March 31, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Missions Incredible: South Korea sends more missionaries than any country but the U.S. And it won't be long before it's number one (Rob Moll, 02/24/2006, Christianity Today)

Samuel Kang was God's improbable choice to be a leader in the world's fastest-growing missionary movement. Kang was born in Japan when the Japanese empire was forcing alien Shinto beliefs down Korean throats.

At the end of World War II, the Kang family returned to Korea and grew deeply fervent in their Christian faith. The Kangs dedicated Samuel to God, and they told him, "You will become a pastor."

Kang rebelled. "I did not want to accept my parents' dedication of me to God without my consent," he says. For years, he resisted God's call. But by the time he was 20, Samuel's heart softened, and he felt compelled to give himself to God. "No one can escape from his sovereign call," Kang says.

It took another 20 years of discipling and discernment before Kang set foot on a mission field. At age 39, Kang and his wife, Sarah (who had discovered her own call to missions work), left South Korea for Nigeria. When they departed in 1980, there were only 93 Korean missionaries worldwide.

During the next 11 years, Samuel and Sarah Kang raised a family, planted Nigerian churches, and started a Bible college for Nigerian pastors. Kang's eyes sparkle as he recalls his days in Africa. "The Lord gave me this wonderful opportunity to serve him," he says. "If God gives me another life, may I give it to him as a missionary."

Kang doesn't look backward very often. Now 64 years old, with silvery hair and a gentle smile, he is leading an ambitious 25-year plan to help South Korea send out more missionaries than any other country.

Kang is chief executive director of the Korean World Mission Association and dean of the Graduate School of World Mission at Seoul's influential Chongshin University. He has helped move South Korean missions into a place never before imagined: South Korea today sends out more missionaries than any other country except the United States. In terms of missionaries per congregation, Korea sends one missionary for every 4.2 congregations, which places it 11th in the world. (The U.S. does not rank in the top 10.)

But more than that, mission scholars agree that Koreans are a potent vanguard for an emerging missionary movement that is about to eclipse centuries of Western-dominated Protestant missions. They call it the "majority-world" mission movement. They say this new term—"majority world"—is necessary to replace the aging terms "third world" and "developing world." The radical change in Protestant missions is forcing scholars and missionaries to create new ways of talking about the global scene.

The global majority (5.2 billion people) live in less developed nations. Of the world's 6.4 billion people, less than 18 percent live in developed nations. Scholars say the church's future in large measure rests in the hands of the global majority.

"The day of Western missionary dominance is over, not because Western missionaries have died off," says Scott Moreau, chair of intercultural studies at Wheaton College (Illinois), "but because the rest of the world has caught the vision and is engaged and energized."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


'Let the prisoners pick the fruits' (AP, 3/31/06)

"I say let the prisoners pick the fruits," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, one of more than a dozen Republicans who took turns condemning a Senate bill that offers an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants an opportunity for citizenship.

"Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter 'A,'" said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, referring to a guest worker provision in the Senate measure.

You can't make these guys look as stupid as they are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


Insurgents Justify Release of Jill Carroll in Web Tape (ABC News, March 30, 2006)

ABC News has found a video on an insurgent Web site showing U.S. reporter Jill Carroll before she was released by her captors in Iraq. The circumstances surrounding the video are unclear and it is equally unclear whether Carroll was under duress during the taping.

The tape appears to have been made earlier today, before Carroll's captors released her, but the time of the taping has not yet been confirmed by ABC News. [...]

Voice: Do you have a message for Mr. Bush?

Carroll: (Laughs)Yeah, he needs to stop this war. He knows this war is wrong. He knows that it was illegal from the very beginning. He knows that it was built on a mountain of lies and I think he needs to finally admit that to the American people and make the troops go home and he doesn't care about his own people.

He doesn't care about the people here in Iraq, he needs to wake up and the people of America need to wake up and tell that what he's done here is wrong and so hopefully this time he can get the message that this war was wrong and the continuing occupation is wrong adn he could change his policies. He's dangerous for Iraq. He's dangerous for America. He needs to accept that and admit that to people.

Voice: Do you think the Mujahedeen will win against the American Army?

Carroll: Oh definitely. Things are very clear to see even now they're already winning. Everyday there are soldiers killed. Everyday humvees are blown up. Helicopters are shot down from the skies. Everyday, it's very clear that the Mujahedeen have the skills and the ability and the desire and the good reasons to fight that'll make them ensure that they will win.

Voice: What do you feel now that the Mujahedeen are giving you your freedom while there are still women in Abu Ghraib living in very bad (unclear)?

Carroll: Well, I feel guilty honestly. I've been here, treated very well, like a guest. I've been given good food, never, never hurt while those women are in Abu Ghraib. Terrible things are happening to them with the American soldiers are torturing them and other things I don't want, I can't even say, so I feel guilty and I also feels it shows the difference between the Mujahedeen and Americans, the Mujahedeen are merciful and kind that's why I'm free and alive. The American army they aren't [...not clear...] I feel guilty and I also feel that it just shows that Mujahedeen are good people, fighting an honorable fight, a good fight while the Americans are here as an occupying force treating the people in a very, very bad way so I can't be happy totally for my freedom, there are people still suffering in prisons and very difficult situations.

It's easy enough to believe she was subjected to coercion in the making of the tape, but hard to square with her statements that she was surprised to be released and was treated well, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


Bush Wanted War (Richard Cohen, March 30, 2006, Washington Post)

There remains, though, the little matter of what was in Bush's gut -- not his head, mind you, but that elusive place where emotion resides. It was there, in the moments after 9/11, that Bush truly decided on war, maybe because Saddam had once tried to kill George H.W. Bush, maybe because the neocons had convinced him that a brief war in Iraq would have long-term salutary consequences for the entire Middle East, maybe because he could not abide the thought that a monster like Saddam might die in his sleep -- and maybe because he heard destiny calling.

Whatever Bush's specific reason or reasons, the one thing that's so far missing from the record is proof of him looking for a genuine way out of war instead of looking for a way to get it started. Bush wanted war.

Was Mr. Cohen living in the United States in 2000? If so, how could he have not known that a President Bush, or a President Gore for that matter, was going to remove Saddam sooner or later?
Bush/Gore on S. Hussein/Iraq/Sanctions (2nd Presidential Debate-11 Oct 00)
MODERATOR: People watching here tonight are very interested in Middle East policy, and they are so interested they want to base their vote on differences between the two of you as president how you would handle Middle East policy. Is there any difference?

GORE: I haven't heard a big difference in the last few exchanges.

BUSH: That's hard to tell. I think that, you know, I would hope to be able to convince people I could
handle the Iraqi situation better.

MODERATOR: Saddam Hussein, you mean, get him out of there?

BUSH: I would like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. We don't know --
there are no inspectors now in Iraq, the coalition that was in place isn't as strong as it used to be. He is a danger. We don't want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it's going to be hard, it's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.

MODERATOR: You feel that is a failure of the Clinton administration?

BUSH: I do.

GORE: Well, when I got to be a part of the current administration, it was right after -- I was one of the few members of my political party to support former President Bush in the Persian Gulf War resolution, and at the end of that war, for whatever reason, it was not finished in a way that removed Saddam Hussein from power. I know there are all kinds of circumstances and explanations. But the fact is that that's the situation that was left when I got there. And we have maintained the sanctions. Now I want to go further. I want to give robust support to the groups that are trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and I know there are allegations that they're too weak to do it, but that's what they said about the forces that were opposing Milosevic in Serbia, and you know, the policy of enforcing sanctions against Serbia has just resulted in a spectacular victory for democracy just in the past week, and it seems to me that having taken so long to see the sanctions work there, building upon the policy of containment that was successful over a much longer period of time against the former Soviet Union in the communist block, seems a little early to declare that we should give up on the sanctions. I know the governor's not necessarily saying that but, you know, all of these flights that have come in, all of them have been in accordance with the sanctions regime, I'm told, except for three where they notified, and they're trying to break out of the box, there's no question about it. I don't think they should be allowed to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM


Nobel Laureate Rips Ernest Hemingway And Henry James (NY Sun, March 30, 2006)

The 2001 Nobel laureate for literature, Sir V.S. Naipaul, 73, has launched an extraordinary assault upon his fellow writers, including some literary giants Americans hold dear, the BBC reported. [...]

[S]ir V.S. saves the title "the worst writer in the world" for the seemingly innocuous Henry James.

He's oddly wrong about Austen, but the rest is bang on.

Naipaul targets literary icons (Hasan Suroor, 08/03/01, The Hindu)

On the eve of the publication of his new novel Half a Life, he has torn into E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham, Charles Dickens and James Joyce besides lashing out at the doyen of 20th century economists John Maynard Keynes.

Even R.K. Narayan gets a gentle ticking-off for believing that India is ``eternal'' while the fact, according to Mr. Naipaul, is that it is ``a ruin.'' His most acerbic remarks however are targetted at Forster who, he says, wrote ``rubbish'' and had no idea of India.

In an interview in the latest issue of Literary Review, Mr. Naipaul attacks the author of A Passage to India both for his literary ``pretence'' and his homosexuality. Forster's sole interest in India, he suggests, was to ``seduce'' garden boys.

``He was somebody who didn't know Indian people. He just knew the (royal) court and a few middle-class Indians and the garden boys whom he wished to seduce,'' he tells the interviewer, Mr. Farrukh Dhondy.

A Passage to India, he declares, was ``utter rubbish'' and Forster's views on India's three religions were a mere ``pretence''. ``It's false. It's a pretence. It's utter rubbish,'' he says rubbishing Forster's sentimental impressions of India. He was simply a homosexual who had ``his time in India, exploiting poor people...'' And his friend Keynes was no better, Mr. Naipaul alleges.

``Keynes didn't exploit poor people; he exploited people in the university; he sodomised them and they were too frightened to do anything about it,'' he says accusing Forster and Keynes of setting their work against a background of ``mystery and lies''. [...]

Mr. Naipaul also ridiculed Maugham saying he was now ``part of the dust, part of the imperial dust''. And Dickens ``died from self-parody''.

As for Joyce and Ulysses, he didn't make sense. ``I can't read it...he is not interested in the world''.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


Help Wanted as Immigration Faces Overhaul: Congress Considers New Rules, and Businesses Worry About Finding Workers (S. Mitra Kalita and Krissah Williams, March 27, 2006, Washington Post)

Year after year, Professional Grounds Inc. runs a help-wanted ad to find landscapers and groundskeepers. Starting wage: $7.74 per hour.

In a good year, three people call. Most years, no one does.

So the Springfield company relies on imported labor -- seasonal guest workers allowed to immigrate under the federal guest-worker program -- to keep itself running. For 10 months this year, 23 men from Mexico and Central America will spend their days mulching and mowing, seeding and sodding for Professional Grounds.

You know how the Left and far Right alway cite that number about how only one congressmnan has a child currently fighting in Iraq or wherever? How about asking all these nativist congressmen how many of them have kids who mow lawns or slaughter cattle?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Tuning In to Anger on Immigration: Rep. Tancredo's Profile Grows With Push to Secure U.S. Borders (Shailagh Murray and T.R. Reid, March 31, 2006, Washington Post)

The first time Rep. Tom Tancredo got really angry about immigration, the year was 1975, and he was a junior high school social studies teacher in Denver. [....]

A year later, Tancredo launched a political career animated by his obsession to stem the tide of immigration from Mexico and Central America that he feared would change the character and security of the country. [...]

Tancredo is particularly riled at the business community, which he says has become "addicted to cheap labor." Employers are a driving force behind the guest-worker program and other Senate provisions that amount to "nearly universal amnesty" for the 12 million people currently living in the United States illegally, Tancredo says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Levee Repair Costs Triple: New Orleans May Lack Full Protection (Peter Whoriskey and Spencer S. Hsu, March 31, 2006, Washington Post )

The Bush administration said yesterday that the cost of rebuilding New Orleans's levees to federal standards has nearly tripled to $10 billion and that there may not be enough money to fully protect the entire region.

Donald E. Powell, the administration's rebuilding coordinator, said some areas may be left without the protection of levees strong enough to meet requirements of the national flood insurance program. Those areas probably would face enormous obstacles in attracting home buyers and investors willing to build there.

Why not just divvy the money up among residents and forget rebuilding it as a residential city?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Blacks Turn to Internet Highway, and Digital Divide Starts to Close (MICHEL MARRIOTT, 3/31/06, NY Times)

African-Americans are steadily gaining access to and ease with the Internet, signaling a remarkable closing of the "digital divide" that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success.

Civil rights leaders, educators and national policy makers warned for years that the Internet was bypassing blacks and some Hispanics as whites and Asian-Americans were rapidly increasing their use of it.

But the falling price of laptops, more computers in public schools and libraries and the newest generation of cellphones and hand-held devices that connect to the Internet have all contributed to closing the divide, Internet experts say.

Another powerful influence in attracting blacks and other minorities to the Internet has been the explosive evolution of the Internet itself, once mostly a tool used by researchers, which has become a cultural crossroad of work, play and social interaction.

Studies and mounting anecdotal evidence now suggest that blacks, even some of those at the lower end of the economic scale, are making significant gains.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Tough task awaits Hamas finance chief (Roger Hearing, 3/31/06, BBC)

Dr Omar Abdel Razeq has the least enviable job in the new Palestinian government.

As minister of finance, this tall, bearded, 46-year-old US-educated economist is faced with squaring a nightmare circle of ever-growing debts and ever-diminishing income. [...]

His idea is that by dealing effectively with the corruption and incompetence that characterised the old Fatah administration and was so dramatically rejected by Palestinian voters last January, Hamas will eventually be able to win round the doubters in the international community.

"What they care about in the West is the way we handle public funds," he says.

Dr Razeq may be right in the end.

However, many in the West Bank and Gaza fear the economy has reached such a dire position that it cannot endure the loss of most international financial help while it waits for the west to make up its mind about Hamas.

They can only grow their economy by becoming more like we require them to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


French job law 'constitutional' (BBC, 3/31/06)

France's top constitutional body has ruled that a youth employment law which has sparked weeks of protest is legal.

The Constitutional Council move clears the way for the bill to be signed into law by President Jacques Chirac.

His prime minister has championed the law - aimed at tackling high levels of youth unemployment.

Mr Chirac will be making one of the trickiest decision of his long political career, says the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris.

Mr Chirac is loath to lose Dominique de Villepin as Prime Minister - he remains his political son and chosen heir for the presidency, our correspondent says.

Chirac to back job law on TV (Reutuers, Mar 31, 2006)
Intense speculation swirled around Chirac's intentions but parliamentary sources said they expected the president to announce he would sign the measure into law before explaining his decision on television at 1800 GMT (12 p.m. EST).

Aides told the Le Parisien newspaper the 73-year-old leader had opted to sign the law rather than lose conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is widely reported to have threatened to quit if Chirac backed down over the measure. [...]

Unions and students have vowed to continue their protests if the government presses on with the CPE, which aims to encourage firms to hire workers by allowing them to fire employees aged under 26 without stating a reason during a 2-year trial period.

"The president knows the trade unions' attitude. He knows the frustrations of many youths," opposition Socialist party leader Francois Hollande told RTL radio.

Making clear he thought Chirac would sign the law, he said: "Do you think the many students and workers who have been fighting against this text for months ... will understand the president's decision? Do you think that will be a factor of appeasement, a solution for the country?"

They refer to appeasement as a solution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


PM, Bush mend fences (SUSAN DELACOURT, 3/31/06, Toronto Star)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is headed to Washington this spring to seal a growing friendship with President George W. Bush and to build on today's expected kick-start to resuming talks on the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute.

"The Prime Minister made an emphatic case for softwood lumber and I appreciate his steely resolve," Bush said yesterday, after sitting down privately with Harper at the "three amigos" summit with Mexican President Vicente Fox in the resort city of Cancun. [...]

During their talks yesterday afternoon, Bush invited Harper to Washington and Harper accepted, so now it's left to officials only to work out when it will happen.

It's not stated outright, but the two men are trying to correct what is widely viewed as the more toxic atmosphere that prevailed at the end of Paul Martin's tenure, and the anti-U.S. posture of much of the Liberal rhetoric in the recent election.

The U.S. decision to ignore a panel ruling in Canada's favour on softwood in the North American Free Trade Agreement had stirred much tough talk from Martin and his ministers, who said there could be no new negotiations until the U.S. demonstrated an embrace of the principles underlying trade between the two nations.

Harper noted that if talks can't be started, Canada would not hesitate to keep fighting through the more confrontational route of litigation.

Still, the bonhomie between Harper and Bush was evident yesterday in the many glowing ways the president talked about the new prime minister and the country. He spoke of Canada's commitment in Afghanistan and about the $500 billion in trade between the two countries.

"There's a lot of people in my country who respect Canada and have great relationships with Canadians and we intend to keep it that way," Bush said.

Harper was mutually admiring, saying there is great resolve in his government to work with the U.S. on issues such as building security and trade, and seeing where they can find common cause on the environment.

"Canada and the United States share very important common values — values like freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Harper said. "We may disagree how we get there, but that's the objective that we share."

While the Canadian Left gets its own Third Way option,
Text of Ignatieff speech
: The following is the full text of the speech titled "Canada and the World" delivered by Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff at the University of Ottawa on March 30, 2006 (Globe and Mail)

Ever since I entered Parliament in January, people have been asking me: Why have you gone into politics? As in: “ Are you nuts?”

No, I’m not nuts.

This is my country, after all.

As a child, I played in the barns of my uncle’s dairy farm in Richmond, Quebec; I swam off the rocks at my aunt’s place in Georgian Bay; when I was a young teacher out in British Columbia, I remember sailing up Howe Sound and watching the sun burn the mist off the ocean; as a father, I rocketed down the Kicking Horse River in a raft with my children; as a husband, I stood with my wife among the graves of the Hungarian pioneers — her people — who settled the country near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan.

This is my Canada. These are the memories that made me who I am. This is the river that runs through me, as it runs through you. This is the place that defined my political allegiances. This is the place I call home.

My father came off a boat in Montreal harbor in 1928, a refugee from Russia. He became an ambassador for his country. Canada made him who he was, and he repaid his debt with a life of public service.

Now it’s my turn.

My family taught me to think of Canadians as a serious people.

Steadfast, tough, courageous.

During World War II, my mother worked in London with the French Resistance. One of her closest friends was a young Canadian who parachuted into France in 1943 to fight fascism. His name was Frank Pickersgill. He was captured by the Nazis and died under torture in Buchenwald. He died so that other men and women could live in freedom.

At our best, we are that kind of people.

Today, we are concerned about our soldiers in Afghanistan. So we should be. But service in Afghanistan is in the best traditions of our people. From Vimy Ridge to Juneau Beach, from Rwanda to Bosnia, we have earned our place in the world of nations by service and sacrifice.

I’ve been to Afghanistan, once when the Taliban were in power and once since then. I’ve got
faith in the Afghans who are pushing their country out of the ditch. It’s good that Canadians are putting their shoulders to the wheel to help them.

Critics say I’ve been out of the country a long time. They seem to miss the years spent teaching at UBC, at the Banff Center for the Fine Arts, the documentary series I made for the CBC, the television shows I hosted for TV Ontario, the Massey Lectures I gave on CBC radio, the books and articles I’ve devoted to Canadian problems. I don’t feel I’ve been away at all.

But yes, I’ve also been a war reporter, human rights teacher, journalist and I’ve seen a lot of the world.

Sometimes you only see your country clearly from far away.

I saw it clearly in eastern Croatia in 1992. I had just crossed a UN check point and had been taken prisoner by a half a dozen armed men high on alcohol and ethnic nationalism. A young UN peacekeeper arrived, as I was being bundled away. He cocked his M-16 and said: ‘We’ll do this my way.’ And they did.

That young soldier was from Moncton, New Brunswick.

I saw my country clearly watching a policewoman escort frightened families to and fro across a mined no-man’s land in another part of Yugoslavia. When I asked her why she was doing dangerous work in a foreign country she said, with a smile: ‘It beats writing traffic tickets in Saskatoon.’

I saw my country clearly in the young Canadians who took my classes at Harvard. I saw how eager they were to test themselves against the best the world has to offer.

So this is my Canada and these are my Canadians. We are serious people.

I’ve tried to be a serious person. Being serious means sticking to your convictions. I went to Iraq in 1992 and saw what Saddam Hussein had done to the Kurds and the Shia. I decided then and there that I’d stand with them whatever happened. I’ve stuck with them ever since. Whatever mistakes the Americans have made, one day Iraqis will create a decent society. When that day comes, Canadians should be there to help because their struggle is ours too.

I’ve always believed that Canada should fight for a world in which force is never used except in a just cause.

I’m proud that Lloyd Axworthy named me to the International Commission on Sovereignty and Intervention. It reported to Kofi Annan on the rules that ought to define when it is right to use force in international affairs. Our report said that countries like Canada have a "responsibility to protect" people when they are faced with genocidal massacre or ethnic cleansing.

Canada can only discharge this responsibility when the cause has the support of the people of Canada; when it has the support of the UN or a coalition of free peoples; and when the cause furthers international and Canadian security.

I’m in politics to speak up for a Canada that takes risks, that stands up for what’s right. A Canada that leads.

We are a serious people.

For a long time, however, we haven’t taken ourselves seriously enough.

We need to ask more of ourselves.

For the first time in history ,we now have a real claim to being able to solve problems that have dogged human life for millennia: hunger, disease and environmental destruction. We have the science. We have the money. What we lack is focus and determination.

Forty years ago, a Canadian Prime Minister set the standard for international citizenship at 0.7 percent of GDP in overseas aid to developing nations. Forty years later, we still have not met Mike Pearson’s targets.

The time for excuses is over. We need to fulfill our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals before 2015. We need to meet this target, but we need to do more. We need to focus development aid to those who can really use it. Let’s stop spending money supporting regimes that abuse their people. Let’s find development partners who govern in the interests of their people. Let’s remember that Canadians are the people of "peace, order and good government." The single thing the developing world needs most is good government. We should be the country that leads the world in governance, in helping governments in the developing world to govern more justly.

We need to bring the same leadership to the environment.

The old excuses—the science isn’t clear, action will undermine our economy, our problems are really our neighbors’ fault— are just excuses.

Let’s stop blaming others. Let’s get our own house in order.

We take pride in our support of Kyoto, but Canada’s performance on greenhouse gases is dismal, ranking 27th of the 29 OECD countries in per-capita emissions.

We possess vast amounts of the world’s water supply, but we are poor stewards of this vital asset.

So let’s get serious. Let’s move the environment from the margins of public policy to the centre. Let’s clean up our lakes and rivers. In my riding of Etobicoke Lakeshore, we take pride in the national treasure of Lake Ontario, but the water isn’t clean enough for kids to swim in. This isn’t good enough. We need a federal initiative to clean up the entire Great Lakes watershed from Lake Superior to the Grand Banks. Fairness to the generations of Canadians that follow us mandates a new approach. Let’s make the case for why environmental action is smart business.

Let’s follow Stephan Dion’s leadership and do what we have to, right away, to meet our Kyoto commitments.

Let’s be the very best in the world at making cleaner cars, cleaner trucks and world class public transportation system.

Let’s work with the provinces to invest in public transit and rail before our great cities are completely gridlocked.

The Canadian Arctic is a crucial piece of the global refrigeration system. This system is breaking down. The science is clear. Global warming is happening. Working with other nations in the Arctic Council, we must take leadership in stabilizing the global climate system.

In understanding Canada’s place in the world, we need to think of ourselves not just as defenders of our own sovereignty, but as stewards of the global commons.

From “the responsibility to protect” to “human security”, Canada has been a leader in putting good ideas into circulation and then getting them accepted into practice. Without us, there wouldn’t be an International Criminal Court, and without us, no Land Mines Ban.

But to lead with ideas, we have to know where we are. We leveraged our influence in the 20th Century by tying our fortunes to the United States.

But if the 20th Century belonged to the United States, it’s possible that the 21st will belong to China and India. Canada will have to adapt: reducing our economic dependence on the United States, increasing our trade with the new giants of the international system, working to create stability in a world where old forces are weakening, and new forces are rising.

The 21st Century will be convulsed by vast global flows of labour and capital. As a result, all societies are becoming multicultural. All societies are opening to the world. All societies are struggling with the challenge of maintaining stable and democratic political orders among peoples from different faiths, ethnicities and national origins.

Canada is uniquely placed to show the world how to do this better.

Since 1867 we have been demonstrating that three founding traditions — aboriginal, French and English — can share the land together and create a democratic system in which citizens are both free and equal, in which minorities receive the same respect as the majority.

It is not easy trying to maintain common bonds of citizenship in a nation split into five regions, two language groups, ten provinces and three territories.

This is a formidable task, but we have never succumbed to the demons of division.

We have survived two referenda on separation. We will win a third were it to be forced upon us. Sovereignists want to oblige Quebeckers to choose between parts of their very souls and to choose Canada or Quebec. Quebeckers have always refused this choice.

Quebeckers will remain Canadians because our country respects their right to be Quebeckers and Canadians, in whatever order they choose. Canada has never imposed a unitary patriotic creed on its citizens. We’ve built Canada on respect for the freedom that we enjoy — within the limits of the law — to decide what being Canadian means to each of us.

So Canada will prevail whatever separatists have in store. But that does not mean all is in order in the Canadian house.

Quebec did not give its assent to our constitution, and until it does so, our union remains on an uncertain foundation. We must create the conditions of goodwill that will enable us to build a constitutional foundation with the full-hearted assent of all the partners in our federation.

To create these conditions of goodwill, tomorrow , we need to practice the federalism of recognition and respect today.

The federal government must respect the legitimate jurisdictions of the provinces, the cities and the aboriginal orders of government. Federal authority should have the confidence to move beyond frantic displays of its relevance by constant intrusion into other partners’ jurisdictions. It should concentrate on being a competent manager of its own jurisdiction. Who can say, for example, that the federal government is a competent manager of its responsibilities towards aboriginal peoples?

Recognition means understanding that all provinces are not the same, but all are equal.

Quebec is entitled to practical recognition of the distinctiveness of its language, culture, civil law and its history. It is entitled to be master of its own house within the Canadian federation.

Quebec is also entitled to play its part in international negotiations where its provincial jurisdictions are involved.

But respect is a two-way street. All provinces should respect the legitimate jurisdiction of the federal government.

It is charged with the defense of the country, the protection of its borders , the development of national infrastructure and a national economic market, as well as safeguarding the rights of citizenship. That all Canadians hold in common. Without respect for these federal domains, we cannot have a country.

The federal government does not possess a monopoly in foreign affairs but it is appropriate for it to coordinate Canada’s external presence to work together with provinces to ensure that Canada speaks with one voice, even if the voice that speaks for Canada comes from a province.

Respect and recognition also imply clarity. Mr. Harper’s strategy of calculated ambiguity towards Quebec’s international aspirations is a dangerous game. Already Mr. Duceppe salutes Mr. Harper’s gambit on UNESCO as the first petit pas towards an independent foreign policy for Quebec.

This game has to stop.

In dialogue together, Canada and Quebec must demarcate who does what in international relations so that Quebec’s aspirations for a voice in international domains can be reconciled with the right of Canada to co-ordinate our nation’s presence in the world. If we display our jurisdictional quarrels to the world, we will reduce Canada’s standing , but Quebec’s too.

In promoting a politics of recognition and respect within the federation, we need to change the way we think about national unity. For too long, we have equated national unity with the challenge of Quebec.

If we remember the immense role that Quebeckers since Laurier have played in the making of our nation, if we recall the continual tradition of political innovation that has flowed from Quebec and inspired the rest of Canada, from the Quiet Revolution onwards, it is clear that Quebec has never been the Canadian problem. Quebeckers have always been part of the solution.

Today, we need to re-think the question of national unity. We are divided by much more than language. We are divided by race, religion, class and ethnicity. We are divided into town and country, rural and urban, eastern and western, northern and southern regions. As population concentrates in our cities, our regions and small towns feel left behind.

Canadians long to be more united. They know that we are more than 10 provinces and territories strung together like a string of beads along the 49th parallel.

Unity does not mean a domineering Ottawa. It does not mean a federalist steamroller. Instead of thinking that unity must require a domineering federal government, we need to understand that unity means a strong federation in which orders of government take responsibility, display
accountability, and respect each other’s domains.

We are far from that ideal.

Some provinces are running up huge surpluses while others are struggling to balance their books. This horizontal imbalance in the federation threatens to weaken Canada’s capacity to maintain roughly equal conditions of citizenship for each of our people, regardless of the province in which they live.

The right way to fix this is not to rob Peter to pay Paul, not to confiscate the wealth of rich provinces with new energy taxes, but to create a 10-province equalization standard that counts all of the fiscal capacity of the provinces and then uses federal tax dollars to equalize the condition of those provinces still behind.

There is also a vertical imbalance between a federal government that runs up surpluses, while several provinces struggle to fund their ever-rising costs in education and health care.

There is a right way and a wrong way to fix this problem. Permanent transfer of tax power to the provinces would damage the national unity of our country. Gutting Ottawa’s power to collect taxes won’t make the country stronger.

A federalism of respect and recognition points to another solution: just as we need to negotiate a 10-province standard for equalization, we need to negotiate a new 10-province standard for transfers to help provinces meet their spending needs in education and health. These need to be comprehensive, multi-year agreements between orders of government so that each can plan and budget and neither feels subject to blackmail on the one hand and lawless whim on the other.

Behind the issue of fiscal imbalance, we need to address a deeper question: what is the federal government for? What is its essential purpose in the federation?

I believe that the federal government has one core function: to maintain the national unity of our country by sustaining the indivisibility of Canadian citizenship. It is the only order of government with this specific task.

Equality of opportunity means that all Canadian citizens enjoy roughly comparable rights, responsibilities and services.

The chief threat to our country is the weakening of the bonds of common citizenship.

It is good for provinces to experiment with new ways to deliver health care and contain costs. But we have fought for 50 years so that health outcomes do not depend on income. We do not want them to depend on the accident of location either. Defending the basic principles of the Canada Health Act is vital to maintaining the equality of our citizenship.

The federal government is charged with maintaining a national economic space. Do we truly possess one if Quebec workers are barred from working in Ontario and vice versa? If professional credentials recognized in one province are turned down in another? If students from one jurisdiction have to pay more to study in another province? If there is not one national securities market but 10, with separate regulators for each?

We cannot promote equality of opportunity without a national strategy to improve our productivity and our capacity for innovation.

Such a strategy doesn’t mean more government intervention. Indeed it may mean less: cutting through red tape that hampers exporters; breaking down inter provincial barriers to the free movement of labour and capital; cutting back on the cozy rules that protect our banks, insurance and telecommunications companies from needed foreign competition.

A national productivity strategy implies a productive government: one that uses tax dollars frugally, that eliminates waste, that cuts taxes whenever it can be done without endangering common services.

Besides making government itself more productive, a national productivity strategy has to invest in infrastructure — to build the national gateways in Halifax and Vancouver for global export traffic and the national links to move goods, energy supplies, people and information in between.

A national productivity strategy invests in people. A productive future requires sustained, multigenerational investment by government, corporations and people themselves, in post-secondary education, science and technology research.

I have spent a lot of my life in higher education. When I was in the classroom, I always knew I was not just in the business of teaching a subject. I was teaching hope and self-belief, the key engines of productivity.

A national productivity strategy is an opportunity strategy.

We cannot be productive unless all Canadians participate.

Our society lives by the promise of opportunity equally distributed to all.

We know how far short we fall. Aboriginal Canadians, visible minorities new to our country, and the working poor lack opportunity, security and skills. We are wasting our seed corn.

The federal government has long been charged with providing income security for Canadians. We must take steps to enhance the equality of life chances for the working poor. Canadians working 35 hours a week earning minimum wage are making less than $15,000 a year. These hard-working Canadians are now under-represented in our income security regime. We need to make certain that our system provides the incentives for them to remain or return to the labour market, work hard, while removing the fear and insecurity that blights their potential.

Let us commit ourselves to a Canada where no one goes hungry at night, where no one is denied a world-class education because of their race or ancestry; where we bet the future of our country on the proposition that if we can unlock the hidden talent of every citizen, we will always pay our way in the world.

We cannot afford to waste the productive talents of new immigrants. If we fail to recognize credentials, if we fail to invest in language training and re-settlement assistance, we risk creating new citizens who feel betrayed by their Canadian home.

We need to recast our immigration policies as a crucial element of a national productivity strategy. The federal government should increase its investment in programs that re-train immigrants, that top up their credentials, that apprentice them in Canadian companies so that they can gain Canadian experience. If they can’t get recognition of their credentials in one province, the federal government should assist them to move to provinces that will recognize their skills.

In a globalized economy being open to new experience is the key to success, being provincial a sure way to be left behind. If you ask a representative group of young Canadians how many of them have actually lived outside their own province, studied in another jurisdiction or worked outside of their region, you would be dismayed by how few have done so.

We cannot be a country unless we know each other, unless we have lived with each other, unless a Canadian from Chicoutimi has been to Banff, and a citizen of Whitehorse has had the opportunity to study in Halifax.

Innovative federal policy has helped to deepen our national experience. The Canada Council, the CBC, the research councils in the social sciences and humanities have all helped to deepen and extend the networks of knowledge and connection that tie us together as Canadians.

An essential deepening of our common experience has been the promotion of bilingualism: increasing the numbers of English speaking children who grew up in French immersion, as well as the number of francophones who learn English in order to advance in the global economy.

But the federal government can do more to promote a national experience: by offering bursaries, internships and tax credits to help young Canadians to study and work in other provinces and to serve overseas in humanitarian and development work.

To build a country, we must create citizens, and to create citizens, we must create shared national experience. We need to make it easier for Canadians to get about their country and begin to feel a love for it in their bones.

My Canada is held together by a spine of citizenship, common rights, responsibilities and common knowledge so that we truly feel we are one people. This is not just an important priority of political leadership at the federal level. It is, in my view, the only priority.

This is a different view of Canada from the one offered by Stephen Harper. He stands for a decentralized, re-provincialized Canada, with growing differentials between the regions and provinces, with growing differences between rich and poor regions, and rich and poor individuals. It is a sauve qui peut Canada. His is also an idea of politics which sees government as the problem, when it is often the solution. When Canadians are presented with the choice between the slow provincialization of our country and a Liberal vision that seeks to use government to sustain the equality of our citizenship, I know how they will chose.

I believe in Canadians. I believe in you. As I said at the beginning, we are a serious people.

March 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 PM


Indonesia back on the world stage (Michael Vatikiotis, 3/30/06, Asia Times)

Welcome to the brave new world of Indonesian foreign policy. The international community has only just started to focus on Indonesia's successful democratic transition, the economy is only just recovering from nearly a decade of malaise and crisis, and the business community is waiting with genuine expectation for the government's "war on corruption" to be won. But President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is an impatient man - he wants Indonesia to make its mark on the world now.

"We are the fourth-most-populous nation in the world. We are home to the world's largest Muslim population. We are the world's third-largest democracy. We are also a country where democracy, Islam and modernity go hand in hand," Yudhoyono declared last May in his first major foreign-policy speech. "And our heart is always with the developing world, to which we belong. These are the things that define who we are and what we do in the community of nations."

In fact, what Yudhoyono aims to do is pretty ambitious. Bringing democracy to Myanmar comes high up the list. So, too, does helping Palestinians win their statehood from Israel. Then there is North Korea: the president wants to visit Pyongyang and has already sent an envoy to the hermit state to try to restart stalled security talks between the two Koreas. And if dealing with one end of the "axis of evil" isn't risky enough, Indonesia has also flagged its intention to help reconcile Iran with the West, exemplified by Wirajuda's visit to Tehran last month, and thereafter by at least two high-level visits by Iranian officials to Jakarta.

Talk to many Indonesians about Yudhoyono's foreign-policy objectives and they will argue that the country simply isn't ready to take on the world. There are too many priorities at home: sorting out the economy, combating corruption, resolving internal conflicts and curbing Islamic militancy, to name just a few. Realists and pragmatists such as former foreign minister Ali Alatas argue that Indonesia is weak and has no clout in the international community. "Who would listen?" Alatas asks, though he recently served as a special envoy to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Fortunately for Yudhoyono, the United States is listening. Indonesia's democratic and moderate Islamic credentials appeal to Washington, which is also on the lookout for a strategic counterbalance to China in the region.

"Your challenge now is to expand the peace, the opportunity and the freedom that we see in much of Southeast Asia to all of Southeast Asia," Rice said in a speech to an Indonesian international-relations forum during her mid-March visit to Jakarta. "The United States is eager to work with ASEAN through our new enhanced partnership, and we look to Indonesia ... to play a leadership role in Southeast Asia and in the dynamic changing East Asia."

Indonesia has clout precisely because they're joining the Axis of Good and volunteering to do heavy-lifting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 PM


How the GOP can survive the immigration debate (Dick Morris, 3/.29/06, The Hill)

One must separately consider the three key elements of immigration reform under discussion: The border fence, the guest-worker program and the criminalization of illegal aliens and those who employ them.

The GOP base wants a fence. It is vital to the entire concept of whether or not we can control our borders. All efforts to beef up manpower on the border have failed to stem the daily flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico. A fence is the only way to do it. By backing a fence and demonstrably taking control of our southern border, the Republican Party will appease the demands of its base.

But to prevent disaster among Latino voters, it must accompany the fence with a more liberal policy on guest workers and criminalization.

Simply put, the fence must have a gate that swings open for immigrants we want and need. To avoid permanently antagonizing our southern neighbors and to keep the labor supply on which so much of American business and prosperity depend, we need a guest-worker program.

The GOP base, happy with the fence, will probably go along with it. Whatever the Congress needs to do to differentiate the guest-worker program from amnesty it should do, but it must pass a generous guest-worker program. (If it is necessary for those here illegally to return to Mexico and reenter as registered and enrolled guest workers, to convince the right that a guest-worker program is not amnesty, so be it).

With a 4.7 percent unemployment rate, we will be slitting our own throats by denying our economy access to Mexican workers. We just need to make them legal, not illegal. With a border fence to enforce the difference, a guest-worker program will work politically.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


The Erring Republican Authority: Kevin Phillips is wrong about everything. Why is he taken so seriously? (Jacob Weisberg, March 29, 2006, , Slate)

Phillips' declinism relies on fatuous anti-market prejudices familiar from his earlier work: that a healthy economy must be based in manufacturing, that free trade and globalization impoverish us, that foreign ownership is treacherous, that industrial policy works, and that a robust financial sector means trouble.

The hostility to Wall Street implicit in the last notion is part and parcel of a condescending, aristo-populism that recalls Gore Vidal without the twinkle. In the Phillips worldview, plutocrats exploit the American proletariat, which supports the policies that keep it miserable out of false consciousness—the poor hicks actually believe Christ is coming to save them. But any potential Marxist rigor swiftly dissipates into a haze of Syriana—paranoia about the Bush dynasty and the CIA, Skull and Bones, the House of Saud, and the discredited October Surprise conspiracy. Have I mentioned that Phillips is an appalling writer? His prose is cliché-ridden, self-referential, maddeningly repetitive, and dull enough to kill weeds.

Once upon a time, Kevin Phillips crunched a lot of numbers to give shrewd, if cynical, political advice to Republicans about capitalizing on white fear of black people. Since switching sides, he has proposed various ways for the liberals to knock down the conservative majority he helped to build. Democrats would be wise to beware of geeks bearing such gifts.

Holy Colgate alumnus, Batman! Why didn't we see it before? Mr. Philiips was the first Rovebot, programmed to give Democrats really awful advice about adopting Pat Buchanan's politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Blair will be gone by Christmas, say friends (Toby Helm, 31/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair is to announce his resignation by Christmas, members of his inner circle believe.

The Prime Minister's closest aides feel that, following a series of damaging rows over education and "sleaze", he will quit within nine months.

The disclosure comes as John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, agreed to try to broker an agreement between Mr Blair and back-bench MPs over the succession after being warned that uncertainty about the leadership is having a disastrous effect on Labour morale.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:45 PM


US regains top ranking for technology (Frances Williams, March 28 2006, Financial Times)

The US has regained top position in the 2005 information technology rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum after slipping to fifth place in 2004.

Releasing its latest Global Information Technology Report, Geneva-based WEF said the US lead reflected its excellent physical infrastructure, a supportive market environment and high levels of business and government usage of the latest technologies.

Singapore, first in 2004, came second and Denmark third. Four Nordic countries – the others being Iceland, Finland and Sweden – are in the top 10 alongside Canada, Taiwan and Switzerland.

The UK, in 10th place, is the top-ranked of the European Union’s large economies, followed some way behind by Germany (17), France (22) and Italy (42).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Reiner Quits First 5 Panel: The move comes amid accusations that the state commission founded by the producer was using tax money to aid his preschool initiative. (Dan Morain, March 30, 2006, LA Times)

Hollywood producer Rob Reiner resigned Wednesday as chairman of a state commission he founded seven years ago to aid children, amid accusations that the commission used tax money to boost his new political campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


G.O.P. Risking Hispanic Votes on Immigration (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 3/30/06, NY Times)

Over the last three national elections, persistent appeals by Mr. Bush and other Republican leaders have helped double their party's share of the Hispanic vote, to more than 40 percent in 2004 from about 20 percent in 1996. As a result, Democrats can no longer rely on the country's 42 million Hispanic residents as a natural part of their base.

In a lunch meeting of Senate Republicans this week, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, gave his colleagues a stern warning. "This is the first issue that, in my mind, has absolutely galvanized the Latino community in America like no other," Mr. Martinez said he told them.

The anger among Hispanics has continued even as the Senate Judiciary Committee proposed a bill this week that would allow illegal immigrants a way to become citizens. The backlash was aggravated, Mr. Martinez said in an interview, by a Republican plan to crack down on illegal immigrants that the House approved last year.

The outcome remains to be seen. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said on Wednesday that he recognized the need for a guest-worker program, opening the door to a possible compromise on fiercely debated immigration legislation.

Democrats see an opportunity to "show Hispanics who their real friends are," as Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, put it.

But the issue is a delicate matter for Democrats as well. Polls show large majorities of the public both support tighter borders as a matter of national security, and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. Many working-class Democrats resent what they see as a continuing influx of cheap labor.

The stakes are enormous because Hispanics now account for one of every eight United States residents, and for about half the recent growth in the country's population. Although Hispanics cast just 6 percent of the votes in the 2004 elections, birth rates promise an imminent explosion in the number of eligible voters.

"There is a big demographic wave of Hispanic kids who are native born who will be turning 18 in even greater numbers over the next three, four and five election cycles," Roberto Suro, director of the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, said.

It's prototypical of the parties' extremes that they insist on such purity on an issue that in achieving it they cost themselves power and therefore lose on the issue in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Cook a beef brisket to calm the soul, ease tension (TOMMY C. SIMMONS, March 20, 2006, AP)

If you have had one of those weeks with problems at work, fatigue at home, too much traffic and family making demands, you need a big dose of comfort food. What better to calm the soul than a good beef brisket?

It's inexpensive, wholesome, versatile - and so delicious.

Beef brisket is a boneless cut of meat from the breast section, the underside of the cow's forequarter. A whole beef brisket weighs from 8 to 10 pounds, with each pound serving two to three people. [....]

Brisket Braised in Beer

4 slices bacon

One 3-pound brisket

Salt and pepper

3 thinly sliced onions

Four 12-ounce bottles of beer (not dark)

1 large, peeled rutabaga, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 carrots, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but not melted

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Crumble bacon. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from bacon.

Pat brisket dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the bacon fat over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the brisket to the Dutch oven and brown on all sides. Transfer brisket to a platter. Add onions to Dutch oven and saute until golden. Add bacon, brisket and beer. Bring beer to a boil. Cover and braise in oven for 2 hours. Stir in rutabaga, carrots and potatoes, and braise for 45 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender. Transfer brisket and vegetables to plate. Cover and keep warm.

Blend butter and flour and set aside. Bring braising liquid to a boil and reduce to about 3 cups. Gradually whisk in flour-butter mixture. Simmer for 3 minutes.

Slice brisket and put on plate with vegetables. Pour some sauce over dish. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(Recipe from

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM

The Carnival of Homeschooling (Henry and Janine Cate)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Blair in Indonesia terror accord (BBC, 3/30/06)

Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised to work closely in the fight against terrorism with Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population.

Mr Blair was speaking after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for an hour in the capital, Jakarta. [...]

After the meeting between the two heads of state, Mr Blair described Indonesia as a "crucial partner" in ensuring greater understanding of people of different faiths. [...]

Mr Blair's visit is the first by a British prime minister to Indonesia in two decades.

The country, which has a population of about 225 million, has developed close business ties with Britain and the US.

The BBC's correspondent in Jakarta, Tim Johnston, says Indonesia is increasingly being seen as a vital bridge between Western and Islamic nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Democrats Detail Security Policy: Bin Laden, Iraq and Domestic Safety Identified as Midterm Issues (Chris Cillizza and Dan Balz, March 30, 2006, Washington Post)

Emboldened by President Bush's declining approval ratings, Democrats unveiled a national security platform yesterday for the midterm elections that stresses renewed focus on capturing Osama bin Laden, reducing the U.S. presence in Iraq and stepped up protection at home.

Bin Laden is likely dead, but what focussing on arresting "him" and any al Qaeda remnants would require is re-deploying all those troops currently in Iraq to Eastern Afghanistan/Western Pakistan and depopulating the region as you check every person there, then establishing state structure powerful enough to establish the rule of law and police the population permanently. They aren't going to do that -- even if it made sense to do so, which it doesn't -- so such chatter isn't to be taken seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Journalist Jill Carroll Released in Iraq (Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer, 3/30/06, Washington Post )

American journalist Jill Carroll, abducted in early January by gunmen in Baghdad, was released to a Sunni Arab political party in the capital Thursday morning after 82 days in captivity.

"I was never hurt, ever hit," she told a Washington Post reporter. "I was kept in a safe place and treated very well."

May as well just come right out and say she was a willing participant.

Like Susanne Osthoff and Giuliana Sgrena.

Questions About Carroll's Captivity (Howard Kurtz, March 31, 2006, Washington Post)

Reporters for big news organizations, after all, generally travel with security details, while Carroll is a 28-year-old freelancer who went to Baghdad on her own, became a stringer for the Christian Science Monitor and clearly was bent on understanding Iraqi culture.

This is a courageous young woman.

I must say, though, that I found her first interview yesterday rather odd. Carroll seemed bent on giving her captors a positive review, going on about how well they treated her, how they gave her food and let her go to the bathroom. And they never threatened to hit her. Of course, as we all saw in those chilling videos, they did threaten to kill her. And they shot her Iraqi translator to death.

Why make a terrorist group who put her family and friends through a terrible three-month ordeal sound like they were running a low-budget motel chain?

Now perhaps this is unfair, for there is much we do not know. We don't know why Carroll was kidnapped and why she was abruptly released. She says she doesn't either, but surely she must have gotten some clues about her abductors' outlook and tactics during her 82-day captivity. Maybe she was just shell-shocked right after being let go. Maybe she won't feel comfortable speaking out until she's back on American soil.

As my colleagues in Baghdad point out, when that interview was taped, Carroll was still in the custody of a Sunni political party with ties to the insurgency. It may have just made sense for her to be especially cautious. And they tell me that Carroll did cry -- off camera -- when the subject of her murdered translator came up. Still, people are buzzing because her taped remarks have been played over and over again on television. I hope she'll be able to share a fuller account of her ordeal soon.

Insurgents Justify Release of Jill Carroll in Web Tape (ABC News, March 30, 2006)
ABC News has found a video on an insurgent Web site showing U.S. reporter Jill Carroll before she was released by her captors in Iraq. The circumstances surrounding the video are unclear and it is equally unclear whether Carroll was under duress during the taping.

The tape appears to have been made earlier today, before Carroll's captors released her, but the time of the taping has not yet been confirmed by ABC News. [...]

Voice: Do you have a message for Mr. Bush?

Carroll: (Laughs)Yeah, he needs to stop this war. He knows this war is wrong. He knows that it was illegal from the very beginning. He knows that it was built on a mountain of lies and I think he needs to finally admit that to the American people and make the troops go home and he doesn't care about his own people.

He doesn't care about the people here in Iraq, he needs to wake up and the people of America need to wake up and tell that what he's done here is wrong and so hopefully this time he can get the message that this war was wrong and the continuing occupation is wrong adn he could change his policies. He's dangerous for Iraq. He's dangerous for America. He needs to accept that and admit that to people.

Voice: Do you think the Mujahedeen will win against the American Army?

Carroll: Oh definitely. Things are very clear to see even now they're already winning. Everyday there are soldiers killed. Everyday humvees are blown up. Helicopters are shot down from the skies. Everyday, it's very clear that the Mujahedeen have the skills and the ability and the desire and the good reasons to fight that'll make them ensure that they will win.

Voice: What do you feel now that the Mujahedeen are giving you your freedom while there are still women in Abu Ghraib living in very bad (unclear)?

Carroll: Well, I feel guilty honestly. I've been here, treated very well, like a guest. I've been given good food, never, never hurt while those women are in Abu Ghraib. Terrible things are happening to them with the American soldiers are torturing them and other things I don't want, I can't even say, so I feel guilty and I also feels it shows the difference between the Mujahedeen and Americans, the Mujahedeen are merciful and kind that's why I'm free and alive. The American army they aren't [...not clear...] I feel guilty and I also feel that it just shows that Mujahedeen are good people, fighting an honorable fight, a good fight while the Americans are here as an occupying force treating the people in a very, very bad way so I can't be happy totally for my freedom, there are people still suffering in prisons and very difficult situations.

It's easy enough to believe she was subjected to coercion in the making of the tape, but hard to square with her statements that she was surprised to be released and was treated well, no? Let's hope she can explain all the inconsistencies.

Exclusive: Jill Carroll Middle Man Says Kidnappers Demanded $8 Million (ABC News, April 12, 2006)

The man behind Jill Carroll's release tells ABC News in an exclusive interview that kidnapping the American journalist was a mistake. Sheikh Sattam al-Gaaod reveals what it took to free her — and why he supports the resistance.

Al-Gaaod was one of three people specifically thanked by Carroll's family after her release.

"They are defending their country," he said in an interview at his summer house outside Amman, Jordan. "They are an honest resistance. And sometimes they do mistakes."

One mistake, he said, was kidnapping Carroll. Al-Gaaod said he used his influence to help free her... [...]

Al-Gaaod said he believes attacks on U.S. troops are justifiable because the Americans are occupiers, but he calls attacks on civilians criminal.

The editor of the Christian Science Monitor said today he was unaware of any ransom payment paid by anyone.

Contrary to the hysteria of some folks, you can be glad that she was released without being so naive as to believe the official story. Given the series of examples, it wouldn't seem that controversial to observe that if you support the ends of the Sunni terrorists and facilitate a transfer payment to their cause you're more likely to be released unharmed than if you work for the reconstruction effort.

Kidnapped Reporter Had Unlikely Friend (The Boston Channel, April 13, 2006)

We're learning more about the road to freedom for kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll, who was released two weeks ago.

It turns out the former hostage from Massachusetts had an unlikely friend behind enemy lines.

NewsCenter 5's Mary Saladna reported that there were three people Carroll's family specifically thanked for her safe return when she was released from her captors, one of them a sheik who was once one of Saddam Hussein's closest business associates. He says he's now one of the proud leaders of the Iraqi insurgents.

"They are defending their country and they are honest resistancy and sometimes they do mistakes," he said.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Tories cut Palestinian aid: Canada first to join Israeli-led boycott (MITCH POTTER AND GRAHAM FRASER, 3/30/06, Toronto Star)

A senior minister in the new Hamas government last night accused Canada of "double standards" for deciding to freeze funding for the Palestinian Authority.

Khaled Abu Arafa, who learned of Ottawa's decision just hours after he was sworn in as Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, told the Toronto Star he was "dismayed by a ruling that doesn't give us a chance."

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay announced yesterday Canada has cut off contact and funding to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority but will be maintaining its aid to Palestinians through non-governmental organizations and international agencies.

This means a suspension of $7.3 million in Canadian funding, almost one-third of the $25 million a year that Canada spends in aid in the West Bank and Gaza. Canada became the first nation aside from Israel to cut off financial assistance to the authority since Hamas won the legislative elections in January.

MacKay announced that because the Hamas-led government has not renounced violence, recognized Israel or accepted the "road map" for peace, Canada is responding by cutting aid.

No chance? All Mr. Arafa and company have to do is recognize Isr5ael and accept statehood and they'll be showered with money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


McCabe folds on pensions (PETER MACMAHON, 3/30/06, The Scotsman)

MINISTERS are preparing to back down on public sector pension reform in the face of the threat of a new wave of strike action by local authority staff.

The Scottish Executive had previously insisted there could be no movement on plans to raise the age at which hundreds of thousands of public sector workers could retire without any financial penalty, from 60 to 65.

But just a day after 200,000 local government workers took nationwide industrial action over the issue, Tom McCabe, the finance minister, has signalled a change of heart.

March 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM


President Discusses Democracy in Iraq with Freedom House (George W. Bush, Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., 3/29/06)

We meet at a time of war, but also at a moment of great hope. In our world, and due in part to our efforts, freedom is taking root in places where liberty was unimaginable a couple of years ago. Just 25 years ago, at the start of the 1980s, there were only 45 democracies on the face of the Earth. Today, Freedom House reports there are 122 democracies, and more people now live in liberty than ever before.

The advance of freedom is the story of our time, and we're seeing new chapters written before our eyes. Since the beginning of 2005, we've witnessed remarkable democratic changes across the globe. The people of Afghanistan have elected their first democratic parliament in more than a generation. The people of Lebanon have recovered their independence and chosen their leaders in free elections. The people of Kyrgyzstan have driven a corrupt regime from power and voted for democratic change. The people of Liberia have overcome decades of violence and are now led by the first woman elected as a head of state in any African nation. And the courageous people of Iraq have gone to the polls not once, not twice, but three times, choosing a transitional government, a democratic constitution, and a new government under that constitution.

Each of these countries still faces enormous challenges that will take patience and the support of the international community to overcome. Yet, Freedom House has declared the year 2005 was one of the most successful years for freedom since the Freedom House began measuring world freedom more than 30 years ago. From Kabul to Baghdad to Beirut and beyond, freedom's tide is rising, and we should not rest, and we must not rest, until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation.

In our history, most democratic progress has come with the end of a war. After the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II and the collapse of communism in the Cold War, scores of nations cleared away the rubble of tyranny and laid the foundations of freedom and democracy.

Today, the situation is very different. Liberty is advancing not in a time of peace, but in the midst of a war, at a moment when a global movement of great brutality and ambition is fighting freedom's progress with all the hateful violence they can muster. In this new century, the advance of freedom is a vital element of our strategy to protect the American people, and to secure the peace for generations to come. We're fighting the terrorists across the world because we know that if America were not fighting this enemy in other lands, we'd be facing them here in our own land.

On September the 11th, 2001, we saw the violence and the hatred of a vicious enemy, and the future that they intend for us. That day I made a decision: America will not wait to be attacked again. We will confront this mortal danger. We will stay on the offensive. America will defend our freedom.

We're pursuing the terrorists on many battlefronts. Today, the central front in the war on terror is Iraq. This month I've given a series of speeches on recent events in Iraq and how we're adapting our approach to deal with the events on the ground. At George Washington University I reported on the progress we have made in training the Iraqi security forces, the growing number of Iraqi units that are taking the lead in the fight, the territory we're handing over to them, and the performance they turned in after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

Last week in Cleveland, I told the American people about the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, which was once a key base of operations for al Qaeda and is now a free city that gives us reason to hope for a free Iraq. I explained how the story of Tal Afar gives me confidence in our strategy, because in that city we see the outlines of the Iraq we've been fighting for, a free and secure people who are getting back on their feet, who are participating in government and civic life, and are becoming allies in the fight against the terrorists.

Today, I'm going to discuss the stakes in Iraq and our efforts to help the Iraqi people overcome past divisions and form a lasting democracy, and why it is vital to the security of the American people that we help them succeed.

In the wake of recent violence in Iraq, many Americans are asking legitimate questions: Why are Iraqis so divided? And did America cause the instability by removing Saddam Hussein from power? They ask, after three elections, why are the Iraqi people having such a hard time coming together? And can a country with so many divisions ever build a stable democracy? They ask why we can't bring our troops home now and let the Iraqis sort out their differences on their own.

These are fair questions, and today, I'll do my best to answer them. I'll discuss some of the reasons for the instability we're seeing in Iraq, why democracy is the only force that can overcome these divisions, why I believe the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in freedom and peace, and why the security of our nation depends on the success of a free Iraq.

Today, some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing. In fact, much of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He is a tyrant who exacerbated sectarian divisions to keep himself in power. Iraq is a nation with many ethnic and religious and sectarian and regional and tribal divisions. Before Saddam Hussein, Iraqis from different communities managed to live together. Even today, many Iraqi tribes have both Sunni and Shia branches. And in many small towns with mixed populations, there's often only one mosque where Sunni and Shia worship together. Intermarriage is also common with mixed families that include Arabs and Kurds and Sunnis and Shia and Turkmen, Assyrians, and Chaldeans.

To prevent these different groups from coming to challenge his regime, Saddam Hussein undertook a deliberate strategy of maintaining control by dividing the Iraqi people. He stayed on top by brutally repressing different Iraqi communities and pitting them one against the other. He forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of their homes using expulsion as a weapon to subdue and punish any group that resisted his rule. By displacing Iraqi communities and dividing the Iraqi people, he sought to establish himself as the only force that could hold the country together.

In Saddam's campaign of repression and division, no Iraqi group was spared. In the late 1980s, Saddam Hussein unleashed a brutal ethnic cleansing operation against Kurds in northern Iraq. Kurdish towns and villages were destroyed. Tens of thousands of Kurds disappeared or were killed. In his effort to terrorize the Kurds into submission, Saddam dropped chemical weapons on scores of Kurdish villages. In one village alone, a town called Halabja, his regime killed thousands of innocent men and women and children, using mustard gas and nerve agents. Saddam also forcibly removed hundreds of thousands of Kurds from their homes, and then he moved Arabs into those homes and onto the properties of the people who were forced to leave. As a result of this strategy deep tensions persist to this day.

Saddam also waged a brutal campaign of suppression and genocide against the Shia in the south of Iraq. He targeted prominent Shia clerics for assassination. He destroyed Shia mosques and holy sites. He killed thousands of innocent men, women and children. He piled their bodies into mass graves. After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam brutally crushed a Shia uprising. Many Shia fled to the marshes of southern Iraq. They hid in the wetlands that could not be easily reached by Saddam's army.

The wetlands, by the way, were also home to the Marsh Arabs, an ancient civilization that traces its roots back 5,000 years. So Saddam destroyed the Marsh Arabs, and those who hid in the marshes, by draining the marshes where they lived. In less than a decade, the majority of these lush wetlands were turned into barren desert, and most of the Marsh Arabs were driven from their ancestral home. It is no wonder that deep divisions and scars exist in much of the Shia population.

Saddam also oppressed his fellow Sunnis. One of the great misperceptions about Iraq is that every Sunni enjoyed a privileged status under Saddam's regime. In truth, Saddam trusted few outside his family and his tribe. He installed his sons and his brothers and his cousins in key positions. Almost everyone was considered suspect, and often those suspicions led to brutal violence.

In one instance, Saddam's security services tortured to death a pilot from a prominent Sunni tribe, and then dumped his headless body in front of his family's house. It caused riots that he then brutally suppressed. In the mid-1990s, Saddam rounded up scores of prominent Sunni economists and lawyers and retired army officers and former government officials. Many were never heard from again.

It is hard to overstate the effects of Saddam's brutality on the Iraqi nation. Here's what one Marine recalls when he was on the streets of the Iraqi capital. He said, quote, "I had an Iraqi citizen come up to me. She opened her mouth and she had no tongue. She was pointing at the statue. There were people with no fingers waving at the statue of Saddam, telling us he tortured them. People were showing us scars on their back." Iraq is a nation that is physically and emotionally scarred by three decades of Saddam's tyranny, and these wounds will take time to heal. As one Marsh Arab put it, "Saddam did everything he could to kill us. You cannot recover from that right away."

These are the kinds of tensions Iraqis are dealing with today. They are the divisions that Saddam aggravated through deliberate policies of ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence. As one Middle East scholar has put it, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was "a society slowly and systematically poisoned by political terror. The toxic atmosphere in today's Iraq bears witness to his terrible handiwork."

The argument that Iraq was stable under Saddam and that stability is now in danger because we removed him is wrong. While liberation has brought its own set of challenges, Saddam Hussein's removal from power was the necessary first step in restoring stability and freedom to the people of Iraq.

Today some Americans are asking why the Iraqi people are having such a hard time building a democracy. The reason is that the terrorists and former regime elements are exploiting the wounds inflicted under Saddam's tyranny. The enemies of a free Iraq are employing the same tactics Saddam used -- killing and terrorizing the Iraqi people in an effort to foment sectarian division.

For the Saddamists, provoking sectarian strife is business as usual. And we know from the terrorists' own words that they're using the same tactics with the goal of inciting a civil war. Two years ago, we intercepted a letter to Osama bin Laden from the terrorist Zarqawi, in which he explains his plan to stop the advance of democracy in Iraq. Zarqawi wrote: "If we succeed in dragging the Shia into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to waken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger. The only solution is for us to strike the religious and military and other cadres among the Shia with blow after blow."

The terrorists and Saddamists have been brutal in the pursuit of this strategy. They target innocent civilians; they blow up police officers; they attack mosques; and they commit other acts of horrific violence for the cameras. Their objective is to stop Iraq's democratic progress. They tried to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They tried to stop millions of Iraqis from voting in the January 2005 elections. They tried to stop Sunnis from participating in the October referendum on the constitution. And they tried to stop millions from voting in the December elections to form a government under that constitution.

And in each case, they failed. With every election, participation was larger and broader than the one that came before. And in December, almost 12 million people -- more than 75 percent of eligible voters -- defied the terrorists to cast their ballots. With their votes, the Iraqi people have spoken and made their intentions clear: They want to live in liberty and unity, and they're determined to chart their own destiny.

Now the elements of a free Iraq are trying to stop the -- the enemies of a free Iraq are trying to stop the formation of unity government. They've learned they cannot succeed by facing coalition and Iraqi forces on the battlefield, so they've taken their violence to a new level, by attacking one of Shia Islam's holiest sites. They blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra in the hope that this outrageous act would provoke the Shia masses into widespread reprisals which would provoke Sunnis to retaliate and drag the nation into a civil war.

Yet, despite massive provocations, Iraq has not descended into civil war. Most Iraqis have not turned to violence. The Iraqi security forces have not broken up into sectarian groups waging war against each other. Instead, Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish soldiers stood together to protect religious sites, enforce a curfew, and restore civil order.

In recent weeks, these forces passed another important test when they successfully protected millions of Shia pilgrims who marched to the cities of Karbala and Najaf for an annual religious holiday. In 2004, the terrorists launched coordinated strikes against the pilgrims, killing scores of innocent worshipers. This year, the pilgrimage was largely peaceful, thanks to the courage and the unity of the Iraqi security forces. In the midst of today's sectarian tension, the ability of Iraqis to hold a peaceful gathering by millions of people is a hopeful sign for the future of Iraq.

In these last few weeks, we've also seen terrible acts of violence. The kidnapings and brutal executions and beheadings are very disturbing. There's no place in a free and democratic Iraq for armed groups operating outside the law. It's vital to the security of a free Iraq that the police are free of militia influence. And so we're working with Iraqi leaders to find and remove leaders from the national police who show evidence of loyalties to militias. We're partnering U.S. battalions with Iraqi national police to teach them about the role of a professional police force in a democratic society. We're making clear to Iraqi leaders that reining in the illegal militias must be a top priority of Iraq's new government when it takes office.

The violence we're seeing is showing the Iraqi leaders the danger of sectarian division, and underscoring the urgency of forming a national unity government. Today, Iraqi leaders from every major ethnic and religious community are working to construct the path forward. Our Ambassador to Iraq, Zal Khalilzad, is helping Iraq's leaders reach out across political and religious and sectarian lines, so they can form a government that will earn the trust and the confidence of all Iraqis.

Putting aside differences to build a democracy that reflects the country's diversity is a difficult thing to do. It's even more difficult when enemies are working daily to stop your progress and divide your nation. Yet Iraqis are rising to the moment. They deserve enormous credit for their courage, and their determination to succeed.

Iraqi leaders are coming to grips with an important truth: The only practical way to overcome the divisions of three decades of tyranny is through democracy. Democracy is the only form of government where every person has a say in the governance of a country. It's the only form of government that will yield to a peaceful Middle East. So Iraqis are working to overcome past divisions and build a free society that protects the rights of all its citizens. They're undertaking this progress with just a year's experience in democratic politics.

Many of the institutions and traditions we take for granted here in America -- from party structures to centuries' experience with peaceful transitions of power -- are new to Iraq, so we should not be surprised if Iraqis make mistakes or face setbacks in their efforts to build a government that unites the Iraqi people.

We're beginning to see the signs of progress. Earlier this month, Iraqi leaders announced they had reached an agreement on the need to address critical issues such as de-Baathification in the operation of security ministries, and the distribution of oil revenues in the spirit of national unity. They agreed to form a new national security council that will improve coordination within the government on these and other difficult issues. This council will include representatives from all major political groups, as well as leaders from Iraq's executive, judicial and legislative branches. As a result of this council's considered advice, the Iraqi government that emerges will be more effective and more unified.

Another important sign of progress is that Saddam Hussein is now being called to account for his crimes by the free citizens of a free Iraq. Millions of Iraqis are seeing their independent judiciary in action. At the former dictator's trial, Iraqis recently saw something that's got to be truly amazing to them. When Saddam Hussein stood up and began to give a political speech, the presiding judge gaveled him down. Saddam growled at the judge, declaring, "I'm the head of state." The judge replied, "You used to be the head of the state. And now you're a defendant."

Three years ago any Iraqi who addressed Saddam in this way would have been killed on the spot. Now the former dictator is answering to a judge, instead of meting out arbitrary justice, and Iraqis are replacing the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.

Finally, some Americans are asking if it's time to pull out our troops and leave the Iraqis to settle their own differences. I know the work in Iraq is really difficult, but I strongly feel it's vital to the security of our country. The terrorists are killing and maiming and fighting desperately to stop the formation of a unity government because they understand what a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East means for them and their ideology. They know that when freedom sets root in Iraq, it will be a mortal blow to their aspirations to dominate the region and advance their hateful vision. So they're determined to stop the advance of a free Iraq, and we must be equally determined to stop them.

The irony is that the enemy seems to have a much clearer sense of what's at stake than some of the politicians here in Washington, D.C. One member of Congress who has proposed an immediate withdrawal of American forces in Iraq recently explained that what would happen after American forces pulled out was this: He said, "They'll fight each other, somebody will win, they'll settle it for themselves." While it might sound attractive to some, it would have disastrous consequences for American security. The Iraqi government is still in transition, and the Iraqi security forces are still gathering capacity. If we leave Iraq before they're capable of defending their own democracy, the terrorists will win. They will achieve their stated goal. This is what the terrorists have told us they want to achieve. They will turn Iraq into a safe haven. They will seek to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction. They will use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East. They will use Iraq as a base from which to launch further attacks against the United States of America.

Mindful of recent history, I ask you to think about what happened in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the United States helped Afghan freedom fighters drive the Soviet Red Army from Kabul, and once the Soviets withdrew, we decided our work was finished and left the Afghans to defend [sic] for themselves. Soon the terrorists moved in to fill the vacuum. They took over the country; they turned it into a safe haven from which they planned and launched the attacks of September the 11th.

If we leave Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists will move in and fill the vacuum, and they will use that failed state to bring murder and destruction to freedom-loving nations.

I know some in our country disagree with my decision to liberate Iraq. Whatever one thought about the decision to remove Saddam from power, I hope we should all agree that pulling our troops out prematurely would be a disaster. If we were to let the terrorists drive us out of Iraq, we would signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our troops by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. We would cause the tyrants in the Middle East to laugh at our failed resolve and tighten their repressive grip. The global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever. For the security of our citizens and the peace of the world, we will not turn the future of Iraq over to the followers of a failed dictator, or to evil men like bin Laden and Zarqawi.

America will leave Iraq, but we will not retreat from Iraq. We will leave because Iraqi forces have gained in strength, not because America's will has weakened. We will complete the mission in Iraq because the security of the American people is linked to the success in Iraq.

We're pursuing a clear strategy for victory. Victory requires an integrated strategy: political, economic and security. These three elements depend on and reinforce one another. By working with Iraqi leaders to build the foundations of a strong democracy, we will ensure they have the popular support they need to defeat the terrorists. By going after the terrorists, coalition and Iraqi forces are creating the conditions that allow the Iraqi people to begin rebuilding their lives and their country. By helping Iraqis with economic reconstruction, we're giving every citizen a real stake in the success of a free Iraq. And as all this happens, the terrorists, those who offer nothing but death and destruction, are becoming isolated from the population.

I wish I could tell you the violence in Iraq is waning and that all the tough days in the struggle are behind us. They're not. There will be more tough fighting ahead with difficult days that test the patience and the resolve of our country. Yet, we can have faith in the final outcome because we've seen freedom overcome the darkness of tyranny and terror and secure the peace before. And in this century, freedom is going to prevail again.

In 1941, the year the Freedom House began its work, the future of freedom seemed bleak. There were about a dozen lonely democracies in the world. The Soviet Union was led by the tyrant Stalin who massacred millions. Hitler was leading Nazi Germany in a campaign to dominate Europe and eliminate the Jewish people from the face of the Earth. An imperial Japan launched a brutal surprise attack on America. Today, six decades later, the Soviet empire is no more; Germany and Japan are free nations, and they are allies in the cause of peace; and the majority of the world's governments are democracies.

There were doubters six decades ago who said that freedom could not prevail. History has proved them wrong. In this young century, the doubters are still with us; but so is the unstoppable power of freedom. In Afghanistan and Iraq and other nations, that power is replacing tyranny with hope, and no one should bet against it.

One of the greatest forces for freedom in the history of the world is the United States Armed Forces. In the past four-and-a-half years, our troops have liberated more people than at any time since World War II. Because of the men and women who wear our nation's uniform, 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan have tasted freedom, and their liberation has inspired millions more across the broader Middle East to believe that freedom is theirs, as well.

This is going to be freedom's century. Thank you for giving me a chance to come and visit with you. May God bless. (Applause.) [...]

Q Mr. President, I'm from the Public International Law and Policy Group. I'm also from Egypt and I aspire to one day go back there and join Egyptian politics. So my question is --

THE PRESIDENT: Go for President. (Laughter.)

Q I'm working on it, I'm working on it -- in 2017, everyone. (Laughter.) But my question is, would you support the regime of Gamal Mubarak if he takes over after President Mubarak?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a leading question. (Laughter.)

Q -- question.

THE PRESIDENT: No? That's a question I don't answer question. (Laughter.) I support a country which does not fear political movements, but is willing to compete with political movements. That's the kind of country I support.

There's a -- first of all, I appreciate the fact that there were elections in Egypt. That's positive. I think people in positions of responsibility like mine ought to say, if there seems to be a movement gaining ground on the streets, the question ought to be why; not how can we repress it, but what is taking place? What is it that's causing somebody to be in favor? What are they saying that I'm not saying, or what are they doing that I'm not doing?

Competition for ideas and the votes of people are very healthy in societies. As a matter of fact, it's one of the ways to defeat the terrorists. Terrorists feed on resentment. When people don't feel their voices are heard, they become resentful, and then they become eligible for recruitment. If people don't feel like they have a chance to express themselves and have the government listen to them, they're likely to turn to people -- the false prophets, people who subvert a great religion to play on people's frustrations and then use that false prophecy to kill.

And so I -- the answer to your question is, is that I support an openness in the political process. I think when -- I think Egypt is a -- has a chance to be one of the leaders of the freedom movement in the Middle East. I recognize that not everybody is going to embrace this concept of democracy and freedom as firmly as I'd like them to. But all of us have got to continue to advance progress.

One of the interesting debates we have about the freedom movement is whether or not institutions have to be right before there's elections. So in other words, kind of one of these interesting philosophical debates that's taking place. My answer -- you heard my answer -- my answer is, you got to have -- you can't wait for perfect, because it's an excuse for the status quo.

Elections start the process. They're not the end of the process. They're oftentimes the beginning of the process. And one of the reasons I respect the Freedom House is because you understand that you follow elections with institution-building and the creation of civil society. But for those who say, well, we can't have elections until everything is just right, or until we know the outcome of the elections, are those who provide excuse, in my judgment, for a foreign policy which in the past has said, it's okay, just so long as energy is priced okay; and okay so there's no ruffles on the -- the sea looks calm. My problem with that attitude is, beneath the surface, there's resentment and anger.

I'll also tell you another -- I'm not going to tell you your business in the Freedom House, but I think a movement that must be tapped into in order to advance freedom is the women's movement. I just -- there is something universal about the desire to be treated fairly and equally. And therefore, in societies in which women are not being treated fairly and equally provides great opportunities to advance the cause of freedom. We've got to be wise about how we do it in the United States. Sometimes the stamp of America obviously provides those who are trying to resist freedom, given them an excuse not to. I understand that. But it's -- there are great opportunities in the world.

The temptation in today's society is to say, it's not worth it. Or, certain people can't self-govern. It's really part of the debate in Iraq, isn't it, when you think about it -- is, can these people self-govern? And I can understand why some in America say they can't, because all they see is unbelievable violence. And we're a country of deep compassion. We care. One of the great things about America, one of the beauties of our country, is that when we see a young, innocent child blown up by an IED, we cry. We don't care what the child's religion may be, or where that child may live, we cry. It upsets us. The enemy knows that, and they're willing to -- they're willing to kill to shake our confidence. That's what they're trying to do.

They're not going to shake my confidence, I just want you to know. I understand their tactics and I know their designs. But I also believe that Iraqis can and want to self-govern. That's what I believe. And so when you see me make decisions, or make statements like I make, you've got to understand it's coming from a basic set of beliefs. That's what I believe. And that's what a decision-maker ought to do. The decision-maker ought to make decisions based upon deep-seeded beliefs. You don't need a President chasing polls and focus groups in order to make tough decisions. You need Presidents who make decisions based upon sound principle.

Now, people may not agree with the decisions; I understand that. But I hope after this talk, those of you who didn't agree at least know I'm making my decisions based on something I believe deep in my soul, and something that's worked in the past. Democracies have yielded the peace. I believe 30 years form now, people are going to look back at this moment and say, thank goodness a generation of Americans stood up and said, we have faith in democracy, faith in democracy to lay the foundation for peace, and an American President will be discussing issues of peace with duly-elected leaders in the Middle East, and our children will be better off for it.

And I want to tell you one anecdote now that you've got me wound up. (Laughter.) I sit down at the table with Prime Minister Koizumi. I tell this story all the time, because one of my jobs is to go out and explain to the American people the consequences of the decisions that I have made and why I think it's in our interests. Koizumi and I are not only good friends, but we're partners in peace. We talk about a variety of issues -- North Korea is an issue, we talk -- you know, he's got 1,000 troops in Iraq. Isn't that amazing, when you think about it? Because he understands the benefits of democracy in the broader Middle East. We're close friends.

Sixty years ago -- it seems like an eternity for a lot of people, I recognize that, but it's not that long ago -- my dad fought the Japanese, and so did your relatives. They were the sworn enemy of the United States of America. I find it an unbelievable part of history that I am now sitting down at the table with the Prime Minister of Japan talking about the peace, and my dad fought them. And so what happened? What happened was, Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. That's what happened. And now they're peaceful. And they sit at the table with their former enemy. I think that's a lesson worth listening to and understanding.

But I bet you after World War II there were great doubters as to whether or not Harry Truman was doing the right thing to help Japan become a democracy. I see Stevens nodding, he was there. Weren't you? (Laughter.) Well, I wasn't. (Laughter.) But I'm reading a lot about it. And I believe it's a lesson for all of us in this -- in the 21st century. Spreading democracy is hard work. It's hard to overcome sectarian division and torture. It's hard to overcome that. But it's worth it, for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM


States Have More Schools Falling Behind (Paul Basken, March 29, 2006, Bloomberg News)

More than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under terms of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, according to preliminary state-by-state statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

At least 24,470 U.S. public schools, or 27 percent of the national total, did not meet the federal requirement for "adequate yearly progress" in 2004-2005. The percentage of failing schools rose by one point from the previous school year. Under the 2002 law, schools that do not make sufficient academic progress face penalties including the eventual replacement of their administrators and teachers.

The results raise doubts about whether the law is working and its results are fairly calculated, said Michael Petrilli, vice president for policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based research group.

How can they still not get that the point is for 100% to eventually be failing which will make every child in America eligible for vouchers? A law that requires even special education students achieve standards of proficiency does not intend that any school be found to be passing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


Israelis vote for peace at their price (Con Coughlin, 30/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The true indicator of the desire for peace lies in the performance of Likud and Labour, which were once regarded as the traditional parties of government in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, conducted his campaign on a "no surrender" ticket - ie, that Israel would not undertake further unilateral withdrawals from Palestinian territory following last summer's forcible removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. In his view - and that of his followers - the West Bank is part of Eretz Israel, the biblical land of Israel, and Jews have just as much right to live there as Arabs.

Amir Peretz, the Labour leader, while supporting the disengagement policy, favours a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, rather than simply abandoning them to the apartheid-style enclaves they inhabit in the West Bank.

The humiliating defeat inflicted on Likud, which won just 11 seats - its lowest share of the vote since the early 1970s - and Labour's surprisingly strong showing with 20, is indicative of the direction in which public opinion is moving. [...]

Arafat's refusal to accept Barak's offer, and his subsequent involvement in launching the second intifada, explains the radically different approach that has been taken, first by Sharon and more recently by Olmert, in seeking a permanent resolution of Israel's security needs. If the Palestinians are not interested in negotiating a peace settlement, the Israeli government will implement one with or without their involvement or approval.

Olmert indicated during the election campaign that he will apply this policy of unilateral withdrawal, which was unveiled during Israel's disengagement from Gaza last August, to the West Bank if the Palestinians are unwilling to participate in meaningful negotiations. This prospect appears more remote than before with the radical Palestinian Islamic group Hamas - which does not even recognise Israel's right to exist - yesterday forming the new Palestinian government.

In a ploy aimed at influencing the Israeli electorate, Ismael Haniya, Hamas's new Palestinian prime minister, declared on the eve of the poll that he was keen to enter a dialogue with the new Israeli government, and thereby avoid the bloodbath his organisation threatens will inevitably occur if Israel proceeds with its unilateralist agenda.

The problem for Haniya and the rest of the Palestinian leadership is that, from Israel's point of view, the negotiating parameters have changed dramatically in the past five years.

The 97 per cent of occupied Palestinian territory Barak offered Arafat is no longer on the table. When Olmert last week outlined his ambitious plan to establish permanent borders by 2010, he indicated that Israel was prepared to vacate only 84 per cent of Palestinian territory. The large Israeli suburban settlements, such as Ma'ale Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem, would remain under Israeli control, as would the strategically important Jordan valley.

Indeed, the proposed new border bears an uncanny resemblance to the nine-metre-high security fence (Palestinians call it the "apartheid fence") built by Sharon to isolate the main Palestinian population centres from Israel.

Olmert, like Sharon, does not seem to mind whether Israel's borders are established unilaterally, or through negotiations with the Palestinians - assuming the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority is actually committed [to] having a serious dialogue.

When Israel sat down to negotiate with the PLO it lost the argument over whether an independent Palestinian state was going to exist. If the Palestinians enter negotiations now they losze the argument over whether Israel is going to. The borders are just a detail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


Judicial activism or restraint? (Walter E. Williams, March 29, 2006, Creators Syndicate, Inc.)

Are federal, state and local justices appointed to office to impose their personal views on society or to interpret law? Is it a judge's duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and state constitutions in the cases of state and local judges, or is it their duty to uphold foreign law and United Nations treaties? Should what a judge sees as "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights govern court decisions, or the U.S. Constitution?

It was the former – not the U.S. Constitution – that determined last year's Roper v. Simmons decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the execution of a convicted murderer because he was 17 years old at the time of his offense. [...]

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker has little patience with his colleagues who use their office to impose their values instead of applying the written law, but he's in trouble for saying so. Judge Parker wrote an opinion article that was published in the Birmingham News on Jan. 1. It criticized the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that banned executions for murderers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes. [...]

Joel Sogol, former chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union's litigation committee, filed a complaint against Judge Parker with Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission. The complaint charges Parker with violating Alabama's judicial ethics standards when he publicly criticized his eight Supreme Court colleagues and the Roper v. Simmons U.S. Supreme Court decision. Sogol says that Judge Parker's criticism breeds contempt for the law.

Sogol has it wrong. It's the court's failure to meet its constitutional duties that breeds contempt for the law.

At any rate, we can all agree about the contempt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Audiences in Seoul face the music about North Korea (Donald Kirk, 3/30/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Telling the world "what it is like" motivated the director, a North Korean refugee, to press on with the production in the face of funding problems and a government that remains extremely uncomfortable with criticism of its northern neighbor.

Officials called asking the show not to go on, says director Jung Sung San, who escaped to China after leaping from a truck carrying him to prison in 1994. He had been sentenced to 13 years in jail for listening to South Korean music. "We got anonymous calls telling us not to do it. We toned it down and revised it a lot."

It's a useful exercise to look at the Koreas -- the North which we can all agree is genuinely evil and the South which is relatively Westernized and decent -- and see how so many of those who are in the moral right still insist on excusing or ignoring what's going on across the border. It makes it easier to understand that folks here similarly become apologists for our enemies and downplay the truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


British Columbia bill would allow apologies without legal fallout (The Associated Press

Sorry may soon no longer be so hard to say in British Columbia.

The provincial government on Tuesday became the first in Canada to propose legislation that would allow people and organizations to apologize without risking liability for damages or other penalties. Under the measure, evidence of an apology would not be admissible in legal proceedings.

"There are times when an apology is very important and appropriate, but the legal implications have long been uncertain," provincial Attorney General Wallace T. Oppal said in the legislature.

"The Apology Act is designed to promote the early and mutually beneficial resolution of disputes by allowing parties to express honest regret or remorse," Oppal said.

Such apologies seem to be one way to limit medical malpractice lawsuits. Sometimes folks just want to hear you acknowledge you screwed up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


Legislature passes bill to expand when deadly force can be used (BOB JOHNSON, 3/29/06, Associated Press)

The Alabama House gave final passage Tuesday to legislation to expand the instances where a person can kill someone to protect a home or vehicle.

The House passed the legislation 82-9 after breaking a filibuster by some black legislators, who expressed concern it would cause people to be shot when they accidentally stray on someone's property.

The legislation now goes to Gov. Bob Riley. A spokesman for the governor, David Ford, said Riley has said he supports the bill.

The bill was eve introduced by a Democrat. There's no better way to defeat Democrats this Fall than make them go on record against guns in rural states.

Posted by David Cohen at 6:22 PM


Congresswoman McKinney Punches Police Officer (Drudgereport, 3/29/06)

MORE... Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) punched a U.S. Capitol Police officer today after he mistakenly pursued her for failing to pass through a metal detector, HOTLINE reports... The entire incident is on tape. The cop is pressing charges and the USCP are waiting until Congress adjourns to arrest her, a source claims... Developing...
It's not even my birthday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Lapses in cargo screening uncovered: Undercover officers reveal the need for even tighter security, after sneaking 'dirty' bomb material into the US. (Alexandra Marks, 3/30/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

All it took were some forged documents to "smuggle" into the US enough nuclear material to make a "dirty" bomb - the kind that mixes radioactive material with conventional explosives to cause extra damage.

In a government sting, US investigators twice managed to slip the illicit materials across America's border, once at a point of entry from Canada and another time from Mexico. And that was after border agents in both instances detected the presence of the nuclear material, but were duped by Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents the investigators had faked.

That's what happens when you don't have the best port management.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


'The Last Helicopter': Mideast dictators try to "wait Bush out." They may be miscalculating. (AMIR TAHERI, March 29, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Hassan Abbasi has a dream--a helicopter doing an arabesque in cloudy skies to avoid being shot at from the ground. On board are the last of the "fleeing Americans," forced out of the Dar al-Islam (The Abode of Islam) by "the Army of Muhammad." Presented by his friends as "The Dr. Kissinger of Islam," Mr. Abbasi is "professor of strategy" at the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard Corps University and, according to Tehran sources, the principal foreign policy voice in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new radical administration.

For the past several weeks Mr. Abbasi has been addressing crowds of Guard and Baseej Mustadafin (Mobilization of the Dispossessed) officers in Tehran with a simple theme: The U.S. does not have the stomach for a long conflict and will soon revert to its traditional policy of "running away," leaving Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed the whole of the Middle East, to be reshaped by Iran and its regional allies.

To hear Mr. Abbasi tell it the entire recent history of the U.S. could be narrated with the help of the image of "the last helicopter." It was that image in Saigon that concluded the Vietnam War under Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter had five helicopters fleeing from the Iranian desert, leaving behind the charred corpses of eight American soldiers. Under Ronald Reagan the helicopters carried the corpses of 241 Marines murdered in their sleep in a Hezbollah suicide attack. Under the first President Bush, the helicopter flew from Safwan, in southern Iraq, with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf aboard, leaving behind Saddam Hussein's generals, who could not believe why they had been allowed live to fight their domestic foes, and America, another day. Bill Clinton's helicopter was a Black Hawk, downed in Mogadishu and delivering 16 American soldiers into the hands of a murderous crowd.

According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration"....

While that much certainly has a bit of truth to it, they aren't going to like President McCain any better than President Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Judge Rules Teachers Have No Free Speech Rights in Class (Matthew Rothschild, March 24, 2006, The Progressive)

Here's an update on Deb Mayer, the teacher who said her contract was not renewed because she answered a student's question about whether she would participate in a demonstration for peace. [...]

On March 10, Judge Sarah Evans Barker dismissed Mayer’s case, granting summary judgment to the defendants.

The judge said the school district was within its rights to terminate Mayer because of various complaints it received from parents about her teaching performance.

But beyond that, Judge Barker ruled that “teachers, including Ms. Mayer, do not have a right under the First Amendment to express their opinions with their students during the instructional period.”

The judge ruled that “school officials are free to adopt regulations prohibiting classroom discussion of the war,” and that “the fact that Ms. Mayer’s January 10, 2003, comments were made prior to any prohibitions by school officials does not establish that she had a First Amendment right to make those comments in the first place.” The judge also implied that Mayer, by making her comments, was attempting to “arrogate control of the curricula.”

And the judge gave enormous leeway to school districts to limit teachers’ speech in the classroom.

“Whatever the school board adopts as policy regarding what teachers are permitted to express in terms of their opinions on current events during the instructional period, that policy controls, and there is no First Amendment right permitting teachers to do otherwise,” Judge Barker wrote.

Shut up and teach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM

COROLLARY TO BURKE (via Gene Brown):

Peace isn't made when real wrongdoing goes ignored (Jonathan Gurwitz, 03/29/2006, San Antonio Express-News)

"The consequences of doing nothing in the face of evil were demonstrated when the world did not stop the Rwandan genocide that killed almost a million people in 1994. Where were the peace protesters then? They were just as silent as they are today in the face of the barbaric behavior of religious fanatics."
-Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, writing in the Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2004

A peace laureate acting as an advocate for war might seem odd. Odd, unless you understand that war is not the worst evil known to mankind. And odd, unless you understand that the absence of war is far from being the same thing as peace.

"Some may accuse me of being more of a warmonger than a Nobel laureate," Ramos-Horta wrote. "It is always easier to say no to war, even at the price of appeasement. But being politically correct means leaving the innocent to suffer the world over, from Phnom Penh to Baghdad."

I recalled Ramos-Horta's powerful essay while reading the piddling statement from Christian Peacemaker Teams after coalition forces stormed a house on the outskirts of Baghdad and freed three of the organization's members.

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to focus on the means, not the end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Enough with the globo-gab: Transnationalism may be on the way out -- and not a moment too soon
(MARK STEYN, 3/27/06, Maclean's)

In Redefining Sovereignty, Orrin C. Judd brings together a splendid collection of essays on the tension between national sovereignty and the new transnational entities. Full disclosure: there's an approving quote from me on the front of the book, but other than that I have no stake in its success or failure; don't know Mr. Judd, nor most of his stellar contributors, from Václav Havel and Jesse Helms to Francis Fukuyama and Kofi Annan. The token Canadian is a good choice: David Warren, represented by a fine essay yoking Bush's approach to Islamism with Lincoln's to the Civil War -- liberating the Middle East is not the point of the exercise, any more than liberating the slaves was. But in both cases it was necessary to fulfill the strategic objectives of saving the Union a century and a half ago, and of saving the nation-state system today. As another contributor, Lee Harris, puts it, "The liberal world system has collapsed internally." He means that there are no longer, in Kant's phrase, "maxims of prudence." That's to say, we don't know the limits of behaviour. When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map, we cannot reliably assure ourselves (though many foolish experts do) that this is just a bit of rhetorical red meat, a little playing to the gallery for the Saturday-night jihad crowd.

The transnational gabfests aren't much use in this new world. The Kyoto treaty is, in that sense, the quintessential expression of the higher multilateralism: the point of Kyoto is not to do anything about "climate change," but to give the impression of doing something about it, at great expense. If climate change is a pressing issue and if the global economy is responsible -- two pretty big "ifs" -- then Kyoto expends enormous (diplomatic) energy and (fiscal) resources doing nothing about it: even if those who signed on to it actually complied with it instead of just pretending to, all that would happen is that by 2050 the treaty would have reduced global warming by 0.07 degrees -- an amount that's statistically undetectable within annual climate variation.

That's fine for "climate change," which, insofar as there is an imminent threat, is a good half-millennium away. As Kofi Annan, the bespoke embodiment of transnationalism's polite fictions, says, "There is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations." Which is swell if your priority is "legitimacy." That and a dime'll get you a cup of coffee -- unless the tsunami hits and sweeps the lunch counter out to sea. Yet these days, even with natural disasters, the international order divides -- like Bagehot's view of the British constitution -- into its "dignified" and "efficient" halves. The efficient humanitarians -- the Pentagon and the Royal Australian Navy -- have boots on the ground in Indonesia and Sri Lanka within hours, rescuing people, feeding them, housing them. The dignified humanitarians -- the UN's 24/7 permanent humanitarian bureaucracy -- are back in New York holding press conferences to announce they'll be sending a top-level situation-assessment team to the general vicinity to conduct a situation assessment of the situation just as soon as the USAF emergency team has flown in and restored room service to the five-star hotel.

Kofi Annan referred to the UN's "unique legitimacy," and he's right about the "unique" part. The transnational system, in insisting that the foreign minister of Syria is no different from the foreign minister of Denmark, confers a wholly unmerited legitimacy on the planet's gangster states. In Redefining Sovereignty, Roger Scruton wonders of Saddam "how it is that a petty tyrant could have defied the world for so long." But, if "the world" is represented by the UN's "unique legitimacy," you don't have to defy it, you just have to strike a deal -- in this case, the Oil-for-Food program, that Hydra-headed racket under which, among other fascinating codicils and appendices, a million greenbacks from Saddam got funnelled via his Korean chum Tongsun Park into a Canadian petroleum company run by the son of the quintessential transnational Canadian Maurice Strong -- Mister Kyoto himself.

Based on current trends, by mid-century, America, India and China will each be producing roughly 25 per cent of world GDP, with Europe down to 10 per cent. As the columnist John O'Sullivan points out, the three global powerhouses are all strongly attached to traditional notions of national sovereignty, so Europeans and others who've bet on transnationalism have the next 10 years to cement its existing institutions and expand its reach.

Hard to cement the world when you can't even mucilage your own rotten countries together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Play Madison Square Garden (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 3/29/06, NY Times)

It takes a peculiar sort of ambition to want to catch a 70-pound cannonball being propelled at your rib cage at 75 miles an hour. Or to teach three Doberman pinschers to dance on their hind legs. Or to lower yourself under the belly of a horse as it gallops around a ring. Or to ride a motorcycle at 50 miles an hour, circling inside a 16-foot-diameter sphere, four inches away from six other racing cyclists.

Maybe it even takes a peculiar sort of ambition to want to watch these things. But watching — which can be done now at Madison Square Garden at the 136th edition of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus — is also peculiarly satisfying and entertaining.

Bet Cirque du Soleil doesn't have the little flashlights on lanyards that you spin over your head.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Taking on the teachers unions (Frederick M. Hess and Martin R. West, March 29, 2006, Boston Globe)

IT IS RARE -- and risky -- for a governor and national political aspirant to put the interests of children above those of a constituency that has as much electoral clout as the teachers unions. Yet Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has done just that with the education reform package he proposed last September and is touting nationwide.

The governor's bill seeks to upend the status quo in teacher pay and evaluation that has been written into collective bargaining agreements across the Commonwealth. Specifically, it would offer annual bonuses for teachers with a math or science degree who pass the teacher test in their subject, forgo tenure, and receive a satisfactory year-end evaluation. It would also make teachers in all subjects eligible for a bonus upon receiving an exemplary evaluation and empower superintendents to reward teachers who work in low-performing schools. Crucially, the bill would remove teacher evaluation from the collective bargaining process and establish statewide criteria for assessing each teacher's ''contribution to student learning."

While several states and districts nationwide are experimenting with differential pay for teachers, Romney's proposals are noteworthy for their breadth and the size of the proposed bonuses. All told, an effective math or science teacher could receive up to $15,000 a year in three bonuses.

Catherine Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, predictably criticized Romney's proposals as ''inequitable, divisive, and ineffective."

Democrats are pro-union. Republicans are pro-student.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Driver charged in I-277 crash that killed fetus (Michael O'Malley, March 29, 2006, Cleveland
Plain Dealer)

An Akron man who police say was driving drunk at high speeds has been charged with homicide in a one-car crash that paralyzed his pregnant teenage girlfriend and killed the fetus she was carrying.

All you need to know about the Death Lobby is that they're forced to oppose such charges.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Cleveland schools struggle with 'No Child' law's rules (Ellen Jan Kleinerman, March 29, 2006, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Test scores in math and reading rose under the No Child Left Behind law in Cleveland and in districts nationwide, according to a new study, but there was a price.

About 70 percent of the 299 districts in the survey cut back on instruction in at least one other subject to make more time for reading and math - the two areas monitored under the law, said Jack Jennings, CEO of the Center for Education Policy, a Washington, D.C., research group.

...when we could be teaching them to macrame condoms....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Violence Mars French Strike (Stefan Simons, 3/29/06, Der Spiegel)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Choosing Divorce over Peace ( Pierre Heumann, 3/29/06, Der Spiegel)

Ehud Olmert's election victory shows that Israel is turning inward: voters want their government to focus on fighting poverty inside Israel rather than pursuing a peace process they have lost faith in. Israelis have accepted a plan to separate themselves from the Palestinians with a security barrier and a final redrawing of the border.

The Israelis are demanding a change in politics -- center-left instead of center-right, inward rather than outward-looking. They paved the way for that change in Tuesday's parliamentary election. Parties pledging a withdrawal from the West Bank got the most support. Voters hope the pullout will free up the energy and the resources needed to solve the country's problems. [...]

The election sprung unpleasant surprises on a number of politicians. Olmert may have won but his support was considerably weaker than opinion polls had indicated. The Labor Party fared better than expected, and Olmert will now have to come to an arrangement with Amir Peretz, the former trade union leader who now leads the party.

Settling with Palestine is the easy part--all it requires is imposing a state. The existential threat to Israel comes from within, where an aging and declining population may well go the way of Europe, into secular socialist oblivion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Iran Hard-Line Regime Cracks Down on Blogs (LARA SUKHTIAN, 3/28/06, Associated Press)

The Iranian blogging community, known as Weblogistan, is relatively new. It sprang to life in 2001 after hard-liners — fighting back against a reformist president — shut down more than 100 newspapers and magazines and detained writers. At the time, Derakhshan posted instructions on the Internet in Farsi on how to set up a weblog.

Since then, the community has grown dramatically. Although exact figures are not known, experts estimate there are between 70,000 and 100,000 active weblogs in Iran. The vast majority are in Farsi but a few are in English.

Overall, the percentage of Iranians now blogging is "gigantic," said Curt Hopkins, director of an online group called the Committee to Protect Bloggers, who lives in Seattle.

"They are a talking people, very intellectual, social, and have a lot to say. And they are up against a small group (in the government) that are trying to shut everyone up," said Hopkins.

To bolster its campaign, the Iranian government has one of the most extensive and sophisticated operations to censor and filter Internet content of any country in the world — second only to China, Hopkins said.

It also is one of a growing number of Mideast countries that rely on U.S. commercial software to do the filtering, according to a 2004 study by a group called the OpenNet Initiative. The software that Iran uses blocks both internationally hosted sites in English and local sites in Farsi, the study found.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Brazil hopes to build on its ethanol success (David J. Lynch, 3/28/06, USA TODAY)

A three-decade-long alternative energy campaign has outfitted Brazilian filling stations with fuel pumps that offer pure ethanol, a blend of gasoline and 20% ethanol called gasohol, or even natural gas. This year, Brazil will achieve energy independence — a goal the United States has been chasing without success since the energy crises of the 1970s.

Now, even as the U.S. haltingly sets out on the path Brazil blazed, producers here are drawing up plans to transform sugar-cane-based ethanol from a national success to a global commodity. Brazilian companies are investing $9 billion in dozens of new sugar mills to boost ethanol production while aiming to double exports by 2010. The eventual goal is to spread new ethanol industries in countries from Japan to Nigeria.

"We are moving fast to the wholesale export of ethanol. ... We're investing in infrastructure in Brazil to make it easier to export in large quantities," says Jose Gabrielli, chief executive of the state-owned oil company Petrobras, which oversees ethanol sales abroad.

In the USA, ethanol imports are expected to surge from modest levels this year as refineries phase out a gasoline additive called MTBE, says the Energy Information Administration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Joe's Special: From The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook by Christopher Hirsheimer and Peggy Knickerbocker (The Splendid Table, 3/29/06)

This dish has appeared on San Francisco restaurant menus for decades, and is still regularly ordered at Original Joe's on Taylor Street, which dates to 1937. [...]

* 3 or 4 large eggs
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pound ground grass-fed beef
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1 large onion, any kind, finely chopped
* 1 pound spinach, tough stems removed and leaves chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs until blended and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Crumble the beef into the pan and cook, stirring, until some of the red is gone but not a minute longer. This will take only a few minutes (keep it pink). Pour off the excess fat and transfer the meat to a bowl. Set aside and keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and place over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until it wilts and is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pan, add the oregano, and taste and adjust the seasoning.

4. Add the eggs, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, just until the eggs are set, another minute or two, then serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


Caspar Weinberger's In the Arena (Edwin Black)

In the Arena [Regnery], Casper Weinberger's plain prose memoir generally devoid of emotion recounts the 20th century as it intersected the events of his life.

In the very first chapter, Weinberger bluntly lays to rest the assumption that he was raised Jewish, recounting that both his father and grandfather were indifferent to any religion dating back to a synagogue quarrel in Bohemia three generations earlier. Weinberger was instead influenced by his mother's interest in the Episcopalian Church. Later, during his Harvard days, he became an active Episcopalian, confessing that his "faith in God has been an enormous influence and comfort all my life."

Weinberger's intense interest in things military started with his "illegal" attempt to join the RAF in 1941 to fight Germany before the US joined the war. (He was turned down because of bad eyesight.) Later, he did enlist in the army, serving in the South Pacific. [...]

Laced throughout the book is Weinberger's immense devotion to and admiration of Ronald Reagan, whom he credits with winning the Cold War. The turning point, Weinberger writes, was "when President Reagan, in perhaps his most major violation of conventional wisdom, blatantly told the world that Communism was an Evil Empire."

Oh geez, don't remind folks that the Cold War was finally won by Evangelical zealots....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Boehner hints a back down on 'amnesty' (Charles Hurt, March 29, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner refused yesterday to rule out compromising with the Senate to expand the House border security bill to include a guest-worker program or provisions that opponents call "amnesty." [...]

Conservatives were especially appalled to see so many Republicans -- Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas -- join panel Democrats to approve the proposal.

"It appears that the members of the committee who voted for this misguided legislation are more in tune with the thousands of protesters waving Mexican flags in the streets of Los Angeles than they are with the overwhelming majority of Americans who are demanding that America's borders and national security be protected," said Bill Lauderback, executive vice president of the American Conservative Union. [....]

The only solace for the conservatives has been the House, where many Republicans adamantly oppose any process that permits current illegals to apply for citizenship without first leaving the country. Also, they say Congress must prove to voters that they can enforce existing immigration laws and strengthen the borders before creating any guest-worker program that draws new immigrants.

Mr. Boehner and other House leaders said yesterday they still prefer their border-security-only bill.

Even if they could pass a security only bill, the President would just veto it without the reform provisions.

Who are illegal immigrants? Most are young, bring families (Stephen Ohlemacher, 3/29/06, The Associated Press)

They are more likely than American citizens to hold jobs but less likely to have high-school diplomas. They tend to be younger, and many have children who were born in the U.S., making the kids citizens.

They are illegal immigrants, their numbers estimated at 12 million as the question of what to do about them reaches a boiling point on Capitol Hill.

Fewer than half fit the profile of young men sneaking across the border to find jobs and send money back home to their families. Today, most bring their families with them, according to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington.

"There's about 6.5 million adults who are in families, either couples or couples with children, and there's another 2 million children," said Jeffrey Passel, a senior research associate at the center. "The vast majority of this population is families."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


McCain tweaks maverick image (EJ Dionne, 3/29/06, Seattle Times)

McCain's problem is that political parties very rarely nominate mavericks, and McCain has decided the only way he'll ever be president is as the Republican nominee. So today he cares very much about what hurts him or helps him in his own party.

The most flagrant sign of this was his February vote to continue Bush's dividends and capital-gains tax cuts that he once eloquently opposed.

"It's a big flip-flop," one-time McCain foe Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Washington Times' Donald Lambro, "but I'm happy that he's flopped."

Those of us who defended McCain in the days when the likes of Norquist were attacking him do see the Arizona Republican's new position as a major flop. But so what? Norquist has more power in Republican primaries than McCain's old base among pundits and reporters. Whenever a liberal turns on McCain these days, the senator's supporters gleefully e-mail the criticism to conservative activists as a sign of their man's true faith.

The prevailing view among McCain's lieutenants — it's also the conventional political view — is that since the main obstacle to his nomination in 2008 comes from the right and from Bush partisans, McCain's main task is to appease the right and make nice with Bush on issues (such as Iraq) where McCain actually agrees with the president. Liberal attacks can be ignored since most liberals will eventually vote against McCain anyway. There will be plenty of time after he's nominated for McCain to don his maverick apparel again for the benefit of moderates and independents. [...]

Republican and Democratic friends alike object that this analysis is based on a misunderstanding: McCain's non-conservative, non-Republican sympathizers, they argue, have always overrated his progressive credentials. It's time to face the fact that McCain really is a conservative Republican and stop hoping he's something else.

The Post ought to have his friends write the column instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Joshua Brewster Bolten: Longtime Ally, Now a Top Aide (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 3/29/06, NY Times)

Joshua B. Bolten, the incoming White House chief of staff, would appear to have the insider credentials and ability to soothe Congress that the White House desperately needs.

He grew up in establishment Washington, the son of a C.I.A. officer, and graduated from the elite St. Albans School, former Vice President Al Gore's alma mater. As White House budget director, he amused his 500-member staff by renaming his weekend rock band Deficit Attention Disorder for a performance at the Office of Management and Budget. He has nurtured relationships on Capitol Hill, and is personally close to President Bush.

But the question is whether Mr. Bolten is the man to right a listing presidency, and whether his skills, instincts and access to Mr. Bush are enough to overcome public anger over the war in Iraq and the growing questions in Washington about the competence of the West Wing staff. Mr. Bolten, after all, has been with Mr. Bush from his first days as a presidential candidate, and in the last three years has presided over the biggest budget deficits in the history of the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


New Bazooka Joe something to chew on (Jesse Noyes, March 29, 2006, Seattle Times)

Bazooka Joe might be over 50, but he’s never looked so young.

The eternal kid is getting a fresh look as executives plan a $4 million relaunch of the iconic brand in an effort to entice a new generation of bubble gum chewers.

“Bazooka Joe has sort of been brought back to life,” said Paul Cherrie, managing director at The Topps Co., which owns the Bazooka Joe brand. “He’s been contemporized.

Forty seven.

March 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


South of the border, fence is no deterrent: Would-be migrants say nothing will stop them from working in US. (Danna Harman, 3/29/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

While debate in the US continues over immigration reform policy, here, on the south side of the border, there seems to be consensus that enforcement measures will deter almost no one. "Walls and lights and sensors and police fill our heads," says Dagoberto Martinez, "...but they don't make us turn back." [...]

The border patrol caught 1.2 million would-be illegal immigrants in 2005; that's an average of one arrest every 30 seconds. There are no official stats for how many made it across, but the Pew Hispanic Center estimates there are, today, between 11.5 and 12 million illegal immigrants living in the US, of whom 56 percent are Mexicans.

From Altar, some, going it alone, flag down buses headed north, where they will try to sneak across. Others - the majority, according to the US Border Patrol - have hired coyotes, or people smugglers, to guide them. These travelers get on vans and are shuttled to whatever point along the border has been chosen for them that day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Blair cooling on green targets for Kyoto successor (Philip Webster in Auckland, Mark Henderson and Lewis Smith, 3/29/06, Times of London)

TONY BLAIR was accused last night of caving in to American pressure by proposing a watered-down replacement for the Kyoto Protocol that relies on new technology rather than binding greenhouse gas cuts as the solution to climate change.

The Prime Minister will call today for a new international goal of stabilising temperatures and carbon emissions at present levels when the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012, to be achieved primarily by investment in cleaner energy technologies. [...]

Mr Blair’s proposal, which comes as the Government admitted that it would miss its pledge to reduce carbon dioxide output by 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2010, will be laid out in a speech to a climate change conference in Wellington, the New Zealand capital.

When George Bush co-opted India, China, Japan and Australia it was the end of Kyoto for all but fanatics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM


Caspar Weinberger (Daily Telegraph, 29/03/2006)

Caspar Weinberger, who died yesterday aged 88, was US Secretary of Defence under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1987, and a loyal friend to Britain during the Falklands War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


Strike protests in Paris and London (Philip Johnston, 29/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

[W]hereas in Britain the day was marked by nothing more revolutionary than picket lines and rallies, in France it ended with clashes on the streets. In Paris, where 700,000 marched, police used tear gas against several hundred youths who threw bottles and petrol bombs.

The protest, which threatens to bring down the government of Dominique de Villepin, forced the Eiffel Tower to close and caused delays for commuters. A third of flights were cancelled, 70 per cent of public transport was disrupted and national newspapers failed to appear. [...]

[A]s night fell in Paris, the smell of tear gas was in the air.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


Victory puts Olmert at centre of Israeli politics (Tim Butcher, 29/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The political landscape of Israel was redrawn last night as the newly-formed Kadima party led by Ehud Olmert became the first centrist movement to win an Israeli general election in the 58-year history of the Jewish state. [...]

"We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved Land of Israel … and evacuate, under great pain, Jews living there, in order to create the conditions that will enable you to fulfil your dream and live alongside us," he said.

"It is time for the Palestinians to change their ethos, to accept compromise as soon as possible. If they manage to do this soon, we will sit and work out a plan. If not, Israel will take control of its own fate, and in consensus among our people and with the agreement of the world and US President George Bush, we will act. The time has come to act."

As the results came in there were gains for Left-wing parties including Labour and a surprisingly strong performance by a party campaigning for pensioners but the election was a disaster for the Right-wing Likud, which lost two thirds of its seats.

According to the first exit polls, Kadima (which means Forward) won 30-32 seats, fewer than the 35-40 seats suggested by earlier polls but still enough to ensure Mr Olmert would lead the next government as prime minister.

Voters turn their backs on Israeli hardliners (Stephen Farrell, 3/29/06, Times of London)
In a late-night victory speech Ehud Olmert spoke of a new chapter in Israel’s history, offering peace to its enemies and uniting internal divisions.

Just four months after the party was formed by Ariel Sharon – to whom Mr Olmert paid fulsome tribute – Kadima was predicted to win 28 seats after votes were counted in 50 per cent of polling stations, according to Israel Channel 10 Televison.

The centre-left Labour party came second, winning 20 seats, leaving Mr Olmert the possibility of heading a centre-left coalition with more than half of the Israeli parliament’s 120 seats.

In a major blow for Binyamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister and anointed heir to Mr Sharon until last year, his divided and bickering Likud Party was reduced to a right wing parliamentary rump, predicted to win just 12 seats.

Kadima badly needs Bibi's economic vision.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:54 PM


The Secret of George Mason: What its Final Four basketball team and its unusual economics department have in common (Peter Boettke and Alexander Tabarrok, Slate, 3/28/06)

Unlike his neighbors, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, founding father George Mason has rarely gotten his props from historians and the public. Until recently, the same could be said of the university bearing his name. But the advancement of Mason's basketball team to the NCAA's Final Four is only the school's latest surprise win. The GMU economics department—which didn't even award Ph.D.s until 1983—has two Nobel Prize winners on its faculty. The law school ascended to the first tier several years ago, a striking achievement for a new program that 10 years ago was being run out of an old department-store building. What's remarkable is that GMU's freewheeling basketball team and its free-market academic teams owe their successes to very similar, market-beating strategies....

James Buchanan, GMU's first Nobel Prize winner, has never had an Ivy League position and indeed he has never taught above the Mason-Dixon Line. Gordon Tullock, a potential future Nobelist, has no degree in economics and took only one class in the subject. Vernon Smith, who moved his team from the University of Arizona (again, no Harvard) to GMU in 2001, had to fight to get people to treat experimental economics as more than a cute parlor game.

In the academic market, herd behavior is compounded by political correctness. In the 1960s, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were joined at the University of Virginia by Ronald Coase (who would later win his own Nobel). But the university administration and powerful organizations like the Ford Foundation thought their free-market ideas (limited government, tax cuts, selling radio spectrum!) were disreputable, and they worked hard to push them out of the university.

I'd love to bet on George Mason, but I'm worried that the bench is too thin. And that's just the Economics Department.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Fed boosts key interest rate for 15th time (Associated Press, Mar. 28, 2006)

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday boosted a key interest rate to the highest level in five years as new Chairman Ben Bernanke followed the Alan Greenspan inflation-fighting formula.

The action, the 15th consecutive quarter-point move, left the federal funds rate at 4.75 percent, its highest level since April 2001.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


Americans see profanity getting worse (Associated Press, Mar. 28, 2006)

This is a story about words we can't print in this story.

You probably hear these words often, and more than ever before. But even though we can't print them - we do have our standards - we can certainly ask: Are we living in an Age of Profanity?

Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week - 74 percent - said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word - ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).

The hardest part of having kids is not swearing in front of them. Funny thing though, folks rarely need to be asked more than once not to use profanity in the comments here and those who break the rule are generally just the trolls of the Left or far Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Next step for immigration (Arnold Schwarzenegger, March 28, 2006, LA Times)

Here are the basic immigration principles that have always guided me and that I believe should guide Congress.

First, immigration is about our security. The first order of business for the federal government is to secure our borders. And Washington simply must do a better job of it. We learned on 9/11 that not all those who cross our borders want to share in the American dream. A few want to replace it with a nightmare. If we don't know who is coming over our borders, we won't know what they might do. And in a post-Sept. 11 world, that is a risk we cannot take. Congress must strengthen our borders.

That's why as governor of California, I have supported legislation to end human trafficking and stop the issuance of driver's licenses to those who aren't legal residents. By bringing folks out of the shadows and into the light, we help immigrants, and we help America.

Criminalizing immigrants for coming here is a slogan, not a solution. Instead, I urge Congress to get tough on those illegal immigrants who are a danger to society. If an illegal immigrant commits a serious crime, he must leave the country — one strike and you're out. No excuses, no delays.

Second, immigration is about our economy. The freest nation in the world, and the freest economy in history, depend on a free flow of people. Immigrants are here to work and contribute. I support efforts to ensure that our businesses have the workers they need and that immigrants are treated with the respect they deserve. We should pass a common-sense temporary worker program so that every person in our nation is documented.

We can embrace the immigrant without endorsing illegal immigration. Granting citizenship to people who are here illegally is not just amnesty … it's anarchy. We are a country of immigrants, yes. But we are also a nation of laws. People who want to be citizens will want to do it the right way.

Finally, immigration is about our values. Too often the debate centers on what immigrants owe us. Too seldom do we ask what we owe them. Above all, we owe it to our country and our immigrants to share our values. We should talk about our history, our institutions and our beliefs. We should assimilate immigrants into the mainstream. We want immigrants to not just live in America but to live as Americans.

Properly handled, immigration is an issue that the Right could use to make all public institutions emphasize our shared values and pubblic schools in particular teach citizenship, which is the sole purpose for which they exist. Pretend to be assimilating immigrants and you can restore a high degree of republican conformity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


Can $10,000 Check End Welfare State? (Andrew Ferguson, March 28, 2006, Bloomberg)

"Harebrained'' may not be the first word that comes to mind when you hear about "In Our Hands,'' Charles Murray's new book. "Crazy'' might come first, or maybe the more idiomatic "crackers.''

But then you start to read it, and the word that pops into your mind is ``Hmmmmm,'' which of course isn't technically a word at all.

Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, has made himself famous as a provocateur -- a social scientist and activist who plants his flag at the furthest edges of the contemporary debate and then waits for everyone else to join him.

It takes a while, but often they do. ``Losing Ground,'' his book on the failures of the U.S. welfare system, was considered scandalous when it was published in 1984. Twelve years later it served as the basis for the welfare reform signed by President Bill Clinton.

``In Our Hands'' is an attempt to leapfrog today's political argument about the size of government. The idea he offers is so unexpected and radically comprehensive that it could force both sides to question their own presuppositions. But first they have to read the book. [...]

His larger goal is to revive those social institutions, particularly the family, the workplace and the local community, which the welfare state has weakened and supplanted and ``through which people live satisfying lives.''

If you want to see the enervating effects of the all- encompassing welfare state, he says, look at Europe, where marriage and birth rates have plunged and work and religion have lost their traditional standing as sources of happiness and personal satisfaction.

In Europe, he says with evident disdain, ``the purpose of life is to while away the time as pleasantly as possible.''

Here the reader of ``In Our Hands'' may suddenly pull up short. What began as a wonkish policy tract enlarges into an exploration of how people live lives of meaning and purpose.

Who knew? It turns out that Charles Murray, the nation's foremost libertarian philosopher, is a moralist.

In the end, though, moralizing and libertarianism make for an uncomfortable fit.

On the one hand, Murray says he wants to liberate citizens from the welfare state so they can live life however they choose. On the other hand, by liberating citizens from the welfare state, he hopes to force them back into lives of traditional bourgeois virtue.

It's a circle that Murray can't quite square, but it's fun watching him try.

The rock upon which libertarianism founders is that it requires that everyone freely choose to be a Judeo-Christian moralist along with you.

The Plan to Replace the Welfare State (Max Borders, 28 Mar 2006, Tech Central Station)

Borders: You have elsewhere called yourself a libertarian.

Murray: Absolutely. I wrote a book calling myself a libertarian.

Borders: So do you believe that justice demands we correct the -- as the philosopher John Rawls would put it -- the natural lottery, the inequalities that life hands us? Or is In Our Hands a kind of pragmatic compromise with the egalitarian left?

Murray: More the latter. I want to say to my fellow libertarians out there: I not only still consider myself a libertarian, I don't consider that I've wavered in it.

But here's what I think we have to talk about. You think, if you're a libertarian -- as I think -- that the best solution of all is to leave all of this money in the hands of the people who started with it. And this would energize unimaginably effective, widespread, voluntary means of dealing with the problems we face. You believe that. I believe that. That's fine.

We cannot blink at the fact that there's so much money out there -- and the impulse to use the government to redistribute is widespread. We are not going to change that. For all time to come, governments are going to take in vast sums of money and redistribute it. And then the question for libertarians becomes: if one accepts that it's going to happen, is there a way to do this which leaves people's lives in their own hands?

And that's the source of the title of the book. So there will still be government redistributing a lot of money. The big difference is it's no longer bureaucrats who are going to be doling it out in dribs and drabs under certain conditions if you have demonstrated certain kinds of need. It is going to be giving people sufficient resources to run their own lives.

But let me add, however, one other element.

Whereas I still think that the best solution is the pure libertarian solution, I am more sympathetic – and I think my work on The Bell Curve and IQ sort of pushed this along -- I am more and more sympathetic to the proposition that in the lottery of life some people come up with the short end of the stick on a whole bunch of different dimensions. It's not so bad if you don't have an IQ of 130 if you're beautiful, charming, or industrious. After all, there are all sorts of bundles of qualities that make it very hard to rank people from "high" to "low."

It is also true that there are substantial numbers of people who are not that smart, not that beautiful, not that charming, not that industrious, for reasons that they have no control over -- and they've gotten the short end of the stick. So if I'm talking about using government to redistribute some resources to that person, I'm not going to lie awake nights thinking that I've done some awful thing by helping them out. I'm happy with this compromise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Immigration: Global Economies' Crack Cocaine (David A. Andelman, 03.27.06, Forbes)

There was rioting and strikes by construction workers in Dubai last week, which ordinarily wouldn't raise much of a blip on the global radar screen, except for what some of the workers were saying: It's getting to the point where we can earn more money back home in India than we can in the Middle East.

That is a little-recognized, but potentially hugely dangerous, prospect that has gone all but unremarked. Across the region, but especially in the heart of the Arabian Gulf--Saudi Arabia and Dubai in particular--the engine of explosive growth and rapid development has brought millions of grotesquely underpaid workers from the subcontinent and Southeast Asia. How else could one tiny city-state, Dubai, have 80 apartment buildings, each 30 to 60 stories in height, rising at the same time, not to mention the world's tallest office building, expected to exceed 100 stories when it's completed. This structure, the Burj Dubai, happened to have been the scene of last week's violent labor actions, which spread to the construction site of the emirate's new airport facility.

And the construction in Dubai is only the tip of the iceberg, especially for the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia is already in advanced stages of development of an entire new city on the shores of the Red Sea north of Jeddah--the King Abdullah Economic City--which has been budgeted initially at $30 billion. Those prices, however, are built on the assumption of a virtually unending supply of cheap foreign labor of the type that's built Dubai. The kingdom even went so far as to eschew its own developers, including the powerful Bin Laden Group, in favor of Dubai-based Emaar.

The fact is that immigrants, also known as cheap foreign labor, have long been and continue to be the engine of growth for much of the developed world, and even more so in the Second World of regions like the Arabian Gulf. It's not surprising that President George W. Bush on Monday, in proposing his new immigration plan, pointed out that Google was "built by immigrants." For that matter, going back a bit further, New York City was built by cheap foreign labor from Ireland in the 19th century at the same time America's railroads were being stretched from coast to coast on the backs of cheap Chinese laborers.

The problem is that the world is now running out of cheap places to go for labor.

The bidding wars have already begun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


Targeted Killings Only Work For A While (Oxford Analytica, 03.28.06)

The available data suggest that decapitation offers clear strategic advantages in the short-medium term. However, over time, the practice may undermine the perpetrator-state's objectives:

-- Benefits: Israel has been the most prominent and successful proponent of targeted killing. Although undoubtedly brutal, its policy has been effective.

-- Drawbacks and dangers: While targeted killing may help deter and disrupt attacks by terrorist or insurgent enemies, there is a strong case that it also alienates the "hearts and minds" of surrounding civilians. Winning over these individuals is a prerequisite for long-term success in any counter-terrorist campaign.

Targeted killing operations can have a significant short-medium term disruptive affect on terrorist organisations. Therefore, Washington is likely continue the practice, despite concerns that it may be counterproductive over the long term.

You know what? At the end of the day, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is still dead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:17 PM


'Galileo Was Wrong,' claims geocentrist writer (DRU SEFTON, 3/28/06, NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE)

Bible proves Earth is center of universe, author argues

The Earth is at the center of Robert Sungenis' universe. Literally.

Yours too, he says.

Sungenis is a geocentrist. He contends the sun orbits the Earth instead of vice versa. He says physics and the Bible show that the vastness of space revolves around us; that we're at the center of everything, on a planet that does not rotate.

He has just completed a 1,000-page tome, "Galileo Was Wrong," the first in a pair of books he hopes will persuade readers to "give Scripture its due place, and show that science is not all it's cracked up to be."

Geocentrism is a less-known cousin of the intelligent design, or anti-evolution, movement. Both question society's trust in science, instead using religion to explain how we got here - and, in geocentrism's case, just where "here" is.

Which revolves around what is immaterial--the more science learns the more convincingly it demonstrates that the Universe is not just geocentric but homocentric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Consumer Confidence Highest Since 2002 (ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, 3/28/06, AP)

Americans' optimism in the economy rebounded in March, sending a widely followed barometer of consumer sentiment to a near four-year high, a private research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board said that its consumer index shot up 4.5 points to 107.2, the highest level since May 2002, when the reading was 110.3. Analysts had expected a reading of 102.

There is no electoral theory whereby it hurts to be an incumbent in the midst of a roaring economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Caspar Weinberger, presidents' aide, dies (ELIZABETH WHITE, 3/28/06, Associated Press)

"He left the U.S. armed forces stronger, our country safer and the world more free," said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Determined to ensure U.S. strategic strength to counter the Soviet Union, Weinberger pushed Congress to fund such programs as the Strategic Defense Initiative, Midgetman and MX missiles, B-1B bombers and stealth aircraft.

Supporters contended the defense buildup helped cause the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"His legacy is a strong and free America, and for this and for a lifetime of selfless service, a grateful nation thanks him," former first lady Nancy Reagan said Tuesday.

Stanislaw Lem, Author of Science Fiction Classics, Is Dead at 84 (BEN SISARIO, 3/28/06, NY Times)
Stanislaw Lem, a Polish science-fiction writer who, in novels like "Solaris" and "His Master's Voice," contemplated man's place in the universe in sardonic and sometimes bleak terms, died yesterday in Krakow, Poland. He was 84.

The cause was heart failure, his secretary, Wojciech Zemek, told The Associated Press.

Mr. Lem was a giant of mid-20th-century science fiction, in a league with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. And he addressed many of the themes they did: the meaning of human life among superintelligent machines, the frustrations of communicating with aliens, the likelihood that mankind could understand a universe in which it was but a speck. His books have been translated into at least 35 languages and have sold 27 million copies.

What drew the admiration of many of his fellow writers was the intensity with which he studied the limitations of humanity, in ways that could be both awed and pessimistic.

In "Solaris," a densely ruminative novel first published in 1961 — and made into films by Andrei Tarkovsky (1972) and Steven Soderbergh (2002) — contact is made with a dangerous and unknowable alien intelligence in the form of a plasma ocean surrounding a distant planet. As they attempt to understand the organism, astronauts aboard a space ship are plagued by hallucinations drawn from their own memories.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Mexico, A Sleeping Giant Next Door (Pedro G. Cavallero, Safe Democracy)

As America’s attention follows the expansion of democracy to far-off corners of the world, somehow it disconnects from political developments unfolding much closer to home. Highly-scrutinized elections in the Middle East are constantly visible and nonstop reporting exposes the Byzantine play of alliances, fast-evolving scenarios, and candidates’ shifting allegiances. In contrast, electoral processes in Latin America receive sporadic coverage. However, most of the region’s democracies are far from fully consolidated. It was not long ago that almost all Spanish-speaking Americas were ruled by non-elected governments. From Mexico to Argentina, a broad spectrum of regimes colored the hemisphere, including highly-repressive juntas, cleptocratic dynasties, Stalinist-oriented guerrilla-clad cliques, and fraudulent one-Party semi-Gods.

During 2006, several Latin American countries will go to the polls to elect presidents, including America’s closest neighbor to the south. Six years after passing a major political test by dumping the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) regime, Mexican voters will chose President Fox’s successor. In 2000, Mexico joined the fold of emerging democracies when discarding a system that Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa labeled as the “perfect dictatorship.” This time a politically exhausted president will be relieved from the burdens imposed by a long sexenio in office. The July 2 election may also provide closure to the democratic process’ “opening-up” phase initiated in 2000. In fact, the outgoing administration highlights one of its (otherwise scarce) achievements as having led the nation through a major political transformation, namely power alternation. However, whomever succeeds Fox will need to exhibit other accomplishments. And building a realistic, inter-dependent relationship with the United States should be at the top of the agenda. For this to happen, Washington should start sending the right signals. [...]

Since the passage of the NAFTA agreement, Mexico positioned itself as America’s second-largest trading partner (Canada being the first), unquestionably a major leap forward in the bilateral context. However, opinion-makers and policymakers alike fail to place American-Mexican relationships on a higher platform. This partnership also proves wrong those alarming voices advocating the building of fences in the border. In fact, there is no other nation whose internal dynamics (political, social and economic) would have such a direct and lasting impact on America’s daily life. This long-standing disconnect seems to be a resilient and deeply-rooted factor in U.S. foreign policymaking. Persistently, it forces Washington to look across the Atlantic (and far beyond) in search of tomorrow’s opportunities. Meanwhile, it prevents the U.S. from looking south and engaging with the hemisphere’s largest Spanish-speaking nation, where both undeniable challenges and enormous opportunities lay. In the meantime, a sleeping giant lays next door.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Fukuyama's Fantasy (Charles Krauthammer, March 28, 2006, Washington Post)

History will judge whether we can succeed in "establishing civilized, decent, nonbelligerent, pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq." My point then, as now, has never been that success was either inevitable or at hand, only that success was critically important to "change the strategic balance in the fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism."

I made the point of repeating the problematic nature of the enterprise: "The undertaking is enormous, ambitious and arrogant. It may yet fail."

For Fukuyama to assert that I characterized it as "a virtually unqualified success" is simply breathtaking. My argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, never its ensured success. And it was necessary because, as I said, there is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the root causes of Sept. 11: "The cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world -- oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism."

Fukuyama's book is proof of this proposition about the lack of the plausible alternative. The alternative he proposes for the challenges of Sept. 11 -- new international institutions, new forms of foreign aid and sundry other forms of "soft power" -- is a mush of bureaucratic make-work in the face of a raging fire.

Mr. Krauthammer is, of course, wrong about History not being at its End, but, oddly, Mr. Fukuyama takes many of the wrong lessons from history. Most importantly, as Mr. Krauthammer points out, he reverts to exactly the error that Woodrow Wilson made after WWI. Where George W. Bush has taken the democratic self-determination ball and run with it, Mr. Fukuyama proposes instead a shift in focus to the same kind of futile League of Nations folderol that consumed Wilson and turned victory in that war into defeat. A genuinely American foreign policy requires the universal extension of our ideals to peoples not yet free, not the erection of transnational bureaucracies that tie us down.

It should always be rememberd that Wilson had 13 good Points but went down fighting for the awful fourteenth:

I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.

III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.

V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

VI. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.

VII. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.

VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.

IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.

X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.

XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.

XII. The turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.

XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

[editor's note: Redefining Sovereignty contains both the Fourteen Points and an essay by Francis Fukuyama]

-LECTURE: Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World (Charles Krauthammer, February 12, 2004, 2004 Irving Kristol Lecture, AEI Annual Dinner)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


The French in Denial (Robert J. Samuelson, March 28, 2006, Washington Post)

To anyone who cares about Europe's future....

Posted by David Cohen at 9:21 AM


Overstating Jewish Power: Mearsheimer and Walt give too much credit to the Israeli lobby (Christopher Hitchens, Slate, 3/27/06)

There has been some disquiet expressed about Mearsheimer and Walt's over-fondness for Jewish name-dropping: their reiteration of the names Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, etc., as the neocon inner circle. Well, it would be stupid not to notice that a group of high-energy Jews has been playing a role in our foreign-policy debate for some time. The first occasion on which it had any significant influence (because, despite its tentacular influence, it lost the argument over removing Saddam Hussein in 1991) was in pressing the Clinton administration to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo. These are the territories of Europe's oldest and largest Muslim minorities; they are oil-free and they do not in the least involve the state interest of Israel. Indeed, Sharon publicly opposed the intervention. One could not explain any of this from Mearsheimer and Walt's rhetoric about "the lobby."

Mearsheimer and Walt belong to that vapid school that essentially wishes that the war with jihadism had never started. Their wish is father to the thought that there must be some way, short of a fight, to get around this confrontation. Wishfulness has led them to seriously mischaracterize the origins of the problem and to produce an article that is redeemed from complete dullness and mediocrity only by being slightly but unmistakably smelly.

This argument pops up all over: we could have avoided this war, and could now end it, through some unilateral action of our own. We could abandon Israel, we could increase gasoline taxes, we could pull out of Iraq, we could turn ourselves into Fortress America or France, and, abracadabra, the war would be over.

Our enemies are our enemies because they choose to be our enemies. There is no substitute for victory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


France hit by nationwide protest strike (JAMEY KEATEN, 3/28/06, Associated Press)

Paris deployed police by the thousands Tuesday before the latest massive protest over a new youth employment law, and commuters across France struggled to get to work during a nationwide strike over the measure.

It's not as if they do anything once they get there anyway...

Riots in France, Quiet Debates in Germany (Markus Dettmer and Stefan Simons, 3/28/06, Der Spiegel)

For many young workers, entering the job market means accepting temporary contacts, working multiple jobs and going through regular periods of unemployment. This is as true of manual workers as it is of people with a background in engineering or academic studies.

Often it takes as many as eight years to arrive at a permanent position. Almost a quarter of those under 25 are unemployed, one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe. But the problem isn't just limited to France -- youth unemployment has reached record levels all over Europe. For its part, Germany has fared somewhat better, with a total youth unemployment rate of 15 percent, putting it at 16th place worldwide.

With his legislation, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin wanted to cure the French malady all by himself while scoring points against Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, his main contender for the office of president. Now it looks as if the prime minister's proposed reform of the labor market will be vanquished by student resistance and the categorical "non" the trade unions have given the law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Black leaders send gov ultimatum (DAVE MCKINNEY AND FRAN SPIELMAN, March 28, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Chicago City Council's black caucus met with state Sen. James Meeks on Monday and agreed to back Meeks' possible third-party gubernatorial bid unless Gov. Blagojevich commits as much as $4 billion during the next four years to African-American causes.

"If the governor doesn't meet the needs of the African-American community, then we're not going to support his candidacy, and we're going to move forward with supporting Rev. Meeks," said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th). [...]

Today marks the first day that Meeks (D-Chicago) could put nominating petitions on the street to gather the necessary 25,000 signatures required by late June to join Blagojevich and Republican Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka on the Nov. 7 ballot. There were no signs that effort materialized as of Monday night. Meeks did not return calls left at his Chicago answering service or Springfield legislative office.

Mayor Daley, meanwhile, weighed in on the potentially devastating threat Meeks poses to Blagojevich.

When asked if Meeks had the ability to torpedo Blagojevich and perhaps the rest of the Democratic ticket in the fall, the mayor said, "Sure. Sure, that's happened before. That's a reality."

In 1986, two supporters of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche scored stunning upsets for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in the statewide Democratic primary, wrecking the Democrats' efforts to unseat Republican Gov. James R. Thompson.

Mr. Blagojevich seems exactly dumb enough to announce that he won't give in to blackmail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Card Resigns as White House Chief of Staff, Administration Official Says (Terrence Hunt, March 28, 2006, The Associated Press)

White House chief of staff Andy Card has resigned and will be replaced by budget director Josh Bolten, an administration official said Tuesday.

President Bush was expected to announce the shake up during a meeting with reporters with reporters later Tuesday morning in the Oval Office of the White House.

They ought to bring in someone like John Kasich for the OMB spot, a good salesman for the Republican economy and a budget hawk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


FEC Rules Exempt Blogs From Internet Political Limits (Thomas B. Edsall, March 28, 2006, Washington Post)

In a unanimous vote yesterday, the Federal Election Commission left unregulated almost all political activity on the Internet except for paid political advertisements. Campaigns buying such ads will have to use money raised under the limits of current federal campaign law.

Perhaps most important, the commission effectively granted media exemptions to bloggers and other activists using the Web to allow them to praise and criticize politicians, just as newspapers can, without fear of federal interference.

The rules "totally exempt individuals who engage in political activity on the Internet from the restrictions of the campaign finance laws. The exemption for individual Internet activity in the final rules is categorical and unqualified," said FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner. The regulation "protects Internet activities by individuals in all forms, including e-mailing, linking, blogging, or hosting a Web site," he said.

It's the Web Developer Full Employment Act of 2008.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


In Israel, an Unsettled Electorate: Today's Vote Will Test Old Loyalties (Scott Wilson, March 28, 2006, Washington Post)

Israelis will elect a new parliament, and by extension a new prime minister, on Tuesday after a campaign season marked by complacency, disappointment and a sense of betrayal among many voters now searching for new political leadership. The result is that a large number of voters remain undecided, a floating segment that could determine a quarter of the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. More Israelis than in any past election are expected to sit out the vote.

Neither Likud nor Labor, the parties at the center of Israel's political life for decades, is projected to win the plurality of seats that would carry the right to form the next government. Although it has slipped in recent polls, the Kadima party that Sharon created last November is still running far ahead, even though he is now hospitalized in a coma.

The campaign has emerged as a referendum on Sharon's unfinished program to separate the Israeli and Palestinian populations through a series of unilateral withdrawals from the occupied territories. He argued that Israel must act alone, after years of largely fruitless negotiations, to draw its final borders in a way that would separate a Jewish majority from the Arab population.

Mr. Sharon's most important legacy is a universal one, the recognition that when you sit down to negotiate one side has already won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Moussaoui Says He Was to Fly 5th Plane: White House Attack Planned for 9/11, Terrorist Testifies (Jerry Markon and Timothy Dwyer, March 28, 2006, Washington Post)

Zacarias Moussaoui took the stand at his death penalty trial yesterday and declared that he was supposed to hijack a fifth airplane on Sept. 11, 2001, and crash it into the White House in the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. [...]

His words were as stunning as the way in which he delivered them. When he pleaded guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda last year, Moussaoui denied involvement in Sept. 11 and insisted that he was to be part of a second wave of attacks. He then launched into one of his rambling courtroom outbursts, ending it by screaming, "God curse America!"

The familiar Moussaoui was gone yesterday. In his place was a hardened terrorist operative who spoke calmly and methodically, looking straight at his questioners as he voiced his hatred for the nation that had put him on trial for his life. [...]

The extraordinary spectacle of an admitted al-Qaeda member testifying about the deadliest terrorist attack in American history was later matched by something equally unusual. Defense lawyers read into the record evidence gathered in the United States' secret and controversial detention system, telling jurors what Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a key planner of Sept. 11, would have said had he taken the stand.

And Mohammed's words, given to interrogators at the undisclosed location where he is being held, contradicted Moussaoui's testimony.

He said Moussaoui had been slated for a second wave of attacks that would have included targets not hit on Sept. 11, such as the White House and the Sears Tower in Chicago. Mohammed noted that the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon proceeded on schedule despite Moussaoui's arrest while taking flying lessons in Minnesota.

Even if Moussaoui's precise role is never certain, what was clear yesterday was the damage that his testimony, given over the strenuous objections of his lawyers, had done to his defense.

Does anyone really care which he's executed for?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Slow ticket sales force freebie AG fund-raiser: $500 a head...or $0, whatever works for you (Maggie Mulvihill, March 28, 2006, Boston Herald)

Listless ticket sales forced Attorney General and aspiring governor Tom Reilly to send out complimentary invitations to his birthday party fund-raiser tonight, according to political sources and Reilly campaign documents.

The $500 VIP event at the posh State Room comes as Reilly has shown sluggish fund-raising numbers in 2006.

In the first two weeks of March, he reported receipts of $9,380 compared to Democratic rival Deval Patrick’s $57,787 and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey’s $191,625, according to state campaign finance records.

Ms Healey stands to be the fifth consecutive Republican governor of MA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Trucks to face new fuel-economy rules (Jayne O'Donnell, 3/27/06, USA TODAY)

New fuel-economy rules for trucks to be announced this week would not only impose mileage standards for the first time on previously exempt heavy-duty models, such as the Hummer H2, but also would overhaul standards for other trucks, according to auto industry officials and others familiar with the plan. [...]

Federal officials wanted a new system that doesn't encourage selling more small trucks in order to meet mileage standards. Statistics show that bigger, heavier vehicles are safer to their occupants in crashes than smaller, lighter vehicles are.

If the new standards encourage larger vehicles, "from a safety perspective, that's good," says Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Lyn Nofziger, Reagan spokesman and adviser, dies (AP, 3/28/06)

Franklyn "Lyn" Nofziger, the rumpled and irreverent conservative who served Ronald Reagan as press secretary and political adviser, died of cancer Monday. He was 81. [...]

Nofziger, who joined Reagan's ranks early in the political career of the actor-turned-politician, headed the White House political office during the first year of the Reagan presidency and then quit to form a political consulting and lobbying firm.

"He was a great big garrulous guy who was very serious about his politics and very serious about Ronald Reagan," Michael Deaver, Reagan's deputy chief of staff, said Monday. "He was sort of the keeper of the flame."

"He was fun to be around," Deaver said. "Reagan would light up when he came into the room."

Nofziger's great-niece Carol Dahmen said Monday: "He transcended parties; he was loved on both sides of the aisle. You could love him or hate him but everybody respected him."

Conservative columnist George F. Will once described the non-conformist, cigar-chomping Nofziger as "Sancho Panza" to Reagan's Don Quixote.

Asked why he was leaving the White House, Nofziger replied, "I don't like government, it's just that simple." He denied as "99 percent untrue" a report he'd quit because of his exclusion from the president's innermost circle.

His determined irreverence extended to the Reagans.

"I'm not a social friend of the Reagans," he told an interviewer. "That's by their choice and by mine. They don't drink enough."

Bombay gin, outrageous puns and fierce loyalty to Reagan and conservative Republican principles were Nofziger hallmarks. His caustic wit made him a favorite among some reporters who covered Reagan as governor and president and on his various campaigns. [...]

As White House liaison, Nofziger had mixed success with militant conservatives who early in the Reagan administration began chafing at the number of moderate Republicans given key jobs.

"Every time we appoint someone they don't agree with to a job, they feel the victory trickling away," he said in an interview.

Nothing ever changes in politics, huh? There ought to be lapel pins for those of us old enough to remember when the Right was bitching that Reagan had betrayed conservatism and was a crypto-liberal.

Strategist, Reagan Adviser Lyn Nofziger (Martin Weil, 3/28/06, Washington Post)

An offbeat figure who wore Mickey Mouse ties with the knot pulled down, Mr. Nofziger won a reputation as a shrewd, two-fisted political battler, who blended loyalty, cantankerousness and pungent phrasemaking. He was known as one of the key staff members involved in Reagan's rise from the California governor's chair to the pinnacle of American power. [...]

After leaving the White House, Mr. Nofziger felt in a personal way what he considered to be governmental overreaching. He was found guilty in 1988 on three counts of illegal lobbying at the Reagan White House within a year after he left to set up his consulting firm.

But a federal court of appeals overturned the conviction in June 1989, asserting that prosecutors had failed to prove that Mr. Nofziger "knowingly" violated the law. The Supreme Court declined to consider reinstating the conviction.

Earlier, when he had appeared in court for his sentencing, Mr. Nofziger demonstrated what supporters viewed as his stubborn resolve to remain faithful to his principles.

Recognizing the value of declaring remorse before being sentenced, Mr. Nofziger said: "I cannot do that if I am to be true to myself and to those hundreds of people all over the country who have supported me . . . because they believe I am an honorable man.

"Your honor, I am an honorable man."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


No Room in the Big Tent (Rose Aguilar, March 28, 2006, AlterNet)

Anti-abortion Republicans have a lot to celebrate. The confirmation of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, two anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, and the passage of the South Dakota law banning all abortion, have been seen as clear Republican victories. But for pro-choice Republicans, appalled and disgusted by the South Dakota law, the party ended a long time ago. While some say it's important to speak out and fight for change, others say they're tired of fighting a losing battle.

"I was a Republican. I did stand up. I got crucified for it and finally said, 'To hell with it,'" says Elisabeth "Jinx" Ecke, a longtime Planed Parenthood supporter and board member in San Diego, Calif. "I've tried to support Republican candidates in the California Assembly, and they swear on a stack of bibles that they'll vote pro- choice. Then they go to Sacramento and they vote anti-choice. I'm done."

Ecke, 74, cast her first vote for Dwight Eisenhower back in 1953. Four years ago, she reregistered by checking the "Decline to State" box. "I'm supporting mostly Democrats for one simple reason: choice," she says. "People say you can't be a one issue voter and I say, 'Yes I can.'"

There can't be more than a handful of Republicans in the country for whom the sole issue that motivates them is defending the Culture of Death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Imperial overreach is accelerating the global decline of America: The disastrous foreign policies of the US have left it more isolated than ever, and China is standing by to take over (Martin Jacques, March 28, 2006, The Guardian)

It is clear that the US occupation of Iraq has been a disaster from almost every angle one can think of, most of all for the Iraqi people, not least for American foreign policy.

Majority of Iraqis Endorse Election and Show Optimism (World Public Opinion)
The majority of Iraqis overall view the recent parliamentary elections as valid, are optimistic that their country is going in the right direction and feel that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has been worth the costs. Sunnis, on the other hand, overwhelmingly reject the validity of the elections, see the country going in the wrong direction and regret the overthrow of Saddam. This pervasive pessimism challenges hopes that the alienated Sunni Arab minority, which boycotted Iraq’s first post-Saddam elections a year ago, would feel empowered by participating in last month’s elections.

The poll was conducted for by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland and was fielded by KA Research Limited/D3 Systems, Inc. Polling was conducted January 2-5 with a nationwide sample of 1,150, which included an oversample of 150 Arab Sunnis (hereafter simply called Sunnis).

Overall, two out of three Iraqis (66%) believe that the recent parliamentary elections were free and fair. Approximately the same number (68%) say “that the government to be established by the newly elected Parliament will … be the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people.”

Even larger majorities feel this way among the Shia and Kurds. Eighty-nine percent of Shia and 77% of Kurds say the elections were free and fair, while 90% of Shia and 81% of Kurds say the new government will be the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people. [....]

Overall, 64% of Iraqis say that Iraq is heading in the right direction, while just 36% say it is heading in the wrong direction. [...]

Among the Shia and Kurds optimism is even higher. Seventy-six percent of Kurds and 84% of Shia say they think the country is headed in the right direction. [...]

Iraqis overall have a positive view of the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Asked, “Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?” 77% say it was worth it, while 22% say it was not.

Gallup asked the same question in April 2004. At that time, 61% said that it was worth it and 28% said that it was not.

In related news, Afrikaaners are less excited than blacks about the direction of South Africa.

Iraqinomics (Nima Sanandaji, 28 Mar 2006, Tech Central Station)

Can Middle Eastern states put oil resources to better use? Is it possible for free enterprise to thrive in the Arab world? The experience in Iraq suggests that the answer to these questions might be yes. The democratization of Iraq has meant that both foreign and domestic businesses can operate in a freer economic environment. Although media seldom report about this, the Iraqi economy is rapidly growing. According to the report "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq October 2005," GDP per capita has more than doubled between 2003 and 2005. Compared to pre-war levels the increase was 31 percent. And the future looks bright. According to the Brookings Institution Iraq Index the Iraqi economy is expected to have a real GDP growth of 49 percent in the period 2006-2008. The oil sector has still not recovered to pre-war levels, partially due to the terrorist menace. Still, if Iraq continues on a path to democracy and economic progress, it is a fair assumption that its natural resources will be put to better use. Foreign investors and consumers would most likely appreciate the possibility to buy oil from a country that does not support terrorists or fundamentalist schools abroad.

Of course, Iraq still has a long way to go in order to recover from the war and the many years under Saddam's tyranny. But if the Iraqi economy can grow despite the ongoing attempts by radicals to undermine it, the same should be possible for the rest of the Arab world. Iraq could serve as a positive example in a region where policy makers have little knowledge about the benefits of free market reforms.

March 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


Why U.S. Business Is Winning (Sebastian Mallaby, March 27, 2006, Washington Post)

The dawn of this heyday came in 1995. In the two preceding decades, the productivity of American workers had grown more slowly than that of Japanese and European competitors. But in the decade since 1995, U.S. labor productivity growth has outstripped foreign rivals'. Meanwhile U.S. firms' return on equity -- that is, the efficiency with which they manage the capital entrusted to them -- has pulled away from that of Japan, France and Germany, according to data provided by Standard & Poor's Compustat.

Other measures tell a similar story. Up until the 1990s, management books were crammed with Japanese buzzwords, and the early Clinton administration was in awe of Germany's apprenticeship system. But today the United States provides most of the business role models, from Starbucks to Procter & Gamble, from Apple to Cisco. The (British) Financial Times publishes an annual list of the world's most respected companies. In 2004 and again in 2005, no fewer than 12 of the top 15 slots were occupied by American firms.

Or consider the database on management quality constructed by Nick Bloom and John Van Reenen of Stanford University and the London School of Economics. This duo organized a survey of 732 medium-sized American and European companies and measured their management procedures against benchmarks of best practice. The result: American firms, including the subsidiaries of American firms in Europe, are simply better managed than European rivals. In fact, superior American management accounts for more than half of the productivity gap between American and European firms. [...]

Competition and meritocracy cannot explain all of America's superiority, however. The U.S. economy has always had these advantages but hasn't always trounced overseas rivals. Nor is it enough to say that Americans work harder than Europeans, since the productivity numbers show that Americans are boosting what they achieve per hour. And anyone who explains America's superiority by saying that the country is more "dynamic" or "creative" is merely relabeling the mystery we're trying to solve.

The best guess about the "X factor" is that America's business culture is peculiarly well-suited to contemporary challenges. American business is not especially good at coaxing productivity out of factory workers: The era when this was all-important was the heyday of Germany and Japan. But American business excels at managing service workers and knowledge workers: at equipping these people with technology, empowering them with the right level of independence and paying for performance. So the era of decentralized "network" businesses is the American era.

Moreover, America's business culture is perfectly matched to globalization. American executive suites and MBA courses are full of talented immigrants, so American managers think nothing of working in multicultural firms. The immigrants have links to their home countries, so Americans have an advantage in establishing global supply chains. The elites of Asia and Latin America compete to attend U.S. universities; when they return to their countries, they are keener to join the local operation of a U.S. company than of a German or Japanese one.

So the shift from manufacturing to services; the gallop of globalization; and the rise of information technology that flattens corporate hierarchies: All these forces come together to create an American moment.

Mr. Mallaby proposes a false dichotomy--we just keep moving from one heyday to the next and have for quite some time now.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:18 PM


Clinton chauffeur an illegal immigrant (UPI, 3/27/06)

An embarrassing hole in security surrounding former U.S. President Bill Clinton turned up when one of his chauffeurs was found to be a wanted man.

Shahzad Qureshi, 42, was in one of three cars awaiting Clinton at Newark Airport last week when a Port Authority policeman happened to check license plate numbers.

The computer came back showing the Pakistani national had skipped a residency-status hearing in 2000, and a deportation order had been issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the New York Post reported.

Is he the Zelig or the Gump of American presidents? Of course, seven years ago Mr. Qureshi would have been the Clinton Administration nominee for port security Tsar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


An Interview With Claire Berlinski, Author Of Menace In Europe (John Hawkins, Right Wing News)

John Hawkins: Why are Europeans so secular compared to Americans?

Claire Berlinski: American religiosity doesn't need to be explained; after all, throughout history, in every civilization, people have believed in the supernatural. What needs to be explained is European atheism, which is the aberration-unique in the world and in human history. It has its origins in politics, I think, not metaphysics. Voltaire was of the view that it is not so much the intrinsic power of the argument for atheism that caused people to reject faith, but rather the corruption of the Church, and largely I agree with him. Before the French Revolution, there were no atheists in Europe. Heretics, sure. But atheists? Unheard of. Political atheism-as opposed to philosophical atheism-emerged from revulsion with the corrupt Catholic Church and the detested Bourbon Monarchy; the two being intimately identified in peoples' minds, as indeed they were. Une foi, un loi, un roi, as they said, and with two down, a trifecta seemed inevitable. This in turn paved the way for intellectual atheism, represented by such figures as Nietzsche, Marx and Freud-all of whom, by the way, assumed atheism as the starting point rather than endeavoring to prove it. You could ask-why atheism, why then? Why not, say, an anticlerical form of religion? I suspect the answer lies in the linkages between atheism and the scientific revolution-linkages of loose association only; after all, no scientific discovery ever specifically disproved the existence of God. Atheism is the natural correlate to the doctrine of scientific materialism, and clearly atheism gained strength through its identification with the triumphs of science. But it needed a political context to take hold, and only in Europe did it find one. In this sense, the separation of Church and State in the US worked, paradoxically, to the advantage of the Church.

But in another sense, as I argue in my book, the popular view of Europe as a completely secular society is too facile. Anticlerical forms of religion have taken hold. Someone once sent me an article, perhaps in was in the Guardian, about three young women, imbeciles all, who had devoted themselves to radical beliefs: the first to the destruction of capitalism, the second to Islam, and the third to something like an old-fashioned Christian heresy, close in spirit to the Albigensian heresy. There is something going on in Europe, a flourishing of sects, all of which have something in common and that is an absolute, virtually pathological, refusal to profit from experience. Now, why should anyone devote herself to the destruction of capitalism when we know perfectly well, if we know anything at all, that the realistic alternatives are monstrous, inefficient, stupid, brutal and self-defeating? When it comes to anti-capitalism and fruity Christianity, it is quite interesting to think of both as Christian heresies. As official belief has waned in Europe, Christian heresies have come to flourish. Communism, after all, has its roots in certain apostolic teachings about poverty and property; and free love is just what the Church faced in the 12th century and effectively crushed. One can argue-and I do, in my book-that Europe remains what it has always been: a Christian society, one now tormented by heresies. [...]

John Hawkins: Do you think Americans should regard France as an enemy nation? Why or why not?

Claire Berlinski: Oh no, of course not. An enemy nation? Like North Korea?

There seems a certain failure of comprehension here. The divide that opens in the late 18th century is between the Anglo-American/Judeo-Christian model, which accepts that God has Created us with a freedom that precludes security, and the French/Secular-Rationalist model, which rejects God in the belief that Man can himself create a system that will provide the desired security. Seen through this simpler and more accurate lens it is obvious that North Korea is just a function of France and that the French -- and the philosophers upon whom their system relies: Rousseau, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, etc. -- are indeed, and have been for over two hundred years now, the most important source of evil in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 PM


War in their future, Mids choose Marines (Bradley Olson, March 25, 2006, Baltimore Sun)

When it came time for Jake Dove, a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, to decide how he would fulfill his required military duty after graduation, there was no question about it: Marine Corps all the way.

"In my eyes it's a perfect community," said Dove, an Annapolis High School graduate. "The idea of being a platoon leader in charge of guys that have done two, three tours in Iraq already, when I haven't been over there - that's an awesome responsibility. I'm eager to take it on."

Despite a war that has entered its fourth year with mounting casualties and waning public support, more and more midshipmen at the Annapolis military college are volunteering for the Marines when asked to choose how they will fulfill the five-year commitment required of all academy graduates.

Shouldn't that "despite" be "because"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


Senate Panel Approves Immigration Bill (DAVID ESPO, 3/27/06, AP)

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved election-year immigration legislation Monday that clears the way for millions of undocumented workers to seek U.S. citizenship without having to first leave the country.

After days of street demonstrations that stretched from California to the gounds of the U.S. Capitol, the committee also voted to strip out proposed criminal penalties for residents found to be in this country illegally.

The panel's vote cleared the way for the full Senate to begin debate Tuesday on the emotional immigration issue.

President Attends Naturalization Ceremony (George W. Bush, DAR Administration Building, Washington, D.C., 3/27/06)

Thank you all. Thank you very much. It's good to be with you. I am grateful for the chance to witness this joyous and uplifting ceremony. It is inspiring to see people of many different ages, many different countries raise their hands and swear an oath to become citizens of the United States of America.

For some of you, this day comes after a long and difficult journey. For all of you, this is a defining moment in your lives. America is now more than your home; America is your country. I welcome you to this free nation. I congratulate you and your families, and it's an honor to call you fellow Americans.

I appreciate the Attorney General. Dr. González, thank you, sir. And, Alfonso, it's good to be up here with you. I want to thank the President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Ms. Presley Wagoner, for letting us use this fantastic facility for this important ceremony. Thank you for singing the National Anthem so beautifully.

It is fitting that we hold this ceremony at the home of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Daughters of the American Revolution were the daughters of immigrants, because the leaders of our revolution all had ancestors who came from abroad. As new citizens of the United States, you now walk in the footsteps of millions. And with the oath you've sworn, you're every bit as American as those who came before you.

Our immigrant heritage has enriched America's history. It continues to shape our society. Each generation of immigrants brings a renewal to our national character and adds vitality to our culture. Newcomers have a special way of appreciating the opportunities of America, and when they seize those opportunities, our whole nation benefits.

In the 1970s, an immigrant from Ireland -- or the 1790s, an immigrant from Ireland designed the White House, right where Laura and I live. And he helped build the Capitol. In the 1990s, an immigrant from Russia helped create the Internet search engine Google. In between, new citizens have made contributions in virtually every professional field, and millions of newcomers have strengthened their communities through quiet lives and hard work and family and faith.

America's welcoming society is more than a cultural tradition, it is a fundamental promise of our democracy. Our Constitution does not limit citizenship by background or birth. Instead, our nation is bound together by a shared love of liberty and a conviction that all people are created with dignity and value. Through the generations, Americans have upheld that vision by welcoming new citizens from across the globe -- and that has made us stand apart.

Naturalization ceremony participants raise their hands and hold American flags as they are sworn-in as new U.S. citizens Monday, March 27, 2006, during the Naturalization Ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Administration Building in Washington. President George W.Bush addressed the audience, saying that each generation of immigrants brings a renewal to our national character and adds vitality to our culture. White House photo by Eric Draper One of my predecessors, President Ronald Reagan, used to say this, "You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Japan, but you cannot become Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in America and be an American."

The new Americans we welcome today include men and women from 20 countries on five continents. Their ages range from 18 to 59, and they work as teachers and small business managers, and nurses, and software engineers and other professions.

One new citizen is Veronica Pacheco. Veronica first came to the United States from Bolivia 15 years ago. In 2000, she moved here permanently and found a job at a catering company in Virginia. Every Friday and Saturday, she spent five hours studying English at the local community college. Over the years she saved enough money to buy her own townhouse. Here's what Veronica says about America: "This is a country of opportunity. If you want to be successful, you can do it. You can have your dreams come true here."

Another new citizen is Masoon Shaheen. Masoon grew up in Kuwait, and moved to the United States with her husband seven years ago. She enrolled in the community college to improve her English, took a job teaching Marines to speak Arabic. Here's what Masoon said: "The United States is a symbol of justice, freedom and liberty. I love that. Here they respect people because they are people. I feel I am honored, and I feel that I'm loved."

America is stronger and more dynamic when we welcome new citizens like Masoon and Veronica to our democracy. With that in mind, I've called on Congress to increase the number of green cards that can lead to citizenship. I support increasing the number of visas available for foreign-born workers in highly-skilled fields like science, medicine and technology. I've signed legislation creating a new Office of Citizenship at the Department of Homeland Security to promote knowledge of citizenship rights and procedures.

And after September the 11th, I signed an executive order making foreign-born members of our military immediately eligible for citizenship, because those willing to risk their lives for our democracy should be full participants in our democracy.

Over the past four years, more than 20,000 men and women in uniform have become citizens of the country they serve. They've taken the citizenship oath on the decks of aircraft carriers, on deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, and at military bases around the world. At Bethesda Naval Medical Center, I watched a brave Marine born in Mexico raise his right hand and become a citizen of the country he had defended in uniform for more than 26 years. It's a privilege to be the Commander-in-Chief of men and women like these, and I'm proud to call them fellow citizens.

All who swear the oath of citizenship are doing more than completing a legal process. They're making a lifelong pledge to support the values and the laws of America. The pledge comes with great privileges, and it also comes with great responsibilities. I believe every new citizen has an obligation to learn the customs and values that define our nation, including liberty and civic responsibility, equality under God, tolerance for others, and the English language.

Those of us who have been citizens for many years have responsibilities, as well. Helping new citizens assimilate is a mission that unites Americans by choice and by birth. I appreciate the work of patriotic organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution. Some of the new Americans here today might have used DAR's Manual for Citizenship to prepare you for the citizenship test. They obviously did a pretty good job, since you passed. (Laughter.)

Many other organizations, from churches to businesses to civic organizations, are answering the call to help new citizens succeed in our country, and I am grateful for all those who reach out to people who are going to become citizens.

Government is doing its part to help new citizens succeed, as well. The Office of Citizenship has created a new official guide for immigrants. This free publication includes practical advice on tasks like finding housing and jobs, or enrolling your children in school, or paying taxes.

We're conducting outreach programs with faith-based and community groups to offer civics and English language courses. My administration will continue to pursue policies that open a path to education and jobs, promote ownership, and to give every citizen a chance to realize the American Dream.

Our nation is now in the midst of the debate on immigration policy, and it's good. Immigration is an important topic. Immigration is also an emotional topic. And we need to maintain our perspective as we conduct this debate. At its core, immigration is a sign of a confident and successful nation. It says something about our country that people around the world are willing to leave their homes and leave their families and risk everything to come to America. Their talent and hard work and love of freedom have helped make America the leader of the world. And our generation will ensure that America remains a beacon of liberty and the most hopeful society the world has ever known.

America is a nation of immigrants, and we're also a nation of laws. All of you are here because you followed the rules and you waited your turn in the citizenship line. Yet some violate our immigration laws and enter our country illegally, and that undermines the system for all of us. America should not have to choose between being a welcoming society and being a lawful society. We can be both at the same time. And so, to keep the promise of America, we must enforce the laws of America.

We must also reform those laws. No one is served by an immigration system that allows large numbers of people to sneak across the border illegally. Nobody benefits when illegal immigrants live in the shadows of society. Everyone suffers when people seeking to provide for their families are left at the mercy of criminals, or stuffed in the back of 18-wheelers, or abandoned in the desert to die. America needs comprehensive immigration reform.

I've laid out a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform that includes three critical elements: securing the border, strengthening the immigration enforcement inside our country, and creating a temporary worker program. These elements depend on and reinforce one another, and together they will give America an immigration system that meets the needs of the 21st century.

The first element is securing our border. Our immigration system cannot function if we cannot control the border. Illegal immigration puts a strain on law enforcement and public resources, especially in our border communities. Our nation is also fighting a war on terror, and terrorists crossing the border could create destruction on a massive scale. The responsibility of government is clear: We must enforce the border.

Since I took office, we've increased funding for border security by 66 percent. We've expanded the Border Patrol to more than 12,000 agents, an increase of more than 2,700 agents. And the budget next year funds another 1,500 new agents. We're helping these dedicated men and women do their jobs by providing them with cutting-edge technology, like infrared cameras, advanced motion sensors, and unmanned aerial vehicles. We're installing protective infrastructure, such as vehicle barriers and fencing in urban areas, to prevent people from crossing the border illegally. And we're integrating manpower and technology and infrastructure in more unified ways than ever. Our objective is to keep the border open to trade and tourism, and closed to criminals and drug dealers and terrorists.

Our strategy to secure the border is getting results. Since I took office, our agents have apprehended and sent home more than 6 million people entering this country illegally, including more than 400,000 with criminal records. Federal, state and local and travel enforcement officials are working side-by-side. Through the Arizona Border Control Initiative we apprehended more than 600,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona last year. The men and women of our Border Patrol have made good progress, but we have much more work ahead and we cannot be satisfied until we're in full control of the border.

We're also changing the way we process those we catch crossing the border illegally. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants we apprehend are from Mexico, and most are sent back home within 24 hours. We face a different challenge with non-Mexicans. For decades, government detention facilities did not have enough beds for the non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught at the border and so most were released back into society. They were each assigned a court date, but virtually nobody showed up. This practice, catch-and-release, is unwise, and my administration is going to end it.

To end catch-and-release, we're increasing the number of beds and detention facilities by 12 percent this year, and by another 32 percent next year. We're also expanding our use of a process called expedited removal, which allows us to send non-Mexican illegal immigrants home more quickly.

Last year, it took an average of 66 days to process one of these illegal immigrants. Now, we're doing it in 21 days. The goal is to increase the process faster. It's helped us end the catch-and-release for illegal immigrants from Brazil and Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua caught crossing our Southwest border. And since last summer, we've cut the number of non-Mexican illegal immigrants released in society by more than a third. We've set a goal to end catch-and-release over the next year. I look forward to working with Congress to close loop holes that makes it difficult for us to process illegal immigrants from certain countries. And we will continue to press foreign governments, like China, to take back their citizens who have entered our country illegally.

When illegal immigrants know they're going to be caught and sent home, they will be less likely to break the rules in the first place. And the system will be more orderly and secure for those who follow the law.

The second part of a comprehensive immigration reform is strengthening enforcement of our laws in the interior of our country. Since I took office, we've increased funding for immigration enforcement by 42 percent, and these resources have helped our agents bring to justice some very dangerous people: smugglers, terrorists, gang members, and human traffickers. For example, through Operation Community Shield, federal agents have arrested nearly 2,300 gang members who were here illegally, including violent criminals like the members of MS-13.

Better interior enforcement also requires better work site enforcement. Businesses have an obligation to abide by the law. The government has the responsibility to help them do so. Last year, I signed legislation to more than double the resources dedicated to work site enforcement. We'll continue to confront the problem of document fraud, because hard-working business owners should not have to act as detectives to verify the status of their workers.

Next month, we're going to launch law enforcement task forces in 11 major cities to dismantle document fraud rings. We're working to shut down the forgers who create the phony documents to stop the smugglers who traffic in human beings, and to ensure that American businesses are compliant with American law.

The third part of comprehensive immigration reform is to make the system more rational, orderly, and secure by creating a new temporary worker program. This program would provide a legal way to match willing foreign workers with willing American employers to fill the jobs that Americans are unwilling to do. Workers should be able to register for legal status on a temporary basis. If they decide to apply for citizenship, they would have to get in line. This program would help meet the demands of a growing economy and would allow honest workers to provide for their families while respecting the law.

A temporary worker program is vital to securing our border. By creating a separate legal channel for those entering America to do an honest day's labor, we would dramatically reduce the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border. That would help take the pressure off the border and free up law enforcement to focus on the greatest threats to our security, which are criminals and drug dealers and terrorists.

The program would also improve security by creating tamper-proof identification cards that would allow us to keep track of every temporary worker who is here on a legal basis and help us identify those who are here illegally.

One thing the temporary worker program should not do is provide amnesty for people who are in our country illegally. I believe granting amnesty would be unfair, because it would allow those who break the law to jump ahead of people like you all, people who play by the rules and have waited in the line for citizenship.

Amnesty would also be unwise, because it would encourage future waves of illegal immigration, it would increase pressure on the border and make it difficult for law enforcement to focus on those who mean us harm. For the sake of justice and border security, I firmly oppose amnesty.

This week, the Senate plans to consider legislation on immigration reform. Congress needs to pass a comprehensive bill that secures the border, improves interior enforcement, and creates a temporary worker program to strengthen our security and our economy. Completing a comprehensive bill is not going to be easy. It will require all of us in Washington to make tough choices and make compromises. And that is exactly what the American people sent us here to do.

As we move toward the process, we also have a chance to move beyond tired choices and the harsh attitudes of the past. The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and dignified way. No one should play on people's fears, or try to pit neighbors against each other. No one should pretend that immigrants are threats to American identity, because immigrants have shaped America's identity.

No one should claim that immigrants are a burden on our economy because the work and enterprise of immigrants helps sustain our economy. We should not give into pessimism. If we work together, I'm confident we can meet our duty to fix our immigration system and deliver a bill that protects our people, upholds our laws, and makes our people proud.

It's a joyful day for all of you, and it's one you'll always remember. When you came here this morning, I was the President of another country. Now I'm the President of your country, and I'm grateful for that honor. I wish you good luck as citizens of the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.

May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 PM


Panel: If no spending cuts are taken, how about 22% sales tax by 2015? (Japan Times, 3/28/06)

The consumption tax will have to rise to 22 percent from the current 5 percent by fiscal 2015 if the government is to achieve a sound balance between tax revenues and outlays, unless major spending cuts are made, an advisory panel to the finance minister said Monday.

For the government to put its fiscal house in order without any tax hike, it would have to slash its general-account expenditures by 26.9 trillion yen by fiscal 2015, the Fiscal System Council said in a report on the nation's long-term financial outlook.

Household assets down 11% from '99 (Japan Times, 3/28/06)
Financial assets and home equity held by households averaged 39 million yen as of the end of November 2004, a drop of 11.1 percent from 1999, when the last survey was conducted, according to a survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry released Monday.

The assets include savings, securities and personal pensions, home equity including land for housing, and durable goods, including automobiles and furniture.

But they've got the immigration limits, trade protection, and isolation that our Left and far Right dream of!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Asahara death sentence appeal foiled: Insanity motion fails; top court still an option (MAYUMI NEGISHI, 3/28/06, Japan Times)

The Tokyo High Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, increasing the likelihood the guru's death sentence for masterminding the deadly 1995 gassing of the Tokyo subway system and other murders will stand without further sessions.

After effectively giving Asahara's counsel extra time to submit appeal documents after they "missed" last August's deadline because of what they claimed was an inability to communicate with the babbling guru, the court decided Monday the foot-dragging had to come to an end and said there was no excuse for the delay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


THE CHRISTIANIZING OF AMERICA: Without a Doubt: a review of Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth By Richard John Neuhaus (Damon Linker, 03.24.06, New Republic)

Following Pope Benedict XVI, Neuhaus maintains that, far from restricting or abolishing freedom, the surrender of the mind to the absolute authority of the Church is the "foundation of freedom." But this is sophistry. Matthew Arnold, who was himself deeply exercised by the cultural consequences of the crisis of traditional religion, beautifully and accurately defined free thinking as "the free play of the mind on all subjects which it touches." Neuhaus appears to want no part of such serious play, such open-ended inquiry. Denouncing it as pointless "complexification" and yearning for what Paul Ricouer called a "second naïveté" on the far side of reflection, he gives every sign of preferring a comprehensive and hermetically sealed religious ideology that will definitively insulate him from doubt. Those less inclined to recoil from the joys and the trials, the frustrations and the rewards, of critical thinking will look on such longings with a mixture of perplexity and alarm.

And then there is politics. In his insistent emphasis on the need for order, authority, and tradition, as well as in his warnings about the psychological and social ravages of modern skepticism, Neuhaus echoes such luminaries of the European (and Catholic) right as Joseph de Maistre, Juan Donoso Cortés, and (once again) Carl Schmitt, all of whom were staunch opponents of liberalism and modernity. Yet Neuhaus would have us believe that his own anti-liberal and anti-modern views are perfectly compatible with--no, synonymous with--the principles underlying modern American democracy.

We have considerable reason to doubt this. Take the crucially important issue of authority. Setting aside the question of whether an authoritarian outlook is harmful in religion, and there is a considerable religious and philosophical literature on the subject, an authoritarian outlook can certainly be destructive in politics. A nation in which such an outlook is explicitly encouraged and esteemed will be tempted to support political leaders who promise to shield us from the inherent complexity and difficulty of truth itself. This temptation is especially dangerous in liberal democratic nations, which depend on citizens informing themselves about exceedingly complicated issues, making use of alternative sources of information, doubting the assertions of public authorities, and thrashing out an inevitably tentative truth in open-ended argument and debate. This is the unavoidable price of citizenship in a free society. It is our citizenly duty to be suspicious, and to cultivate suspicion, of any and all who would rescue us from the rigors of our own freedom.

The offense that Neuhaus's political theology gives to American pluralism and civility is no less great. Since 1984, he has maintained that "only a transcendent, a religious, vision can turn this society from disaster and toward the fulfillment of its destiny" as a "sacred enterprise." Since 1987, he has further stipulated that this vision must be supplied by the Roman Catholic Church. The legitimacy of this ideological project--its potential to unify rather than to polarize the nation--stands or falls on its ability to avoid the social dynamic that Neuhaus himself once identified with Protestant evangelicalism. The Moral Majority was incapable of providing the nation with a unifying religious ideology, he argued in The Naked Public Square, because non-evangelical Americans would inevitably view the attempt as one group's illegitimate effort to impose its private theological convictions on the nation as a whole. Conservative Protestants thus negated their claim to speak for the whole of society in the very act of presuming to do so.

Over the years, Neuhaus has gone out of his way to show that unlike evangelicalism, with which he has often made common cause, Catholicism is capable of speaking with moral force to all Americans, regardless of their religious attachments (or lack of attachments). In the Church's natural-law tradition and its social encyclicals can be found the rudiments of a spiritual and moral outlook that is perfectly compatible with pluralism and democracy in the United States. Whether or not individual American citizens are conservative Catholics--or even liberal Catholics, or even Judeo-Christians, or even believers in a personal God, or even believers in any spiritual reality at all--they can and should accept the universal validity of traditionalist Catholic moral arguments and employ them as an ideological framework through which to understand the nation and its role in the world.

It is a beautiful story, but it is a fairy tale--at least when viewed in the light of the narrow and sectarian form of Catholicism that Neuhaus defends in Catholic Matters. Consider his delight in repeatedly claiming that the Catholic Church provides "the true story of the world," of which all the other stories are merely a part, "including the story of America." Neuhaus helpfully elaborated on the point in a recent issue of First Things, where he likewise asserted that "it is time to think again--to think deeply, to think theologically--about the story of America and its place in the story of the world." The Catholic story of the world, that is. These statements make it quite clear that Neuhaus longs for an omnivorous Catholic Church to devour and to absorb American culture and public life. Short of universal conversion to traditionalist Catholicism on the part of the American people, this effort to Catholicize the nation and its public philosophy would surely generate much more division and do far more to heighten sectarian tensions than the rise of the Moral Majority ever did. (One wonders, for example, how even Neuhaus's traditionalist Protestant allies will respond to his ecclesiological boast that the Catholic Church is "the gravitational center of the Christian reality, the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time.")

And what would the Catholicizing of the United States portend for the country's millions of non-traditionalist Christians and Jews, let alone its many Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics? To judge from a troubling essay that Neuhaus wrote in 1991, they would likely have to be excluded from the category of good citizenship. Focusing on unbelievers, he declared that while "an atheist can be a citizen" of the United States, it is on principle impossible for an atheist to be "a good citizen." The godless, he maintained, are simply incapable of giving a "morally convincing account" of the nation--a necessary condition for fruitful participation in its experiment in "ordered liberty." To be morally convincing, such an account must make reference to "reasons that draw authority from that which is higher than the self, from that which is external to the self, from that to which the self is ultimately obligated." No wonder, then, that it is "those who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus [who] turn out to be the best citizens."

To his credit, Neuhaus fully acknowledged the blatant circularity of his argument--the way it excluded atheists from the category of good citizenship by appealing exclusively to the assumptions of those religious traditionalists who believe that good citizenship requires the affirmation of divine authority. Yet in his effort to defend this circularity, Neuhaus made a startling admission. Establishing standards of good citizenship on the basis of exclusionary theistic assumptions is thoroughly justified, he claimed, not because such assumptions can plausibly be found in the Constitution or in its supporting documents or in established American practice or tradition, but because such assumptions are supposedly made by "a majority" in contemporary American society.

This is an appeal to raw majoritarian power, and its implications are plain. Neuhaus has often portrayed himself as a defender of a "civil public square." He has frequently insisted, against evangelicals and others, that public debate should take place using reason and that it should employ categories and concepts that are equally accessible to all citizens. But in his remarks on atheism Neuhaus made it very clear that the country's moral and religious consensus is actually the imposition of the beliefs of one part of a highly diverse community onto its other parts. In Catholic-Christian America, dominated by a traditionalist Christian majority, might would by definition be synonymous with right.

Neuhaus would no doubt insist that this exclusionary logic applies only to atheists (as if that weren't bad enough!), though it is hard to see why we should believe him. In the Catholic-Christian story of America and the world, non-traditionalist Christians and Jews, as well as adherents of other faiths, are at best peripheral players--and at worst antagonists. The most vivid and ominous example of what politics might be like in an America marked by such theologically motivated antagonisms can be found in the November 1996 issue of First Things, in which Neuhaus and his closest ideological compatriots, repulsed by a series of Supreme Court decisions on abortion, euthanasia, and gay rights, let out a cry of religiously inspired fury, and suggested (in terms identical to those Neuhaus employed during his period of leftist radicalism) that a morally corrupt "regime" was usurping democracy in America--and that a justified insurrection on the part of the country's most religious citizens might very well be in order.

All of the participants in the First Things symposium--it was called "The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics"--permitted themselves radical rhetoric. Robert H. Bork denounced the nation's "judicial oligarchy" for spreading "moral chaos" throughout the land. The Catholic theologian Russell Hittinger asserted that the country now lived "under an altered constitutional regime" whose laws were "unworthy of loyalty." Charles W. Colson maintained that America may have reached the point where "the only political action believers can take is some kind of direct, extra-political confrontation" with the "judicially controlled regime." And in a contribution titled "The Tyrant State," Robert P. George asserted that "the courts ... have imposed upon the nation immoral policies that pro-life Americans cannot, in conscience, accept."

But it was Neuhaus himself who did more than anyone else to push the tone of the symposium beyond the limits of responsible discourse. In the unsigned editorial with which he introduced the special issue of the magazine, Neuhaus adopted the revolutionary language of the Declaration of Independence to lament the judiciary's "long train of abuses and usurpations" and to warn darkly about "the prospect--some might say the present reality--of despotism" in America. In Neuhaus's view, what was happening in the United States could only be described as "the displacement of a constitutional order by a regime that does not have, will not obtain, and cannot command the consent of the people." Hence the stark and radical options confronting the country, ranging "from noncompliance to resistance to civil disobedience to morally justified revolution."

It's hard to believe that Mr. Neuhaus yields the argument that atheists are "incapable of giving a 'morally convincing account' of the nation" as easily as Mr. Linker suggests because it is so manifestly true. You can't derive the Founding in the absence of the God of Abraham. And it's hardly circular to require belief in and adherence to the Foundation of the Republic as a standard of good citizenship of that Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


The West in an Afghan mirror (Spengler, 3/28/06, Asia Times)

Death everywhere and always is the penalty for apostasy, in Islam and every other faith. It cannot be otherwise, for faith is life and its abandonment is death. Americans should remove the beam from their own eye as they contemplate the gallows in the eye of the Muslims. Philistine hypocrisy pervades Western denunciations of the Afghan courts, which were threatening to hang Christian convert Abdul Rahman until the case was dropped on Monday. [...]

The practice of killing heretics has nothing to do with what differentiates Islam from Christianity or Judaism. St Thomas Aquinas defended not just the execution of individual heretics but also the mass extermination of heretical populations in the 12th-century Albigensian Crusades. For this he was defended by the Catholic philosopher Michael Novak, author of learned books about the faith of the United States of America's founding fathers (see Muslim anguish and Western hypocrisy, November 23, 2004).

Western religions today inflict symbolic rather than physical death. One's local priest does not like to preach such things from his post-modern pulpit, but the Catholic Church prescribes eternal hellfire for those who come into communion with Christ and then reject him. Observant Jews hold a funeral for an apostate child who is spiritually dead to them (retroactive abortions not being permitted).

The last heretic hanged by the Catholic Church was a Spanish schoolteacher accused of Deist (shall we call that "moderate Christian"?) views in Valencia as recently as 1826. Without Napoleon Bonaparte and the humiliation of the Church by the German and Italian nationalist movements, who knows when the killing of heretics would have stopped?

"Where are the moderate Muslims?" sigh the self-appointed Sybils of the Western media. Faith is life. What does it mean to be moderately alive? Find the "moderate Christians" and the "moderate Jews", and you will have the answer. "Moderate Christians" such as Episcopalian priests or Anglican vicars are becoming redundant as their congregations migrate to red-blooded evangelical denominations or give up religion altogether. "Moderate Jews" are mainly secular and tend to intermarry. There really is no such thing as a "moderate" Christian; there simply are Christians, and soon-to-be-ex-Christians. The secular establishment has awoken with sheer panic to this fact at last. In response we have such diatribes such as Kevin Phillips' new book American Theocracy, an amalgam of misunderstandings, myths and calumnies about the so-called religious right.

It's hardly a coincidence that the decline of Europe began then.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:25 PM


'Marriage Is for White People' (Joy Jones, Washington Post, 3/26/06)

And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."

He's right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country....

Although slavery was an atrocious social system, men and women back then nonetheless often succeeded in establishing working families. In his account of slave life and culture, "Roll, Jordan, Roll," historian Eugene D. Genovese wrote: "A slave in Georgia prevailed on his master to sell him to Jamaica so that he could find his wife, despite warnings that his chances of finding her on so large an island were remote. . . . Another slave in Virginia chopped his left hand off with a hatchet to prevent being sold away from his son." I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin. [Emphasis added]

The War on Poverty has been the war on the black family, and has arguably been worse for African Americans than slavery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Field Museum exhibit tells evolution story (TARA BURGHART, 3/27/06, AP)

A new exhibit at The Field Museum examines life in everything from the Precambrian to the Quaternary periods, but it's opening during a period when the theory of evolution is under attack by supporters of so-called "intelligent design."

Museum officials say that the timeliness is a coincidence - work began on "Evolving Planet" four years ago, and it replaces an exhibit that touched on many of the same themes.

But if there is any doubt about where the exhibit falls in the debate, it closes with a quote from Charles Darwin, who concluded that species evolve over time.

The "intelligent design" movement challenges Darwin's theory, contending that organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher authority.

Though the story focusses more on the exhibit as a response to critics of Darwinism, it's funnier to note how Ms Burghart there presents inaccurate depictions of both Darwinism and ID.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Scalia: Foreign detainees have no U.S. rights (AP, March 27, 2006)

Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly told an overseas audience this month that the U.S. Constitution does not protect foreigners held at America's military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [...]

''War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant, you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts,'' Newsweek quoted Scalia as saying in the speech. ''Give me a break.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Now Troops Have Body Armor And They Shun It as 'Too Heavy' (ANTONIO CASTANEDA, 3/27/06, Associated Press)

Extra body armor - the lack of which caused a political storm in America - has flooded into Iraq, but many Marines here promptly stuck it in lockers or under bunks. Too heavy and cumbersome, many say.

Marines already carry loads as heavy as 70 pounds when they patrol the dangerous streets in towns and villages in restive Anbar province. The new armor plates, while only about five pounds per set, are not worth carrying for the additional safety they are said to provide, some say.

Made a nice talking point for the ignorant though....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Blessed America loving Jews (Bruce Walker, March 27, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

Jews voted in elections in colonial America as early as 1702. The first Jews elected to office in functioning democracies were Jews elected by non-Jewish voters in pre-Revolutionary America. Jews also attended and graduated from Christian universities in colonial America. Francis Salvador was a Jewish member of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War. David Emanuel was elected Governor of Georgia in 1800 and after him many Jews were elected or appointed governors, senators, congressmen, speakers of state legislatures and appointed chief justice of supreme courts throughout the South.

What about "intolerant" New England Puritans? These Puritans learned Hebrew, Puritan girls as well as Puritan boys. They created a religious structure consciously modeled after the synagogue. Puritans deliberately took Old Testament, rather than New Testament, names. These were not ignorant Puritans unconscious of what they were doing. New England Puritans were the best educated immigrant population in human history, with significant percentages of the population having degrees from great universities in Britain.

Washington's famous letter to the Jews of Newport speaks for itself: "All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more than toleration that is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that any other enjoyed the exercise of their inherent rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, giving it on all occasions their effectual support…May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy of their other inhabitants, while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

John Adams wrote to Mordecai Noah, a Jewish leader in America : "I wish your nation be admitted to all the privileges of citizenship in every country of the world." Thomas Jefferson was just as sympathetic when he wrote that he was: "…happy in the restoration of the Jews, particularly, to their social rights, and hopes they will be seen taking their seats on the branches of science as preparatory to their doing the same at the board of government." The Founding Fathers seriously considered making Hebrew the national language of America.

Two centuries ago Christians founded the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of Jews, which helped and protected Jews, whether or not they embraced Christianity. This society, sometimes known as " Israel's Advocate," had two hundred branches within the Christian community in the United States. Nothing comparable existed anywhere on earth.

The young American government repeatedly intervened on behalf of Jews across the Atlantic. When Jews approached Martin Van Buren for help in ending a ghastly persecution at the hands of Ottoman Turks in the 1830s, they found that he had already taken action so on his own. Abraham Lincoln pointedly chose a Jewish consul to the Swiss Confederation, although it offended the Swiss government. American policy was to protect persecuted Jews since the earliest days of the Republic.

Twenty years before the Balfour Declaration, a cynical effort to gain Jewish support during the First World, a petition was signed by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and 413 of the most important American writers, clergymen and journalists calling for "an international conference to consider the condition of the Israelites and their claims to Palestine as their ancient home."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Fukuyama's John Kerry moment: a review of America at the Crossroads Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy By Francis Fukuyama (Steven Martinovich, March 27, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

[A]merica at the Crossroads is one of the better arguments against the war and its aftermath, both on philosophical grounds and real-world politics. In it Fukuyama argues that the current strain of neoconservatism, one he no longer considers himself a part of, responsible for the war in Iraq is far different from the one pioneered by the alumnus of the City College of New York in the 1930s and 40s. While the movement's founding fathers were convinced that American power could be used for good in the world -- as World War II proved -- today's neoconservatives have departed from several key principles.

Those principles include an aversion to preemptive wars and recognition that social engineering -- which Fukuyama uses as a euphemism for nation building -- was extraordinarily difficult. If Saddam Hussein was indeed a danger to global security, Fukuyama argues, then the war was too preemptive considering the failure to actually find the weapons of mass destruction the world was led to believe he possessed. And the post-war difficulty the coalition is experiencing is certainly proof that building a democracy is impossible without the internal demand for liberty and the institutions necessary to sustain it.

If there's no internal demand then why did the Iraqis adopt a liberal constitution and why do they keep turning out for free elections?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Groundswell of Protests Back Illegal Immigrants (NINA BERNSTEIN, 3/27/06, NY Times)

When members of the Senate Judiciary Committee meet today to wrestle with the fate of more than 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, they can expect to do so against a backdrop of thousands of demonstrators, including clergy members wearing handcuffs and immigrant leaders in T-shirts that declare, "We Are America."

But if events of recent days hold true, they will be facing much more than that.

Rallies in support of immigrants around the country have attracted crowds that have astonished even their organizers. More than a half-million demonstrators marched in Los Angeles on Saturday, as many as 300,000 in Chicago on March 10, and — in between — tens of thousands in Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and elsewhere.

One of the most powerful institutions behind the wave of public protests has been the Roman Catholic Church, lending organizational muscle to a spreading network of grass-roots coalitions. In recent weeks, the church has unleashed an army of priests and parishioners to push for the legalization of the nation's illegal immigrants, sending thousands of postcards to members of Congress and thousands of parishioners into the streets.

The demonstrations embody a surging constituency demanding that illegal immigrants be given a path to citizenship rather than be punished with prison terms.

The Church knows where its growth is coming from, even if the GOP doesn't.

African churches bloom in U.S.: A new, dynamic wave of Nigerian-based churches is establishing itself in America, evangelizing with fervor in hundreds of communities. (RACHEL ZOLL, 3/27/06, Associated Press)

On the 25th floor of a luxury office tower, a church most people have never heard of is planning to save America.

Its leaders believe Jesus has sent them to spread a difficult truth in the United States: Demonic forces are corrupting society and only spiritual warfare can stop them.

Call it the message.

The messenger comes from Nigeria.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in Lagos by men and women who were once the target of missionary work themselves. Now their church has become one of the most aggressive evangelizers to emerge from the advance of Christianity across Africa.

The Redeemed Church is part of a boom in African churches establishing American outposts. Jacob Olupona, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has found hundreds of examples in cities large and small.

''Anyone who writes about Christianity in America in the 21st century,'' Olupona said, ``will have to write about African churches.''

At the core of the shift are pastors from Nigeria. Over the last century, Christians there have swelled from a tiny minority to nearly half the population, and its pastors have shown an exceptional talent for winning believers abroad.

In the United States, the Redeemed Church is ahead of them all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says (DON VAN NATTA Jr., 3/27/06, NY Times)

In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin." [...]

At several points during the meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, there was palpable tension over finding a legitimate legal trigger for going to war that would be acceptable to other nations, the memo said. The prime minister was quoted as saying it was essential for both countries to lobby for a second United Nations resolution against Iraq, because it would serve as "an insurance policy against the unexpected."

The memo said Mr. Blair told Mr. Bush, "If anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning the oil wells, killing children or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq, a second resolution would give us international cover, especially with the Arabs."

Mr. Bush agreed that the two countries should attempt to get a second resolution, but he added that time was running out. "The U.S. would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would twist arms and even threaten," Mr. Bush was paraphrased in the memo as saying.

The document added, "But he had to say that if we ultimately failed, military action would follow anyway."

Folks have continually underestimated the degree to which the WMD argument and the UN maneuvering were just favors that George Bush did for Tony Blair and Colin Powell and not things he ever cared much about. Indeed, he stunned the Brits by offering to let them not participate in the war if it was going to cause Mr. Blair too much domestic political trouble

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Scientists bring home the bacon with healthy pig fat (Anita Srikameswaran, March 27, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Someday you could eat bacon and ham instead of fish and nuts to get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the University of Missouri-Columbia's National Swine Resource and Research Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital have made pigs that produce the beneficial nutrients.

Omega-3 fatty acids cut triglyceride levels, the risk of irregular heartbeat, and the growth of artery-clogging atherosclerotic plaques, according to the American Heart Association. The association recommends eating fish, preferably fatty ones such as salmon, at least twice a week because it is rich in omega-3.

If you can improve on pork you shouldn't just get a Nobel, you should be beatified.

And for dessert, New chocolate marketed as heart healthy (Hilary E. MacGregor, March 22, 2006, Los Angeles Times)

After working below the radar on a cocoa farm deep in Brazil, and toiling for years over test tubes in food labs, scientists say they have developed a top-secret formula for an undisciplined candy lover's dream: a healthful chocolate bar.

Eating a couple of tiny slabs a day of this dark chocolate could lower cholesterol, relax your blood vessels and help ward off heart disease, they say.

Loaded with potent chemicals such as cocoa flavanols, plant sterols and soy -- and stamped with an icon that reads, "promotes a healthy heart" -- the CocoaVia line of chocolates has been available in select locations since October 2005. By April they'll be in mainstream grocery stores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


In Iran, Even Some On Right Warning Against Extremes: Conservative Faction Fears Radicalism (Karl Vick, 3/27/06, Washington Post)

Nine months after the election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, Iranian politics has shifted so sharply to the right that some traditional conservatives are warning of the dangers of radicalism. [...]

"Ayatollah Mesbah is an extremist," said one Iranian official close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the soft-spoken cleric who has been Iran's supreme leader since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989.

"Ayatollah Khomeini warned the people lots of times not to allow these people, the Shia Talibans, to come to power in Iran and have space," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noting that Khamenei has judged it prudent to accommodate even extremists within the system and accord them respect. "Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei feel these people can do a lot of damage. They can damage Iran. They can damage Islam. They are like the Taliban. They are like al-Qaeda. They say they know what Allah expects from us -- that we should do what he wants from us without paying attention to the consequences.

"And it's a very dangerous belief."

The tension highlights significant divisions within Iran's conservative camp, often viewed from outside the country as a turbaned monolith. In reality, 27 years after the 1979 revolution that brought Shiite clerics to power, Iranian politics is a nuanced landscape defined largely by the lessons taken from the previous quarter-century.

Traditional conservatives describe themselves as firm but flexible. While remaining committed to the precept that clerics should hold ultimate authority, they were chastened in the 1990s when reformists -- determined to lessen the intrusion of the state into private lives and show greater tolerance for dissent -- won landslide electoral victories.

Kind of sad, but we're actually impressed that it only took the media nine months to figure out that Khamenei opposes Ahmedinijad. Of course, the neocons will never figure it out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Wind power 'ahead of predictions' (BBC, 3/27/06)

Onshore wind farms will provide about 5% of Britain's electricity by 2010, according to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA).

In a new report, it says turbines are being installed faster than predicted.

If this is correct, onshore wind farms will take the government halfway to its target of generating 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

The transition away from oil will happen faster than anyone dreams.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Musical brings Korean horrors home (Charles Scanlon, 3/27/06, BBC)

It is probably the least cheerful musical since Les Miserables - a three-hour song and dance extravaganza set in one of North Korea's notorious labour camps.

Yoduk Story opens with goose-stepping communist soldiers and rousing revolutionary arias. Before long the action shifts to the hell of Yoduk - a North Korean prison camp that is believed to hold 20,000 political prisoners and their families.

It is the harrowing story of a celebrated state actress, who is sent to the camp with the rest of her family after her father is arrested as a spy - common practice in the North, where families down to the third generation are held accountable for the crimes of relatives. [...]

South Korean officials says privately that the North is holding some 200,000 political prisoners - but they argue that engagement rather than direct confrontation is the best way to bring about change.

Almost the entire musical is set at the Yoduk camp - it is portrayed as a nightmare world of public executions, rape and starvation.

The heroine is raped by the camp commander and bears him a child - but later survives to forgive him.

The theme may be too dark for some, especially younger South Koreans, many of whom find it hard to conceive of the horrors taking place just across the border.

"I'd heard of the camps but never took much interest. Seeing it has really shocked me - it's helped me to care more about what's happening," said Park Bang-hee, a student in her 20s, after the curtain went down.

The production can count on the enthusiasm of conservative and Christian groups - and is likely to spur debate on North Korean human rights, which have been overlooked in the rush to reconciliation.

Yes, who else cares about human rights these days but conservatives and Christians?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Beckett turns up volume -- Hurler fires words, Ks (Jeff Horrigan, March 27, 2006, Boston Herald)

The Red Sox were hoping to get a younger version of Curt Schilling when they acquired Josh Beckett from the Florida Marlins, and yesterday Beckett gave a strong indication that he is every bit as intense as his new mentor.

The 25-year-old right-hander showed that he is not one to be messed with by nearly sparking a brawl with Ryan Howard when he mouthed off to the mammoth Philadelphia Phillies slugger and accused Howard of hot-dogging after hitting a deep fly ball to center field in the sixth inning of the Sox’ 3-2 win at Brighthouse Networks Field. [...]

“It’s not like I wanted to fight the guy. I just wanted to make the point that you look like a jackass whenever you hit a ball like that and you’re pimping it and you’re out. " [...]

With Beckett still chirping, Howard walked toward the dugout, finally throwing his glove down to prepare for a fight. Beckett attempted to ascend the stairs to meet him, only to be intercepted by teammates as a scrum formed in foul territory and bullpens emptied. Rudy Seanez, who participates in ultimate fighting during the offseason, led the relievers’ charge.

“I told him he was a little slow,” Francona said of Seanez’ arrival.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Judicial intemperance: Scalia flips message to doubting Thomases (Laurel J. Sweet, March 27, 2006, Boston Herald)

Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

“That’s Sicilian,” the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the “Sopranos” challenged.

“It’s none of their business,” continued Scalia, who was the keynote speaker at yesterday’s Catholic Lawyers’ Guild luncheon. “This is my spiritual life. I shall lead it the way I like.”

Calls to mind the most honest moment in the career of Nelson Rockefeller.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


Taiwan towers as an innovator (John Boudreau, 3/27/06, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Think of most tech gadgets, from the iPod to the PlayStation, and an engineer on this island of 23 million probably has had a hand in its creation.

While India and China share the spotlight as emerging giants, Taiwan is already a huge behind-the-scenes maker of tech products.

Taiwanese companies produce three-quarters of the world's notebook computers, two-thirds of its personal digital assistants and nearly 70 percent of its liquid crystal display monitors, according to Taiwan government statistics.

The island is home to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world's largest made-to-order chip manufacturer. Civic leaders like to point to the jade-green Taipei 101, the world's tallest skyscraper that towers over the densely packed city, as a sign of Taiwan's economic prowess.

Now Taiwan is making strides in moving to a more visible role as tech innovator. As China muscles its way into more and more sophisticated manufacturing, Taiwanese companies are elevating their research-and-design skills and creating their own brands that can be marketed globally to stay a few steps ahead of its intimidating neighbor.

Anbody can assemble parts--in fact, the bodies are often superfluous--innovation is the hard part.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Boston's breakthrough schools (Neal Peirce, 3/26/06 Seattle Times)

Could this city's "pilot schools" — a cross between charter schools and regular city system schools — signal a "tipping point" in the long struggle to reshape urban America's embattled public-education systems?

Paul Grogan, author of the 2001 book "Comeback Cities" and now president of the Boston Foundation, believes so. He predicts that pilot schools, part of the formal school system but granted charter-like powers over budgets, hiring and curriculum, may prove the missing key to overcoming stifling bureaucracy and conquering "the final frontier of inner-city revitalization."

For a flavor of pilot-school culture, I visited the four-year-old Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA), formerly a problem-plagued district high school with low academic scores. But when headquarters moved to close the school, the recently appointed principal, Nicole Bahnam, her teachers and parents protested vehemently and asked for pilot-school status.

Headquarters agreed. With help from the Boston-based Center for Collaborative Education, Bahnam and her staff rewrote their entire school mission to focus on a rigorous academic experience and personalized attention — in Bahnam's words, "a program driven by kids' needs, not by any bureaucracy."

Sure, if you can end-run the unions and public bureaucrats you can improve schools, but doesn't it make more sense to break them permanently?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Invasive Species Threaten Galapagos's Diversity (Juliet Eilperin, February 27, 2006, Washington Post)

Introduced species are the greatest threat to native plants and animals, including some that were brought deliberately by humans and others that slipped in, several scientific experts said.

"If we don't manage in an efficient way the arrival of new invasive species, the consequences could be disastrous," said Felipe Cruz, a Galapagos National Park official who focuses on eliminating the invaders from Santiago and Isabela islands.

Gilda Gonzalez, a naturalist for the U.S.-based tour operation Lindblad Expeditions who also monitors the park for Ecuadorian authorities, said the archipelago's isolation from the mainland 600 miles to the east makes it especially vulnerable to new arrivals: "This is a big, big problem. For a long time the animals, the plants, the insects in this area, they didn't have competition."

The invasive species range from large mammals, such as donkeys and goats, to tiny fire ants that kill tortoise and bird hatchlings.

On some of the 10 islands, alien species have already driven native ones extinct. [...]

At this point, the 720 introduced plants growing in the Galapagos outnumber the islands' 500 original plant species.

Pardon my math, but that would mean there's far greater diversity, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Cablevision tests 'remote storage' DVR use (David Lieberman, 3/27/06, USA TODAY)

In a move that could ignite a major debate about consumer "fair use" of TV programming, Cablevision Systems will unveil plans to test a service that gives cable subscribers the ability to record and time-shift shows using existing digital set-top boxes.

Although it works just like TiVo and other digital video recorders (DVRs) — consumers choose in advance which shows to capture and can fast-forward through ads — the recording itself will be stored at the cable system, not on a hard drive in the consumer's home.

The technology for what Cablevision calls its "remote storage digital video recorder" (RS-DVR) "is here today, and in Cablevision's case, we can use it to put DVR functionality in more than 2 million digital cable homes instantaneously, without ever rolling a truck or swapping out a set-top box," COO Tom Rutledge says in a statement.

There doesn't seem any reason not to expect that in a very short time you'll have a television where you can just summon any movie or television program of which a record still exists at your whim.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


Richard Fleischer (Daily Telegraph, 27/03/2006)

Richard Fleischer, who died on Saturday aged 89, was the Hollywood director responsible for films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Boston Strangler and Fantastic Voyage.

The film that marked his breakthrough, The Narrow Margin (1952), a low-budget thriller filmed almost entirely in a railroad car, is considered by some critics to be one of the best B movies ever made.

His autobiography, published in 1993, Just Tell Me When to Cry - subtitled "Encounters with the Greats, Near-Greats and Ingrates of Hollywood" - is one of the most absorbing of its kind.

Richard Fleischer was born on December 8 1916. His father was the animator Max Fleischer who, with his brothers Dave and Louis, conceived the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons and was a rival of Walt Disney's. [...]

A better film, in which Orson Welles gives a bravura court-room performance as a lawyer, was Compulsion, a version of the Loeb-Leopold murder case. Fleischer found Welles easy to work with - and also that "he knew more about directing than you did or anybody did". [...]

Fleischer was undaunted by Dino de Laurentis's proposal for the biblical epic, Barabas, and the result was better than most of that genre, owing something to the surprising presence of Silvana Mangano.

Fleischer's next venture was the memorable Fantastic Voyage, in which a team of scientists are put into a submarine which is reduced to the size of a microbe and injected into the human bloodstream.

Among the intrepid party is Raquel Welch, who dons a diving suit to venture outside the vessel - only to return covered in antibodies that have to be removed.

"No one wanted to be the first to make a grab for one of Raquel's splendid boobs," Fleischer remembered, "so they grabbed everywhere else.

"The result was, when I finally called 'Cut!', a de-antibodied Raquel except for her bosom, which was thickly encrusted with them and looked like a Las Vegas showgirl's rhinestone-bedecked brassiere." [...]

After the thriller The New Centurions (1972) came Soylent Green, with Edward G Robinson, then mortally ill. Set in a hellish, futuristic Manhattan, the film is notable for the scene in which Robinson's character elects to die; it was the last scene he ever shot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


I was wrong to say I'd quit, admits Blair (Neil Tweedie, 27/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair appeared to admit that his decision to announce his intention to resign as Prime Minister was an error that has left him weaker and allowed his opponents to push for his early removal from No 10.

He was speaking on Australian radio after a 19-hour non-stop flight to Melbourne as Downing Street insiders conceded that uncertainty over his departure was causing disquiet among MPs.

Their admission followed six weeks of relentless pressure during which controversy over the family finances of Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, followed by the "loans for peerages" controversy, has reignited debate over the Labour succession. Sources close to the Prime Minister, who is touring Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, say he has decided when to go but has not told even his closest friends.

Does sort of squander one of the chief advantages of the parliamentary system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM

A Word a Day (WordSmith, 3/27/06)

Parthian shot (PAR-thee-uhn shot) noun

A hostile remark made in departing.

[After the natives of Parthia, an ancient country in southwest Asia.]

Parthians were expert archers. Their specialty was firing arrows while in (or pretending to be in) retreat which disrupted the enemy forces.

The more descriptive term "parting shot" is a synonym.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Incoming Hamas PM says ready for talks with mediators
(SARAH EL DEEB, 3/27/06, Associated Press)

The Palestinian Authority's incoming premier said Monday his Hamas-led government was ready to hold talks with international Mideast mediators, though he reiterated that Hamas would not cave in to economic pressures to soften its hard-line agenda.

The so-called Quartet of mediators -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- is demanding that Hamas disarm, recognize Israel and accept past Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements. Hamas has so far rejected these conditions.

“The government is ready for dialogue with the Quartet,” incoming Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh told parliament. “The European Union has provided a lot of aid to our people, and supported our right for freedom. ... We are interested in a strong relation with Europe.”

When "militants" agree to talk they've already lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


'Lack of deep sleep led to dinosaurs' demise' (RHIANNON EDWARD, 3/22/06, The Scotsman)

DINOSAURS were most likely killed off because they never got a good night's sleep, scientists have claimed.

Giant meteorites from outer space, fire storms, tidal waves and an ice age have all been suggested by experts to explain the demise of T-Rex and other giant dinosaurs.

However, the latest theory to explain their extinction claims they did not survive because their reptilian sleeping patterns meant their brains did not learn new skills properly.

Unlike mammals and birds, reptiles are unable to experience slow wave sleep, the type of sleep believed to be responsible for boosting memories, especially those connected to performing new tasks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why the intelligent design lobby thanks God for Richard Dawkins: Anti-religious Darwinists are promulgating a false dichotomy between faith and science that gives succour to creationists (Madeleine Bunting, March 27, 2006, The Guardian)

The curious thing is that among those celebrating the prominence of these two Darwinians[, Richard Dawkins & Daniel Dennett,] on both sides of the Atlantic is an unexpected constituency - the American creationist/intelligent-design lobby. Huh? Dawkins, in particular, has become their top pin-up.

How so? William Dembski (one of the leading lights of the US intelligent-design lobby) put it like this in an email to Dawkins: "I know that you personally don't believe in God, but I want to thank you for being such a wonderful foil for theism and for intelligent design more generally. In fact, I regularly tell my colleagues that you and your work are one of God's greatest gifts to the intelligent-design movement. So please, keep at it!"

But while Dembski, Dawkins and Dennett are sipping the champagne for their very different reasons, there is a party pooper. Michael Ruse, a prominent Darwinian philosopher (and an agnostic) based in the US, with a string of books on the subject, is exasperated: "Dawkins and Dennett are really dangerous, both at a moral and a legal level." The nub of Ruse's argument is that Darwinism does not lead ineluctably to atheism, and to claim that it does (as Dawkins does) provides the intelligent-design lobby with a legal loophole: "If Darwinism equals atheism then it can't be taught in US schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. It gives the creationists a legal case. Dawkins and Dennett are handing these people a major tool."

Mr. Ruse neither understands the theory of Darwinism nor the motivation of those who adopt it as their faith. It's all about denying the existence of God.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A 'Rheingold' That Stands on Its Principals (Tim Page, 3/27/06, Washington Post)

The best way to approach Washington National Opera's new production of Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold," which opened Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, is as a solid, abstract and sometimes very attractive updating of a classic.

In short, forget most of what you might have read about this being the first installment of an "American 'Ring' " -- that is, a staging of Wagner's four-evening "Ring" cycle based on what WNO calls the "rich history of the United States." It isn't, unless you count as pointed political commentary, dressing up the earth goddess Erda like the lady on the Land O' Lakes box, casting African Americans in the roles of the captive Nibelungs, and having the giants Fafner and Fasolt bop and swagger like wild 'n' crazy guy construction workers.

Perhaps the next three operas in the series -- a new "Die Walkure" will enter the repertoire next season, with "Siegfried" and "Gotterdammerung" promised for later -- will deepen the American subtext. For now, just enjoy Francesca Zambello's "Roaring Twenties" staging for its general usefulness, its evocative projections (mist, sun, water and some creepy snakes), its occasional moments of majesty and whimsy.

I am grateful, I suppose, that none of the characters wear antlers on their heads, but I am less happy that the production, for the most part, lacks the luminous beauty of the best traditional stagings...

March 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Buck Owens; Singer and 'Hee Haw' Star (Matt Schudel, 3/26/06, Washington Post)

By blending rock-and-roll rhythms with country harmonies, Mr. Owens created the distinctive "Bakersfield sound," which propelled him to enormous success. Between 1959 and 1974, he had 45 songs in the country Top 10 and 20 No. 1 hits, including "Act Naturally" (1963), "Love's Gonna Live Here" (1963), "Together Again" (1964), "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" (1964) and "Waitin' in Your Welfare Line" (1966).

He was unquestionably the leading country music star of the 1960s, annually selling more than 1 million records. He performed more than 300 nights a year and appeared at Carnegie Hall and the White House. In the mid-1960s, he had 15 consecutive No. 1 country hits. As a patriotic gesture in the late 1960s, he began to perform with a red-white-and-blue guitar, which became a signature.

From 1969 to 1986, Mr. Owens and Roy Clark were the hosts of "Hee Haw," a comedy and country music program that was hugely popular in rural America. He had a syndicated television series, "Buck Owens' Ranch Show," from 1966 to 1972.

Except for his weekly "Hee Haw" appearances, Mr. Owens stopped performing in 1979 to focus on his varied business enterprises, which were concentrated in Bakersfield and Arizona, the state where he spent an impoverished childhood.

His career had a late resurgence after a Bakersfield country star of a younger generation, Dwight Yoakam, walked into Mr. Owens's office on Sept. 23, 1987, and asked him to join him onstage that night at a county fair. The response was enthusiastic, and he collaborated with Yoakam the following year on "Streets of Bakersfield," which became Mr. Owens's 21st No. 1 hit. [...]

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. was born Aug. 12, 1929, in Sherman, Tex., where his father was a sharecropper. To escape the Dust Bowl, 10 family members piled into a Ford sedan in 1937 and headed west, stopping in Mesa, Ariz., where their car broke down.

Mr. Owens quit school at 13 to work in cotton and potato fields and later was a truck driver and ditch digger.

"That was where my dream began to take hold," he said, "of not having to pick cotton and potatoes and not having to be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold."

He learned to play the mandolin and quickly moved on to the guitar and other instruments.

By 16, he was performing in clubs and on radio in Arizona. He married his first wife, singer Connie Campbell Owens, when he was 17 and performing with a group called Mac's Skillet Lickers. In 1951, he moved to Bakersfield after hearing that the oil-rich city held opportunities for musicians.

He played trumpet, saxophone, harmonica, piano and drums but was best known for the ringing, jangling sound of his Telecaster electric guitar. He gained most of his musical training from the radio, listening to the Texas swing of Bob Wills and to bluegrass and rhythm-and-blues music played on Mexican "border stations." He absorbed the sounds of early rock-and-roll and in 1956 released a rockabilly record under the name Corky Jones.

"Out of all that came my music, country mixing with the early rock-and-roll sound," he said. "I always wanted to hear music drive with a lot of beat. If I'd wanted to go to sleep, I'd have taken a nap."

He worked nights at a Bakersfield club called the Blackboard and commuted during the day to studios in Los Angeles, where he was a backup musician for Tennessee Ernie Ford, Kay Starr, Gene Vincent, Wanda Jackson, Faron Young and other performers.

After signing a contract with Capitol Records in 1957, Mr. Owens formed a band, the Buckaroos, named by a fellow Bakersfield singer and musician, Merle Haggard. (Haggard later married Mr. Owens's ex-wife.)

From 1958 to 1960, Mr. Owens lived in Puyallup, Wash., where he had a radio show and played in clubs. While there, he met a 16-year-old fiddler, Don Rich, who later switched to guitar and became a key part of the Buckaroos' success.

Disdaining the packaged, syrupy sound associated with Nashville, Mr. Owens recorded his music in California, layering it with jangling guitars, driving drums, pedal steel guitar and tight vocal harmonies designed to sound good on radio.

He wrote many of his hits and composed several songs popularized by other artists, such as "Cryin' Time," which was a hit for Ray Charles in 1966.

Buck Owens shaped sound of country (Ken Barnes, 3/25/06, USA TODAY)

Powered by the crisp guitar licks of the late Don Rich and the driving rhythms of backing band The Buckaroos, Owens' hits jumped out of the radio, contrasting with the strings-laden Nashville productions of the era. Owens was the driving force in establishing his home base, Bakersfield, as the only serious modern rival to Nashville's grip on country music, as he, protégé Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart and Tommy Collins saturated radio airwaves.

Although Owens cooled off on the charts by 1974, cutting such novelties as On the Cover of the Music City News, Monsters' Holiday and You Ain't Gonna Have Ol' Buck to Kick Around No More, a parallel career made him even more widely known to the American public at large: He co-hosted the country comedy series Hee Haw from 1969 to 1986.

That bucolic role unfairly pigeonholed him in many people's eyes, but his musical reputation was restored in 1988 when a duet with then-hot new star Dwight Yoakam, Streets of Bakersfield, became Owens' first No. 1 hit in 16 years.

Yoakam was an avid Owens booster ("I will cherish forever the musical moments he graciously shared with me during his life," Yoakam told the Associated Press) and helped fire him up to take one last whack at the country charts in 1989, when he had minor hits with Hot Dog, a rockabilly tune he had cut as Corky Jones in the '50s, and a duet on Act Naturally with, fittingly, Ringo Starr.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Leveraging McCain (Salena Zito, 3/26/06, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW)

The first thing that strikes you about John McCain is that he's comfortable in his own skin, a trait possessed by too few of his colleagues.

Capitol Hill is about being "on message." McCain is who he is. [...]

McCain, the Republicans' frontman for the midterm elections, says the GOP has benchmarks it should build upon, the economy being "the biggest success story ... and we are not doing an effective job communicating it."

He's equally candid about the failures -- namely Social Security -- and agitated by the behavior of Democrat colleagues.

"Did you see when the Democrats stood up and cheered at the president's remarks about (failing to reform) Social Security?" McCain asks, shaking his head. "Stood up and cheered? How can you do that? What is that all about?"

Getting a job done is the only option for McCain and he is adamant when it comes to fixing Social Security.

Senator McCain can run up big enough congressional majorities that the Democrats won't be able to stop him from finishing up the Bush agenda.

Meanwhile, the Democratic base will drag their 2008 candidate ever further from the mainstream and into the partisan fever swamps that Americans despise, Feingold's Standing Boosted Among Voters (FREDERIC J. FROMMER, 3/26/06, Associated Press)

While only two Democrats in the Senate have embraced Sen. Russ Feingold's call for censuring President Bush, the idea is increasing his standing among many Democratic voters as he ponders a bid for the party's presidential nomination in 2008.

Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, insists his proposal has nothing to do with his political ambitions. But he does challenge Democrats who argue it will help energize Republicans.

"Those Democrats said that within two minutes of my announcing my idea," Feingold said in a telephone interview last week. "I don't see any serious evidence of that."

A Newsweek poll taken March 16-17 found that 50 percent of those surveyed opposed censuring Bush while 42 percent supported it, but among Democrats, 60 percent favored the effort.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Case Dropped Against Afghan Christian (AP, 3/26/06)

An Afghan court has dismissed case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity for lack of evidence, an official said Sunday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Neo No More: a review of America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama (PAUL BERMAN, 3/26/06, NY Times)

The neoconservatives, he suggests, are people who, having witnessed the collapse of Communism long ago, ought to look back on those gigantic events as a one-in-a-zillion lucky break, like winning the lottery. Instead, the neoconservatives, victims of their own success, came to believe that Communism's implosion reflected the deepest laws of history, which were operating in their own and America's favor — a formula for hubris. This is a shrewd observation, and might seem peculiar only because Fukuyama's own "End of History" articulated the world's most eloquent argument for detecting within the collapse of Communism the deepest laws of history. He insists in his new book that "The End of History" ought never to have led anyone to adopt such a view, but this makes me think only that Fukuyama is an utterly unreliable interpreter of his own writings.

He wonders why Bush never proposed a more convincing justification for invading Iraq — based not just on a fear of Saddam Hussein's weapons (which could have been expressed in a non-alarmist fashion), nor just on the argument for human rights and humanitarianism, which Bush did raise, after a while. A genuinely cogent argument, as Fukuyama sees it, would have drawn attention to the problems that arose from America's prewar standoff with Hussein. The American-led sanctions against Iraq were the only factor that kept him from building his weapons. The sanctions were crumbling, though. Meanwhile, they were arousing anti-American furies across the Middle East on the grounds (entirely correct, I might add) that America was helping to inflict horrible damage on the Iraqi people. American troops took up positions in the region to help contain Hussein — and the presence of those troops succeeded in infuriating Osama bin Laden. In short, the prewar standoff with Hussein was untenable morally and even politically. But there was no way to end the standoff apart from ending Hussein's dictatorship.

Now, I notice that in stressing this strategic argument, together with the humanitarian and human rights issue, and in pointing out lessons from the Balkans, Fukuyama has willy-nilly outlined some main elements of the liberal interventionist position of three years ago, at least in one of its versions. In the Iraq war, liberal interventionism was the road not taken, to be sure. Nor was liberal interventionism his own position. However, I have to say that, having read his book, I'm not entirely sure what position he did adopt, apart from wisely admonishing everyone to tread carefully. He does make plain that, having launched wars hither and yon, the United States had better ensure that, in Afghanistan and Iraq alike, stable antiterrorist governments finally emerge.

Mr. Berman and Mr. Fukuyama are certainly correc t that the President should have made the liberal case for intervention and it's curious that he didn't because it is so easily articulated and so obviously morally compelling. Imagine how much more popular and global support there'd have been for removing Saddam had he just gone to the United Nations and said something like the following:
Our common security is challenged by regional conflicts -- ethnic and religious strife that is ancient, but not inevitable. In the Middle East, there can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. My nation will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.

Above all, our principles and our security are challenged today by outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions. In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction, and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale.

In one place -- in one regime -- we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms, exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront.

Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

Surely rather than declare themselves irrelevant by their own inaction and opposition the member nations and the Left would have rallied to the cause of liberal intervention, no?

Saddam, Al Qaeda Did Collaborate, Documents Show (ELI LAKE, March 24, 2006, NY Sun)

A former Democratic senator and 9/11 commissioner says a recently declassified Iraqi account of a 1995 meeting between Osama bin Laden and a senior Iraqi envoy presents a "significant set of facts," and shows a more detailed collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

In an interview yesterday, the current president of the New School University, Bob Kerrey, was careful to say that new documents translated last night by ABC News did not prove Saddam Hussein played a role in any way in plotting the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Nonetheless, the former senator from Nebraska said that the new document shows that "Saddam was a significant enemy of the United States." Mr. Kerrey said he believed America's understanding of the deposed tyrant's relationship with Al Qaeda would become much deeper as more captured Iraqi documents and audiotapes are disclosed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


A Poverty of the Mind (ORLANDO PATTERSON, 3/26/06, NY Times)

So what are some of the cultural factors that explain the sorry state of young black men? They aren't always obvious. Sociological investigation has found, in fact, that one popular explanation — that black children who do well are derided by fellow blacks for "acting white" — turns out to be largely false, except for those attending a minority of mixed-race schools.

An anecdote helps explain why: Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college ("We're not stupid!" they told her indignantly).

SO why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black.

Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling, the boys said, it also brought them a great deal of respect from white youths. This also explains the otherwise puzzling finding by social psychologists that young black men and women tend to have the highest levels of self-esteem of all ethnic groups, and that their self-image is independent of how badly they were doing in school.

I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.

For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream.

The reaction when the NBA told young professionals that they were going to have to follow a dress code was simply appalling and the way the League associates itself with thuggishness a disgrace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Dose of Tenacity Wears Down a Horrific Disease (DONALD G. McNEIL Jr., 3/26/06, NY Times)

For untold generations here, yardlong, spaghetti-thin worms erupted from the legs or feet — or even eye sockets — of victims, forcing their way out by exuding acid under the skin until it bubbled and burst. The searing pain drove them to plunge the blisters into the nearest pool of water, whereupon the worm would squirt out a milky cloud of larvae, starting the cycle anew.

"The pain is like if you stab somebody," said Hyacinth Igelle, a farmer with a worm coming out of a hand so swollen and tender that he could not hold a hoe. He indicated how the pain moved slowly up his arm. "It is like fire — it comes late, but you feel it even unto your heart."

Now, thanks to a relentless 20-year campaign led by former President Jimmy Carter, Guinea worm is poised to become the first disease since smallpox to be pushed into oblivion. Fewer than 12,000 cases were found last year, down from 3 million in 1986.

Mr. Carter persuaded world leaders, philanthropists and companies to care about an obscure and revolting disease and help him fight it. His foundation mobilized volunteers in tens of thousands of villages to treat the drinking water the worms live in.

Of course, he has a ways to gpo to tilt the scales back in his favor....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Timbit nation (KENNETH KIDD, 3/26/06, Toronto Star)

Conversation with 19-year-old daughter Parental unit: "Do you ever go to Tim Hortons?" Daughter: "Well, obviously. What's your point?" Parental: "Well, I'm meant to be writing about Tim Hortons and Canadian culture." Daughter: "Isn't that obvious?" [...]

Every couple of years, the marketing people go out into the field to interview customers. They call it a "brand character" study. The words they hear back about the chain have been pretty consistent: unpretentious, caring, friendly, dependable, and (wait for it) Canadian.

It is, in other words, one of us.

We even call it "Timmy's," the kind of nickname that comes freighted with other Canadian associations. In hockey dressing rooms, from pick-up to pro, just about everyone's name similarly grows a "y" or "ie" appendage. (Think "Dougie" Gilmour.) It's the great leveller, a way of checking everyone's outside-world status at the arena door.

You can see a species of that in any Tim Hortons, especially downtown, where the line-ups are apt to be both longer and more diverse than those at the neighbouring Starbucks.

"Every kind of vocational level is represented in one line and not the other," says Paul Wales, president of Enterprise Advertising, the people who produce the Tim Hortons television ads.

But we also give similar nicknames to neighbourhood pubs, a practice that dates at least from the time Toronto taverns still had separate entrances for "ladies and escorts." A bar like The Benlamond invariably becomes "The Benny" in neighbourhood parlance, just as The Wallace House becomes "The Wally." It's as if, in order to sanction a local meeting place, we have to strip away any hint of pretension.

So has Tim Hortons replaced, or at least joined, local bars as the informal town halls of neighbourhoods?

Pollster Michael Adams, whose book Fire and Ice explores the growing differences between Canadian and American values, thinks there might be some truth to that theory.

"Americans aspire to independence," he says. "Their model is to drive out of town, Gary Cooper with Grace Kelly, and get on their ranch and she's in the kitchen and having babies and he's standing at the ranch gate with a gun, saying, `no trespassing.'"

Canadians, by contrast, are far less fearful. Yes, we're mostly autonomous (from institutions and the state) but also interdependent (with each other as individuals).

That's partly because, despite the vastness of Canada, our population is much more urban: Roughly 40 per cent of us live in the three biggest cities, compared with 15 per cent of Americans.

This, in turn, colours our respective views of "community." Americans now increasingly use churches as their replacement for a sense of community lost to long working hours and lengthy commutes. Not us. "We don't go to church as much on Sundays," says Adams. "We go shopping and we go to Tim's."

So they've replaced 8,000 years of Judeo-Christianity with coffee?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

THE PLAN (via Patricia Moo Garnaas):

A Plan to Replace the Welfare State: The government should give every American $10,000--and nothing more. (CHARLES MURRAY, March 26, 2006, Opinion Journal)

This much is certain: The welfare state as we know it cannot survive. No serious student of entitlements thinks that we can let federal spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid rise from its current 9% of gross domestic product to the 28% of GDP that it will consume in 2050 if past growth rates continue. The problems facing transfer programs for the poor are less dramatic but, in the long term, no less daunting; the falling value of a strong back and the rising value of brains will eventually create a class society making a mockery of America's ideals unless we come up with something more creative than anything that the current welfare system has to offer.

So major change is inevitable--and Congress seems utterly unwilling to face up to it. Witness the Social Security debate of last year, a case study in political timidity. Like it or not, we have several years to think before Congress can no longer postpone action. Let's use it to start thinking outside the narrow proposals for benefit cuts and tax increases that will be Congress's path of least resistance.

The place to start is a blindingly obvious economic reality that no one seems to notice: This country is awash in money. America is so wealthy that enabling everyone to have a decent standard of living is easy. We cannot do it by fiddling with the entitlement and welfare systems--they constitute a Gordian Knot that cannot be untied. But we can cut the knot. We can scrap the structure of the welfare state.

Instead of sending taxes to Washington, straining them through bureaucracies and converting what remains into a muddle of services, subsidies, in-kind support and cash hedged with restrictions and exceptions, just collect the taxes, divide them up, and send the money back in cash grants to all American adults. Make the grant large enough so that the poor won't be poor, everyone will have enough for a comfortable retirement, and everyone will be able to afford health care. We're rich enough to do it. [...]

The Plan returns the stuff of life to all of us in many ways, but chiefly through its effects on the core institutions of family and community. One key to thinking about how the Plan does so is the universality of the grant. What matters is not just that a lone individual has $10,000 a year, but that everyone has $10,000 a year and everyone knows that everyone else has that resource. Strategies that are not open to an individual are open to a couple; strategies that are not open to a couple are open to an extended family or, for that matter, to half a dozen friends who pool resources; strategies not open to a small group are open to a neighborhood. The aggregate shift in resources from government to people under the Plan is massive, and possibilities for dealing with human needs through family and community are multiplied exponentially.

The Plan confers personal accountability whether the recipient wants it or not, producing cascading secondary and tertiary effects. A person who asks for help because he has frittered away his monthly check will find people and organizations who will help (America has a history of producing such people and organizations in abundance), but that help can come with expectations and demands that are hard to make of a person who has no income stream. Or contemplate the effects of a known income stream on the young man who impregnates his girlfriend. The first-order effect is that he cannot evade child support--the judge knows where his bank account is. The second-order effect is to create expectations that formerly didn't exist. I call it the Doolittle Effect, after Alfred Doolittle in "My Fair Lady." Recall why he had to get to the church on time.

The Plan confers responsibility for dealing with human needs on all of us, whether we want it or not. Some will see this as a step backward, thinking that it is better to pay one's taxes, give responsibility to the government and be done with it. I think an alternative outlook is wiser: The Plan does not require us all to become part-time social workers. The nation can afford lots of free riders. But Aristotle was right. Virtue is a habit. Virtue does not flourish in the next generation because we tell our children to be honest, compassionate and generous in the abstract. It flourishes because our children practice honesty, compassion and generosity in the same way that they practice a musical instrument or a sport. That happens best when children grow up in a society in which human needs are not consigned to bureaucracies downtown but are part of life around us, met by people around us.

Simply put, the Plan gives us back the action.

It's telling that the chief argument against the Third Way is that it might be too successful. I don't get though why Mr. Murray wastes the opportunity afforded by those first 21 years of life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


The book of glove may put Rangers on defensive: Management using 'Fielding Bible' as evaluation tool (EVAN GRANT, 3/26/06, The Dallas Morning News)

[The Fielding Bible] aims to take the next step in baseball's never-ending thirst for statistical evaluation. It tries to break down the nebulous world of defense into cold, hard stats.

And in the case of the Rangers, some of those stats are particularly cold and harsh. Among the book's assertions:

• Two-time All-Star Michael Young ranks as the worst defensive shortstop in the majors, one spot behind Derek Jeter.

• Only two years after ranking first among all third baseman, Hank Blalock had fallen to 26th among the 27 players rated.

• The middle of the Rangers' defense was as porous as mesh.

• Gary Matthews Jr. is the Rangers' best defensive option in center field. Laynce Nix is average. Brad Wilkerson ranks 29th of 35.

• Mark Teixeira, who won a Gold Glove last year, is the best first baseman in the majors.

• Ian Kinsler, though not ranked, almost certainly will be an improvement over Alfonso Soriano at second. Soriano ranked 34th of 36 second baseman last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


The changing face of Malaysian politics: Recently the daughter of a former prime minister of Malaysia compared the fate of Muslim women to black South Africans under apartheid. And senior police officers received a public dressing-down by their chief for a lack of awareness of human rights. But Jonathan Kent is keen to put on record that, behind the headlines, lurks another, different, Malaysia. (Jonathan Kent, 3/26/06, BBC)

This kopitiam is the favourite of Lim Kean Chye. The doyen of Penang lawyers, 86-years-old and sharp as a pin.

I ask him what has changed here during his lifetime.

"Nothing," he says. And of course it has not.

The noodles are the same, the local coffee, the chatter as people meet friends and eat.

But then he tells me of the old days when doors were left unlocked, bullock carts were parked on Northam Road and there was always a free cup of tea for the rickshaw pullers.

There is a nation of quiet Malaysians out there.

Recently I recorded five from very different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds debating police reform, something I think they may have been too scared to do under the old premier, Mahathir Mohamad.

But these last two years the quiet Malaysians have started to speak up.

And though the braying benches of parliamentarians who call one another monkeys or racists warn that public debate will lead to race war, disorder and strife, the Malaysians I meet can thrash out the issues and get along with one another just fine.

And with a quiet Malaysian like Abdullah Badawi at the helm perhaps their time has come.

I ask him what has changed here during his lifetime.

"Nothing," he says. And of course it has not.

The noodles are the same, the local coffee, the chatter as people meet friends and eat.

But then he tells me of the old days when doors were left unlocked, bullock carts were parked on Northam Road and there was always a free cup of tea for the rickshaw pullers.

There is a nation of quiet Malaysians out there.

Recently I recorded five from very different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds debating police reform, something I think they may have been too scared to do under the old premier, Mahathir Mohamad.

But these last two years the quiet Malaysians have started to speak up.

And though the braying benches of parliamentarians who call one another monkeys or racists warn that public debate will lead to race war, disorder and strife, the Malaysians I meet can thrash out the issues and get along with one another just fine.

And with a quiet Malaysian like Abdullah Badawi at the helm perhaps their time has come.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


This time it's personal (BRIAN BRADY, 3/26/06, Scotland on Sunday)

WHEN David Cameron condemns the old-fashioned "Punch and Judy" knockabout that he insists he wants to drive out of British politics he speaks from bitter personal experience.

Ever since the youthful MP for Witney emerged as the great white hope of the Conservative Party whenever he has stood up to speak in the arena of the House of Commons he has been confronted with the full destructive power of the hardest puncher in the building. Dennis "the Beast of Bolsover" Skinner immediately pulls himself to his feet, leans as far as he can across the floor of the House and bellows: "Cameron! You put black lead on yer 'air!"

Cameron's aides, and the Tory leader himself, cheerfully admit that they have little idea what Skinner's repeated intervention actually means - although they suspect he's casting aspersions on how Cameron maintains the impressive head of dark hair that is part of his "housewives' favourite" appeal. What they know with absolute certainty, however, is that the Beast is not trying to be complimentary.

Cameron should not feel too victimised by Skinner, who spreads his contempt around the opposition benches like great dollops of mud. The Tory leader's greatest political friend, shadow chancellor George Osborne, regularly runs the gauntlet, having to deliver speeches with "you changed yer name from Gideon" echoing in his ear. The rather blunt accusation is that Osborne - like Cameron - is a toff who is attempting to dumb down in order to appeal to a wider section of the electorate. And Skinner doesn't like toffs.

Until now, the Bolsover MP's approbation has simply been a minor irritant, but the veteran's aggressive approach looks increasingly in line with the mood of his party - and its leader-in-waiting.

Labour looks ready to go the way of the post-Clinton Democrats--insane.

Meanwhile, the Tories go all Ownership Society, Tories demand action on housing (BBC, 3/26/06)

Conservative leader David Cameron has demanded urgent action to tackle what he calls the growing gap between rich and poor due to high property prices.

He warned of "a growing inequality at the heart of British life" because the property ladder was beyond young people from less well-off families.

He called for more housebuilding to provide an adequate provision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Down with stability (Mark Steyn, Mar. 22, 2006, Jerusalem Post)

"Containment" is not a strategy but the absence of strategy - and thug states understand it as such. In Saddam's case, he'd supposedly been "contained" since the first Gulf War in 1991, when Bush Sr. balked at finishing what he'd started. "Mr. President," Joe Biden, the Democrat Senator and beloved comic figure, condescendingly explained to Bush Jr. in 2002, "there is a reason your father stopped and did not go to Baghdad. The reason he stopped is he didn't want to be there for five years."

By my math, that means the Americans would have been out in spring of 1996. Instead, 12 years on, in the spring of 2003 the USAF and RAF were still policing the no-fly zone, ineffectually bombing Iraq every other week. And, in place of congratulations for their brilliant "containment" of Saddam, Washington was blamed for UN sanctions and systematically starving to death a million Iraqi kids - or two million, according to which "humanitarian" agency you believe. [...]

A NEW study by the American Enterprise Institute suggests that, aside from the terrific press, continuing this policy would not have come cheap for America: if you object (as John Kerry did) to the $400-600 billion price tag since the war, another three years of "containment" would have cost around $300 billion - and with no end in sight, and the alleged death toll of Iraqi infants no doubt up around six million. It would also have cost more real lives of real Iraqis: Despite the mosque bombings, there's a net gain of more than 100,000 civilians alive today who would have been shoveled into unmarked graves had Ba'athist rule continued. [...]

True, there's a political stalemate in Baghdad at the moment, but that's not a catastrophe: if you read the very federal Iraqi constitution carefully, the ingenious thing about it is that it's not just a constitution but also a pre-nup. If the Sunni hold-outs are determined to wreck the deal, 85% of the Iraqi population will go their respective ways creating a northern Kurdistan that would be free and pro-western and a southern Shiastan that would still be the most democratic state in the Arab world. That outcome would also be in America's long-term interest.

Indeed, almost any outcome would. In 2002, Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, warned that a US invasion of Iraq would "threaten the whole stability of the Middle East." Of course. Otherwise, why do it?

Diplomats use "stability" as a fancy term to dignify inertia and complacency as geopolitical sophistication, but the lesson of 9/11 is that "stability" is profoundly unstable. The unreal realpolitik of the previous 40 years had given the region a stability unique in the non-democratic world, and in return they exported their toxins, both as manpower (on 9/11) and as ideology. Instability was as good a strategic objective as any.

Our collection, Redefining Sovereignty, is finally available from the publisher and should be hitting bookstores next week as well as shipping from shipping from Barnes & Noble online at a discount. It includes the terrific essay, Stability, America's Enemy, by Ralph Peters.

We've made a conscious effort over the years not to ask folks to pay for the site -- though the unsolicited support we've gotten has been deeply appreciated -- but I'd be personally gratified and grateful if folks who think the topics covered in the book would be at all interesting could help to sell out the print run--which is, I think, 3,000 books--so that my publishers don't end up having to pulp them. I harbor no delusions of grandeur, but would really like to avoid such an ignominious fate for a text to which I have a hopefully understandable fatherly attachment.


It's available on-line at Amazon now:

-BOOK SITE: Redefining Sovereignty (Smith and Kraus Publishers' Global)
-Sovereignty Blog
PROFILE: Sovereignty Redefined (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., 11/03/2005, Tech Central Station)
REVIEW: of Redefining Sovereignty. Ed. by Orrin C. Judd. Mar. 2006. 520p. Smith & Kraus, $29.99 (Brendan Driscoll, Feb. 1, 2005, Booklist)
Changing the rules: a review of Redefining Sovereignty: The Battle for the Moral High Ground in a Changing World By Orrin C. Judd (Steven Martinovich, February 27, 2006, Enter Stage Right)
ESSAY: Revisitation (David Warren, 3/12/06, Real Clear Politics)


Redefining Sovereignty, edited by Orrin C. Judd


I. SOVEREIGNTY: Setting the terms

Sovereignty: an introduction and brief history. (Daniel Philpott)

II. WESTFAILURE: The sovereignty frog-boil

Not So Sacred Borders (James Kitfield, National Journal)

Kosovo and the End of the Nation-State (Vaclav Havel)

The US and the UN: Legitimacy vs sovereignty (Criton M Zoakos)

Defining a new role for the United Nations In a unipolar world (Kofi A. Annan)


Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism (John Fonte)

Sovereignty and Democracy (Marc F. Plattner)

The U.N.: Now Less Than Ever : There must be a way out (Roger Scruton)

The Shackles of Consensus (Jeane J. Kirkpatrick)

UN General Assembly Voting Habits (Fred Gedrich)

After Guantanamo: The War Over the Geneva Convention (Jeremy Rabkin)

The Sovereignty Implications of the Kyoto Protocol (Jeremy Rabkin)

Roots of Eco-Imperialism (Chapter 2 of Eco-Imperialism by Paul Driessen)

Should Foreign Law Be Used to Interpret Our Constitution? (Stuart Taylor Jr.)

What is the EU? (James Kalb)

On the Nation State: Empire and Anarchy (Yoram Hazony)


History Is Still Going Our Way (Francis Fukuyama)

Stability, America's Enemy (Ralph Peters)

Our World-Historical Gamble (Lee Harris)

The triumph of just war theory (Michael Walzer)

The new liberal imperialism (Robert Cooper)

The Empire of Freedom (Ramesh Ponnuru)

Voting Bloc (Jonathan Rauch)

President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East (Remarks by the President)


The Jacksonian Tradition And American Foreign Policy (Walter Russell Mead)

Bush & Lincoln (David Warren)

Ronald Reagan at Bitburg Air Base

American Sovereignty and the UN. (Jesse Helms)

A grand strategy of transformation (John Lewis Gaddis)

Feminism in The 21st Century (Phyllis Chesler and Donna M. Hughes)



The Mayflower Compact

Declaration of Independence

Washington's Farewell Address 1796

Monroe Doctrine

James K. Polk Inaugural address

Abraham Lincoln Second Inaugural Address

President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points

Atlantic Charter

Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy

City Upon a Hill (Ronald Reagan)

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Academic Israeli path goes astray (Boston Herald, March 26, 2006)

We can’t recall an academic document as misleading as an anti-Israel tract turned out this month by a Harvard dean and a University of Chicago professor.

The United States “has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel,” asserts a paper on the Kennedy School of Government Web siteby the academic dean of the Kennedy School, Stephen Walt, and his collaborator John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at Chicago.

And why is the United States allied with Israel? “Domestic politics, and especially the activities of the Israel Lobby.”

Their major evidence of that is the boasting of groups such as the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee. This boasting is not evidence of much. It’s like that of the rooster who thinks he makes the sun rise.

The fact is, Americans long have overwhelmingly supported Israel, a democracy that tries to live by the rules of civilized society in the face of enemies who don’t. A new poll by Quinnipiac University shows that Americans have a higher opinion of Israel than all other countries save Canada and Britain. The Israel Lobby is not changing minds; it is plowing prepared ground.

Yeah, but the plot was prepped by those Masonic Founders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Christianity's second wave? (Brian Murphy, 3/26/06, The Associated Press)

Centuries after the Gospel was brought to sub-Saharan Africa by colonizers and missionaries, the faith is coming back to the West. The forms are passionate, powerful and come with various names: Pentecostal, afro-evangelical, charismatic, Christian renewal.

For millions of worshippers in Africa and around the world, the movements represent a sharp break with tradition and have redefined how they practice their faith — with great emphasis on fever-pitch gatherings, spiritual "rebirth" and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.

Many in mainstream denominations, from the Vatican to Westminster Abbey, view the new churches as an invading army that is reshaping Christianity faster than they can adjust.

Some theologians say the "African century" of Christianity is already under way.

If so, then populous and English-speaking Nigeria is its spiritual homeland, and churches like Adeboye's are its new missionaries.

What began as a living room Bible study in 1952 is now a juggernaut: a university, movie studio and satellite television outfit. Now add to that millions of followers in more than 90 nations. Just this month, close to 1 million worshippers turned out during a three-day prayer gathering near Lagos.

In a rare interview, Adeboye revealed where he hopes to go from here: "At least one member of the church in every household in the whole world."

The dream, however improbable sounding, has some genuine underpinnings.

The broad Pentecostal-charismatic-evangelical family currently accounts for about a quarter of the nearly 2.2 billion Christians, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in South Hamilton, Mass. It could grow to more than a third by 2025.

That's despite critics who say the movements are often based on shaky or cynical theology. Scripture, they claim, is used to enrich pastors through the so-called "Prosperity Gospel," which says that God has no trouble with material wealth and smiles most on the generous givers to the faith.

Nigeria itself has become a religious hothouse that has nurtured hundreds — perhaps thousands — of new churches that now overshadow Roman Catholics, Anglicans and other religious mainstays by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio among Nigeria's 61 million Christians. (There are nearly as many Muslims.)

In 1981, Adeboye inherited a church that had grown only modestly from its roots in the parlor of its founder, an illiterate preacher.

Adeboye — tall, eloquent and holding a doctorate in applied mathematics — took the title of "general overseer," or G.O., and immediately pushed for global expansion. Daddy G.O., as he became known, constantly worked to open new doors.

The top pastors seem to take their style cues from Daddy G.O., who favors well-tailored Western suits but slips into African prints when he needs an ethnic touch. His smooth baritone can shift from precise, professorial English to the rapid-fire patois of the slums.

That craft and charisma helped the Redeemed Church break away from the pack in Nigeria's crowded spiritual marketplace.

The church simply outran its rivals as it pursued a shoot-for-the-moon agenda: A church someday within a five-minute walk of every home in poor nations and a five-minute drive in wealthier countries. It also gained important access to capital and clout in Nigeria through prominent followers, who include governors and bank executives. Later, the church tapped into the power of broadcasting, the Internet and Nigeria's churn-them-out movie industry known as Nollywood.

The Redeemed Church claims 5 million followers in Nigeria and 250,000 abroad. Adeboye has set a goal of 50 million — roughly the size of the entire Assemblies of God fellowship (another, older Pentecostal group) around the world. In the United States, 7,000 people attended the Redeemed Church's annual conference last year in New York's Madison Square Garden.

As Richard Fletcher said of the similar process in Europe:
Christendom--late antique, early medieval, high medieval--knew that it was attractive to outsiders by reason of its wealth and power. These widespread perceptions furnished the activists in the diffusion of Christianity with their trump cards. They also possessed an unshakeable self-confidence founded upon those heady and tremendous assurances about God's purposes which they had read in the Bible. Riches and order confirmed and strengthened their confidence. They could play these cards again and again, and almost always with success because manifestly the Christians were almost always the winners and the pagans the losers.

Memo to China: Careful what you wish for (Spengler, Asia Times)

Christianity requires tradition less than it does conversion. To become a Christian, the Gentile forsakes the gentium of his origin to join a new people in flesh and blood, through the ancient rite of rebirth by passage through water, that is, baptism. Because the new people of God into which the Christian is reborn is not quite of this world, conversion must be perpetually renewed. That is something no tradition can do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math (SAM DILLON, 3/26/06, NY Times)

Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks.

The changes appear to principally affect schools and students who test below grade level.

The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art. A nationwide survey by a nonpartisan group that is to be made public on March 28 indicates that the practice, known as narrowing the curriculum, has become standard procedure in many communities.

All that neat boutique junk that the Left cluttered up curricula with is being abandoned for the three R's? So making them teach to the test has worked brilliantly, huh.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Christ the King Lives Up to National Reputation (JULIET MACUR, 3/26/06, NY Times)

That's news?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Harvard Prof. of Psychiatry Labels Oslo Supporters Delusional (Israel National News, March 26, 2006)

Dr. Kenneth Levin, author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, terms "delusional" the behavior of Israeli population segments that supported the Oslo Accords.

In an interview with Tovia Singer on IsraelNationalRadio, claims that as a result of their desire for the Arab siege on Israel to end, many Israelis conditioned themselves to believe that a potential partner for peace existed in the Palestinian Authority, when the reality pointed only to the continued escalation of violence and terror.

Dr. Levin, an instructor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Princeton-trained historian, has blended the two disciplines in his extensive writings on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“It is characteristic of people under siege or chronic attack - whether you’re talking about minorities that are marginalized, defamed and attacked or a small state under attack by larger neighbors - it is characteristic of portions of those populations to embrace the indictments, however bizarre, and to believe that if they perform in a way consistent with those indictments, then the siege will end,” Dr. Levin stated.

Levin compared the psychological delusions that led up to the Oslo Accords to those created by abused children desperate to end their suffering. Levin explained, “Abused children always blame themselves for the abuse because they want to believe that they can have control over a situation that is really beyond their control. They believe that if they can change their behavior they can make their situation better.”

“The hope is that if they just accept the indictment, if they just repress the recognition that they are being attacked unfairly, and try to change accordingly that somehow they’ll win relief from their attackers.”

According to Levin the behavior exhibited by contemporary Israeli governments is not a new phenomenon:

“It’s a very old problem, characteristic of Jews throughout the Diaspora. There were segments of the population that consistently embraced the indictments of the Jews' enemies when Jews were being attacked, and it is characteristic of Israel during the chronic Arab siege.”

March 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM


When a 'life sentence' means just 15 months in jail (Ben Leapman and Ben Sheppard, 26/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Criminals are being released from jail little more than a year after they have been sentenced to life imprisonment, the Government has admitted.

One offender was freed only 15 months after a life sentence was imposed. Another was jailed for life with a recommendation that he should serve just 16 months. [...]

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, called the sentences "ludicrous" and said: "If they are sentenced to a nominal life sentence it should not be possible for them to be out in little over a year." Legal experts blamed the very short life sentences on the "two strikes and you're out" law, devised by the former Conservative leader, Michael Howard, when he was home secretary, and introduced by Labour in 1997. This compelled judges to impose a life sentence on anyone convicted of a second serious sexual or violent offence.

Judges managed to get around the rule in practice by imposing life sentences but setting minimum terms to be served at an average length of only five years.

The Tories should be able to take law and order and run with it--even Bill Clinton defined himself by executing Ricky Ray Rector.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


House and Senate Override Governor Sebelius' Veto: Kansas Passes Right-to-Carry (NRA, March 23, 2006)

Both the Kansas State Senate and House of Representatives voted to override Governor Sebelius’ veto of the National Rifle Association (NRA)-backed Right-to-Carry legislation, Senate Bill 418, “The Personal and Family Protection Act.”

“After 12 years, it took a collective, bi-partisan effort to win this fight. Kansas now joins 46 other states who enjoy some form of Right-to-Carry,” NRA Chief Lobbyist Chris W. Cox declared.

The Kansas State Senate voted 30-10 to override Governor Sebelius’ veto of the Right-to-Carry legislation. Less than a day later, the Kansas House of Representatives voted 91-33 to sustain the override.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


Fault East of Bay Area 'Locked and Loaded' (SCOTT LINDLAW, Associated Press)

New cracks appear in Elke DeMuynck's ceiling every few weeks, zigzagging across her living room, creeping toward the fireplace, veering down the wall. Month after month, year after year, she patches, paints and waits.

"It definitely lets you know your house is constantly shifting," DeMuynck said. So do the gate outside that swings uselessly 2 1/2 inches from its latch, the strange bulges in the street and the geology students who make pilgrimages to her cul-de-sac.

DeMuynck could throw her paint brush from her front stoop and hit the Hayward Fault, which geologists consider the most dangerous in the San Francisco Bay Area, if not the nation. Like others who live here, she gets by on a blend of denial, hope and humor.

It's the geologists, emergency planners and historians who seem to do most of the worrying, even in this year of heightened earthquake awareness for the 100th anniversary of San Francisco's Great Quake of April 18, 1906.

Several faults lurk beneath this region, including the San Andreas Fault on the west side of the Bay area, but geologists say the parallel Hayward on the Bay's east side is the most likely to snap next.

"It is locked and loaded and ready to fire at any time," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Tom Brocher.

We don't even need the quake to actually happen to know how it goes: afterwards, in the midst of 24 hour global tv coverage, Ms DeMuynck complains that no one ever warned her how dangerous it was, the Reverends Falwell & Robertson clainm it was the will of God because of queers, and Democrats claim it's the worst the federal government has ever handled a disaster while the Right digs up the example of '06 to show how much more civilly we dealt with the looters this time. Meanwhile, most of us just shake our heads and wonder how stupid you have to be to live in California, nevermind on a fault line....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


How 200 soldiers saved 3 pacifists: `Task Force Black' didn't use its guns But it took elite team to free hostages (MICHELLE SHEPHARD, 3/25/06, Toronto Star)

Of all the covert operations in Iraq, Task Force Black is among the most secretive.

The British-led group of more than 200 military and intelligence officers, tracks hostages and Iraqi war criminals and employs all the tricks used in domestic investigations.

Using telephone intercepts, satellite photographs and undercover work, and trying to court sources inside Iraq's insurgency, the group is credited with saving the lives of many foreigners.

When four peace activists, including Toronto's Jim Loney and former Montreal resident Harmeet Singh Sooden, were kidnapped Nov. 26 in western Baghdad, the Canadians joined the team.

How Canada was involved in helping rescue three of the men this week is something no one in Ottawa now wants to talk about, citing concerns over national security.

But sources have told the Toronto Star that while the contribution may have been small, there was an important Canadian element. Agents with Canada's spy service, Mounties and analysts with the Canadian Security Establishment, the secretive electronic eavesdropping agency, rotated through Baghdad's Green Zone during the four months the hostages were held captive.

Members of the Defence Department's elite JTF-2 were also on the ground, although there were never more than a few at a time.

In total, the Canadian contingent, which included diplomats providing the link from Baghdad to the hostages' families at home, didn't number more than a dozen.

Task Force Black worked around the clock, and before Thursday's success in rescuing the two Canadian peace activists and their British colleague, Norman Kember, there were many failed attempts. And they were unable to save American Tom Fox, who was kidnapped with the group and whose body was found earlier this month dumped on a street in Baghdad.

Yesterday, the Christian Peacemaker Teams issued a belated thank you to those who saved their members.

There's a name for people like the CPT and it rhymes with crass polls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Major League Baseball and Partnership for a Drug-Free America launch second phase of anti-steroid initiative (, 03/20/2006)

Major League Baseball and the Partnership for A Drug-Free America today unveiled the second phase of an anti-steroid initiative designed to educate America's youth and influential adults in their lives about the dangers of steroids and performance-enhancing substances. The next stage of the public outreach campaign includes a new component, a poster campaign utilizing high school coaches, which is designed to expand the initiative's impact on the issue of youth steroid use.

The initiative message will be communicated across the country through a multi-media campaign with TV, radio and print ads. The first ad, "Shrinking," will debut during the broadcast of the final game of the World Baseball Classic tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) on ESPN.

"Shrinking" targets young male audiences and takes a more provocative approach to communicating the dangers of steroids. As a voice-over describes how the drug can affect the body, a set of sports equipment, including a baseball, basketball, soccer ball, and football, quickly and noticeably decrease in size. A second ad, "Fade," will debut during the 2006 season and will target both youth and their parents. [...]

The "Shrinking" spot will be available on the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's Web site, and on The Partnership also will distribute the "Shrinking" and "Fade" ad messages through their State/City Alliance Program. This program supports the Partnership's mission at the local level.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement (Charlie Savage, March 24, 2006, Boston Globe)

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Going Ape in Politics (Quin Hillyer, 3/24/2006, American Spectator)

Troglodyte. Antediluvian. Neanderthal. Caveman!

For years, liberals have thrown such epithets in the direction of conservatives, as when Teddy Kennedy of all people used the above "N" word on the Senate floor to describe Republican judicial nominees. The idea is that we're insufficiently modern. Uncivilized. Primitive, even. And, of course, brutal and unintelligent in a jut-jawed, knuckle-scraping way.

Well, fine. I'll take that as a compliment.

Last weekend I saw again (after a 12-year interim) a performance of a splendid, award-winning play, Defending the Caveman, which holds the record as Broadway's longest-running one-man play in history. It's a clever, indeed laugh-out-loud funny, examination of the differences between men and women -- differences that, original playwright/actor Rob Becker posits, grew directly out of habits learned somewhere back when Cro-Magnons first walked the Earth. Men hunt; women gather. Women cooperate; men negotiate. Men focus on one thing, one prey, at a time; women take in a broader expanse of visual data, and linger. And so on. Ooga-booga, ooga-booga. All of those sex roles, according to Becker, were signs of sophisticated evolution, helping the human race thrive and prosper.

In short, the caveman (and the cave woman) wasn't a hideous creature worthy of scorn, but a successfully adaptive lord of his environment. And it is those same cave-man genes and instincts that explain why middlebrow pursuits such as bowling and fishing (and filling the potato chip bowl for TV football games) aren't to be sneered at, but admired.

The proper objection is not that conservatives aren't cavemen, but that it was Neanderthal who, like liberals of Ted Kennedy's ilk, was driven to extinction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM

SEN'S COMMON SENSE (via Tom Corcoran):

Democracy Isn't 'Western': Cultural determinists should look beyond Ancient Greece. (AMARTYA SEN, March 24, 2006, Opinion Journal)

The belief in the allegedly "Western" nature of democracy is often linked to the early practice of voting and elections in Greece, especially in Athens. Democracy involves more than balloting, but even in the history of voting there would be a classificatory arbitrariness in defining civilizations in largely racial terms. In this way of looking at civilizational categories, no great difficulty is seen in considering the descendants of, say, Goths and Visigoths as proper inheritors of the Greek tradition ("they are all Europeans," we are told). But there is reluctance in taking note of the Greek intellectual links with other civilizations to the east or south of Greece, despite the greater interest that the Greeks themselves showed in talking to Iranians, or Indians, or Egyptians (rather than in chatting up the Ostrogoths).

Since traditions of public reasoning can be found in nearly all countries, modern democracy can build on the dialogic part of the common human inheritance. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela describes how influenced he was, as a boy, by seeing the democratic nature of the proceedings of the meetings that were held in his home town: "Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but everyone was heard, chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and laborer." Mr. Mandela could combine his modern ideas about democracy with emphasizing the supportive part of the native tradition, in a way that Gandhi had done in India, and that is the way cultures adapt and develop to respond to modernity. Mr. Mandela's quest for democracy and freedom did not emerge from any Western "imposition."

Similarly, the history of Muslims includes a variety of traditions, not all of which are just religious or "Islamic" in any obvious sense. The work of Arab and Iranian mathematicians, from the eighth century onward reflects a largely nonreligious tradition. Depending on politics, which varied between one Muslim ruler and another, there is also quite a history of tolerance and of public discussion, on which the pursuit of a modern democracy can draw. For example, the emperor Saladin, who fought valiantly for Islam in the Crusades in the 12th century, could offer, without any contradiction, an honored place in his Egyptian royal court to Maimonides, as that distinguished Jewish philosopher fled an intolerant Europe. When, at the turn of the 16th century, the heretic Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Campo dei Fiori in Rome, the Great Mughal emperor Akbar (who was born a Muslim and died a Muslim) had just finished, in Agra, his large project of legally codifying minority rights, including religious freedom for all, along with championing regular discussions between followers of Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and other beliefs (including atheism).

Cultural dynamics does not have to build something from absolutely nothing, nor need the future be rigidly tied to majoritarian beliefs today or the power of the contemporary orthodoxy. To see Iranian dissidents who want a fully democratic Iran not as Iranian advocates but as "ambassadors of Western values" would be to add insult to injury, aside from neglecting parts of Iranian history (including the practice of democracy in Susa or Shushan in southwest Iran 2,000 years ago). The diversity of the human past and the freedoms of the contemporary world give us much more choice than cultural determinists acknowledge. This is particularly important to emphasize since the illusion of cultural destiny can extract a heavy price in the continued impoverishment of human lives and liberties.

Because a false belief that the End of History is an organic outgrowth of their own traditions may speed these cultures towards it, we ought to encourage ideas like this, even though they're complete nonsense. There's no need to rub their faces in the fact that only the Judeo-Christian Anglo-American model works.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


The Real Bias in the Classroom (Scott Jaschik, 3/20/06, Inside Higher Ed)

A new study — soon to be published in PS: Political Science & Politics — finds that students are the ones with bias, attributing characteristics to their professors based on the students’ perceptions of their faculty members’ politics and how much they differ from their own.

The authors of the study say that it backs the claims of proponents of the Academic Bill of Rights that students think about — and are in some cases concerned about — the politics of their professors. [...]

Liberal or conservative isn’t the key factor, Kelly-Woessner says; the real disconnect comes in the difference between the views of student and professor. “It’s pretty much the same either way,” she says. “The thing that matters is the difference between them.”

In the research being published in PS: Political Science & Politics, findings included the following:

* Most students feel confident that they know their professors’ political inclinations and that they are not hidden. Asked if they knew their professors’ leanings, 15 percent said that they were “positive,” 32 percent said that they were “very confident,” 40 percent were “somewhat confident,” and only 11 percent were “not at all confident.”

* Students considered 77 percent of their professors to be left of center, and 7 percent right of center. (While the authors of the students didn’t verify that the professors indeed held those views, they note that such findings would be consistent with other surveys of the profession.) While more students in the survey identified themselves as liberal than as conservative, the split was such that the student body in this study was more conservative than the professors — as perceived by students.

* Professors who students think are conservative are generally rated more favorably by students on whether they present material objectively.

* Professors who students think are liberal are generally rated more favorably by students on whether students are encouraged to present their own viewpoints, whether grading is fair, whether the learning environment is comfortable, and whether they care about the success of students.

And the children in these classes will get more conservative as they grow up, while the professors are permanently stunted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Chirac gives use of English tongue lashing (Leigh Thomas, March 25, 2006, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

French President Jacques Chirac yesterday defended his eyebrow-raising exit from an EU summit session, accusing the French head of Europe's employer union of insulting French pride by daring to speak in English.

Within a few generations French will only survive in American university classes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Researchers peg Putin as a plagiarist over thesis (David R. Sands, 3/25/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Vladimir Putin -- KGB spy, politician, Russian Federation president, 2006 host of the Group of Eight international summit -- can add a new line to his resume: plagiarist.

Large chunks of Mr. Putin's mid-1990s economics dissertation on planning in the natural resources sector were lifted straight out of a management text published by two University of Pittsburgh academics nearly 20 years earlier, Washington researchers insisted yesterday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


For the French, Joie de Vivre Fades Into Fear: Recent Riots Magnify Malaise Gripping Nation (Molly Moore, March 25, 2006, Washington Post)

Outside the Grand Palais museum, people stood in line for hours in biting cold this winter to see the city's most popular art exhibit -- Mélancolie , a collection of paintings and sculptures evoking depression, sadness and despair.

"It doesn't surprise me that this exhibition is such a success," said Claire Mione, a 20-year-old Web site editor who joined the rush to the show in its closing days. "Melancholy is an overwhelming feeling in our society right now."

Many French agree. In art galleries, on bestseller lists, in corporate boardrooms and on the streets, the country's outlook has become so morose that President Jacques Chirac has urged citizens to stop the "self-flagellation."

Give the rest of the world a crack at the whip.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Basque terrorists finally call it a day (Boston Herald, March 25, 2006)

Al-Qaeda’s vicious and murderous terrorism seems to have had the unexpected effect of discouraging long-standing terrorist movements in Europe.

The announcement by ETA, the Basque-language initials for “Homeland and Liberty,” that it is swearing off violence for good in its campaign for independence from Spain is the second prominent example, the first being the announcement last year of the Irish Republican Army that it was ending its war for the unification of Ireland and turning to politics exclusively. [...]

Secession is not dead in Europe (or even in North America, where the status of Quebec in Canada is still open though happily not the subject of a terror campaign). Bombs still go off in Corsica from time to time. The Balkans are full of national causes. Kosovo and Montenegro are still officially part of Yugoslavia, though perhaps not for long. The Northern League’s campaign for an independent “Padania” in Italy may be invisible for the moment, but the resentments that spawned it are still there. ETA’s decision, we hope, will help persuade hotheads in these places, and others, that violence is the wrong tactic.

Of course, the key factor is that Europeans are no longer capable or willing to fight such self-determination movements. Franco is long dead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


UN speeds up Darfur peace mission (BBC, 3/24/06)

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to speed up preparations for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to Darfur in western Sudan.

The council is calling on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to come up with a range of options within one month. [...]

"It's a real step forward in building peace across the entire country," Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said in a statement.

In 2002 the President challenged the UN to be true to its principles and help enforce its own resolutions against Saddam. It failed. Nice to see it shamed into doing the right thing this time.

March 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Released hostages 'refuse to help their rescuers' (Oliver Poole, 25/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The three peace activists freed by an SAS-led coalition force after being held hostage in Iraq for four months refused to co-operate fully with an intelligence unit sent to debrief them, a security source claimed yesterday.

The claim has infuriated those searching for other hostages.

Neither the men nor the Canadian group that sent them to Iraq have thanked the people who saved them in any of their public statements.

Nothing is more selfish than pacifism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Choi claimed (Chris Snow, 3/24/06, Boston Globe)

The Sox have claimed Hee Seop Choi off waivers, giving them a third option at first base, in addition to Kevin Youkilis and J.T. Snow. The 27-year-old Choi, who has an option remaining and can be sent to the minors, hit .253 with 15 homers and 42 RBIs in 320 at-bats last season with the Dodgers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Tom Cruise Less Popular Than Saddam (NewsMax, 3/24/06)

Could actor Tom Cruise be even less popular than a mass murderer?

Respondents in a poll said they’d rather spend the night with deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein than the "Mission Impossible” star.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:48 PM


"Osama bin Laden Contact With Iraq" (ABC News, March 23, 2006)

A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995, and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation." The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.

The report then states that "Saudi opposition figure" bin Laden had to leave Sudan in July 1996 after it was accused of harboring terrorists. It says information indicated he was in Afghanistan. "The relationship with him is still through the Sudanese. We're currently working on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location," it states.

(Editor's Note: This document is handwritten and has no official seal. Although contacts between bin Laden and the Iraqis have been reported in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere (e.g., the 9/11 report states "Bin Ladn himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995) this document indicates the contacts were approved personally by Saddam Hussein.

Thus far the document dump seems just another instance of how poorly secrecy serves us. Had all of this stuff been made available as we got it there might have been less argument down the road over discrete portions of the case for war, though the Left and far Right would obviously still have opposed it,

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:58 PM


Good versus evil isn't a strategy (Madeleine Albright, March 24, 2006, LA Times)

Three years after the invasion of Iraq and the invention of the phrase "axis of evil," the administration now highlights the threat posed by Iran — whose radical government has been vastly strengthened by the invasion of Iraq. This is more tragedy than strategy, and it reflects the Manichean approach this administration has taken to the world.

It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction.

The Democrats' leading foreign policy voice calls Good and Evil fictions and then they wonder why they can't connect to religious America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


Ben Domenech Resigns (Jim Brady, Executive Editor, 3/24/06, Washington Post)

In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.

An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations.

Like Caesar's wife, Mr. Domenech needed to be above suspicion to survive in that position. He wasn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


In Reversal, Graduate School Applications From Foreigners Rise (ALAN FINDER, 3/24/06, NY Times)

The number of foreign students who applied to graduate programs in American universities during the current academic year increased by 11 percent from the year before, according to a survey to be released today. That growth reverses two years of decline that occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. [...]

The council suggested that there were several reasons for the turnaround. After the attacks of 2001, foreign students, particularly those in scientific and technical fields, experienced trouble obtaining visas. But recent changes in government policy, though continuing to emphasize security, have made it considerably easier.

"There's no question that both Homeland Security and the Department of State do play a role in this turnaround," Debra W. Stewart, the council's president, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Gee, you mean instead of demonstrating the permanent decline of American academic predominance under the philistine Republicans it was just a temporary dislocation traceable to terrorist attacks? Who'da thunk it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE (via Luciferous):

Musharraf sends stern warning to terrorists (Mohammed Rizwan, March 24, 2006, Daily Times)

President General Pervez Musharraf has warned terrorists and extremists in Pakistan that they will be eliminated.

“I warn those foreign terrorists in Waziristan to leave otherwise we’ll finish them off,” he said in a speech to a large crowd at Minar-e-Pakistan on the occasion of Pakistan Day. “I also warn those religious extremists who burnt down The Mall on February 14 to refrain from such activities in future as destruction and arson will not be tolerated anymore.”

The president also appealed to the people of NWFP to support the operation against the terrorists. “If people stand by the Pakistan Army in Waziristan, I assure them that law and order will be restored in the area,” he said.

Ministry wants army action in FATA cut (Shahzad Raza, March 24, 2006, Daily Times)
The Interior Ministry has advised President Pervez Musharraf to deploy army troops against foreign militants hiding in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) only as a last resort and rely on paramilitary forces instead.

A senior Interior Ministry official told Daily Times that during meetings with the president on FATA, the ministry opposed frequent army operations against militants in the tribal areas. The president was advised that the Frontier Constabulary and Levies should be made responsible for taking action against militants in Waziristan and other troubled tribal areas. The ministry called for continuing the dialogue process to find out a political solution to the conflict. It proposed that pro-government tribal elders be encouraged to gain support for the government from tribal people.

One of the most basic lessons of 9-11 is that the civilized world can not tolerate geographical regions where no central political authority exercises sovereign legal power and can be held accountable for the cross border behavior of inhabitants. It would be best if the Pakistanis dealt with the tribal areas themselves, but if not we'll have to eventually.

Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 9:44 AM


Sometimes I read livejournal. Livejournal, if you don't know, is the blogosphere for pathetic, lonely overweight women and the weasels who want to have sex with them. It is, by my estimation, 99 and 44/100 percent insane, frothing at the mouth liberal.

I saw the picture below as somebody's icon today.

Giant Evil Vampiric Bush sucks the living ichor from the Statue of Liberty! Roooaar! Bush smash!

Thomas Nast in his prime could not have come up wth a less subtle cartoon.

But now I want to see Giant Evil Vampiric Bush fight the alien-constructed Mecha-Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Cheney's Needs on the Road: What, No NPR? (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 3/24/06, NY Times)

Vice President Dick Cheney may be a rock star only to his most ardent Republican supporters, but he has on-the-road demands just like the Rolling Stones. Still, Mr. Cheney appears easier to please than Mick Jagger or Keith Richards.

At least that was the evidence from "Vice Presidential Downtime Requirements," the heading of a document posted Thursday on the Smoking Gun Web site and confirmed as authentic by Mr. Cheney's office.

The document listed 13 requirements. Among them were these: All televisions sets in Mr. Cheney's hotel suite should be tuned to Fox News, all lights should be on, and the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Mr. Cheney should have a queen- or king-size bed, a desk with a chair, a private bathroom, a container for ice, a microwave oven and a coffee pot, with decaf brewed before arrival.

The vice president should also have four cans of caffeine-free Diet Sprite and four to six bottles of water. He must have the hotel restaurant menu, with a copy faxed ahead to his advance office. If his wife is with him, she should have two bottles of sparkling water, either Calistoga or Perrier.

A bit too Tom Hagen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


NAACP: Evacuees face poll tax in New Orleans (Chicago Sun-Times, March 24, 2006)

State election law is effectively placing a poll tax on up to 13,000 displaced residents who would have to make costly trips to New Orleans if they want to vote in city elections scheduled next month, advocacy groups said Thursday.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and other advocacy groups filed a motion raising the issue this week in a federal case seeking the postponement of elections scheduled for April 22.

The obvious corollary of "no taxation without representation" is that there should be no representation without taxation, though the Constitution need to be unamended to allow for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Japan-Taiwan Ties Blossom As Regional Rivalry Grows (Anthony Faiola, 3/24/06, Washington Post)

With Japan seeking to shed a half-century of pacifism and reassert itself in world affairs, and China acquiring vastly larger economic and military might, relations between the two are as tense as they have been at any time since World War II.

Nowhere is their contest more visible than here in Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. In recent months, Japan has made a series of unprecedented overtures toward Taiwan, which was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945. In Tokyo, leading politicians are increasingly adopting the view that Japan must come to the island's aid in the event of Chinese aggression.

Many analysts say they believe Japan's evolving interest in Taiwan could tilt the regional balance of power. The United States, which has diplomatic relations with mainland China, is nonetheless sworn by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to defend the island territory if it is attacked.

"The peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and security of the Asian Pacific region are the common concerns for not only Taiwan, but also Japan and the United States," Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said during an interview last week. Therefore, he said, "Japan has a requirement and an obligation to come to the defense of Taiwan."

Like many countries, Japan severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in the 1970s in deference to Beijing's "one-China" policy. But lately, Japan has been less particular about its rule of maintaining a careful distance. Twice in the past two months, Japan's foreign minister, Taro Aso, has angered China by publicly referring to Taiwan as "a country." Last year, the Tokyo government dropped visa requirements for visitors from Taiwan. And Japanese and U.S. leaders have for the first time jointly declared protection of the Taiwan Strait a "common strategic objective."

In a less public gesture, Yoichi Nagano, formerly a general in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, the army, is serving as the first military attaché at Tokyo's de facto embassy in Taipei, the Interchange Association. In an interview, Nagano said he conducts meetings with Taiwanese government and military figures and sends regular dispatches to Tokyo.

In 2004, a group of Japanese legislators formed a committee on Taiwanese security. This May, Tokyo is set to allow former president Lee Teng-hui, the Japanese-educated champion of Taiwanese democracy, to visit Japan for the second time in 18 months. So-called Track 2 meetings between Japanese and Taiwanese politicians, academics and retired military officials have intensified, according to officials in Taiwan and Japan.

These moves coincide with the rise to power in Japan of a new crop of hawks in the long- ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. During his five years in office, Koizumi has pushed aside rivals in the LDP who had long stressed the importance of maintaining a respectful distance from Taiwan.

When the media and pundits treat something like this in isolation from our burgeoning relationships with places like Mongolia, Indonesia and India and the allowances we make for Vlad Putin they do their readers a disservice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Killing off Chef nets ‘South Park' ratings
(ERIN CARLSON, 3/24/06, Associated Press)

Last week's spat that pitted “South Park” against Scientology and Isaac Hayes, with a rumoured dollop of Tom Cruise stirred in, led Wednesday night to the animated series' highest-rated season premiere since 2002, according to a Comedy Central spokesman.

An estimated 3.5 million viewers — including 2.3 million in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 age bracket — tuned in to watch the show unleash a new salvo against Scientology.

In the episode, the first of the series' 10th season, Isaac Hayes' Chef character was brainwashed by the “Super Adventure Club” and then apparently killed off.

Much as we love Ike, imagine the ratings you'd get if you televised the burning of Scientologists?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


U.S. to pay foreign firm to run nuclear detectors in Bahamas: The Bush administration is hiring a foreign port operator to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo headed to the U.S. (TED BRIDIS AND JOHN SOLOMON, 3/24/06, Associated Press)

In the aftermath of the Dubai ports dispute, the Bush administration is hiring a Hong Kong conglomerate to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the Bahamas to the United States and elsewhere.

The administration acknowledges the no-bid contract with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. represents the first time a foreign firm will be involved in running a sophisticated U.S. radiation detector at an overseas port without American customs agents present.

Freeport in the Bahamas is 65 miles from the U.S. coast, where cargo would be likely to be inspected again. The contract is being finalized.

The administration is negotiating a second no-bid contract for a Philippine company to install radiation detectors in its home country, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. At dozens of other overseas ports, foreign governments are primarily responsible for scanning cargo.

While President Bush recently reassured Congress that foreigners would not manage security at U.S. ports, the Hutchison deal in the Bahamas illustrates how the administration is relying on foreign companies at overseas ports to safeguard cargo headed to the United States.

Hutchison Whampoa is the world's largest ports operator and among the industry's most-respected companies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Rumsfeld vows Iraq drawdown will continue (Rowan Scarborough, March 24, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that commanders are planning further troop reductions in Iraq despite ongoing violence that has killed hundreds of civilians after the February bombing of the Shi'ite Golden Mosque.

Asked about President Bush's remark Tuesday that U.S. troops will be in Iraq until at least 2009, the year he leaves office, Mr. Rumsfeld said there could still be Americans training the Iraqi security forces (ISF). It was a clear signal that the defense secretary expects that by that time the United States' combat role will be greatly reduced.

Critics of Mr. Rumsfeld somehow still don't grasy that the WoT was just a distraction from his real project, shrinking the Cold War military and making it as flexible as the much different warfare of the 21st century requires. The mistakes made in Iraq are by and large a function of our fighting the war with an outdated military.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Women Wage Key Campaigns for Democrats (ROBIN TONER, 3/24/06, NY Times)

If the Democrats have their way, the 2006 Congressional elections will be the revenge of the mommy party.

Democratic women are running major campaigns in nearly half of the two dozen most competitive House races where their party hopes to pick up enough Republican seats to regain control of the House. Democratic strategists are betting that the voters' unrest and hunger for change — reflected consistently in public opinion polls — create the perfect conditions for their party's female candidates this year.

"In an environment where people are disgusted with politics in general, who represents clean and change?" asks Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Women."

Actually what they represent is the promise that nothing will ever change, that life can be made perfectly stable and secure so long as we're willing to forsake the risky scheme of liberty,/a>. Democrats could have considerable -- though temporary -- success running on the domestic security triumvirate of nativism, isolationism, and protectionism. The problem is that an openly feminized Democratic Party eventually drives away the fellow travelers on the Right who can support them on those three issues but will be alienated by other security concrns like national health, social permissiveness, and the like. In the long term a party premised on the personal security concerns of single women and the poor can't compete with a party of men and married women.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Protest Turns Violent in Heart of Paris (Molly Moore, March 24, 2006, Washington Post)

It was just the scene the French government had been dreading: burning cars seven blocks from the Eiffel Tower, shop windows smashed along one of the capital's toniest streets, and columns of helmeted riot police advancing across the greensward of a prominent tourist venue.

Antoil Ethuin, 48, stood outside the shattered windows of his Bike n' Roll rental shop Thursday, stunned by the destruction of the worst violence in two weeks of student protests in Paris and other French cities.

"My country is broken," said Ethuin...

It was a cheap trinket when it was put together.


France searches soul over anti-Semitism
(SUSAN SACHS, 3/24/06, Globe and Mai)

They hate Jews for believing in the soul.l

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Rail safety test a smashing success (Patrick O'Driscoll, 3/24/06, USA TODAY)

With a thunderous thunk, a five-coach train of commuter rail cars slammed into a 130-ton locomotive Thursday in a federal government test of measures to curb deaths and injuries in railroad crashes. (Graphic with video: Plans to make trains safer)

Unlike in so many real-life rail disasters, the train and locomotive stayed on the tracks and barely suffered a scratch, dramatically proving the worth of new "crash-energy management" technology designed to save lives by spreading out the force of a collision.

The $5 million experiment delighted test engineers and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who watched in a white hard hat from 100 yards away with dozens of railroad dignitaries.

Although hundreds of tons of iron and steel met head-on, the crash had all the mayhem of a fender-bender in a grocery store parking lot.

The lead coach or "cab car" at the front in "push-pull" mode (a commuter-rail configuration in which the locomotive pulls in one direction and pushes from the back on the return trip), was barely dented in the 31-mph crash. No cars or locomotives derailed. [...]

Mineta said later that the measures — including "push-back" couplers and an "anti-climber" bumper to keep the lead car from riding up and over an oncoming locomotive in a crash — "basically turn once-rigid trains into giant shock absorbers that help protect a train's crew and passengers."

Not only is Mr. Mineta the best Transportation Secretary in the nation's history but one of the superstars of the best cabinet since Washington's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


American Muslims gaining a foothold in politics (Jill Lawrence, 3/24/06, USA TODAY)

[T]he 9/11 attacks jolted Muslims into realizing that they needed to make themselves known to their neighbors and heard by their government. They are voting, running for office and getting more involved in civic and political life at every level, from PTAs and school boards to town councils and state legislatures. At least two — Texas Republicans Amir Omar and Ahmad Hassan — are running for U.S. Congress.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which promotes Muslim political activity, has opened 23 of its 31 U.S. chapters since 9/11. In the 2004 election, two studies found, one in five Muslim voters were first-time voters.

"There was a silver lining. We became more public," says Aref Assaf, president of the New Jersey-based American Arab Forum.

This large-scale entry of Muslims into public life is not only testing the courage of Muslim candidates and the tolerance of voters. It's also prompting politicians to take notice of a community that has growing clout and is open to appeals from both parties. [...]

Mosques, numbering more than 1,200 across the country, are "the grassroots center of our political empowerment," Assaf says. They hold voter-registration drives and policy discussions. They invite candidates to speak, offering access to large crowds at Friday prayers.

Up to a third of American Muslims are African-Americans who vote mostly for Democrats. The rest come from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. Many lived in dictatorships or theocracies and did not participate in politics in their homelands. "It is definitely a new idea," says Mohamed El Filali, outreach director of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson.

The immigrants are in tune with Republican conservatism on issues such as abortion, gay rights and religion, say analysts such as Georgetown University professor Zahid Bukhari. But they agree with Democrats on civil liberties and government social programs.

At this point, Muslims aren't firmly allied with either party. Bush won backing from Muslim leaders in 2000, before 9/11, and outperformed Democrat Al Gore among Muslim voters, polls and studies found. Four years later, dismayed by the Iraq invasion and what they saw as civil liberties abuses under the USA Patriot Act, the leaders endorsed Democrat John Kerry, and he won a majority of Muslim voters.

Sherine El-Abd, 60, an Egyptian immigrant and prominent Republican who lives in Clifton, personally tried to convince a number of Muslims to switch back to Bush. It was, she admits, an uphill battle: "There were more that didn't go."

Analysts say the shift is likely to be temporary. "I wouldn't call it a realignment," CAIR research director Mohamed Nimer says. "What we've seen is just a one-time deal."

Muslims are comparable to Hispanics, a much larger swing voter group, in their diversity and their compatibility with positions of both parties. Analysts say they're also similar to Hispanics in that they are young and likely to wield increasing influence.

Mohamed Elibiary, president of the Freedom and Justice Foundation in Dallas, a statewide Muslim advocacy group, cites a 2002 Cornell University finding that 60% of the U.S. Muslim population is 30 or younger: "You have this huge bulge that over the next 10 years is going to mature politically" and be far more active.

Just as it was America that Reformed the Catholic Church--getting it to accept that the End of History was a natural fit with Christian theology--so too is the Reform of Islam being driven from the States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Is this the end of Lab-Lib Dem pact? (HAMISH MACDONELL, 3/24/06, The Scotsman)

NICOL Stephen, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, paved the way for an end to Lab-Lib Dem rule in Scotland last night when he insisted he would not compromise on either his anti- nuclear approach or his commitment to scrapping the council tax.

Mr Stephen told The Scotsman the Liberal Democrats would go into next year's Holyrood elections with demands for a local income tax and a ban on all new nuclear power stations at the heart of their manifesto.

But with Labour taking a different view in both areas, there is now so much to divide the parties that it will be difficult for them to find sufficient common ground to form a third coalition.

Just take back full sovereignty of the nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Ben Johnson, Cheetah. Get it? (MORGAN CAMPBELL, Mar. 24, 2006, Toronto Star)

Ben Johnson is back. And he's still a "cheetah."

Nineteen years and two flunked drug tests after he first set the 100-metre world record, Canada's most famous sports cheater is trading on his infamy to sell a new energy drink called Cheetah Power Surge.

The pun is intentional, say the people who created two TV commercials featuring Johnson that are now on the air. But sports and marketing experts find the association with the disgraced sprinter bizarre.

It's not that folks who make mistakes don't deserve second chances, but that they oughtn't feel they can trade on their very disgrace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


And a Great Joy Visited the Team (Thomas Boswell, March 23, 2006, Washington Post)

Mr. Soriano, meet Mr. Robinson. No, not the one you've had breakfast with in coffee shops all over Florida as he tried to sweet-talk you into doing what every player has done since 1869 -- in a crunch, play where the team tells you. No, the real Robinson is back, finally -- the same 70-year-old who tried to punch Mike Scioscia in the mouth last year.

Several Nationals players also missed the pregame Kool-Aid. Maybe they were underserved. "Let's face it. He didn't really have a choice but to come back and play," said one Nats veteran. "We all know he's not happy. He's not going to be a good outfielder right away. He's going to drop some balls. Everybody will be on him. 'Was he really trying?' That's when I'll support him. He realized the team always has got to come first. Now, top to bottom, we have a lineup that's much better than last year."

In the end, that's what matters. This is high-pay hardball, not Ultimate Frisbee. Happy is optional.

Somehow Peter Gammons is the more famous, but Mr. Boswell can write circles around him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 AM


Chancellor caught in loans row (Andrew Pierce and Rajeev Syal, 3/24/06, Times of London)

A BUSINESSMAN who secretly lent £1 million to the Labour Party was made chairman of one of Gordon Brown’s flagship projects just weeks after handing over the money, The Times has learnt.

Rod Aldridge, who resigned yesterday as executive chairman of the technology company Capita, will launch the £150 million youth community service scheme with the Chancellor in May.

The timing of his appointment links Mr Brown for the first time with the “loans-for-honours” affair that has engulfed the Prime Minister.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


20,000 job cuts forecast as more NHS hospitals join critical list: Brown denies ignoring health funding in Budget, saying trusts have been promised an extra £12 billion over next two years ( Sam Lister, David Charter and Patrick Foster, 3/23/06, Times of London)

ONE of the largest staff culls in recent NHS history worsened yesterday as more hospitals announced cuts and politicians gave warning of a final total of up to 20,000 job losses.

Two trusts, in the North East and Kent, said yesterday that cuts were imminent or likely involving hundreds of members of staff. The announcements took the total job losses this month to more than 3,000, with two thirds occurring in the past week.

The Conservatives yesterday accused the Government of runnning scared of a crisis that would probably result in a cut of between 15,000 and 20,000 employees across the NHS.

While Gordon Brown fended off criticism for skirting round the health service’s mounting debts in his Budget statement this week, it also emerged that there would be no specific health funding debate in the wake of his speech.

It's symptomatic of the Democrats' problems that their one big idea is that we should have a health system like the ones that are crumbling in the rest of the developed world.

March 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Johnson Remains Orioles' Unforgettable Fire (Thomas Boswell, March 24, 2006, Washington Post)

Maybe [Davey] Johnson, 63, hasn't entirely forgiven and he certainly hasn't forgotten. But he's over it. The anger is gone. So is the "ill will" and "animosity" that he says he carried for years toward Angelos. Partly, the change of perspective is probably because Johnson almost died in late 2004 with a medical condition that withered his frame by 70 pounds and had doctors at the Mayo Clinic repeatedly "asking me if I had a living will." He's recovered now, looking fitter than when he left Baltimore. But he's lost some of the edge that made him famous or, perhaps, he's simply replaced it with the acceptance and grace of age.

Partly, his return to visit the Orioles, the team he played for, managed and still follows with affection, is the result of the flowers that Angelos sent to the funeral of Johnson's daughter, Andrea. That gesture snapped something in their clenched-jawed ill will.

True to the silliness of feuds in baseball, it also helped that Angelos funded a Greek team in the '04 Olympics and Davey, managing a group of comparably inept Dutch men, beat the Angelos-backed bunch. "They were terrible. They couldn't get it out of the [batting] cage," grinned Johnson, tale-spinning in his Texas twang. "I don't know what they'd have been like if Peter hadn't helped them out. So, that eased the animosity. That and the flowers."

"That and the flowers." In Johnson's face, it's hard to say how many emotions are at play in a man so smart he has an advanced degree in mathematics, was 15 years ahead of the curve in using exotic statistics devised by a Johns Hopkins professor in his strategy and made his first million in real estate in the 1960s long before he became an all-star with the Orioles.

Davey still gives you "aw, shucks" and spits tobacco on the dugout concrete. It's easy to forget he flies planes and played scratch golf. And that, when he played for Earl Weaver, he loved to take the manager's money at gin -- just to show Earl who was smarter. Not the best idea? Some percentages Davey never could play, especially the ones that told you when to back off from the boss and when to confront him. Johnson's gears didn't include reverse.

Now, part of that person, who led the Mets to the '86 World Series crown but also got fired everywhere he managed, has definitely mellowed. Walking around with a burst appendix for a year -- and not knowing what's wrong with you -- will do that to you. Especially when doctors says that, by 60, your appendix has either been removed or else it's never going to burst.

"That's just like my whole life," said Johnson. "Typical of me to have something nobody's supposed to have at that age."

His stubbornness was what made him such a good manager--he wasn't afraid to look stupid if the numbers told him a decision made sense. Too many guys play it safe at the expense of their team in order to avoid getting criticized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


Suicide by a thousand cuts (Molly Ivins, March 23, 2006, Creators Syndicate)

I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying -- it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.

It doesn't help that 60% of the country would rather sit in the garage and listen to The Five Heartbeats than read Ms Ivins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM

NAME ONE (via Pepys):

Less safe after years in Iraq (Sheila Suess Kennedy, March 23, 2006, March 23. 2006)

We have just "celebrated" the third anniversary of our invasion of Iraq.

Some wars, regrettably, are necessary. Iraq was not such a war. It was a war of choice, impelled by ideology...

Note the conspicuous failure to mention any war we've ever fought that was necessary. The reality is that all America's wars have been ideological, not necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


Paris's streets ablaze over workers' rights (Colin Randall, 24/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Trade union leaders, who joined students and school pupils in opposing a new law that would make it easier to hire and fire young workers, accepted an invitation to meet the beleaguered prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, today.

They insisted, however, that they would not negiotiate unless Mr de Villepin withdrew the law, which is due to take effect next month. He has ruled out scrapping the measure and his offers of concessions have been rejected.

Mr de Villepin's aides promised that the talks on the new law, which would affect job-seekers under 26, would "not be limited in any way".

He is expected to explain his offer to reduce the most contentious clauses in some fields of employment, creating a two-year trial period during which employees can be dismissed without reason.

The aim of the measure, known as the Contrat Première Embauche, or first job contract, is to tackle France's grave youth-unemployment problems.

But Mr de Villepin is struggling to rally support for the law, among even the ruling centre-Right UMP party.

The education minister, Gilles de Robien, will also have talks with protesters today.

France has a Right, it has no conservatives.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 9:24 PM


T for Terrific (Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing, 3/22/06)

One irate citizen's Margaret Thatcher is another's George W. Bush, which might explain why writer Alan Moore has distanced himself from V For Vendetta, the big-screen adaptation of his influential graphic novel.

Penned in 1989, Moore meant for his work to be taken as an indictment of Thatcher's conservative platform in England. The screen version, filtered through the sensibilities of Hollywood players such as the debuting director James McTeigue, producer Joel Silver and the writing-producing team of the Wachowski Brothers (all of whom were involved in making the Matrix trilogy), has been upgraded for a new chapter in world history. The Great Britain of the 1980s remains, but it's now forced to share space with the United States of the 2000s. [...]

Set in England in the year 2020, V For Vendetta envisions a world that's been torn apart by all manner of conflicts. The United States, we're told, has fallen as a superpower and now lays in ruins, largely destroyed by a civil war from within. England, meanwhile, struggled with a dreadful plague that killed thousands but has since reemerged under the rule of a fascistic government headed by Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt). In this Orwellian landscape, dissidents, intellectuals and homosexuals all meet with the same fate -- execution -- while all news is filtered through the sensibilities of a government-sanctioned TV network.

Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is a low-level worker at the TV station, yet she's also the daughter of political activists who were dragged off -- and summarily murdered -- by government thugs when she was still a child. Like most Britons, she lives in fear of the ruling body and keeps her head down in an ongoing attempt to remain clueless about the atrocities surrounding her. But that's before she meets V (Hugo Weaving), an eloquent swashbuckler who sports a Guy Fawkes mask and speaks of a regime change.

A man of mystery, V subscribes to the theory of a radical revolution, of achieving freedom by any means necessary. He refuses to apologize for his violent actions, and while Evey gradually comes to understand his goals, she can't quite commit to his methods. Meanwhile, Chancellor Sutler will stop at nothing to remove this thorn in his side, and his administration largely depends on the efforts of dogged Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) to locate and apprehend the masked man.

V For Vendetta is that rare blockbuster that's interested in words more than action. That's not to say the picture doesn't contain its share of explosive set pieces and dashing derring-do, but its import rests in the muddy waters it navigates. What exactly divides a terrorist from a freedom fighter? V's mission to take down Sutler involves blowing up lots of prime real estate (indeed, the movie's November 2005 release was delayed partly to distance it further from last July's London bombings), and those in charge refer to him simply as "the terrorist." But when a government is as rotten as the one seen here, does the end justify the means? [...]

[S]ome of the allusions skewer more toward the Nazi regime than the Republican Party (though many will persuasively argue that they're one and the same), but how to deny the topicality evidenced in the scenes involving detainment centers where prisoners are hooded, humiliated and tortured, or the presence of a TV station that's unabashedly pro-government, or an administration that instills a vague fear of foreigners to quiet the teeming masses, or a ruler who uses faith-based initiatives to crush opposing viewpoints?

One is frequently tempted to give these Bush = Hitler folks the benefit of the doubt and assume they're just reaching for a convenient, bad analogy -- and then loonies like this guy remind us that an awful lot of them really mean it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 PM


Tax break for families with kids eyed (Japan Times, 3/24/06)

The government and ruling coalition, at the first meeting of a special committee charged with devising measures to halt the declining birthrate, agreed Thursday to study giving families with children a tax break, panel members said.

Many lawmakers from the ruling bloc -- the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito -- want the panel to look closely at the family tax break, the panel members said.

LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Hidenao Nakagawa said the committee should consider higher tax-break rates for families with low incomes and those with a lot of children.

Kuniko Inoguchi, minister in charge of dealing with the birthrate decline, told the meeting the public is strongly in favor of tax cuts to help families with kids.

It's absurd to think that in the richest nations in history people aren't having kids because of the cost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM


Another Bad Slip for 'NY Times': Katrina Victim Unmasked (E&P Staff, March 23, 2006, Editor & Publisher)

For the second time in less than a week, The New York Times today admitted to a serious error in a story. On Saturday it said it had misidentified a man featured in the iconic "hooded inmate" photograph from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Today it discloses that a woman it profiled on March 8 is not, in fact, a victim of Hurricane Katrina--and was arrested for fraud and grand larceny yesterday.

As it did in the Abu Ghraib mistake, the Times ran an editors' note on page 2 of its front section, along with a lengthy news article (this time on the front page of Section B). Again mirroring the Abu Ghraib episode, the newspaper revealed a surprising and inexplicable lapse in fact-checking on the part of a reporter and/or editor.

The original article, more than 1000 words in length, was written by Nicholas Confessore. He also wrote the news article about the error today. Without saying that he wrote the first story, he wrote today: "The Times did not verify many aspects of Ms. Fenton's claims, never interviewed her children, and did not confirm the identity of the man she described as her husband."

If the New York Times were a president it would be calling for its own impeachment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Ukraine's new, bumpy path: Its embrace of democracy contrasts with Belarus, this week's elections show. (Fred Weir, 3/24/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

In contrast to the tight government control that largely squelched opposition forces in Belarus ahead of last weekend's elections, Kiev's main square is a veritable bazaar of competing voices. Nearly 50 rival political parties are heading into the final leg of parliamentary polls slated for Sunday. The roughly 2,000 foreign observers here have noted no serious irregularities, and Ukrainian experts say these are the freest and most open elections in the country's history.

"There is absolute transparency, and an equal playing field for all parties," says Alexander Chernenko, an analyst with the Committee of Ukrainian Voters, a grass-roots monitoring group. "There is no fear, no coercion. People feel this is irreversible."

That Belarus feels compelled to have elections just to convey some faint patina of legitimacy suggests that its path is irreversible too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM

HELEN A HANDBASKET (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Right invasion, wrong explanation (Jonah Goldberg, March 23, 2006, LA Times)

THE BEST MOMENT of political theater at the president's news conference this week came when that thespian carbuncle of bile, Helen Thomas, hung a question mark at the end of a diatribe. The "dean" of the White House press corps all but called President Bush a lying warmonger who invaded Iraq for no legitimate reason.

Thomas lost the exchange, but the sad truth is that her side has won the larger argument. Ever since the controversy over the "16 words" in Bush's 2002 State of the Union address — in which the president alleged that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa — the administration has been gun-shy about defending its original decision to invade. That's understandable, given the consequences of that episode: Not only did it make the White House seem inept, it made former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson and his very important hair a permanent fixture of the media firmament.

It is now simply taken as a given inside this White House that having an argument about why we invaded Iraq is a political loser. So the president prefers to talk democracy, not WMD.

Which is why we should have done Syria by now, offering as the sole explanation that the Syrian people deserve a legitimate regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


In Dark Times, Blame the Jews (The Forward, March 24, 2006)

On the face of it, there's little that's new in the provocative research paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," published online last week by two leading political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Their underlying thesis, that Israel's advocates have pressured America into an unjustified and damaging alliance with Israel, has been around for decades, flogged with little success by generations of Israel's detractors. Their more immediate argument, that Israel and its allies manipulated America into war with Iraq, has been simmering at the edges of the debate since before the invasion. By now it's part of our national background noise.

What is new and startling is the document's provenance. Its authors are not fringe gadflies but two of America's most respected foreign-affairs theorists. One, Mearsheimer, is a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago. The other, Walt, is academic dean of the nation's most prestigious center of political studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Though it's tempting, they can't be dismissed as cranks outside the mainstream. They are the mainstream.

Even more startling, given who they are, is the flimsiness of their work.

Why? Is there anyplace you're more likely to find anti-Western cranks than elite academic institutions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Wal-Mart gets a warm welcome (Mae Gentry, March 22, 2006, Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Retail behemoth Wal-Mart may be unwanted in other parts of metro Atlanta but south DeKalb County is rolling out the welcome mat.

Community leaders and residents will be on hand today when Wal-Mart celebrates the grand opening of its first store inside the Perimeter --- at Gresham Road and I-20.

The 214,000-square-foot supercenter, located on the site of an old Kmart, could help revitalize an economically depressed area and provide much-needed jobs.

"It's a good shot in the arm for the community," said John Evans, a community activist and former president of the DeKalb NAACP. "We needed development there. It may serve as a real catalyst to bring in new businesses." [...]

DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones said new Wal-Mart's location off I-20 will also attract shoppers from outside the county, putting sales-tax revenue in county coffers.

Jones also believes people in the community should welcome the new supercenter, especially because of what it replaced.

"I think it's obvious what people would like, if they have a choice between a dilapidated, crack-infested old building with no jobs versus a thriving retail box with supporting retail shops, providing jobs and services and improving the property value," he said. "I think it's a no-brainer."

Democrats, who hate Wal-Mart more than Islamicism, seem to not understand their constituents too well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Chirac walks out on EU leaders as tensions rise (George Parker and Chris Smyth, March 23 2006, Financial Times)

Jacques Chirac, French president, on Thursday night stormed out of a European Union summit after a French industrialist began addressing leaders of the bloc in English.

Mr Chirac and two senior ministers walked out in protest at the decision of Ernest-Antoine Seillière, head of the Unice employers organisation, to make a plea for economic reform in “the language of business”.

Mr Chirac’s boycott reflected the high tensions surrounding the two-day economic summit, which comes against a backdrop of French street protests over labour market reform and claims Paris is engaged in protectionism of its energy market.

The French president was not in the room to hear Mr Seillière urging leaders to “resist national protectionism in order to avoid a negative domino effect”.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, issued a thinly veiled warning to France and Spain to open their energy markets, as a dispute over protectionism overshadowed the start of the summit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


If torture works…: The debate over torture is not as simple as it seems. Those of us who oppose torture under any circumstances should admit that ours is an unpopular policy that may make us more vulnerable to terrorism (Michael Ignatieff, April 2006, Prospect)

It is difficult to think about torture honestly. In a recent article on the interrogation techniques employed by the US, the writer Mark Bowden observed that few "moral imperatives make such sense on a large scale, but break down so dramatically in the particular." The moral imperative—do not torture, any time, anywhere, in any circumstances—is mandated by the UN convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency," says the convention, can "be invoked as a justification of torture." That terrorists themselves torture does not change these imperatives. Our compliance does not depend on reciprocity.

As long as we stay on this high ground of unconditional prohibition, we seem to know where we are. Problems begin when we descend into the particular, when we ask what exactly counts as torture. [...]

Clear thinking about torture is not served by collapsing the distinction between coercive interrogation and torture. Both may be repugnant, but repugnance does not make them into the same thing. If coercion and torture are on a moral continuum, at what point on the continuum, to use Posner's words, does queasiness turn to revulsion? Vigorous interrogation might mean lengthy, exhausting, harassing exchanges with interrogators. Provided that there was no physical contact between interrogator and subject, no deprivation of food or water harmful to health, this might qualify as lawful interrogation. But at every ratchet of coercion, moral problems arise. Sleep deprivation will not leave physical or permanent psychological scars, but as Menachem Begin, who was interrogated in Soviet Russia, remembered, "anyone who has experienced this desire [for sleep] knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it."

It might be lawful to deceive a subject under interrogation, by stating that all of his associates are already in detention when they are still at large. But other forms of deception can inflict excruciating psychological anguish. Threatening a subject with the imminent death or torture of those dearest to him may not leave any physical marks, but it rightly can constitute torture, not just coercion, in even the US Senate's definition. Both Elshtain and Posner have argued against the moral perfectionism that elides the distinction between coercion and torture, and have stressed the cruel, if regrettable, necessity of using coercive methods on a small category of terrorists who may have information vital to saving the lives of innocent people. Posner justifies coercive interrogation on utilitarian grounds: saving the lives of many counts more, in moral terms, than abusing the body and dignity of a single individual. Elshtain justifies coercive interrogation using a complex moral calculus of "dirty hands": good consequences cannot justify bad acts, but bad acts are sometimes tragically necessary. The acts remain bad, and the person must accept the moral opprobrium and not seek to excuse the inexcusable with the justifications of necessity.

My own work on "lesser evils" brings me close to the Elshtain position. I agree with her that necessity may require the commission of bad acts, which necessity, nevertheless, cannot absolve of their morally problematic character—but I still have a problem. If one enumerates the forms of coercive interrogation that have been judged to be inhuman and degrading by the Israeli and the European courts—hooding, holding subjects in painful positions, exposing them to cold or heat or ear-splitting noise—these techniques also seem unacceptable, though at a lower threshold of awfulness, than torture. Like Elshtain, I am willing to get my hands dirty, but unlike her, I have practical difficulty enumerating a list of coercive techniques that I would be willing to have a democratic society inflict in my name. I accept, for example, that a slap is not the same thing as a beating, but I still don't want interrogators to slap detainees because I cannot see how to prevent the occasional slap deteriorating into a regular practice of beating. The issue is not, as Elshtain implies, that I care overmuch about my own moral purity but rather that I cannot see any clear way to manage coercive interrogation institutionally so that it does not degenerate into torture.

On the issue of regulation, there are those—Alan Dershowitz, for example—who believe that banning torture and coercion outright is unrealistic. Instead, the practice should be regulated by court warrants. But judicialisation of torture, and of coercive interrogation techniques involving stress and duress, physical abuse, sleep deprivation and so on, could lead to torture and coercion becoming routine rather than an exception.

Unfortunately Mr. Ignatieff never deals adequately with the threshold question: why should interrogation methods be made such a fetish that we treat them so morally differently than every other means of war-making?

Consider, for example, a means of warfare for which there is near universal support: UN sanctions against regimes. What, at the end of the day, are sanctions if not coercive measures imposed by the community of democracies whose specific purpose is to inflict sufficient pain and sufferng on an entire society that its leadership is forced to yield? Is there any moral coherence to an argument that says we may not treat a captured Saddam Hussein brusquely in order to determine where his WMD went but we were perfectly justified in killing 500,000 Iraqis to try and get him to tell us where the WMD were?

Mr. Ignatieff's slippery slope does not lead to too much torture but to complete tolerance of evil.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:34 AM


Obituary of Lord Ackner (Telegraph, 3/23/06)

As a High Court judge, Ackner's penchant for plain speaking was evident at the trial of a schoolmaster accused of assault for breaking a pupil's jaw. The schoolboy had started the day with half a tablet of LSD and spent the morning break screaming obscenities at the teacher before kicking him in the stomach.

"Have we really reached the stage in this country," Ackner asked the jury in his summing up, "when an insolent and bolshie pupil has to be treated with all the courtesies of visiting royalty?

"You may think we live in very strange times. Whatever may be the views of some of our most advanced, way-out theoreticians, the law does not require a teacher to have the patience of a saint." The teacher was acquitted.

But Ackner's distaste for what he saw as a decline in the nation's moral standards could at times be controversial, and never more so than in 1987, when the House of Lords decided by a 3:2 majority to re-impose an injunction preventing newspapers from publishing excerpts from Spycatcher, the book written by former MI5 officer Peter Wright, even though it was widely available abroad.

"To refuse to allow the injunction to be continued," Ackner's judgment ran, "would have established a charter for traitors to publish on the most massive scale in England whatever they have managed to publish abroad. Fortunately, the press is, as yet, not above the Law, although like some other powerful organisations, they would like that to be so."

Another international precedent unlikely to be adopted by the Supreme Court.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Google evolves into all-purpose website
(MICHAEL LIEDTKE, 3/23/06, Associated Press)

The finance section Google Inc. unveiled Tuesday continues a philosophical shift that's turning its once-pure Internet search engine into an all-purpose website that seems increasingly interested in getting people to stick around instead of sending them elsewhere.

The evolution has been unfolding during the past four years as Google has introduced free e-mail, news, photo sharing, instant messaging, shopping and mapping services that are staples of one-stop websites commonly known as "portals."

Ever notice how no one ever means Darwinism when they refer to genuine evolution?

MORE (via Gene Brown):
Hobbes in Sudan: What a world without U.S. power looks like. (Opinion Journal, March 23, 2006)

The Arab League--so quick to denounce Danish cartoons--has also stymied any global intervention to stop the murder of their fellow Muslims. Here's League Secretary General Amr Musa earlier this month: "In Sudan, there is a problem related to Darfur. We will listen to the Sudanese state minister to explain to us the developments in the issue of Darfur . . ." The League plans to hold its meeting next week--in Khartoum.

The African Union has at least sent 7,000 troops to the region, but they are under-funded and under-equipped to enforce a truce that Sudan blatantly flouts. But the African failure is also political. In January the Union held its own summit in Khartoum, and next year it plans to award Sudan its presidency. The rule seems to be never to say a discouraging word about other African leaders, no matter how murderous.

As for Europe, France would be ideal to lead an intervention force. The French have military bases in neighboring Chad and could establish a no-fly zone to stop Janjaweed bombing. However, Paris is already occupied with another intervention in the Ivory Coast, and with its own business interests in Sudan isn't volunteering in any case.

Amid this global abdication, Mr. Annan finally decided last month to call in the American cavalry. He visited the White House and, with media fanfare, all but begged President Bush to do something. Despite U.S. obligations in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other places, Mr. Bush responded by proposing an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force under "NATO stewardship."

Darfur, on the other hand, is a case where the proper reference is Applied Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Dovetailing of good news has Dow flying high (Chicago Sun-Times, March 23, 2006)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to its highest level in almost five years Wednesday as an improved outlook for corporate earnings pushed auto and drug stocks higher.

Upbeat news from big companies: a patent settlement by Bristol-Myers Squibb, strong earnings from Morgan Stanley and a cost-cutting deal between General Motors Corp., Delphi Corp. and the United Auto Workers bolstered investor confidence.

"We have felt all along profits would come in better than expected" in 2006, said Keith Wirtz, chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management in Cincinnati. [...]

The Dow rose 81.96, or 0.73 percent, to 11,317.43, its highest level since May 21, 2001, when it reached 11,337.92.

Broader stock indicators were higher. The S&P 500 index rose 7.81, or 0.6 percent, to 1,305.04, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 9.12, or 0.4 percent, to 2,303.35.

Remind us again how Democrats ride a tidal wave of unrest when economic conditions are so favorable for incumbents?

Posted by David Cohen at 8:45 AM


"Star Wars" film legend George Lucas wants more worldly Hollywood (AFP, 5/23/06)

Legendary "Star Wars" film creator George Lucas told a packed house the United States is a provincial country with a culture that has invaded the world via Hollywood....

"It shows all the morality we espouse in this country, good and bad. The French were the first to start yelling cultural imperialism."...

People see shows such as "Dallas," about a wealthy Texas oil family, and decide they want the grand lifestyles portrayed, according to Lucas.

"They say that is what I want to be," Lucas said. "That destabilizes a lot of the world."

"There has been a conflict going on for thousands of years between the haves and the have-nots, and now we are in a position for the first time to show the have-nots what they do not have."

We shouldn't show the world's have-nots what we have, because they might want it and "destabilize" their own kleptocracies. An argument only a billionaire can love. This is a nice demonstration of how the Democrats have become, simultaneously, the party of the wealthy and the reactionary party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


The New New Gore: From our April issue (full content): Five years ago, Al Gore was the much-mocked pol who blew a gimme with his stiff demeanor and know-it-all style. Today? C’mon, admit it: You like him again. (Ezra Klein, 03.21.06, American Prospect)

Since his loss, Gore has undergone a resurrection of sorts, shrugging off the consultants and the caution that hampered him during the campaign and -- aided by new distribution technologies -- evolving into perhaps the most articulate, animated, and forceful critic of the Bush administration. And now, with Democrats taking a fresh look at a man they thought they knew and speculation mounting around his ambitions in 2008, it seems that the man much mocked for inventing the Internet is in fact using the direct communication it enables to reinvent himself. [...]

It’s fitting, then, that after some hanging chads lynched his political ambitions, he returned to his roots, accepting a post at Columbia’s journalism school to teach about the intersection between journalism, his first career, and the Internet, his longstanding obsession. The class, which began in Spring 2001, was entitled “Covering National Affairs in an Information Age.” Gore’s first lecture engaged objectivity itself, challenging the journalistic trope that fairness resides in controversy and an article has to represent all sides -- no matter how marginal -- equally. Instead, Gore argued that the journalistic impulse to exalt even the most fringe views to parity in order to furnish opposing perspectives is harmful to basic accuracy. This didn’t sit well with more than a few of the wannabe reporters in the class, many of whom were aghast at the suggestion that the media should attempt to actually mediate between truth and spin. As Josh Bearman, a student in that class and now an editor at the LA Weekly, recalls it, “He stood up there challenging the entire dogma of the journalism school. First semester, you learned that objectivity was emperor, then Gore came in and told you it had no clothes.”

And along with that backlash, the old anti-intellectualism Gore experienced in 2000 made a reappearance. As Bearman tells it, “He knew more than everyone in the room. So the class basically turned against him because he was smarter than they were, and they didn’t like that. We witnessed exactly what had happened on the campaign plane in the year prior.” Gore did not return to teach the class in 2002. [...]

If the Internet is reinventing Gore, though, Gore is using its lessons to reinvent television. His October 2005 speech to the We Media conference was a tour de force, ranging from Johannes Gutenberg to Thomas Paine, Walter Lippmann to John Kenneth Galbraith, the historian Henry Steele Commager to the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Gore was a know-it-all, and he didn’t care if they knew it too.

Even Karl Rove isn't good enough at robotics to get this guy to run again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Iraq War Vet Wins in Illinois Race (Eric Pianin, 3/23/06, Washington Post)

Tammy Duckworth, the decorated Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in a grenade attack, won a close race Wednesday in her bid for the Democratic primary nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R) in Illinois's 6th Congressional District.

Duckworth, the most prominent and best-financed of nearly a dozen veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars attempting to launch careers in Congress, was vying with Democratic rival Christine Cegelis, a computer consultant who has been running nonstop since she lost to Hyde two years ago. [...]

Cegelis sought to portray Duckworth as a political carpetbagger in the congressional district, a traditionally GOP bastion west of Chicago in DuPage County. Cegelis asserted that many residents resented that Duckworth lives in a home three miles outside the district and that she raised most of her $517,747 campaign war chest with the help of her national Democratic allies. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, helped Duckworth raise $139,000 earlier this month with an e-mailed fundraising appeal.

Angry parties oughtn't be expected to make good decisions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


In Florida, 'Uniform' Foolishness (George F. Will, March 23, 2006, Washington Post)

[F]lorida's Supreme Court fulfilled the desires of the teachers unions, and disrupted the lives of the 733 children and their parents, by declaring, in a 5 to 2 ruling, that the voucher program is incompatible with the state constitution. [...]

This court last seized the nation's attention when, after the 2000 election, it acted legislatively, rewriting state election laws in ways helpful to Al Gore's attempt to erase George W. Bush's slender lead. Back then, all the court's seven members had been nominated by Democratic governors. Since then, the court has acquired two justices nominated by Gov. Bush. They were the two dissenters from the court's "uniformity" ruling. Elections can slowly turn tides.

All of Archbishop Curley's 43 Opportunity Scholarship children who are not graduating in June are going to stay in the school. The voucher is worth about $1,800 less than the school's $6,400 tuition, and about $3,400 less than the $8,000 cost of educating a pupil. But Brother Patrick Sean Moffett, the head of the school, says, "We're going to keep them all, somehow."

It is stirring to see the quiet tenacity of people whose lives are disrupted by other people's political struggles. When Octavia and her mother -- and David Hill, 14, a ninth-grader, and his parents, and several other parents and relatives of students -- recently gathered around a table at the school to discuss the end of the OSP, there was no rancor. The children and parents at the table were black. None were Republicans. The NAACP, as usual, is in lock step with the Democratic Party, which is in lock step with the teachers unions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


A naked Chancellor (Philip Webster, Political Editor, and Gary Duncan, 3/23/06, Times of London)

GORDON BROWN paraded himself as a prime minister in waiting who would spend rather than cut taxes yesterday as he made narrowing the gap between state and private schools an ambition for his premiership.

The Chancellor laid bare his strategy for fighting David Cameron at the next election by deliberately staking out a battleground that highlighted dividing lines with today’s Conservatives — with the choice between tax cuts and public spending the biggest of all. [...]

In his response to the Budget, Mr Cameron said that Mr Brown was an old fashioned tax-and-spend Chancellor who represented “the past.” He was the “analogue chancellor in a digital age”; he was the “roadblock” to reform.

“What we’ve got is a chancellor who has taxed too much, borrowed too much and is the roadblock to reform. He is a politician completely stuck in the past,” he said.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem leader, said that the Budget had been a missed opportunity. “He could have tackled the unfair tax system. He could have made the environment a priority. He could have faced up to the pensions crisis.

“He has declined to do any of these. This is a legacy from which it will be difficult for him to escape.”

The Tories could hardly ask for better ground on which to fight an election, if they have sense enough to propose significant tax reform and reduction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


In 50-Yard Square in Belarus, a Country Within (C. J. CHIVERS, 3/23/06, NY Times)

Since a rigged presidential election on March 19, the capital of Belarus has seen a protest like none in 12 years of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko's autocratic grip. For four consecutive days, protesters have defied warnings of arrest and bloodshed and stood in a corner of October Square to demand a new race.

Their numbers rise to several thousand each evening, as they form a rally and impromptu dance party on the edge of an ice rink, and then dwindle, hour by hour, until midnight, when this core stands through the night, in two lines, to hold the place for the next day.

It is a frigid, risky vigil, given the Belarussian weather and the government's history of reflexive brutality against those who dare to stand and call for better lives than Mr. Lukashenko's island of Soviet nostalgia and corruption has been able, or willing, to provide.

Mostly they are young men in their 20's. A few look too young to shave. But since Tuesday night, when the opposition's leaders began to disagree about how best to proceed in their effort to unseat a president they do not recognize, this all-night core has become an independent force in a quixotic struggle.

Their influence emerged when one of Mr. Lukashenko's two principal challengers, Aleksandr V. Kazulin, urged the protesters to disband Tuesday night and save themselves before the police crackdown.

"There is no sense in keeping them on the square," Mr. Kazulin said. "We should think about our children, protect them, and not keep them in front of us."

The protesters refused to go. And they rejected the label of "children," applied to them by Mr. Kazulin, as well as by Mr. Lukashenko, as they crowded together in the plummeting cold. They formed their two lines, one facing out of the camp, to warn of any advance by the police, the other facing inward, to keep an eye on the behavior of the demonstrators, ensuring that no provocateurs had slipped inside.

After midnight, they occupied a portion of Belarus, a country of 10 million people the size of Kansas, that was no larger than a 50-yard square.

It was a country within.

The standard that a legitimate regime must have the consent of the governed is too universal to be turned back for long. Someone better wake Francis Fukuyama up though and let him know it can take longer than 8 months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Roberts Dissent Reveals Strain Beneath Court's Placid Surface (LINDA GREENHOUSE, 3/23/06, NY Times)

Writing for the majority, Justice David H. Souter said the search was unreasonable, given the vocal objection of the husband, Scott Randolph. True, Justice Souter said, the court had long permitted one party to give consent to a search of shared premises under what is known as the "co-occupant consent rule." But he said that rule should be limited to the context in which it was first applied, the absence of the person who later objected.

The presence of the objecting person changed everything, Justice Souter said, noting that it defied "widely shared social expectations" for someone to come to the door of a dwelling and to cross the threshold at one occupant's invitation if another objected.

"Without some very good reason, no sensible person would go inside under those conditions," he said.

"We have, after all, lived our whole national history with an understanding of the ancient adage that a man's home is his castle," Justice Souter said. "Disputed permission is thus no match for this central value of the Fourth Amendment."

Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the majority opinion, as did Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who explained himself in a concurring opinion notable for its ambivalent tone. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. did not vote, as he was not a member of the court when the case was argued.

The dissenters, in addition to Chief Justice Roberts, were Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. In his opinion, the chief justice took aim at the majority's description of social custom, as well as its reliance on that description to reshape "a great deal of established Fourth Amendment law."

Every lower federal court to have considered the issue, as well as most state courts, had concluded that one party's consent was sufficient. The Georgia Supreme Court, in its 2004 decision that the justices affirmed, was in the minority, ruling in this case that the evidence of Mr. Randolph's cocaine use was inadmissible.

"The fact is that a wide variety of differing social situations can readily be imagined, giving rise to quite different social expectations," Chief Justice Roberts said. For example, he continued, "a guest who came to celebrate an occupant's birthday, or one who had traveled some distance for a particular reason, might not readily turn away simply because of a roommate's objection."

Noting that "the possible scenarios are limitless," he said, "Such shifting expectations are not a promising foundation on which to ground a constitutional rule, particularly because the majority has no support for its basic assumption — that an invited guest encountering two disagreeing co-occupants would flee — beyond a hunch about how people would typically act in an atypical situation."

The majority missed the point, the chief justice said; the fact is that someone choosing to share space has also, already, chosen to share privacy.

"Our common social expectations may well be that the other person will not, in turn, share what we have shared with them with another — including the police," he said, "but that is the risk we take in sharing."

Note how the minority's reasoning will obtain when Roe is overturned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Machine Woes Slow Vote-Counting in Illinois (Kari Lydersen and Zachary A. Goldfarb, March 23, 2006, Washington Post)

Election officials here resumed counting ballots Wednesday after problems with new electronic voting machines around Cook County forced them to halt the count in a key local race in Tuesday's primary that also had voters casting ballots for governor and Congress.

The election was one of the first major tests of how well states and localities, seeking to comply with new federal law, have replaced outdated voting machines with modern, more accurate technology that is more accessible to disabled people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Mom had `decoy' child in carpool lane (BOB MITCHELL, 3/23/06, Toronto Star)

A 39-year-old Aurora woman has become the first person in Ontario to be caught using a decoy in her vehicle so she could drive in a carpool lane.

Instead of finding a child in a car seat during yesterday morning's rush hour, an Ontario Provincial Police officer patrolling the high-occupancy vehicle lane on Highway 404 discovered a stuffed winter coat.

"It looked like Kenny from South Park was strapped in the child seat," OPP Sgt. Cam Woolley said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


3 Western peace activists freed in Iraq military operation (AP, 3/23/06)

A coalition force on Thursday freed three Christian peace activists taken hostage in Iraq, ending a four-month hostage drama in which an American among the group was shot to death and dumped on a Baghdad street.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said the captives were rescued in a joint U.S.-British operation in rural area northwest of Baghdad, between the towns of Mishahda, 20 miles north of Baghdad, and the western suburb of Abu Ghraib, 12 miles from downtown.

British officials in Baghdad said those freed were Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74. The men — members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams — were kidnapped on Nov. 26 along with their American colleague, Tom Fox, 54, whose body was found earlier this month. [...]

In a statement, the Christian Peacemaker Teams said the activists went to Iraq "motivated by a passion for justice and peace." The group called for coalition forces to remove their troops from the country.

Should we return them to the extemists on the way out?

U.S., Iraqis foil insurgent attack, capture 50 (Chicago Sun-Times, March 23, 2006)

Emboldened a day after a successful jailbreak, insurgents laid siege to another prison Wednesday. This time, U.S. troops and a special Iraqi unit thwarted the pre-dawn attack south of Baghdad, overwhelming the gunmen and capturing 50 of them, police said.
The bolder the better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Yanks start to wonder: Torre hopes for best from a thin rotation (Tony Massarotti, March 23, 2006, Boston Herald)

The New York Yankees are vulnerable in that worst of all places, their starting rotation, and you cannot help but wonder if Joe Torre knows it. There was simply little starting pitching to be had over the winter and the Yankees acquired none of it.

Like most everyone else in baseball entering the 2006 season, the Yankees can be had.

“These are the guys (we) brought to the dance,” Torre said when asked about his current stable of starting pitchers prior to last night’s game between the Red Sox and New York Yankees at Legends Field.

Shawn Chacon is a nice pitcher, but when he's your #1 you're in trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Basque terrorists lay down their arms after 40 years (Graham Keeley, 3/23/06, Times of London)

Unlike the previous conservative government, Señor Zapatero’s administration has signalled its willingness to talk to Eta. Last May the Spanish parliament passed a law allowing it to negotiate with Eta if it renounced violence. Yesterday’s ceasefire was warmly welcomed by Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president whose republican movement has had close links with Eta.

“Eta’s announcement provides all sides to the conflict with an opportunity of historic proportions,” he said. “There is a particular onus on the Spanish Government to respond positively and creatively.”

One figure who appears to have played an intriguing backroom role is Father Alec Reid, the Belfast priest who helped to prepare the ground for the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. Since last year, he has been involved in talks between Basque nationalist parties and the main political groups in the region.

On the one hand, the Madrid bombings hurt their popular support, but on the other they brought in a government that is happy to give in to their demands.

March 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


Smoking can seriously affect your potency (Nicole Martin, 23/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Men who smoke a packet of cigarettes a day are 40 per cent more likely to become impotent than non-smokers, a study has shown.

Researchers questioned more than 8,000 Australian men aged between 16 and 59 and found that almost one in 10 had problems maintaining an erection.

Of those interviewed, more than a quarter were smokers, with a fifth smoking 20 or fewer cigarettes a day, and one in 16 smoking more than 20 a day.

Compared with non-smokers, researchers found that men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day were 24 per cent more likely to be impotent. The figure rose to 39 per cent for those who smoked more than 20 a day.

Chris Millet, from Imperial College London, said he hoped that his study would persuade male smokers to quit.

Which reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of smoking.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:26 PM


China’s competitiveness ‘on the decline’ (Tom Mitchell, Financial Times, 3/22/06)

The competitiveness of China’s manufacturing industries has suffered serious erosion over the past year, according to one of the world’s largest trade sourcing companies.

Hong Kong-based Li & Fung group, which manages a $7.1bn a year trading business, said price rises crept back into the Sino-US and EU supply chains last year, after at least six years of often “severe deflation”.

William Fung, Li & Fung managing director, reported an average 2-3 per cent increase in the once unbeatable China price its US and European clients were willing to pay. He pointed to a “double-digit” rise in Chinese labour costs, the revaluation of the renminbi and higher oil and energy costs for the shift.

“China’s costs are all going up,” Mr Fung said. “It is no longer the most cost-effective country in the region...Anything [sourced] from China has a higher inflation component than from other places around the world.”

Beneficiaries of China’s rising prices have included textile and garment manufacturers in India, Bangladesh and Cambodia, which were expected to lose orders to China after the quota regime governing textile production expired in January 2005.

Someone alert Michael Crichton so he can start writing Rising Tide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, according to new U of M study (University of Minnesota News, 3/20/2006)

American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell.

Why would Americans trust folks who don't accept the basis of not just morality but of the Republic: "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. "

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


Britain pushes for military option to restrain Tehran (Richard Beeston, 3/22/06, Times of London)

BRITAIN is pressing for a United Nations resolution that would open the way for punitive sanctions and even the use of force if Iran were to refuse to halt its controversial nuclear programme.

In a confidential letter obtained by The Times, a leading British diplomat outlines a strategy for winning Russian and Chinese support by early summer for a so-called Chapter VII resolution demanding that Iran cease its nuclear activities.

If the Government in Tehran refused to comply with such a resolution, the UN Security Council would be legally compelled to enforce it.

The strategy marks a significant hardening of the Government’s position. It contrasts with public statements by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, this month. On March 13 he insisted that military action was “inconceivable” and that the dispute with Iran “has to be resolved by peaceful democratic means”.

The confidential letter was written only three days later by John Sawers, the political director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and sent to his American, French and German counterparts.

Leaked letter in full: UK diplomat outlines Iran strategy (Times Online)
Nick, Michael and I had a word yesterday about how to handle the E3+3 meeting in New York on Monday. We agreed that we would need to have a shared concept of what would happen in the Security Council after the period specified by the proposed Presidential Statement. I agreed to circulate a short paper which we might use as a sort of speaking note with the Russians and Chinese. This is attached.

Implicit in the paper is a recognition that we are not going to bring the Russians and Chinese to accept significant sanctions over the coming months, certainly not without further efforts to bring the Iranians around.

Kislyak might argue that those diplomatic efforts should start straightaway after a Presidential Statement is adopted. Our own assessment here is that the Iranians will not feel under much pressure from PRST on its own, and they will need to know that more serious measures are likely. This means putting the Iran dossier onto a Chapter VII basis. We may also need to remove one of the Iranian arguments that the suspension called for is ‘voluntary’. We could do both by making the voluntary suspension a mandatory requirement to the Security Council, in a Resolution we would aim to adopt I, say, early May.

In return for the Russians and Chinese agreeing to this, we would then want to put together a package that could be presented to the Iranians as a new proposal. Ideally this would have the explicit backing of Russia, China and the United States as well as the E3, though Nick will want to consider the scope of presenting this in that way. Our thought is that we would need to finalise this during June, and the obvious occasion to do so would be in the margins of the G8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting. The period running up to the G8 Summit will be when our influence on Russia will be at its maximum, and we need to plan accordingly.

Tony Blair and George Bush are dangerous enough when they're riding high, give them incentive to wag the dog and it's no wonder that Khamenei is forcing Ahmenijad to heel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


Maverick engineers Indian Railways turnaround (Raja M, 3/22/06, Asia Times)

Asia's largest railway network, India's national lifeline and one of its perennial financial headaches, has found an unlikely savior in Lalu Prasad Yadav, a maverick politician often dismissed as a rustic buffoon or a crook.

Yadav, fighting corruption cases ranging from a US$225 million fodder scam to a $789 million subsidized-food-grain scam, has as railway minister turned the world's second-largest rail network around. Indian Railways now has $2.48 billion in fund balances, from $78 million in 2001, a stunning reversal after being long seen as a terminal debt trap.

With new budgetary announcements of passenger-friendly and growth-aimed projects, the once-doddering behemoth is now dancing sprightly to attract big chunks of the $150 billion in foreign investment that financial experts expect India to attract in the next five years.

Railway container services will be privatized from April 1, a move welcomed by industrial associations. Licenses to operate container trains would have 20-year validity with the option of a 10-year extension.

Dubai Ports, fresh from its US ports controversy, was among 14 companies bidding for the railway container business, which is expected to attract more than $2.255 billion in the next decade. The railways have already collected $121.8 million as registration fees.

These are rosy times for Indian Railways, wide awake now to the enormous investment potential of a business carrying more than 16 million passengers every day and running more than 2,500 daily trains.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Egypt's opposition targets reforms: Muslim Brotherhood members, Parliament's largest opposition bloc, are being closely watched. (Sarah Gauch, 3/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

So far, the speeches and activities of Brotherhood parliamentarians emphasize political reform. Their agenda includes demands widely backed by democratic activists: changing legislation that allows journalists to face prison sentences for libel, granting independence to Egypt's judges, and canceling a 25-year-old emergency law that forbids gatherings of more than five people.

"We need economic reform and development, in education and health, but we can't realize this until we have political reform," says Mohamed el-Katatny, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's parliamentary bloc. The government, meanwhile, emphasizes economic reform with slower-paced political reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Vive la France! Vive le 'joblessness'? (The Monitor's View, 3/23/06, CS Monitor)

Today's world economy demands a fresh approach to work, including a flexible labor force. Yet young French people - and many other Europeans - want nothing to do with the so-called "Anglo-Saxon" model, which they feel is heartless. Pulling their fluffy duvets over their heads, they'd rather dream of the jobs-for-life their parents enjoyed since the end of World War II. [...]

One could brush the demonstrations aside as typical French protests - practically a rite of spring in la république. But they point to an overall resistance that will make economic and social reform that much harder in the future.

Each year of delayed reform will only prolong the sluggishness of the French economy and high joblessness. According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development index that measures restrictive job environments, French job inflexibility is nearly 15 times higher than in the US, where workers can expect to change jobs six times in their career. The US jobless rate is less than 5 percent, while in France it hovers near 10 percent.

"fluffy duvets"? Nice shot!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Basque separatists call cease-fire: After four decades of deadly violence, ETA declared a permanent truce to begin Friday. (Peter Ford, 3/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

On Tuesday, the Spanish parliament approved a new relationship between the central government and Catalonia, recognizing it as "a nation." Some observers suggested that the vote encouraged ETA to hope for a similar, or better, deal if it renounces violence. Last year, parliament authorized the government to hold talks with ETA, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, on the condition the group laid down its arms.

"If I was in ETA I would be optimistic" about the outcome of expected negotiations, says Florentino Portero, an analyst at the Strategic Studies Group, a think tank in Madrid. "Zapatero is a new generation of politician with a radically new way of conceiving of the state" as a confederation of sovereign regions.

All over but the formalities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


Interview with Ex-Neocon Francis Fukuyama: "A Model Democracy Is not Emerging in Iraq" (Der Spiegel, 3/22/06)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your new book, "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy," is a rejection of the political views you have held throughout your academic career. What happened?

Fukuyama: Iraq happened. The process of distancing myself from neo-conservatism happened four years ago really. I had decided the war wasn't a good idea some time in 2002 as we were approaching the invasion of Iraq.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why? After all, one of the neo-conservative pillars is a profound belief in democracy and the spread of democracy.

Fukuyama: I was partly unsure whether the United States could handle the transition to a democratic government in Iraq. But the biggest problem I had was that the people pushing for the intervention lacked self-knowledge about the US. When I look back over the 20th century history of American interventions, particularly those in the Caribbean and Latin America, the consistent problem we've had is being unable to stick it out. Before the Iraq war, it was clear that if we were going to do Iraq properly, we would need a minimum commitment of five to 10 years. It was evident from the beginning that the Bush administration wasn't preparing the American people for that kind of a mission. In fact, it was obvious the Bush people were trying to do Iraq on the cheap. They thought they could get in and out in less than a year.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where did this belief come from? Was it naivete, hubris or just plain ignorance?

Fukuyama: A lot of the neo-conservatives drew the wrong lessons from the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. They generalized from that event that all totalitarian regimes are basically hollow at the core and if you give them a little push from the outside, they're going to collapse. Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, most people thought that communism would be around for a long time. In fact, it disappeared within seven or eight months in 1989. That skewed the thinking about the nature of dictatorships and neo-conservatives made a wrong analogy between Eastern Europe and what would happen in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So it was an invasion based on misinformation and misinterpretation?

Fukuyama: Yes.

The more legitimate criticism is that they failed to follow through on leaving that quickly. But he's certainly right that we almost never follow through and stay for decades once we get the democratization process going--just look at all the Eastern European states that only had their color-coded revolutions over the past couple years or Belarus and Kazakhstan which haven't quite reached the End of History even now. Iraq doesn't have to be all that democratic 14 years from now for it to precisely resemble the real Eastern Europe, as opposed to the one of Mr. Fukuyama's imagination. Just because things are headed our way doesn't mean they get there overnight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


Tancredo, colleague tussle in ugly spat: After TV debate, epithets hurled (Anne C. Mulkern, 3/22/06, Denver Post)

A cursing, screaming, epithet-laden fracas erupted between Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo and an Illinois congressman this week after a televised debate about immigration. [...]

Tancredo, R-Littleton, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sparred Wed nesday on the CNBC cable-TV channel about which version of immigration reform Congress should enact.

Tancredo said that as they were removing their microphones afterward, Gutierrez noted that Tancredo had been late for the show and said, "The immigrant shows up on time. The gringo was late. I guess that's why we get the jobs."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Fla. to Link Teacher Pay To Students' Test Scores (Peter Whoriskey, March 22, 2006, Washington Post)

A new pay-for-performance program for Florida's teachers will tie raises and bonuses directly to pupils' standardized-test scores beginning next year, marking the first time a state has so closely linked the wages of individual school personnel to their students' exam results.

The effort, now being adopted by local districts, is viewed as a landmark in the movement to restructure American schools by having them face the same kind of competitive pressures placed on private enterprise, and advocates say it could serve as a national model to replace traditional teacher pay plans that award raises based largely on academic degrees and years of experience.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has characterized the new policy, which bases a teacher's pay on improvements in test scores, as a matter of common sense, asking, "What's wrong about paying good teachers more for doing a better job?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


Idaho Potato Crusted Pizza (The Associated Press, 3/22/06)

* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
* 4 tablespoons cornstarch
* 11/2 pounds Idaho potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup beef or chicken broth
* 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
* 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
* 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into rings
* 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

How to make it:

* Preheat oven to 400 F.

* In a small bowl, stir together the salt, pepper and cornstarch; set aside. Using a food processor or mandoline, slice potatoes very thinly and place them in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle half of the cornstarch mixture over the potato slices; toss the potatoes, then sprinkle them with the remaining cornstarch mixture, and toss again.

* Brush 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a 12-inch round pizza pan. Layer the potatoes on the pan, overlapping the slices in concentric circles (cover the pan completely). Sprinkle the potatoes with the broth, brush them with the remaining oil, then press the potatoes down firmly with your clean hands to compact them into a crust. Move the oven rack to its lowest position, and bake the potato crust for 20 to 30 minutes, or until edges are browned and potatoes are tender.

* Remove the potato crust from the oven and spread the pesto over the potatoes using a rubber spatula. Top the pizza with the cooked chicken, pepper rings, feta and Parmesan cheese. Return the pizza to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until feta is softened and the pizza is heated through. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil and cut into wedges. Use a spatula to loosen the potato crust from the pan.

Makes 6 main-course servings, or 8 appetizer servings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Save a Prayer: A novel describes our Islamofascist future: a review of Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (John J. Miller, National Review)

In reading Prayers for the Assassin, it’s important to engage in what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called a “willing suspension of disbelief” — i.e., it’s essential to grant Ferrigno his unbelievable premise that a certain set of circumstances may arise to compel millions of Americans to convert to Islam. Once you allow this, everything else falls into place, because everything else about Ferrigno’s invented world feels utterly believable. If the imagined history that he describes actually were to happen — Ferrigno explains here why it’s not so farfetched — our world might be very much like the one laid out in Prayers for the Assassin.

This, in fact, may be the chief reward of the book: The creation of an alternate reality that abides by a set of internally consistent rules as well as a place that reminds us of what’s at stake in the war on terror. In Ferrigno’s future, the Superbowl is played at Khomeini Stadium, cab drivers have Osama and Zarqawi emblems dangling from their rearview mirrors, LAX is called Bin Laden International, Jews try to escape to Canada on a 21st-century version of the Underground Railroad, Disneyland is a slum overtaken by prostitutes, and radical Muslims have tried to blow up Mt. Rushmore just as the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. The clever blend of Islamic radicalism with American culture results in passages such as this:

Rakkim turned the page of the magazine. There was a full-page ad for the Palestine Adventures outside San Francisco, happy families waving to the camera, the kids in plastic suicide-belts, hoisting AK-47s to the sky. “You ever been to Palestine Adventures?”

Ferrigno has a sense of humor that is both black and wry: San Francisco, nicknamed “Sharia City,” has become a magnet for radicals. “They behead homosexuals at the Civic Center every week,” explains one character. A quick description of the Golden Gate Bridge (“renamed for an Afghan war lord”) is especially macabre.

All the while, Ferrigno’s future is a place full of complexity: The bad guys are Muslims, but so are the good guys. And even at the core of the new Islamic republic, there’s a grudging admiration for certain aspects of the non-Muslim world. As one character comments, “Those peckerwoods in the Bible Belt are black-hearted infidels and eaters of swine, but you have to admit, they know how to make soda pop.” That line is a joke, but one that’s pregnant with meaning.

Abdul Rahman and other heroes among us (Robert Ferrigno, 3/22/06)
One nation, under Allah: an interview with Robert Ferrigno: Orrin Judd interviews Robert Ferrigno, author of Prayers for the Assassin, a novel about the near future which posits a world where much of the United States has become an Islamic state (Orrin C. Judd, 3/20/06, Enter Stage Right)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Booming South Shore Line to add rail cars (Chicago Sun-Times, March 22, 2006)

With ridership growing, the South Shore Line is working on a $40 million plan to add passenger cars -- possibly including double-decker cars.

The South Shore Line's ridership grew 7.3 percent last year. For the first two months of this year, it has grown 10.7 percent.

"We are at capacity," said John Parsons, a spokesman for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the commuter rail line that runs between downtown Chicago and South Bend, Ind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


The mother of invention
(PAUL LIMA, 3/22/06, The Globe and Mail)

[W]hen it comes to filing patents to protect intellectual property, Canada lags behind other countries.

With 2,193 patents applied for in 2005, Canada ranked below Germany, China, Russia, Britain, Taiwan, Italy, Australia and Brazil, and just above Sweden and Spain, according to Thomson Scientific, part of the scientific and health care market segment of Thomson Corp.

Why the average performance?

"Canada is a resource-based nation lacking the technology-intensive nature of smaller countries like Finland and Sweden," said Thomas Keil, assistant professor, entrepreneurship, with the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. In addition, Canada has many branch plants, and patent applications are usually generated by head offices, he said.

"Patents and copyright are central mechanisms to foster innovation," Mr. Keil said. "Patents are the only tangible thing a small firm or inventor owns. With few resources and personnel and no brand, patents may be all they have. They are one of the motors that keep innovation going."

Does Mr. Lima have a psychological block?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Reports: Basque separatists announce 'permanent' ceasefire (Associated Press, 3/22/06)

The Basque separatist group ETA on Wednesday announced a permanent cease-fire, apparently bringing a dramatic end to nearly four decades of violence that claimed more than 800 lives, Basque television reported following a communiqué from the group.

Why keep fighting when you've already won. The devolution of Spain though illustrates the futility of trying to maintain the fiction that there is an Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Justices Limit Jurisdiction of States in Investor Suits (Reuters, 3/22/06)

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Merrill Lynch on Tuesday in a decision limiting shareholders' ability to bring certain class-action lawsuits in state courts.

The justices found that a 1998 law required that the suits be brought in the federal courts rather than state courts.

An 8-to-0 ruling, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, said, "The magnitude of the federal interest in protecting the integrity and efficient operation of the market for nationally traded securities cannot be overstated." [...]

A lawyer who represented Merrill in the case, Jay B. Kasner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, said the "decision impacts all public companies by closing an enormous loophole created by plaintiffs, which would have led to an avalanche of state law securities-fraud class actions accompanying virtually every federal securities class action."

Note both another unanimous opinion under the new Chief and that this is a matter that the Democrats' bagmen care about mightily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Brown takes on critics with £26bn gamble: Budget to include PFI expansion (Patrick Wintour, March 22, 2006, The Guardian)

The chancellor Gordon Brown will try to bury the Conservative charge that he is Labour's roadblock to reform when he uses his budget today to justify plans for a controversial £26bn expansion of the private finance initiative across 200 public sector projects.

His proposals, set out in a Treasury paper to be published alongside the budget, will infuriate the unions, especially the public sector union Unison. There had been widespread rumours that the Treasury had gone cool on PFI, which draws on private sector money to build and then run public sector projects such as hospitals and schools.

Today's report, published as part of Mr Brown's 10th budget, will reveal that the public sector has so far signed 700 PFI projects. Over the next four to five years the government plans to begin another 200 projects worth a total of £26bn, representing the largest programme of its kind in the world.

The announcement of such a sharp expansion of the scheme will cause controversy within the Labour movement.

Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown recognize that David Cameron's ascent forces them to fight for the title of Third Way reformers, even if the base of their party objects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Don't deport `honest' workers: Builder: Skills are critical for construction (RICHARD BRENNAN AND TONY WONG, 3/22/06, Toronto Star)

A prominent GTA developer has condemned the federal government for wanting to toss "honest, hard-working" illegal immigrants from Portugal and other countries out of Canada.

"There is definitely a shortage of workers in the construction industry right now, and it doesn't matter — from road building to plumber to bricklayers — there is a shortage," Silvio De Gasperis told the Toronto Star yesterday.

"This process should be stopped until they get a chance to review and assess the entire situation," said De Gasperis, one of the country's largest private developers. "Maybe if they did they would realize that the good families, the honest people, should be staying and working."

The economic realitry is that in a few years we'll all be bidding for the services of immigrants. In fact, places like Spain already are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Iraq War Vet in Close Race in Illinois (Eric Pianin, 3/22/06, Washington Post)

Illinois voters also picked a Republican nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. At 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Associated Press declared Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer and former state GOP party chairman, the winner; she led with 37.9 percent of the vote in a crowded five-candidate race. Blagojevich, whose administration has been embarrassed by a series of corruption investigations, fended off a challenge by Edwin Eisendrath, a former Chicago alderman. With 71.1 percent of precincts reporting, Blagojevich had won nearly 68 percent of the vote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues: Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million (Thomas B. Edsall, 3/22/06, Washington Post)

Among other new beneficiaries of federal funding during the Bush years are groups run by Christian conservatives, including those in the African American and Hispanic communities. Many of the leaders have been active Republicans and influential supporters of Bush's presidential campaigns.

Programs such as the Compassion Capital Fund, under the Health and Human Services, are designed to support religion-based social services, a goal that inevitably funnels money to organizations run by people who share Bush's conservative cultural agenda.

Similarly, when amorality was in fashion money went to groups allied with the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


France PM 'flexible' on job law (Caroline Wyatt, 3/22/06, BBC News)

French PM Dominique de Villepin has indicated he is willing to be flexible on at least one key element of a controversial youth employment law.

He said he is willing to cut the length of a trial period from two years.

Let's test it for one hour on Friday....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


After 3 years, Somalis struggle to adjust to U.S. (Rick Hampson, 3/22/06, USA TODAY)

[Dan] , a Portland (Ore.) State University professor involved in a national effort to study and assist the Somali Bantu, says almost all the men who can work do, usually in low-wage posts such as janitor, warehouse worker and orderly. Most of the men have learned some English. Many have bought cars and gotten driver's licenses.

Most of the women are isolated at home without a car and with several small children. Their only exposure to English is a volunteer tutor for a few hours once a week.

Bantus are determined to drive — so determined that many living in Connecticut, which does not offer the driver's test in Somali, have flown to Arizona, which allows them to take the test with a Somali-speaking interpreter. To fulfill the residency requirement, Abdiaziz says, they list the address of the relative or friend with whom they're staying. There is so much to learn about America.

Last winter, Hartford police were called after some newly arrived children were seen playing outside without coats or shoes, just like in Africa. On July 4, some Bantus in Springfield, Mass., were terrorized by what they thought was gunfire. "But at least we had them prepared for Halloween," says Robert Marmor, director of Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts, which helped resettle 250 Bantus.

For some Bantus, the adjustment has been particularly difficult:

•More than 200 Bantus ended up in homeless shelters last year in Columbus, Ohio. They'd moved to the city, which has a large Somali population, from the communities where they were originally settled, looking for work.

•The 100 Bantu families who were resettled in Pinellas County, Fla., in 2004, found jobs and housing so scarce that within a year all had moved elsewhere.

"We had no idea how hard it would be, even though we spent a year preparing for their arrival," says Marmor, the Springfield agency director. "We didn't realize there would be people with no knowledge of Western civilization."

The biggest problem, he says, is a lack of English, particularly among women. Their children also are not learning as fast as they should, partly because for the past two years there were only a few part-time Somali interpreters for about 90 Bantus spread among 20 Springfield public schools. (Last month, in response to a civil rights complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education by advocates of the Somalis, the school system agreed to hire more bilingual tutors and start after-school programs for the high school students.)

Overall, however, Marmor says he is struck by how much Bantus are like other refugees: "You could be talking to a Russian émigré from 1900. They want the same things — a job, a home, education for their children." Whatever their disadvantages, he adds, Bantus have passed other trials — bondage, war, the camps. "They may not have known what a door was," he says, "but they know how to survive."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


First impression’s a hit: Pena scores points at plate (Jeff Horrigan, March 22, 2006, Boston Herald)

Players scattered from the incoming liners in the outfield yesterday morning, when Wily Mo Pena took his first batting practice cuts at City of Palms Park as a member of the Red Sox.

It should be noted, of course, that the outfield where they were ducking for cover was on a neighboring practice field, at least 450 feet from where the mammoth slugger was taking his cuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Iran's supreme leader favors talks with USA on Iraq (AP, 3/22/06)

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday that he approves of proposed talks between U.S. and Iranian officials on Iraq, but warned that the United States must not try to "bully" Iran. [...]

Khamenei is considered the leader of hard-liners in Iran who largely prevented reformists from opening greater contacts with the United States. Still, under his rule, Iran has held lower-level talks with American officials, particularly in multilateral gatherings for efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and counter narcotics, for instance.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Friday that the talks could help Iraq form a government, while Ali Larijani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said Iran hopes the meetings will help lead to U.S. troop withdrawal.

Iran has considerable influence with Shiite political parties who dominate Iraq's parliament, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said U.S.-Iranian talks on Iraq could be "useful."

The Western press seems even worse at Ayatollology than they were at Kremlinology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Analyzing Baseball's Dream Dimension: a review of Fantasyland by Sam Walker (DAN BARRY, 3/22/06, NY Times)

If you hate baseball, the crossword puzzle is around here someplace. But if you adore baseball, if you think owning Thomas Jefferson's autograph or Oil Can Boyd's is a toss-up, then do not turn the page simply because this review concerns a book about that national pastime mutation called "fantasy baseball."

Fantasy baseball does not imagine, say, an outfield of Bettie Page, Yoda and Robin the Boy Wonder. But neither does it take into great account those aspects of the game often called the "little things": laying down a sacrifice bunt; hitting the cutoff man; using the least detectable steroids. This is because fantasy baseball is a cafeteria form of baseball, heavy on the carbohydrates, with no interest in all the spices that make the game so enticing.

Here is how fantasy, or rotisserie, baseball generally works, as neatly described by Sam Walker in his entertaining first book, "Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe." You and your colleagues enter teams in a virtual league, conduct an auction of Major League Baseball players while keeping within an established salary cap, and compete against one another by tracking the statistics of your players.

In a classic rotisserie league, only certain statistics usually help to determine the league's winner at season's end. For hitters: home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases and batting average. For pitchers: wins, saves, earned-run averages, and something called WHIP, which Mr. Walker explains is a formula for "walks allowed plus hits allowed divided by innings pitched."

If your head is now imploding because you never saw a WHIP statistic on a bubble-gum card, you are not alone — though if you think about it, the statistic makes sense.

For nearly a generation now, two camps have battled over how to assess a player's worth. The traditionalists, usually mocked as tobacco-stained scouts with radar guns, rely on old-fashioned statistics and gut feelings about the little things. The newcomers, usually mocked as college wonks who think a jockstrap is a BlackBerry accessory, use advanced formulas worthy of NASA and dismiss gut feelings and the little things as sentimental claptrap.

Mr. Walker addresses this scout-wonk struggle within Major League Baseball, but focuses more on a related phenomenon: the rotisserie leagues that have millions of participants — and you know who you are.

We've got your 411.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Called by God to Help (ROGER MAHONY, 3/22/06, NY Times)

I'VE received a lot of criticism for stating last month that I would instruct the priests of my archdiocese to disobey a proposed law that would subject them, as well as other church and humanitarian workers, to criminal penalties. The proposed Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week, would among other things subject to five years in prison anyone who "assists" an undocumented immigrant "to remain in the United States."

Some supporters of the bill have even accused the church of encouraging illegal immigration and meddling in politics. But I stand by my statement. Part of the mission of the Roman Catholic Church is to help people in need. It is our Gospel mandate, in which Christ instructs us to clothe the naked, feed the poor and welcome the stranger. Indeed, the Catholic Church, through Catholic Charities agencies around the country, is one of the largest nonprofit providers of social services in the nation, serving both citizens and immigrants.

Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need should not be made a crime, as the House bill decrees. As written, the proposed law is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.

While the nativists ask, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

March 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 PM

WHO WE IS (via Mike Daley):

Foreign Policy Speech (Tony Blair, 21 March 2006)

Over these past nine years, Britain has pursued a markedly different foreign policy. We have been strongly activist, justifying our actions, even if not always successfully, at least as much by reference to values as interests. We have constructed a foreign policy agenda that has sought to link, in values, military action in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq with diplomatic action on climate change, world trade, Africa and Palestine. I set out the basis for this in the Chicago speech of 1999 where I called for a doctrine of international community, and again in the speech to the US Congress in July 2003.

The basic thesis is that the defining characteristic of today's world is its interdependence; that whereas the economics of globalisation are well matured, the politics of globalisation are not; and that unless we articulate a common global policy based on common values, we risk chaos threatening our stability, economic and political, through letting extremism, conflict or injustice go unchecked.

The consequence of this thesis is a policy of engagement not isolation; and one that is active not reactive.

Confusingly, its proponents and opponents come from all sides of the political spectrum. So it is apparently a "neo-conservative" ie right wing view, to be ardently in favour of spreading democracy round the world; whilst others on the right take the view that this is dangerous and deluded - the only thing that matters is an immediate view of national interest. Some progressives see intervention as humanitarian and necessary; others take the view that provided dictators don't threaten our citizens directly, what they do with their own, is up to them.

The debate on world trade has thrown all sides into an orgy of political cross-dressing. Protectionist sentiment is rife on the left; on the right, there are calls for "economic patriotism"; meanwhile some voices left and right, are making the case for free trade not just on grounds of commerce but of justice.

The true division in foreign policy today is between: those who want the shop "open", or those who want it "closed"; those who believe that the long-term interests of a country lie in it being out there, engaged, interactive and those who think the short-term pain of such a policy and its decisions, too great. This division has strong echoes in debates not just over foreign policy and trade but also over immigration.

Progressives may implement policy differently from conservatives, but the fault lines are the same.

Where progressive and conservative policy can differ is that progressives are stronger on the challenges of poverty, climate change and trade justice. I have no doubt at all it is impossible to gain support for our values, unless the demand for justice is as strong as the demand for freedom; and the willingness to work in partnership with others is an avowed preference to going it alone, even if that may sometimes be necessary.

I believe we will not ever get real support for the tough action that may well be essential to safeguard our way of life; unless we also attack global poverty and environmental degradation or injustice with equal vigour.

Neither in defending this interventionist policy do I pretend that mistakes have not been made or that major problems do not confront us and there are many areas in which we have not intervened as effectively as I would wish, even if only by political pressure. Sudan, for example; the appalling deterioration in the conditions of the people of Zimbabwe; human rights in Burma; the virtual enslavement of the people of North Korea.

I also acknowledge - and shall at a later time expand on this point - that the state of the MEPP and the stand-off between Israel and Palestine remains a, perhaps the, real, genuine source of anger in the Arab and Muslim world that goes far beyond usual anti-western feeling. The issue of "even handedness" rankles deeply. I will set out later how we should respond to Hamas in a way that acknowledges its democratic mandate but seeks to make progress peacefully.

So this is not an attempt to deflect criticism or ignore the huge challenges which remain; but to set out the thinking behind the foreign policy we have pursued.

Over the next few weeks, I will outline the implication of this agenda in three speeches, including this one. In this, the first, I will describe how I believe we can defeat global terrorism and why I believe victory for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is a vital element of doing that. In the second, I shall outline the importance of a broad global alliance to achieve our common goals. In the third, in America, I shall say how the international institutions need radical reform to make them capable of implementing such an agenda, in a strong and effective multilateral way. But throughout all three, I want to stress why this concept of an international community, based on core, shared values, prepared actively to intervene and resolve problems, is an essential pre-condition of our future prosperity and stability.

It is in confronting global terrorism today that the sharpest debate and disagreement is found. Nowhere is the supposed "folly" of the interventionist case so loudly trumpeted as in this case. Here, so it is said, as the third anniversary of the Iraq conflict takes place, is the wreckage of such a world view. Under Saddam Iraq was "stable". Now its stability is in the balance. Ergo, it should never have been done.

This is essentially the product of the conventional view of foreign policy since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This view holds that there is no longer a defining issue in foreign policy. Countries should therefore manage their affairs and relationships according to their narrow national interests. The basic posture represented by this view is: not to provoke, to keep all as settled as it can be and cause no tectonic plates to move. It has its soft face in dealing with issues like global warming or Africa; and reserves its hard face only if directly attacked by another state, which is unlikely. It is a view which sees the world as not without challenge but basically calm, with a few nasty things lurking in deep waters, which it is best to avoid; but no major currents that inevitably threaten its placid surface. It believes the storms have been largely self-created.

This is the majority view of a large part of western opinion, certainly in Europe. According to this opinion, the policy of America since 9/11 has been a gross overreaction; George Bush is as much if not more of a threat to world peace as Osama bin Laden; and what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the Middle East, is an entirely understandable consequence of US/UK imperialism or worse, of just plain stupidity. Leave it all alone or at least treat it with sensitivity and it would all resolve itself in time; "it" never quite being defined, but just generally felt as anything that causes disruption.

This world view - which I would characterise as a doctrine of benign inactivity - sits in the commentator's seat, almost as a matter of principle. It has imposed a paradigm on world events that is extraordinary in its attraction and its scope. As we speak, Iraq is facing a crucial moment in its history: to unify and progress, under a government elected by its people for the first time in half a century; or to descend into sectarian strife, bringing a return to certain misery for millions. In Afghanistan, the same life choice for a nation, is being played out. And in many Arab and Muslim states, similar, though less publicised, struggles for democracy dominate their politics.

The effect of this paradigm is to see each setback in Iraq or Afghanistan, each revolting terrorist barbarity, each reverse for the forces of democracy or advance for the forces of tyranny as merely an illustration of the foolishness of our ever being there; as a reason why Saddam should have been left in place or the Taliban free to continue their alliance with Al Qaida. Those who still justify the interventions are treated with scorn.

Then, when terrorists strike in the nations like Britain or Spain, who supported such action, there is a groundswell of opinion formers keen to say, in effect, that it's hardly surprising - after all, if we do this to "their" countries, is it any wonder they do it to "ours"?

So the statement that Iraq or Afghanistan or Palestine or indeed Chechnya, Kashmir or half a dozen other troublespots is seen by extremists as fertile ground for their recruiting - a statement of the obvious - is elided with the notion that we have "caused" such recruitment or made terrorism worse, a notion that, on any sane analysis, has the most profound implications for democracy.

The easiest line for any politician seeking office in the West today is to attack American policy. A couple of weeks ago as I was addressing young Slovak students, one got up, denouncing US/UK policy in Iraq, fully bought in to the demonisation of the US, utterly oblivious to the fact that without the US and the liberation of his country, he would have been unable to ask such a question, let alone get an answer to it.

There is an interesting debate going on inside government today about how to counter extremism in British communities. Ministers have been advised never to use the term "Islamist extremist". It will give offence. It is true. It will. There are those - perfectly decent-minded people - who say the extremists who commit these acts of terrorism are not true Muslims. And, of course, they are right. They are no more proper Muslims than the Protestant bigot who murders a Catholic in Northern Ireland is a proper Christian. But, unfortunately, he is still a "Protestant" bigot. To say his religion is irrelevant is both completely to misunderstand his motive and to refuse to face up to the strain of extremism within his religion that has given rise to it.

Yet, in respect of radical Islam, the paradigm insists that to say what is true, is to provoke, to show insensitivity, to demonstrate the same qualities of purblind ignorance that leads us to suppose that Muslims view democracy or liberty in the same way we do.

Just as it lets go unchallenged the frequent refrain that it is to be expected that Muslim opinion will react violently to the invasion of Iraq: after all it is a Muslim country. Thus, the attitude is: we understand your sense of grievance; we acknowledge your anger at the invasion of a Muslim country; but to strike back through terrorism is wrong.

It is a posture of weakness, defeatism and most of all, deeply insulting to every Muslim who believes in freedom ie the majority. Instead of challenging the extremism, this attitude panders to it and therefore instead of choking it, feeds its growth.

None of this means, incidentally, that the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan was right; merely that it is nonsense to suggest it was done because the countries are Muslim.

I recall the video footage of Mohammed Sadiq Khan, the man who was the ringleader of the 7/7 bombers. There he was, complaining about the suppression of Muslims, the wickedness of America and Britain, calling on all fellow Muslims to fight us. And I thought: here is someone, brought up in this country, free to practise his religion, free to speak out, free to vote, with a good standard of living and every chance to raise a family in a decent way of life, talking about "us", the British, when his whole experience of "us" has been the very opposite of the message he is preaching. And in so far as he is angry about Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan let Iraqi or Afghan Muslims decide whether to be angry or not by ballot.

There was something tragic, terrible but also ridiculous about such a diatribe. He may have been born here. But his ideology wasn't. And that is why it has to be taken on, everywhere.

This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core. By this I don't mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive; and then since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran.

But in order to do this, we must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress; that if only we altered this decision or that, the extremism would fade away. The only way to win is: to recognise this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas, in which it operates, as linked; and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.

The roots of global terrorism and extremism are indeed deep. They reach right down through decades of alienation, victimhood and political oppression in the Arab and Muslim world. Yet this is not and never has been inevitable. The most remarkable thing about reading the Koran - in so far as it can be truly translated from the original Arabic - is to understand how progressive it is. I speak with great diffidence and humility as a member of another faith. I am not qualified to make any judgements. But as an outsider, the Koran strikes me as a reforming book, trying to return Judaism and Christianity to their origins, rather as reformers attempted with the Christian Church centuries later. It is inclusive. It extols science and knowledge and abhors superstition. It is practical and way ahead of its time in attitudes to marriage, women and governance.

Under its guidance, the spread of Islam and its dominance over previously Christian or pagan lands was breathtaking. Over centuries it founded an Empire, leading the world in discovery, art and culture. The standard bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian.

This is not the place to digress into a history of what subsequently happened. But by the early 20th century, after renaissance, reformation and enlightenment had swept over the Western world, the Muslim and Arab world was uncertain, insecure and on the defensive. Some countries like Turkey went for a muscular move to secularism. Others found themselves caught between colonisation, nascent nationalism, political oppression and religious radicalism. Muslims began to see the sorry state of Muslim countries as symptomatic of the sorry state of Islam. Political radicals became religious radicals and vice versa. Those in power tried to accommodate the resurgent Islamic radicalism by incorporating some of its leaders and some of its ideology. The result was nearly always disastrous. The religious radicalism was made respectable; the political radicalism suppressed and so in the minds of many, the cause of the two came together to symbolise the need for change. So many came to believe that the way of restoring the confidence and stability of Islam was the combination of religious extremism and populist politics.

The true enemies became "the West" and those Islamic leaders who co-operated with them.

The extremism may have started through religious doctrine and thought. But soon, in offshoots of the Muslim brotherhood, supported by Wahabi extremists and taught in some of the Madrassas of the Middle East and Asia, an ideology was born and exported around the world.

The worst terrorist act was 9/11 in New York and Washington DC in 2001, where three thousand people were murdered. But the reality is that many more had already died not just in acts of terrorism against Western interests, but in political insurrection and turmoil round the world. Over 100,000 died in Algeria. In Chechnya and Kashmir political causes that could have been resolved became brutally incapable of resolution under the pressure of terrorism. Today, in well over 30 or 40 countries terrorists are plotting action loosely linked with this ideology. Its roots are not superficial, therefore, they are deep, embedded now in the culture of many nations and capable of an eruption at any time.

The different aspects of this terrorism are linked. The struggle against terrorism in Madrid or London or Paris is the same as the struggle against the terrorist acts of Hezbollah in Lebanon or the PIJ in Palestine or rejectionist groups in Iraq. The murder of the innocent in Beslan is part of the same ideology that takes innocent lives in Saudi Arabia, the Yemen or Libya. And when Iran gives support to such terrorism, it becomes part of the same battle with the same ideology at its heart.

True the conventional view is that, for example, Iran is hostile to Al Qaida and therefore would never support its activities. But as we know from our own history of conflict, under the pressure of battle, alliances shift and change. Fundamentally, for this ideology, we are the enemy.

Which brings me to the fundamental point. "We" is not the West. "We" are as much Muslim as Christian or Jew or Hindu. "We" are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts.

This is not a clash between civilisations. It is a clash about civilisation. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence; between optimism and hope on the one hand; and pessimism and fear on the other. And in the era of globalisation where nations depend on each other and where our security is held in common or not at all, the outcome of this clash between extremism and progress is utterly determinative of our future here in Britain. We can no more opt out of this struggle than we can opt out of the climate changing around us. Inaction, pushing the responsibility on to America, deluding ourselves that this terrorism is an isolated series of individual incidents rather than a global movement and would go away if only we were more sensitive to its pretensions; this too is a policy. It is just that; it is a policy that is profoundly, fundamentally wrong.

And this is why the position of so much opinion on how to defeat this terrorism and on the continuing struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East is, in my judgement, so mistaken.

It ignores the true significance of the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact is: given the chance, the people wanted democracy. OK so they voted on religious or regional lines. That's not surprising, given the history. But there's not much doubt what all the main parties in both countries would prefer and it is neither theocratic nor secular dictatorship. The people - despite violence, intimidation, inexperience and often logistical nightmares - voted. Not a few. But in numbers large enough to shame many western democracies. They want Government decided by the people.

And who is trying to stop them? In Iraq, a mixture of foreign Jihadists, former Saddamists and rejectionist insurgents. In Afghanistan, a combination of drug barons, Taliban and Al Qaida.

In each case, US, UK and the forces of many other nations are there to help the indigenous security forces grow, to support the democratic process and to provide some clear bulwark against the terrorism that threatens it. In each case, full UN authority is in place. There was and is a debate about the legality of the original decision to remove Saddam. But since May 2003, the MNF has been in Iraq under a UN resolution and with the authority of the first ever elected Government. In Afghanistan throughout, UN authority has been in place.

In both countries, the armed forces and police service are taking shape so that in time a democratically elected government has, under its control, sufficient power to do the will of the democratic state. In each case again, people die queuing up to join such forces, determined whatever the risk, to be part of a new and different dispensation.

Of course, and wholly wrongly, there are abuses of human rights, mistakes made, things done that should not be done. There always were. But at least this time, someone demands redress; people are free to complain.

So here, in its most pure form, is a struggle between democracy and violence. People look back on the three years since the Iraq conflict; they point to the precarious nature of Iraq today and to those who have died - mainly in terrorist acts - and they say: how can it have been worth it?

But there is a different question to ask: why is it so important to the forces of reaction and violence to halt Iraq in its democratic tracks and tip it into sectarian war? Why do foreign terrorists from Al Qaida and its associates go across the border to kill and maim? Why does Syria not take stronger action to prevent them? Why does Iran meddle so furiously in the stability of Iraq?

Examine the propaganda poured into the minds of Arabs and Muslims. Every abuse at Abu Ghraib is exposed in detail; of course it is unacceptable but it is as if the only absence of due process in that part of the world is in prisons run by the Americans. Every conspiracy theory - from seizing Iraqi oil to imperial domination - is largely dusted down and repeated.

Why? The answer is that the reactionary elements know the importance of victory or defeat in Iraq. Right from the beginning, to them it was obvious. For sure, errors were made on our side. It is arguable that de-Baathification went too quickly and was spread too indiscriminately, especially amongst the armed forces. Though in parenthesis, the real worry, back in 2003 was a humanitarian crisis, which we avoided; and the pressure was all to de-Baathify faster.

But the basic problem from the murder of the United Nations staff in August 2003 onwards was simple: security. The reactionary elements were trying to de-rail both reconstruction and democracy by violence. Power and electricity became problems not through the indolence of either Iraqis or the MNF but through sabotage. People became frightened through terrorism and through criminal gangs, some deliberately released by Saddam.

These were not random acts. They were and are a strategy. When that strategy failed to push the MNF out of Iraq prematurely and failed to stop the voting; they turned to sectarian killing and outrage most notably February's savage and blasphemous destruction of the Shia Shrine at Samarra.

They know that if they can succeed either in Iraq or Afghanistan or indeed in Lebanon or anywhere else wanting to go the democratic route, then the choice of a modern democratic future for the Arab or Muslim world is dealt a potentially mortal blow. Likewise if they fail, and those countries become democracies and make progress and, in the case of Iraq, prosper rapidly as it would; then not merely is that a blow against their whole value system; but it is the most effective message possible against their wretched propaganda about America, the West, the rest of the world.

That to me is the painful irony of what is happening. They have so much clearer a sense of what is at stake. They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party. Every act of carnage adds to the death toll. But somehow it serves to indicate our responsibility for disorder, rather than the act of wickedness that causes it. For us, so much of our opinion believes that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong, that it is reluctant to accept what is plainly right now.

What happens in Iraq or Afghanistan today is not just crucial for the people in those countries or even in those regions; but for our security here and round the world. It is a cause that has none of the debatable nature of the decisions to go for regime change; it is an entirely noble one - to help people in need of our help in pursuit of liberty; and a self-interested one, since in their salvation lies our own security.

Naturally, the debate over the wisdom of the original decisions, especially in respect of Iraq will continue. Opponents will say Iraq was never a threat; there were no WMD; the drug trade in Afghanistan continues. I will point out Iraq was indeed a threat as two regional wars, 14 UN resolutions and the final report of the Iraq Survey Group show; that in the aftermath of the Iraq War we secured major advances on WMD not least the new relationship with Libya and the shutting down of the AQ Khan network; and that it was the Taliban who manipulated the drug trade and in any event housed Al Qaida and its training camps.

But whatever the conclusion to this debate, if there ever is one, the fact is that now, whatever the rights and wrongs of how and why Saddam and the Taliban were removed, there is an obvious, clear and overwhelming reason for supporting the people of those countries in their desire for democracy.

I might point out too that in both countries supporters of the ideology represented by Saddam and Mullah Omar are free to stand in elections and on the rare occasions they dare to do so, don't win many votes.

Across the Arab and Muslim world such a struggle for democracy and liberty continues. One reason I am so passionate about Turkey's membership of the EU is precisely because it enhances the possibility of a good outcome to such a struggle. It should be our task to empower and support those in favour of uniting Islam and democracy, everywhere.

To do this, we must fight the ideas of the extremists, not just their actions; and stand up for and not walk away from those engaged in a life or death battle for freedom. The fact of their courage in doing so should give us courage; their determination should lend us strength; their embrace of democratic values, which do not belong to any race, religion or nation, but are universal, should reinforce our own confidence in those values.

Shortly after Saddam fell, I met in London a woman who after years of exile - and there were 4 million such exiles - had returned to Iraq to participate in modern politics there. A couple of months later, she was assassinated, one of the first to be so. I cannot tell what she would say now. But I do know it would not be: give up. She would not want her sacrifice for her beliefs to be in vain.

Two years later the same ideology killed people on the streets of London, and for the same reason. To stop cultures, faiths and races living in harmony; to deter those who see greater openness to others as a mark of humanity's progress; to disrupt the very thing that makes London special would in time, if allowed to, set Iraq on a course of progress too.

This is, ultimately, a battle about modernity. Some of it can only be conducted and won within Islam itself. But don't let us in our desire not to speak of what we can only imperfectly understand; or our wish not to trespass on sensitive feelings, end up accepting the premise of the very people fighting us.

The extremism is not the true voice of Islam. Neither is that voice necessarily to be found in those who are from one part only of Islamic thought, however assertively that voice makes itself heard. It is, as ever, to be found in the calm, but too often unheard beliefs of the many Muslims, millions of them the world over, including in Europe, who want what we all want: to be ourselves free and for others to be free also; who regard tolerance as a virtue and respect for the faith of others as part of our own faith. That is what this battle is about, within Islam and outside of it; it is a battle of values and progress; and therefore it is one we must win.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


Government economist calls for boosting foreign labor (Japan Times, 3/22/06)

A scholar involved in the government's efforts to formulate a new economic strategy based on globalization called on Japan on Monday to accept more foreign labor as its rapidly aging population continues to shrink.

Motoshige Ito, professor of economics at the University of Tokyo, said at the Foreign Press Center that the need for foreign laborers will rise in such areas as nursing, medical care and housekeeping because the number of working women is expected to climb as the labor shortage kicks in.

Expecting the demand for foreign laborers to grow, Ito said, "We have to provide adequate care to support the livelihood of foreign workers in education and other areas."

A shining bastion of closed borders falls....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 PM


We want our money back (Christopher Hope, Jeff Randall and George Jones, 22/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Labour was plunged into a full-blown financial crisis last night after millionaire businessmen embarrassed by the disclosure that they had made "secret" loans insisted on the party paying back at least £6.5 million.

The threat of Labour being bankrupted by the loans scandal came as Scotland Yard announced that it had opened an investigation into the alleged sale of peerages.

At least five of the 12 businessmen who lent almost £14 million to Labour last year expect to be repaid, a survey by The Daily Telegraph has found.

The five - including Chai Patel, Rod Aldridge, Sir Christopher Evans and Barry Townsley - advanced £6.5 million in total. All said they wanted the money back. About £3.5 million is due this year, with the remainder expected in 2008.

Typically, the businessmen have charged 6.5 per cent interest, which means the figure eventually repaid by Labour will be much higher. City experts believe the party could be running up interest charges of £1 million a year.

Exposing the loans was supposed to be an easy way for the Left to take out Tony Blair, but they're imploding the whole party in their zeal to get him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:48 PM


Vietnam-era deserter sorry he did it (The Associated Press, 3/20/06)

A Vietnam war-era deserter who was caught crossing into the United States and held for a week recently says he made a mistake when he went AWOL from the Marine Corps in 1968 and fled to Vancouver.

"When I was 18, I wasn't aware that duty and honor would mean as much to me as they do now," Allen Abney, 56, told a news conference Monday in this southeast British Columbia town.

"Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have done what I did 38 years ago," he said. "It wasn't worth it, all the pain I caused my family."

Abney said new anti-terrorist requirements for identification resulted in his arrest at the Eastport crossing at the northern end of the Idaho Panhandle.

He had used the same crossing countless times before, but March 9 was the first time he had to show his birth certificate as identification.

When the Customs agent asked him to pull over, Abney said, he looked at his wife and said, "I'm screwed."

Tell it to the South Vietnamese.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


Maligning McCain (Howard Kurtz, 3/21/06, Washington Post)

John McCain has always gotten great press, especially since he started riding around New Hampshire in a bus in 1999 and conducting rolling news conferences with reporters that would last for hours.

McCain fell short in that election, of course, but he emerged as the media's favorite maverick. In the first Bush term, McCain won some battles in which he challenged his own party--on campaign finance reform and an anti-torture amendment--that further burnished his legend as an independent truth-teller. John Kerry, you may recall, even begged him to run on the Democratic ticket.

During that whole time, McCain never presented himself as anything other than a rock-ribbed conservative, albeit one who took moderate stances on a few issues. I lost track of the number of liberals who told me privately that they would vote for McCain, even though they disagreed with him on a whole bunch of things, because they viewed him as a leader, war hero and straight talker.

But now, in the early maneuvering for 2008, the Arizona senator (who has been going out of his way to back the battered Bush) is seen in many quarters as the front-runner. And, the ridiculously early CW goes, if he gets the GOP nomination, he would be a good bet to win the White House.

The result: The left is trying to rough him up a bit.

He is, some commentators are shocked to discover, not just a Republican but a conservative.

If the press can figure out he's conservative how far behind can conservatives themselves be?

Posted by David Cohen at 4:29 PM


Iraqi diplomat gave U.S. prewar WMD details: Saddam’s foreign minister told CIA the truth, so why didn’t agency listen? (Aram Roston, Lisa Myers, NBC News, 3/20/06)

In the period before the Iraq war, the CIA and the Bush administration erroneously believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding major programs for weapons of mass destruction. Now NBC News has learned that for a short time the CIA had contact with a secret source at the highest levels within Saddam Hussein’s government, who gave them information far more accurate than what they believed. It is a spy story that has never been told before, and raises new questions about prewar intelligence....

The sources say Sabri’s answers were much more accurate than his proclamations to the United Nations, where he demonized the U.S. and defended Saddam. At the same time, they also were closer to reality than the CIA's estimates, as spelled out in its October 2002 intelligence estimate.

For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war. The CIA said Saddam had an "active" program for "R&D, production and weaponization" for biological agents such as anthrax. Intelligence sources say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program. Sabri was right. After the war, it became clear that there was no program.

Another key issue was the nuclear question: How far away was Saddam from having a bomb? The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in "several months to a year." Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that. Sabri was more accurate.

On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much as "500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents" and had "renewed" production of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had "poison gas" left over from the first Gulf War. Both Sabri and the agency were wrong.

Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall at NBC News this week:
Editor: What have we got for the third anniversary of the wa... excuse, Bush's reckless war?

Reporter 1: I've got a report on how international anti-war protests are sweeping the world, demonstrating that Bush has squandered the world's traditional love of all things American.

Reporter 2: I've got a report on two Harvard proffessors who say that Israeli lobbyists have captured American foreign policy.

Reporter 3: Uh, bad news, boss. I've got a report that the Iraqi Foreign Minister was passing Iraqi secrets along to the CIA before the war, including that Iraq was stockpiling WMD's, was in violation of the UN's resolutions and that Saddam still wanted to get his hands on a nuclear bomb.

Ed: We can't use that. Wait, did he say anything that was contrary to the administration?

Reporter 3: He denied that Iraq had any active WMD programs....

Ed: Great, run with that. Can't you guys even recognize the lede when you stumble over it?

Posted by David Cohen at 3:23 PM


Iraqi soldiers graduate Humvee course, receive two dozen new Humvees (US Army, 3/21/06)

Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division received 24 High Mobility, Multi-wheeled Vehicles (Humvees) yesterday after graduating from a three-week Humvee licensing and preventive maintenance course.

More than 20 enlisted soldiers were recognized in a formal graduation ceremony, where they received certificates of completion from the commanding general of the 2nd Brigade and the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 7, Col. W. Blake Crowe....

“We get new vehicles to help us fight terrorism,” said one Iraqi Army officer following the graduation. “Now, we can help our battalions with convoys and use this vehicle to help support our battalions. There are future bad days for the insurgents.”...

Greene and a handful of his Marines worked “day and night” with the Iraqi soldiers to complete the training.
Lance Cpl. Jonathan B. Vest, a 20-year-old Marine mechanic from Claremore, Okla., spent countless hours under the hoods of the vehicles with the Iraqi soldiers, and says he was impressed by their eagerness to learn.

“They’re fast learners,” said Vest. “Most of them were in one of the Humvees the whole time. It shows that progress is being made and that they are improving.”

I know that Americans aren't paying any attentioin, but I have to wonder if anyone else has noticed that we're going to leave the Iraqis with the second-best army in the region.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


The Mystery of the Numbers: We all love movies that make us laugh, even in the worst of times—and from B&C's annual baseball preview, 2006 edition. (Michael R. Stevens, 03/20/06, Books & Culture)

I can't begin to cover all the angles that 27 essays in the volume use to approach the game, let alone account for the motherlode of new formulae and extensive acronyms that now apply (my favorite, from a rhetorician's perspective, is PAP—Pitcher Abuse Points). But I'll mention a few of the essays that reveal the tension of the old-school baseball fan in the face of the new statistical onslaught. Chapter 4-1, "What If Rickey Henderson Had Pete Incaviglia's Legs?" by James Click, is an extended meditation on the overvaluation given to stolen bases as compared to simply sound baserunning. Now here is the difficulty: those of us who watched Rickey in his prime know that he was among the most exciting, nerve-wracking players of our time (and that's a long time, since he played for a quarter century!). But the harsh numbers reveal a different story. After factoring in the sliding-scale (no pun, I swear!) for stolen-base value by inning, and the damage done by the infamous "caught stealing," James Click reveals the unthinkable: "In a typical season, the difference between a great baserunner and a terrible one is significantly smaller than between the best and worst hitters in the league. If Henderson hadn't stolen a single base in 1982, the A's would have lost about 2 runs on the season, or about one-fifth of a game. If he'd been as good as Incaviglia on the basepaths over his career, he would have contributed about 5 fewer wins in 25 seasons. He was fun to watch, but the first rule of baserunning is 'don't get caught,' advice Henderson disobeyed more than 700 times. Taking the extra base is good, but getting on base and eventually scoring is better." Scoring runs and accruing wins—that resounds like a chorus throughout the essays, biting into our nostalgia and sentiment. It is clearly a book written for General Managers and their ilk, guardians of efficiency and maximum return on investment.

But there is a bit of baseball's poetry still flowing amidst the numbers. In Chapter 2-1, "Why Are Pitchers So Unpredictable?" by Keith Woolner and Dayn Perry (a chapter of immediate interest to any Cub fans glancing at the table of contents), we witness the question eloquently analyzed: "An intricate web of interrelated and overlapping actions must ultimately align to deliver a successful pitch." The faultiness of the notion of ERA, which doesn't even correlate to runs scored or winning and losing, and is tied painfully into defensive performance, invites the creation of DIPS ERA (defense-independent pitching statistics). Here, only the situations that a pitcher can control—strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs—are factored in. Then, the authors apply the kind of exactitude that makes this book maddening and compelling by further tweaking home-run rate into groundball-tendency rate, to get as accurate a read as possible on what a pitcher can control. The final claim is thus a bold departure from the usual head-scratching about finicky pitching stats: "Pitchers are unpredictable in that they're more likely to get injured or fatigued than any other player on the diamond. But when it comes to measuring a pitcher's performance by the numbers, only flawed, context-dependent measures such as wins and ERA make them unpredictable. Use the right measures, and pitching performance becomes less enigmatic."

Indeed, many of the essays thrust daggers at the heart of cherished baseball stratagems, daggers wrought of carefully derived numerical margins and the bottom-line of scoring/preventing runs and earning wins. The onslaught is most obvious in the provocative Chapter 3.4 "Is Joe Torre a Hall of Fame Manager?" by James Click, where we are introduced to the rather startling notion that almost all traditional managerial moves are destructive! Hence, "the primary conclusion to be taken from this analysis is that nearly every manager costs his team wins through overuse of these strategies. Only six times in thirty-three years has any manager used sacrifice attempts, stolen base attempts, and intentional walks to increase his team's win expectation over an entire. Even the best managers cost their team more than a game per season by employing these tactics." So much for "the inside game"!

Elsewhere, in the essay "Was Billy Martin Crazy?" (bite your tongues—I'm a virulent Yankees fan), we hear from James Click that "Batting order simply does not make that much difference … Teams without a player of Bond's caliber could gain about 10 runs (1 win) a year by routinely batting their players in order of descending OBP [on-base percentage]." Another item mentioned in several of the essays is the misuse of bullpens in contemporary baseball; James Click laments "the near complete absence of bullpen innovation in modern baseball," and Keith Woolner responds to his own question "Are Teams Letting Their Closers Go to Waste?" by pointing out that "This is one area where the refinement of strategy has actually taken us away from the optimal usage pattern. During the 'stopper' era of the 1970's, it was common to see a relief ace such as Rollie Fingers or Goose Gossage come in as early as the sixth inning to halt a nascent rally. That was the smart way to go. Focusing on situational leverage, rather than the accumulation of easy ninth-inning saves, is the best way to get the most out of a relief ace." Once again, a commonly held strategy is shown to be counter-productive, and we are left enlightened and yet frustrated. We have to rethink the basics of the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Dem Focus on Unmarried Voters Ducks Their Problem (Peter Brown, 3/21/06, Real Clear Politics)

There they go again.

Democrats lost the 2004 presidential election even though they met the party's goal of turning out more of their targeted voters.

Now they have decided to target a new demographic group. But, that group is made up of mostly the same people they have focused on over the years during which they lost their grip on the nation's political power.

Their new target: unmarried people, especially single women.

The real problem is that Statism requires that people be sufficiently atomized from one another and from countervailing social institutions that they are completely dependent on government. Because single women are the natural constituency of the Democrats the party has a vested interest in keeping them that way. Their political success depends on maintaining the insecurity of their supposed constituents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM

NALPAK DERF (via Pepys):

If Only …: The lessons of our Iraqi bungles. (Fred Kaplan, March 20, 2006, Slate)

A question worth mulling, on this third anniversary of the war that President Bush told us was over and won two years and 10 months ago, is this: Were the fiascos inevitable—built-in products of the nature of the war itself—or could they have been avoided, or at least might their impact have been minimized, if President Bush and his top advisers had made smarter decisions?

This isn't the stuff of parlor games; it's a vital question. If the disasters were inescapable, then we shouldn't get involved ever again in this sort of war. If they were preventable, then maybe these broader issues of war and peace can't be settled by this particular conflict, but we can draw the lesson that we should elect less dogmatic leaders; and the officers and advisers who counseled against those decisions, who turned out to be right all along, can draw the lesson that they should speak out more boldly, perhaps even resign in protest, if they find themselves mired in such catastrophes again.

So, let us review the key strategic bungles of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the pivotal moments in this anguishing chronicle—not the decisions that seem mistaken only in hindsight (a too-easy enterprise), but those that some senior officials saw and warned about as mistaken at the time.

It'll surprise no one that Mr. Kaplan flags all the wrong things as mistakes, which is not to say we didn't make several. Here is a better list of things we should have done differently:

(1) We should have helped the Shi'ites overthrow Saddam in '91. Not only was rule by Saddam antithetical to every American ideal, but having encouraged the rising we bore moral responsibility for it. Because we instead helped him to put down the rebellion and then imposed and maintained sanctions for over ten years it was unrealistic to expect the Shi'ites to be particulalry enthusiastic about our return in '03. we earned their distrust, perhaps even enmity.

(2) We should have recognized Kurdistan as a sovereign state after peeling it off from Iraq in '91. Maintaining the fiction that it was still part of a greater Iraq served no one well. Helping the Kurds to create a viable democratic state would have served as important example of how benign our intentions in the Middle East really are.

(3) We should have had a transitional government up ande ready to accept a handover of sovereignty in Iraq before we began the regime change. This government would have needed Ayatollah Sistani's stamp of approval, but that wouldn't have been a problem, and would have had to be clearly designated as just a temporary authority until elections could be held.

(4) Whether there should have been less troops in the initial invasion or not--it seems likely there should have been--the ones that were sent should have been drawn down much quicker. Structuring the post-war period as an occupation treated the Shi'ite majority of the Iraqi people as the vanquished enemy rather than as Saddam's victims--like they were the Germans after WWII when they were much closer to being the Jews.

The revealing thing about this set of mistakes is that they all represent instances when we didn't act sufficiently in accord with our own liberationist theology, didn't trust the Iraqi people and their natural desire for democracy enough. The lessons they teach all have to do with our being more rigorous in applying the ideas that underlie the crusade for liberty as we move forward to take on other oppressive regimes in the future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


In full pursuit of democracy (Tod Lindberg, March 21, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Mr. Fukuyama, in "The End of History and the Last Man," posited classically liberal, democratic capitalism as the final answer to the question of how the world's political economy would be organized, a system beyond the reach of serious challenge by any ideological competitor. Going forward, how the challenge of radical Islam fits into this scheme is an unsettled question. But the more important element of Mr. Fukuyama's analysis was his twofold explanation of why democraticcapitalism prevails.

The first element was simply its success: The command economies of the Soviet era were failures, and the productive capacity of the West (broadly construed) outstrips that of all other economic "models." Insofar as a serious challenge to the democratic capitalist order would require resources at a level that could be competitive, other systems, such as communism and national socialism, are simply unable to generate them over the long run.

That's the material element. But Mr. Fukuyama also explored another avenue, this time of a "spiritual" nature, underlying the material circumstances. He described democratic capitalism as the system that best satisfies people's desire for mutual recognition as free and equal human beings, a desire Mr. Fukuyama described as fundamental.

As far as I am able to make out (without yet having read his new book), Mr. Fukuyama now regards the first element of his explanation as decisive and the second as problematic. In reviewing his previous work, he has characterized "The End of History" as essentially a thesis about globalization. The element of psychic satisfaction is much diminished.

That becomes a problem because the Bush administration is all about the psychic satisfaction of liberal democracy. As the new National Security Strategy itself notes, "we believe that the desire for freedom lives in every human heart and the imperative of human dignity transcends all nations and cultures." Hence the administration's stated goal of "ending tyranny" and democratic transformation.

Now, good things, in the administration's reckoning, follow from this: "Governments that honor their citizens' dignity and desire for freedom tend to uphold responsible conduct toward other nations." But the point is that this analysis begins from a Fukuyamian premise no longer embraced by Mr. Fukuyama, who has become much more interested in the vexing questions of cultural impediments and individual psychological impediments to acceptance of democracy as a form of satisfaction.

Isn't Mr. Fukuyama stuck arguing that suicide bombing is a viable long term competitor to liberal democracy for providing psychic satisfaction?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Showtime in Illinois (Tom Bevan, 3/20/06, Real Clear Politics)

Tomorrow is primary day in Illinois and there are three races to watch. The first, and biggest, is the GOP primary for Governor which has essentially boiled down to a two person race between moderate Judy Baar Topinka and conservative Jim Oberweis.

Topinka is the only Republican currently holding statewide office (Treasurer) which demonstrates her appeal in a state where the GOP has basically been reduced to a smoldering heap of ruins. [...]

Oberweis, the multimillionaire dairy magnate and financial services manager, is a two-time loser for the GOP Senate nomination, most recently in 2004 when he made a name for himself - in a bad way - with an over the top anti-immigrant TV spot that had him flying in a helicopter over Soldier Field. [...]

However, Oberweis has problems of his own, which include an alternative conservative candidate pulling double digits (State Senator Bill Brady, 15%) and a penchant for making himself look silly by daring his opponents to draw straws for the nomination and passing out coupons for free ice cream wherever he goes. Frankly, Oberweis would be more of a threat if he wasn't such a bad candidate. Be that as it may, Oberweis may have a good enough organization to make this one close.

Ex-Governor Casts a Shadow Over GOP Race: The five Republican candidates in the Illinois primary have made the disgraced George H. Ryan an issue, which might backfire (P.J. Huffstutter, March 21, 2006, LA Times)
In the buildup to today's Republican primary election for governor in Illinois, it has been all but impossible to ignore the campaign bluster over the George H. Ryan factor.

Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer and onetime leader of the Illinois Republican Party, is leading the polls in the five-way fight and is seen as the party's best chance to unseat incumbent Democrat Rod Blagojevich. [...]

Oberweis has had to battle against his own connections to Ryan. He has admitted that he sought Ryan's support while making a bid in the 2004 GOP primary for U.S. Senate. And one of Oberweis' deputy campaign managers, Brad Roseberry, was subpoenaed to testify at Ryan's trial. Roseberry told jurors that, while on the clock as a state employee, he spent the majority of his time campaigning for Ryan and other GOP candidates.

The IL GOP is exactly inept enough to nominate a terrible candidate just for ideology sake. It took a lot of Republican effort to put a guy like Rod Blagojevich in office, but it'll take superhuman stupidity to keep him there.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:27 AM


Islamic preacher ripped for reform push: Popular Egyptian televangelist tries to bridge Islam and West (AP, 3/20/06)

Islamic televangelist Amr Khaled is young, smiling, teaches love and mercy and is so popular he's credited with inspiring thousands of women -- turned off by dour, traditional clerics -- to take on the veil.

Now he's putting his popularity on the line by trying a new role, as a bridge between Islam and the West at a time when many are talking about a clash of civilizations.

In the process, Khaled is sometimes telling the faithful what they're not used to hearing from clerics -- that Muslims aren't blameless in tensions, that the West is not always bad and that dialogue is better than confrontation.

"A young Muslim goes to Europe with a forged visa, takes unemployment insurance there, then goes on TV and says, 'We're going to expel you from Britain, take your land, money and women,'" Khaled said recently on his weekly program on the Saudi satellite TV channel Iqraa, trying to explain mistrust of Muslims in Europe. "It's a rare example but it exists."

The idea that Islam is fundamentally different from its brother religions is no more likely to survive than the idea that Muslims are fundamentally different from other human beings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


U.S. eyes privatizing cargo security work (Audrey Hudson, 3/21/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Homeland Security officials are looking to have private companies validate the security procedures under which cargo travels from foreign ports into U.S. terminals.

The program, which would give speedier entry to U.S. ports to ships and suppliers that meet the security standards, is now in the hands of 80 Homeland Security inspectors who have to plow through more than 10,000 applicants.

Although Homeland Security plans to hire an additional 40 inspectors in the coming months, the department also is looking to outsource to private companies some of its duties, in particular the validation process, which has dragged for years and involves on-site inspections of ships and cargo abroad.

The port hysterics have handed Democrats the weapon with which to thwart such privatization of government functions, thereby damaging the conservative agenda. And so are nativism, isolationism and protectionism an iron triangle...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Bangkok shrine attacker is killed (BBC, 3/21/06)

A Muslim man has been beaten to death in Thailand after attacking a Hindu shrine in the capital, Bangkok.

Rather than trying to make flag burning illegal again the states out to make lethal retaliation legal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Freedom, Yes, Iraqis Say, But at Great, Grave Cost: Contrasts to Hussein Era Leave Some Hopeful, Others Bitter (John Ward Anderson and Omar Fekeiki, 3/21/06, Washington Post)

Sardar Muhsin Maheed, 25, a student at Mosul University, said too many people blamed the occupation for all of Iraq's ills. He traced most problems to Hussein, suggesting that issues such as the poor economy are legacies of the ousted president.

"The U.S. has liberated us from Saddam and his oppression," he said. "We are not ready to form a democratic state, and that is because of the burden left by Saddam's regime."

Another of Hussein's legacies, he said, was sectarian tension in the country. An Iraqi government has been democratically elected, but the politicians and their parties are creating a new Iraq based on religious and ethnic interests.

Luay Mohammed, a 57-year-old Sunni Arab who spent 35 years working for the Education Ministry, said he was forced to retire because the government and the ministry are now run by Shiite Muslims. His son could not get a job "because he is not a Shiite and he did not suffer" under Hussein, Mohammed said, his voice laced with bitterness and sarcasm.

"We've been waiting for years for true democracy to come, a democracy that makes everybody live and work together with respect and love. But here it is: a democracy with maximum chaos," he said. Now, all of his sons have cellular telephones -- not because it is hip or because of a communications boom, but because the security situation demands it. "This is what democracy has brought us."

The U.N. sanctions that had been imposed on Hussein's government have been lifted, and a vibrant free press has emerged. But unemployment is stuck between 27 and 40 percent, while oil production -- which the government counts on to generate 90 percent of its revenue -- remains below prewar levels.

"The toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime was worth everything," said Fakhri Fikry Kareem, owner and publisher of the daily Meda newspaper, one of more than 100 newspapers that have begun publishing in Iraq since Hussein's fall. Despite a rocket attack on his office, a bomb attack on his car and the killing of three of his reporters, Kareem said: "I have never felt as free to speak any day in my life as today. If George Bush did anything good, it was toppling Saddam Hussein."

Kareem, 63, said he opposed the war. While drinking Turkish coffee and fingering a long string of worry beads in his Baghdad living room, he talked of what might have been, suggesting that perhaps the United States could have removed Hussein without starting a broader conflict.

"I am not pessimistic," he said. "But I'm upset, because the war and the occupation, which could have led to a new situation in Iraq, were squandered by the stupid mistakes committed by the American administration and military and the U.S. representatives in Iraq."

Subhi Nadhem Tawfik, a professor at Baghdad University's Center for Strategic Studies, said people no longer believed that helping Iraq was foremost on the U.S. agenda during the invasion. "The U.S. has won a tremendous strategic victory," which has come increasingly at the expense of Iraq, he said.

"With the occupation of Iraq, the strategic significance of all the states in the region was diminished," Tawfik said.

When you consider the loss of life required, the money wasted and the time it took to liberate Poland from Hitler and the Bolsheviks it's hard to take complaints about Iraq too seriously. The most legitimate complaint, as with Eastern Europe, is that we should have liberated them at the end of the first war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Call for action in schools as racist crime in Scotland hits all-time high (MICHAEL HOWIE, 3/21/06, The Scotsman)

MORE racist crimes are being recorded by Scottish police than ever before, with offences running 11 per cent higher than last year, a Scotsman investigation has revealed.

The total number of racist incidents recorded by police is set to exceed 4,800 in the year to the end of April - compared to 4,349 in 2004-5.

Since police began recording racist crimes in 2000, the number of incidents has soared by around 75 per cent.

It's just a peek into Europe's future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


The President's Crown Jewel (Robert T. McLean, March 21, 2006,

While it is a widely held belief that Prime Minister Singh has minimal interest in helping the United States balance China, recent Chinese strategic advances in the Indian Ocean have the potential of encircling his country. Beijing has been strengthening its long-held alliance with Pakistan and is in the process of developing the Port of Gwadar, providing China with access to the Arabian Sea to India’s west. To the East, Beijing hopes to establish a semi-client state in Burma and currently exerts more influence with the military regime than any other external actor. These developments, coupled with disputed border lines and Chinese military advances, leave India as a natural ally of the United States and undoubtedly have factored into Singh’s assessments.

The strengthening of relations between Washington and Delhi has already had an effect on trade between the two countries. This is essential for the United States because as trade continues to grow, so too does America’s trade deficit with India. The imbalance reached over $1.2 billion in favor of New Delhi in the month of January alone. The Bush administration – in particular, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who also made the trip – is actively seeking Indian measures to lower its trade barriers to allow more American products to enter India’s vast and expanding market. Efforts to increase American capital into India were made during the early March trip as business leaders from both countries discussed ways to encourage investment in physical infrastructure, such as turning Bombay into a regional financial center. [...]

Militarily advantages to the United States from this partnership are clear. India’s potential for manpower alone could be significant in any future conflict and New Delhi has been offered both F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft from the Pentagon. Since 2002, India and the United States have conducted thirty joint military operations. According to Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Indians are also building three carrier fleets and have stepped up regional cooperation with neighbors such as Singapore and Sri Lanka to counter China’s quest for influence on India’s periphery.

Of equal importance, the growing alliance with New Delhi will produce concrete geopolitical gains for the United States. India has traditionally been rather hostile to American interests in international forums, such as the United Nations. However, New Delhi decided to join the United States at the IAEA on Iran, and increased congruency will continue to arise as the partnership strengthens and the Washington expands its influence with India.

As President Bush noted as he concluded his trip to India, “the United States and India, separated by half the globe, are closer than ever before and the partnership between our free nations has the power to transform the world.” Washington and New Delhi are united by a relatively parallel set of interests and values. While there will inevitably be situations that arise where our interests may vary, it is likely that India will emerge with Japan – and perhaps South Korea – as the principal American allies in Asia. The ramifications of such a development are large, and the United States, as well as the president’s legacy, will be rewarded immeasurably.

Little mentioned in regard to the India/America alliance is the vital aspect that if the Middle East were to prove unReformable the Indians cover its Eastern flank.

Getting India Right (Parag Khanna and C. Raja Mohan, February/March 2006, Policy Review)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


I'm boss, Hil tells Bill: Senator's word is now 'final,' says the ex-Prez (KENNETH R. BAZINET, 3/21/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

After being surprised by her husband's role in the Dubai ports deal, Sen. Hillary Clinton has insisted that Bill Clinton give her "final say" over what he says and does, well-placed sources said.

...because this cries out for several weeks of strips on the president with his manhood in a blind trust. Humor always backfires on the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Asia's young democracies are showing their age (Paul Wiseman, 3/20/06, USA TODAY)

Across East Asia, young democracies are struggling with street demonstrations, impeachment drives, autocratic and erratic elected leaders and political battles that have nothing to do with the challenges of governing complex, changing societies.

"I am frankly worried" about the fragility of democracy in the region, [Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution] says. Consider:

•The Philippines continues to struggle with the legacy of two People Power revolutions — one that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos and established democracy in 1986 and one that ousted Estrada in 2001 and replaced him with his technocratic vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Now Arroyo, facing allegations of corruption and electoral fraud, is fending off calls for her resignation. She declared a weeklong state of emergency Feb. 24, charging that her opponents in the military and on the far left were planning a coup.

•In Taiwan, which emerged from martial law in 1987 and held its first free presidential election in 1996, opposition parties want second-term President Chen Shui-bian impeached. About 20,000 people turned out Sunday in Taipei to challenge his policies and legitimacy.

The president's party suffered big losses in local elections in December. He has responded by trying to rally his base in the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. Most recently, he closed a government office dedicated to working toward eventual reunion with China — a move that risked conflict with China and defied warnings from the United States. Chen also has played up divisions between "mainlanders" who fled across the Taiwan Strait after communists took over China in 1949 and "native" Taiwanese, who support his party. "The deep, polarizing division over national identity ... has retarded the process of democratic maturation in Taiwan," Diamond says.

•South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae Chan resigned last week after coming under fire for playing golf during a national railway strike. The episode blew up into a scandal when it was revealed that Lee's golf partners included a man with a criminal record. Even so, "the way he was shot down did not involve a substantive issue," says Byung Kook Kim, director of the East Asia Institute, a Seoul think tank.

The incident was typical for the region, where weak and immature political parties focus on exposing opponents' supposed ethical lapses instead of on policy.

Following the lead of our own immature Democratic Party?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Belle and Sebastian pouring out their souls — again (Ross Raihala, 3/21/06, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

When Belle and Sebastian emerged a decade ago, the Scottish seven-piece instantly built a cult following based on what it didn't do. The band didn't conduct interviews, pose for publicity photos or embark on proper tours.

Those idiosyncrasies — coupled with leader Stuart Murdoch's insular, wry lyrics — proved to be polarizing. Detractors branded Belle and Sebastian's music as the soundtrack for tea-sipping, poetry-reading shut-ins, while fans passionately declared the band the most important of its ilk since the Smiths.

Those aren't quite polar opposites.

-AUDIO: Belle and Sebastian Concert (, March 6, 2006)
-Belle and Sebastian (NPR, March 02, 2006, Here and Now)
-Belle and Sebastian: 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress' (Steve Inskeep, October 12, 2003, All Things Considered)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Cuba falls to Japan in final (Jack Etkin, March 21, 2006, Rocky Mountain News)

The possibility of players from Cuba rolling around American soil in their distinctive red uniforms and celebrating could have sent shudders through the State Department and made commissioner Bud Selig and others in Major League Baseball's hierarchy a bit uneasy.

Japan prevented that outcome with a 10-6 victory, but not before Cuba came roaring back Monday in the final of the World Baseball Classic and a crowd of 42,696 at Petco Park was treated to an abbreviated, and somewhat muted, late-inning touch that was distinctly American and very local.

After Cuba cut the lead to 6-5 on a two-run home run in the eighth by Frederich Cepeda, Akinori Otsuka came out of Japan's bullpen. He spent the past two years in a setup role for the San Diego Padres before being traded to Texas in the off-season.

As Otsuka ran onto the field, Hells Bells - the AC/DC song that blares out to theatrically accompany the appearance of closer Trevor Hoffman - was played for Otsuka, who pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to earn the save and had asked the Padres reliever for permission to use the song. He retired the two batters he faced in the eighth, and Japan, able to exhale, broke the game open with four runs in the ninth.

Those are 50 dry feet on the other side....

March 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM


My Ideal War: How the international community should have responded to Bush's September 2002 U.N. speech. (Christopher Hitchens, March 20, 2006, Slate)

So, now I come at last to my ideal war. Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read. Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that? Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: Mr. President, in principle you are correct. The list of flouted U.N. resolutions is disgracefully long. Law has been broken, genocide has been committed, other member-states have been invaded, and our own weapons inspectors insulted and coerced and cheated. Let us all collectively decide how to move long-suffering Iraq into the post-Saddam era. We shall need to consider how much to set aside to rebuild the Iraqi economy, how to sponsor free elections, how to recuperate the devastated areas of the marshes and Kurdistan, how to try the war criminals, and how many multinational forces to ready for this task. In the meantime—this is of special importance—all governments will make it unmistakably plain to Saddam Hussein that he can count on nobody to save him. All Iraqi diplomats outside the country, and all officers and officials within it, will receive the single message that it is time for them to switch sides or face the consequences. Then, when we are ready, we shall issue a unanimous ultimatum backed by the threat of overwhelming force. We call on all democratic forces in all countries to prepare to lend a hand to the Iraqi people and assist them in recovering from more than three decades of fascism and war.

Not a huge amount to ask, when you think about it. But what did the president get instead? The threat of unilateral veto from Paris, Moscow, and Beijing. Private assurances to Saddam Hussein from members of the U.N. Security Council. Pharisaic fatuities from the United Nations' secretary-general, who had never had a single problem wheeling and dealing with Baghdad. The refusal to reappoint Rolf Ekeus—the only serious man in the U.N. inspectorate—to the job of invigilation. A tirade of opprobrium, accusing Bush of everything from an oil grab to a vendetta on behalf of his father to a secret subordination to a Jewish cabal. Platforms set up in major cities so that crowds could be harangued by hardened supporters of Milosevic and Saddam, some of them paid out of the oil-for-food bordello.

Well, if everyone else is allowed to rewind the tape and replay it, so can I. We could have been living in a different world, and so could the people of Iraq, and I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.

Note that the ideal is what we did and that it's most everyone else who failed the test.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Oil prices fall by more than $2 a barrel (Associated Press, 3/20/06)

Oil prices fell by more than $2 a barrel today, maintaining downward momentum from late last week after OPEC lowered its demand forecasts and U.S. crude oil inventories grew.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Hispanic Catholics Celebrate Faith in Harmony: Worshipers Jam D.C. Armory for Weekend Revival (Mary Otto, 3/19/06, Washington Post)

Sister Olga Lucia Parado had the crowd of thousands moving. Long habit swaying to the beat of the drums, she belted out a lively cumbia and cried Aleluya !

And why not?

"God made the salsa," said Manuel Aviles, looking on yesterday at the swaying throngs in the D.C. Armory. "God made the merengue."

A vast, weekend-long revival and celebration of faith was expected to draw 10,000 Hispanic Catholics to the Washington region's second Encuentro Catolico to sing and pray, weep and dance.

Yesterday, there were rosaries and electric guitars, incense and drums, priests clapping and laborers forgetting their cares as the revival unfolded.

The excitement of the preachers and drummers seemed akin to evangelical and Pentecostal styles of worship that, in recent years, have attracted many Hispanics away from their 500-year-old Catholic traditions. But Catholics too have started to embrace a more charismatic approach, especially in places such as the metro area, where thanks to immigration, the Hispanic population is estimated at more than 575,000 -- although many believe the number is much higher.

It's not competition for souls, said the Rev. Jose Eugenio Hoyos, director of the Spanish Apostolate for the Diocese of Arlington.

"We can't compete for the love of God," he said. This style of worship is "an expression through music to show God is alive."

That is why Ecuadorean-born Ligia Pasquel said she came yesterday -- to bask in the music and the comfort of faith. Immigration can be lonely, said Pasquel, who lives in Silver Spring. Life as a house-cleaner can be hard.

Yet, she added, "God is all the time in my life."

"There is a lot of healing," agreed Jose Morris Gutierrez, a Salvadoran-born plumber, leading his 5-year-old daughter, Belen, by the hand.

He said many in the crowd are struggling.

"They live in a house with no heat, no hot water. They came here to feel better."

In case you ever wondered why the folks who opposed Harriet Miers are so anti-immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


If Bush ruled the world (William Pfaff, MARCH 20, 2006, International Herald Tribune)

Intellectual poverty is the most striking quality of the Bush administration's new National Security Strategy statement, issued on Thursday. Its overall incoherence, its clichés and stereotyped phraseology give the impression that Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, and his fellow authors assembled it from the boilerplate of bureaucratic discourse with contempt for the Congress to whom it is primarily addressed.

It reveals the administration's foreign policy as a lumpy stew of discredited neoconservative ideas with some neo- Kissingerian geopolitics now mixed in.

The statement's only visible purpose is to address a further threat to Iran, as its predecessor, in 2002, threatened Iraq. The only actual "strategy" that can be deduced from it is that the Bush administration wishes to rule the world. The document is nonsensical in content, insulting to other nations and unachievable in declared intention.

If people read it to find a statement of American foreign policy's objective, they will learn that the United States has "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Good luck.

Luck? We've increased the number of free states from 40 in 1975 to almost 90 now--luck has had nothing to do with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Best job market in 5 years for grads: report (Reuters, 3/20/06)

U.S. college graduates are facing the best job market since 2001, with business, computer, engineering, education and health care grads in highest demand, a report by an employment consulting firm showed on Monday.

"We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In its annual outlook of entry-level jobs, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said strong job growth and falling unemployment makes this spring the hottest job market for America's 1.4 million college graduates since the dot-com collapse in 2001.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Social Security reform rejected (Amy Fagan, March 20, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Last week, during the Senate budget debate, Republicans raised the issue of Social Security reform, and Democrats -- surprised that the issue won't go away -- pledged to make it a major campaign issue this year. [...]

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, offered the proposal, which would have let Congress create a reserve fund protected under budget rules to save the Social Security surplus to pay for future benefits instead of other federal programs, as happens now.

"There is simply no way to save Social Security if we don't have the courage to stop using the surplus as a secret slush fund," Mr. DeMint said. "We will not be deterred by cynics who offer no solutions."

The Senate defeated the proposal 53-46, with eight Republicans voting no, but Democrats still called it a step towards creating the Social Security private accounts that President Bush wants.

Mr. Schumer pledged to tell voters that electing a Democratic Senate is the only way to "make sure Social Security isn't privatized."

"Any time there's an opportunity to privatize Social Security, they'll take it," said Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat. He said the DeMint proposal was "evidence today that they're going to stick with it."

Mr. Bush's proposal to let individuals divert a part of the Social Security's payroll tax into personal retirement accounts was "soundly rejected by the American people," yet Republicans still pursue it, Mr. Baucus said.

Perhaps Mr. Baucus didn't notice, but George Bush won two presidential elections on SS privatization. The American people have soundly endorsed it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


One nation, under Allah: an interview with Robert Ferrigno: Orrin Judd interviews Robert Ferrigno, author of Prayers for the Assassin, a novel about the near future which posits a world where much of the United States has become an Islamic state (Orrin C. Judd, 3/20/06, Enter Stage Right)

Best-selling novelist Robert Ferrigno burst onto the crime thriller scene with his critically-acclaimed 1990 debut, The Horse Latitudes. With his penchant for rendering truly scary psycho-killer villains against a sunny Southern California backdrop, he soon developed a reputation for delivering a combination of what NY Times mystery reviewer Marilyn Stasio termed, "frantic energy" and "macabre fun." But his new futuristic thriller, Prayers for the Assassin, represents a considerable departure.

In the year 2040, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Mecca have all been devastated by nuclear warheads, the attacks admitted to by Mossad agents who were trying to drive a wedge between the West and the Islamic world (giving the event the title the Zionist Betrayal). The resulting chaos has led to the creation of an Islamic States of America, making up most of the Northern and Western states of the old Union. An uneasy truce exists with the Bible Belt states of the South after a long civil war, and the Catholic Church is tolerated, but the federal government is essentially an Islamic republic.

Within this richly imagined context, Mr. Ferrigno sets the story of Rakkim Epps, a former elite soldier in the American Fedayeen, and Sarah Dougan, a young historian who has uncovered evidence that casts doubt on the official version of the Zionist Betrayal. The two were raised by Redbeard, the head of State Security -- Rakkim an orphan he found on the street; Sarah, the daughter of Redbeard's assassinated brother. When Sarah disappears, Redbeard asks the estranged Rakkim to find her, without revealing why she's gone into hiding. As he searches, Rakkim soon finds himself shadowed by Darwin, an assassin and psychopath, who serves the Wise Old One, a fundamentalist leader who thinks Redbeard and others in the government too moderate.

All of the author's usual chops are on full display, so fans and thriller readers will be satisfied, but the background he provides will interest even policy wonks and political mavens. Fiction is used here to make us consider why a billion people choose Islam and whether it's too far-fetched to think that Americans might find it attractive under the right circumstances. As Mark Steyn said in his review, "If it's a choice between the defeatism and self-loathing of the Piss Christified West and a stern unyielding eternal Allah, maybe it's Islam that will prove the great seducer."

Mr. Ferrigno kindly took time out from his author's tour to answer some questions about where he got his ideas for the novel and what he hopes readers will take away from it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Student Riots Shake France to the Core: It's youth against the establishment in France as university students battle a planned labor market reform. Just like in 1968, the revolt threatens to paralyze the entire nation. With a sluggish economy, though, France desperately needs labor market improvements. (Mathieu von Rohr, 3/20/06, Der Spiegel)

At first glance, the demonstrations recall what happens whenever the Grande Nation tries to catch up with social change. The government enacts a reform, protestors take to the streets to voice their opposition, and in the end, the government backs down from its position. But this time, it may turn out differently. This time, it looks as though Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin may have little other choice than to push through the contentious legislation, even in the face of fierce opposition.

Wanna bet?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM

THE DEMOCRATS' MESSAGE (via Bryan Francoeur):


[W]hen March 18 finally arrived, there was no one single big rally to unify everyone who was against the war and/or against the government. Inevitably, this fracturing of the movement caused all the various events to attract substantially lower attendance than in previous years, even when the number of attendees at all the March 18 events were added together. According to reasonable estimates, no more than 10,000 people showed up at the main ANSWER rally (a total that seems about right, according to my personal observation). The Anarchist Bookfair drew a few thousand throughout the day. And most of the suburban rallies drew a few hundred each, though a couple may have been in the low thousands.

There was no way one person could cover all the rallies, so I attended both San Francisco events.

This first photo essay covers the ANSWER "Global Day of Action" rally that started at San Francisco's Civic Center around noon. At the bottom of this page you will find a link to my report on the Anarchist Bookfair, which I visited later in the afternoon.

The GOP ought to run this as an ad with Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Ted Kennedy, etc. intercut between the rest of the crowd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Heading to Canada, freed Chinese dissident held by Thais
(GEOFFREY YORK, 3/20/06, Globe and Mail)

Seventeen years after a recklessly courageous anti-Maoist gesture, Lu Decheng has served his prison time and paid his price. But even now, on the verge of freedom in Canada, he cannot escape the long arm of Chinese repression.

The veteran Chinese dissident, who fled to Thailand after spending nine years in a Chinese prison for splashing red paint on the famous Mao portrait in Tiananmen Square, has found himself unexpectedly blocked from refuge in Canada -- even with a Canadian visa in hand. [...]

Mr. Lu's case could become an early test of the foreign policies of the Stephen Harper government in Ottawa, which has pledged to support human rights in China. Under the previous government, many Conservative MPs complained that the Liberals were ignoring human rights in their scramble for Chinese business deals. [...]

NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough urged Ottawa to take action. "In opposition the Conservatives expressed concerns over Chinese human-rights violations, now in government they have an opportunity to prove those concerns were genuine," she said. "The federal government must convince the Chinese government to allow Mr. Decheng to come to Canada."

But the case might also trigger a new diplomatic clash between Beijing and Ottawa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


The way forward for Iraq hinges on the US's way out: Western experts agree that Iraq is not yet lost, but differ on how to withdraw (Mark Sappenfield and Mark Rice-Oxley, 3/20/06, CS Monitor)

[T]o many others, Iraqi leaders won't be forced to make the hard decisions until the security blanket of coalition forces is gone - or at least on its way out. "With the new government, we're going to have to talk tough," says former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, who oversaw America's gradual withdrawal from Vietnam. "If we don't start moving, we're never going to get them to realize that they have to fulfill their responsibilities."

He contends that South Vietnam fell only when Congress decided to cut support to the South Vietnamese military - two years after the withdrawal of troops. "Let [the Iraqis] know that we will stand with them," he says.

The key is to keep Ted Kennedy from killing this ally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Chirac may back down over job law backlash (Colin Randall, 20/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

President Jacques Chirac was under pressure from the threat of a general strike over France's new employment law.

The unrest could force his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, to perform a humiliating climb-down.

Hard to believe them capable of being humiliated any more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


Behind Louisiana Aid Package, a Change of Heart by One Man (SHAILA DEWAN, 3/20/06, NY Times)

Louisiana was in a foul mood on the February day that President Bush's Gulf Coast rebuilding coordinator, Donald E. Powell, stood before an audience of fellow bankers in Baton Rouge.

Two weeks before, the administration had rejected Louisiana's housing recovery plan. Mr. Powell's own idea of housing aid excluded thousands of homeowners, many of them poor, who lived in the flood plain but did not have flood insurance when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Asked about those who had counted on federally built levees to protect them, Mr. Powell, a wealthy man from the dry Texas Panhandle, noted that he had been responsible enough to buy flood insurance for his home in Amarillo.

The members of the Louisiana Bankers Association were not won over. Nor was The Advocate, Baton Rouge's newspaper, which demanded Mr. Powell's dismissal, calling him a "flint-souled" bean counter whose only concern was "guarding the money."

Those with a more charitable view, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, among them, complained that he lacked the authority to be effective, and some critics wondered if he was simply another presidential crony.

But barely a week would pass before Mr. Powell did an about-face that turned many of his critics into fans, showing that not only had he listened to the locals, but also that his conclusions had carried weight with Mr. Bush.

With Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Mayor C. Ray Nagin at his side, Mr. Powell announced that the president would seek $4.2 billion more for Louisiana to compensate homeowners — even those in the flood plain.

Mr. Powell's epiphany came after hours of listening to Louisianians: the decision makers; the woman who cleaned his room at the Sheraton; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the wife of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (whom he called after hearing she was a Louisiana native); the inspectors examining high-water marks in homes. As he drove through New Orleans with Mr. Bush on March 8, he pointed to a small restaurant in the Ninth Ward and rattled off the owner's real estate woes.

"He had a learning experience," said Walter Isaacson, vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. "It's the most amazing thing for somebody of his stature. It's because by himself, he walked around. He walked around and talked to people."

Mr. Powell says walking about in the region incognito, in blue jeans and boots, is becoming a bit harder now that people are starting to recognize him. "I went with no preconceived thoughts," he said. "And I realized that while Mississippi was an act of God, Louisiana was an act of God and man. There were some flaws. The levees breached."

Last week, Mr. Powell spent much of his time lobbying House members, successfully, to preserve the appropriation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn (ERIK ECKHOLM, 3/20/06, NY Times)

Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.

Focusing more closely than ever on the life patterns of young black men, the new studies, by experts at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other institutions, show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men are becoming ever more disconnected from the mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men. [...]

"There's something very different happening with young black men, and it's something we can no longer ignore," said Ronald B. Mincy, professor of social work at Columbia University and editor of "Black Males Left Behind" (Urban Institute Press, 2006).

"Over the last two decades, the economy did great," Mr. Mincy said, "and low-skilled women, helped by public policy, latched onto it. But young black men were falling farther back."

Many of the new studies go beyond the traditional approaches to looking at the plight of black men, especially when it comes to determining the scope of joblessness. For example, official unemployment rates can be misleading because they do not include those not seeking work or incarcerated.

"If you look at the numbers, the 1990's was a bad decade for young black men, even though it had the best labor market in 30 years," said Harry J. Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and co-author, with Peter Edelman and Paul Offner, of "Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men" (Urban Institute Press, 2006).

In response to the worsening situation for young black men, a growing number of programs are placing as much importance on teaching life skills — like parenting, conflict resolution and character building — as they are on teaching job skills.

Lucky we got our first black president in 2000.

Governor Bush delivers remarks at the Republican National Convention (August 3, 2000)

[I] come from a different place and it has made me a different leader. In Midland, Texas, where I grew up, the town motto was, "The sky's the limit," and we believed it. There was a restless energy, a basic conviction that with hard work, anybody could succeed and everybody deserved a chance.

Our sense of community -- our sense of community was just as strong as that sense of promise. Neighbors helped each other. There were dry wells and sand storms to keep you humble, life-long friends to take your side, and churches to remind us that every soul is equal in value and equal in need.

This background leaves more than an accent, it leaves an outlook: optimistic, impatient with pretense, confident that people can chart their own course in life.

That background may lack the polish of Washington. Then again, I don't have a lot of things that come with Washington. I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.

The largest lesson I learned in Midland still guides me as governor of Texas: Everyone, from immigrant to entrepreneur, has an equal claim on this country's promise. So we improved our schools dramatically for children of every accent, of every background. We moved people from welfare to work. We strengthened our juvenile justice laws. Our budgets have been balanced with surpluses. And we cut taxes, not only once, but twice.

We accomplished a lot.

I don't deserve all the credit, and I don't attempt to take it. I work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done.

A bittersweet part of tonight is that someone is missing, the late lieutenant government of Texas, Bob Bullock.

Bob was a Democrat, a crusty veteran of Texas politics, and my great friend. We worked side by side, he endorsed my re-election, and I know he is with me in spirit in saying to those who would malign our state for political gain: Don't mess with Texas.*

As governor, I've made difficult decisions and stood by them under pressure.

I've been where the buck stops in business and in government. I've been a chief executive who sets an agenda, sets big goals, and rallies people to believe and achieve them. I am proud of this record, and I am prepared for the work ahead.

If you give me your trust, I will honor it. Grant me a mandate, I will use it. Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead.

And we need a leader to seize the opportunities of this new century: the new cures of medicine, the amazing technologies that will drive our economy and keep the peace. But our new economy must never forget the old, unfinished struggle for human dignity. And here we face a challenge to the very heart and founding premise of our nation.

A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grownup crimes. Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.

Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised his hand and asked a haunting question, "What do you think of me?" He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle: Is their hope for me? Do I have a chance? And, frankly, do you, a white man in a suit,* really care about what happens to me?

A small voice, but it speaks for so many: single moms struggling to feed the kids and pay the rent; immigrants starting a hard life in a new world; children without fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship or drugs promise peace, and where sex sadly seems the closest thing to belong. We are their country too. And each of us must share in its promise or the promise is diminished for all.

If that boy in Marlin believes he's trapped and worthless and hopeless, if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him, and we're all diminished.

When these problems are not confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth, technology, education and ambition. On the other side of that wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair. And my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall.

Big government is not the answer, but the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.

This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground, we will lead our nation.

We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve.

We will transform today's housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own.

And in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantry and crisis pregnancy centers, people reclaiming their communities block by block and heart by heart.

I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called Sharing and Caring Hands serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless and sends them off with new socks and shoes. "Look after your feet," she tells them. "They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God."

Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

Yet, government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired. My administration will give taxpayers new incentives to donate to charity, encourage after-school programs that build character, and support mentoring groups that shape and save young lives.

We must give our children a spirit of moral courage because their character is our destiny.

We must tell them -- we must tell them -- we must tell them with confidence that drugs and alcohol can destroy you, and bigotry disfigures the heart.

Our schools must support the ideals of parents, elevating character and abstinence from afterthoughts to urgent goals.

We must help protect our children in our schools and streets, and by finally and strictly enforcing our nation's gun laws.

But most of all, we must teach our children the values that defeat violence. I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life -- the life of the elderly and sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn.

Good people can disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption, parental notification. And when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.

Behind every goal I've talked about tonight is a great hope for our country. A hundred years from now this must not be remembered as an age rich in possession and poor in ideals.

Instead, we must usher in an era of responsibility.

My generation tested limits, and our country in some ways is better for it. Women are now treated more equally.

Racial progress has been steady; it's still too slow. We're learning to protect...

... we're learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back.

At times we lost our way, but we're coming home.

So many of us held our first child and saw a better self reflected in her eyes. And in that family love, many have found the sign and symbol of an even greater love, and have been touched by faith.

We discovered that who we are is more than important than what we have. And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.

This is the vision of America's founders. They never saw our nation's greatness in rising wealth or in advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial.

Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was to occupy the land with character. And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal, to occupy the land with character.

In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks, work that only we can do. Each of us is responsible to love and guide our children and to help a neighbor in need. Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible, not only to worship, but to serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Iranians See Talks With U.S. as Historic: Desire for Improving Ties Grew With Population Too Young to Recall Hostage Crisis (Karl Vick, March 20, 2006, Washington Post )

Iran's acceptance of direct talks with the United States over Iraq is being regarded among Iranians as a major foreign policy development, a historic if still tentative departure from 27 years of official enmity that held the government of the "Great Satan" as one to be spoken against, but never with.

"America's objective in inviting Iran for talks is to send a message to Islamic movements throughout the world that Iran gave in to Washington after 27 years of resistance," Kayhan, a hard-line daily newspaper, warned Saturday in an editorial that analysts said underscored the significance of Iran's shift.

"Announce as soon as possible that you won't have any dialogue with the U.S. and avoid entering a destructive trap that has been prepared for Islamic Iran," the editorial continued.

W ought to go there ASAP.

Realism pushes US and Iran a bit closer: Mutual interest in Iraq's future will bring the two together for first time since '03 - but to what end? (Howard LaFranchi, 3/20/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

A mutual interest in a stable Iraq is driving Washington and Tehran - two otherwise increasingly antagonistic capitals - to sit down and talk. [...]

In Iran, "efforts to talk to the US may well be the work of foreign ministry pragmatists [in Tehran] reasserting their influence" over the extremist stance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, adds [Daniel Brumberg, a professor of comparative government at Georgetown University in Washington.]. For these pragmatists, landing in the Security Council is the direct result of Mr. Ahmadinejad's confrontational antics, and they may see in Iraq a way to start undoing the damage.

The Realists in Iran recognize that their future is American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Why are the French so ready to take to the streets? Maybe because, unlike the British, they have something worth fighting for (Stuart Jeffries, March 20, 2006, The Guardian)

Last week I had the misfortune to watch a DVD of Bernardo Bertolucci's film The Innocents. It's an old sex pest of a film about a libidinous, incestuous threesome in Paris, 1968. When the brother and sister light a Molotov cocktail behind a barricade at the picture's insufferable denouement, I was rooting for the CRS - the nasty, brutish and futuristically attired French riot police. Please, I urged Bertolucci, let them break at least two finely chiselled Gallic jaws. I had suffered pointlessly for two hours, so now it was their turn. It didn't happen.

Then I flicked over to the news, where those Parisian streets had become a battleground again. The CRS, in even more barmily chic outfits, were getting pelted with rocks. No less dressed up for the televised ritual were the sons and daughters of soixant-huitards. With their hoodies up, they wore getaway trainers and, often, ski goggles to nullify the effects of CS gas.

I was torn between admiration and contempt - the latter because street radicalism often seems poised to collapse into narcissistic posturing.

Collapse? Protesting against having to do your job well starts as narcissistic posturing, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Ballpark figures: Sports economists agree that cities--and taxpayers--get close to nothing from spending public money on sports teams. What they haven't figured out is why we're still doing it. (Drake Bennett, March 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

WHEN A TEAM WANTS money, and it's usually money for a new stadium, it commissions an economic impact study. The predicted economic impact tends to be dramatic. The study the accounting firm Ernst & Young did for the proposed New York Jets stadium in Manhattan predicted that it would bring in $72.5 million in additional annual tax revenue. A similar study by the consulting firm Economics Research Associates, ERA, calculated that the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas, due to open in 2009, will add between $12.48 billion and $27.65 billion to the county economy over an estimated 30-year lifespan.

Independent economists dismiss these numbers. Much of the envisioned economic impact, they argue, comes from the money spent by fans, either on tickets or concessions or in nearby restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and the like. The problem with this argument, economists say, is that most families, whether they keep a budget or not, spend a finite amount of money on entertainment. As Vanderbilt University economist John Siegfried puts it, ''What are people going to with their money if they don't spend it on the Red Sox, flush it down the toilet? No, they'll spend it on something else: books, maybe, or bowling, things that Boston would benefit just as much from."

As for new jobs, sports teams and their stadiums do create them, but remarkably inefficiently, according to Roger Noll, an economics professor at Stanford University and co-editor, with Zimbalist, of ''Sports, Jobs, and Taxes" (1997), one of the most comprehensive works on the public funding of sports. In Baltimore, he says, the cost per job created by Camden Yards was $125,000, whereas for the city's other urban redevelopment programs it was $6,000 per job. And $125,000, according to Noll, is actually pretty efficient for a sports stadium.

University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson puts it another way. ''Cities would be better off," he says, ''if the mayor were to go up in a helicopter and dump out $100,000." [...]

ACCORDING TO Siegfried, there's a remarkable agreement on these points. In economics, he says, ''with most empirical issues there's lots of debate. Does the minimum wage cause unemployment? There's lots of debate about that issue. Here there's no debate." Even the consulting firm ERA put out an issue paper, back in 1995, cautioning against ''overblown claims of the economic value of major league sports teams" and concluding that, ''Compared with more traditional public investments of scarce economic development dollars. . .sports facilities are a rather poor investment."

But if public subsidies for sports teams are such an incontrovertibly bad idea, why is a city like Washington, D.C., still willing to pay $611 million for a sports stadium? Sports economists point, with varying degrees of frustration, to a combination of politics and unfortunate economic realities.

Major league sports, they argue, are essentially monopolies: They can ensure that the number of teams always stays below the number of cities that can support one. In economic terms, this creates a scarcity of supply and thereby drives up the ''price"-in subsidies, favorable land terms, or stadium lease deals-that a team can demand. Chicago built the White Sox a new stadium to keep them from moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., in the late '80s, for example. More recently, Nashville had to agree to build a new stadium to lure the former Houston Oilers to town.

Politicians, who like the publicity that comes from being associated with a major league sports team, see sports subsidies as a particularly glamorous use of public money-and are particularly vulnerable to the allure of gaining a team or the pain of losing one. As a business sector, major league sports is fairly small, and yet, points out Clemson economics professor Raymond Sauer, ''It's the only sector with its own section in every major newspaper in the country. It's an attention getter, so it's very natural for political people to align themselves with sports projects."

Still, there are also less cynical explanations. Mark Rosentraub, dean of the college of urban affairs at Cleveland State University, has consulted on a number of stadium projects, and has been vocally skeptical of many of them. But he believes that well-thought-out projects can benefit cities. Though they don't create economic growth, he argues, stadiums like Camden Yards and San Francisco's SBC Park (which was built almost entirely without public funds) have helped guide it.

The natural pattern of development, Rosentraub asserts, tends to be sprawl, but stadiums can function as focal points around which apartment buildings, stores, restaurants, and bars cluster. And they can help bring back hollowed-out downtown areas. In San Diego, the Padres' new Petco Park turned a desolate area full of abandoned lots and storage facilities into a landscape of luxury condominiums and boutique hotels. Washington is hoping a new stadium will do the same for the city's blighted Anacostia neighborhood. Of the recent stadium deal, Washington Mayor Anthony Williams's office has said the ''exciting economic revival" the stadium would trigger, ''will benefit our whole city for generations to come."

OF COURSE, THERE'S ANOTHER, more familiar factor that can skew the models of economists and planners alike. Many people, Rosentraub points out, just really like sports, and in a way that falls outside traditional measures of cost and benefit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Afghan man faces death for Christian conversion (Daniel Cooney, March 20, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under the country's Islamic laws, a judge said yesterday.

The trial is thought to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take here four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.

Parliamentarianism and capitalism are fine, but protestantism is the necessary third component of a healthy society at the End of History.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


Gene scientist's new venture: Create life, use it to make fuel (Michael S. Rosenwald, 3/20/06, The Washington Post)

Maverick biologist J. Craig Venter wants to cure our addiction to oil. To do so, he proposes creating a designer microbe — the heart of a biological engine — from scratch, then adding genes culled from the sea to turn crops such as switch grass and cornstalks into ethanol.

While he's at it, he'd like to modify or devise microorganisms to produce a steady stream of hydrogen. [...]

Current production methods of ethanol rely on using corn kernels, which are converted into sugar, fermented to produce alcohol and then distilled into ethanol. Meeting the country's energy needs using that method could eventually strain the food supply, particularly for animals that feed off corn.

Ethanol can be produced other ways, though it is more difficult. One way is to use plant matter such as switch grass, cornstalks or corn husks and break it down into cellulose using a combination of enzymes.

Until energy prices skyrocketed, that option was far more expensive than using oil, and the cost of building a plant was prohibitive. Technology is bringing the cost down, and biotech companies are lining up to advance the technology further.

Patrinos thinks Synthetic Genomics can reduce costs even further by using either a soup of microbes or genetically designed ones to perform, in essentially one place, all the biological functions needed to break down the plant material and turn it into ethanol.

Sun shines on solar IPOs: Markets have turned on to its potential; but vast capital is still needed to flip the switch (TYLER HAMILTON, Mar. 20, 2006, Toronto Sun)

By all accounts, the solar market is busting at the seams. Unprecedented global demand for solar photovoltaic technology has led to a shortage in polysilicon, a key ingredient for making conventional solar PV cells. Lack of silicon has meant lack of solar modules, creating frustration for suppliers trying to get their hands on inventory.

"Module makers can't keep up with demand," says MacLellan. "These guys are sold out."

Solarbuzz LLC, a San Francisco-based research firm focused on the solar industry, reported last week that the generating capacity of solar PV installations around the world grew by a stunning 39 per cent in 2005, with more than $1 billion (U.S.) invested in new plants to manufacture solar cells. The industry also raised nearly $2 billion on the capital markets last year, and was one of the hottest areas of venture capital investment.

Investors, perhaps blinded by the sun, can't seem to get enough. Initial public offerings of solar technology companies in Europe, China and the United States have a stunning track record. China's Suntech Power Holdings went public in December and has seen its market value nearly double to $1 billion (U.S.). SunPower Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., went public at $18 a share (U.S.) in November and is now trading at about $41 with a market value of $364 million.

Jumping on the bandwagon of solar IPOs is Cambridge, Ont.-based ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc., which announced last week that it will publicly spin off its solar group, comprised of its France-based Photowatt subsidiary and its Spheral Solar Power division in Cambridge. Analysts believe the new spin-off could attract $1 billion (Canadian), maybe more, given the success of SunPower and Suntech.

What's feeding this frenzy? An alignment of many stars. Advancement in solar technologies is helping to dramatically reduce the cost of solar PV systems, which only the rich, principled or government-subsidized have been willing to purchase in the past.

At the same time, heightened concern over global warming and pollution caused by fossil-fuel power plants has drawn attention to renewable alternatives, and supportive government programs out of Europe, Japan and the United States — including an ambitious subsidy program recently announced in California — has accelerated solar adoption.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


Railroad roots to help Atlanta draw together (Larry Copeland, 3/19/06, USA TODAY)

This city has always had a special relationship with railroads. Atlanta began as a tiny settlement called Terminus because it was at the southern end of a rail line to Chattanooga, Tenn. [...]

Now, community and business leaders are launching an ambitious plan to reclaim some of the old rail lines and use them to increase Atlanta's public park space by 50%. They say it will improve transit in the city, reconnect neighborhoods split apart for decades by railroad tracks and highways and serve as a blueprint for development for decades to come.

The 22-mile "Atlanta Beltline" will link parts of five rail lines in a corridor encircling the city. The corridor, which will be 100 to 200 feet wide in most places, will connect 40 existing parks and add more than 1,200 acres of green space. The Beltline ultimately will include a transit system such as light rail or streetcars and miles of hiking and biking trails. The city expects developments that mix commercial, retail and residential uses to sprout along the Beltline. Many of the Beltline's tracks are still intact although new tracks would have to be installed for light rail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Deaths fall for U.S., rise for Iraqis (Thomas Frank, 3/19/06, USA TODAY)

According to U.S. military data, about 15 Americans and 73 Iraqis are killed or injured each day. A USA TODAY analysis of U.S. military data shows the number of U.S. forces killed during the war has declined steadily since November.

RAND Corp. military analyst Nora Bensahel says the increasing level of Iraqi casualties "means Iraqi security forces are in positions of responsibility." The United States, which has 132,000 troops in Iraq, is "doing fewer patrols on its own and more in support of Iraqi operations," reducing U.S. casualties.

The U.S. military also has cut the number of American deaths by thwarting the homemade bombs that are the insurgency's prime weapon. Soldiers and Marines now find and neutralize more than 40% of the bombs, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said in an interview. That compares with 30% in September. Lynch said that 41 insurgent bombmakers have been killed or captured. Insurgents "are losing skilled bombmakers," he said.

Meanwhile, Iraq's 240,600 security forces increasingly are fighting insurgents directly, the Pentagon says. Sixty-three Iraqi units are operating independently or in a lead role with coalition support, up from 37 in September. Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari says military recruiting remains strong, despite the rising casualties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hugely hyped Arctic Monkeys deliver (BRIAN ORLOFF, 3/20/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Each year we can count on the British to export a band so big, and so hyped, there is no choice but to shut up and pay attention.

In the past, groups like the Futureheads (justifiably cool), and farther back, Oasis (though they have failed to staggeringly succeed lately) earned mountains of praise. This year brings the Arctic Monkeys, a scruffy quartet from Sheffield, comprised of guys whose average age lingers around 20. The fanfare surrounding the Monkeys reached maximal heights last month after the group broke British sales records, outselling all the chart competition combined with its debut album, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not."

Though the album has performed moderately here since its late February release, the lads nevertheless managed to effortlessly sell out their short North American tour, which stopped Saturday night at a packed Metro.

Because of the mania surrounding the band, Saturday's show came slathered in expectation. And the Monkeys -- who appeared to be just four regular guys -- carried through their 55-minute set with breathless verve and just enough ragtag momentum to keep the young crowd engaged.

It is easy to get swept up by hyperbole, and Saturday's show was not the transcendent experience many -- especially the eager British press -- have characterized. But it was most certainly a high-energy experience, full of swagger and promise.

55 minutes? Why not just listen to the album instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Beyond the Party: Catholics and Government's Moral Purpose [Samuel Gregg, D.Phil. (Oxon.), 3/08/06, Acton Institute]

Last week, 55 Catholic Democrat members of the House of Representatives released a self-described “Historic Catholic Statement of Principles.” It asserted their identity as Catholics and their commitment to working towards realization of basic principles of Catholic social teaching.

Some hoped that the statement would indicate that the spirit of the late Bob Casey, the pro-life governor of Pennsylvania, was alive in the Democrat Party. They were, however, to be disappointed.

While the statement claims to break new ground, there is in fact nothing historic about it. Sadly, it merely represents the latest attempt by some American Catholic politicians and their unnamed theological advisors to rationalize the untenable: their claim to be faithful Catholics while supporting practices that intentionally violate what the Church teaches is inviolable: innocent human life. [....]

That some signatories are conscious of their position’s incongruity is apparent from their qualification that while they “seek the Church’s guidance and assistance,” they “believe also in the primacy of conscience. In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas.”

Certainly the Catholic Church has always emphasized the importance of conscience. But it does not teach that conscience is somehow above the truth – this, the Catholic Church teaches, is revealed by reason and, ultimately, the Catholic faith. Conscience in fact only acquires morally binding characteristics when grounded in objective moral truth. Otherwise “primacy of conscience” could be used to justify all sorts of barbaric behavior. Thus we do not absolve Communists and Nazis who killed millions because they sincerely believed “in all good conscience” they were doing the right thing.

In other words, the “tension” experienced by some signatories does not simply arise from the inconsistency between their position on certain issues and Catholic teaching. Rather it arises from their denial of truth: the truth about what science tells us about the beginning of each human life and the truth that all innocent human beings - regardless of their stage of development - ought, as a matter of natural justice, to enjoy equal protection from lethal force.

March 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Arctic refuge drilling back on the table (MSNBC, 3/17/06)

The Republican-led push to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling is back on Congress’ table, after the Senate included that provision in its $2.8 trillion budget bill.

Democrats were unable to block the provision after one of their own, Sen. Mary Landrieu, supported the budget bill, which passed 51-49 on Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches (JENNIFER LOVEN, , 3/18/06, Associated Press)

"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.

Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."

"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.

Not another dollar, not another soldier (Don's Blog of California Politics, 5/31/05)
James Carville said something on Crossfire today that I'll remember for a while. Hard to take as true political journalism I usually watch Crossfire for the comedy. At the end of the show Carville shouted in his normal way "Not another dollar, not another soldier".
Islam is incompatible with democracy, 403 to 267 (A debate by Intelligence Squared, the London Forum for live debate, 5/24/04)
Speakers for the motion:

* Amir Taheri, born in Iran and educated in Tehran, London and Paris; author of "Holy

* Raphael Israeli, a Professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Chinese history at Hebrew
University in Jerusalem.

* David Pryce-Jones , the Senior Editor of the National Review and author of “The
Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs” [as well as the author of the Foreword to Robert Spencer's Islam Unveiled]

Moral Imperative (The Editors, 03.10.06, The New Republic)
Government isn't the best way to provide all Americans with health security. It's the only way. And it's time for liberalism to say so openly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM


In praise of an instant classic (Gordon Edes, March 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

The tiebreakers have to go. This is still baseball, after all, not soccer.

Find another time slot. We can't have Americans with the built-in excuse of saying the world caught us when we weren't ready. And the calendar is already overcrowded by March Madness and spring training. A midsummer gathering of nations sounds irresistible. Make it a real All-Star break.

Turn up the dial on America's best players and make it almost impossible for them to say no to playing, and make them realize they'll be sorry if they skip the chance to play.

Tell umpire Bob Davidson that, in his case, it's two strikes and you're out. No point in risking another international incident.

And whatever you do, make sure the Cubans come back, with or without Fidel's ''doctor" son in the dugout.

But by all means, call off the pack of bloodhounds crazed by the scent of Barry Bonds long enough to acknowledge what Bud Selig has been promising all along, that the World Baseball Classic has been a heck of a show, and a great promotional tool for the sport far beyond our borders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


Divided, Iraq might just have a chance (Gareth Stansfield, 19/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

[F]uture historians may also consider that the terrible situation of Iraq in 2006 had deeper origins. The trauma inflicted upon Iraqi society by a decade of sanctions following a decade of war with Iran; the existence of an all-pervasive totalitarian state that broke social bonds and played upon differences in society to preserve the regime; the continued Kurdish rebellion against the Iraqi state, resulting in the emergence of a Kurdish de facto state in the north; and the rise in political Shi'ism in the 1990s were all in place long before George W Bush's attention was brought so forcibly to Iraq in the days following September 11. [...]

Although politicians and academics are arguing about whether there is already a civil war raging in Iraq, the fact is, violence remains localised and there still exists a great deal of sentiment and hope among ordinary Iraqis - as expressed by political, religious and social leaders - that calmer heads will still prevail in these difficult times. However, with scores of bodies being found almost every day, it seems their voices are being increasingly ignored. If it is not yet a civil war, it is not far off being one.

What now needs to be addressed is what to do if the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. Does the Coalition sit back and watch what would be a chaotic unravelling of Iraq, with militias acting to defend their own communities and attack others (as is increasingly happening), and with the once cosmopolitan cities of Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and Basra exposed to the horrors of sectarian blood-letting?

Or should the Coalition, perhaps, be proactive in enforcing a managed partition of Iraq, decentralising political authority to the Shia in the south, the Kurds in the north, and the Sunnis in the centre? The fact is, this has already happened to a great extent, with the Kurdistan Region now codified, and Basra effectively out of the political orbit of Baghdad.

Though perhaps not the most desirable conclusion, a tripartite division was always the most likely. The biggest problem is that it's unlikely the Sunni would/could control a central state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


Peres: We'll talk with Palestinians on pull-out (Harry de Quetteville, 19/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Israel will negotiate a planned withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank with the Palestinians after the general election in 10 days time, Shimon Peres, the country's two-time former leader has told the Sunday Telegraph.

"I can't set a date for the next pull-out," Mr Peres said, describing the plans of Israel's next government - of which he seems certain to be a key member - "but we shall try first of all to negotiate directly with the Palestinians."

Mr Peres said he hoped that the pull-out of Israeli settlers would prove "easy" adding: "We have the precedent of last summer," when 8,000 Jewish settlers were forcibly evacuated from the Gaza Strip in a controversial but ultimately rapid police operation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


In Search of the Next Great American Opera (ANNE MIDGETTE, 3/19/06, NY Times)

No one told audiences at Mark Adamo's "Little Women" that they weren't supposed to like contemporary opera: the work has been staged by 40 different companies since its premiere at the Houston Grand Opera in 1998. Jake Heggie's "Dead Man Walking" has been performed around the United States and Europe. Richard Danielpour's "Margaret Garner" (with a libretto by Toni Morrison, based on her novel "Beloved") played to sold-out houses in Detroit, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

Declining ticket sales overall are forcing American opera presenters to take a broader view of the future, Mr. Adamo suggested between rehearsals for a revival of his second opera, "Lysistrata," at the New York City Opera, which opens Tuesday.

"We've got to think outside the box," Mr. Adamo said, "because the box is crumbling around us."

There has certainly been a surge in commissions, and not just for experimental theater, young-artist programs and children's opera, often the main arenas for new work. The Metropolitan Opera and the major companies in San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Minnesota, Seattle and Miami are all planning at least one premiere within the next five seasons.

"We're in a boom," said Philip Glass, who is writing "Appomattox," his 22nd opera, for the San Francisco Opera. Mr. Glass said he recently called his music copyist to ask about availability and learned that the copyist was preparing three other opera scores.

But while more companies are subscribing to the idea that American opera is worth preserving and expanding — and is also a way to generate the press and local interest that can help ensure their futures — everyone still seems to be trying to figure out what exactly it takes to make the next great American opera.

With the possible exception of Porgy & Bess, it seems a tad early to call any of them great.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


How Pop Sounded Before It Popped (JODY ROSEN, 3/19/06, NY times)

FOR a couple of months now my iPod has been stuck on Stella Mayhew's "I'm Looking for Something to Eat." It's a lurching little waltz-time pop tune, drawled over brass-band accompaniment. The lyric is hilarious, the lament of a gal on a diet who can't stop eating, and it climaxes with a glutton's soul cry: "I want some radishes and olives, speckled trout and cantaloupe and cauliflower/ Some mutton broth and deviled crabs and clams and Irish stew." I can't get it out of my head — so far, it's my favorite record of 2006.

As it happens, it's also my favorite record of 1909. It is an Edison Phonograph Company wax cylinder, recorded 97 years ago by Mayhew, a vaudeville star who liked to poke fun at her considerable girth. In certain ways, the song is up to date: the satire on dieting is plenty relevant in the early 21st century, and Mayhew's slurred talk-singing is a bracingly modern sound. But the noisy, weather-beaten recording is unmistakably a product of the acoustic era — the period from about 1890 to the mid-1920's, before the advent of electric recording — when musicians cut records while crammed cheek-by-jowl-by-trombone around phonograph horns in rackety little studios.

Mayhew's record is just one of several thousand cylinders, the first commercially available recordings ever produced, that have recently become available free of charge to anyone with an Internet connection and some spare bandwidth. Last November, the Donald C. Davidson Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara, introduced the Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project Web site (, a collection of more than 6,000 cylinders converted to downloadable MP3's, WAV files and streaming audio. It's an astonishing trove of sounds: opera arias, comic monologues, marching bands, gospel quartets. Above all, there are the pop tunes churned out by Tin Pan Alley at the turn of the century: ragtime ditties, novelty songs, sentimental ballads and a dizzying range of dialect numbers performed by vaudeville's blackface comedians and other "ethnic impersonators."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM


Public Comments by Justices Veer Toward the Political (ADAM LIPTAK, 3/19/06, NY Times)

Speeches by Supreme Court justices are usually sleepy civics lessons studded with references to the Federalist Papers and the majesty of the law. That seems to be changing.

This month, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told an audience at Georgetown University that a judiciary afraid to stand up to elected officials can lead to dictatorship. [...]

The recent speeches, said Kermit L. Hall, the editor of "The Oxford Companion to the United States Supreme Court," may be breaking ground in judicial decorum.

"What's going on," Mr. Hall said, "is that Ginsburg and O'Connor are using their position — and it is striking that both are women — to state a position in favor of the judiciary that comes real, real close to taking a political position."

If five unelected judges don't stand up to the electorate it's a dictatorship?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


US ships in Somali pirate clash (Cathy Jenkins, 3/19/06, BBC News)

The US Navy says two of its warships have returned fire on a group of suspected pirates off the Somali coast, killing one person and wounding five. [...]

The navy statement said the two warships - the USS Cape St George, a guided missile cruiser, and the USS Gonzalez, a guided missile destroyer - were conducting maritime security operations about 25 nautical miles off the Somali coast when they spotted a suspect vessel towing two smaller skiffs.

The Gonzalez sent a team to board the vessel and noticed that a group of suspected pirates was brandishing what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenades.

According to the statement, the suspected pirates then opened fire on the navy ships, which returned fire with mounted machine guns in self-defence.

One suspected pirate was killed and a fire started on board the vessel.

Talk about punching over your weight....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Secret loans: Blair warned but gave the go ahead (BRIAN BRADY, 3/19/06, Scotland on Sunday)

[I]n an extraordinary off the record interview with Scotland on Sunday, one of his closest allies revealed that:

• The Prime Minister and a select band of confidants involved had to "convince each other" that taking loans from party supporters was the right thing to do;

• Blair opted for the loans strategy because the party was "skint" and faced meltdown during the General Election campaign last year;

• The clinching argument was the belief that rival parties were using the system to swell their coffers.

This weekend, Blair and the Labour high command have also "gagged" Labour's treasurer to prevent him from exposing the identities of the party's multi-millionaire lenders, because they are protected by commercial "confidentiality clauses".

The Prime Minister entered into the deal with the group of lenders to ensure that their contributions could not be exposed at a later date.

However, it emerged last week that three Labour lenders - Sir David Garrard, Chai Patel and Barry Townsley - were on the list of nominations for elevation to the Lords signed by Party chairman Ian McCartney in October.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


What We've Gained In 3 Years in Iraq (Donald H. Rumsfeld, March 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Some have described the situation in Iraq as a tightening noose, noting that "time is not on our side"and that "morale is down." Others have described a "very dangerous" turn of events and are "extremely concerned."

Who are they that have expressed these concerns? In fact, these are the exact words of terrorists discussing Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates -- who are describing their own situation and must be watching with fear the progress that Iraq has made over the past three years.

The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.

Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.

Consider that in three years Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government last December. In each of these elections, the number of voters participating has increased significantly -- from 8.5 million in the January 2005 election to nearly 12 million in the December election -- in defiance of terrorists' threats and attacks.

Are we really supposed to trust the assessments of the Iraqis instead of the Pelosis?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Cuba, Japan Advance to WBC Title Game (Dave Sheinin. 3/19/06, Washington Post)

[T]he WBC [has] brought together 16 national teams -- including a handful, such as the United States, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, whose rosters were loaded with multimillionaire major league players -- for three weeks of often inspired play.

Japan's hard-fought victory over archrival South Korea in the night game --which avenged one-run losses in each of the tournament's first two rounds -- was a perfect example.

Crisp pitching and suberb defense kept the game scoreless until the top of the seventh, when Japan pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome smashed a two-run homer off South Korea reliever Byung Hyun Kim, launching Japan to a five-run inning. Seattle Mariners superstar Ichiro Suzuki contributed an RBI single in the inning, as Japan silenced the sizeable pro-Korea segment of the announced crowd of 42,639.

For Kim, the outing bore an uncomfortable resemblance to his last appearance on a stage as big as this one. In the 2001 World Series, while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kim served up titanic home runs to New York Yankees Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius -- the first two of which lost Game 4, and the last of which blew Game 5.

Although Cuba has long dominated Asian teams in international play, in the last major meeting between the teams Japan beat Cuba, 6-3, in the 2004 Olympics. Cuba, however, rebounded to win the gold medal.

Scouts, international baseball experts and even some Cuban ex-patriots in the big leagues predicted the Cuban team -- despite having dominated international baseball for generations -- would lose early in the WBC when matched against the best talent in the world. Meantime, Castro, Cuba's polarizing dictator, predicted certain victory.

In Saturday's semifinal, Cuba merely outlasted its more renowned opponent, taking advantage of a throwing error on Dominican third baseman Adrian Beltre and surging to a three-run seventh inning against the Dominicans' bullpen. Two Cuban pitchers, right-handers Yadel Marti and Pedro Lazo, combined to hold the powerful Dominican lineup -- anchored by sluggers Albert Pujols, Miguel Tejada and David Ortiz -- to eight hits and no earned runs.

Lazo's penultimate pitch of the game, to Dominican pinch hitter Alfonso Soriano, was a fastball that lit up the radar gun at 152 kilometers per hour (or 95 mph) for strike two, and he followed that with a 138-kph (86-mph) slider. Fooled by the pitch, Soriano tried unsuccessfully to check his swing.

"They are not professionals," Soriano said, "but they play like professionals. We are professionals, but we are not in very good shape."

Having watched the entire game from the top step of their dugout, Lazo's joyous teammates were already halfway to the mound when the umpires ruled that Soriano, the Washington Nationals' newly acquired slugger, had gone around for strike three. The Cubans gathered near the mound in a giant, teeming huddle, then -- suddenly and oddly -- most of the players were on their backs on the ground, kicking their legs in the air like overturned beetles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Rallies Across France Protest New Job Law (Molly Moore, March 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in anti-government protests Saturday across France, with the largest of the rallies ending in clashes between riot police and protesters at one of the largest plazas in Paris.

Teachers, unionized government employees and retired workers joined students in escalating demonstrations against a new law that would allow companies to fire employees under age 26 at will during their first two years of work. [...]

The demonstrations have grown larger and have spread to more cities in recent days at the urging of France's powerful student and worker unions, creating a crisis for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and his Union for a Popular Movement party as France heads toward presidential elections next year.

Villepin pushed the new law as a vehicle to prompt companies to hire more young people at a time when joblessness among that group averages 23 percent and exceeds 40 percent in some poor neighborhoods populated by immigrants and their French-born children. Villepin argued that under existing labor laws, employers were increasingly reluctant to hire young people because of job protections that make it all but impossible to fire workers, even if they are incompetent.

We have nothing in common with the French.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Iranian Dissident Released From Jail: Defiant Journalist's Criticism of Ruling Clerics Remains Untempered (Karl Vick, 3/19/06, Washington Post)

Iran's most prominent dissident emerged from prison looking far older than his 46 years. His clothes hung on a frame reduced to 108 pounds by repeated hunger strikes. He smiled through a beard grown to the bushy nimbus of a Hindu holy man.

"All the time I was in prison was illegal," Akbar Ganji said of the six-year sentence he served for exposing the government's role in assassinating its critics. "From the very first day it was illegal."

Ganji's incarceration ended at 10 p.m. Friday, when Iranian security services dropped him unannounced at his family's apartment in northwest Tehran. The homecoming, which blossomed Saturday morning into a celebratory news conference as word of his release spread, was a rare moment of cheer for Iranian activists who have been steadily steered to the sidelines by the clerics who regulate Iran's politics from powerful, appointive offices. [...]

In 1999, thousands of Iranians marched in the streets to express their outrage at the assassination of dissidents in their homes. Ganji went to prison in 2000 for writing about the killings, but public support for reforms continued to grow. The demonstrations, along with landslide elections of a reformist president and parliament, checked the power of conservatives who insisted that a hard line was essential to protect Iran's theocratic system after the death of its charismatic founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

But by 2004, conservatives had regained the upper hand, relieving pressure for social freedoms by greatly relaxing enforcement of laws on personal behavior while steadily reducing the maneuvering room of political reformers and publications that supported them. [...]

Emad Baghi, who like Ganji was jailed for writing about what were known as the "serial murders," served only half of the same sentence. During the extra three years Ganji remained inside as a beacon of defiance, Baghi began a newspaper and, after it was banned, a human rights organization.

"I believe both of the approaches are important for us," said Saeed Bostani, a reporter who worked for Baghi and was jailed for seven months for reporting Ganji's deteriorating medical condition.

"When I was in prison, I believed in Mr. Ganji's approach that refuses to compromise, just go all out," Bostani said. "But since I came out into society, I think Mr. Baghi's approach has merit, that we can put pressure on the state and make changes."

Neither avenue is free of risk. Two of Baghi's associates were jailed for a month by security officials suspicious of their attendance at a human rights workshop in Dubai last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Lobbyists Foresee Business As Usual: Post-Abramoff Rules Expected to Be Merely a Nuisance (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, 3/19/06, Washington Post)

Some of Washington's top lobbyists say that they expect to find ways around congressional efforts to impose new restrictions on lobbyists' dealings with lawmakers in the wake of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, and that any limits will barely put a dent in the billions of dollars spent to influence legislation.

Though Congress may ultimately vote to eliminate a few of the more visible trappings of special pleading, such as gifts, free meals and luxurious trips, lobbyists say they have already found scores of new ways to buy the attention of lawmakers through fundraising, charitable activities and industry-sponsored seminars.

You can't get the money out of politics by trying to limit the money, only by limiting the politics. Simplify the federal tax--either a flat or a sales tax--and make it part of the constitution and you'll do more to limit lobbying than any other measure. Then start closing cabinet agencies so that there are fewer bureaucrats and programs to be influenced...

March 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


McCain Taps Former Bush Political Director (RON FOURNIER, 3/18/06, AP)

With an eye toward the 2008 presidential campaign, GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has hired one of President Bush's top re-election advisers to help run his political action committee.

Terry Nelson, political director of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, will be senior adviser to Straight Talk America, according to several official familiar with the hiring. They spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt an announcement by McCain's committee.

McCain is using the PAC to raise money and organize his travel on behalf of Republicans running in November's midterm elections.

He's just keeping Karl's seat warm.

McCain Campaign Hires 'Best Bricklayer' (Chris Cillizza and Zachary A. Goldfarb, March 19, 2006, Washinton Post)

"Senator McCain has demonstrated a real commitment to helping our candidates up and down the ballot and I am excited to be a part of his effort," Nelson says in a statement the PAC plans to release Monday.

Nelson's formal role for Straight Talk will be to maximize the organization's influence and effectiveness in the 2006 midterm elections, but his hiring also makes a major mark on the 2008 landscape.

McCain and his chief political strategist, John Weaver, have spent much of the past year courting key members of the Bush campaign team. Until now, the majority of that recruiting has focused on the men and women -- designated Pioneers, Rangers and Super Rangers -- who each helped collect hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bush in 2000 and again in 2004. (In that vein, Straight Talk America recently received $5,000 checks from former Texas governor Bill Clements, a Republican, and lobbyist extraordinaire Ed Rogers -- a close ally of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who recently removed himself from the 2008 field.) But the hiring of Nelson shows that McCain and Weaver are not neglecting the staff side of the presidential process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Iraq War Protests Attract Fewer People (PAUL BURKHARDT , 03.18.2006, AP)

Protests were also held in Australia, Asia and Europe, but many events were far smaller than organizers had hoped.

In London, police said about 15,000 people joined a march from Parliament and Big Ben to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Planners had expected 100,000. [...]

In Stockholm, Sweden, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally and march to the U.S. Embassy. One protester was dressed as the hooded figure shown in an iconic photograph from the Abu Ghraib prison. "We do not need Abu Ghraib democracy, or Guantanamo Bay freedom," said Eftikar Hashem Alhusainy, addressing the rally.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, more than 2,000 demonstrators marched from the U.S. Embassy to the British Embassy, demanding that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen withdraw the 530 Danish troops from southern Iraq.

In Turkey, where opposition to the war is nearly universal and cuts across all political stripes, about 3,000 protesters gathered in Istanbul, police said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


Arab world needs more Dubais (MARK STEYN, 3/18/06, OC Register)

How’s that Dubai ports deal going? You remember, the one where Dubai Ports World agreed to sell its U.S. port operations to an American company?

"It appears," huffed Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., "that the divestiture announcement from DPW last week may have been nothing more than a diversion designed to deflect attention away from this outsourcing of American port security. Congressional action blocking this deal is the only true assurance we have that this deal is dead."

You go, girl! Tote that barge, lift that bale, git a little drunk an’ you land in Congress! Why doesn’t the House of Representatives buy the port operations with the money earmarked for prescription drugs for seniors or Hurricane Katrina "relief"? I don’t expect a busy woman like Rep. Schultz to run the new company herself – though she could certainly put in a couple of shifts at the Port of Miami each weekend – but how about that INS official who mailed Mohammed Atta his visa six months to the day after he died in an unusual flying event in Lower Manhattan? How about leaving the ports to those State Department chaps who approved the 9/11 killers’ laughably incomplete paperwork ("Address in the United States: HOTEL, AMERICA")? Or how about those officials at FAA headquarters who on the morning of 9/11 found it all a little too much and just walked out of the room?

After all, all those guys are still working for the U.S. government. By golly, if we’re gonna have security breaches at American ports, let’s make sure they’re all-American security breaches!

If you did a poll right now, 90% of the 60% of folks who got whipped up about this farce would wear the ports had already been turned over to the Coast Guard to run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 PM


From Iraq's front line, it looks like the media has lost the plot (Miranda Devine, March 19, 2006, Sydney Morning Herald)

A SOLDIER friend stationed in Baghdad for the past two months has been sending me emails with such arresting lines as: "It's late here and I [have] to get the Chief of Staff back to the Palace."

From his office in the fortified military and government area, the Green Zone, he scans the web for news about Iraq and compares it with his reality.

"Baghdad is not burning down around my ears," he wrote last week. "Things were tense a while back, but violence was within limits. Callous thing to say, but that is the reality around here."

The only "quagmire" he sees is "the soft patch of ground out by the rifle range and no civil war in sight".

He exhibits a soldier's sang-froid. "We are expecting to be very busy the next few days. The terrorists are extremely media savvy (it's the only area they get to win) and will be looking for big headlines. End of religious festival, big crowds and convening of new government."

But with the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion tomorrow, he says, "the only people who seem to have lost both their grip on reality and their nerve are the western media".

Fact Sheet: Operation Iraqi Freedom: Three Years Later (White House, 3/18/06)

Remarkable Progress Has Been Made In Iraq In The Last Three Years

On March 19, 2003, United States And Coalition Forces Launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. Life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was marked by brutality, fear, and terror. Iraqis had no voice in their country or their lives. Saddam Hussein devastated Iraq, wrecked its economy, ruined and plundered its infrastructure, and destroyed its human capital.

Three Years Later, Iraq Has A Democratically Elected Government. The reign of a dictator has been replaced by a democratically elected government operating under one of the most progressive constitutions in the Arab world. Millions of Iraqis have joined the political process over the past year alone. The transition from three decades of dictatorship to a fully functioning democracy is still difficult, and Iraq must overcome many more challenges before it fully secures its democratic gains.

* Saddam Hussein Is Facing Justice In An Iraqi Court. The Iraqi people are holding Saddam accountable for his crimes and atrocities.

The Next Year Will Bring A Consolidation Of These Gains, Helping A New Iraqi Government Stabilize The Nation And Build A Solid Foundation For Democracy And Increased Economic Growth. Iraq's elected leaders are diligently working to form a government that will represent all the Iraqi people. As the Iraqi government comes together and Iraqi Security Forces continue improving their readiness, efforts to stabilize the nation will increasingly be Iraqi-led. We will support the Iraqi government in these difficult times, and we will keep our commitment to the Iraqi people.

Securing A Lasting Victory In Iraq Will Make America:

* Safer by depriving terrorists of a safe haven from which they can plan and launch attacks against the United States and American interests overseas.

* More Secure by facilitating reform in a region that for decades has been a source of violence and stagnation and depriving terrorist control over a hub of the world's economy.

* Stronger by demonstrating to our friends and enemies the reliability of U.S. power, the strength of our commitment to our friends, and the tenacity of resolve against our enemies.

Despite Progress, The Situation On The Ground Remains Tense. As al Qaida's actions and statements show, terrorists reject democracy, reject peace, and want to impose their own concept of a dictatorial government on the Iraqi people. The United States and its Coalition partners are united in support of the Iraqi people and helping them win their struggle for freedom. The terrorists know they lack the military strength to challenge Iraqi and Coalition forces directly - so their only hope is to try and provoke a civil war. Immediately after the attack on the Golden Mosque of Samarra, the Iraqi people looked into the abyss and did not like what they saw. Iraqis have shown the world they want a future of freedom and peace - and they will oppose a violent minority that seeks to take that future away from them by tearing their country apart.

The President's National Strategy For Victory In Iraq Has Three Tracks - Political, Security, And Economic. All three tracks are progressing. Access the National Strategy for Victory at:

The Political Track: Iraq Has Transitioned From Tyranny And Oppression To Freedom And Democracy

Three Years Ago, Iraqis Had No Voice In Their Government Or Their Nation's Future. Simple acts like voicing concerns about bad policies or organizing a meeting were denied. Citizens feared arbitrary arrest, torture, and imprisonment. Thousands of innocent Iraqis ended up in mass graves.

Today, Millions Of Iraqis Are Shaping Their Own Destinies By Participating In Iraq's Political Process:

* Iraqis Completed Two Successful Nationwide Elections And A National Constitutional Referendum In 2005. Each successive election experienced less violence, bigger voter turnout, and broader political participation. On December 15, more than 11 million people - more than 75 percent of the Iraqi voting-age population - participated in the election for a new government under Iraq's new constitution, an increase of more than three million voters over the January election.

* Iraqi Voters Approved A New Permanent Constitution. Iraq's new permanent constitution, approved on October 15, 2005, provides a solid legal framework, based on a democratic process and inclusiveness, which the Iraqi people are working to strengthen.

* Iraqi Leaders Are Now Forming A National Government. The December election resulted in a representative parliament and offers Iraqis an opportunity to build a national unity government. Iraqi leaders continue working on forming a new broad-based, inclusive government in furtherance of their commitment to democratic principles.

The Security Track: Iraqi Security Forces Are Increasingly Taking The Lead To Protect Their Nation

Three Years Ago, Saddam Hussein And The Ba'ath Party Were Preserving The Regime's Tyrannical Rule. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, the Iraqi army was used as an instrument of repression against Iraq's own citizens and against Iraq's neighbors.

Today, An All-Volunteer Iraqi Security Force Is Taking Increasing Responsibility For Protecting Their New Nation And The Iraqi People:

* Trained Iraqi Security Forces Are Growing In Number And Assuming A Larger Role. More than 240,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped and are working to protect their fellow citizens. Iraqi Security Forces demonstrate growing competence and capability, and over 90 percent of Iraqis say they support their efforts to bring stability to the country. Over 112,000 Iraqi soldiers, sailors, and airmen have now been trained and equipped. More than 87,000 police have been trained and equipped. These police work alongside over 40,000 other Ministry of Interior forces.

* Additional Iraqi Army And Special Operations Battalions Are Conducting Operations. Last fall, there were over 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions in the fight against the enemy - and 40 of those were taking the lead in the fight. Today, the number of battalions in the fight has increased to more than 130 - with more than 60 taking the lead. As more Iraqi battalions come online, these forces are assuming responsibility for more territory. Iraqi forces now conduct more independent operations throughout the country than do Coalition forces.

The Terrorists Are Turning To Weapons Of Fear Because They Know They Cannot Defeat Us Militarily. After the terrorists were defeated in the battles in Fallujah and Tal Afar, they saw they could not confront Iraqi or American forces in pitched battle and survive. So they turned to IEDs - a weapon that allows them to attack from a safe distance, without having to face our forces in battle. Innocent Iraqis are the principal victims of IEDs. Our strategy to defeat IEDs has three elements: targeting and eliminating terrorists and bomb-makers; providing our forces specialized training to identify and clear IEDs before they explode; and developing new technologies to defend against IEDs.

* Coalition Efforts To Defeat IEDs Are Producing Results. Today, nearly half of IEDs in Iraq are found and disabled before they can be detonated - and in the past 18 months, the casualty rate per IED attack has been cut in half. During the past six months, Iraqi and Coalition forces have found and cleared nearly 4,000 IEDs, uncovered more than 1,800 weapons caches and bomb-making plants, and killed or detained hundreds of terrorists and bomb-makers.

The Economic Track: Iraq's Economy, Infrastructure, And Quality Of Life Is Improving

Three Years Ago, Saddam Hussein And His Regime Led A Life Of Privilege And Luxury, While Leaving The Iraqi People Without Infrastructure To Provide Essential Services. Those out of favor were denied the simplest public services, with hunger and essential services used as weapons of tyranny. As a result, parts of Iraq suffered a severe lack of electricity, water, health care, education facilities, and other vital services. While challenges remain, and while it will take years to modernize Iraq's economy and infrastructure in the wake of Saddam Hussein's decades of neglect, significant progress has been made over the past three years.

Today, Iraq's Economy Is Recovering, And The Iraqi People Have Better Access To Essential Services:

* Iraq's Economy Is Recovering, And The Iraqi People's Standard Of Living Is Rising. Iraq's economy is showing signs of recovery after 30 years of dictatorship. In 2005, the Iraqi economy grew an estimated 2.6 percent in real terms, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated it will grow by more than 10 percent in 2006. Under Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqis' standard of living deteriorated rapidly. In nominal terms, Iraq's per capita income had dropped from $3,800 in 1980 (higher than Spain at the time) to $715 in 2002 (lower than Angola). In 2005, per-capita income is estimated to have increased to over $1,000.

* Iraq Is Rejoining The International Economic Community. Iraq is on the road to World Trade Organization accession, has received both an IMF credit facility and its first World Bank loan in 30 years, and has secured a debt agreement with the Paris Club that will lead to the forgiveness of at least 80 percent of about $40 billion of Saddam Hussein-era debt.

* Investors Are Optimistic About Iraq's Economic Future. Foreign and domestic banks are opening new offices, the stock market established in April 2004 currently lists nearly 90 companies, and a total of over 32,000 businesses are now registered in Iraq.

* More Iraqis Have Access To Clean Water. 3.1 million Iraqis enjoy improved access to clean water, and 5.1 million have improved access to sewage treatment.

* Iraq's Education System Is Being Rehabilitated. More than 30 percent of Iraq's schools have been rehabilitated, more than 36,000 teachers have been trained, and approximately 8.7 million revised math and science textbooks and 3 million school supply kits have been provided to students nationwide.

* Iraq's Public Health System Is Improving. Vaccination campaigns have significantly reduced infectious disease outbreaks. For example, 98 percent of children under five have been vaccinated for polio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


Change the Subject: The Republican strategy for 2006. (Fred Barnes, 03/27/2006, Weekly Standard)

POLITICS IS PRETTY SIMPLE. If the debate in an upcoming election puts your party at a disadvantage, it makes sense to try to change the debate. At the moment, the 2006 midterm election is framed as a referendum on the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, putting Republican candidates on the defensive. Party strategists, led by chairman Ken Mehlman, want to rejigger the debate so it's about a choice between candidates, putting Democratic candidates on the defensive as well. In short, they want it to be a choice election, not a referendum election.

This is not a new idea. Republicans brought about a choice election in 2004. Democrats believed they were a cinch to win a referendum on President Bush's first term, and Republicans worried they were right. But Republicans were able to make Democrat John Kerry at least as much of an issue as Bush was, especially on national security.

For 2006, the Republican National Committee, the White House, and most Senate and House Republicans are on board with the choice strategy. In fact, some members of Congress are already repeating a phrase first used by Bush in meetings with congressional allies. It's an assertion that Democrats would "raise your taxes and raise the white flag" in Iraq.

The pols and pundits pretend to wonder why Democrats don't have a message when everyone recognizes that their problem is that nothing they want to do is popular with voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Candidate proposes chopping block for 'porn-pimps': Congressional hopeful Zirkle wants to spark debate. (JAMES WENSITS, 3/16/06, South Bend Tribune)

Republican 2nd District congressional candidate Tony Zirkle has proposed a four-stage approach to stopping sex- related crimes such as child pornography, rape, sexual slavery and human trafficking. [...]

"If I am elected to Congress, I will introduce a declaration of war against human traffickers, porn-pimps and child rapists," Zirkle said in a campaign release. "We must put fear back into the criminals who are preying on our children."

The first stage of the battle, as proposed by Zirkle, calls for suspension of the constitutional protections of property rights for "porn-pimps.""Every adultery (sic) book store will be immediately seized and the property will be forfeited to the taxpayers without any process of law other than a hearing within 10 days of seizure to give the porn-pimps the opportunity (to) challenge the sufficiency of prostitution evidence."

Stage 2, Zirkle said, would involve "actual arrests" for those who did not learn from Stage 1. Stage 3, if necessary, calls for "super speedy public trials with severe punishment that is swiftly carried out after a rapid appeal."

Which leads to Stage 4. "If this stage is necessary, then I am willing to debate the idea of returning the guillotine and lynch mob for those who prey on children under the age of 12; however, no capital punishment will be extended without at least four witnesses."

Zirkle said he favors the death penalty but believes current law offers insufficient due process protections.

"One witness can send you to death now," he said.According to Zirkle, debate could fuel discussion of his guillotine proposal but, so far, "no one will debate me."

Even the bit about reforms to the death penalty is good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM

50 IN '08:

Emboldened Democrats court party's left wing: Sen. Clinton seen abandoning turf (Nina J. Easton, March 17, 2006, Boston Globe)

Former senator John Edwards got high marks from labor for a new effort to unionize hotel workers, and Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's demand this week that President Bush be censured was music to the ears of activists on the left.

Meanwhile, Mark Warner, former Virginia governor, recently hired one of the leftist blogosphere's biggest names to run his Internet outreach campaign, and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana began a blog on the liberal Huffington Post, peddling his foreign policy views.

The next round of prospective Democratic presidential candidates, even those with centrist credentials, is actively courting the Democratic Party's left wing -- which speaks loudly through its blogs, enjoys rising fund-raising clout built on Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, and is imbued with a confidence that it can build on Republican disarray. The Democrats are rushing to fill a void left in the hearts and minds of many liberal activists by New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's efforts to move to the center, particularly on the Iraq war.

With even the Canucks, the Krauts, and the Frogs moving Right the Democrats move further Left than John Kerry?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


A high-5 for Dow, S&P (CHRISTOPHER WANG, 3/18/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Lower oil prices and a rebound in manufacturing activity helped Wall Street extend its rally Friday, lifting the Dow Jones industrials and the Standard & Poor's 500 index to a fresh five-year high for the fourth straight session. The major indexes each gained about 2 percent for the week. [...]

The Dow climbed 26.41, or 0.23 percent, to 11,279.65, its highest level since May 21, 2001. The S&P 500 index rose 1.92, or 0.12 percent, to 1,307.25 -- its highest close since it reached 1,309.38 on May 22, 2001. The Nasdaq composite index added 6.92, or 0.3 percent, to 2,306.48.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM

THE HEART KNOWER (via Leo Wong):

Jacques Barzun, part two (Tim Wiles, Letters in the Dirt)

Now, back to Jacques Barzun, a Frenchman in America, describing the national pastime in 1954. When last we left off, Barzun had been describing the mental action and physical choreography of the game, comparing it to chess. Let's continue in his words:

"Baseball takes its mystic nine and scatters them wide. A kind of individualism thereby returns, but it is limited--eternal vigilance is the price of victory. Just because they're far apart, the outfield can't dream or play she-loves-me-not with daisies. The infield is like a steel net held in the hands of the catcher. He is the psychologist and historian for the staff--or else his signals will give the opposition hits. The value of his headpiece is shown by the ironmongery worn to protect it. The pitcher, on the other hand, is the wayward man of genius, whom others will direct. They will expect nothing from him but virtuosity. He is surrounded no doubt by mere talent, unless one excepts that transplanted acrobat, the shortstop. What a brilliant invention is his role despite it's exposure to ludicrous lapses! One man to each base, and then the free lance, the trouble shooter, the movable feast for the eyes, whose motion animates the whole foreground."

Whew! What an amazing description. The genius of calling the shortstop "A movable feast for the eyes," or of calling the pitcher "a wayward man of genius, whom others will direct!" Besides getting to the heart of the matter, Barzun's writing has an almost sensual quality of what his countrymen call "le mot juste," or "the perfect word." Ironmongery, indeed. Here he expounds on the catcher: "Every part of baseball equipment is inherently attractive and of a most enchanting functionalism. A man cannot have too much leather about him; and a catcher's mitt is just the right amount for one hand." This passage foreshadows a later description by the great baseball writer Roger Angell. "Any baseball is beautiful. No other small package comes as close to the ideal in design and utility. It is a perfect object for a man's hand. Pick it up and it instantly suggests its purpose; it is meant to be thrown a considerable distance--thrown hard and with precision." How about a game of catch between these two?

Barzun gets inside the soul of the game in a way perhaps that no native could, since we are freighted with our collective knowledge of the game, blinded by the normalcy of the game around us. Here's another nice Barzun quote for the ages: "That baseball fitly expresses the powers of the nation's mind and body is a merit separate from the glory of being the most active, agile, varied, articulate, and brainy of all group games." And yet another: "Accuracy and speed, the practiced eye and hefty arm, the mind to take in and readjust to the unexpected, the possession of more than one talent and the willingness to work in harness without special orders--these are the American virtues that shine in baseball." Hey, Madison Avenue, sign this guy up as a spokesperson for the game!

On October 3rd, 1951, Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hit a home run which, though viewed by only a half-capacity crowd at the Polo Grounds, has come to reverberate in the nation's consciousness so that it is known as "the shot heard round the world," and a hefty literary tome by Don DeLillo uses it as a starting point for limning the second half of the century. Again, writing in 1954, Barzun was an early commentator to grasp the significance of that home run: "The wonderful purging of the passions that we all experienced in the fall of '51, the despair groaned out over the fate of the Dodgers, from whom the league pennant was snatched at the last minute, give us some idea of what Greek tragedy was like. Baseball is Greek in being national, heroic, and broken up in the rivalries of city states. How sad that Europe knows nothing like it!"

Jacques Barzun, part one (Tim Wiles, Letters in the Dirt)

"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of American had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game, and do it first by watching some high school or small town teams." So goes Barzun's most memorable quote from the essay. But to read that quote in context is a distinct pleasure. It continues: "The big league games are too fast for the beginner and the newspapers don't help. To read them with profit you have to know a language that comes easy only after philosophy has taught you to judge practice. Here is scholarship that takes effort on the part of the outsider, but it is so bred into the native that it never becomes a dreary round of technicalities."

Some interesting responses come to mind about the fuller quote. First, it is interesting that Barzun considers the big league games too fast for the beginner. When Barzun wrote the essay, there was no cable television, no remote control, and no channel surfing. Today, the game is often criticized for being too slow for the television audience. But I don't think we are talking about the physical speed of the game here. Rather, I think Barzun has correctly pointed out that baseball at the big league level involves so much thinking on the part of players, managers, and knowledgeable fans that its depth cannot be perceived while channel surfing. Barzun divides potential fans into natives and beginners. This was perhaps natural for him to do, as a Frenchman in America. To update the analysis, we could perhaps divide Americans up into two groups: the initiated and the innocent. To the innocent, baseball seems to lack the reckless, headlong action of football, hockey, or basketball. To the initiated, the "scholars" as Barzun alludes to them, there is much, much more going on in a baseball game than in any of these other sports.

To this type of fan, it is natural to compare the game of baseball to the game of chess, an extremely intricate world of actions, consequences, and reactions. Perhaps Barzun was the first to do so: "There has never been a good player who was dumb. Beef and bulk and mere endurance count for little, judgment and daring for much. Baseball is among group games played with a ball what fencing is to games of combat. But being spread out, baseball has something sociable and friendly about it that I especially love. It is graphic and choreographic. The ball is not shuttling in a confined space, as in tennis. Nor does baseball go to the other extreme of solitary whanging and counting stopped on the brink of pointlessness, like golf. Baseball is a kind of collective chess with arms and legs in full play under sunlight."

Reading through coverage of the All-Star Game in the Rocky Mountain News, of Denver, earlier this summer, I noticed an observation which supports the chess analogy. Science fiction author Dan Simmons was quoted as saying that he "...likes that when Craig Biggio's knees move one way in the batter's box, Juan Gonzalez shades him to the line, Derek Jeter moves over and Jim Thome backs up." Barzun earlier used the word choreographic, and baseball is also frequently compared to ballet, for its "moment to moment beauty and grace," as the movie shown daily in the Hall of Fame's Grandstand Theater attests, and also for its flashes of action.

Mr. Wong has a blog celebrating Mr. Barzun's 100th year

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Hunter gets captured by the fame: Brit soul singer breaks out in U.S. (Daniel Gewertz, March 18, 2006, Boston Herald)

James Hunter’s new CD, “People Gonna Talk,” arrives from Britain like a small miracle. It’s almost as if Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson were reborn. Hunter doesn’t just imitate the sound of luxuriously melodic soul, circa 1961; he actually sounds as sweet and solid as the hit-makers of yesteryear.

The voice is rich and knowledgeable. The band is a tight sensation. And the graceful songs - all written and arranged by Hunter - uncannily evoke classic American pop r & b. You’d think they came directly from some solid-gold vault.

Yet singer-guitarist Hunter, who plays the Regattabar on Tuesday, insists his music is not a studied attempt at retro. He simply doesn’t know how to play anything else.

WXPN Artist To Watch - March 2006 - James Hunter (World Cafe)
-James Hunter: 'People Gonna Talk' (Michele Norris, March 8, 2006, All Things Considered)
-James Hunter and the Return of Analog Soul (David Dye, February 13, 2006, World Cafe)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


French fry LNG foes: Takeover could thwart shutdown try (Jay Fitzgerald, 3/18/06, Boston Herald)

The state-run Gaz de France is bidding to take over private French energy group Suez SA, which owns the Everett terminal through its subsidiary Distrigas of Massachusetts.

The French government moved late last month to buy a controlling interest in Suez in order to block the sale of Suez by Italian energy group Enel.

But the deal may also ultimately blunt calls and efforts to force the closure of the Everett liquefied natural gas terminal, which critics say is a dangerous facility in the post-Sept. 11 world of terrorism.

“It takes a bad situation and makes it more complicated and perhaps worse,” said state Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedord), referring to the French move.

Craig Hooper, a research fellow at the Monterey Institute for International Studies, said it’s a “little scary” that any foreign government, directly or indirectly, could take over such a major energy facility in the United States.

He noted the recent outcry over a proposal by a Dubai company to take over six U.S. port operations.

“Even if France is an ally, sometimes they have interests that diverge” from that of the United States, Hooper said.

Even for the Stupid Party, it's unbelievable how completely we played into the protectionist hands of the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


U.S. eyes Baghdad for talks with Iran (Washington Times, March 18, 2006)

The American ambassador said yesterday he wants to talk with the Iranians -- but not negotiate -- in Baghdad.

"We are not entering into negotiations about Iraq with Iran. The Iraqis will decide the future of Iraq. We have concerns -- and I've spoken about them -- with regard to Iranian policy in Iraq," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told the Associated Press in an interview.

Far better to have Condi Rice and Iraqi leaders travel to Iran, so that she can make a series of speeches there, linking America and the newly liberated Arab Shi'ites with the aspirations to liberty of the Persian people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


U.N. to raise its profile in Iraq (Betsy Pisik, 3/18/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The senior U.N. official in Iraq yesterday said that the United Nations will soon be raising its profile there, acknowledging that its "perceived absence" has been noticeable since a tragic suicide bombing after the U.S. invasion three years ago.

Might have been a good idea to help us enforce the UN Resolutions in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


How I Learned to Love the Wall (IRSHAD MANJI, 3/18/06, NY Times)

I appreciate that Israel's intent is not to keep Palestinians "in" so much as to keep suicide bombers "out." But in the minds of many Palestinians, Ariel Sharon never adequately acknowledged the humiliation felt by a 60-year-old Arab whose family has harvested the Holy Land for generations when she has to show her identity card to an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant in an Israeli Army uniform who's been in the country for eight months. In that context, fences and walls come off as cruelly gratuitous.

For all the closings, however, Israel is open enough to tolerate lawsuits by civil society groups who despise every mile of the barrier. Mr. Sharon himself agreed to reroute sections of it when the Israel High Court ruled in favor of the complainants. Where else in the Middle East can Arabs and Jews work together so visibly to contest, and change, state policies?

I reflected on this question as I observed an Israeli Army jeep patrol the gap in Abu Dis. The vehicle was crammed with soldiers who, in turn, observed me filming the anti-Israel graffiti scrawled by Western activists — "Scotland hates the blood-sucking Zionists!" I turned my video camera on the soldiers. Nobody ordered me to shut it off or show the tape. My Arab taxi driver stood by, unprotected by a diplomatic license plate or press banner.

Like all Muslims, I look forward to the day when neither the jeep nor the wall is in Abu Dis. So will we tell the self-appointed martyrs of Islam that the people — not just Arabs, but Arabs and Jews — "are one"? That before the barrier, there was the bomber? And that the barrier can be dismantled, but the bomber's victims are gone forever?

Young Muslims, especially those privileged with a good education, cannot walk away from these questions as my interlocutor in Abu Dis did. If we follow in his footsteps, we are only conspiring against ourselves. After all, once the election is over, we won't have Ariel Sharon to kick around anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Cited as Symbol of Abu Ghraib, Man Admits He Is Not in Photo (KATE ZERNIKE, 3/18/06, NY Times)

In the summer of 2004, a group of former detainees of Abu Ghraib prison filed a lawsuit claiming that they had been the victims of the abuse captured in photographs that incited outrage around the world.

One, Ali Shalal Qaissi, soon emerged as their chief representative, appearing in publications and on television in several countries to detail his suffering. His prominence made sense, because he claimed to be the man in the photograph that had become the international icon of the Abu Ghraib scandal: standing on a cardboard box, hooded, with wires attached to his outstretched arms. He had even emblazoned the silhouette of that image on business cards.

The trouble was, the man in the photograph was not Mr. Qaissi. [Editors' Note, Page A2.]

Military investigators had identified the man on the box as a different detainee who had described the episode in a sworn statement immediately after the photographs were discovered in January 2004, but then the man seemed to go silent.

Mr. Qaissi had energetically filled the void, traveling abroad with slide shows to argue that abuse in Iraq continued, as head of a group he called the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons.

The New York Times profiled him last Saturday in a front-page article; in it, Mr. Qaissi insisted he had never sought the fame of his iconic status. Mr. Qaissi had been interviewed on a number of earlier occasions, including by PBS's "Now," Vanity Fair, Der Spiegel and in the Italian news media as the man on the box.

This week, after the online magazine Salon raised questions about the identity of the man in the photograph, Mr. Qaissi and his lawyers insisted he was telling the truth.

Imagine the Times of sixty years ago trying to make a martyr of a Nazi POW?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Iraqi troop control 'to spread' (Adam Brookes, 3/18/06, BBC News)

A senior US general has said 75% of Iraqi territory will soon be under the control of Iraqi security forces.

Speaking by video link from Baghdad, Lt Gen Peter Chiarelli said the progress made in building Iraq's new army and police forces had been enormous.

Iraqi forces were currently responsible for security in less than half of Iraq's territory, he said.

By the end of the summer, he said, he wanted to see three-quarters of Iraq under their control.

As was the case with Vietnamization, the key after we return control to the Iraqis is that Ted Kennedy and the Democrats never get to control the US military purse strings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Labour admits £14m in secret loans (JAMES KIRKUP AND GERRI PEEV, 3/18/06, The Scotsman)

LABOUR yesterday admitted taking almost £14 million in secret loans from wealthy individuals, but refused to name the lenders. The admission was the latest twist in a saga that threatens to leave Labour mired in allegations of sleaze.

Tony Blair had previously admitted that he knew about three loans worth £4.6 million, a financial arrangement that Jack Dromey, the Labour treasurer, says he was not aware of.

While the loans do not technically breach any disclosure laws, they have left many Labour MPs deeply uneasy about the party's finances.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Australian talks centre on Iran (BBC, 3/18/06)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from Australia and Japan have expressed grave concern over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

In a joint statement following trilateral security talks, they called on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities and resume negotiations. [...]

Ms Rice, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said they discussed the need for "concerted action" by the UN Security Council to convince Iran to "promptly suspend" uranium enrichment activities. [...]

The three ministers also called on North Korea to "immediately and unconditionally" return to six-party nuclear talks. [...]

Earlier, Ms Rice and her counterparts held talks on how the three countries could deal with issues such as China and tackle its growing military strength.

Ms Rice had voiced concerns that Beijing would become a "negative force" unless it was more open about its military build-up.

A 'little NATO' against China (Purnendra Jain, 3/18/06, Asia Times)
This ministerial-level meeting has drawn the attention of political leaders and analysts across the Asia-Pacific region. Many view the new "triple alliance" with suspicion. There is a concern that this might be the beginning of a new Cold War-type alliance in which China is cast as the adversary.

This suspicion has become even stronger in the light of the comments made by Rice before her departure for Indonesia. China, she claimed, could become a "negative force" in the region. Consequently "all of us in the region, particularly those of us who are long-standing allies, have a joint responsibility and obligation to try [to] produce conditions in which the rise of China will be a positive force in international politics, not a negative force". Not surprisingly then, China's military and economic rise would be at the core of the trilateral security discussions.

This development will not be taken kindly in many capitals around the region. Although China has not responded to Rice's comment, it will most certainly make Beijing furious. To make a particular country the main item of discussion, as Rice has suggested, is far from the stated aims when the process was put in place five years ago.

The trilateral security dialogue process was put forward by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and endorsed by then US secretary of state Colin Powell and then foreign minister of Japan Makiko Tanaka in July 2001. The proposal was made in light of the weakening of multilateral processes such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in economic and security spheres, and growing concerns by the three nations over both North Korea's nuclear capability and China's intentions in relation to Taiwan and its growing defense capabilities. These and other security-related concerns, such as global terrorism, led conservative governments in Australia and Japan to link themselves with the United States and each other.

Taiwan, India, Indonesia & Mongolia need to integrated into the structure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Iranian dissident freed from jail (BBC, 3/18/06)

Iran's most prominent dissident journalist Akbar Ganji has been freed from jail after six years.

Ganji was jailed in 2001 for writing articles in which he linked senior officials to the murder of dissidents.

Correspondents say he is a hero to Iran's reformists for standing up to hardliners, and many world leaders have called for his release. [...]

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran says many Iranians thought Ganji, 46, would never be freed from jail, even though his sentence was due to end.

The release comes days before the United Nations Security Council is due to discuss Iran's stand-off with Western nations over the country's nuclear programme. [...]

His imprisonment came amid a media crackdown by hardliners as the then reformist President Mohammad Khatami appeared to be threatening their power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Viewpoints: French protests (BBC, 3/18/06)

Here, Physics student Judith Duportail, a demonstrator, and Economics student Victor Vidilles, who is he helping to organise Saturday's march, explain why it is important that the government backs down over its labour reforms.

"It is wrong to make it easier to hire and to fire people here in France.

I know it is the case in other countries, but there you don't have to wait months and months, perhaps even years, to get another job like you do here.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Draft law in France poses a challenge to iPod (LAURENCE FROST, 3/18/06, The Associated Press

Apple Computer faces a serious challenge in France as lawmakers move to sever the umbilical cord between its iPod music player and iTunes online store — threatening its lucrative hold on both markets.

Amendments to an online copyright bill, adopted early Friday, would give rivals access to the hitherto-exclusive file formats at the heart of Apple's music-business model as well as Sony's Walkman players and Connect store.

A: Trick question--there is none.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 12:44 AM


Gerry Adams detained at D.C. airport (Carolyn Thompson, 3/17/06, AP)

Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party in Northern Ireland, was detained at a Washington airport on Friday after attending a St. Patrick's Day event at the White House, according to a congressman.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., who had invited Adams to speak at the Buffalo Irish Center, told the audience Friday night that Adams didn't make it to Buffalo in time because he was detained at Reagan National Airport. [...]

"Gerry Adams should not have been on a terror watch list," said Higgins.

Yeah, we'll have to wait for him to win a Nobel Peace Prize to be certain he's a threat.

March 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terror (Jamie Glazov, March 15, 2006,

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Chuck Morse, the author of The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism - Adolf Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husseini.

Glazov: Give us the story on Amin al-Husseini.

Morse: Amin al-Husseini, regarded in the Arab world as the founding father of the Palestinian movement, chose the path of denying the national rights of the Jews to that tiny area between the Jordan Rover and the Mediterranean Sea known as Israel.

Al-Husseini instigated a pogrom against indigenous Palestinian Jews in 1920. After conviction in absentia, he was pardoned by British Mandate Governor Herbert Samuel, himself a British Jew. Samuel was responsible for elevating al-Husseini as Mufti of Jerusalem thus establishing a strange pattern of western leaders supporting extremists over moderates, a pattern that continues to this day in many cases.

In 1936, al-Husseini met with Adolf Eichmann, one of the Nazi masterminds behind the Holocaust against the Jews, in Palestine where Eichmann visited for a few days. Al-Husseini then was put on the Nazi payroll and received Nazi funds which he used to instigate the Arab Revolt of 1937-1939 according to testimony at the Nuremburg and Eichmann trials.

In 1941, al-Husseini played a key role in instigating a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq. Following the collapse of the coup, al-Husseini helped instigate the Fahud, or the murder campaign against the indigenous Jews of Iraq, a campaign that has been compared to the kristalnacht in Germany.

In November, 1941, al-Husseini met with Hitler in Berlin where he was treated as a visiting head of state. al-Husseini spent the war years in Nazi Germany where he was recognized as the head of state of a Nazi-Arab government in exile. Hitler promised al-Husseini that he would be chief administrator of the Arab world after the Nazi "liberation."

While in Nazi Germany, al-Husseini directly participated in the Holocaust against the Jews by preventing the exchange of Jews for German POW's and instead insuring that they went to the crematoria. Al-Husseini led in the effort to train Bosnian Muslim brigades and other Muslim European brigades who were involved in many atrocities. He funneled monies form the sonderfund, money looted from Jews as they were sent to the concentration camps, sending the funds to the Middle East to be used to promote Nazi and anti-Jewish propaganda.

After the war, al-Husseini escaped to Cairo ahead of indictment at Nuremburg where he spent the rest of his life agitating against Israel. He died in Beirut in 1974.

Glazov: In contrast to al-Husseini, there have been moderate Arab leaders who have supported the aspirations of the Jews in Palestine. Can you tell us about them?

Morse: Emir Faisal, later King of Syria and Iraq and recognized as political leader of the Arab world, who signed an agreement with Chiam Weizmann, recognized head of the Zionist organization, known as the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement in January, 1919.

This agreement, which recognized the Jewish National Home in Palestine, reflected the more moderate and genuinely progressive view held by many Arabs at the time. I contend that this agreement constitutes established international law. Faisal envisioned an Israel, existing within "modest and proper" borders, coexisting with the emerging Arab states and helping those states emerge into modernity with the development of democratic institutions, western economies, and greater civil rights for Arabs. Had the Faisal vision been realized, perhaps the Arab States today would be prosperous and free rather than what they became -- which is authoritarian systems with endemic poverty and little freedom. [...]

Glazov: In many respects, you could say that al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas etc. are all, on one level, branches of Nazism. No?

Morse: Nazi money, largely looted from Jews, was used before, during and for decades after the war to help establish and influence these groups. Nazi war criminals emigrated to the Arab countries after the war in an effort known as "Oerationn Odessa." Al-Husseini played a role in this operation. Certainly they have embraced Nazi style anti-Semitism and tactics.

As Marxism did so much damage to Africa and Asia so too did Applied Darwinism to the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


Iraqi Sunnis do not welcome Iranian help (UPI, Mar. 17, 2006)

Sunni leaders in Iraq denounced talks Friday between Iran and the United States over the Iraq's political future.

The Tawafuq Front, a Sunni coalition, called the talks "an obvious unjustified interference in Iraq's affairs," The New York Times reported. Leaders said in a statement that the front "is not committed, under any circumstances, to any results."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Two held in Afghanistan with letter of Zawahiri (Dawn, 3/16/06)

Afghan police said they arrested on Thursday two suspected Taliban insurgents carrying letters from the movement’s fugitive leader and Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Afghan nationals were arrested separately close to the border with Pakistan in eastern Nangarhar province, border security forces provincial deputy chief Mohammad Ibrar said.

“One of them was carrying letters from (the Taliban’s) Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri,” Mr Ibrar said.

Note there isn't one from OBL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM


Remark About Gays Shadows St. Pat's Parade (VERENA DOBNIK , 03.17.2006, AP)

As huge, happy crowds lined the streets, the chairman, John Dunleavy, sidestepped questions about his remarks to The Irish Times.

"Today is St. Patrick's Day. We celebrate our faith and heritage, everything else is secondary," he said before the start of the Fifth Avenue parade.

Dunleavy set off a firestorm this week when he told the newspaper: "If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?"

Referring to the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, Dunleavy said, "People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


French protests nothing like those of '68 (JOHN LEICESTER, 3/17/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Tear gas. Students clashing with police around the famed Sorbonne university in Paris. Barricades in the capital's streets. Is March 2006 proving to be May 1968 all over again? So far, no. While comparisons between the student protests of then and now are tempting, they are also misleading.

The young protesters of '68 wanted to turn French society upside down. "Break the old molds" was one of their many slogans.

Their children want not revolution but status quo: the same access to pensions, jobs, prosperity and generous welfare systems their parents enjoyed. In short, a comfortable European lifestyle that many feel is under grave threat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:29 PM


After Words: Harvey Mansfield interviewed by Naomi Wolf (C-SPAN 2, Saturday, March 18 at 9:00 pm and Sunday, March 19 at 6:00 pm and at 9:00 pm)

Description: This week on After Words, Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government at Harvard University explains his answer to the question, "What is Manliness?" Using historical, philosophical, and political examples, Professor Mansfield traces the evolution of the word's definition from ancient times to its current meaning in today's gender-neutral society. He is interviewed on his new book, "Manliness," by author Naomi Wolf, who has also written books on gender and society including "The Beauty Myth : How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women," "Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood," & "The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love, and See."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


To Your Health: Why modest reform is preferable to single-payer health care. (Michael Kinsley, March 17, 2006, Slate)

In the March 23 New York Review of Books, Paul Krugman makes the case for a health-care system that is not only "single payer," meaning that the government handles the finances, but in some respects "single provider," meaning that the government supplies the service directly.

Krugman and his co-author, Robin Wells, correctly diagnose the problem with the Bush administration's pet health-care solution of encouraging people (with tax breaks, naturally) to pay for routine care à la carte instead of through insurance. Like Willie Sutton in reverse, this notion goes where the money isn't. Annual checkups and sore throats aren't bankrupting us: It's the gargantuan cost of treating people who are seriously ill. People who can get insurance against that risk would be insane not to, and the government would be insane to encourage them not to.

Most lucky Americans with good insurance are doubly isolated from financial reality. They don't pay for their health care and they don't even pay for most of their insurance—their employers or the government pays.

So Mr. Kinsley both recognizes the value of a system where Americans are forced to face financial reality by paying for their health care and opposes such a system because George W. Bush is implementing it. Such are the wages of BDS.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


New Documents from Saddam Hussein's Archives Discuss Bin Laden, WMDs (ABC News, March 16, 2006)

Following are the ABC News Investigative Unit's summaries of four of the nine Iraqi documents from Saddam Hussein's government, which were released by the U.S. government Wednesday.

The documents discuss Osama bin Laden, weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda and more.

The full documents can be found on the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office Web site: [...]

"Hiding Docs from the U.N. Team"

Document dated March 23, 1997

A letter from the Iraqi intelligence service to directors and managers advising them to follow certain procedures in case of a search by the U.N. team, including:

Removing correspondence with the atomic energy and military industry departments concerning the prohibited weapons (proposals, research, studies, catalogs, etc.).

Removing prohibited materials and equipment, including documents and catalogs and making sure to clear labs and storages of any traces of chemical or biological materials that were previously used or stored.

Doing so through a committee which will decide whether to destroy the documents.

Removing files from computers.

The letter also advises them on how they should answer questions by U.N. team members. It says the intelligence service should be informed within one week about the progress made in discarding the documents.

(Editor's Note: This document is consistent with the Report of the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence, which described a pattern of deception and concealment on the part of Saddam Hussein's government towards the U.N. inspectors in the mid to late 90's. Hussein halted all cooperation with those inspectors and expelled them in October 1998.)

Case closed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Religious Rapprochement in Israel: Officially, Israel and the West have rule out talks with the Islamic extremist organization Hamas. However, dialogue is quietly being sought with the new Palestinian leadership. (Christoph Schult, Der Spiegel)

Rabbi Menachem Fruman has been fighting a lonely battle for years now. A religious Israeli settler from the mountains in occupied West Bank, he has been tirelessly pushing to improve dialogue with the militant Islamist organization Hamas. Motivated by the principle that peace between religious believers should be possible, Fruman has regularly braved the Gaza Strip to meet radical Palestinian leaders.

His efforts climaxed in 1997, when he shook hands with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Fruman's settler friends regarded him as a traitor, and even within the Israeli peace movement he was viewed as naïve. Most of his compatriots just thought he was crazy.

But now -- ever since the Islamists won the parliamentary elections in January -- Fruman is very much in demand. With Hamas aiming to make their leader Ismail Haniyeh the next Palestinian prime minister, the 60-year-old rabbi knows more about how the new people in power view the world than practically any other Israeli.

Even the government is suddenly showing interest in what Fruman is doing. Recently, a close advisor of the acting Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert called him up to request a confidential chat. Fruman met the prime minister's representative in the anonymity of the lobby of a hotel in Jerusalem. He wanted to know how likely an improvement in relations between Israel and Hamas would be. "I said that Hamas can be put on the right path more easily if the organization is accorded some respect," says Fruman. [...]

According to surveys, 50 percent of Israelis are in favor of dealing with Hamas. But because of the elections in two weeks time, top politicians feel they have to show themselves to be unshakably tough. Although Hamas has not even formed a cabinet yet, Olmert has already labeled the new Palestinian government a "terrorist administration." And Israeli officials have threatened the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya with assassination. Olmert seemingly wants voters to believe that Israel is able to completely cut all links to the Palestinians.

But mutual dependence is far too great for that to ever happen. Only last week Israel was forced to re-open the border to the Gaza strip to allow aid through, after a three week blockcade. This was the only way of preventing a humanitarian catastrophe. And Israeli firms lose out on millions of dollars because they are unable to export their products -- especially milk, sugar and bananas -- to the Palestinian areas.

You don't have to respect them, but dealing with them publiclly actually discredits Hamas's position that Israel is illegitimate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Democracy Push by Bush Attracts Doubters in Party (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 3/17/06, NY Times)

The critics, who include Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Representative Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, as well as Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, are alarmed at the costs of military operations and of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They have also been shaken by the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections in January and by the gains Islamists scored in elections in Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon.

The administration, with support from legislators like Senators John McCain of Arizona and Sam Brownback of Kansas, contends that whatever their outcome, elections are better than violent upheaval.

Mr. Kissinger helped prop up the Soviet Union. Mr. Scowcroft whiffed on both Tiananmen Square and the Shi'ite revolt against Saddam. Senator Hagel is a notorious nitwit. But you'd think Henry Hyde would have sense enough, and be a good enough Christian, to resent being grouped with guys who apparently prefer an America that supports Yassir Arafat, Saddam Hussein, the Assads, the Taliban, Charles Taylor, etc. -- because they at least keep things "stable" -- to one that supports the democratic yearnings of people beyond our own borders, even if it makes things a bit messy.

My 5th grade teacher was a former nun and one day she came out into the hall to yell at us: "At East Orange High School they may all be shooting heroin in the bathrooms but at least they're quiet when they change classes!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Paris Flambé: The student protests in France are getting worse. On Thursday, some 250,000 demonstrators took to the streets with more than 300 arrests made. The student violence is the worst since 1968. (Der Spiegel, 3/17/06)

Two weeks into the violent protests, the rage of French students shows no signs of subsiding. How angry are they? So angry that they're even carrying protest banners written in English in the anglophobic Republique. "Villepin: Give Up, in France You Are not the King!" and "We Shall Never Surrender!" The Academie francaise surely won't be pleased, but the banners do help ensure the maximum international media impact. [...]

For several weeks now, students in France have been protesting a new law introduced by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin that makes it easier for employers to fire young workers under the age of 26 from their first jobs. De Villepin's logic is that companies will be more inclined to hire younger workers if they know they also have the option of laying them off.

They'd rather strike than work but people think they'll make a fit fighting force if war with their Islamic minority comes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Scientists Find Evidence Universe Inflated in Less Than Trillionth of a Second (David McAlary, 17 March 2006, VOA News)

Scientists report evidence that the universe was born in less than the blink of an eye, expanding instantly from sub-microscopic size to astronomical proportions.

But then the Fed got it under control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM


Ginsburg Faults GOP Critics, Cites a Threat From 'Fringe' (Charles Lane, 3/17/06, Washington Post)

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg assailed the court's congressional critics in a recent speech overseas, saying their efforts "fuel" an "irrational fringe" that threatened her life and that of a colleague, former justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Addressing an audience at the Constitutional Court of South Africa on Feb. 7, the 73-year-old justice, known as one of the court's more liberal members, criticized various Republican-proposed House and Senate measures that either decry or would bar the citation of foreign law in the Supreme Court's constitutional rulings. Conservatives often see the citing of foreign laws in court rulings as an affront to American sovereignty, adding to a list of grievances they have against judges that include rulings supporting abortion rights or gay rights. [...]

Reflecting the tension between the two branches, O'Connor used a speech at Georgetown University Law Center last week to repeat her own past warnings about the threat to judicial independence posed by Republican criticisms of the court's rulings. She referred to comments by former House majority leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) but did not name either man.

She noted that death threats against judges are rising, according to a National Public Radio report on the speech, but she did not refer to the Internet threat mentioned by Ginsburg. No transcript or recording of O'Connor's speech is publicly available.

Justice O'Connor reportedly suggested that we risk sliding into dictatorship. After all, if judges aren't allowed to overturn the will of the electorate and to impose foreign legal standards then....oops, never mind.

O'Connor Forecasts Dictatorship: Why didn't the American press chase the story? (Jack Shafer, March 13, 2006, Slate)

The smoke drifting out of your computer over the weekend was not the result of a fried motherboard but the scent of bloggers setting themselves on fire in response to Nina Totenberg's NPR Morning Edition Friday, March 10, dispatch. Totenberg had attended a speech at Georgetown University given the night before by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in which O'Connor invoked the word "dictatorship" to describe the direction the country may be headed if Republicans continue to attack the judiciary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


Kempthorne Picked for Interior: Idaho Governor Hailed by Bush, Assailed by Environmentalists (Peter Baker and Juliet Eilperin, 3/17/06, Washington Post)

President Bush named Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as the new secretary of the interior yesterday, choosing a popular Western Republican with Washington experience and a disputed environmental record to oversee the nation's parks and public lands.

If confirmed, Kempthorne would succeed Gale A. Norton, who announced her resignation this month at a time when her department is tied up in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Kempthorne, 54, a two-term governor who served in the Senate in the 1990s, presumably should have little trouble winning the approval of his former colleagues. [...]

Kempthorne has been a favorite in the Bush White House for years and was considered three years ago as the likely choice for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He may have cemented his relationship with the president last summer when he and Bush went biking through Idaho trails together. Bush recalled that day fondly yesterday and noted that Kempthorne and his wife, Patricia, were married during a sunrise ceremony atop Idaho's Moscow Mountain.

But Kempthorne has also demonstrated independence from the White House on some issues. Just last month, he led a protest by the nation's governors against Bush's proposed cuts in Pentagon funding for the National Guard, calling them "a formula for disaster."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


The bird or not the bird?
(RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, 3/17/06, Associated Press)

Was it or was it not an ivory-billed woodpecker?

Experts are still arguing a year later, while bird fanciers flock to the part of Arkansas where the bird in question was said to have been seen and heard.

The issue takes wing again in the Friday's issue of the journal Science, with one set of researchers arguing that the bird videotaped last year probably was a common pileated woodpecker and another group stoutly defending the identification as an ivory-bill.

It is an important distinction, because the ivory-billed woodpecker had been thought extinct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Man severs own penis, throws it at officers (ERIC HERMAN, 3/17/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Before cops threw the book at him, Jakub Fik threw something unusual at them -- his penis.

Fik, 33, cut off his own penis during a Northwest Side rampage Wednesday morning. When confronted by police, Fik hurled several knives and his severed organ at the officers, police said. Officers stunned him with a Taser and took him into custody.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


'Jericho effect' boosts Israeli leader: Olmert's Kadima party reclaims wide lead in polls after attack on Palestinian prison (MARK MACKINNON, 3/17/06, Globe and Mail

After taking a slight dip in the polls, acting prime minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party has rebounded to reclaim a wide lead less than two weeks before Israel's parliamentary elections, benefiting from what observers have called a "Jericho effect" in the wake of this week's Israeli military raid on a Palestinian prison.

An opinion poll released yesterday forecasts that Kadima will win between 42 and 43 of the 120 seats up for grabs, up from 38 seats a week ago and easily enough to give it first crack at forming a coalition government in the 120-seat Knesset after the March 28 vote.

The bounce was attributed largely to popular support for the Israeli army's surprise attack Tuesday on the Jericho prison, which left three Palestinians dead and led to Israel's capture of six wanted militants in Palestinian custody. While the raid provoked violent protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it was hailed by the Israeli media as a major success.

Mr. Olmert just has to convince voters of something they knew about Ariel Sharon, that the final settlement he imposes on a Palestinian state will be on Israeli terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Harper restricts ministers' message
: Officials urged to stick to five key priorities; PMO wants to vet all other public comment (CAMPBELL CLARK, 3/17/06, Globe and Mail)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has imposed central control over all information and comments to the public issued by government officials and even cabinet ministers, directing them to have everything cleared by the Prime Minister's Office, according to an internal e-mail and government sources.

The orders, described in an e-mail to bureaucrats, indicate that ministers have been told to avoid talking about the direction of the government, and that the government wants them to be less accessible to the news media. And all government officials are instructed to avoid speaking about anything other than the five priorities outlined in the Conservative campaign.

"Maintain a relentless focus on the five priorities from the campaign. Reduce the amount of ministerial/public events that distract from the five priority areas [--"a Federal Accountability Act, a GST cut, a child-care allowance, tougher criminal sentences, and a patient waiting-times guarantee"--] identified in the campaign," the e-mail states.

Such sharp focus on a few achievable goals is right out of the Bush/Rove playbook.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Fighting Smarter In Iraq (David Ignatius, March 17, 2006, Washington Post)

Three years on, the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq. Sadly, these are precisely the skills that should have been mastered before America launched its invasion in March 2003. It may prove one of the costliest lessons in the history of modern warfare.

I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week. U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role. This is the way it should have happened from the beginning.

Mr. Ignatius betrays a profound ignorance of how badly we've always done early on in wars--the main difference between us and our enemies, which would appear to be intimately tied up with our democratic nature, has always been that we adapt as we go along and win them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


GOP Irritation At Bush Was Long Brewing (Jim VandeHei, 3/17/06, Washington Post)

What Bush is facing now, beyond just election-year jitters by legislators eyeing his depressed approval ratings, is a rebellion that has been brewing since the days when he looked invincible, say many lawmakers and strategists. Newly unleashed grievances could signal even bigger problems for Bush's last two years in office, as he would be forced to abandon a governing strategy that until recently counted on solid support from congressional Republicans.

The White House at times has been "non-responsive and arrogant," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). "There are a thousand small cuts," he added, that are ignored when things are going well but "rear their heads when things are not going well."

"Members felt they were willing to take a lot of tough votes and did not get much in return," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), an early critic of the port deal.

Congressional scholar Norman J. Ornstein has written that the recently vented anger, after being suppressed for years out of loyalty or fear, might be seen in psychological terms. He called the condition "battered-Congress syndrome."

This would include the 232 Republican House members that George W. bush helped elect? The most since 1946? the first time since 1928 they increased a GOP majority in an election year? with 2004 being the first time the GOP ever increased a House majority in consecutive election cycles? Yeah, what did they get in return for following the President?

U.S. hovers close to its debt ceiling (Tom Abate, January 8, 2006, SF Chronicle)

The federal debt is so mind-boggling it's no wonder lawmakers would rather not think about it. In per capita terms, the current debt is about $27,000 for each of 298 million Americans.

But economists tend to look at the national debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product -- the sum total of all goods and services. This links the debt level to the nation's ability to pay and factors out inflation over time.

By this measure, the national debt has ebbed and flowed with world and political currents. According to historical tables in the 2006 federal budget, debt peaked at 121.7 percent of GDP in 1946 because of World War II spending. It fell to about 33 percent of GDP in 1980, then roughly doubled to the 60 percent range during the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush.

After hitting 67.3 percent of GDP in 1996, a few rare budget surpluses during the Clinton era drove the national debt back down to about 57 percent in 2001.

Debt as a percentage of GDP turned up again as the Bush administration began running deficits and now stands at an estimated 65.7 percent of GDP. The 2006 budget forecast predicts that the national debt will be 70 percent of GDP in 2010.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


English plagues French news channel (Colin Randall, March 17, 2006, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH)

France's television dream of mounting a challenge to CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. has suffered an embarrassing setback after reports that the new channel would broadcast most of its output in English. [...]

The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine quoted Jean-Pierre Paoli, right-hand man to CII's head, Alain de Pouzilhac, as saying: "It could be half in English, half in French or a different proportion."

But the weekly said CII executives told counterparts at the state-owned France Televisions, a partner with the private TF1 network in the venture, that French-language transmissions would be limited to three hours each morning. The rest, Le Canard Enchaine said, would be "in the language of Shakespeare."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Homosexual men boost increase in syphilis rate (Joyce Howard Price, 3/17/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The syphilis rate among U.S. men soared 81 percent between 2000 and 2004, primarily as a result of increases in reported cases among homosexual males, federal health officials reported yesterday.

While the rate among men nearly doubled during that time -- from 2.6 per 100,000 to 4.7 -- the syphilis rate among women fell from 1.7 to 0.8 per 100,000 from 2000 to 2003. It remained stable in 2004, marking the end of a 13-year decline.

"The vast majority of the increase is attributable to a resurgence of syphilis among men who have sex with men ... syphilis rates continue to increase among [this group]," said Dr. J.F. Beltrami and other authors of a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.

They also pointed out that sexually active bisexual men "likely contribute to syphilis among women."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


White House offers talks to Tehran (Joseph Curl, March 17, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has been "authorized to speak with Iranians," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said. "But this is a very narrow mandate dealing specifically with issues relating to Iraq." [...]

Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim had urged Shi'ite Iran to become involved in the talks in an effort to address U.S. accusations that Iran is meddling in Iraq.

"We will accept the proposal to help resolve the problems in Iraq and establish an independent government there as it was made by Mr. Hakim," said Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator and secretary of the country's Supreme National Security Council.

The move marks a major shift in Iranian foreign policy, just as the United Nations is weighing action to punish the nation for its nuclear ambitions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


More kids on anti-psychotic drugs (Lindsey Tanner, 3/17/06, The Associated Press)

Soaring numbers of U.S. children are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, in many cases for attention-deficit disorder or other behavioral problems for which these medications have not been proved to work, a study found.

The annual number of children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs jumped fivefold between 1995 and 2002, to an estimated 2.5 million, the study said. That is an increase from 8.6 of every 1,000 children in the mid-1990s to nearly 40 of 1,000 in 2002.

More than half the prescriptions were for attention-deficit and other nonpsychotic conditions, the researchers said.

The findings are worrisome "because it looks like these medications are being used for large numbers of children in a setting where we don't know if they work," said Dr. William Cooper, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and lead author of the study.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


"Impostor": Stirring up a fight on the right: a review of "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy" by Bruce Bartlett (Bruce Ramsey, 3/17/06, The Seattle Times)

The argument of "Impostor" is that George W. Bush is not a conservative. He is another Richard Nixon, who had a conservative aura and conservatives as his political base but used the presidency to create wage and price controls, the Environmental Protection Agency and other items irritating to the conservative digestion.

It all depends on what you say a conservative is. Author Bruce Bartlett — who according to newspaper reports was fired last fall from his job at a conservative Dallas-based think tank for writing this book — defines it on Page 1: a belief in "small government, federalism, free trade, and the Constitution as originally understood." [...]

Bartlett also uses Milton Friedman's principle that the true measure of government is what it spends — and, of course, Bush has been a geyser of spending. In hindsight, says Bartlett in appreciation, Bill Clinton "now looks almost like another Calvin Coolidge," the parsimonious Republican who paid down debt from World War I.

The lowest Ronald Reagan ever got federal spending, a dubious enough measure of one's conservatism, was 21.2% of GDP, which was higher than all but Jimmy Carter's last budget. Richard Nixon, by comparison, inherited a government that spent 20.5% in 1968, and got it below 20% every year of his presidency, though it skyrocketed once he left office. It would be more accurate, if one is a Bartlettian, to say that Reagan and Bush betrayed Nixon's conservative legacy, a claim so obviously asinine that only a conservative could make it.

U.S. hovers close to its debt ceiling (Tom Abate, January 8, 2006, SF Chronicle)

The federal debt is so mind-boggling it's no wonder lawmakers would rather not think about it. In per capita terms, the current debt is about $27,000 for each of 298 million Americans.

But economists tend to look at the national debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product -- the sum total of all goods and services. This links the debt level to the nation's ability to pay and factors out inflation over time.

By this measure, the national debt has ebbed and flowed with world and political currents. According to historical tables in the 2006 federal budget, debt peaked at 121.7 percent of GDP in 1946 because of World War II spending. It fell to about 33 percent of GDP in 1980, then roughly doubled to the 60 percent range during the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush.

After hitting 67.3 percent of GDP in 1996, a few rare budget surpluses during the Clinton era drove the national debt back down to about 57 percent in 2001.

Debt as a percentage of GDP turned up again as the Bush administration began running deficits and now stands at an estimated 65.7 percent of GDP. The 2006 budget forecast predicts that the national debt will be 70 percent of GDP in 2010.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Mexico stuns Rocket, U.S. (John Nadel, 3/17/06, Associated Press)

Roger Clemens was a loser in what might have been the final start of his outstanding career, and Mexico eliminated Team USA from the World Baseball Classic.

Oliver Perez and seven relievers combined to pitch a three-hitter last night, as Mexico beat the Rocket and the United States, 2-1, giving Japan another shot at Korea in the WBC semifinals.

The Red, White, Blue and Orange all lose on the same night?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Beckett’s booming (Jeff Horrigan, March 17, 2006, Boston Herald)

The look on Torii Hunter’s face when he couldn’t catch up to an exploding, two-strike fastball in the second inning of the Red Sox’ 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins at City of Palms Park yesterday was all Terry Francona needed to see to realize that Josh Beckett was nearly ready for the regular season.

“The best I can put it is I’m glad he’s in our uniform,” Francona said. “I thought he looked strong and he had to work a little bit, which is good. He threw a couple of good changeups and his fastball had a lot of life. You saw Torii Hunter turn around and say, ‘This has got a little extra giddy-up on it.’ ”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Hub’s loss a real boomer: Data show working families moving on as empty-nesters move in (Jay Fitzgerald, 3/17/06, Boston Herald)

Suffolk - which is dominated by Boston but also includes Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop - saw a 1.48 percent decline in residents last year and a 5.15 percent decline over the past five years, placing the Hub dead-last in population growth among the 100 largest counties in America, according to Census Bureau estimates released and analyzed yesterday.

Among all 3,141 counties in the United States, Suffolk’s loss of 9,835 residents last year was the sixth-highest decline in hard numbers, according to census data. The overwhelming majority of those 3,141 counties, including many of the nation’s largest, experienced population gains.

The Herald first reported yesterday on the Hub’s population drop. But economists were stunned that further analysis showed Suffolk County was tops in population loss nationwide.

“It’s not good,” said John Bitner, chief economist at Boston’s Eastern Bank. “When you have a declining population, it starts feeding on itself. It’s tougher on small businesses. It’s 10,000 less haircuts, 10,000 less trips to dry cleaners. It becomes a downward (economic) spiral.”

Boston’s five-year population slide, on a percentage basis, outpaced even Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore and Milwaukee, all of which sustained heavy population losses.

It'll be easier to get Sox tickets in a few years anyway.

March 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


I used loans loophole, admits Blair (George Jones, Toby Helm and Rachel Sylvester, 17/03/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair admitted yesterday using a loophole in the rules on political donations to nominate three businessmen who made "secret" loans of more than £1 million to Labour for peerages.

The Prime Minister made his admission about not informing the independent watchdog on Lords appointments as he found himself drawn further into the "peerages for loans" scandal. It raised suspicions of new moves to force him to make way for Gordon Brown this year.

Labour was gripped by bitter infighting with Mr Blair's close associates still reeling from the shock claim by Jack Dromey, the party's elected treasurer, that he had been "kept in the dark" about secret loans totalling more than £10 million.

"This was a dagger aimed at the heart of Tony Blair," a close ally of the Prime Minister said. "It is all about the politics between Blair and Brown."

If it is all about disgruntled Labourites turning on Blair, it would seem naive of them to think that the party escapes unscathed. Likely all they've done is make David Cameron's job easier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


The Shmooze: Swinging into Canada's Baseball Pantheon (ANTHONY WEISS, March 17, 2006, The Forward)

On Tuesday, March 7, Adam Stern was a well-regarded prospect for the Boston Red Sox. On the disabled list in the middle of the 2005 season, he had a decent but far-from-certain shot at a permanent berth as a back-up outfielder in 2006.

By Thursday, March 9, Stern was Canadian national hero.

In between, the London, Ontario, native led Team Canada to "the biggest win in Canadian baseball history," according to Tom Valcke, president and CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. In Canada's 8-6 shocker over vaunted Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Stern went 3-for-4, including a rare inside-the-park home run and four RBIs. He also managed two spectacular catches in center field, including a leaping eighth-inning grab that helped Canada preserve its lead.

With that game, Stern, 26, leaped into the pantheon Canadian baseball greats, alongside the likes of pitching ace and Cooperstown Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins as well as current major league star Eric Gagne and National League Rookie of the Year Jason Bay.

He had already entered Jewish baseball history in 2005, when Boston fielded him along with Gabe Kapler and Kevin Youkilis during the ninth inning of an August 8 game against the Texas Rangers. It was the first time any team had put three Jewish players on the same field at once since the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s.

Stern is only the second Canadian Jew to play the major leagues. The first was Goody Rosen, "The Toronto Tidbit," a center fielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930s and '40s.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:05 PM


Sonny Rollins played at the venerable Gusman Center in downtown Miami on Tuesday night. Printed above Sonny's name on the ticket were the words "Sax God"...not as poetic as "Saxophone Colossus," which is what I've previously seen printed on Rollins tickets (and the name of perhaps his greatest album), but a more efficient use of letters and syllables and just as accurate. Given the turnout I've seen for other jazz concerts in Miami, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the theater was sold out.

The evening started with some functionaries presenting Sonny with (1) a proclamation from Mayor and City Commissioners declaring March 14 "Sonny Rollins Day" and (2) a key to the City. For some reason, they made the speeches and held up the proclamation and key without Rollins being on stage. But soon enough, Sonny ambled out with his peculiar stiff-legged shuffle gait, and accepted the awards with a few quick "thank you's" and a bemused smile on his face. By the way, his walk is about the only sign of his age catching up to him (he's 75). Although his beard is all white and his hair is more snow than coal, he is still tall and powerful looking and his odd, nasal voice (think Muppet) is still strong and clear. But his walk is that of an old man, perhaps a former football player or basketball player whose knees no longer have any cartilage.

After the brief ceremony, the band took the stage: Sonny, Clifton Anderson (Sonny's nephew) on trombone, Bobby Broom (who I went to jazz camp with almost 30 years ago) on guitar, Victor Lewis on drums, and Bob Cranshaw, who has been playing electric bass behind Sonny for more than 20 years.

Sonny Rollins is, without debate, the World's Greatest Living Jazz Musician, but his performances can be uneven. When he's feeling it, no musician can bring an audience to greater heights of musical ecstasy; but when he can't find it, Sonny will noodle around on the head of a tune for a few minutes and then turn things over to the band. Sometimes, both phenomena happen in the same concert, and Tuesday night was fairly typical.

During the first 2 numbers, neither Sonny nor the band could seem to get much momentum going. The first number, a medium tempo standard (that I didn't recognize) wasn't helped by the fact that it featured a long drum seemed out of place so early in the show and didn't seem to build up from anything. The second tune was "Park Place," a calypso (a Sonny trademark and a nod to his West Indies heritage), but it was a strangely subdued example of the genre. Sonny's playing wasn't bad...his distinctive tone was strong and there were some interesting phrases...but it wasn't what we came to hear from the WGLJM.

Ah, but then Sonny segued from the calypso to the opening notes Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," and in an instant, there was magic in the air. As is his custom, Sonny started pacing the stage while playing, at times criss-crossing a small false stage front that was about a step below the main stage as though he were "walking the bar." His sound became magisterial, his ideas began flowing more smoothly, and the rhythm section starting laying down a cohesive, firm foundation for Sonny's excursion. (Bob Crenshaw's bass playing is especially worth mentioning. It took me the better part of 15 years to get used to Sonny playing with an electric bass, but now I can't imagine any other backing for him. Crenshaw's tone is as supple as one can coax from an electric bass, and I've come to believe that Sonny's thunderous tone would overwhelm an acoustic instrument.) The music continued at that unsurpassable level for then next 2 numbers, "They Say It's Wonderful" and an old waltz, "Someday I'll Find You." "They Say" was Rollins at his jaunty, euphoric best. Riffs, swinging lines, shouts, growls and wails poured out of his horn in a torrent of power, intellect, warmth and humor. If his solo had lasted for 2 or 3 hours, I don't think anyone in the house would have left his seat. He was a bit more contemplative on the waltz, but no less active and engaging. Just amazing.

Sonny and the band throttled back a bit on the last 2 tunes on the main part of the program: "Nishi," a blues Rollins wrote on a trip to Japan and one of his signature calypsos "Don't Stop the Carnival." Although the playing was fine all around, it was almost as if the band (and the audience) was a little worn out (physically and emotionally) from the "E" ticket ride we had all been on for the previous 40 minutes. Still, a scaled-back Rollins is better than 100% of pretty much anyone else.

After a long standing ovation, the band returned to the stage for an encore, Sonny's classic "Tenor Madness" (which he recorded in his only studio encounter with his friend and rival, John Coltrane). Rollins and Anderson played the head in unison, at a slightly slower pace than usual and with a real emphasis on swinging the melody. In his solo, Sonny dug into the blues changes with a more gusto and authority than he had on "Nishi." Towards the end, Sonny and Victor Lewis engaged in a tasty exchange of 4's which led into the final chorus. The finale was a great reminder that for all of his exploring and searching, Rollins's playing has (and has always had) at its core, the essential elements of jazz that have pertained since the days of Armstrong: swing and blues.

So March 16, 2006 may have been Sonny Rollins Day in Miami, but it was also another reminder that in the jazz world every day is Sonny Rollins Day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


Hey, Big Spender: Should we have known that President Bush would bust the budget? (Peggy Noonan, March 16, 2006, Opinion Journal)

This week's column is a question, a brief one addressed with honest curiosity to Republicans. It is: When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?

I, for one, am perfectly willing to admit that I didn't forsee the WoT and the 2% of GDP increase in spending on Defense it would cause, but, on the other hand, I thought the President would have enough votes in the Senate to pass partial SS privatization, which is a real budget buster in the short term. Most importantly, I was sure that W would drastically reduce our taxes.

At any rate, given that Ms Noonan believes, for some reason, that Ronald Reagan was a conservative and George W. Bush isn't, it's perhaps helpful to just compare the two: when Ronald Reagan left office in 1988 he was dunning us 18.1% of GDP to pay for a federal government that spent 21.2% of GDP. In 2004, the last year for which I could find numbers, George W. Bush had lowered our tax burden to 16.3% of GDP-- a level last reached in 1959--to pay for a government that spent 19.8 of GDP.

There doesn't seem to be any coherent reason why a president's conservatism should be judged by how much he spends, but if you're using that as your yardstick then Mr. Reagan was the most liberal president since FDR during WWII and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the most conservative since Nixon.

Inflation slows in February (Associated Press, 3/16/06)

Inflation slowed sharply in February as food costs moderated and the price of gasoline, natural gas and other energy products posted big declines.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that its closely watched Consumer Price Index posted a tiny 0.1 percent increase last month after having jumped 0.7 percent in January. [...]

Outside of the volatile energy and food sectors, so-called core inflation was also well-behaved during February, rising by a slight 0.1 percent, after a 0.2 percent gain in January.

The CPI for 1988 was over 4%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Senators near compromise on immigration reform (Donna Smith, 3/16/06, Reuters)

Although no vote will be held until after a weeklong congressional recess, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday appeared ready to back a proposal by panel member Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, who has worked on the issue with his Republican colleague John McCain of Arizona. [...]

Kennedy told the committee the proposal was not an amnesty. People seeking legal status would have to pay a $2,000 fine, apply for a six-year temporary status, have a job, pay taxes, learn English and show an understanding of U.S. government.

They would not get permanent status faster than the three million foreigners awaiting legal entry, he said.

"There is no moving to the front of the line, there is no free ticket," Kennedy said. "This is not amnesty."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, quipped that the requirements "probably exclude half of my family."

The panel also reached tentative agreement on a guest worker program sought by President George W. Bush has said he wants. A compromise struck between Kennedy and Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, would give future temporary workers an opportunity to seek permanent status after four years.

U.S. business groups favor creating a temporary worker program to help fill jobs that Americans either cannot or will not do. Both business and labor groups also favor giving current undocumented workers a way to legalize their status.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


The Israel Lobby (John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, 3/23/06, London Review of Books)

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

You have to be pretty estranged from America not to get that the connection is fundamentally religious and dates to the Founding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Canadians beginning to shun office life
(SCOTT DEVEAU, 3/16/06, Globe and Mail )

Canadian's priorities are shifting away from the office towards a more balanced personal life, according to a nationwide survey released Wednesday.

According to the survey, conducted by Workopolis, an online job search site, family has become more important to Canadians than their careers, reversing the priorities they held five years ago when a persons' career took the top spot.

In 2001, when the online survey was last conducted, 37 per cent of respondents said their career was their top priority. At that time, only 31 per cent said that their family was most important part of their life.

Those priorities have changed, however, with 44 per cent of respondents now saying family was the most important aspect of their life, while only 31 per cent said their career was.

Now they just need to start having them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Iran says it's ready for talks with U.S. about Iraq
(ALI AKBAR DAREINI, 3/16/06, Associated Press)

A top Iranian official said Thursday that Tehran was ready to open talks with the United States over Iraq, marking a major shift in Iranian foreign policy a day after a top Iraqi leader called for such talks.

Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator and also secretary of the country's Supreme National Security Council, told the Islamic Republic News Agency that any talks between the United States and Iran would deal only with Iraqi issues.

We share an obvious interest with Iran in seeing an Iraqi Shi'astan succeed and this looks like a Khamenei approach over the head of Ahmedinejad, a split we ought exploit. But it's the kind of offer we're likely to reflexively turn down because we don't get Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Inflation slows to 2.2%
(ROMA LUCIW, 3/16/06, Globe and Mail )

Canada's annual rate of inflation fell to 2.2 per cent in February, as consumers paid less for gasoline, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Passport saved Canadian hostage
: Held hostage at gunpoint by Palestinian extremists in the Gaza Strip, Mark Budzanowski feared for his life – until his captors discovered his passport and declared 'We love Canada' (MARK MACKINNON, 3/16/06, Globe and Mail)

Can't you just see the Canadian Tourism Board running those ads: "Canada, terrorists love us!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


P&O Ports to find U.S. buyer (William Glanz, March 16, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The port-operating company that DP World bought this month will oversee the sale of U.S. port operations and expects to find a buyer in four to six months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


One Vote for Gore (Chris Cillizza, March 16, 2006, Washington Post)

Al Gore, non-candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has his first inside-the-Beltway booster for a 2008 campaign.

The support, enthusiastic if unsolicited, comes from Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who urged Gore into the race yesterday during an appearance on C-SPAN. In an interview after that appearance, Moran was careful to note that he is not formally endorsing Gore or any other 2008 candidate just yet, but he cited the former vice president's popular-vote advantage over George W. Bush in 2000 as his strongest selling point.

"I'd like to give him another shot at it," Moran said.

He went on to draw a comparison between Gore's political career and that of former president Richard M. Nixon...

If the Vice President were a sheep in Brokeback Mountain people would complain about Mr. Moran treating him that way....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


’Beisbol’ finds its new heart and soul (Michael Silverman, March 16, 2006, Boston Herald)

There certainly are pockets left in the U.S. where baseball is a way of life. Boston, of course. St. Louis. Certain portions of New York City. But in the Caribbean, baseball is life in so many more important and heartfelt ways.

Passion is one thing, but it’s time to both acknowledge and celebrate who just passed through Hiram Bithorn Stadium, a ballpark that lacks any redeeming architectural feature but reverberates with the horns, cheers, whistles of adoration and sometimes rum-fueled throngs lucky enough to have sneaked a peek at the prodigious talent that just played six games here.

For Puerto Rico, Javier Vazquez, Carlos Beltran, Ivan Rodriguez and Javy Lopez. For Venezuela, Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Zambrano and Bobby Abreu. For the Dominican Republic, Bartolo Colon, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Miguel Tejada.

That’s who was here. Left out is Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Felix Hernandez and Pedro Martinez.

And for Cuba, until the political landscape changes there, the motherlode of talent is simply immense and, more importantly, still untapped, guaranteeing the Latin influence in baseball will continue, unabated, for years to come.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Korea in; U.S. at the controls (Steve Buckley, 3/16/06, Boston Herald)

It’s probably pushing it to portray Team USA as the scrappy underdogs of the World Baseball Classic, but, well, here they are: When Korea had completed its thrilling 2-1 victory over Japan last night at Angel Stadium, it enabled the Americans to live for another day.

Its mission now clear, Team USA can advance to the WBC’s championship round - an international hardball Final Four, if you will - with a victory over Mexico tonight.

And Roger Clemens will get just what he wanted: a chance to pitch an important game on the international stage.

All is forgiven, Rocket, pending...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Census shows city population dropping (Jay Fitzgerald, 3/16/06, Boston Herald)

People are leaving Boston at a stunning rate of about 27 a day - with nearly 10,000 bolting Suffolk County last year alone, according to new U.S. Census Data.

That’s more than 1 person bailing out on life in the Hub every hour.

The pace of population decline in Suffolk County - made up overwhelmingly by Boston but also including Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop - was the fastest of any county in Massachusetts from July 2004 through July 2005, data shows.

The prohibitively high cost of housing and lack of jobs helped drive 9,835 people out of Suffolk County last year - the fourth straight year in which the Boston area lost population to outlying communities or other states. [...]

[Michael Goodman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute,] said the census estimates do reflect statewide numbers showing Massachusetts is losing population. Earlier this year, the bureau estimated the state’s overall population fell by 0.1 percent to 6,398,743, the second straight year of population decline.

As cities become just theme/office parks one would expect and hope to see people move out.

Metro area 'fringes' are booming (Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg, 3/15/06, USA TODAY)

Americans continue their march away from congested and costly areas halfway through the decade, settling in more remote counties even if it means longer commutes, according to Census population estimates released Thursday. (Graphic: Population shifting)

Some of the fastest-growing counties in 2005 lie on the farthest edges of large metropolitan areas, stretching the definition of "exurbs" to the limit.

"It's not just the decade of the exurbs but the decade of the exurbs of the exurbs," says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. "People are leaving expensive cores and going as far out as they can to get a big house and a big yard. Suburbia is moving much further out."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


So You Say You Want a Deevolution?: With the GOP defaulting on his Contract with America, Newt Gingrich may be rallying the ultra-conservative troops for a charge at the White House gates. (Ezra Klein, 03.15.06, American Prospect)

In 1994, Newt Gingrich became that rarest of creatures: a successful revolutionary. That’s when his decades-long emasculation of the Democratic majority finally broke them -- as he always knew it would – and the Republicans, with Gingrich at their helm, retook the House for the first time in 40 years. Then, in 1998, he entered the next, and usually final, stage in the revolutionary’s lifecycle: the humiliating fall from grace. His brand of unalloyed conservatism and partisan overreaching repulsed the country, and voters responded with the worst electoral drubbing any opposition party had received since Johnson walloped Goldwater in 1964. Gingrich resigned a few days later. And that, we thought, was the end of his story -- just another political tragicomedy.

But the silver-haired revolutionary from Georgia has never been genteel enough to follow convention. So now, nearly four election cycles later, he’s angling for an incarnation rarely attained among his species: the triumphant comeback. And, thanks to the Republican Party’s drift into crony capitalism, big spending, and general incoherence, he just might get it. [...]

Ten years ago, when Newt and his coterie of red-faced radicals returned Republicans to power, they branded themselves deficit hawks, sworn foes of entitlement programs, devotees of limited government. They wanted to abolish the Department of Education, cut Medicare spending, and pass a constitutional amendment ensuring an eternity of balanced budgets. That the restored Republican majority instead fired Newt, elected Bush, passed a massive expansion of the Department of Education, added a new entitlement onto Medicare, and turned a large budget surplus into a gaping deficit is a fairly cruel irony, a political joke matched only by their brazen rejection of the ethics standards they rode in on.

In addition to being a small government manifesto, the Contract With America was a broadside against Congress’s culture of corruption. Before running down its 10 promised policies, it offered a list of eight reforms that Republicans promised would clean up Congress: independent auditors; term limits; less powerful committee chairs; anything that’d make the Democratic majority look like they’d been running a bureaucratized Enron.

Note that the Contract was the ten public policy items that polled around 75%, not the prefatory inside-the-Beltway stuff. Voters didn't care about the workings of the House then and they don't now. We all think the Congress is a bunch of crooks and then the much different guy who represents our own district.

And while Democrats would love to see the GOP run on doing away with Medicare and the federal role in education, the reality is that Newt would run on expanding vouchers and HSAs, which W already passed, and bringing the same type reforms to Social Security, which Democrats happen to have enough votes to block in the Senate for now. He wouldn't run on ideas that are at 20% in the polls.

March 15, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


US foreign policy puts accent on democracy (Caroline Daniel, March 16 2006, Financial Times)

The US will on Thursday place the promotion of democracy at the heart of its foreign policy as it adopts a tougher stance towards Russia, China and notably Iran.

The move comes in the new National Security Strategy published on Thursday – the first formal review since the invasion of Iraq.

The document marks the first significant revision of the landmark 2002 document that advocated pre-emptive strikes against perceived terrorist threats. [...]

The document places “transformational democracy” as the overriding aim, in spite of rising criticism that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been an expensive military and political failure.

Although the concept of pre-emptive strikes is now less prominent, the official denied that the US had abandoned the policy. [...]

In the foreword, President George W. Bush says his strategy is based on two pillars: promoting freedom and confronting global challenges by “leading a growing community of democracies”. The struggle against militant Islamism is described as the “great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century”.

America’s mission is still one of “ending tyranny in our world” but “our National Security Strategy is idealistic about its goals and realistic about means”, the document says.

Wasn't he supposed to back off and head back to Crawford with his tail between his legs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM


The Do-it-Yourself Deity (Julian Baggini & Jeremy Stangroom,

Do-It-Yourself Deity

What is God?

In an attempt to resolve any disagreement surrounding the meaning of the word "God", TPM has assembled a crack team of "metaphysical engineers" who have devised a new computer-modelling virtual environment in which to test the plausibility of different conceptions of God.

Here's how it works. You are invited to select from the list below the attributes which you believe God must have (or the attributes that a being deserving of the name God must have). Metaphysical engineers will then model this conception of God to check out its plausibility.

Please select from the list below. You may choose as many, or as few, attributes as you wish. Then press the submit button. [...]

The Report

Plausibility Quotient = 1.0

The metaphysical engineers have determined that your conception of God has a plausibility quotient (PQ) of 1.0. A PQ of 1.0 means that as far as the metaphysical engineers can determine your conception of God is internally consistent and consistent with the universe that we live in. A PQ of 0.0 means that it is neither internally consistent nor consistent with our universe. More than likely, your PQ score will be somewhere between these two figures. But remember that this is your PQ score as determined by the metaphysical engineers. The editors of TPM have no control over their deliberations, so don't blame us!


What kind of God is that!?

The metaphysical engineers are happy to report that, to the best of their knowledge, the God you conceive is internally consistent and could exist in our universe. But they are less sure that what you have described deserves the name of God. She is not, for example, all-powerful. A God which knows everything or is totally benign may be a wonderful ideal, but is she really a God unless she has ultimate power?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


Tories heave the schools Bill past Labour rebellion (Philip Webster and David Charter, 3/16/06, Times of London)

LABOUR MPs staged one of the biggest second-reading revolts in their party’s history last night, forcing Tony Blair to rely on Tory support to get his education reforms past the first and most important hurdle.

Mr Blair secured a majority of 343 for his Education and Inspection Bill, which provides for the setting up of new trust schools. But 52 Labour MPs voted against the measure.

Bill Clinton's entire political legacy is measures passed by Republicans, but he wasn't operating in a parliamentary system.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:09 PM


SPLIT BY ABORTION: The Front Lines of the Religious War in God's Own Country (Frank Hornig, Der Spiegel, 3/13/06)

South Dakota has passed the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. But much more is at stake. The rural state has become only the most recent front line in an ongoing religious war in the US.

Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- located in the heart of the flat Midwestern prairie -- is a sleepy thoroughfare. There are a few businesses along the street, a couple of restaurants, and a souvenir shop which struggles to attract customers.

But last Thursday, this dreary provincial boulevard became the dividing line separating two irreconcilable camps in the city -- and it became the most recent front line in an ongoing war that bisects the entire nation. For about an hour, opposing groups of demonstrators swore at one another across the street, launching a new round in an old dispute that has long since expanded into a cultural battle -- a bitter fight that has raged for decades between conservatives and liberals, devout Christians and women's rights groups.

Last Monday, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, approved a radical new law that outlaws abortion under virtually all circumstances. Even rape and incest victims are forbidden from getting abortions under the new law....

But evil, it seems, is in the majority these days. Even in South Dakota, where about 300 protestors, mainly young women wearing pink T-shirts, are vocally defending the right to abortion. The signs they're carrying convey their message loud and clear: "My body -- my choice" and "Save Roe."

Father Morgan smiles mildly, seemingly confident of victory. "We're writing history here," he says. In 25 years, he adds, Americans will liken abortion "to the greatest crimes of mankind, crimes like slavery and the Holocaust."

Germany, perhaps sensitive to the Holocaust argument, has a much more restrictive abortion law than we do:Abortion In Germany (
In 1975, West German state laws permitting some abortions were struck down by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany as inconsistent with the human rights guarantees of the constitution. It held that the unborn have a right to life, that abortion is "an act of killing", and that the unborn child deserves legal protection throughout its development.

Nevertheless, in 1976, West Germany legalized abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy for reasons of medical necessity, sexual crimes or serious social or emotional distress, if approved by two doctors, and subject to counseling and a three-day waiting period. The legal requirements were extremely strict, and often led women to seek abortions elsewhere, particularly in the Netherlands. In 1989, a Bavarian doctor was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and 137 of his patients were fined for failing to meet the certification requirements.

The two laws had to be reconciled after reunification. A new law was passed by the Bundestag in 1992, permitting first-trimester abortions on demand, subject to counselling and a three-day waiting period. The law was quickly challenged in court by a number of individuals - including Chancellor Helmut Kohl - and the State of Bavaria. The Federal Constitutional Court issued a decision a year later maintaining its earlier decision that the constitution protected the fetus from the moment of conception, but stated that abortions during the first trimester should not be subject to punishment, assuming that the mother had submitted to counselling aimed at changing her mind. Abortions are not covered by public health insurance except for women with low income.

Somehow, Justice Breyer never mentions that international law precedent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


I tell you after all that I do not hate Mankind, it is vous autres who hate them because you would have them reasonable Animals, and are Angry for being disappointed.
-Jonathan Swift to Alexander Pope, November 26, 1725
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM

BETTER TO BURN IT (via Matt Murphy):

Dutch immigrants must watch racy film (BRUCE MUTSVAIRO, 3/15/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park. Later, a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks onto a crowded beach. For would-be immigrants to the Netherlands, this film is a test of their readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture.

If they can't stomach it, no need to apply.

Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands' new entrance examination.

The test - the first of its kind in the world - became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies.

Taking the exam costs $420. The price for a preparation package that includes the film, a CD ROM and a picture album of famous Dutch people is $75.

"As of today, immigrants wishing to settle in the Netherlands for, in particular, the purposes of marrying or forming a relationship will be required to take the civic integration examination abroad," the Immigration Ministry said in a statement.

They're certainly free to define themselves by disorder, but why would anyone root for them when the shooting starts?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


S&P 500 breaches 1,300 mark: Broad gauge at May 2001 high after Fed Beige Book (Mark Cotton & Leslie Wines, Mar 15, 2006, MarketWatch)

U.S. stocks rallied to a higher close Wednesday, with the S&P 500 breaching the 1,300 mark for the first time since May 2001, after a Federal Reserve report showing the economy growing at a steady pace with few inflationary pressures.

The report raised hopes the central bank could end its cycle of interest-rate increases. The Fed has been lifting short-term rates in a bid to slow the economy and curb inflationary pressures.

The S&P 500 Index climbed 5.54 points to end at 1,303.02. The last time the broad gauge closed above 1,300 was on May 22 2001.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 58.43 points to 11,209.77. The benchmark index is also at its best level since May 2001.

The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 15.94 points to 2,311.84.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


VIDEO: King Mike for Monarch (YouTube)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Best supporting neocon (Max Boot, March 15, 2006, LA Times)

DEAR George Clooney,


Dare I say it — you're the No. 1 neocon in Never Never Land. [...]

Then there's "The Peacemaker," your terrific 1997 thriller that sought to shake the nation out of its post-Cold War complacency by showing how easily terrorists could smuggle a nuclear bomb into the U.S. Neocons in the 1990s were arguing for a more ruthless anti-terrorist policy. Your character, Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe, didn't let legal niceties stop him from saving New York.

All that is by way of prelude to your 1998 neocon masterpiece, "Three Kings." It showed that the 1991 Gulf War didn't achieve its goals when it left Saddam Hussein in power. Amid frenzied postwar celebrations, your character, Maj. Archie Gates, observes gloomily, "I don't even know what we did here." Neocons like Paul Wolfowitz were saying the same thing; they wanted to oust Hussein from power, not just from Kuwait.

You lead a group of three other soldiers to steal gold taken from Kuwait, but it soon becomes apparent that, despite your crusty exterior, you can't ignore the suffering of Iraqi Shiites who have risen up against Hussein at American instigation, only to be slaughtered. In the movie's pivotal scene, you watch as an Iraqi goon shoots a Shiite woman in the head. The Iraqi officer in charge is willing to let you leave with the loot. "You go now please," he pleads. "I don't think so," you growl. And then you beat up the Baathists on behalf of the Shiites.

The rest of the movie follows your attempts to get a group of 55 Shiites safely across the border to a refugee camp in Iran. Saving them isn't cheap — you lose most of your bullion, one of your soldiers is killed and another is badly wounded — but it's the right thing to do.

The message is clear: The U.S. should pursue its ideals in foreign policy, not simply try to protect its strategic or economic interests. Believe it or not, that is the essence of modern neoconservatism. And that is precisely the policy that President Bush has been following in Iraq, notwithstanding the sniping he's received from you and your friends.

You can't be a successful actor in Hollywood and not make conservative films. But, if you're successful eough someone will let you indulge in your little liberal vanity projects just to keep you happy enough that you'll keep making the real movies, the ones people actually watch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Cosmic 'DNA': Double Helix Spotted in Space (Bjorn Carey, 15 March 2006,

Magnetic forces at the center of the galaxy have twisted a nebula into the shape of DNA, a new study reveals.

The double helix shape is commonly seen inside living organisms, but this is the first time it has been observed in the cosmos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


Pepper extract could stop prostate cancer growth (Nutra Ingredients, 15/03/2006)

Capsaicin, the compound that gives red pepper its heat, could stop the spread of prostate cancer, claims a new study.

So in summer camp when we got in trouble for giving that kid a Tabasco enema we may have been saving his life?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Hillary’s hegemony helps GOP (Mark Mellman, 3/15/06, The Hill)

Democrats will spend much of this midterm election year “finding their voice,” as liberal Democratic activists are fond of saying.

As I argued in this space last week, the possibility that some über-liberals might suddenly rise up and scare America with their rhetoric is a major reason that Democrats seem poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But it’s not the only reason.

Hillary Clinton’s imperious control over her party’s presidential politics will also become a stumbling block to the Democrats’ prospects for recapturing control of either house of Congress this November. [...]

Ms. Clinton’s glittering favorable ratings among Democrats, even liberal ones, make it altogether a slam-dunk. Eighty percent of all Democrats and 86 percent of liberal Democrats hold favorable impressions of Her Highness.

All you have to know about Democrats' prospects for power is that the only challenge to Ms Clinton is from the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


An Ally Betrayed (Harold Hutchison, 15 Mar 2006, Tech Central Station)

This is a country that has been a long-standing ally of the United States since 1971. The UAE was part of the coalition to liberate Kuwait in 1991, and also has supported the United States in the War on Terror (including, among other things, providing access to a deep-water berth that can accommodate aircraft carriers, use of a training facility for air-to-air training, airfields, and logistics support). It is a country that has proven largely inhospitable to al-Qaeda (instead, the focus is on business), sent forces to Afghanistan to protect the construction of a hospital that they donated and built, and sent humanitarian assistance to Iraq while providing a location for training Iraqi police.

In 2002, the UAE also captured a major al-Qaeda figure, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was involved in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and handed him over to the United States despite threats from the terrorist organization. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the UAE donated $100 million for the relief efforts. Both Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Peter Pace have described the relationship the United States has with United Arab Emirates as "very close" and "superb". General Tommy Franks (who commanded Central Command during the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq) praised the UAE for providing first-rate intelligence.

One of the things that has been frequently ignored in the anti-UAE diatribes is the fact that the United Arab Emirates is a Middle Eastern country where religious tolerance is the rule. The UAE's constitution guarantees freedom of religion (albeit it declares Islam as the official religion), and largely permits religious freedom. In 2003, the UAE shut down the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, which was publishing material that promoted anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Isn't that the kind of behavior the United States is trying to promote in the region? [...]

In another fact ignored by the scare campaign, the UAE has the only port in the Middle East that is part of the Container Security Initiative run by Homeland Security. Dubai Ports World agreed to mandatory participation in other programs to improve security and to prevent the illegal shipment of nuclear materials, will provide documents on internal operations on demand and has agreed to cooperate in future investigations.

Posted by pjaminet at 11:06 AM


Microsoft Confirms it Originated iPod Box Parody Video (iPod Observer, 3/14/2006)

Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla on Tuesday confirmed with iPod Observer that his company initiated the creation of the iPod packaging parody video that was first reported last month. "It was an internal-only video clip commissioned by our packaging [team] to humorously highlight the challenges we have faced RE: packaging and to educate marketers here about the pitfalls of packaging/branding," he said via e-mail.

Check out the video, it's hilarious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


The Internet Campaign Loophole (NY Times, 3/15/06)

For all the avowals to put the brakes on ethical lapses, the House is showing its true colors with an attempt to turn the Internet into a free-flowing big-money trough for uncontrolled political spending. The measure would exempt political ads on the Internet from a reform law barring corporate and union donors from buying up grateful candidates with six- and seven-figure contributions.

Politicians who chafe under the law's "soft money" ban would be free to run unlimited ads online, empowered by private donors who would not even be required to file campaign records. A similar loophole attempted by the Federal Election Commission has already been struck down in court for inviting "rampant circumvention" of the anticorruption law.

The House bill pretends to be trying to protect the free speech rights of bloggers on the Internet.

So make them file.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Bush and entitlement growth (Joseph Knippenberg, 3/14/2006, No Left Turns)

Following up on the conversation I initiated here, let me offer this article and this chart. While it would seem that proponents of smaller government would have reason to be unhappy with the Bush Administration’s record, the most rapid growth in entitlements seems to follow from the 1996 welfare reform applauded by conservatives of all stripes. [...]

All of this strikes me as consistent with the agenda of "compassionate conservatism," whose original purpose was eventually to build a culture of personal responsibility in place of the culture of government dependency. Transition costs will be high...

You mean conservatives don't get a free lunch either?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH CZECH PRESIDENT VÁCLAV KLAUS: "The Past Is the Past": Czech President Václav Klaus, 64, discusses his criticism of the European Union, the problems of exporting democracy and his country's postwar relationship with neighboring Germany. (der Spiegel, 3/13/06)

SPIEGEL: Your fundamental criticism stands in stark contrast to the great attraction the EU has had in the last 16 years for many people, especially in Eastern Europe. Hasn't the European Union played a decisive role in promoting democracy in Eastern Europe?

Klaus: No, the EU didn't advance our democracy by a single millimeter.

SPIEGEL: What about Slovakia, where authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimír Meciar was voted out of office in 1998?

Klaus: But the Slovaks did that on their own. As far as I'm concerned, it would be unacceptable to push forward such a process from the outside. We created our democracy ourselves. And besides, EU membership isn't a question of attraction. There simply is no alternative. For the countries in question, EU membership represented important political recognition. In fact, the rule of thumb in Europe is that the good ones are EU members, while the bad ones are not.

SPIEGEL: But didn't the EU encourage processes that wouldn't have gotten underway as quickly otherwise? Think about the development of a new legal system, for example. Current membership candidates Bulgaria and Romania are now going out of their way to satisfy EU standards by reforming their judicial systems.

Klaus: The Bulgarians and Romanians are already interested in a normal, free and democratic society. They don't need anyone to tell them that that's what they want. We developed our democracy for ourselves -- not to make someone in Brussels happy.

SPIEGEL: You are opposed to minimum social standards in Europe and a common tax policy. Do you find a common foreign policy equally objectionable?

Klaus: I think a common foreign policy is completely unnecessary. The various European countries have widely differing priorities, goals and prejudices. It would be wrong to force them all to follow the same course. Just look at the outcome of the popular referendums in France and the Netherlands. Voters in the two countries rejected the constitution for very different reasons. And that's ok. We can't allow someone to show up and force us all to buy the same shirt size, even though one person has a size 39 collar and another a size 41.

SPIEGEL: You certainly have many objections to the EU. How far should integration go, in your opinion?

Klaus: The development of European integration can be divided into two phases. The first era ended with the Maastricht Treaty. It was a liberalization phase, with the main goal of European integration at the time being the removal of various barriers and borders in Europe. I was completely in favor of that. But the second phase is a homogenization or standardization phase, one that involves regulation from the top and growing control over our lives. In my view, this no longer has anything to do with freedom and democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Gospel of Judas has Church worried (IAN GALLAGHER, 13mar06, The Advertiser)

THE Gospel of Judas - said to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times - is about to be published amid explosive controversy, Britain's The Mail on Sunday newspaper revealed yesterday.

Scholars have translated 26 pages of a crumbling ancient text that purports to tell the story of Jesus's last days from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, a man reviled for almost 2000 years.

Sensationally, the manuscript portrays him not as a villain but as a hero and Christ's favoured disciple.

It claims to repeat conversations between the two men and shows that in betraying Christ, Judas was fulfilling a divine mission.

The Mail on Sunday has interviewed experts involved in the project and has established that, according to the gospel, Christ instructed Judas to betray him with the words: "You will become the apostle cursed by all the others. Judas, you will sacrifice this body of man which clothes me."

It's not as if Christ was taken by surprise when Judas betrayed him, is it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Medicare education sought for blacks (Brian DeBose, March 15, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Black doctors and advocates for senior citizens spoke loudly to black Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill yesterday urging them to put politics aside and work harder to enroll seniors in the Medicare prescription drug plan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Will DP World sell its stake?: An e-mail raises questions about whether Dubai Ports World really will sell its stake in the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. (STEVE HARRISON, 3/15/06,

''After the sale happens, if you went to the corporate secretary of POMTOC, the registry would say: Eller 25 percent; Florida Stevedoring 25 percent; P&O Ports Florida 50 percent,'' Scavone said.

DP World referred all questions about the e-mail to P&O Ports North America. The company released a statement to the media that didn't address a timeline for selling the American operations.

''P&O's U.S. operations remain subject to a whole separate arrangement that went into effect when DP World officially took over March 9,'' DP World executive Michael Moore said. ``Under this arrangement, DP World has, to date, exercised no control over any P&O Terminal or stevedoring operation in the United States.''

The confusing e-mail drew the ire of some Democrats.

''It appears that the divestiture announcement from DPW last week may have been nothing more than a diversion designed to deflect attention away from this outsourcing of American port security,'' said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Pembroke Pines. ``Congressional action blocking this deal is the only true assurance we have that this deal is dead.''

Let's see Ms Wasserman pass a bill that buys the operations from DP World and has Congress run them, if she's serious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Study: New Orleans about half old size by '08 (ALAN SAYRE, March 15, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

By the time the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina rolls around, New Orleans will have only about half of the population it had before the storm, according to a study to be released today.

The study was prepared for the city by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit think tank.

Almost all of New Orleans' estimated 465,000 inhabitants left after the storm struck on Aug. 29. The city's population has bounced back to an estimated 189,000, according to state officials.

The RAND study projects that the population will stand at 272,000 by September 2008 -- or about 58 percent of the pre-Katrina level.

And what percent will be Latinos lured by the job opportunities available?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


In Iran, Dissenting Voices Rise on Its Leaders' Nuclear Strategy (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 3/15/06, NY Times)

Average Iranians do not seem uniformly confident at the prospect of being hit with United Nations sanctions.

From the streets of Tehran to the ski slopes outside the city, some people have begun to joke about the catch phrase of the government — flippantly saying, "Nuclear energy is our irrefutable right."

Reformers, whose political clout as a movement vanished after the last election, have also begun to speak out. And people with close ties to the government said high-ranking clerics had begun to give criticism of Iran's position to Ayatollah Khamenei, which the political elite sees as a seismic jolt.

"There has been no sign that they will back down," said Ahmad Zeidabady, a political analyst and journalist. "At least Mr. Khamenei has said nothing that we can interpret that there will be change in the policies."

But, he said, "There is more criticism as it is becoming more clear that this policy is not working, especially by those who were in the previous negotiating team."

There are also signs that negotiators are starting to back away, however slightly, from a bare-knuckle strategy and that those who had initially opposed the president's style — but remained silent — are beginning to feel vindicated and are starting to speak up.

A former president, Mohammad Khatami, recently publicly criticized the aggressive approach and called a return to his government's strategy of confidence-building with the west.

"The previous team now feels they were vindicated," said Nasser Hadian, a political science professor at Tehran University who is close to many members of the government. "The new team feels they have to justify their actions."

Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say, issued a strong defense of Iran's position on Tuesday.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran considers retreat over the nuclear issue, which is the demand of the Iranian people, as breaking the country's independence that will impose huge costs on the Iranian nation," he said.

"Peaceful use of nuclear technology is a must and is necessary for scientific growth in all fields," Ayatollah Khamenei said. "Any kind of retreat will bring a series of pressures and retreats. So, this is an irreversible path and our foreign diplomacy should defend this right courageously."

The people and the Ayatollah are leaving an opening big enough to drive a significant wedge through. All the Administration and the world community need do is keep backing nuclear energy and denying the possibility of weapons -- as well as uses of energy that can lead to weapons -- and Ahmedinejad is isolated even within Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Rice Praises Indonesia As Model of 'Tolerance' (Ellen Nakashima, March 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Condoleezza Rice, in her first visit to Indonesia as secretary of state, praised its government Tuesday for setting an example of "moderation, tolerance and inclusiveness," and for urging officials in nearby military-ruled Burma to respect human rights.

At a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, Rice defended the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies, which have aroused criticism and violent protests in many Muslim countries, including Indonesia.

"I understand that the United States has had to do things . . . that are not that popular in much of the world," she said. "We are fighting a very tough enemy, an enemy that has been felt here in Indonesia with bombings in Bali and Jakarta."

She also suggested that the United States is sometimes misunderstood, and she stressed "how much the United States respects people who are of Islamic faith." Before the news conference, Rice visited an Islamic school, where she announced an $8.5 million grant to develop a version of "Sesame Street" for Indonesia.

Thanks to the relative ease with which the outer rim of the Islamic World has liberalized/is liberalizing, we should be able to roll the process towards the middle without too much difficulty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Damon's shoulder problem sore point (DAN GRAZIANO, 3/15/06, Newark Star-Ledger)

Mystery surrounded the condition of the left shoulder of Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon yesterday.

The player was in Anaheim, Calif., still with the United States team in the World Baseball Classic, even though his recurring shoulder problem apparently will prevent him from playing for that team in the near future. [...]

[A]ll anybody knows is that Damon's throwing shoulder, which bothered him during the 2005 season with the Red Sox, is bothering him now, and that he won't play for a little while.

Did they not scout him at all at the end of last season? Did they not wonder why no Red Sox fans were sorry to see the Yanks sign him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Life, the Universe, and Everything: Quantum mechanic Seth Lloyd says we really are controlled by a computer. (Kevin Kelly, March 2006, Wired)

Seth Lloyd is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. Between gulps, the MIT prof will impart the details of how the universe really works. And if you order another, he'll give you a summary of one of the most mind-boggling ideas emerging in science today. His new book, Programming the Universe, is a plainspoken tale of how the universe is - tell me if you've heard this before - one very large quantum computer. - Kevin Kelly

WIRED: I hear you're a quantum computer repair guy.

LLOYD: Yes, I am a quantum mechanic! Those darn quantum computers break all the time.

You've jumped from working on quantum computers to saying, oh, by the way, the universe is a gigantic quantum computer.

When you zap things with light to build quantum computers, you're hacking existing systems. You're hijacking the computation that's already happening in the universe, just like a hacker takes over someone else's computer.

What is the universe computing when we are not hijacking it for our own purposes?
It computes itself. It computes the flow of orange juice as you drink it, or the position of each atom in your cells.

In the beginning was the Word....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Japan searches for Scot who modernised nation (AURA SABADUS, 3/14/06, The Scotsman)

HE GAVE Japan its national anthem and its first brass band, playing a key part in the country's modernisation.

But for more than a century, John William Fenton's role in westernising the country has gone unrecognised in Scotland, where many believe he died.

Now, after years of searching, the Japanese are soliciting the help of Scots in trying to track down the brass band leader's final resting place.

In Japan, Fenton is seen as one of the country's father figures.

March 14, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


US Democrats in dry dock over ports (Stephen Zunes, 3/14/06, Foreign Policy in Focus)

Congressional Democrats finally found the courage to challenge the Bush administration on a post-September 11, 2001, security issue - one they were able to win. This came after they had proved themselves timid in challenging the administration in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, the initial passage of the Patriot Act, the bombing of Afghanistan, the detention without due process and torture of thousands of detainees worldwide, and other horrendous policies.

Unfortunately, they chose an issue of little real importance and decided to appeal to popular racist and jingoistic sentiments by raising exaggerated fears over the implications of a routine transfer of ownership to a company that operates facilities at some terminals in six US ports.

If they were willing to go completely jingo the Democrats could own the whole set of issues implicated here: nativism, isolationism, and protectionism are there for the taking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


The Feingold Resolution and the Sound of Silence (Dana Milbank, March 15, 2006, Washington Post)

Democratic senators, filing in for their weekly caucus lunch yesterday, looked as if they'd seen a ghost.

"I haven't read it," demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).

"I just don't have enough information," protested Ben Nelson (Neb.). "I really can't right now," John Kerry (Mass.) said as he hurried past a knot of reporters -- an excuse that fell apart when Kerry was forced into an awkward wait as Capitol Police stopped an aide at the magnetometer.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.).

"Ask her after lunch," offered Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reines. But Clinton, with most of her colleagues, fled the lunch out a back door as if escaping a fire.

In a sense, they were. The cause of so much evasion was S. Res. 398, the resolution proposed Monday by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) calling for the censure of President Bush for his warrantless wiretapping program. At a time when Democrats had Bush on the ropes over Iraq, the budget and port security, Feingold single-handedly turned the debate back to an issue where Bush has the advantage -- and drove another wedge through his party.

Borrowing from Senator Paine, Russ Feingold's motto would appear to be that the only causes worth fighting for are lost Kos's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Which of these things doesn't belong? (Rod Nordell, 3/15/06, CS Monitor)

Here's a game you can play in the car or just about anywhere. It's called Groups of Four. One person names three things that are alike and a fourth that is different. The others guess which one is different and why it does not belong in the Group of Four.

In college a friend came up with the greatest word game ever--we played for chugs, but it can be adapted for more social occassions. It's called Word Disassociation: whoever starts just throws out a word and the next player has to say a word that can't be associated with it in any way. Other players try to draw an association if they can think of one--the groupvotes on whether the association is genuine or a stretch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM

MCELWAIN BEAMED (via Rick Turley):

Bush Visits Autistic Basketball Hero (JENNIFER LOVEN, 3/14/06, Associated Press)

President Bush is the latest in a string of high-profile fans to call on Jason McElwain, the autistic basketball manager who drew national cheers by scoring 20 points in four minutes for his high school team.

On his way to Canandaigua, N.Y., Tuesday to speak at Medicare events, Bush stopped at an airport near here and greeted McElwain — accompanied by his parents and coach — and called him "a special person." [...]

"I wept, just like a lot of other people did," he said, as McElwain beamed beside him.

If you just win a league championship you get to go visit the White House--do what this kid did and the White House comes to you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Beowulf rides again: With swords and monsters all the rage, an ancient literary hero is now a hot showbiz property (BRIAN D. JOHNSON, 3/10/06, Maclean's)

It's revered as the first epic work of English literature, although it's written in what looks like a foreign language. And it has become the bane of English students everywhere, a book famous for being avoided. In Annie Hall, as Diane Keaton's character leafs through a course catalogue, Woody Allen says, "Just don't take any course where they make you read Beowulf."

Growing up in Vancouver, Sturla Gunnarsson was made to read Beowulf in Grade 12. He couldn't finish it. He says he was more interested in cars and girls. But as an 18-year-old Icelandic immigrant whose second language was English, he remembers dipping into the Anglo-Saxon verse and being amazed by how much of it he could decipher. "Old English," he explains, "is very close to Icelandic, and with great difficulty, I could read it. That was uncanny."

Thirty-six years later, Gunnarsson, now a veteran filmmaker (Rare Birds, Such a Long Journey), has not only read Beowulf, he's eviscerated it. With Beowulf & Grendel, which he shot in the barren reaches of his native Iceland, he's created a revisionist spectacle that turns the story inside out -- it portrays the monster Grendel in a sympathetic light, gives him a father, embellishes the plot with a whore who beds both the hero and the troll, and offers dialogue salted with profanity. Purists will be offended. But Gunnarsson's movie tries to strip this sixth-century tale of a Scandinavian hero down to its pagan roots. And it's surfing a wave of Beowulf-mania that has torn a medieval epic poem out of the hands of academics and pushed it into the mainstream. Once a quaint scholarly fiefdom, Beowulf -- a prototype for the Hollywood western and the horror movie, and an inspiration for The Lord of the Rings -- is now a hot showbiz property.

Profanity is innovative?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Buffett's Billion-Dollar Boo-Boo (Jerry Bowyer, Mar 14, 2006, Human Events)

In his annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett acknowledged that his bet against U.S. currency had collectively cost them almost $1 billion. Buffet wrote, "My views on America’s long-term problem in respect to trade imbalances, which I have laid out in previous reports, remain unchanged. My conviction, however, cost Berkshire $955 million pre-tax in 2005. ..."

Just like Walter Mondale still thinks the Japanese will eclipse us....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Feingold Blames Stalled Censure Motion on 'Cowering' Democrats (Fox News, March 14, 2006)

Sen. Russell Feingold on Tuesday blamed fellow Democrats for inaction on his stalled resolution to censure President Bush for his authorizing the National Security Agency's electronic terrorist surveillance program.

"I'm amazed at Democrats ... cowering with this president's numbers so low," said Feingold, D-Wis. "The administration ... just has to raise the specter of the War on Terror, and Democrats run and hide."

Feingold's resolution, introduced Monday, accuses Bush of violating the Constitution and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It has failed to garner any co-sponsors.

Karl Rove ought to be raising money for the guy just because he forces Hillary to the rhetorical Left in the primaries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


DP World: No Plan to Sell Miami Port Ops (TED BRIDIS, 3/13/06, Associated Press)

The Dubai-owned company that promised to surrender its U.S. port operations has no immediate plans to sell its U.S. subsidiary's interests at Miami's seaport, a senior executive wrote Monday in a private e-mail to business associates.

Even if DP World were to sell its Miami operations to quell the congressional furor over an Arab-owned company managing major U.S. ports, "that would probably take a while," wrote Robert Scavone, a vice president for DP World's U.S. subsidiary. [...]

Scavone is executive vice president for security at P&O Ports North America Inc. and was among the company's executives who testified about the Dubai ports deal during congressional hearings this month.

Scavone told the AP that under U.S. corporate laws, P&O's ownership in the Miami port company would not change even under DP World's planned divestiture.

"Just because a shareholder owns the top company of an elaborate network of corporations worldwide, it does not mean that what those corporations own changes hands," Scavone said.

Peninsular and Oriental handles significant operations at ports in New Jersey, New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia _ plus lesser dockside activities at 16 other ports in this country.

Scavone declined to confirm or deny he sent the e-mail, but he contacted a reporter less than one hour after AP's inquiry to explain the message's meaning. Another P&O executive, Frank Fogarty, said he received Scavone's e-mail and did not doubt Scavone sent it.

Fogarty, the company's senior vice president for marketing, said Scavone intended to tell Miami officials that, "as far as they should be concerned, they should just assume they're working for the same company they always have."

DP World previously agreed it will not control or manage any U.S. port operations it acquired until May 1 or until the outcome of the unusual, broader security investigation into the ports deal by the Bush administration.

Just sit tight and wait for the gaggle to move on to its next hysteria.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


Germany's sex industry gears up for World Cup (Karin Strohecker Tue Mar 14, 2006, Reuters)

The combination of nail-biting soccer matches and crowds of beer-swilling males could mean hefty profits for Germany's sex industry.

It is deploying an army of prostitutes to satisfy the needs of libidinous fans during the month-long 2006 World Cup.

Some 1 million foreign visitors are expected to flood into Germany from June 9 and many expect large numbers of male spectators to wind down after a match in the arms of a prostitute or in the red light districts of the 12 host cities. [...]

"Football and prostitution are a great match," said Hans-Henning Schneidereit, owner of the St. Pauli's Safari Cabaret, renowned for its sex shows.

Great, a million guys who normal women aren't interested in....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM

WE'RE HERE TO "HELP" (via Brad S.):

The States: Mississippi Churning: Anti-abortion activists in Ole Miss debate the wisdom of a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade. (Arian Campo-Flores, 3/20/06, Newsweek )

For years, Mississippi anti-abortion activists have sought to shut down the Jackson clinic, the only remaining facility of its kind in the state. With their legislative allies, they've succeeded in passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, including a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement that minors obtain the consent of both parents. Now the Mississippi Legislature is considering a bill that would ban all abortions except in cases of rape, incest or a life-threatening condition for the mother. Yet even some of Mississippi's right-to-life forces have started to wonder whether things are moving too fast—mirroring a strategic debate now raging among anti-abortion conservatives nationwide. "At this point, it's a little bit of a runaway train," says Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi, who fears that the ban could backfire—and lead to a reaffirmation of Roe v. Wade. [...]

Last month, [the Jackson clinic] stopped performing second-trimester abortions while it tries to overcome additional regulatory hurdles put in place by abortion foes. If the new bill passes, Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Organization, which owns the clinic, vows to sue to block it. "We didn't come to Mississippi to be run out," she says.

In how many states are all the abortions done by "women's organizations"? It's like they exist only to kill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


Straw Poll Strategy: John McCain is changing his tactics for 2008. Inside a maverick’s campaign. (Howard Fineman, March 13, 2006, Newsweek)

In a sense, Sen. John McCain’s campaign for the presidency in 2008 began with a personal, private phone call he made last week—to President George W. Bush. [...]

Private though it was, the McCain call was emblematic of the ‘08 strategy that he and his circle have decided to pursue. They want to build out their campaign with members of the Bush circle, and base McCain’s pitch on the notion that he is the only sensible, electable and competent commander who can take control of the war on terror.

“Competence and electability,” that’s what we’re going to talk about,” said a key advisor. “If you support the president’s vision, John can carry it forward.” [...]

Here in Memphis, McCainanites worked closely on straw poll strategy with Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a Bush loyalist widely regarded as one of the sharpest strategic and organizational minds in the party. They are wooing him to come aboard officially, which would be a major coup for McCain.

The Senator can win election easily but needs ideas to run and govern on. The President and Karl Rove want a Republican successor to finish what they've started. It's a match made in GOP heaven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


Dems' hold on blacks is slipping: African American candidates in '06 are impressive (Deroy Murdock, March 12, 2006, SF Chronicle)

They all should promote free-market ideas that have helped, and will help, blacks voters, and remind them how Democrats routinely say, "No!" to such reforms.

On taxes, for instance, Bush has reduced them every year in office, always over Democratic objections. The result? The economy grew 3.5 percent last year despite the war on terror, sky-high oil prices, and hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. For those with lower incomes, the bottom tax rate is now 10 percent rather than 15 percent. Meanwhile, higher-level tax-rate reductions leave more money in black middle-class pockets.

The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, its lowest level since July 2001. The bad news is that black unemployment is 8.9 percent. The good news is that it is down from a 10 percent average under President Clinton.

Meanwhile, with white unemployment at 4.1 percent, there is a 4.8 percent gap between white and black joblessness. That gap averaged 5.5 percent under President Clinton and 6.9 percent over the last 30 years. So, despite howls of Democratic protests, Bush's tax cuts have helped create the best black employment picture in a generation.

On Social Security, Bush tried to bridge The Dividend Divide, the nearly 11-1 asset-ownership gap between white and black households. Voluntary personal retirement accounts would let black individuals and families build nest eggs and bequeath them to their loved ones. This is excellent for black males who, on average, die at age 67.8 after collecting from Social Security for less than a year, while average white males enjoy seven years of benefits. Bush's proposed accounts offered an alternative to this mess, but Democrats wailed, and his plan died of rejection.

On education, Clinton vetoed a voucher program for students in Washington's dismal, predominantly black government school system -- twice. Bush, in contrast, signed that bill into law.

Imagine what would happen if the 2008 Republican presidential nominee could campaign on these issues in inner-city Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia with fellow Republicans who have been elected statewide and also happen to be black.

Even better, make the O'Neill plan the central plank of the GOP Congressional campaign this year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM

THAT'LL TWIST SOME TURBANS (via Rick Perlstein):

Iran Freedom Concert (March 18, 9 p.m., Leverett House, Harvard University)

The coalition of activists and organizations supporting the Iran Freedom Concert spans the spectrum. As individuals, we hold a wide range of views on appropriate policies for handling the Iranian regime. As a coalition, we are united by the belief that the essential individual rights of all Iranians must be respected. We recognize that because we live in freedom, we have a responsibility to help echo the call of Iranians our own age demanding freedom.

The Harvard student organization hosting the concert is the Harvard College Middle East Review. Co-sponsoring organizations include the Harvard Democrats, Harvard Republicans, Woodbridge Society, BGLTSA, Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship, Free Culture Society, Harvard Salient, and Veritas Records. On other campuses across the country, various groups and individuals are organizing programming to mark the day.

Funding for the concert has generously been provided by the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Institue of Politics (IOP). Guidance and logistical support comes from HAMSA: Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (a project of the American Islamic Congress). Other organizations backing the Iran Freedom Concert include the Damascus-based Tharwa Project, a Middle East minority rights initiative; Students for Global Democracy, an international alliance of student activists; and the Committee to Protect Bloggers, which has led high-profile campaigns to release jailed Iranian bloggers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


U.S., Malaysia to Launch Free-Trade Talks (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 3/08/06, The Associated Press)

The United States and Malaysia announced Wednesday that they have agreed to begin negotiating a free trade deal to eliminate trade barriers between the two nations.

The decision was announced at a crowded Capitol Hill news conference attended by lawmakers from both political parties, marking an effort by the administration to build bipartisan support for its trade policies at a time when the country is running record trade deficits.

By selecting Malaysia for free trade negotiations, the administration chose a country that is already America's 10th largest trading partner with $44 billion in two-way trade. The administration announced last month that it planned to launch free trade negotiations with South Korea and free trade talks with Thailand, another economic power in the region, are already under way.

And, luckily, the Right is too stupid to know they're Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Sins of the Father: Reform in Rabat (Jim Hoagland, March 5, 2006, Washington Post)

Any effort to understand that experience starts with Mohammed and his dismantling of much of his father's political legacy: The young monarch has unleashed the most sweeping peaceful political and social reforms of this decade in the Arab world.

Few of his 33 million subjects expected the sovereign, who is 42, to be such a forceful agent for change when he came to the throne in 1999. Educated in the small, extra-elite Royal College in Rabat, Mohammed is known to be intensely shy. He dislikes delivering speeches and is awkward when he does. He does not give substantive interviews to journalists. Moroccan editors have come to understand that his encouragement of greater personal freedom does not extend to reports on the personal lives of the royal family.

But Mohammed has pursued a controlled evolution for his tradition-centered society with surprising determination and skill. Does this stem from courageous commitment to change? Oedipal resentment of an overbearing patriarch? Or political calculation rooted in keen survival instincts? A visitor hears all these, and more, suggested in Morocco.

"He is certainly courageous," says Benzekri, who was surprised to be named by the monarch two years ago to head a high-level investigative commission on human rights, which has staged dramatic televised accounts of the suffering and deaths of political prisoners. "This king also understands that he needs to separate himself from the past."

The publication in January of the commission's final damning report on its review of more than 16,000 cases -- including at least 600 disappearances and secret deaths of activists in detention -- followed a push by Mohammed to modernize the kingdom's family laws and give women more rights.

Speaking as a member of a royal family that traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad, the king declared that his liberalization of inheritance, divorce and employment laws did not contradict the Koran. "He is a modern man who understands the threat that demographics, youth unemployment and globalization pose to a nation that does not have oil," says one acquaintance of the king. "He has drawn a line between the old ways and his ways."

If there is a larger regional meaning in what is happening here, it is this: The greatest peaceful political change in the Arab world is occurring in a handful of countries where traditional rulers are implementing top-down democratization, which, like Islam itself, emphasizes personal submission to a greater purpose. The Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar lag behind Morocco but are moving in the same direction. Monarchs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and elsewhere have adopted more rhetoric about freedom, at least when speaking to Westerners.

"Ah, you are so lucky to have a king," one self-styled revolutionary Arab leader said to Moroccan officials recently when they discussed the changes.

The key insight of Jeanne Kirkpatrick's authoritarian/totalitarian dichotomy is that, as a general rule, conservative autocrats allied with the West willingly devolve power to the people once stability is guaranteed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


New 'cold war' looms with Iran (Paul Reynolds, 3/14/06, , BBC News)

The United States is developing the concept of a "cold war" with Iran.

It would be a third way between trying to engage with the hard-line government there and attacking its nuclear facilities with the risk of major conflict.

The idea is that regime or policy change could be effected by the Iranian people themselves.

However such a cold war might turn into a hot war if Washington decided this approach would not stop Iran from developing the technology needed for a nuclear bomb. [...]

President George W Bush himself heralded the Iran policy in his State of the Union speech in January, when he said: "Our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."

That in turn followed his mission statement in November 2003 that he would promote "democracy and freedom in the Middle East".

But the policy is also born of political disagreement in the Bush administration about the way forward.

The old policy of engagement with Iran has run into the ground.

Even its advocates accept that they cannot get round the problem of Iran's method of government. Senior ayatollahs have a veto on reform and blocked reformist candidates in last year's election.

At the other end of the spectrum, those favouring military strikes against Iranian nuclear installations are having trouble in justifying a policy which would have huge consequences, adding to the problems the US is already facing in Iraq.

The third way is led by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice herself.

According to the Washington Post, Iran has "vaulted to the front of the US national security agenda".

Ms Rice is, like Mr Straw, trying to draw a distinction between the Iranian government and people.

"Our problem is with the Iranian regime," she said to senators recently.

Iran's president is playing a weak hand (Stanley A. Weiss, , MARCH 14, 2006 , International Herald Tribune)
Myth: Ahmadinejad's "landslide" win reflects the aspirations of Iranians. In the first round of voting last spring, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, the centrist former president, received more votes than Ahmadinejad. Faced with the lesser of two evils, most Iranians boycotted the runoff, allowing Ahmadinejad, who campaigned as an anti-corruption populist, to claim victory thanks to mere third of eligible voters. Some mandate.

Myth: All power now rests with a united clerical regime. The regime is rife with institutional divisions and personal rivalries. Under the Iranian constitution, absolute power still rests with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who may fear a challenge to his authority from the radical Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor.

Khamenei and the clerical elite already seem, to be tightening the screws on the new president. Parliament rejected Ahmadinejad's first three nominees for oil minister, and Khamenei has given the Expediency Council, which is headed by Rafsanjani, new authority to supervise Ahmadinejad's administration. [...]

Faced with these realities, it's time for Washington to call Ahmadinejad's bluff by playing the card the hard-liners fear most: a dramatic U.S. offer of reconciliation, including a security guarantee like that offered North Korea. Such a move would expose the rifts in the regime, deny the hard-liners the confrontation they court, and deprive the bankrupt revolutionaries of their Great Satan.

As he did in Palestine and Reagan did in the USSR, the President needs to go over the head of Ahmadinejad and company and treat the regime as a failure just awaiting inevitable liberalization, at which point we'll be waiting to help our Iranian friends rebuild.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


South Florida two-way trade increases nearly 12%: Big ticket items and the rising price of imported fuel helped lift South Florida's two-way trade to almost $66 billion in 2005. (JANE BUSSEY, 3/14/06,

International shipments through South Florida rose by almost 12 percent in 2005, spurred on by surging demand for big ticket items in South America and the rising price of imported fuel, according to a report printed in WorldCity magazine. [...]

The total international shipments both in and out of South Florida ports reached $65.9 billion, according to Commerce Department numbers that are analyzed by WorldCity. That figure was a historic high, although the South Florida Customs District, which extends from Fort Pierce to Key West, has slipped from the 12th largest district to the 13th largest in the past two years.

According to WorldCity, Brazil and Venezuela held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in terms of two-way shipments, including almost $9 billion in two-way trade for Brazil and $4.3 billion for Venezuela.

If WMD enters the country on a cargo ship it will most likely come from our declared enemy in Venezuela, not an ally like Dubai that runs the best ports in the world.

New York's Port, Beyond Dubai (Mark Berkey-Gerard and Pat Arnow, 13 Mar 2006, Gotham Gazette)

For many New Yorkers who make their living from the city’s harbor, the high-pitched, month-long debate over the so-called Arab takeover of the port was beyond baffling.

Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, was going to operate only one facility in New York -- a port terminal that handles just cruise ships, not cargo. (It would also have shared control of another terminal in New Jersey.) But there are seven other port facilities in New York Harbor, and the company would have had nothing to do with them.

Faced with ever-increasing opposition in Congress fueled by public opinion, DPW announced that it was dropping the port deal, and would "transfer" the lease to an American company. But even if the deal had gone through, Dubai -- despite what politicians and columnists said over and over again -- would not have “owned,” “controlled” or “taken over” the ports. The port is owned by the taxpayers and controlled by state and local governments. The lease that DPW had purchased from a British company was simply to manage the facilities.

“It’s not like foreigners are just coming in and doing their own thing,” said Captain Timothy Ferrie, a ship pilot and president of the Maritime Society of New York City. “There’s American involvement every step of the way.”

Those who know the waterfront best also point out that foreign companies –- even some with close ties to governments that the U.S. considers dangerous –- have been operating on the waterways for years. A high-ranking official in the Communist Party in China is in charge of a company that for the past ten years has managed a facility on Staten Island that not only handles cargo ships, but also deploys military equipment for the U.S. Army.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


Missile deal stirs fear, anger: A secret operation to destroy some shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles has tarnished many reputations and yielded few clear answers (TYLER BRIDGES, 3/14/06, MiamiHerald)

It was a straightforward operation, U.S. officials insist.

Bolivia's top military leaders asked for U.S. help last year in destroying about 28 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that were dangerously obsolete, they say, and Washington agreed. [...]

''This is the typical example in Bolivia of a muddy layer of graft, corruption, secret dealings [and] inefficiency . . . combined into one package,'' said Lupe Andrade, a former La Paz mayor who has followed the controversy closely because she knows many of the players. Nonetheless, she added, ``The Americans have been innocent victims.''

Abdel Padilla, a journalist who covered the story for the newsweekly Pulso, disagrees.

''I think the United States . . . feared that Evo would be elected president and thought that . . . it would be more difficult to win approval to destroy them under him,'' Padilla said.

The socialist Morales, who has close ties with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, regularly attacked the Bush administration during the presidential campaign -- promising he would be Washington's ''worst nightmare'' if elected. Morales has toned down his remarks since assuming office, however, saying he wants good relations with the United States.

Amid the confusion, the only thing clear is that the U.S. government has increasingly been trying to secure control of shoulder-fired missiles throughout the world since al Qaeda terrorists fired one at an Israeli commercial airliner in Kenya in 2002. The weapon, about eight feet long, can fit in a golf bag when disassembled and be hidden in a trunk, making it ideal for terrorists.

The United States has helped with the destruction of more than 13,000 of the shoulder-fired missiles since 2003 in countries including Nicaragua, Bosnia, Liberia and Cambodia. Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños has said about 1,000 missiles in his country were destroyed last year.

They can be as angry as they want...once they're disarmed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Colleges Open Minority Aid to All Comers (JONATHAN D. GLATER, 3/14/06, NY Times)

Facing threats of litigation and pressure from Washington, colleges and universities nationwide are opening to white students hundreds of thousands of dollars in fellowships, scholarships and other programs previously created for minorities.

Southern Illinois University reached a consent decree last month with the Justice Department to allow nonminorities and men access to graduate fellowships originally created for minorities and women.

In January, the State University of New York made white students eligible for $6.8 million of aid in two scholarship programs also previously available just for minorities. Pepperdine University is negotiating with the Education Department over its use of race as a criterion in its programs.

"They're all trying to minimize their legal exposure," Susan Sturm, a law professor at Columbia University, said about colleges and universities. "The question is how are they doing that, and are they doing that in a way that's going to shut down any effort or any successful effort to diversify the student body?"

If you're using race as the criteria for diversification, yes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Canadians get behind Afghan deployment
(MICHAEL DEN TANDT, 3/13/06, Globe and Mail)

Canadians' views have shifted sharply in support of the Afghan military mission even as troop casualties have mounted over the past three weeks, a new poll suggests.

A modest but clear majority -- 55 per cent of respondents to a nationwide poll taken for The Globe and Mail and CTV over the past four days -- now broadly support the decision to send troops to Afghanistan. Only 41 per cent oppose the deployment.

In late February, more than 60 per cent said that given a vote in Parliament, they would opt against sending troops to the war-torn country. Only 27 per cent said they would vote in favour.

Give children responsibilities and they may mature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


Building Wealth by the Penny: In Rural India, a Sales Force in Saris Delivers Soap, Social Change (John Lancaster, March 14, 2006, Washington Post)

Consumer culture, spurred by rapid economic growth, is spreading to the vast rural hinterlands where two-thirds of India's 1.1 billion people still live. The trend is creating new opportunities not just for big business, which has long focused on the urban middle class, but also for some of India's poorest citizens.

A 30-year-old mother of two, Kadem is part of a novel Hindustan Lever initiative that enlists about 20,000 poor and mostly illiterate women to peddle such products as Lifebuoy soap and Pepsodent toothpaste in villages once considered too small, too destitute and too far from normal distribution channels to warrant attention.

Started in late 2000, Project Shakti has extended Hindustan Lever's reach into 80,000 of India's 638,000 villages, on top of about 100,000 served by conventional distribution methods, according to Dalip Sehgal, the company's director of new ventures. The project accounts for nearly 15 percent of rural sales. The women typically earn between $16 and $22 per month, often doubling their household income, and tend to use the extra money to educate their children.

"At the end of the day, we're in business," Sehgal said in a telephone interview from company headquarters in Bombay. "But if by doing business we can do something positive, it's a great win-win model."

Hindustan Lever is not alone in recognizing the vast potential for profits in rural India. As urban markets become saturated, more businesses are retooling their marketing strategies, and in many cases their products, to target rural consumers with tiny incomes but rising aspirations fueled by the media and other forces, according to experts.

Companies are offering many products, from single-use shampoo packets that sell for less than a penny to $340 motor scooters available for monthly payments as low as $4.50. Banks are targeting first-time customers with $10-minimum-deposit savings accounts. Cellular phone companies are upgrading rural networks while offering monthly plans for as little as $3.40.

"In four to five years the rural market will be a major sector that is well beyond anyone's imagination," said Rajesh Shukla, principal economist for the National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi. "Nobody was expecting this was going to happen."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Koreans surprise Team USA (Chicago Sun-Times, March 14, 2006)

Former Cubs first baseman Hee-Seop Choi's three-run home run against Dan Wheeler in the fourth inning was the key blow Monday as South Korea beat the United States 7-3 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic in Anaheim, Calif. The game was played before an announced crowd of 21,288 at Angel Stadium.

South Korea (2-0) will play its final game of the second round Wednesday against Japan. Japan (0-1) will face Mexico (0-1) today, and Team USA (1-1) will play Mexico on Thursday. The top two teams will meet Saturday in the semifinals at Petco Park in San Diego.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


Scientists awed by `human calendar': Stunned by woman's near-perfect ability to recall big events and the tiniest details (FRANCINE KOPUN, Mar. 14, 2006, Toronto Star)

California researchers have uncovered a woman with a memory so detailed and unusual they have quite literally never seen anything like it.

Give her a date and she can tell you what took place — whether it was the final episode of the television soap-opera Dallas, the day actor Robert Blake's wife was killed, the day of the Lockerbie plane crash, the Iranian invasion of the U.S. Embassy, the day Proposition 13 passed in California or the day a plane crashed in Chicago. She can tell you what she was doing at the time. She remembers the weather.

Her life is like a movie on an endless loop, full of emotion. She cannot escape any good or bad thing that ever happened to her.

Asked in November 2003 to list every Easter since 1980, the 40-year-old Jewish woman provided researchers with a list of 24 dates that had one single error. She included details of what she was doing on each of the days.

Ask any Jewish son, all their mothers have encyclopedic memories....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Tehran elite turning on extremist presidency (John R. Bradley, March 14, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Iran's clerical and business establishments, deeply concerned by what they see as reckless spending and needlessly aggressive foreign policies, are increasingly turning against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Within this context, many see the president's long-running confrontation with the United States and Europe over Tehran's nuclear program as an attempt to demonize the West and distract the Iranian public from pressing domestic problems.

A relatively small group of extremists "at the top of the government around the president" are seeking to benefit from a crisis with the West, because "that way they will be able once again to blame the West for all of their problems," said Mousa Ghaninejad, the editor of Iran's best-selling economics daily newspaper, Dunya Al-Eqtisad. [...]

The value of Tehran's stock market had fallen by $10 billion under Mr. Ahmadinejad as of February, the Los Angeles Times reported. Other recent Western news reports say that the nation's vibrant real-estate market has withered and that capital outflows are increasing.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's spending has pushed the inflation rate to an estimated 13.5 percent, and several estimates say it could go as high as 30 percent this year.

Economic analysts note that inflation will be felt most acutely by the poor, undermining the president's support among his most important constituency.

Parliament has challenged the president on other issues, most notably by rejecting three successive candidates for oil minister. Mr. Ahmadinejad declared angrily after the second rejection that "no other president has ever been subject to such negative propaganda and treatment."

Mr. Ahmadinejad's detractors say the broad coalition against him is attracting many of the regime's powerful personalities and may include even the supreme leader himself, despite his superficial statements in support of the president.

They point to a recent decree by Ayatollah Khamenei giving the Expediency Council, headed by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, oversight of the presidency.

As badly as the Administration has misunderstood Iran they ought to be able to figure this out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


The Dangers of Ports (and Politicians) (Robert J. Samuelson, March 14, 2006, Washington Post)

As political theater, the posturing may be harmless. But all the grandstanding -- precisely because the criticisms were overblown -- damages American interests. It's a public relations disaster in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates -- of which Dubai is a part -- has been a strong American ally, permitting the use of its ports and airfields for U.S. ships and military aircraft. Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, is trying to integrate his city-state into the world economy. There's been a building boom of offices, malls and luxury hotels. Dubai has also gone on a global investment binge, buying the Essex House in New York, Madame Tussauds wax museum in London and (of course) the port operations of Britain's Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

If this isn't what we want from Arab countries, what do we want? Much bitterness is reported in Dubai, especially among those who are pro-Western. They blame racism. That's understandable and perhaps correct. A Post poll last week found that 46 percent of Americans had a negative view of Islam -- a crude proxy for Arabs. (Yes, not all Arabs are Muslim, and not all Muslims are Arabs. But the poll is still suggestive of American opinion about Arabs.) The ports furor also hurts the United States in another way. It weakens confidence in the dollar as the major global currency. The U.S. trade deficit now spews more than $700 billion into the world annually. To some extent, global economic stability depends on foreigners' keeping most of those dollars. Mass dollar sales could trigger turmoil on the world's currency, stock and bond markets.

People outside the United States hold dollars because they believe the currency maintains its value and offers a wide menu of investment choices. The message from Congress is that the menu is shorter than people thought. Once any investment is stigmatized -- rightly or wrongly -- as a "security problem," Congress may act against foreigners.

Every country has the right to protect its security interests. But those interests must be defined coherently and not simply as the random expression of political expediency. That's what happened here, as it did last year when Congress pressured a Chinese oil company (China National Offshore Oil Corp.) to withdraw its bid for a U.S. firm (Unocal Corp.). The more this process continues, the more it corrodes confidence in the dollar.

It will be said that other countries are equally nationalistic and political, so their currencies aren't realistic alternatives to the dollar. Not true. If we imitate the French or Malaysians, the dollar will have compromised its special status. The irony is that the people who are creating all these risks are the very same members of Congress who claim to be protecting us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Bush Sets Target for Transition In Iraq: Country's Troops to Take Lead This Year (Peter Baker, March 14, 2006, Washington Post)

President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence.

Bush, who until now has resisted concrete timelines as the Iraq war dragged on longer than he expected, outlined the target in the first of a series of speeches intended to lay out his strategy for victory. While acknowledging grim developments on the ground, Bush declared "real progress" in standing up Iraqi forces capable of defending their nation.

"As more capable Iraqi police and soldiers come on line, they will assume responsibility for more territory with the goal of having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006," he said in a speech to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "And as Iraqis take over more territory, this frees American and coalition forces to concentrate on training and on hunting down high-value targets like the terrorist [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi and his associates."

The president made no commitments about withdrawing U.S. troops, but he repeated his general formula that Americans could come home as Iraqis eventually take over the fight.

It's the remarkable quality of this presidency that George W. Bush can repeat himself and have the