2003, Weekly Standard)

    On the Sunday talk shows at the beginning of last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn't exactly say that we were going to run, but he certainly sounded as if he were eyeing the exits. He emphasized that "you've got to get the security responsibility
    transferred to the Iraqi people. … It's their country. … We're not going to provide security in their country over a sustained period of time." And then on the same day as the president's speech, the Defense Department announced plans to reduce U.S. forces by about 20 percent in the next few months. The secretary of defense claimed that the rapid growth of Iraqi security forces made this drawdown possible -- even though that growth has come at the cost of levels of training previously thought necessary to enable them to do their job.

    In other words: The president wants to win, and the Pentagon wants to get out. It's of course possible we can do both at once. And it's also true that on the political side, there's a strong case for a faster transfer of power to the Iraqis. But the fact remains that over the short term we have a
    policy in contradiction with itself. Is it to be a victory strategy or an exit strategy? The president has, since 9/11, prevailed (on key matters) over the status quo foreign policy favored by his State Department. Will he now prevail over his Defense Department as well? After all, speeches are good; troops are better.

    We've a theory around here--tested in the crucibles of Afghanistan and the run-up to the Iraq War--when Kristol and Kagan start mewling about how badly the administration is doing we're on the verge of total victory. No two men have been more wrong about the will and the methods of the Bush team, nor about the situation on the ground since 9-11. Here's just one of the many hilarious examples, Going Wobbly? : Is the president backing away from regime change in Iraq? (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 05/24/2002, Weekly Standard)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


    Renewing Our Experiment in Ordered Liberty (Michael S. Joyce, September/October 1998, Religion and Liberty)

    In his breathtaking new book, A History of the American People, English historian Paul Johnson writes, "The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures. No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind.… The great American republican experiment … is still the first, best hope for the human race" and "will not disappoint an expectant humanity."

    It is often noted that outside observers of the American experiment tend to express a more profound appreciation for the remarkable achievements of our nation’s Founders than we do ourselves. Burke and Talleyrand, Gladstone and Tocqueville, Thatcher and Maritain have all marveled at the truth of a proposition that, before the exceptional birth of freedom here, had been considered at best, problematic: that the people have the capacity to govern themselves.

    Following this well-trodden path but with a somber note of caution, is Pope John Paul II. When Lindy Boggs, the newly designated United States ambassador to the Vatican, recently came to present her credentials, John Paul took the occasion to remind her that our great experiment in self-government left America with a "far-reaching responsibility, not only for the well-being of its own people, but for the development and destiny of peoples throughout the world." John Paul then embarked upon an eloquent review of the fundamental principles upon which American self-government is based. The Founding Fathers, he noted, "asserted their claim to freedom and independence on the basis of certain ‘self-evident’ truths about the human person: truths which could be discerned in human nature, built into it by ‘nature’s God.’ Thus, they meant to bring into being, not just an independent territory but a great experiment in what George Washington called ‘ordered liberty’: an experiment in which men and women would enjoy equality of rights and opportunities in the pursuit of happiness and in service to the common good."

    It was outrageous enough, to contemporary sensibilities, for John Paul to connect self-government to the notion of eternal human attributes implanted by God. But he then went further, suggesting that self-government did not imply simply freedom to live as one wishes but, rather, the capacity to fulfill one’s duties and responsibilities toward family and toward the common good of the community. The Founding Fathers, he noted, "clearly understood that there could be no true freedom without moral responsibility and accountability, and no happiness without respect and support for the natural units or groupings through which people exist, develop, and seek the higher purposes of life in concert with others."

    In this remarkable discourse, John Paul identified several critical features of American self-government: that it is rooted in a view of human nature governed by self-evident truths that are fixed forever in the human person by "nature’s God"; that the political consequence of human truth is an irrefutable case for self-government, so long as our freedom is shaped and ordered by moral and civic virtue; and that we come to be fully human, fully moral, and fully free only within "natural units or groupings"–family, neighborhood, church, and voluntary association–which we form to pursue the higher purposes of life.

    How does this sophisticated understanding of self-government compare with our own understanding at home? Ours, I regret to say, tends to be a rather superficial, political view. To us, self-government means simply doing whatever we, collectively as citizens, choose to do. We see in John Paul’s message, however, second and more substantial understanding of self-government–that it must mean, as well, our capacities as individuals for personal self-mastery, for reflection, restraint, and moral action. And here is the critical, uncomfortable fact: In a well-ordered republic, government of the self is necessary for government of society to work.

    Yeah, but the liberty is so much fun and requires so little of us, while the order is damned difficult and requires us to behave like adults...

    A Defense of "Culture Wars": A Call for Counterrevolution (PETER KREEFT, Catholic Education Resource)

    To make a better society, we need better policies and plans, but these in turn must be based on better principles. Here is a set of very old principles that has worked in the past. Here is a set of ten statements that summarize what Jews, Christians, and Muslims — and rational pagans like Socrates, Aristotle, and Cicero — have always believed about morality.

    They are not a Ten Commandments, a specific set of laws. They are about the status of moral laws. The specific content of moral law is a matter of wide agreement between nearly all cultures and all religions. Justice, charity, self-control, wisdom, courage, loyalty, honesty, and responsibility are universally praised; and injustice, hatred, violence, foolishness, cowardice, betrayal, lying, lust, greed, and irresponsibility are universally blamed — at least they have been until recently. (After all, lust, greed, and irresponsibility sell products very effectively. An addict has little sales resistance.)

    The following statements about morality would be enthusiastically embraced by Moses, Solomon, Jesus, Muhammad, Socrates, Confucius, Ghandi, and Buddha, as well as by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

    1. Morality is necessary for society to survive. The alternative is barbarism, decadence, and chaos.

    2. Morality is not sectarian (religiously) or partisan (politically). It is both universally known and universally binding. We all know in our hearts what good and evil are, and we are all responsible for living the way we know we ought to live.

    3. Morality is natural, or based on human nature. There is a “Natural (moral) Law”. Morality is discovered, like stars, not invented, like games. It is not man-made, arbitrary, and changeable. Its laws are intrinsic to human nature, as the laws of hygiene are to the nature of the body or the laws of physics are to the nature of matter.

    4. Morality is liberating, not repressive. For it is a set of directions given for the purpose of making our human nature flourish and helping us to reach our full potential. A law like “don't drink poison” is not repressive to your health. Poison is.

    5. Morality takes effort. Like love, morality is work, not feeling. It is a fight against the forces of evil in all of us. Today it has become a fight against forces in our culture.

    6. Morality gives meaning and purpose and direction to life. It is a road map. Without a map, we wander aimlessly, hopelessly.

    7. Morality gives human beings dignity. Its basis is the intrinsic value of the human person. It commands us to love people and use things, not use people and love things. People are ends, things are means.

    8. Morality is reasonable. It is not blind but intelligent. It perceives a real difference between good and bad actions and lifestyles. It “discriminates”. (Discrimination between people as good or bad may be foolish, but discrimination between acts as good or bad is simply moral sanity.) We are a nation born in a struggle for freedom, so we continue to value personal freedom very highly, and rightly so. But we cannot have freedom without truth. A surgeon cannot free you from a disease without light to operate by, accurate X rays, and a knowledge of anatomy. Moral skepticism is the death of freedom.

    9. Morality is not simply about “freedoms” and “rights” but about duties and responsibilities. Victor Frankl says the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be completed by a Statue of Responsibility on the West.

    10. Morality is not legalistic. Its essence is not a set of rules but a vision of the good life and the good person; not only laws but also character. No set of rules will work without personal virtues. Morality is about how we can be real heroes. It's about how to avoid flunking Life despite getting A's in all your courses.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


    Dean’s November: The outsider now has the inside track in the race for the White House (Harold Meyerson, 11/13/03, LA Weekly)

    As the nation’s largest public sector union, AFSCME was built for political action; to sit out the Democratic primary season would all but negate its raison d’être. As well, McEntee did not feel he could let Stern, with whom he’s developed a rivalry (both unions organize health-care workers), have the inside track with the man most likely to become the Democratic nominee.

    The joint endorsement of the two unions strengthens Dean where he’s already strong, in America’s cosmopolitan centers. AFSCME is as concentrated in New York as the SEIU is in California. Neither union has much strength in the anti-union South, though AFSCME does have politically active locals throughout the Midwest. And those are the two regions where Dean could use their help — or anybody’s — the most.

    Federalist #43: The Same Subject Continued (The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered) For the Independent Journal
    "To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States; and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislatures of the States in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings."

    The indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence with it. It is a power exercised by every legislature of the Union, I might say of the world, by virtue of its general supremacy. Without it, not only the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the general government on the State comprehending the seat of the government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the Confederacy. This consideration has the more weight, as the gradual accumulation of public improvements at the stationary residence of the government would be both too great a public pledge to be left in the hands of a single State, and would create so many obstacles to a removal of the government, as still further to abridge its necessary independence. The extent of this federal district is sufficiently circumscribed to satisfy every jealousy of an opposite nature. And as it is to be appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it; as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the authority of the legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be derived from the whole people of the State in their adoption of the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be obviated. The necessity of a like authority over forts, magazines, etc. , established by the general government, is not less evident. The public money expended on such places, and the public property deposited in them, requires that they should be exempt from the authority of the particular State. Nor would it be proper for the places on which the security of the entire Union may depend, to be in any degree dependent on a particular member of it. All objections and scruples are here also obviated, by requiring the concurrence of the States concerned, in every such establishment.

    Of all the things that would alarm the Founders, perhaps none stands out above the influence that government employees now wield over our politics.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


    A New Democracy, Enshrined in Faith (NOAH FELDMAN, 11/13/03, NY Times)

    Make no mistake: the Afghan constitution is pervasively Islamic. Its first three articles declare Afghanistan an Islamic Republic, make Islam the official religion, and announce that "no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this constitution." The new Supreme Court, which is given the power to interpret the constitution, is to be composed of a mix of judges trained either in secular law or in Islamic jurisprudence.

    The new flag features a prayer niche and pulpit, and is emblazoned with two Islamic credos: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet" and "Allah Akbar" ("God is Great"). The government is charged with developing a unified school curriculum "based on the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, national culture, and in accordance with academic principles." The provision requiring the state to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the family calls, in the same breath, for "elimination of traditions contrary to the principles of the sacred religion of Islam."

    And yet, the draft constitution is also thoroughly democratic, promising government "based on the people's will and democracy" and guaranteeing citizens fundamental rights. One essential provision mandates that the state shall abide by the United Nations Charter, international treaties, all international conventions that Afghanistan has signed and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Because Afghanistan acceded in March to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — a treaty the United States Senate has never ratified — the draft constitution guarantees women far-ranging rights against discrimination. It also ensures that women will make up at least 16.5 percent of the membership of the upper legislative house (only 14 of 100 United States senators are women.)

    In addition, the provision that makes Islam the nation's official religion also recognizes the right of non-Muslims "to perform their religious ceremonies within the limits of the provisions of law." This carefully chosen language might arguably leave room to restrict proselytizing — as, for example, do similar laws in India and Israel — but it nonetheless guarantees individual expression as an inviolable right. (It's worth noting that the right to change one's religion is enshrined in the human rights declaration.) [...]

    In its ambitions, attractions and dangers, the Afghan draft constitution can be seen as a metaphor for the wider prospects of Islamic democracy. [...]

    The paradox, of course, is that if the people of Muslim countries do get a greater say in their own government, Islamic politics will likely prevail. Islamic parties speak the language of justice, the paramount political value to most Muslims.

    A semantic problem arises here with regard to how we define "justice". In the political arena, the West's pivotal statement comes in the American Declaration of Independence, which states:
    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.

    Thus, all men are moral equals at birth--capable of making decisions about their own lives and, therefore, obligated to take responsibility for those decisions. This means that as their lives progress and decisions are made men will become quite unequal in every facet of life, from moral stature to political power to economic affluence. This view is necessary to vindicate freedom, even if it means life is insecure.

    But "justice" for the Left, and apparently for Islam, means a permanent--and therefore government-enforced--egalitarianism of economic conditions. The assumption is that no one should be held responsible for any decision and that it is better to have complete security, even at the cost of freedom. If Islam remains wedded to this latter form of justice then it will necessarily remain totalitarian and it will be doomed to failure.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


    Gulag: Understanding the Magnitude of What Happened (Anne Applebaum, October 16, 2003, Heritage Lecture)

    Until recently, it was possible to explain this absence of popular feeling about the tragedy of European communism in the West as the logical result of a particular set of circumstances. The passage of time is part of it: Communist regimes really did grow less reprehensible as the years went by. Nobody was very frightened of General Jaruzelski,
    or even of Brezhnev, although both were responsible for a great deal of destruction. Besides, archives were closed. Access to camp sites was forbidden. No television cameras ever filmed the Soviet camps or their victims, as they had done in Germany at the end of the Second World War. No images, in turn, meant that the subject, in our image-driven culture, didn't really exist either.

    But ideology twisted the ways in which we understood Soviet and East European history as well. In fact, in the 1920s, a great deal was known in the West about the bloodiness of Lenin's revolution. Western socialists, many of whose brethren had been jailed by the Bolsheviks, protested loudly and strongly against the crimes being committed then.

    In the 1930s, however, as Americans became more interested in learning how socialism could be applied here, the tone changed. Writers and journalists went off to the USSR, trying to learn lessons they could use at home. The New York Times employed a correspondent, Walter Duranty, who lauded the five-year plan and argued, against all the evidence, that it was a massive success--and won a Pulitzer Prize for doing so.

    Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, a part of the Western Left struggled to explain, and sometimes to excuse, the camps and the terror that created them precisely because they wanted to try some aspects of the Soviet experiment at home. In 1936, after millions of Soviet peasants had died
    of famine, the British socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb published a vast survey of the Soviet Union, which explained, among other things, how the "downtrodden Russian peasant is gradually acquiring a sense of political freedom."

    These sentiments reached their peak during the Second World War, when Stalin was our ally and we had other reasons to ignore the truth about his repressive regime. In 1944, the American Vice President, Henry Wallace, actually went to Kolyma, one of the most notorious camps, during a trip across the USSR. Imagining he was visiting some kind of industrial complex, he told his hosts that "Soviet Asia," as he called it, reminded him of the Wild West:

    The vast expanses of your country, her virgin forests, wide rivers and large lakes, all kinds of climate--from tropical to polar--her inexhaustible wealth, remind me of my homeland.

    According to a report that the boss of Kolyma later wrote for Beria, then the head of the security services, Wallace did ask to see prisoners, but was kept away. He was not alone in refusing to see the truth about Stalin's system: Roosevelt and Churchill had very cordial relations with Stalin too.

    All of that contributed to our firm conviction that the Second World War was a wholly just war, and even today few want that conviction shaken. We remember D-Day, the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the children welcoming American GIs with cheers on the streets. We do not remember that the camps of Stalin, our ally, expanded just as the camps of Hitler, our enemy, were liberated. No one wants to think that we defeated one mass murderer with the help of another.

    During the Cold War, it is true, our awareness of Soviet atrocities went up--but in the 1960s, they receded again. Even in the 1980s, there were still American academics that went on describing the advantages of East German health care or Polish peace initiatives.

    In the academic world, Soviet historians who wrote about the camps generally divided up into two groups: those who wrote about the camps as criminal and those who downplayed them, if not because they were actually pro-Soviet, then because they were opposed to America's role in the Cold War, or perhaps to Ronald Reagan. Right up to the very end, our views of the Soviet Union and its repressive system always had more to do with American politics and American ideological struggles than they did with the Soviet Union itself.

    Together, all of these explanations once made a kind of sense.

    Despite their best efforts to make it seem similar, the only way in which Iraq really resembles Vietnam is in the desire of the Left to see it end in defeat for the United States. Next time you hear or read someone referring to a "quagmire", not that they do so not with regret but with satisfaction. The kind of regime we fought and defeated in this instance, matters not at all to such folk--it's ours they oppose. Ms Applebaum's insight is key--the gulag was ignored in the West not because people didn't care about the Soviet people as much as because they hated anti-communists like Ronald Reagan.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


    City fights back to become model of order and justice: The battle for peace is still not won, but there is more hope than violence here (Rory McCarthy, November 15, 2003, The Guardian)

    Hilla, a city of 300,000 people reputedly built from the clay bricks of the nearby ruins of Babylon, has emerged from America's war with less violence and more hope than most places in Iraq. In Baghdad and large areas north of the capital, the violent guerrilla resistance is severely hampering attempts at reconstruction. But in Hilla, better security and the work of a group of forward-looking Iraqi officials have made the city one of the few successes of postwar Iraq.

    Overwhelmingly a Shia city, Hilla suffered some of the most chilling persecution of Saddam Hussein's regime. In May villagers dug up Iraq's largest mass grave in barren fields just north of the city, containing the remains of at least 3,115 men, women and children executed by the regime during the 1991 uprising after the first Gulf war. The relief that such brutality is finally over appears to have wedded the people of Hilla more firmly than most to US promises of reconstruction and democracy.

    "The coalition forces freed us from the biggest dictatorial regime in the world. The mass graves were one of the greatest crimes against humanity," said Khalid Rais, a lawyer who heads the province's legal department from a renovated former school building in Hilla. "Without the coalition forces, Saddam would never have been finished. These forces will build a community of freedom and democracy."

    Mr Rais was one of several well-educated people promoted in the days after the war to replace senior Ba'athists in the provincial government. He helped to organise armed volunteers to police the streets and curb looting. Well in advance of orders from the US administration in Baghdad, Hilla's new leaders began to dismiss Ba'athist apparatchiks.

    More than 2,000 soldiers from the now disbanded Iraqi army were quickly absorbed into the police force and other legal security units. New judges were quickly selected from among the city's lawyers, and women's rights offices were opened. Elections were held to select men and women to sit on new local councils.

    At the same time a 50-man "emergency force", led by the police chief, was formed in the town to hunt down and arrest Ba'athists wanted for trial. "We found Ba'athists and people who were storing guns, grenades, rocket launchers, dynamite," said Mr Rais. "People wanted revenge from the Ba'athists, but we felt you need to follow the law."

    Within two months of the fall of Baghdad, witness statements were being taken in renovated courtrooms in Hilla before newly appointed judges to prepare for trials against Ba'athists accused of involvement in the 1991 executions.

    Much of the direction for these policies came from the new governor, Iskander Witwit, a widely respected, straight talking former air force lieutenant colonel who lost his three brothers and more than 30 other relatives to Saddam's purges. On the wall in Mr Witwit's office hangs a photograph of the governor with Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary.

    Mr Witwit, 57, insists that the key to Hilla's achievements was the early effort to impose law and order.

    Shi'a populace, aggressive leadership, willing population, law and order the first priority, etc.--all the necessary elements for a smooth transition.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 AM


    Memos of special interest on Hill (Charles Hurt, November 15, 2003, Washington Times)

    Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have worked in close concert with outside special-interest groups to defeat President Bush's judicial nominees, according to internal Democratic staff memos.

    In one memo to Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois obtained by The Washington Times, Washington lawyer Miguel A. Estrada is singled out as "especially dangerous" because "he is Latino." Mr. Estrada, born in Honduras, withdrew his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in September after being filibustered for eight months.

    In another memo, staffers for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts recommend that a Bush nominee to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Tennessee Judge Julia S. Gibbons, be stalled until after that appellate court decided on the two major affirmative action cases dealing with the University of Michigan and its law school.

    "The thinking is that the current 6th Circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, that new judge will be able, under 6th Circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it," the staffers wrote.

    What more does the GOP need to ditch the filibuster rule, at least on confirmations?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 AM


    U.S. Is Set to Return Power to Iraqis as Early as June (SUSAN SACHS, 11/15/03, NY Times)

    The Bush administration has agreed to restore independence to Iraq as early as next June, apparently hoping the move will change the perception of the United States as an occupying power and curb the mounting attacks on American forces in the country, Iraqi and American officials said Friday.

    The plan to accelerate the transfer of power was put forward by Iraqi leaders this week, and taken to Washington by L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in Iraq. Late on Friday, officials said, a newly returned Mr. Bremer hastened to tell members of the Iraqi Governing Council's inner leadership circle that the White House had broadly accepted the plan.

    Mr. Bremer is to meet with the full 24-member council on Saturday.

    The agreement envisions giving Iraqis control over their own wealth and political affairs in advance of writing a constitution or holding national elections, while maintaining the presence of American and other foreign troops to assure stability, officials said.

    November 14, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


    Ten American Biographies Everyone Should Read (Human Events, Nov 14, 2003)

    HUMAN EVENTS asked a panel of 21 distinguished scholars to help us develop a list of Ten American Biographies Everyone Should Read.

    We asked them first to nominate biographies or autobiographies of anyone who had been a native-born or naturalized American citizen since 1776. Then they listed their top ten choices from the entire roster of nominated titles. A book received 10 points for each No. 1 vote it received, 9 points for each No. 2 vote, and so on. The title with the highest aggregate score was rated the No. 1 American biography everyone should read.

    This would be ours:

    -Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943) (Albert Jay Nock 1872-1945)

    -The Power Broker : Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974) (Robert Caro)

    -Jonathan Edwards: A Life (George Marsden)

    -What it Takes : The Way to the White House (1992) (Richard Ben Cramer)

    -Whittaker Chambers (Sam Tanenhaus)

    -Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001) (Rick Perlstein 1969-)

    -Lindbergh (1998) (A. Scott Berg)

    -The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Edmund S. Morgan, 1916-)

    -The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X, 1925-1965)

    -Ulysses S. Grant : Soldier & President (1997) (Geoffrey Perret)

    -Babe: The Legend Comes to Life (Robert W. Creamer)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


    Coyote Waits (PBS: Mystery, Sunday, 11/16/03, 9:00pm)

    The first of these Tony Hillerman mysteries on PBS was quite good.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


    The Intellectual Origins of the Establishment Clause (Noah Feldman, May 2002, NYU Law Review)

    Coercion of Conscience and Establishment Clause Analysis

    Consider one possible use of the historical evidence that the intellectual origins of the Establishment Clause lie in concern for the liberty of conscience of dissenters: It might be argued that, if the Clause’s origins reveal that protection of dissenters’ liberty of conscience formed the motivating force behind the Clause, it follows that the Clause only prohibits government from action that coerces the consciences of religious dissenters. If coercion is present, then the Establishment Clause is violated. If coercion is not present, the government action is constitutional. Justice Kennedy has taken a position akin to this one, and the secondary literature has been replete with discussion of this idea.

    The first point about such a coercion-based approach to the Establishment Clause is that it frames the Clause not as a general provision for ordering good government, but as a guarantor of a negative liberty right. Notwithstanding its origin in the conception that Christ’s dispensation rendered human conscience free over indifferent things, the idea of liberty of conscience by the eighteenth century had come to be called, in explicitly Lockean terms, an “‘unalienable right of every rational creature.’” The right to liberty of conscience was understood as a right against being coerced to perform religious actions that violated one’s beliefs about the proper way to worship or against being prohibited from performing religious actions that one believed were appropriate for religious worship. Rights against coercion were the sorts of rights that Englishmen had traditionally claimed, and the right to liberty of conscience derived from this tradition of negative liberty. Negative liberty is concerned with the coercion of the individual to prevent him from accomplishing some action; it is not concerned with a person’s independent capacity to accomplish the action. Understanding the Establishment Clause as a guarantor of negative individual liberty against the state’s coercion makes the Clause look similar to many of the other rights found in the First Amendment in particular and the Bill of Rights more generally. It enables us to frame the question whether a given provision violates the Establishment Clause in terms of a straightforward test of a familiar type: Is coercion present?

    The initial doctrinal appeal of such a coercion-based negative liberty approach is marked. First, it promises to streamline the complexity of Establishment Clause analysis into a straightforward question. Second, such a coercion approach purports to simplify a complex area of doctrine by reference to an identifiable historical value. It is rare enough in constitutional analysis that such a clear value can be identified; when one does exist, it would seem foolish to neglect its value for deciding hard constitutional questions. Third, the coercion-based approach would use the history of the origins of the Clause to suggest that the doctrinal edifice built up around the Establishment Clause—the Lemon test with its cycles and epicycles, the endorsement test with its vague content—is unnecessary and historically misplaced. If the Framers were concerned predominantly with religious coercion, then it would be possible to avoid asking about secular purposes and effects and about the symbolic meanings of public manifestations of religion.

    What is more, it is worth noting that such a coercion-based approach to Establishment Clause analysis would not have to be crudely originalist in the sense of simply trying to identify what the Framers would have considered coercive. The approach could strive for fidelity to the original purposes of the Establishment Clause while simultaneously acknowledging changed circumstances and beliefs. Thus, it would be possible for an advocate of a coercion-based approach to Establishment Clause jurisprudence to investigate how the eighteenth-century idea of coercion could be developed in a contemporary attempt to apply it.

    If one wanted to define coercion more broadly today than did the thinking of the eighteenth century, then it might be possible to argue that in some situations (schools, for example), peer pressure constitutes coercion. One might hesitate to find coercion in public spaces where adults may freely come and go; reasonable people could, and no doubt would, argue about whether coercion existed in a particular situation. One could also argue about the origin of certain sorts of coercion, which could be governmental or societal; and we would probably want to distinguish sharply between coercion originating with the state and coercion derived from background societal convention. It emerges that a coercion-based model does not guarantee particular outcomes in Establishment Clause cases. Nonetheless, it might still be said that the history this Article has described supports the deployment of the concept of coercion in some form as the key to deciding cases under the Establishment Clause.

    The reason for caution about using the intellectual origins of the Establishment Clause to make coercion of conscience into the touchstone of Establishment Clause analysis is that the intellectual history does not and cannot fully answer the question of how, precisely, the Establishment Clause institutionally accommodated the value of liberty of conscience. Some of the Framers could perfectly well have aimed, in adopting the Establishment Clause, to prevent coercion of conscience by prohibiting a range of government activities greater than the set of actions that directly coerce conscience. Others might have intended to do no more than protect conscience. Thus, the intellectual history does not allow us to conclude definitively that the Constitution is violated only by direct coercion.

    In terms of the relation between actual constitutional provisions and their intellectual origins, this question represents the point at which the rubber of a specific enactment meets the road of back-ground. While the Framers certainly understood protection of liberty of conscience to undergird the Establishment Clause, and all agreed that, in principle, coercion of conscience was wrong, there was, we have seen, no clear consensus on hard questions of whether certain forms of government support of religion should be understood as coercing conscience. As a result, some Framers may have intended the Clause to go beyond situations of coercion to protect conscience more broadly.

    Consider government collection and distribution of taxes in a nonpreferential manner for religious purposes. There was broad agreement that coercive taxes for religious purposes would, in principle, violate liberty of conscience. But there was no agreement about whether it was coercive to collect such taxes when the law provided for everyone to designate the religion of his choice as the recipient of his taxes. Many people at the time of the framing, including some Framers, thought that taxation of this sort was perfectly compatible with liberty of conscience. This was the view of most Congregational-ist New Englanders. The Massachusetts Constitution, for example, guaranteed liberty of conscience even as it required local taxes to pay for local ministers. Similarly, the supporters of the unsuccessful Virginia Assessment Bill—people such as Patrick Henry—were committed to liberty of conscience and also simultaneously believed that taxation to support religion violated no one’s liberty of conscience where the taxpayer could designate the recipient. On the other hand, many people at the time of the framing, including Madison and those in Virginia who supported him, were convinced that taxation in support of religion threatened liberty of conscience, even if it could not be shown that any individual’s conscience had been coerced. It is therefore very difficult to argue, based on the intellectual history, that the Establishment Clause was definitively limited to cases of direct coercion. Whether the Clause, as written, protected only against coercion or guarded liberty of conscience more inclusively was debatable in the eighteenth century, just as it is today.

    Given that the Framers’ generation disagreed on the propriety of certain church-state arrangements, what can be said about whether they sought to bar such arrangements at the federal level when they enacted the Establishment Clause? Those Framers who thought religious taxation should always be banned for reasons of protecting the liberty of conscience of tax-paying dissenters probably believed they were prohibiting such arrangements at the federal level by prohibiting an “establishment of religion.” But what of those who believed that such arrangements did not necessarily coerce conscience? They may have shared the same expansive understanding, since the prohibition on establishing religion is ultimately broader than the phrase “coercing the liberty of conscience.” But they also may have thought otherwise and understood the Clause as limited to cases of coercion proper.

    The point is that an accurate account of the intellectual origins of the Establishment Clause does not, and cannot, provide a definitive answer to the question of what exactly the Establishment Clause prohibited then or prohibits now. The historical analysis does not get us all the way to a doctrinal answer. We ought, therefore, be cautious about using the history in this Article to make “coercion” into the sole test of constitutionality under the Establishment Clause.

    This is an eminently sensible discussion of the Establishment Clause and, despite Mr. Feldman's ultimate reservations, suggests that actual coercion should be the test. Not that this would end the argument, but it does set the bar where our history and common sense suggest it should be.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM


    The Evolution Of Tom DeLay (Richard E. Cohen, Nov. 14, 2003, National Journal)

    House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., are poles apart when it comes to federal policy on abortion. The moderate Greenwood is one of the few House Republicans who support abortion rights, a stance that DeLay and fellow conservatives traditionally haven't tolerated. So it may seem surprising that Greenwood sings DeLay's praises for his handling of this year's debate on the "partial-birth" abortion bill.

    When the House had debated similar legislation in previous years, Republican leaders denied Greenwood and his allies the opportunity to offer an amendment on the floor permitting legal exceptions to an outright ban on the controversial abortion procedure. Early this year, Greenwood and moderate Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., took their plea to DeLay and reminded him of their party loyalty as senior members who have worked on other key issues. Recognizing that the request was vital to a small Republican cadre, DeLay acquiesced. He single-handedly overrode objections from other GOP conservatives and allowed House debate on the amendment.

    "In rising through the leadership, Tom DeLay has recognized that he needs to keep the entire [House Republican] Conference on board," Greenwood said in an interview. "He has figured out how to be an outspoken leader of conservatives, and still represent all Republicans. I respect that."

    True, DeLay's decision was made easier because he was confident -- and correct -- that the House would defeat the amendment, sponsored by Greenwood and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. But the key point is that even though other Republicans had routinely rejected the moderates' request, DeLay took it seriously. "He respects that I have had to make some tough votes [on other bills], and that I expect to be treated as a member of the team," Greenwood added.

    Not long ago, DeLay, too, would probably have dismissed Greenwood's request. During eight years as House majority whip, from 1995 through 2002, DeLay made himself famous as a snarling, highly partisan enforcer, with little stomach for those who didn't share his conservative fervor.

    But now that DeLay has served as House majority leader for the past year, it is apparent that he has undergone something of an evolution. He has polished his public image and taken pains to portray himself as a disciplined, measured leader who is responsive to all types of House Republicans as he sets the agenda, hones strategy, and brokers deals.

    "He has grown and reached out to members," said Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash. Likewise, Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., said that in DeLay's new role, "Tom's strongest point has been his ability to reach out to members, one-on-one." In his first year as House majority leader, Tom DeLay has gone from a snarling enforcer to a measured strategist. But The Hammer hasn't gone soft. He's positioning himself for the speakership. [...]

    The next obvious step for DeLay is the speakership. But he won't need to make that decision until the 61-year-old Hastert creates a vacancy. In January, House Republicans abolished their eight-year limit on the speaker's term, and Hastert has appeared intent on holding his post. "As long as I can achieve something," Hastert told National Journal during an interview in May, "I'll do this job." Some of those close to Hastert say he will not step down before Bush departs, given their close relationship.

    But other House Republican insiders suggest that Hastert is "tired." They point to his announcement this summer that he will publish his memoirs early next year as a signal that he might step down within the year. Another camp contends that he might leave after one more term, possibly to take an ambassadorial post.

    The GOP is rapidly approaching the day--thanks in no small parts to the 5+ TX seats Mr. DeLay just got them--when it will be able to more easily afford to have an ideaologue in the Speaker's chair again.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM

    CRANK UP THE VCR (via Mr. Whipsnaade):

    The JFK Assassination: Investigation Reopened (Court TV, 11/19/03, 9pm)

    It was a crime that shocked the world--and an investigation still going on today. Even after 40 years, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the 20th century's most enduring and controversial mysteries: was there a conspiracy? A cover-up? Was Lee Harvey Oswald the only gunman? As the network of record in forensics and criminal investigations, Court TV signature series "Forensic Files" will take a fascinating new look at a controversial piece of evidence that may hold clues to whether there was one gunman--or more. Using state of the art digital audio analysis, Court TV will re-examine a Dallas police audio recording that has long been thought to contain the sounds of the gunshots that killed the President. The results could shed new light on this 40 year old mystery and provide a new forensic perspective.

    Gerald Posner's book on the Kennedy assassination, Case Closed, simply demolishes every extant theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a larger plot.

    Four Decades Later, Majority of Likely Voters Believes Two or More Gunmen Killed JFK; One in Five Believe Government’s Theory of Lone Gunman (, November 14, 2003)

    Forty years have passed since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, as his motorcade rolled by the Texas School Book Depository building.  A year later, the Warren Commission investigating the assassination determined that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, committed the crime.

    Doubt still remains in the minds of many Americans.  In September 3 – 5, 2003 polling by Zogby International, nearly three in five (57%) likely voters said a conspiracy of at least two or more gunmen was responsible for the slaying.  Just over one in five (22%) said they believe the government’s position of a single gunman.  Ten percent had yet another theory, and 11% were not sure.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM

    STUCK ON 42%:

    CANDIDATES GEAR UP FOR FINAL DAY OF CAMPAIGN: Blanco, Jindal swing through state seeking support (Jan Moller and Brian Thevenot, November 14, 2003, New Orleans Times Picayune)

    With signs that the governor's race is tightening in the final hours before Saturday's runoff, Democrat Kathleen Blanco and Republican Bobby Jindal hit the road Thursday to shore up core support and reach out to undecided voters. [...]

    Blanco touted a tracking poll that showed her making up ground on Jindal during the past three days.

    The survey released Thursday by Marketing Research Institute of Pensacola, Fla., showed Jindal with 46 percent, compared to Blanco's 42 percent. Twelve percent of voters were undecided in the three-day poll taken Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights of people who voted in the Oct. 4 primary. That's a six-point swing for Blanco, who had trailed Jindal 49 percent to 39 percent in an earlier survey.

    "I feel my campaign surging as I have moved around the state in the past few days," Blanco said in a prepared statement.

    The Jindal campaign stressed the fact that the poll still shows him leading and blamed the tightening of the race on an onslaught of aggressive advertising by Blanco and the Democratic Party.

    It's best never to underestimate the Democrats' capacity to turn out black votes, but Ms Blanco's inability to get above 42% in any just about poll suggests, rather strongly, that Bobby Jindal is going to be the next governor of Louisiana and an immediate national figure in the GOP.

    Not Quite Bubba vs. Bubba: Louisiana Governor's Contest Defies Stereotypes (Lee Hockstader, November 14, 2003, Washington Post)

    Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:52 AM


    Is the filibuster of judicial nominees unconstitutional? (Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog, 11/14/2003)

    The notion that the Senate has a duty to give timely advice and consent is reinforced by George Washington's letter to the Senate Committee on Treaties and Nominations of 10 Aug. 1789. Here is what he wrote:

    The President has the "power by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties and to appoint Officers."

    The Senate when these powers are exercised, is evidently a Council only to the President, however [necessary] its concurrence may be to his Acts. It seems incident to this relation between them, that not only the time but the place and manner of consultation should be with the President. It is probable that the place may vary. The indisposition or inclination of the President may require, that the Senate should be summoned to the President's House. Whenever the Government shall have buildings of its own, an executive Chamber will no doubt be provided, where the Senate will generally attend the President. It is not impossible that the place may be made to depend in some degree on the nature of the business. In the appointment to offices, the agency of the Senate is purely executive, and they may be summoned to the President.

    Professor Larry Solum makes a brilliant contribution to the issue of the Senatorial filibuster, noting not only that the structure of the Constitution suggests a duty to give the President advice and consent, but also that the tradition of British privy councils, which the founders were building on, implied the executive's authority to demand advice and consent. This letter from President Washington to the Senate illustrates the founders' thinking.

    Alas, while calling the Senate to the White House and forcing a vote may be the President's lawful prerogative, it is hardly to be expected that everyone will agree that it is so. Thus, the procedure would not solve the political problem raised by the filibuster. It might create a graver constitutional crisis: what if Justices were confirmed by this method, and a future Democratic president argued that Justices seated in this fashion had never been properly confirmed, and could be immediately removed and replaced? The ensuing crisis would resemble the 2000 Presidential election litigation, but without any well-defined procedures for resolving the dispute. (For whose authority would decide? Insofar as the Supreme Court resolves disputes, who is to be counted as a member?)

    Thus, I think Solum's procedure, while it might be legally sound, would not meet political needs. I think there is no satisfactory way for Republicans to retaliate against the filibuster in the sphere of judicial appointments alone; the only effective retaliation will be to retaliate in the political sphere -- by refusing to support appropriations to Democrat-favored and Republican-opposed programs until the Democrats fulfill their duty to advise and consent. The price of non-cooperation should be non-cooperation. The key point is that, just as in the private economy refusing to transact with others means a person will have no pecuniary income, so in the political sphere refusing to transact implies a loss of political income. Democrats cannot expect Republicans to transact if Republican outflows and Democratic incomes are to continue, while all Republican incomes are to be obstructed. Once both sides lose their political income, both will have strong incentives to negotiate mutually acceptable terms of cooperation.

    Posted by David Cohen at 11:24 AM


    United States v. Stewart, No. 02-10318 (9th Cir., 11/13/03) (Kozinski, J)

    1. There are three categories of activity that Congress can regulate under its commerce power: (1) “the use of the channels of interstate commerce”; (2) “the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, even though the threat may come only from intrastate activities”; and (3) “those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce.” United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 558-59 (1995). In United States v. Rambo, 74 F.3d 948 (9th Cir. 1996), we held that section 922(o) was “a regulation of the use of the channels of interstate commerce” because “there can be ‘no unlawful possession under section 922(o) without an unlawful transfer.’ ” Id. at 952 (quoting United States v. Kirk, 70 F.3d 791, 796 (5th Cir. 1995)). We elaborated that, “ ‘[i]n effect, the ban on such possession is an attempt to control the interstate market for machineguns by creating criminal liability for those who would constitute the demand-side of the market, i.e., those who would facilitate illegal transfer out of the desire to acquire mere possession.’ ” Id. (quoting Kirk, 70 F.3d at 796). Rambo thus held section 922(o) was a valid exercise of the commerce power because a transfer or sale must have preceded the criminalized possession. . . .

    The district court ruled against Stewart’s Commerce Clause argument, reasoning that “the parts, at least, moved in interstate commerce.” Id. at 626. Indeed, some of the machinegun parts did move in interstate commerce. At some level, of course, everything we own is composed of something that once traveled in commerce. This cannot mean that everything is subject to federal regulation under the Commerce Clause, else that constitutional limitation would be entirely meaningless. As Lopez reminds us, Congress’s power has limits, and we must be mindful of those limits so as not to “ ‘obliterate the distinction between what is national and what is local and create a completely centralized government.’ ” Lopez, 514 U.S. at 557 (quoting NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 37 (1937)). Our sister circuits have also recognized that section 922(o) must have certain implicit limits, noting that, “because § 922(o) has no jurisdictional element, it has the potential to criminalize the possession of such guns that have never traveled in interstate commerce.” United States v. Wright, 117 F.3d 1265, 1270 (11th Cir. 1997), vacated in irrelevant part by 133 F.3d 1412 (11th Cir. 1998). The difficult question is where to draw the line between a regulated object and the matter from which that object was created.

    In theory, the federal government is a limited government, with only those powers specifically granted to it by the people in the Constitution. The broadest of those powers is the power to regulate interstate commerce. The commerce clause has become the grant of last resort, justifying federal legislation of the smallest facet of our lives.

    Consider, for example, the United States' prosecution of Robert Stewart. Stewart was charged with possession of a machine gun he had made himself out of some parts that he bought legally and some parts that he made. Congress had outlawed the transfer or possession of such a gun without a license that Stewart did not have and, as a convicted felon, would probably not have gotten. The Ninth Circuit held that possessing a such a gun, without having bought it, does not have a sufficient nexus with interstate commerce so as to allow the federal government to punish Stewart.

    If Stewart had sold the gun he made, he would have been punishable by the federal government for the transfer and the person to whom he sold it would have been punishable for possession alone. If Stewart had simply bought the parts and assembled them, he could have been convicted. The state government can prosecute him for mere possession, if it has made the possession of machine guns illegal, without any worry about the Second Amendment because, as the Ninth Circuit emphasized, in upholding Stewart's conviction on another charge, "the Second Amendment 'was not adopted in order to afford rights to individuals with respect to private gun ownership or possession.' Silveira v. Lockyer, 312 F.3d 1052, 1087 (9th Cir. 2002). Thus, there is no Second Amendment limitation on [federal or state] 'legislation regulating or prohibiting the possession or use of firearms.' Id." And yet the right is going to celebrate this decision as a great victory for freedom.

    The right will celebrate for two reasons. First, because the case involves machine guns. Our right to bear arms has been so beaten down and the entire issue has become such a wedge between blue and red America that anything appearing to be a victory for gun rights looks like a victory for the right. But Stewart was still convicted of a felony, the actual limitation here was minuscule (no one without access to a machine shop can even conceivably benefit) and no orgy of machine gun ownership is about to sweep the country. By denying that the Second Amendment secures a personal right, a position at odds with the current trend in the law, the Ninth Circuit has, if anything, set back gun rights. On the whole, this decision is more likely to further the cause of child pornographers than gun owners.

    The second reason the right will celebrate is that the Ninth Circuit has recognized limits on the power of the federal government to regulate everything under the sun by making some vague reference to the commerce clause. There is something more to this second celebration than to the first, limits on the federal government always being welcome, but the meager nature of this victory, too, serves to highlight the extent to which Congressional power has carried the day.

    In particular, having made a gun without implicating interstate commerce, it seems to me that the mere sale of that gun, if it takes place entirely within a state, cannot trigger the commerce clause. But the Ninth's holding to the contrary clearly is correct under the case law. Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), relied upon by the Ninth Circuit, held that the commerce clause gives Congress the power to forbid homeowners from growing their own wheat in their own backyard in order to prevent them from "saving money that would otherwise have been spent in the open market." (By the way, this is one of the reasons the left is correct, by its own lights, to oppose Judge Brown's nomination to the court. Wickard style regulation is fundamental to the modern regulatory state and Judge Brown's positions suggest that she would be particularly hostile to an expansive reading of the commerce clause.)

    The question of the proper scope of the commerce clause implicates, as it happens, one of the great internal debates in modern conservatism: Is federalism dead? If it weren't for the war, this question might already have led to a schism, as the Bush administration seems to have concluded that federalism is dead and Republicans now control a national goverment. Compassionate conservatism is, in many ways, a euphamism for national conservatism and comes close to the liberal understanding of our government, which is that if something can be done by the national government to alleviate a problem, then it must be done. President Bush's goals are conservative goals, broadly defined, but his tools are liberal tools. This is one reason that the libertarian wing of Republican voters are more restive under Bush than they were under Reagan.

    If we take a positive, rather than normative, look around, it becomes clear that federalism is, if not dead, than in a persistent vegetative state. The "federal" government permeates every aspect of our lives and the federal constitution is now more of a limit on state power than federal. Perhaps as a result, no one, including state politicians, takes state government seriously as a sovereign power seperate from the federal government. Most Americans would be astonished to learn that the states have any claim to be anything other than départements of the national state.

    The only people left who take federalism seriously are constitutional conservatives and libertarians, although the constitutionalists like the theory of federalism while the libertarians like the effects. But it is expecting too much of politicians to think that they won't act in the ways that voters expect them to act. The era of limited government is over. Small offerings like Stewart are the homage that practice pays to theory.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


    Part I: Seoul goes from ally to arbiter
    (David Scofield, 11/15/03, Asia Times)

    When US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrives here on Sunday, he will find a South Korea that has drifted far from its former status as a staunch ally of the United States and into an increasingly cozy relationship with the "axis of evil" member north of the Demilitarized Zone.

    A year ago South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun promised the nation that he would spare no effort to "engage" North Korean leader Kim Jong-il; he pledged to "equalize" the US-Korea relationship, largely defined by the presence of 37,000 soldiers in South Korea and viewed by many as symbolic of national weakness; and further vowed to "mediate" future disputes between the US and North Korea, playing arbiter rather than ally.

    Roh has kept his word, and strong coercive steps, the sort that can curb a dictator's dangerous behavior and enforce some modicum of respect for human life, will not, it seems, come from the South.

    Unlike the united front Washington and Seoul presented to Pyongyang in 1994, the South Korean administration has made it very clear that no amount of Northern belligerence and bellicosity will sway it from its objective of a placated, "peaceful" North Korea. This should serve as a wake-up call for all those within the US administration who pin their hopes for peace on a negotiated settlement with the present leadership in North Korea.

    Good--that makes an American military response to the North Korean nuclear program more tenable, because it matters less to us if they retaliate against a former ally.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

    This is not a movie that depends on body counts for its impact, but on the nature of life on board such a ship. Maturin and Aubrey sometimes relax by playing classical duets, the captain on violin, the doctor on cello, and this is not an affectation but a reflection of their well-rounded backgrounds; their arguments are as likely to involve philosophy as strategy.

    The reason that O'Brian's readers are so faithful (I am one) is because this friendship provides him with a way to voice and consider the unnatural life of a man at sea: By talking with each other, the two men talk to us about the contest between man's need to dominate, and his desire to reflect.

    There is time to get to know several members of the crew. Chief among them is young Lord Blakeney (Max Pirkis), the teenager who is actually put in command of the deck during one battle. Boys this young were often at sea, learning in action (Aubrey was not much older when he served under Nelson), and both older men try to shape him in their images. With Maturin he shares a passion for biology, and begins a journal filled with sketches of birds and beetles they encounter. Under Aubrey he learns to lead men, to think clearly in battle. Both men reveal their characters in teaching the boy, and that is how we best grow to know them. [...]

    "Master and Commander" is grand and glorious, and touching in its attention to its characters. Like the work of David Lean, it achieves the epic without losing sight of the human, and to see it is to be reminded of the way great action movies can rouse and exhilarate us, can affirm life instead of simply dramatizing its destruction.

    Four stars, no less.

    -ESSAY: A High-Risk Film on the High Seas: Every once in a while a Hollywood studio throws out the hit-formula playbook and bets that smart moviegoers will go along for the ride. "Master and Commander" is that rare
    case. (ANNE THOMPSON, 11/13/03, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Happily seduced (William F. Buckley, November 12, 2003, Townhall)
    -ESSAY: "Master and Commander": Success On the High Seas (Charles Krauthammer, Jewish World Review)
    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (A.O. Scott, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Ella Taylor , LA Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (GREGORY WEINKAUF, Dallas Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Master and Commander (Desson Howe, Washington Post)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


    Making sense of a father's ultimate test (Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, 11/14/03, Jewish World Review)

    The entire Scriptural passage, "the binding of Isaac," is regarded as conveying Abraham's test. But no test seems to begin until after two conversations between G-d and Abraham. The passage opens, "G-d tested Abraham," yet no test follows, just G-d's address to Abraham (to which Abraham replies "Here I am"), and then G-d's gradual identification of the son whom Abraham is to "take." Only retrospectively, only after learning of G-d's ultimate command to kill Isaac, could one read any tension or test back into these preliminary conversations. When they happen, they do not seem to constitute any test. Why, then, is the entire passage, including these two conversations, called a test?

    I would answer: Whenever G-d speaks to a human being (". . . and He said, 'Abraham'"), even if G-d articulates nothing but the person's own name, it is a test. Nay, a supreme test. [...]

    The last chapter of this week's Torah portion, "the binding of Isaac," speaks to every Jew and, for that matter, to every person who accepts Hebrew Scripture. We are all tested each day; G-d addresses each one of us in our own say, continually. Not to mention, each command in the Torah is a direct address to each Jew.

    No address or command from G-d is to be routine; each reveals us standing on the edge over the abyss — the sheer inhumanity that is our lot if we do not hear the address of G-d. Each word of G-d, even if only — or perhaps especially — our own name, is a challenge by G-d to rise to a greater spiritual height.

    It's no coincidence that the first thing Adam did in the Garden after partaking of the knowledge of Good and Evil was to cover his nakedness and hide from God. The easiest reaction to the command of God is to pretend you don't hear it and to try not to see yourself as He does.

    -ETEXT: Fear and Trembling (Soren Kierkegaard)
    -ESSAY: Fear And Trembling (A Commentary on Kierkegaard's Writings)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


    France criticised by 22 of Europe's elder statesmen (Philip Delves Broughton, 14/11/2003, Daily Telegraph)

    Twenty-two of Europe's wise men, from ex-prime ministers to Nobel prize winners, have denounced France's insistence on secularising the European Union and establishing a strict separation between Church and state. In an essay in yesterday's Le Monde, the elder statesmen said in Europe, Christianity was "at the root of the fundamental notion of the individual". [...]

    The remarks were directed both at the authors of the new EU constitution, which contains no reference to Christianity, and at France, where President Jacques Chirac is considering a new law to reinforce the secularism of national institutions. "Everything we see today shows the limits of a narrowly 'secularist' vision in European societies," the essay said. "The end of ideological oppression and the rise of various forms of fundamentalism lead to a better understanding of reality."

    It's too late for Europe--they'd better secularize thoroughly because the continent will soon be majority Muslim.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


    The Trojan Horse (PAUL KRUGMAN, 11/14/03, NY Times)

    A Congressional conference is now trying to agree on prescription drug legislation. But beware of politicians bearing gifts — the bill will contain measures that have nothing to do with prescription drugs, and a lot to do with hostility to Medicare as we know it. Indeed, it may turn out to be a Trojan horse that finally allows conservative ideologues, who have unsuccessfully laid siege to Medicare since the days of Barry Goldwater, to breach its political defenses. [...]

    [O]ne of the proposals being negotiated behind closed doors — misleadingly described as "cost containment" — would set a limit on Medicare's use of general revenue, and would require action seven years before projections say that limit will be breached. This rule is reinforced with a peculiar new definition of "general revenue" that includes interest on the Medicare trust fund, accumulated out of past payroll taxes. The effect would be to force the government to declare a Medicare crisis in 2010 or 2011. [...]

    Meanwhile, another proposal — to force Medicare to compete with private insurers — seems intended to undermine the whole system.

    This proposal goes under the name of "premium support." Medicare would no longer cover whatever medical costs an individual faced; instead, retirees would receive a lump sum to buy private insurance. [...]

    What's going on? Why, bait and switch, of course. Few politicians want to be seen opposing a bill that finally provides retirees with prescription drug coverage. That makes a prescription drug bill a perfect vehicle for smuggling in provisions that sound as if they have something to do with improving Medicare, yet are actually designed to undermine it.

    Well, the first five of 6 Bushian horses snuck by, but at last Mr. Krugman has figured out he's being hoodwinked.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


    General sees 'urgency' in Iraq (Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri, 11/13/03, USA TODAY)

    The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East said Thursday that coalition forces are facing up to 5,000 fighters in Iraq and must act quickly to defeat the well-funded and well-trained enemy.

    Abizaid said the largest and most dangerous portion of the opposition forces consists of loyalists of ousted president Saddam Hussein. Foreign fighters also pose a threat and are entering Iraq through porous borders, Abizaid said.

    "The goal of the enemy is not to defeat us militarily," Abizaid said in a news briefing from U.S. Central Command headquarters in Florida. "The goal of the enemy is to break the will of the United States of America, to make us leave."

    Abizaid said the opposition forces can't drive the U.S.-led coalition out of Iraq through the use of military force. He said the insurgents don't have much popular support and often hire young, unemployed criminals "to do their dirty work."

    "It is very important that as we progress militarily, we also progress politically and economically, so as to get these angry young men off the streets," Abizaid said.

    The important thing would seem to be that we've begun pro-actively killing them instead of hoping they'll see the democratic light.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


    Tax refunds expected to jump 27% (Barbara Hagenbaugh, 11/13/03, USA TODAY)

    Taxpayers' refund checks will increase nearly 27% to an average $2,500 per family early next year, according to new forecasts from tax experts and economists, who say the windfalls will aid consumers, the economy and President Bush's re-election campaign. [...]

    The refunds will fatten bank accounts and, if spent, boost the economy because consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity. That will help ensure that the economic gains underway do not fizzle out, and it will ultimately benefit the 9 million Americans who are out of work.

    An improving economy would aid Bush's re-election hopes and blunt Democratic criticism of job losses and economic weakness during his tenure. But the cuts, along with increased federal spending, have contributed to a record federal budget deficit that is estimated to hit $494 billion this year.

    "There is a real strong correlation between after-tax income growth and the share of the vote the incumbent party candidate gets," says Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte who has studied the historical links between economics and elections.

    "The economy should actually help Bush," he says.

    Anyone with even a minimal understanding--or less in our case--of economics understood that President Bush would be running on the economy in '04--unfortunately, the Democrats don't fit that profile.

    November 13, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


    Xenophobia aside, Japan said to need foreign labor (ERIC JOHNSTON, 11/14/03, The Japan Times)

    Although immigrant labor can play a key role in creating economic growth and vitality in Japan, serious debate on the issue has been stymied by traditional reluctance to welcome foreigners, sensationalized media coverage of the rise in crimes by foreigners and xenophobic comments by rightwing politicians.

    This was the conclusion reached at an Osaka symposium on foreign workers in Japan this week involving some 100 scholars, government officials and local businesspeople.

    U.N. reports have indicated Japan will face a severe labor shortage in the coming decades as the society rapidly ages and have urged the nation to admit a large number of foreign workers to fill the gap.

    Hidenori Sakanaka, director general of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, said these reports have fueled two debates in Japan.

    "The first is that a future Japan should be a 'small country,' a country that accepts a population decline and makes adjustments without resorting to importing foreign labor en masse," he said. "The second argument is that Japan should remain a 'big country' and an economic powerhouse by responding to the population decline with an influx of foreign workers."

    Ever think about having children?

    Posted by Paul Jaminet at 4:34 PM


    Transcript 805: Democracy Now? (NPR, Uncommon Knowledge, 6/24/2003; via

    Peter Robinson: So Don, this is an event, this march of democracy which should fill your heart with joy because it suggests that human society even far-flung places in the third world, human society can figure things out and grope toward systems that are just and successful. You're pleased with it? Right?

    Donald Emmerson: Well, I'm pleased up to a point, only up to a point.

    Peter Robinson: All right.

    Donald Emmerson: Because if you imagine--just to construct a kind of extreme image here of what concerns me--a façade democracy in which elections give rise to the worst kind of demagoguery and populism in which all kinds of decisions are taken that actually routinely violate the public interest but in the name of the majority. And never mind minority groups and minority rights and those inalienable rights of the individual that a Supreme Court might protect. I mean, in this context, the Supreme Court looks like a pocket of autocracy. Who elected these people?

    Peter Robinson: Nine unelected figures...

    Donald Emmerson: Exactly. So I would argue as a liberal democrat that electoral democracy is really only a way station on the road to what you really want, which is a fully liberal democracy.

    So a democracy of the people is vulnerable to the worst kind of demagoguery and populism and routinely violates the public interest, and therefore should be only a way station to a "fully liberal" democracy that features an autocratic Supreme Court? This helps explain why Senate Democrats require judicial nominees to be "fully liberal."

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


    Come see Hillary - and, oh, the candidates (DAVID YEPSEN, 11/13/2003, Des Moines Register)

    Saturday is the Democrats' big Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines. Lots of presidential candidates and most any Democrat of any consequence in Iowa will descend on the city and Vets Auditorium for speeches, receptions and money-raising events.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton is emceeing the festivities, a fact that takes much of the limelight away from the candidates. She's said repeatedly she isn't running for president in 2004, but some people can't seem to understand what "no" means. Just by showing up in Iowa she stokes the talk of a run someday. [...]

    While the state party is overjoyed to have such a celebrity politician show up for their big bash, there could be a downside: Either she's going to eclipse the presidential contenders at a time when they are all struggling to break out of the pack, or one of them is going to eclipse her, which will hurt her hopes for 2008 or beyond.

    How the dwarves must hate her...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM


    Then Again... (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Beth Lester and Clothilde Ewing, 11/12/03 CBS News)

    The race for Florida’s open senate seat, held since 1986 by Democrat Bob Graham, is already crowded, but the Tampa Tribune reports HUD Secretary Mel Martinez is considering jumping in. Martinez told reporters back in June that he wasn't interested, but Republican sources tell CBS News that he's reconsidering and may make an announcement soon.

    And today in Florida, CBS News' Mark Knoller, who is accompanying President Bush on his Florida fund-raisign trip, reports that Mr. Bush spent several minutes lavishing praise on Martinez as an American success story.

    If he decides to run, Martinez, who emigrated from Cuba at the age of 15, may be the GOP's best chance of capturing the seat. Because Martinez is Hispanic, Republicans believe he not only can win Cuban-American votes, but also cut into Democratic support from other Hispanic-Americans.

    At this rate, the next convention, when the GOP trots out a rainbow coalition of speakers, they'll actually be Republican candidates and officials.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM

    WHO WOULD BE OF THEIR AGE? (via ef brown):

    Palestrina Was Not in Vogue: The counterculture struck at God himself. How much damage was done? (GEORGE SIM JOHNSTON, November 13, 2003< Wall Street Journal)

    A few years ago, while visiting college campuses with my son, I witnessed an odd but recurring phenomenon: Our student guide would be showing us around a beautiful New England campus--all arches and spires and ivy--when we would abruptly stop in front of a building of incredible ugliness. Either a science center or a library, it looked like the Death Star about to become fully operational. Or an auto parts warehouse that had escaped from some malevolent industrial park.

    "Oh, this," the guide would say with a cringing gesture. "It was built in the early '70s. We try not to notice."

    Such moments of cultural dissonance come to mind while reading Mark Oppenheimer's Knocking on Heaven's Door, a study of the effect of the 1960s and early 1970s on our relationship with God. According to Mr. Oppenheimer, most Americans did not respond to that era's cultural upheavals by joining ashrams or doing TM. Rather, they brought the revolution into their churches and synagogues. And the results were striking: radical lesbian Episcopalian priests, Catholic Masses that sounded like Peter, Paul and Mary concerts, and Unitarians channeling whatever the Zeitgeist had to offer. [...]

    At least in the Catholic Church, an increasing number of worshipers began to treat their faith primarily as an exercise in self-esteem, even while doctrinal teachings remained in place, and the church experienced an invasion of the "therapeutic." The model of the human person, as presented by certain theologians and even some catechisms, was of a little god in a universe of "options"--self-affirmed, plotting his comforts, quick to "follow his conscience" when he wanted something he maybe shouldn't. By the late 1960s many Jews and Christians had managed to domesticate God into an affirmer of personal preferences.

    None of this registers with Mr. Oppenheimer, who is mostly content to report the surface manifestations of the Me Decade without touching on the deeper issues, such as the validity of supernatural faith and the proper role of religion in public life, and without asking whether a secular culture benefits in the long run from denominations that simply do its bidding.

    Which only goes to show the wisdom of Merton and Chesterton--Lord, save us from those who follow their consciences.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


    GOP lawmakers, White House near deal on drug benefit (Larry Wheeler and Jon Frandsen, 11/12/03, Gannett News Service)

    The tentative proposal includes a test of a plan, backed by conservative Republicans, that would allow private insurers to compete with the traditional Medicare health-care delivery system first designed in 1965.

    Some Republican officials said the legislation could be brought to the House and Senate for votes late next week. But Democrats said it represents an attack on the entitlement program for 40 million older and disabled Americans. They began seeking to limit defections inside their ranks in order to defeat the measure in the Senate.

    "We cannot accept a proposal that undermines Medicare as we have known it for four decades," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who had supported a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate.

    Republicans pressed ahead anyway, meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and two Democrats — Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana. "I think it's a middle-of-the-road deal," Breaux said. Baucus said he was inclined to support it.

    Senator Kennedy realized just a couple days too late that he'd been rolled on the No Child Left Behind Act and he's trying to avoid the same result here. That little test program offers a template for how the program could be run once the Senate can't be filibustered by Democrats

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


    Third-quarter earnings 'a total blowout' (Matt Krantz, 11/12/2003, USA TODAY)

    After three dreadful years, there's proof that U.S. companies are roaring back.

    About 90% of Standard & Poor's 500 companies have reported third-quarter earnings, and collectively they've turned in jaw-dropping 20.9% growth in operating earnings, excluding one-time items.

    That gain — the sharpest since the economy peaked in early 2000 — helps justify the big rally in stocks this year and shows that years of painful cost cutting and layoffs, combined with a better economy, are paying off. [...]

    Even analysts who closely watch earnings were caught off guard, because 60% of the companies beat expectations. "The third quarter was a total blowout on the upside — beyond what even the bulls would have hoped for," says Charles Blood, strategist at Brown Bros. Harriman. [...]

    If there's a downside, it's that investors now expect the stellar earnings to keep coming. Analysts are predicting 22.4% growth in the fourth quarter, says Thomson First Call. Ed Keon, strategist at Prudential, thinks earnings may be even stronger.

    You've got to pity the poor investors who listened to Democrats and got out of the markets.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


    The last testament of Ross Macdonald (Leonard Cassuto, 11/2/2003, Boston

    AT THE TIME OF Ross Macdonald's death 20 years ago, critics and readers alike considered him the greatest American crime novelist since Raymond Chandler. Like Chandler, Macdonald was praised as a literary artist, not just a detective story writer. The New York Times
    once described him as "a major American novelist," period.

    But unlike Chandler, Macdonald has since slipped to the back shelves. Fewer than half of his books remain in print. And although American crime fiction now receives unprecedented attention from literary scholars, Macdonald's reputation lags behind that of contemporaries such as Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith.

    Why the decline? In short, it was the serial killers who did Macdonald in.

    Today's army of fictional serial killers are Macdonald's child victims grown up -- but with all hope for them gone. Nothing can redeem the serial killer. He needn't even confess; he just has to be killed. He's a monster in human form. But Ross Macdonald's murderers are not monsters.
    Macdonald understood that the acts of grown-up abused kids inevitably raise questions of responsibility. In his interconnected fictional world, everyone shares responsibility for these acts. In "The Blue Hammer" (1976), Macdonald's last published work, a weary Archer sums it
    up when he says, "We're all guilty." Macdonald's kind of story -- backward-looking, involuted, self-probing -- is not the kind people want to read in an age of monsters, when you can blame everything on outside malevolence. Eudora Welty -- a Macdonald fan, friend, and influential
    booster -- described his novels as stories of "the absence of love." His signal, said Welty, is "simple and undisguised: find the connections; recognize what they mean; thereby, in all charity, understand."

    It is indeed a sad comment on the age that folks can no longer bear the message of Ross MacDonald--that responsibility must be taken for evil, by the evildoers themselves and by we who create the conditions that breed them. Just because we can understand the source of a person's social pathology does not excuse them or us from correcting it.

    One of the most disturbing ways in which this refusal to accept moral responsibility manifests itself in modern PI novels is in a device which Robert B. Parker--who has done more to destroy the genre than anyone else--introduced with the character of Hawk. By giving the detective a lethal and amoral sidekick, authors are able to have their cake and eat it too--the hero doesn't have to get his hands dirty because he can count on his more brutal alter ego to do so.

    This isn't just a problem because it dodges ethical questions, but because it weakens the drama. Let the hero engage in extra-judicial killings and we'd be forced to confront ourselves over the question of whether we can accept such things. Rely on an uncontrollable secondary character instead and the question is never even posed, thereby doing a disservice to the reader and to literature.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


    Occupation enters critical phase (Erich Marquardt, 11/14/03, Asia Times)

    The policy of "Iraqification" involves training Iraqi military and security forces in order to have them replace US forces; the intent is that Iraqis will eventually fight Iraqis for the interests of the US government. Yet there is no reason to believe that this policy will be any more successful than it was in Vietnam. As in Vietnam, the type of individual who is willing to fight his own population in the interests of a foreign power is often corrupt and fails to make an effective fighter. The success of this policy relies on whether the Bush administration can marginalize Iraqi guerrilla forces and prevent them from gaining support among the civilian population. [...]

    But the US cannot leave Iraq unless Washington is willing to face a loss of influence in the region and the world. If the US were to pull out of Iraq without establishing a strong authority there, the country would likely fall into civil war that could result in territorial fragmentation. The Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shi'ites in the south could easily plunge into internecine conflict; this perhaps explains why, since Iraq's creation, the country has been largely run by authoritarian leaders who have repressed political dissent, thus securing the stability of the state. Furthermore, outside powers would inevitably become involved in any Iraqi civil war, creating the possibility of Iraq's Shi'ite south becoming enveloped in the affairs of Iran - a bordering Shi'ite Islamic republic - or the Kurds of the north attempting to create a greater Kurdistan. These outcomes would be considered setbacks to US interests.

    It's not at all apparent why a Shi'ite/Sunni civil war in Arabia does not serve our interests, particularly if we intervene when necessary to aid the Shi'ites, whose version of Islam seems more amenable to liberal democracy in the long term.

    A palpable sense of panic (Jim Lobe, 11/14/03, Asia Times)

    While the administration wants to accelerate the process to put an "Iraqi face" on the government, Bremer appears to have lost confidence in the 24 members of the IGC, including Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi. The IGC, which has until December 15 to submit to the United Nations Security Council a plan to draft a new constitution, has so far failed to tackle the issue seriously, and the administration is worried that any delay will derail its own timetable, including plans to have an elected government in place before the November 2004 US presidential elections.

    As a result, the White House is considering abandoning its previous plans and moving instead to create a provisional government similar to the one installed by coalition forces in Afghanistan after the Taliban's ouster, which could oversee the drafting of a constitution. One problem is that it has no obvious candidate to head such a government, as it did in Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.

    Or the administration could go along with the position of the Shi'ite authorities in Najaf, who have called for elections to a constitutional convention. But that, too, could create new problems or further alienate the Sunni population, due to the fact that Shi'ites would almost certainly dominate such a process.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


    Yes, yes, of course, we all know you cannot poke a stick through the walls of a concrete tower, but here's something to think about: what if the walls are only a painted backdrop? -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1975)
    That's what Reagan and Solzhenitsyn recognized when no one else in the West did.
    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


    Clark Plan Would Enlist Saudis in Fighting Terror (Eric Slater, November 12, 2003, LA Times)

    HANOVER, N.H. -- Democratic presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley K. Clark, criticizing President Bush's handling of the war on terror Wednesday, outlined a military-minded plan to combat terror that includes enlisting Saudi Arabian commandos in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

    The General was here in town last night and offered what would appear to be the first excellent idea of the Democratic primary season: the Saudi commandos probably aren't much use, but it's a good way of putting them on the spot and helping to turn the war on terror into an Arab/Muslim cause, not just a Western one.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


    The Path of Brighteousness: Godless Americans launch a semantic crusade (Cullen Murphy, November 2003, The Atlantic)

    Another thing to watch is the degree to which the brightness crusade itself begins to take on religious overtones. The line between the religious and the secular is often surprisingly indistinct, and even ruthlessly secularized activities can have a religious feel to them. People who shudder at the practice of spiritual counseling or ritual confession may have no qualms at all about therapy and psychoanalysis. Whatever the truth claims of religion, its forms of expression embody impulses and behaviors that are simply human.

    For instance, "mortification of the flesh," through fasting and other forms of self-denial, has long been seen as a path toward purity and enlightenment, and religious ascetics have pursued it for centuries. Today the practice has a secular analogue. A recent article in the Styles section of The New York Times described a raft of stores, books, consultants, and resorts devoted to fasting. Special fasting spas in the desert can cost $3,500 a week. The article recounted the ups and downs of one woman's seven-day fast, a regimen that Saint Pachomius himself might nearly have sanctioned.

    The fifth day, after drinking eight ounces of sesame seed oil as a "gallbladder flush," she became so nauseated that she considered going to an emergency room. But now, she said: "I feel great-just really light, so much energy, so optimistic. It's really changed my frame of mind." She did resume smoking, at five cigarettes a day.
    Many religions keep lists of departed holy people-saints-who are held up for reverence. Of course, debates sometimes flare over who should or should not be on the list; some years ago Pope Paul VI dropped more than fifty saints from the official Catholic roster, including the popular Saint George and Saint Christopher, on the grounds that they probably never existed. The veneration of the morally exalted also obtains in the nonreligious sphere, where there is an actual category of "secular saints." Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and George Orwell frequently receive this designation in print, though in some quarters the sanctity of Orwell, the secular Saint George, is viewed as suspiciously as the authenticity of the religious one. (From the New Statesman: "Orwell's status as the secular saint of socialism is built on a myth.") The ranks of secular saints, like those of religious ones, include not a few martyrs: Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. But as befits a world view that gives short shrift to an afterlife, the acquisition of secular sainthood can be savored prior to death. Václav Havel and Nelson Mandela have been canonized, judging from the citations in newspapers. So have U2's Bono and the rocker-humanitarian Bob Geldof.

    The fondness for relics-a piece of the True Cross, a tooth of the Prophet, the rod of Moses-is a well-known hallmark of real religion, and there was once a lucrative trade in hallowed body parts, often of dubious provenance. The trade in secular relics may be more lucrative still. The rhinestone-encrusted sheath worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy, in 1962, was sold at auction a few years ago for $1,267,500. A pair of white cotton boxer shorts worn by Kennedy when he was in the Navy sold recently for $5,000. Almost every day the newspapers bring word of some new sale of celebrity memorabilia-Elvis Presley's sixth-grade report card; Marilyn Monroe's copy of The Little Engine That Could; a soiled towel used to wipe the face of Isaac Hayes (but not, alas, miraculously bearing his image). Despite concerns over its authenticity, a piece of Bazooka bubble gum chewed by Luis Gonzalez, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was bought at a charity auction last year for $10,000.

    In the god-drenched eras of the past there was a tendency to attribute a variety of everyday phenomena to divine intervention, and each deity in a vast pantheon was charged with responsibility for a specific activity-war, drunkenness, lust, and so on. "How silly and primitive that all was," the writer Louis Menand has observed. In our own period what Menand discerns as a secular "new polytheism" is based on genes-the alcoholism gene, the laziness gene, the schizophrenia gene.

    Now we explain things by reference to an abbreviated SLC6A4 gene on chromosome 17q12, and feel much superior for it. But there is not, if you think about it, that much difference between saying "The gods are angry" and saying "He has the gene for anger." Both are ways of attributing a matter of personal agency to some fateful and mysterious impersonal power.

    We'd be the last ones to begrudge atheists a religion of their own.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


    Watching Different Films (Dennis Prager, 11/07/03, Catholic Exchange)

    First, what Jews see. The Jews in [The Passion] (except, of course, for those who believe in Jesus) are cruel and often sadistic. One prominent Christian who saw the film along with my wife and me said that while watching the film he wanted to take a gun and shoot those who had brought such pain to Jesus. I couldn't blame him. The Jews in the film manipulate the Romans - who are depicted as patsies of the Jews and in the case of Pilate, as morally far more elevated - into torturing and murdering a beautiful man.

    Why does this bother Jews so much? Because for nearly 2,000 years, attacked as "Christ-killers," countless Jewish men, women and children were tortured and murdered in ways that often caused more suffering than even Jesus endured (e.g., not only tortured and murdered themselves, but also seeing their families and friends raped, tortured and murdered). For Jews to worry that a major movie made by one of the world's superstars depicts Jews as having Christ tortured and killed might arouse anti-Semitic passions is not paranoid. Even though Islam denies the crucifixion, it is difficult to imagine that this film will not be a hit in the virulently anti-Semitic Arab world.

    It is essential that Christians understand this. Every Jew, secular, religious, assimilated, left-wing, right-wing, fears being killed because he is Jewish. This is the best-kept secret about Jews, who are widely perceived as inordinately secure and powerful. But it is the only universally held sentiment among Jews. After the Holocaust and with Islamic terrorists seeking to murder Jews today, this, too, is not paranoid.

    However, what Jews need to understand is that most American Christians watching this film do not see "the Jews" as the villains in the passion story historically, let alone today. First, most American Christians - Catholic and Protestant - believe that a sinning humanity killed Jesus, not "the Jews." Second, they know that Christ's entire purpose was to come to this world and to be killed for humanity's sins. To the Christian, God made it happen, not the Jews or the Romans (the Book of Acts says precisely that). Third, a Christian who hates Jews today for what he believes some Jews did 2,000 years ago only reflects on the low moral, intellectual and religious state of that Christian. Imagine what Jews would think of a Jew who hated Egyptians after watching "The Ten Commandments," and you get an idea of how most Christians would regard a Christian who hated Jews after watching The Passion.

    Jews also need to understand another aspect of The Passion controversy. Just as Jews are responding to centuries of Christian anti-Semitism (virtually all of it in Europe), many Christians are responding to decades of Christian-bashing - films and art mocking Christian symbols, a war on virtually any public Christian expression (from the death of the Christmas party to the moral identification of fundamentalist Christians with fundamentalist Muslims). Moreover, many Jewish groups and media people now attacking The Passion have a history of irresponsibly labeling conservative Christians anti-Semitic.

    Actually, it's almost impossible to imagine the film being shown much in the Islamic world, precisely because its message is so powerful. If it were to become a hit there it would be a very good thing.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


    Bush’s Really Good Idea: The President finds it easy to embrace democracy, but not the various means to make it happen (Fareed Zakaria, 11/17/03, NEWSWEEK)

    I think that the president—and many of his advisers—find it easy to embrace democracy but not the means to get there. Actually, they like one method. Let’s call it the “silver bullet” theory of democratization. It holds that every country is ready for democracy. It’s just evil tyrants who stand in its way. Kill the tyrant, hold elections and the people will embrace democracy and live happily ever after. This theory is particularly seductive to neoconservatives because it means that the one government agency they love—the military—is the principal force for democratization around the world.

    The second theory of democratization could be called the “long, hard slog” (thanks, Mr. Rumsfeld). It holds that genuine democracy requires the building of strong political institutions, a market economy and a civil society. In order to promote democracy, in this vision, you need economic reform, trade, exchange programs, legal and educational advances, and hundreds of such small-bore efforts. The agencies crucial to this process are the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, even, God forbid, the European Union and the United Nations. After all, the EU provides almost twice as much foreign aid as the United States. And it is the United Nations that produces the much-heralded Arab Development Reports, which President Bush quoted in his speech.

    The president must see that the first strategy has reached its limits. [...]

    The neoconservative writer Robert Kagan recently declared, “We do not really know how to build a liberal society... But we do know a free and fair election when we see one.” This is both defeatist and wrong. In fact, we know what makes a liberal society—independent courts and political institutions, markets, a free press, a middle class—but building it takes time and effort. If you cannot embrace that process, then you are not really embracing democracy.

    We'd not disdagree at all with Mr. Zakaria that building a stable liberal democracy takes time and effort, but it's an open question whether the Arab world cares to give us the time to help them. If not, we're better off out of their way, but standing ready to help when asked. After all, contra Mr. Zakaria, the first requirement for democracy building is that the people of the nation in question generally want one. If they do, everything else follows because they'll allow their leadership the leeway to create the preconditions.

    Meanwhile, Amitai Etzioni sent the following:

    Senator fooled by intelligence community?

    On November 5, Senator John McCain told the Council on Foreign Relations that:

    "There is no popular, anti-colonial insurgency in Iraq. There are killers who prospered under the tyranny of Saddam and seek its restoration. Unlike in Vietnam, the Iraqi Ba'athists and terrorists who oppose us are not guerrilla fish in a friendly sea of the people. Our opponents, who number only in the thousands in a country of 23 million, are despised by the vast majority of Iraqis."

    When I asked him whether he got that information from the same sources who told us that Iraq had nuclear weapons and that we were in immediate danger--he held to this incredibly uninformed assessment. It is sad to see such a valuable and courageous public leader so unaware of the nationalism that grips most Iraqis, who want us out.

    Two points about that:

    (1) Anti-Americanism/anti-democracy may indeed be popular in the Sunni Trianggle, which makes it a traditional military problem, not an insurgency/guerilla type problem. They resemble North Vietnam, not the Viet Cong.

    (2) Senator McCain, in particular, and the neocons in general, seem to like using large numbers of armed forces just because they're large numbers. Mr. McCain seems to want to pay everyone back for his sad Vietnam experience (I served, you should have to), while the neocons just like big government projects (American Greatness and all). Those are bad reasons to send in more troops when the situation seems to call for less.

    November 12, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


    INTERVIEW: AAI'S AbiNader: Mideast Conflict Remains Top Issue For Arab-Americans (Jennifer Koons, Nov. 12, 2003, National Journal)

    Q. Roughly 45 percent of Arab-Americans voted for George Bush in 2000, compared to 38 percent for Al Gore. Yet Bush's support has noticeably dropped, to one-third among Arab-Americans, according to a poll conducted by Zogby in July. What can the president do to reconnect with this community?

    A. I think the bottom line -- the equation has got to be, "it's the policy, stupid." And that is that the United States is not showing leadership with regard to the peace process with Israel and Palestine. It makes statements and then doesn't back them up with any kind of actions. That's number one.

    Number two is the failure to effectively internationalize the re-building of Iraq, which makes it seem like an American occupation in the negative term.

    And the third thing is the administration's general attitude, particularly exhibited by the attorney general in his relationshiops with civil rights -- civil liberties -- communities. And his hand-in-glove support for evangelical and right-wing Christians who denigrate Islam and who denigrate the issues of concern to Arab-Americans in this country. [..]

    Q. Many nations in the Arab world have criticized the United States for being too "pro-Israel." How will the Israel issue affect the presidential voting decisions of Arab-Americans? Moreover, what would you like to see the candidates do or say in regards to this issue?

    A. The Israel-Palestine conflict is always going to be the number one foreign policy issue for Arab-Americans. It's only rivaled this year by civil liberties because of what's happened since Sept. 11. And also the situation in Palestine has degraded so much that I think people are much more concerned about it.

    What essentially Arab-Americans want the candidates to say is, "We're going to have a balanced approach -- that Israel has as much responsibility for making this peace happen as the Palestinians do." Unfortunately, up until now it's been a very one-sided discussion, essentially saying the Palestinians are the key to peace. They are not the key to peace. They're the ones who are under occupation -- Israel's the occupier.

    Getting both Jews and Arabs to vote Democrat would be the most impressive feat since FDR united blacks and Southern whites. It seems more likely that they'll have to choose and Howard Dean, at least, seems to be choosing the Arab-American vote.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


    Iraq truck bombing triggers calls for Italian troops' return Wednesday (Agence France-Presse, 12-Nov-2003)

    The killing of at least 18 Italians in the worst attack against the Italian military since World War II on Wednesday provoked a furious reaction from opposition parties, who demanded that Italian troops be brought home even as the government insisted they would stay on.

    [T]he opposition said Italian forces should be immediately recalled. "The Italian mission is a mistake. It is not a peace mission, it has been grafted on to an ongoing war," said Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the communist PRC party.

    The leader of the PdCI ccommunist party, Oliviero Diliberto, took an even harder line, accusing the government of "sending boys to their deaths."

    Maurizio Caldi, a former senator who heads a center for terrorism studies, said the Italian army was "paying the price for a foreign policy close to that of the United States and Israel, which is being carried out by the Berlusconi government.

    "We have a non-existent foreign policy, totally subordinated to that of the United States. We must immediately withdraw all troops in a war zone," he said.

    Wow. What an unserious people. Why wouldn't you blow up Italians if you could get their government to change its policies just by doing so?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


    Bush urged: Seat judges over recess (Alexander Bolton, 11/12/03, The Hill)

    Some key Republican senators want President Bush to to overcome Democratic filibusters by appointing conservative judges to the federal circuit courts when the Senate recesses.

    While the White House is so far taking a cautious approach toward the idea, the president is believed to be open to this approach.

    While federal judges are named for life, a recess appointment would expire at the end of 2004 unless the Senate acted on the stalled nominations.

    If Bush went along, his action could be viewed as an escalation in the partisan battle over judicial nominees that has already bogged down the Senate this week and endangers the prospect of a pre-Thanksgiving adjournment.

    [T]he president offered Miguel Estrada a recess appointment to the D.C. Circuit, but he declined, a GOP source said . Estrada ultimately withdrew his name from consideration after attempts to end the filibuster failed seven times.

    May as well-they'll have enough votes to break filibusters in '05.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM


    Like it or not, America is becoming an imperial power (John Keegan, 13/11/2003, Daily Telegraph)

    Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence, believes that Saddam Hussein is alive and hiding somewhere in Iraq. He also believes that he will be found by the coalition forces.

    Mr Rumsfeld, whom I met last week, is visibly undeterred by the level of continuing terrorism in Iraq. He is convinced that the coalition campaign is going well, that the military problem is being overcome and that the reconstruction of the country is proceeding rapidly. Yesterday's tragic attack on the Italian police HQ in Nasiriyah will not change that view.

    Mr Rumsfeld read me a series of reports, from the American regional commands, summarising progress achieved: terrorists apprehended, weapons recovered, explosives destroyed. The totals were impressive. Despite daily reports of American casualties, he was dismissive of the danger to coalition forces. Within the context of the total security situation, he sees the level of violence as bearable and believes that the trend of terrorist activity is downward.

    He foresees a reduction of the size of the coalition force, now largely American but with a big British element, over the coming months. That will be achieved by the introduction of other forces from outside. He particularly hopes for a Pakistani division. The main means of reducing dependence on outside forces, however, will be an increase in Iraq's own security forces, the border patrol, the police, the civil defence corps, the facilities protection service and the new Iraqi army.

    It's always nice to have grown-ups in charge. Imagine the Clinton reaction if this was going on during his watch?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


    Foreign Invasion (Jacob T. Levy, 11.12.03, The New Republic)

    In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case that struck down sodomy laws, Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion referred to a European Court of Human Rights decision that had done the same thing some 20 years earlier. This promptly caused what had been a simmering dispute among Supreme Court justices to boil over into public view. Antonin Scalia, accusing (as he often does) the majority of making constitutional law up out of thin air, fumed in his dissent that "constitutional entitlements do not spring into existence ... as the Court seems to believe, because foreign nations decriminalize conduct." Scalia's chief constitutional concern has always been the final democratic sovereignty of the states and the people of the United States. In Scalia's view, judicial reference to foreign jurisdictions, like reference to an unenacted morality, undermines that sovereignty and de facto authorizes judicial lawlessness and arbitrariness--since there is no way to control which foreign decisions judges will smuggle into constitutional law.

    The response came on October 28, when Sandra Day O'Connor, apparently determined to live down Scalia's caricature of what it means to take judicial notice of developments abroad, gave an address to the Southern Center for International Studies in which she worried about "the impression created by the treatment of foreign and international law in United States courts." O'Connor seemed to be saying that it's somehow important to cultivate favorable opinions of the United States abroad by granting foreign legal rulings standing in American courts--a curious notion indeed. This quickly prompted concern on the right that "the European Council for Human Rights and the United Nations ... are being granted as much or more weight as American laws, or even the Constitution, in the Court's decisions," that "in the future, the U.S. Supreme Court will base its decisions on international law rather than the U.S. Constitution."

    The combination of Scalia's rhetorical excesses and O'Connor's rhetorical sloppiness are creating a false impression of what's at stake here. International influence on American judicial thinking isn't just an option; it's inevitable. That said, there are right and wrong ways to assimilate foreign legal doctrine--a distinction that gets obscured in a contest between doing it the wrong way and not doing it at all.

    Even Mr. Levy seems to recognize that Justice Scalia is right as he shifts the question from whether foreign opinions should have any legal standing to whether foreign legal thought should have any influence on our judges' minds. One interesting thing to note is how he characterizes Justice Scalia's "chief constitutional concern." Wouldn't anyone who doesn't share it be effectively opposed to the U.S. Constitution?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


    Magazine Writer Says China's Growing Christian Church Will Change Nation From Within (Chad Groening, November 11, 2003, AgapePress)

    An author and journalist who spent a number of years in China says at the rate Christianity is growing there, it will eventually bring about a change in the government -- although in the short term, the Communist country could lurch into extreme nationalism.

    David Aikman is the former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine. During his time in China, he witnessed the incredible growth of the Chinese underground church and, based on his observations, he says in time the Christian lamb may very well tame the Chinese dragon.

    "If the Christians, in effect, infiltrate their way up to the top of the Chinese political system, we will not be facing China as a rival, and certainly not as an adversary," Aikman says. [...]

    Aikman has recently published Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. In the book he speculates that, if the present rate of growth continues, within 20 to 30 years, it is probable that between 20 and 30 percent of China will be Christian.

    Which takes care of the long term, but in the meantime we should turn up the torque on their human rights abuses.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


    Two major unions formally endorse Dean for president (Leigh Strope, 11/12/2003, Associated Press)

    Two major unions formally delivered their support to presidential candidate Howard Dean on Wednesday, giving the Democratic front-runner an army of supporters and extra cash in his bid for the party's nomination.

    The executive board of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees voted unanimously to endorse Dean, and the Service Employees International Union announced it was backing the former Vermont governor.

    The endorsements were expected, with news coming last week that AFSCME, 1.5 million-member strong, would coordinate with the 1.6-million member SEIU in making known their preference in the nine-way race.

    "We have a candidate who represents our values and who can defeat this president," AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said. "AFSCME is going to mobilize the largest and most aggressive grass-roots campaign this nation has ever seen. Together with Governor Dean, America's working families will take back the White House in 2004."

    Like all political organizations, AFSCME's central value is increasing its own size, which means adding more government employees to the already wildly bloated civil service payrolls. If any Democrat still had so much as an iota of interest in streamlining government--as Clinton and Gore at least claimed--they could pummel Dean with this endorsement.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM


    LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: Latest Tracking Numbers Has Jindal Lead Up To Eight (Hotline, 11/12/03)

    A Market Research Insight tracking poll; conducted 11/9-11 for a group of businessmen; surveyed 600 likely voters; margin of error +/- 4% (Hammond Daily Star, 11/12).

    Tested: LG Kathleen Blanco (D) and ex-HHS official Bobby Jindal (R).

    LA GOV Runoff Matchup
    Now 11/6-8 11/3-5 11/2-4 10/30-11/1 10/27-29
    Jindal 48% 46% 49% 46% 42% 38%
    Blanco 40 40 42 44 42 49

    This one's over and the GOP goes 4 for 4 this Fall.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


    In Middle of the Kerry Storm, a Man Known to Whirlwinds (DAVID M. HALBFINGER, 11/12/03, NY Times)

    As Democratic strategists go, Bob Shrum has long been considered one of the heavyweights: a talented speechwriter, an expert at debate preparations, an ideologically committed liberal who has a knack for distilling the essence of a candidate's message into a slogan, sound bite or 30-second commercial.

    So in February, when Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was riding high in the presidential preseason, seemingly well on his way to becoming the nominee, it was considered a coup when he added Mr. Shrum to a campaign team already crowded with consultants and advisers.

    Now, with Mr. Kerry's campaign battling for survival in New Hampshire and embroiled in turmoil and infighting — his press secretary and deputy finance director walked out the door on Tuesday, following the abrupt dismissal of his campaign manager — the talk is less about Mr. Shrum's gifts and more about what some are acidly describing, in this toxic environment, as the Shrum curse.

    As prominent and well-traveled a figure as Mr. Shrum is — alter ego to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, consultant to four presidential candidates and many senators — there is one thing he has never accomplished: advising a successful presidential campaign.

    You have to have been blind to the last twenty four years of American politics to believe that what your presidential campaign needs is Ted Kennedy's alter ego running it.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


    Arafat: Israel has right to live in peace (AP, 11/12/03)

    Arafat began his speech with a scathing attack on Israel. He harshly criticized Israel's targeted killings of Palestinian militant leaders, Jewish settlements and an Israeli security barrier being built in the West Bank.

    "The goal of the Israeli government from behind this war [sic?] ... is not hidden from the world," Arafat said. "It is a dangerous goal of preventing our people from their land, their rights and an independent state."

    He said the dozens of Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians over the past three years were in response to Israeli military aggression against Palestinians.

    Nonetheless, the Palestinian leader said the violence must end.

    "Instead of total destruction of our people and land, the time has come between us and you Israelis, and listen to me Israelis, to get out of this cycle of destructive war," Arafat said.

    Test him--declare Palestine a state with borders defined by the Wall.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


    Saudis forced to look inwards (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 11/13/03, Asia Times)

    The latest terror attack in Saudi Arabia - there was one in May this year, also in a housing compound - follows a recent sweep in Dharan and other eastern provinces in which Saudi security forces captured a large cache of arms and ammunition. A number of militants were arrested, all of them Shi'ites suspected of links with underground Saudi militant movements campaigning against the monarchy, including the little-known al-Iqwan and Saudi Hezbollah. Shi'ites are thought to be a majority in the east, where, as it happens, most of the country's oil lies.

    The weapons cache was so big that the Saudi establishment now believes that there are strong supply lines behind the militants that pay and arm them in their isolated desert hubs.

    Shi'ites have long complained of discrimination in Saudi Arabia, which is now particularly nervous about the resurgence of the Shi'ite majority in neighboring Iraq following the United States-led invasion that toppled Sunni president Saddam Hussein. Most Saudis belong to the austere Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam. [...]

    Certainly, Saudi Arabia's rulers have their internal problems. As US allies, they publicly declared their support for the Bush administration's "war on terror" and enthusiastically embarked on a roundup of suspects. However, a number of their targets were Shi'ite dissidents who had nothing to do with any global campaigns, rather they were involved in an internal power struggle against the royal establishment.

    The Shi'ite/Sunni divide is one of the main contradictions we are forcing in the Middle East.

    November 11, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


    Instilling democracy in Mideast (Claude Salhani, 11/11/2003, UPI)

    Many Washington insiders, particularly among neo-conservatives close to Bush believe the United States should adopt a "de-Baathification" policy on Syria, which they accuse of supporting terrorism.

    Since the start of the war in Iraq last March, Damascus has never completely fallen off Washington's political radar. The United States has accused President Bashar Assad's government of assisting the Iraqi military, allowing Islamist jihadis across the border into Iraq, and of hiding Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, offering that as one explanation why those were never found in Iraq.

    But as Imad Mustafa, a senior Syrian diplomat in Washington said to United Press International shortly after the fall of Baghdad, "Are we that crazy to open the gates of hell upon us?" [...]

    As Washington pursues its war on terrorism, the argument can be made for maintaining relations with Damascus instead of distancing it from Washington, seeing continued relations would allow the United States to pressure Syria, who in turn could pressure and maintain greater control over the groups accused of carrying out terror acts.

    Sanctions on Damascus would be received as a diplomatic slap in the face by the Syrians, and would spell the end of cooperation between Syrian and U.S. intelligence services, which has been moving smoothly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. As attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq escalate -- averaging 35-40 a day -- and U.S. soldiers die at the rate of nearly one a day, it would not serve American interests to lose that cooperation.

    This is all terribly confusing. If Syria controls groups that use terror aren't they a terrorist nation? And if it would be crazy for them to "open the gates of hell" by hiding WMD, why wouldn't it be crazy for them to open those gates by resisting our increased pressure? Oh yeah, aand why not open the gates of hell on them just on general principle?

    Posted by David Cohen at 8:13 PM


    GENERAL CLARK’S BATTLES. The candidate’s celebrated—and controversial—military career (Peter J. Boyer, New Yorker, 11/10/03)

    Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Clark said, he visited the Pentagon, where an old colleague, a three-star general, confided to him that the civilian authorities running the Pentagon—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team—planned to use the September 11th attacks as a pretext for going to war against Iraq. “They made the decision to attack Iraq sometime soon after 9/11,” Clark said. “So, rather than searching for a solution to a problem, they had the solution, and their difficulty was to make it appear as though it were in response to a problem.” Clark visited the Pentagon a couple of months later, and the same general told him that the Bush team, unable or unwilling to fight the actual terrorists responsible for the attacks, had devised a five-year plan to topple the regimes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan.

    If the basic elements of the story have a familiar ring, it is because Clark’s central contention—that the Bush Administration used September 11th as a pretext to attack Saddam—has been part of the public debate, much discussed in many publications and broadcasts, since well before the Iraq war. It is rooted in the advocacy of an organization called Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative think tank, whose influential circle—including Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and the defense adviser Richard Perle—had been openly arguing for regime change in Iraq, by military force, if necessary, since 1998. That Rumsfeld turned his attention to Iraq almost immediately after the September 11th attacks was reported by Bob Woodward in his book “Bush at War,” published in November, 2002. Clark, in repeatedly telling his account, seems to suggest that he had special knowledge of a furtive Pentagon plan that would have the Administration “hopscotching around the Middle East and knocking off states,” as he put it. He has acknowledged, “I’m not sure that I can prove this yet.”

    Always eager to help out a General, I've hacked into a secret administration database and now have the carefully concealed evidence of the neocon's secret plot to overthrow Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan.

    (I see that Andrew Sullivan has more to say on the inimitable General Clark.)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


    Morocco pushes ahead: Last month King Mohammed VI declared that 'women are equal to men under the law.' (Kent Davis-Packard, 11/12/03, CS Monitor)

    After 30 years of fighting, more than 60 women's associations, hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, and hundreds of thousands of Moroccan women watched last month, as King Mohammed VI declared before the Moroccan parliament in Rabat that "women are equal to men under the law."

    "We have fought so much, so much for this change," beamed Nouzha Skalli, one of the 35 female members of parliament newly elected in 2002, under the introduction of a quota reserving 30 seats for women.

    Only Tunisia has preceded Morocco in such revolutionary reforms to their Family Code and yet without addressing the question of inheritance.

    "There is something new in Morocco, which is pretty strong compared to other Arab countries - human rights organizations, which greatly supported the women's movement," explains Rabéa Naciri, president of the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women.

    A combination of the new king's democratization process, foreign pressure, and disillusionment with Islamic extremism, led to the Family Code's reform, according to Fatima Sadiqi, professor of gender studies at the University of Fez.

    That would seem to be the required trifecta: reform-minded leadership; American pressure; and Muslims getting tired of Islamicists.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


    Full Nelson: Outmanned and outgunned, the British flummoxed the French. (PATRICK O'BRIAN, 4/18/99, NY Times Magazine)

    These last 1,000 years have been shaped by battles, and perhaps most decisively by sea battles. There was the great galley action at Lepanto in 1571, when from the naval point of view the Ottoman Turks were firmly checked -- 117 Turkish galleys were taken and 80 destroyed; only 12 Christian vessels were lost. There was the Spanish Armada, so ferociously pursued and battered right up the Channel and beyond by Sir Francis Drake and his companions that Spain's moral power and reputation were permanently damaged.

    In England's long struggle against Napoleon, the crowning naval achievement was the battle of Trafalgar. But nowhere were the odds longer, the element of surprise more important or the necessity for improvisation more acute than in Nelson's victory over the French at the Nile. [...]

    The sun set, and now the bulk of Nelson's fleet came down, the Orion following the Goliath along the French inner side, while most of the rest ran down the outer, each anchoring opposite her chosen foe. The two fleets filled the sky with the smoke, flashes and bellowing of some 2,000 guns, for by now the last British ships, guided by the stranded Culloden, had reached the fight.

    The odds in numbers and in weight of broadside metal were heavily against Nelson, but the tactical position was entirely in his favor. The French admiral had left enough room at the head of his van and between his ships for the enemy to pass through, which several did, working down the line so that the Frenchmen often had British ships on either side. The French, with inadequate crews for the task, had to fire both broadsides; the better-manned English, only one, and that far more accurate.

    The French fought with splendid courage, but it was no use; at about 10 P.M. their flagship, L'Orient, caught fire and blew up. Then there was silence for nearly a quarter of an hour before the battle began again; it continued until daybreak, when mopping-up operations began. During this time only four French ships managed to escape.

    It was a famous victory: it shattered Bonaparte's scheme in Egypt and India; it had great political influence in Europe; it was splendidly rewarded, with medals, promotions and quantities of presents bestowed on those who fought, and it awakened the world to Lord Nelson's glory.

    Somehow, he makes two hundred years of rum, sodomy, and the lash all seem quite glorious.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


    Bernie Williams: 'The Journey Within': On New CD, Yankees Fielder Looks Back to Puerto Rico (All Things Considered, 11/10/03, NPR)

    Fans of New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams know him as an elegant runner and a smart hitter. He's won four Gold Glove awards, and so far, has racked up four World Series rings. In the Yankees clubhouse, he can be found at his corner locker -- picking away at his guitar. Williams has been playing guitar since he was 8. He attended a music high school in Puerto Rico, where he studied classical guitar -- and played baseball on the side.

    Now, Williams has released his first CD, called The Journey Within, featuring his guitar playing and songwriting. NPR's Melissa Block, host of All Things Considered, talks with Williams about his music. He says the album brings together the different types of music he's been listening to since childhood.

    Whether he's any good or not, by being Bernie Williams he gets to have Ruben Blades and Bela Flek on the disc with him--and they are very good.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


    THE CLARK COLLAPSE (Dick Morris, November 11, 2003, NY Post)

    OLD soldiers who run for president, to paraphrase MacArthur, never die, they just fade away. Wesley Clark has just faded.

    The latest Marist Poll taken at the end of October shows the former general fading from a tie for first place to fifth in the Democratic primary field, dropping to 8 percent of the Democratic vote nationwide, well behind Howard Dean who led at 16 percent of the likely Democratic primary voters.

    Other recent polls confirm the same trend. The ABC/Washington Post poll last week shows Clark fading to fourth place and the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll records a drop in his favorable/unfavor- able ratio from 24-11 at the end of September to 25-19 at the end of October.

    Since Clark is not running in Iowa (Jan. 19) and likely not in New Hampshire (Jan. 27) either, he had to keep his national standing intact to have any hope of entering the process on Feb. 3, when five states (Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina) have their primaries.

    Clark would need to do very well on that day and in the rest of February, as Tennessee, Virginia and Utah hold their primaries - because on March 2 it will be all over. That's when New York, California, Texas and Ohio all vote.

    This is too steep a hill for Clark to climb with fading popularity, limited financial resources and no early primary victories for momentum.

    On the other hand, he's at least being mentioned in the press. When's the last time you read about Valerie Palme and Joe Wilson.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


    'Honeymooners' Actor Art Carney Dies (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, November 11, 2003)

    Art Carney, who played Jackie Gleason's sewer worker pal Ed Norton in the TV classic "The Honeymooners'' and went on to win the 1974 Oscar for best actor in "Harry and Tonto,'' has died at 85.

    Carney died in Chester, Conn., on Sunday and was buried on Tuesday after a small, private funeral. He had been ill for some time. [...]

    Carney was born into an Irish-Catholic family in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Nov. 4, 1918, and baptized Arthur William Matthew Carney. His father was a newspaperman and publicist.

    After appearing in amateur theatricals and imitating radio personalities, Carney won a job in 1937 traveling with Horace Heidt's dance band, doing his impressions and singing novelty songs.

    "There I was, an 18-year-old mimic rooming with a blind whistler,'' he told People magazine in 1974. "He would order gin and grapefruit juice for us in the morning, and it was great. ... No responsibilities, no remorse. I was an alcoholic, even then.''

    Later he won a job at $225 a week imitating Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and other world leaders on a radio show, "Report to the Nation.''

    He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and took part in the D-Day landing at Normandy. A piece of shrapnel shattered his right leg. He was left with a leg three-quarters of an inch shorter than the other and a lifelong limp.

    We're partial to The Late Show.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 PM


    He Beat Us All: Against Kasparov, any machine is better than I was. (BRIAN M. CARNEY, November 11, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

    Starting today in New York, Garry Kasparov, the world's best human chess player, is to play four games against X3D Fritz, the world's best computer player. And while this week's match will be billed as another round of "man vs. machine," Mr. Kasparov is a chess-playing machine of a sort too. I should know; last month in London, I faced the Kasparov machine over the board. I lost.

    But this was no fair fight, one-on-one. That night, he played 24 games simultaneously against me and 23 other players in what is known in chess circles as a "simul." He beat us all.

    In a simul, the boards are positioned around the edge of the room, and the grandmaster (it usually is a grandmaster, the highest title short of world champion a chess player can obtain) walks around the center of the room, making a single move in each game before proceeding to the next board, circling until all the opponents have been dispatched.

    I was checkmated on move 27; Mr. Kasparov had moved on to examine the position on the board to my left before I'd even realized that the game was over. The last holdout, a semiprofessional local player, lasted less than 20 moves longer.

    In three hours, Mr. Kasparov dispatched 24 opponents without ever stopping to sit down or sip from the tea or water left for him in the center of the room. Someone asked him afterward whether he found the experience exhausting. "If it is a hard day, the shirt is wet," he said, tugging at an unrumpled light-blue dress shirt. "Tonight, the shirt is dry." And he tucked into his dinner.

    Went to summer camp with the #1 ranked under-18 player in Montreal--he used to beat us blindfolded. He stunk at Rock-Scissor-Paper though...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


    Bin Laden on His Home Turf: Has Osama bin Laden become the Timothy McVeigh of Saudi Arabia? (CS Monitor, 11/12/03)

    [S]audi-born bin Laden may have decided he can no longer unite Muslims simply by attacking the West, symbolized by the United States. His real goal, and perhaps his original one, could now be to take over Saudi Arabia and thus Islam's two holiest sites.

    Sept. 11 had a hint of that.

    The Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, said in a speech last month at Tufts University's Fletcher School that bin Laden's goal in organizing the Sept. 11 attacks was to rupture US-Saudi ties. The Al Qaeda chief tried to do that by selecting 15 Saudis among the 19 hijackers, believing the US would then yank its support from the Saudi regime and it would fall. But the plan failed.

    Bin Laden also failed to rally Muslims in protest when the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and again when the US invaded Iraq last April (and later withdrew most of its forces from Saudi Arabia). And it's likely that the US has prevented him from launching a new operation in the US.

    He's going to unite the entire world in opposition to Islamicism at this rate.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


    BOOKNOTES: with David Brooks (C-SPAN, July 30, 2000)

    LAMB: And how about your colleagues at The Weekly Standard? [...]

    LAMB: Bill Kristol is the editor...

    Mr. BROOKS: He's the editor. Fred Barnes.

    LAMB: ...and Fred Barnes and--and...

    Mr. BROOKS: Andrew Ferguson.

    LAMB: Now do they all--do you all think alike on this conservatism thing?

    Mr. BROOKS: No, we think violently differently. In fact, that's one of the hallmarks of the conservative movement, is that people who used to think alike now disagree on everything and that--that's a function of the end of the Cold War and the end of liberalism, really, because liberalism--conservatism is in disarray, but liberalism is really in disarray. So we've lost our two common enemies.

    LAMB: When could you get a good fight going among the four of you sitting down just talking about any issue?

    Mr. BROOKS: Well, during John McCain, that was good enough because Bill Kristol and I thought John McCain was the better candidate for a number of reasons. Fred Barnes did not. He--he thought George W. Bush was a better candidate--on intellectual grounds, not just who would win in November--and Andy Ferguson's ideas were, as usual, very subtle and secretly forceful.

    LAMB: Secretly forceful.

    Mr. BROOKS: Yeah, Andy's not someone who comes out as much as some
    of the rest of us and just baldly declares something. His--his writing--he's a much better writer than I am, a more supple writer, and his writing leads you in different feints and the power of the
    writing is sometimes not clear until you read it carefully.

    Mr. Ferguson, quite the best political columnist going, offers a pluperfect example of his style in this week's column, Spotlight on Dean Reveals His First Blemishes (Andrew Ferguson, 11/10/03, Bloomberg News). It's only with the final sentence that he slips in the chiv.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


    Views of a Changing World 2003: War With Iraq Further Divides Global Publics (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Survey Reports, June 3, 2003)

    The new survey shows...that public confidence in the United Nations is a major victim of the conflict in Iraq. Positive ratings for the world body have tumbled in nearly every country for which benchmark measures are available. Majorities or pluralities in most countries
    believe that the war in Iraq showed the U.N. to be not so important any more. The idea that the U.N. is less relevant is much more prevalent now than it was just before the war, and is shared by people in countries that backed the war, the U.S. and Great Britain, as well as in nations that opposed it, notably France and Germany. [...]

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

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

    At the same time, most Muslims also support a prominent - and in some cases expanding - role for Islam and religious leaders in the political life of their countries. Yet that opinion does not diminish Muslim support for a system of governance that ensures the same civil liberties and political rights enjoyed by democracies. [...]

    The broad desire for democracy in Muslim countries and elsewhere is but one indication of the global acceptance of ideas and principles espoused by the United States. The major survey also shows that the free market model has been embraced by people almost everywhere, whether in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. Majorities in 33 of the 44 nations surveyed feel that people are better off in a free-market economy, even if that leads to disparities in wealth and income. Despite the protests in recent years against globalization and America's role in fostering it, people are surprisingly accepting of the increased interconnectedness that defines globalization.

    This is not to say that they accept democracy and capitalism without qualification, or that they are not concerned about many of the problems of modern life. By and large, however, the people of the world accept the concepts and values that underlie the American approach to governance and business.

    Americans are much more likely than Europeans to believe that most people who fail in life have themselves to blame, rather than society.

    Yet there are profound differences in the way Americans and people in other countries - especially Western Europeans - view such fundamental issues as the limits of personal freedom and the role of government in helping the poor. Americans are more individualistic and favor a less compassionate government than do Europeans and others. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) believe success is not outside of their control. Except for Canadians (63%), most of the world disagrees. Among 44 nations surveyed, the U.S. has one of the highest percentages of people who think that most people who fail in life have themselves to blame, rather than society.

    Accordingly, Americans care more about personal freedom than government assurances of social justice. Fully 58% of Americans say it is more important to have the freedom to pursue personal goals without government interference, while just 34% say it is more important for government to guarantee that no one is in need. In most other nations, majorities embrace the opposite view. And while most Americans support a social safety net, they are less strongly committed than other peoples to their government taking care of citizens who cannot take care of themselves. [...]

    [W]estern Europeans take a much dimmer view of foreign workers from Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East and North Africa, than they do of foreign workers from other European Union countries. This is especially the case in Germany, where 59% say Middle Easterners and North Africans who come to work in Germany are bad for the country; 53% say that about foreign workers from Eastern Europe. [...]

    As was the case in 1991, the American public has a more favorable view of ethnic and racial minorities than do Western European publics. African Americans and Hispanics are viewed much more positively in the U.S. than are Turks in Germany, North Africans in France, and Albanians in Italy. [...]

    Homosexuality and the centrality of religion to personal morality divide the peoples of the world. Majorities in most countries say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. But Canadians and Europeans - both in the West and the East - take the secular view that
    it is possible to be moral without believing in God. Opinion in the United States is closer to that in most developing countries, where agreement is nearly universal that personal morality is linked to belief in God.

    Salient points here include:

    (1) The disastrous effect on the UN of their not approving the war, in order to seem relevant.

    (2) The triumph of American ideals even if folks don't like us much.

    (3) The triumph of those ideas in even the Muslim world.

    (4) The greater acceptance of immigrants in America--a likely outcome of Americanism being idea driven rather than ethnic.

    (5) The profoundly anti-modern streak in Americanism, most obvious in its moralism--reflected in questions on personal responsibility, as well as those explicitly on moral questions.

    (6) The degree to which resentment of America would seem to flow from our belief that our system works and gives us control of our destiny. The Third World wants to become more like us and Europe looks to be terrified that it's becoming less like us. Both are right.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


    You (and Bush) are likely too dumb for this (Howard Mortman, 11/12/03, MSNBC)

    If you're an American, chances are there's a celebrity who thinks you're dumb. Maybe even stupid. Or an idiot. Or something worse, which we can't print here.

    YES, SHOW A celebrity an American, and that celebrity will show you an ignoramus.

    Too sweeping a statement? Perhaps. But what about this Michael Moore screed about Americans in the London Mirror earlier this month? "They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet. ...We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

    Until Michael Moore pointed it out, you probably didn't know how embarrassingly stupid you are. In fact, you probably have so little intelligence you didn't know that Moore isn't the only celebrity who thinks you're dumb. Indeed, Moore has colleagues in the celebrity kingdom who think the same thing.

    So put on your well-worn dunce cap and check out what other celebrities say about your intelligence. And if the celebrities are correct in their analysis, you're moving your lips as you read this.

    What one wonders is why they think it helps their cause to call their fellow Americans stupid? Here's an idea for an ad--show a series of clips of these kind of comments and then follow it with a bunch of regular folk (Red State folk), posing with President Bush, wearing t-shirts and mouthing the line "We're with Stupid". Heck, make it the official campaign slogan.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM

    REID 'EM & WEEP:

    Peeved Democrat bogs down Senate: Reid takes floor for 8-plus hours to protest GOP protest plans (ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 11, 2003)

    It took just one angry Democrat to bog the Senate down to a slow crawl in a preview of what is likely to be a week of partisan fury. The No. 2 Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, stayed on his feet and spoke for more than eight-and-one-half hours on Monday.

    HIS RAMBLING remarks covered some of President Bush’s controversial judicial nominations, the weak economy and a reading of several chapters from a book Reid wrote on his tiny hometown. And they prevented the Senate from getting work done in anticipation of possible adjournment Nov. 21.

    Mostly, Reid’s marathon was sparked by anger over Republican leaders deciding that the Senate will spend 30 consecutive hours this week discussing four judgeship nominations that Democrats have blocked. Democrats say they were not consulted on the decision and that the Senate should do more serious work if lawmakers are to end this session soon.

    “We cannot be taken for granted,” Reid said. “We cannot be thought of as nothing.”

    So, let's see if we have this straight: in an effort to demonstrate that Democrats are not just idealess obstructionists, Mr. Reid took to the floor for 8 hours of "rambling" obstruction, during which he covered the "weak" economy (7.2% growth), judges the Democrats are obstructing, and his hometown. Are we missing something?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


    Not a Mercy
    but a Sin
    : The modern push for euthanasia is a push against a two-millenniums-old Christian tradition (Chris Armstrong, 10/31/2003, Christianity Today)

    [O]n cases marked not by the indirect or passive allowing of natural dying processes to take their course but the direct or active ending of life, the church has, at least officially, remained unified: Christians have usually insisted that any intentional, active termination of life rejects the truth affirmed in the Catholic document Evangelium Vitae (1995), that "God alone has sovereignty over life and death." Such acts of killing, whether "merciful" or not, unacceptably dispose of God's gift of life, over which we are not masters but only stewards.

    Further, both Catholic and Protestant leaders have recognized that if we legalize such active measures to end life, we not only condone individual acts that are sinful, but we also poison the care of future patients, destroying their ability to trust their own medical and emotional support
    network. Any logic condoning "mercy killing," however pure or honorable in its inception, is subject to future abuse, as medical practitioners and family members become tempted to end the lives of those whose care is taking uncomfortably high amounts of effort, time, and resources.

    Even without such selfish motives, Christian critics of euthanasia point out, what happens once the door has been opened to allow criteria (say, degree of pain and suffering) by which a person may be judged justified in actively ending their own life? Those same criteria must, logically
    speaking, be allowed to rule similar decisions of whether to end the life of a person incapable of deciding for him or herself‚ as in the current case of Terry Schiavo.

    Nat Hentoff's column today, even if the implications are entirely false, suggests exactly why interested parties can not be empowered with life or death decisions for those under their care without questions of conflict of interest arising and distrust being sown.

    Auschwitz in America (William J. Federer, October 18, 2003 , (via Tom Corcoran)

    Even before the rise of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, the way for the gruesome Nazi Holocaust of human extermination and cruel butchery was being prepared in the 1930 German Weimar Republic through the medical establishment and philosophical elite's adoption of the "quality of life" concept in place of the "sanctity of life."

    The Nuremberg trials, exposing the horrible Nazi war crimes, revealed that Germany's trend toward atrocity began with their progressive embrace of the Hegelian doctrine of "rational utility," where an individual's worth is in relation to their contribution to the state, rather than determined in light of traditional moral, ethical and religious values.

    This gradual transformation of national public opinion, promulgated through media and education, was described in an article written by the British commentator Malcolm Muggeridge entitled The Humane Holocaust and in an article written by former United States Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, M.D., entitled The Slide to Auschwitz, both published in The Human Life Review, 1977 and 1980 respectively.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


    Iraqi Tribes, Asked to Help G.I.'s, Say They Can't (SUSAN SACHS, November 11, 2003, NY Times)

    As a tribal chieftain in Iraq's most rebellious city, Sheik Khamis el-Essawi has met more American commanders in the last seven months than he can remember.

    They all make the same polite yet firm demand. He must, they say, exert his legendary tribal authority to stop guerrilla attacks on their troops.

    Sheik Khamis, a dapper man whose Buessa tribe still controls a fine swath of fertile land along the Euphrates, says he keeps responding that, alas, his influence is just not what it used to be.

    "Every time a new general comes, they call us to a meeting and say the same things," he said after conferring Saturday with the latest high-ranking visitor, Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of American forces in the Middle East. "But they don't understand that the sheiks have no control over those people doing the attacks. Believe me, those people are not going to listen to me."

    In Iraq's Shiite-dominated south, a cohesive group of Shiite Muslim clergymen, quickly established themselves as the new authority figures when official hostilities ended and they urged their followers to tolerate the occupation.

    There has also been virtually no violence in the north, where the majority Kurds had long built up their own institutions.

    But in restive Falluja, and places like it across the Sunni Muslim heartland of central Iraq, Saddam Hussein had so decimated the natural social hierarchy, Iraqis say, that no group could fill the political vacuum left by his ouster.

    Though certainly a pain in the short run, the destruction of tribalism anywhere is a good thing in the long run. You'd think though that it would be possible to unite everyone else in opposition to Saddam's tribe, which we've always been told he took good care of.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


    An interview with John Derbyshire (Kevin Holtsberry, 11 November 2003, Collected Miscellany)

    11) As a writer you seem very hard to pin down. Literary and well read but knowledgeable in math and computers; a novelist but uninterested in much philosophical introspection; a metrocon but sympathetic to paleocons, etc. Have you always been eclectic in your views and interests?

    You have put it very kindly. The truth is that I am a butterfly, without any really deep understanding of anything much--a dilettante, really. Most of my knowledge is pretty superficial. I was a terrible student—never really got good study habits. And it is not true that I am well read. I find it very difficult to read things that don't "catch" me. For example, I know next to nothing about American literature, most of which I find very dull. Conversely, I find it hard to stop reading stuff that DOES "catch" me. I read all 16 (as then was) of the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey-Maturin novels, one right after another. Same with Elmore Leonard: I just kept going back to the library for more. Then one day I was reading one, and I thought to myself: "Hey, I remember this Albanian character..." I had read my way all through Leonard's crime fiction, then started again. Nor is it really the case that I am sympathetic to paleocons. I think they are living in a fantasy world--this sleepy, righteous, agrarian republic, virtuously minding its own business here in the middle of nowhere. It's a fantasy: nobody's going to let us mind our own business, the world's too small. The reason I hang out with paleocons is that on a lot of topics they speak more honestly than "respectable" conservatives can, and I find that very refreshing. Don't get me wrong: there are good reasons for the self-imposed restraints that "respectable" conservative journalists like me accept--mainly, that we would be crucified by the liberal media establishment if we broached those limits, and have to give up opinionating and go find some boring office job somewhere. (This is probably going to happen to me sooner or later, actually. I am not very careful about what I say, having grown up in the era before Political Correctness, and never having internalized the necessary restraints. I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going. Of course, people will still be that way in their hearts, but they will be afraid to admit it, and will be punished if they do admit it. It is already illegal in Britain to express public disapproval of homosexuality--there have been several prosecutions. It will be the same here in 5-10 years, and I shall be out of a job. Fortunately I have marketable skills.) It's nice to know that there are people braver than we are, though. Kind of like watching the U.S. Marines in action.

    12) What is the biggest difference between living in the States and living abroad?

    Space. Everything's so spread out here. The other places I know well--England, China--are terribly crowded by comparison. I read somewhere that the population density in the Chinese countryside, in the fertile areas of the east and south lowlands, is higher than in the average American suburb. I believe it. And there are so many trees here! You can drive 20 miles north of New York City and see nothing but trees, all the way to the horizon. Amazing! Did you know that there are more trees in New York state today than there were 100 years ago?

    More deer too.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


    In addition to being Veterans Day, today is Poland's Independence Day. America and the Polish people have a long history of working together for freedom, though we were an unfaithful friend when we left them to the tender mercies of Stalin after WWII. Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud have a terrific new book out that details the relationship, the betrayal, and the real heroism of Polish aviators, in particular, in WWII.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM

    "W MADE ME DO IT":

    What If Kerry Had Voted Against The War? (Charlie Cook, Nov. 11, 2003, National Journal)

    When I first heard Monday that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts had just fired his presidential campaign manager, Jim Jordan, I immediately thought back to a conversation I had a month ago at a reception on Capitol Hill. Several people were discussing the race for the Democratic nomination, and I opined that the Kerry campaign's organizational problems were vastly overblown. In fact, I believed -- and still do --that they were virtually irrelevant to his slippage from the race's front-runner position.

    Instead, I suggested that the problem for Kerry, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and others in the race was that they were in a race with another candidate -- former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean -- whose campaign was on fire. Dean's candidacy had taken on a life of its own and this, as opposed to any intrinsic weaknesses on the part of his rivals, was what was holding them back. I equated it to a handful of guys in a poker game: Some were accomplished players, but the guy from Vermont sitting across the table from them was drawing the hot cards every hand. I suggested that all the rest of the field could do was to either to drop out of the race or hope that Dean's luck would turn and they would still be alive to capitalize on it.

    An older and much wiser journalist, a Washington bureau chief who was covering politics while I was still in Boy Scouts, turned to me and asked, "Where do you think Kerry and Dean would be if Kerry had voted against the war?" Like a thunderbolt from the sky, I instantly knew he
    was right. If Kerry had voted against the Iraq war, it is very likely that he would still be the front-runner and Dean would probably be an asterisk rather than the front-runner.

    That, in a nutshell, is why governors have so much easier a time running for the presidency than legislators--they don't have voting records on tough issues. Gephardt, Kerry, and Edwards had to insulate themselves against charges of being soft on terror for purposes of the general election--so they voted for war. But that vote kills them in the primary campaign. Guys like Dean and Clark can pontificate on both sides of the issue--as Bill Clinton did in 1991-2--precisely because they were never required to vote up or down on the war.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


    We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore (Brian C. Anderson, Autumn 2003, City Journal)

    The Left’s near monopoly over the institutions of opinion and information—which long allowed liberal opinion makers to sweep aside ideas and beliefs they disagreed with, as if they were beneath argument—is skidding to a startlingly swift halt. The transformation has gone far beyond the rise of conservative talk radio, that, ever since Rush Limbaugh’s debut 15 years ago, has chipped away at the power of the New York Times, the networks, and the rest of the elite media to set the terms of the nation’s political and cultural debate. Almost overnight, three huge changes in communications have injected conservative ideas right into the heart of that debate. Though commentators have noted each of these changes separately, they haven’t sufficiently grasped how, taken together, they add up to a revolution: no longer can the Left keep conservative views out of the mainstream or dismiss them with bromide instead of argument. Everything has changed.

    The first and most visible of these three seismic events: the advent of cable TV, especially Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel. Since its 1996 launch, Fox News has provided what its visionary CEO Roger Ailes calls a “haven” for viewers fed up with the liberal bias of the news media—potentially a massive audience, since the mainstream media stand well to the American people’s left. [...]

    What should make [Andrew Sullivan] positively giddy is the rise of the Internet, the second explosive change shaking liberal media dominance. It’s hard to overstate the impact that news and opinion websites like the Drudge Report, NewsMax, and Dow Jones’s OpinionJournal are having on politics and culture, as are current-event “blogs”—individual or group web diaries—like AndrewSullivan, InstaPundit, and “The Corner” department of NationalReviewOnline (NRO), where the editors and writers argue, joke around, and call attention to articles elsewhere on the web. This whole universe of web-based discussion has been dubbed the “blogosphere.”

    While there are several fine left-of-center sites, the blogosphere currently tilts right, albeit idiosyncratically, reflecting the hard-to-pigeonhole politics of some leading bloggers. Like talk radio and Fox News, the right-leaning sites fill a market void. “Many bloggers felt shut out by institutions that have adopted—explicitly or implicitly—a left-wing orthodoxy,” says Erin O’Connor, whose blog, Critical Mass, exposes campus PC gobbledygook. The orthodox Left’s blame-America-first response to September 11 has also helped tilt the blogosphere rightward. “There were damned few noble responses to that cursed day from the ‘progressive’ part of the political spectrum,” avers Los Angeles–based blogger and journalist Matt Welch, “so untold thousands of people just started blogs, in anger,” Welch among them. “I was pushed into blogging on September 16, 2001, in direct response to reading five days’ worth of outrageous bulls[tuff] in the media from people like Noam Chomsky and Robert Jensen.”

    For a frustrated citizen like Welch, it’s easy to get your ideas circulating on the Internet. Start-up costs for a blog are small, printing and mailing costs nonexistent. Few blogs make money, though, since advertisers are leery of the web and no one seems willing to pay to read anything on it.

    The Internet’s most powerful effect has been to expand vastly the range of opinion—especially conservative opinion—at everyone’s fingertips. “The Internet helps break up the traditional cultural gatekeepers’ power to determine a) what’s important and b) the range of acceptable opinion,” says former Reason editor and libertarian blogger Virginia Postrel. InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, agrees: “The main role of the Internet and blogosphere is to call the judgment of elites about what is news into question.” [...]

    The third big change breaking the liberal media stranglehold is taking place in book publishing. Conservative authors long had trouble getting their books released, with only Regnery Books, the Free Press, and Basic Books regularly releasing conservative titles. But following editorial changes during the 1990s, Basic and the Free Press published far fewer conservative-leaning titles, leaving Regnery pretty much alone.

    No more. Nowadays, publishers are falling over themselves to bring conservative books to a mainstream audience.

    One of the things that is most noticable about the nascent conservative media is the sheer joy its purveyors and partisans take in the battle of ideas and the gleeful willingness to engage the assumptions and policies of the Left. John Powers wrote well about the phenomenon last year, Bubble Wrap:
    The Nation vs. The Weekly Standard (John Powers, 8/30/02, LA Weekly)
    Back in the '60s, the left was the home of humor, iconoclasm, pleasure. But over the last two decades, the joy has gone out of the left -- it now feels hedged in by shibboleths and defeatism -- while the right has been having a gas, be it Lee Atwater grooving to the blues, Rush Limbaugh chortling about Feminazis or grimly gleeful Ann Coulter serving up bile as if it were chocolate mousse, even dubbing Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun of morning television." (Get your political allegiances straight, babe. Katie's the Madame Mao of morning television. You're Eva Braun.)

    These same high spirits course through The Standard, whose editor William Kristol constantly shows up on TV grinning like a catfish. His magazine features catchy covers, a reader-friendly layout, breezy headlines (a hit piece on Lula was called "Brazil's Nut") and a core of enjoyable writers, notably David Brooks, Christopher Caldwell (whose article on Islam in France is one of the best things I've read this year) and David Tell, probably the country's most compelling editorialist. Although driven by a devout ideological agenda -- it's for unfettered free trade and war on Iraq -- Kristol and executive editor Fred Barnes know how to mix things up, running a parody page (often mirthless, to be sure), funny articles by the likes of P.J. O'Rourke (who reminds us that reactionaries make better humorists than liberals) and sharp, short items designed to keep readers amused on that long march to Baghdad. Snappy and pointed, it's designed to compete in a world that has many magazines.

    NOT SO THE NATION, WHICH PRESENTS ITSELF AS less a treat than an obligation. In his new book, critic Hal Foster attacks the contemporary obsession with design, claiming "design abets a near-perfect circuit of production and consumption, without much running room for anything else." The same scolding puritanism is obviously at work in The Nation, whose visual presentation is mired in the same mentality that kept documentaries slathering folk music on their soundtracks decades after Dylan went electric -- as if being clueless were a badge of integrity. [...]

    In his embarrassing new book about Stalinism (he discovered it was murderous), Martin Amis shrewdly observes that the fall of communism liberated his pal Hitchens' writing by ending its ritual genuflections and obligatory defensiveness. The Nation itself enjoyed no such liberation. And so, rather than rethink the possibilities of a "progressive left" (to use one of its prize terms), the editors have remained content to belabor what its readers already know (e.g., Bush is a bum) while avoiding tough-minded journalistic coverage of the left. It settles for easy analysis, like suggesting that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney lost her renomination bid simply because of the Jewish money sent to defeat her. Is this really true? The left would be better served if the magazine investigated such claims rather than merely assuming their truth, although this would involve actually going to Georgia.

    While The Weekly Standard always lets you know what the establishment right is arguing about -- debates that affect government policy -- The Nation keeps getting lost in internecine bickering and naive boosterism. It covered Jesse Jackson's backside for years and (Hitchens aside) wasted page after page defending Bill Clinton as if he were a put-upon victim. Too often today, the magazine comes across like a house organ of the Democratic Party or a flaccid version of Media Whores Online. To judge from the gushing work of regular correspondent John Nichols (who writes like a gaga press agent), failed Clinton Cabinet member Robert Reich is a bold tribune of The People and Dennis Kucinich has a prayer of becoming president in 2004.

    Little wonder that the Left is losing the ideology wars when they refuse to engage on the ideas that actually matter in the culture at large and are so humorless when they discuss everything else.

    Posted by Paul Jaminet at 8:41 AM


    US colonel faces Iraq assault case (The Herald, 10/30/2003)

    An American officer who "coerced" an Iraqi prisoner into providing intelligence which foiled a potentially lethal ambush on his soldiers has been charged with assault.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Allen West, 42, of the 4th infantry division, admits firing his pistol twice near an Iraqi policeman.

    The colonel's unit occupied an area around Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town and the most dangerous section of the Sunni triangle where most US deaths have occurred since combat ended on May 1.

    On August 16, an informant told coalition authorities of a plot to assassinate West, then working with the governing council in Saba al Boor.

    A patrol from the colonel's command was ambushed that day and the informant revealed another attack was imminent, naming a policeman as one of its organisers.

    West sent two sergeants to arrest the officer, who was moved to a detention centre at nearby Taji airbase.

    When initial interrogation failed, the colonel took over the task himself.

    He fired two shots from his service automatic into a weapons bin outside the detention facility while the prisoner was held next to it, but insists he kept his body between the Iraqi and the bin.

    The policeman immediately identified the site of the ambush and named three resistance fighters assigned to carry it out. West informed his superior and passed on the identities of the fedayeen snipers....

    The colonel was charged with aggravated assault and offered the choice of resigning his commission and forfeiting 19 years of pensionable service or facing a court-martial....

    He has now been relieved of his command and transferred to non-combat duties. Two soldiers who handled the prisoner roughly have been fined.

    On this Veterans Day, let us honor not only those soldiers who killed evildoers in the past, but also soldiers like Allen West who this year scared or roughly handled an evildoer to save American lives. If the facts presented in this article are true, then Lt. Col. West has honorably waged war -- and those who would imprison and dishonor him are confirming the judgment of Spengler: we are unwilling to win this war.

    The persecution of Lt. Col. West is emblematic of a larger cult of persecution that increasingly permeates the law, especially among plaintiffs' attorneys, and seems to be endemic on the left. It is the cult of finding a scapegoat and punishing that goat: the cult of tearing down people. It professes the aim of deterring evil, but alas, it deters more than the action and person persecuted. Sydney Smith once wrote to Francis Jeffreys: "The whole effort of your mind is to destroy. Because others build slightly and eagerly, you employ yourself in kicking down their houses, and contract a sort of aversion for the more honorable, useful and difficult task of building well yourself." The cult of legalism is the same: its thrust is to destroy, and in punishing others for building imperfectly, it discourages everyone from building at all. Its logical end is a society of inactive and torporous persons -- a society of Monday morning critics, who do nothing themselves, but humiliate and punish a man like Allen West who risks his life on their behalf.

    The thrust of Christian spirituality is quite different from the cult of legalism. It forgives sin, yet encourages reaching for the highest standards of excellence: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone ... Go forth and sin no more." It offers the greatest of rewards -- eternal life in intimacy with Love itself -- as incentive; and condemns the lukewarm. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory:

    "[I]f we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.... We are far too easily pleased."

    The Christian spirit is not to persecute mistakes, but to encourage love -- hard work and sacrifice that builds a greater good. There is no greater love than this: to give up one's life for one's friends and countrymen. On Veterans Day, therefore, let us ponder: how can we do more to encourage men like Allen West to risk their lives in the service of their country?

    UPDATE: At this site you can sign an online petition in support of Lt. Col. West. (Thanks to Genecis for the link.)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


    SNAPSHOT: GEORGE W. BUSH (Margaret Warner, November 11, 1999, Online Newshour)

    MARGARET WARNER: Texas Governor George W. Bush made it official yesterday, traveling to the New Hampshire capital, Concord, to formally file for the state's first-in- the-nation primary.

    As stunning as it is to realize that George W. Bush was only now declaring his candidacy the last time around, even more surprising is to think about how much more clearly defined his candidacy was than are those of any of the Democrats running this time. You'd have had little trouble, even at that early date, describing the several ideas that Mr. Bush was running on: tax cuts, social security privatization, faith-based social services, education reform that included testing and vouchers, and missile defense. Sure, you might not know details--he may not even have set them all out by then--but you knew in rough detail what he'd do if he was elected.

    Try summarizing to yourself the plans of Howard Dean and what do you come up with: opposes the Iraq War but would stay; opposes the tax cuts and will repeal them; and what else? The other guys are even murkier. Lieberman, Gephardt and Kerry voted for the war but don't like it anymore but wouldn't quit either. All would repeal some portion or another of the tax cut. What else?

    Does the Left simply have no ideas any more. or are they afraid to articulate the ones they do have? Where's a Democrat who will, like George W. Bush, tell us exactly what they want to do with the presidency?

    Democratic Quagmire (Geov Parrish, 11/05/03, Seattle Weekly)

    LAST WEEK, IF YOU went to www.john and followed the links to discover Kerry's thoughts on Iraq, you would finally reach the prompt: "What is Kerry's plan to win the peace in Iraq? Read here."

    Clicking the link took you back to Kerry's home page.

    Kerry's Web team inadvertently captured perfectly the problem Iraq presents to the nine major Democratic presidential hopefuls. All agree that President Bush has made a mess of things. But they've been so busy harping on Dubya's failures that few of us have any idea what any of them would do. There's this nagging suspicion that they don't know what they'd do. Ask, and they're likely to send you back to their home page: "Bush bad. Me good."

    The reality is that no matter how flawed Bush's reasons for invading Iraq, the invasion happened. No matter how poorly planned the occupation has been, the U.S. still controls Iraq. No matter how corrupt the no-bid reconstruction projects have been, contracts are being signed and fortunes are being made. And no matter how absurd the mandate of American soldiers is, the bombs, grenades, bullets, and homemade mortars being fired at them are deadly, and the weapons they're firing back are deadlier still.

    IF EVER THERE were a time this country needed to set aside sound-bite politics and have a serious discussion of what to do next, this would be it.

    Dream on.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


    The African Century? (Phillip E. Johnson, October 2003, Touchstone)

    I was recently reminded of the importance of this new geography of religion when pondering the symbolic significance of the reception at Georgetown University's commencement ceremony in May of the Nigerian cardinal, Francis Arinze, who presides over the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican and whose name frequently comes up in speculation about the election of the next pope.

    According to reports of the Georgetown incident, Cardinal Arinze offended Georgetown's liberals when he referred disapprovingly in his commencement address to the negative effect on the family of contraception, abortion, infanticide, homosexuality, and euthanasia. These comments, especially the reference to homosexuality, inspired some students and faculty to walk out of the ceremony and produced continuing protests from the dominant factions of the Georgetown community, who evidently consider that it is for them to teach faith and morals to the cardinal, rather than for him to teach these subjects to them.

    The symbolism of the event, including the protest, captivated my imagination. The last time a pope was chosen, it was a bold and marvelously appropriate step to choose a man from a Catholic country suffering under Communist oppression. This first Polish pope soon played a major role in liberating his own country and eventually in bringing a welcome end to the Soviet empire. In the very different conditions of today, it would be another bold and marvelously appropriate step to select an African pope, especially so if the man were a cardinal whose special expertise is in Christian-Islamic dialogue. Such a pope could make a fresh start in imposing much-needed discipline on wayward bishops and in calling Catholics and the rest of us back to the basic principles of family morality, which we often seem to have forgotten. If all that were to happen, I think it would not be many years before the climate even at Georgetown University took a sharp turn towards sanity and orthodoxy.

    What could be more fun than listening to the Left try to attack a black Pope without being un-PC?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 AM


    Veterans History Project (American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress)

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 AM


    SPEAKING OF THE MATRIX (Edward Driscoll, 11/10/03)

    One of the trailers before The Matrix: Revolutions was Disney's The Alamo, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett, and scheduled for a Christmas release. My mind started going through my Hollywood checklist, as my hackles started to raise...

    Many of you will have had coonskin caps and flintlocks when you were kids, thanks to Disney's series Davy Crockett. Wait'll you see what the PC nitwits at Disney did this time...

    November 10, 2003

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


    Survey data help explain GOP victories in Kentucky, Mississippi (MIKE MOKRZYCKI, November 10, 2003, Associated Press)

    The exit polls in the Nov. 4 elections were the first conducted for the National Election Pool, a consortium formed by The Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC after they disbanded Voter News Service following blown projections in 2000 and computer failures in 2002.

    The data weren't released until Monday so that the pollsters -- Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International -- could validate the results from this initial live run of their new systems. An Edison/Mitofsky exit poll in last month's California gubernatorial recall election used older systems.

    The surveys in 35 randomly selected precincts in each state included 1,861 interviews in Kentucky and 1,859 in Mississippi. Results are subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for individual groups such as black voters.

    In Mississippi, 33 percent of voters were black -- 3 to 6 points higher than in VNS exit polls in the past three presidential elections -- and 94 percent of them voted to re-elect Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

    But 77 percent of whites backed Barbour, propelling the Washington lobbyist and former national Republican chairman to victory with 53 percent of the overall vote.

    Black turnout may have gotten a boost in Mississippi because Democratic nominees in two down-ballot races were black. Both lost, however, as just 8 percent of whites voted for Barbara Blackmon for lieutenant governor and only 22 percent of whites backed Gary Anderson for treasurer.

    Man, that's stark.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 PM


    Damascus to withdraw 5,000 from Lebanon: Syria concerned with new tone in Washington (Joseph Farah, November 10, 2003,

    Now that the U.S. Congress has nearly finished a bill that allows President Bush to sanction Syria for support of terrorism, Damascus will withdraw some 5,000 of its occupying troops from Lebanon in an effort to reduce the growing pressure, according to Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin. [...]

    Arab diplomatic sources said Syria has conveyed to Lebanon a decision to remove some 5,000 Syrian troops from Beirut and the central region of Lebanon. The withdrawal will probably occur over the next two weeks as Congress completes work on the legislation and sends it to President Bush to sign.

    Nevertheless, Syria will still have between 30,000 and 50,000 troops in Lebanon after that pullout. The bill requires Syria to stop supporting terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon, halt production of weapons of mass destruction and cut off aid to Iraqi guerrillas if it seeks to avoid sanctions. Among the penalties for non-compliance, the United States would prohibit sales to Syria of dual-use items and the president would be required to impose two of six penalties.

    Those penalties are banning exports to Syria, prohibiting U.S. businesses from operating in Syria, restricting the movement of Syrian diplomats in the United States, blocking the flights of Syrian airlines to the United States, reducing diplomatic contacts with Syria and freezing Syrian assets in the United States.

    Withdraw them all and we'll talk.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM


    Strangers in the House: When Catholics in the Media Turned Against the Church (Mark Gauvreau Judge, November 2003, Crisis)

    A few years ago I picked up a new copy of Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and was pleasantly surprised to notice that the newest edition comes with extras that were added in 1998—an introduction by Robert Giroux and “A Note to the Reader” by William H. Shannon, the president of the International Thomas Merton Society. Giroux’s introduction is a fine one, a short reflection on Merton and the story of how Storey became a surprise best-seller. Shannon’s piece—not to put too fine a point on it—is an offensive, smug, anti-Catholic disaster. It really isn’t too much to call it a calumny and a defacement.

    The problem can be boiled down to four paragraphs under the title “Religious Atmosphere.” It serves as a warning that the reader is about to step into a toxic atmosphere: WARNING…ENTERING PRE-VATICAN II CATHOLICISM. “The Roman Catholic Church you encounter in this book,” Shannon pronoun-ces, “is almost light years removed from the church that we recognize as the Roman Catholic Church today. Today’s church is the product of the revolution (not too strong a term) set in motion by the Second Vatican Council.” [...]

    Chesteron once remarked that he loved the Catholic Church because it had prevented him from becoming a child of his age. William Shannon, sadly, is very much a child of his age, as are his Catholic compatriots in the media. I daresay that in a hundred years, his introduction to Merton’s masterpiece will seem far more dated than the text it introduces. Indeed, it is Merton who gets the last word on Shannon. It occurs when Merton realizes the error of his old life:

    I saw clearly enough that I was the product of my times, my society, and my class. I was something that had been spawned by the selfishness and irresponsibility of the materialistic century in which I lived. However, what I did not see was that my own age and class only had an accidental part to play in this. They gave my egoism and pride and my other sins a peculiar character of weak and supercilious flippancy proper to this particular century: but that was only on the surface. Underneath, it was the same old story of greed and lust and self-love, of the three concupiscences bred in the rich, rotted undergrowth of what is technically called “the world,” in every age, in every class.

    Here's what you get when you descend into the rotted undergrowth, Matrix Revolutions (James Lileks, 11/07/03, The Bleat) (via Ed Driscoll):
    I took away something else from the Matrix trilogy: it is a product of deeply confused people. They want it all. They want individualism and community; they want secularism and transcendence; they want the purity of committed love and the licentious fun of an S&M club; they want peace and the thrill of violence; they want God, but they want to design him on their own screens with their own programs by their own terms for their own needs, and having defined the divine on their own terms, they bristle when anyone suggests they have simply built a room with a mirror and flattering lighting. All three Matrix movies, seen in total, ache for a God. But they can’t quite go all the way. They’re like three movies about circular flat meat patties that can never quite bring themselves to say the word “hamburger.”

    Artists, if for no other reason than aesthetics, really need to be of the party of God. After all, it's a tall order to dress up selfishness and materialism so that they're pleasing to behold--for who among us enjoys the selfishness and acquisitiveness of others in the way we enjoy our own?--and if you portray nothing but the moment you live in your art is doomed to be awfully transitory, an artifact of the age, rather than an icon for the ages.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


    RULING THE WAVES: Patrick O’Brian’s epic series comes to the screen. (ANTHONY LANE, 2003-11-10, The New Yorker)

    The new Peter Weir film is called “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” and what a mouthful it is. There are sailors in this movie who can load and fire a twelve-pounder in less time than some viewers will take to pronounce the title. The reason for the ungainliness is that Weir and his co-writer, John Collee, have packed a brace of novels by the late Patrick O’Brian—titled, yes, “Master and Commander” and “The Far Side of the World”—into a solid lump of narrative, lasting a little more than two hours. Should sequels ensue, the choice of material may prove inexhaustible, for O’Brian left us twenty volumes of his naval saga, of which this movie plunders mainly from the first and the tenth. If the moviegoing public warms to the unpartable pair of friends around whom the series turns—Jack Aubrey, captain of H.M.S. Surprise, and Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon—then, rest assured, there are plenty more tales for the telling. [...]

    Be advised that “Master and Commander” is a men-only movie, although some of the men are boys. It is a shock to be reminded of the beardless age at which the sons of good families used to be pushed into the service. Early in the film, as if to confirm just how dour a life at sea can be, Midshipman Blakeney (Max Pirkis) loses his shattered right arm to Stephen’s saw. Pirkis looks as fair and unknowing as Mark Lester did in “Oliver!,” and the scene is salutary to a fault; it signals that we are in for a sombre trip, and the ensuing hours are marked as much by creaking unease as by flurries of derring-do. In fact, there is more derring-don’t in “Master and Commander” than one might have expected, and the earlier Weir film that it most resembles is not “The Mosquito Coast,” or even “The Year of Living Dangerously,” but “The Last Wave,” his ominous chiller of 1977. Moreover, some of Crowe’s line readings are so low and growly that you must strain to catch them; we have come a long way since the ocean was the province of lithe, laughing hearties such as Burt Lancaster and Errol Flynn, and I for one was relieved when this movie neared its climax, threw off its sullen mood, and allowed Captain Jack to cry, “Quick’s the word and sharp’s the action.” And sharp it is, too, kicked by the recoil of the cannons and the lunge of swords.

    Young Blakeney is in the thick of it, assuming command of the Surprise while her master swings aboard another ship. With his remaining arm, the kid has literally become a half-Nelson, agog with the flush of victory, and we see in his exploits, as in those of Stephen and Jack, the thrust of O’Brian’s epic. What the novels leave us with, and what emerges more fitfully from this film, as if in shafts of sunlight, is the growing realization that, although our existence is indisputably safer, softer, cleaner, and more dependable than the lives led by Captain Aubrey and his men, theirs were in some immeasurable way better—richer in possibility, and more regularly entrancing to the eye and spirit alike. As Stephen says of the Iliad, “The book is full of death, but oh so living.” Just so; if you died on board the Surprise, it would not be for want of having lived.

    Sounds far better than most feared.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


    FIRE AND ICE (David Frum, 11/09/03, National Review)

    Canada and the United States are different – and becoming more so. That is the bold thesis of Fire and Ice, a new book by one of Canada’s best-known pollsters, Michael Adams of Environics Research. On a recent trip across Canada, I was asked so often about Adams’ work that I realized I was witnessing the birth of a new orthodoxy.

    So I bought Fire and Ice at a bookstore in the Ottawa airport and read it carefully. I was so astonished by what I saw there that I sat down this past weekend and read it again. The second reading was even more disturbing than the first. The more carefully one studies it, the more apparent it becomes that this fall’s leading Canadian high-brow bestseller is an intellectual card-trick.

    Mr. Adams's thesis is so unexceptional it's hard to believe he needed to jigger the numbers.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


    Saint Ronald, Part 2: Richard Pipes' new memoir adds ballast to CBS's miniseries. (Timothy Noah, Nov. 6, 2003, Slate)

    Richard Pipes is an eminent scholar of Russian history who taught at Harvard for many years. In the early 1980s Pipes served on President Reagan's National Security Council staff, where he successfully pushed for a hard line against the Soviets. Pipes has recently published a memoir, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, in which he recounts his years in Cambridge and Washington. Sam Tanenhaus, who profiled Pipes in the Nov. 2 Boston Globe, alerted Chatterbox that Pipes' book was quite blunt about Ronald Reagan's lack of mental and emotional engagement during his presidency, a subject made newsworthy by the cancellation of CBS's miniseries The Reagans, which reportedly portrays the 40th president as a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

    "Reagan," Pipes writes,

    was a poor judge of people; he basically liked everyone, which was part of his charm but also a source of weakness, for a politician must be able to distinguish friend from foe. … Reagan was remote: even his children complained they could never get close to him. His amiability served as a shield that protected him from more intimate relationships. He drew on his inexhaustible reservoir of anecdotes to avoid serious conversation. …

    Unquestionably, Reagan's political and economic ideas were in some respects simplistic: I once heard him say that one million Sears Roebuck catalogues distributed in the Soviet Union would bring the regime down. …

    Pipes goes on to say that Reagan nonetheless "instinctively understood, as all great statesman do, what matters and what does not." Pipes resolves this seeming contradiction by arguing that in dealing with Soviet Russia, "you must have a simple mind," because "the USSR was a crude system, based on force and the exploitation of fear." Reagan apparently fit the bill.

    This not only fits the Hedgehog/Fox analysis below, but demonstrates how little the foxes comprehend the hedgehog. One needn't argue with Mr. Noah's apparent assumption that Ronald Reagan was an amiable dunce in order to recognize how he pushes his point to far. Note the prominent mention of Harvard and then the assertion that Mr. Pipes "successfully pushed for a hard line against the Soviets". Pushed who? Obviously not Ronald Reagan, who, after all, hired him. In fact, Mr. Pipes had been a rather lonely voice, crying in the wilderness, until Mr. Reagan--the graduate of Eureka--put him in a position to influence policy.

    As for the excerpt from Mr. Pipes, it would seem a perfect instance of hedgehog wisdom. One recalls the famous Nixon-Khrushchev kitchen debate, in which the premier of the Soviet Union had so little comprehension of Western life that he refused to believe that a basic set of appliances could possibly be accessible to the average American family. He assumed he was being shown our version of a Potemkin village. How big a stretch is it to say that if the Soviets had understood just how far behind us they really were in terms of affluence it would have destabilized their system?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


    Does financial aid cause tuition increases? (Christopher Shea, 11/9/2003, Boston Globe)

    REPUBLICANS IN the House of Representatives have lately been asking a question that makes the higher education establishment very nervous: Does federal financial aid simply give colleges an excuse to raise tuition higher and faster than they otherwise would?

    When then-Secretary of Education William J. Bennett made the argument 16 years ago in a New York Times op-ed titled "Our Greedy Colleges," most higher-education economists rejected it as simplistic and ideologically convenient. But the thesis is getting a new hearing in these times of endlessly skyrocketing tuition and government budget deficits. According to a report by the College Board issued last month, tuition at private colleges is up six percent (to an average of $19,700) this year, while in-state tuition at four-year public colleges jumped 14 percent, to $4,700.

    The federal government will provide about $65 billion in grants and loans to students this year, but there is unlikely to be much more additional money in coming years. Whether from necessity or principle, some Republicans now argue that holding the line on aid might be just the ticket to keep college costs down. (Last month, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would withhold federal grants from colleges that raised tuition at more than twice the rate of inflation.)

    Colleges, however, say a failure to increase federal financial aid would hurt poor students. And most economists who study tuition seem skeptical of the idea that aid has gone from being part of the solution to part of the problem. "I don't think the evidence that that has occurred is particularly strong," says Ronald G. Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

    Is there a theory of economics that holds that if you gave consumers $65 billion a year that could only be spent on widgets that the price of widgets would be unaffected? One that isn't propounded by an employee of the widget makers?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


    Poll: Jindal edges Blanco: Racial, regional differences emerge. (John Hill, November 8, 2003, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser)

    Republican Bobby Jindal, leading Democrat Kathleen Blanco by five points, was nearing the 50 percent majority with likely voters, according to a Daily Advertiser/Louisiana Gannett poll taken this week.
    Forty-eight percent favored Jindal, and 43 percent Blanco. [...]

    Both Jindal and Blanco are household names: 98 percent of those polled recognized their names, and only one out of four had neutral opinions about them. Jindal had an edge in favorable/unfavorable ratios. [...]

    University of Louisiana at Monroe political scientist Pearson Cross said Blanco needs a greater percentage of white votes.

    "Right now, Kathleen Blanco is not at the magic number that will get a Democrat elected," Cross said. "She is at 29 percent, but needs to be at 32 to 34 of the white vote, and a very strong black turnout that votes for her."

    "Louisiana is getting more and more like the rest of the country," Cross said. ìI cannot detect in these poll numbers any effect of Jindal's ethnicity, but you can see there may be some anti-woman backlash among black males. Black males are significantly stronger in their support for Jindal than black females."

    "Black males are starting to vote like white males," he said.

    If that last line ever became true, Bill Clinton might be our last Democratic president.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM

    ONCE MORE INTO THE BREECH... (via Bruce Cleaver):

    Opening ceremony with kasparov and x3d at the espnzone in times square (Kasparov vs. X3D Fritz, Nov. 7, 2003)

    The match was officially opened and all the VIPs were in Times Square. ESPN, which will show over 17 hours of the match live, hosted the opening ceremony at the famous ESPNZone on Broadway. Kasparov expressed optimism and spoke at length about the new challenges presented by X3D Fritz.

    Game 1 is tomorrow at 1pm, apparently live on ESPN2

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:54 PM

    PROUD FEW (via ef brown):

    Marine Corps Celebrates 228th Anniversary (Marine Corps News, November 4, 2003)

    November 10, 1775: a date all U.S. Marines are familiar with. This year marks the Corps' 228th anniversary, and whether they're manning far-flung posts or accomplishing stateside duties, all Marines will find ways to celebrate. [...]

    Formal commemoration of the birthday of the Marine Corps began Nov. 10, 1921. That particular date was chosen because on that day the Second Continental Congress resolved in 1775 to raise two battalions of Continental Marines.

    Until 1921, the birthday of the Corps had been celebrated on another date. An unidentified newspaper clipping from 1918 refers to the celebration of the 120th birthday of the Marine Corps on July 11 "as usual with no fuss." It is doubtful that there was any real celebration at all. Further inspection of documents and publications prior to 1921 shows no evidence of ceremonies, pageants, or parties. The July date was commemorated between 1798 and 1921 as the birthday of the Corps. During the Revolution, Marines had fought on land and sea, but at the close of that conflict, the Corps and the Navy were all but disbanded. On July 11, 1798, President John Adams approved a bill that recreated the Corps, thereby providing the rationale for this day being commemorated as the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

    On Oct. 21, 1921, Maj. Edwin McClellan of the Corps' historical branch, sent a memorandum to then Commandant Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune, suggesting that the original birthday on November 10, 1775 be declared a Marine Corps holiday to be celebrated throughout the Corps. McClellan further suggested that a dinner be held in Washington to commemorate the event. Guests would include prominent men from the Marine Corps, Army, and Navy, and descendants of the Revolution.

    Accordingly, on Nov. 1, 1921, Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. The order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps, and directed that it be read to every command on Nov. 10 each subsequent year in honor of the birthday of the Marine Corps. This order has been duly carried out.

    The uniqueness of the Marine spirit was never more apparent than in the recent Stars & Stripes survey of troop morale in Iraq:
    The morale results diverged markedly between different types of troops. Nearly 50 percent of part-time reservists and National Guard ranked their morale as "low" or "very low," compared with one third of regular Army troops, 14 percent of Marines, and just 6 percent of the few Air Force personnel who were surveyed.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


    Bishop's anti-gay comments spark legal investigation (Richard Alleyne, 10/11/2003, Daily Telegraph)

    A bishop who angered homosexuals by suggesting they seek a psychiatric cure is to be investigated by police to see if his outspoken views amount to a criminal offence, it emerged yesterday.

    The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, infuriated homosexuals both in and out of the Church of England when he said last week that they could and should seek medical help to "reorientate" themselves.

    The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (the LGCM) accused him of putting forward an "offensive" and "scandalous" argument from a bygone age.

    Cheshire Police have said that they are to investigate his comments, made in the local paper, the Chester Chronicle, after receiving a complaint that his views may incite people to turn against homosexuals. [...]

    He told the newspaper that his research had led him to believe that homosexuals should seek medical help.

    He said: "Some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves. I would encourage them to consider that as an option, but I would not set myself up as a medical specialist on the subject - that's in the area of psychiatric health."

    Talk about the inmates running the Asylum...

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


    Kerry Shakes Up Campaign Staff (CBS News, Nov. 10, 2003)

    Democratic candidate John Kerry fired his campaign manager Sunday night in an attempt shake up his beleaguered presidential bid.

    Jim Jordan was ousted by the Massachusetts senator and his campaign chair, Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire, and replaced by longtime Democratic operative Mary Beth Cahill.

    Sources said that Jordan was told by Kerry the reason he was dismissed was because changes were needed in the campaign.

    The problem seems to be the candidate, rather than the staff. Ask yourself this: what is the point of the Kerry campaign? What is it he wants to do for the country? ? ? ?

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


    Al-Qaeda faces Arab backlash: Mideast nations infuriated by slaughter of Muslim women, children during Ramadan (Scott Stinson and Allan Woods, November 10, 2003, National Post)

    A deadly weekend bomb attack on a predominantly Arab housing compound in Riyadh has sparked outrage among Muslim leaders. Intelligence officials say the backlash could be a turning point in the U.S.-led war on terror. [...]

    Residents of the compound in the Saudi capital practise a liberal form of Islam, making them targets of terrorists who consider that a betrayal of the faith.

    Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the 22-member Arab League, said he "condemns in the strongest terms the criminal and terrorist actions which have no purpose except threatening stability, planning evil and terrorizing and killing civilians."

    He also decried the targeting of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, a sentiment shared in condemnations from leaders of Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iran.

    "Criminal acts like these ... cannot be the work of real Muslims, because the Islamic religion forbids the killing of peaceful people," Rafik al-Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, said in a statement. "They are the work of those who are the enemies of religion and humanity alike." [...]

    By slaughtering women and children, the officials said, the terrorists broke the code that binds tribal Muslims, handing police a unique opportunity to infiltrate the dozens of terrorist cells operating in Saudi Arabia, where al-Qaeda gains much of its financial and ideological support.

    The security angles of this turn of events are obvious, but there's a more subtle opportunity presented to. There's been much debate--little of it edifying--about whether Islam is truly a "religion of peace" or not and how much it resembles its fellow monotheisms. There's also some question about the extent to which al Qaeda can even be said to be Muslim in nature. None of these issues are important if we just take advantage of the fact that they exist, and if Islam does too, and use the notion of an inherently violent strain in or of Islam as a point of departure against which the rest of Islam can react. The much needed Reformation of Islam can more easily take place in the context of a cleaning up of its own house than a response to Western pressures--which is not to say that George W. Bush should relax the pressure we've been applying. We must regret the loss of life involved, but not be bashful about recognizing that every bomb that al Qaeda sets off gets us closer to our goal than it does them to theirs.

    Why Al-Qaida is attacking the Saudi Kingdom (Walid Phares, Ph D, November 10, 2003, Townhall)

    Since I have been asked to analyze them since the Fall of 2001, I have always argued that Bin Laden's tapes have to be taken seriously. When he called his Mujahedeen to attack infidels around the Middle East last October on an audiotape released on al-Jazeera, he was, in fact, issuing orders. (See )

    And those orders are now in effect.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


    Democratic foxes and a Republican hedgehog (Suzanne Fields, November 10, 2003,

    Coinciding with Zell Miller's new book is the publication of the paperback version of Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism, by Hoover scholar Peter Schweizer. It's worth reading - or re-reading. Writing from letters and archival papers heretofore kept secret, he places Ronald Reagan at the heart of the conservative ideology that triumphed over the Cold War.

    He cites the ancient fable of the fox and hedgehog to explain the difference between Ronald Reagan and certain prominent contemporary Democrats: The hedgehog focuses on one big thing, the foxes run off in several directions at once. Jimmy Carter was a fox. Ronald Reagan was a hedgehog. "The 'one big thing' Reagan knew was the power and value of human freedom, which proved to be the defining principle of his worldview."

    Mr. Reagan accelerated the arms race with the Soviet Union for two reasons - to build up American defenses against a lethal enemy and to destroy the Russian economy as it tried to keep up. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was crucial to this strategy and Mikhail Gorbachev, no dummy he, understood that. He offered great concessions to President Reagan if he would give up SDI. But the president knew better.

    "If we truly believe that our way of life is best," he asked, "aren't the Russians more likely to recognize that fact and modify their stand if we let their economy become unhinged, so the contrast is apparent?" It was a strategy that worked. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down and the rest is history.

    We'd be the last to deny the centrality of freedom to Ronald Reagan's vision of the world, but when it comes to Star Wars both Left and Right have tended to underestimate the influence of an even simpler idea and they do so for the same reason, that it is an idea that links Mr. Reagan directly to the Left. He took seriously the threat of nuclear annihilation and found it morally intolerable that mankind lived under its shadow. Thus, in the speech in which he announced SDI, he asked the following question:
    What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

    Note that what he's most concerned about here not even that we might be attacked but that we might be forced to use nuclear weapons ourselves. In a very real sense, SDI was to be a limitation on us and only incidentally on them.

    To that extent, we can see that the one thing that Ronald Reagan knew, hedgehoglike, was that Man is Fallen and, therefore, inevitably prone to terrible actions. If he was our greatest modern advocate of human freedom--and that seems a fair assessment--it was because he knew that men will always be tempted to dismiss, dominate, even kill one another and that genuine freedom requires that we be secure from the threat we thereby pose each other.

    Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


    Shock Troops of the Right Wing (David Morris, November 7, 2003 , AlterNet)

    Three events in the past two weeks have demonstrated how frighteningly effective and coordinated the right-wing coalition of church, state and ground-level shock troops has become.

    Exhibit A, of course, is the decision by CBS not to show its biographical mini-series about Ronald Reagan on network television. [...]

    Exhibit B is the decision by the Florida legislature to overturn the courts and order the hospital to re-connect Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. [...]

    Exhibit C is the decision by Browning Construction Co., one of Texas' largest construction companies, to back out of a project to build a clinic for Planned Parenthood. A right-wing coalition of religious activists and Republican Party faithful stopped construction 30 days after it began. Leading the effort was a newly created group -- the Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association. The Association's chairman, Chris Danze, labeled Planned Parenthood, "a social movement that promotes sexual chaos, especially of our youth."

    The Association's boycott of the project achieved complete success. Every concrete sup