September 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Legislating Violations of the Constitution (Erwin Chemerinsky, September 30, 2006,

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

A federal statute, 42 United States Code section 1988, provides that attorneys are entitled to recover compensation for their fees if they successfully represent a plaintiff asserting a violation of his or her constitutional or civil rights. [...]

The attorneys' fees statute has worked well for almost 30 years.

Yet, somehow, the Republic fared just fine for nearly 200 years without it. Bet we'll be okay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Harper's defence of Israel sparks political flap
(Allan Woods, 9/30/06, CanWest News Service)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sparked a diplomatic flap Friday on one of his first outings among world leaders after he stood in the way of attempts at the Francophonie summit to craft a pointed political statement on this summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Harper found himself fighting against what French President Jacques Chirac called "a great majority'' of the 53 member states at the conference when he took a stand against a statement of sympathy for the civilians in Lebanon because it made no mention of the Israeli civilians displaced, injured or killed in the month-long war.

If we followed the lead of the great French-speaking majority the Jewish problem would have reached its Final Solution by now...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


In Many Public Schools, the Paddle Is No Relic (RICK LYMAN, 9/30/06, NY Times)

Over most of the country and in all but a few major metropolitan areas, corporal punishment has been on a gradual but steady decline since the 1970’s, and 28 states have banned it. But the practice remains alive, particularly in rural parts of the South and the lower Midwest, where it is not only legal, but also widely practiced.

In a handful of districts, like the one here in Everman, there have been recent moves to reinstate it, some successful, more not. In Delaware, a bill to rescind that state’s ban on paddling never got through the legislature. But in Pike County, Ohio, corporal punishment was reinstated last year. And in southeast Mississippi, the Laurel school board voted in August to reinstate a corporal punishment policy, passing one that bars men from paddling women, but does not require parental consent, as many other policies do.

The most recent federal statistics show that during the 2002-3 school year, more than 300,000 American schoolchildren were disciplined with corporal punishment, usually one or more blows with a thick wooden paddle. Sometimes holes were cut in the paddle to make the beating more painful. Of those students, 70 percent were in five Southern states: Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.

Often the battle over corporal punishment is being fought on the edges of Southern cities, where suburban growth pushes newcomers from across the country into rural and religiously conservative communities. In these areas, educators say, corporal punishment is far more accepted, resulting in clashing attitudes about child-rearing and using the rod.

Punishing children by smacking wins widespread adult approval (Sarah Womack, 20/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)
The majority of parents believes smacking is an acceptable way to discipline children, according to the latest research, which also uncovers widespread confusion about the law.

The number of those in favour of smacking was higher among adults without children, 80 per cent of whom said they would support smacking as a punishment if necessary.

The number of those in favour of smacking was higher among adults without children

Among parents, the proportion who said they smacked their children fell, but only to 67 per cent. [...]

Parents aged 35-54 were most likely to have smacked their children, with nearly three-quarters – 74 per cent – saying they had done so, said the research. The vast majority of adults opposed moves for an outright ban.

We favor corporal punishment for adults as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


The prophet motive: U.S. faithful form rich market (BARRIE MCKENNA, 9/25/06, Globe & Mail)

It's Sunday and you have a little fender-bender in the church parking lot. No problem if you have FaithGuard -- an insurance policy targeted at the nearly 150 million Americans who regularly go to church. There's no deductible as long as you're driving to your place of worship.

FaithGuard is the inspiration of GuideOne Mutual Insurance Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, one of the countless new ways Corporate America is targeting the swelling population of Evangelical Christians.

"There are risks in this, from an insurance point of view," acknowledged GuideOne president and chief executive officer Jim Wallace. "But if you can appeal to someone's way of life, you can make a real bond that will help the business stick."

It seems to be working. Guide-One has sold 60,000 FaithGuard policies since it launched the free add-on to its regular auto insurance coverage last year, many of them sold directly to parishioners at church.

Forget the image of the dusty old Christian book store. The business of selling to Christians has reached a whole new plane. And nothing, and everything, is sacred. Corporate America is finding religion -- in music, movies, radio stations, banks, biblical theme parks, anti-abortion mutual funds, health clubs, and even faith-based towns.

"If you can target zip codes, you can target Christians," remarked Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College and director of the Boisi Center on Religion and American Public Life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Wildlife Waste Is Major Water Polluter, Studies Say (David A. Fahrenthold, 9/29/06, Washington Post)

Does a bear leave its waste in the woods?

Of course. So do geese, deer, muskrats, raccoons and other wild animals. And now, such states as Virginia and Maryland have determined that this plays a significant role in water pollution.

Scientists have run high-tech tests on harmful bacteria in local rivers and streams and found that many of the germs -- and in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, a majority of them-- come from wildlife dung. The strange proposition that nature is apparently polluting itself has created a serious conundrum for government officials charged with cleaning up the rivers.

Part of the problem lies with the unnaturally high populations of deer, geese and raccoons living in modern suburbs and depositing their waste there. But officials say it would be nearly impossible, and wildly unpopular, to kill or relocate enough animals to make a dent in even that segment of the pollution.

If you proposed exterminating deer and geese in particular, exurbanites and suburbanites would be wildly enthusiastic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Who’s Afraid of Shinzo Abe? (YOSHIHISA KOMORI, September 30, 2006, NY Times)

LAST Tuesday, Japan’s Parliament elected Shinzo Abe as its youngest prime minister since World War II. Some critics in Japan have called him a “hawkish nationalist,” but in fact, he — like the nearly 80 percent of Japanese also born after the war — has merely been shaped by democracy.

Mr. Abe in particular was also influenced by the course of Japan’s alliance with America.

Which is exactly what they're afraid of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Zawahiri Attacks Bush in New Video Posted on Web (AP, September 29, 2006)

The deputy leader of Al Qaeda called President Bush a failure and a liar in the war on terror in a video statement released Friday, and he compared Pope Benedict XVI to the 11th century pontiff who launched the First Crusade. [...]

Al-Zawahiri also criticized Bush for continuing to imprison Al Qaeda leaders in prisons, including Al Qaeda No. 3 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind who was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.

W launched the Crusade--the Church is a johnny-come-lately.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Detainee Bill Shifts Power to President (SCOTT SHANE and ADAM LIPTAK, 9/30/06, NY Times)

With the final passage through Congress of the detainee treatment bill, President Bush on Friday achieved a signal victory, shoring up with legislation his determined conduct of the campaign against terrorism in the face of challenges from critics and the courts.

Rather than reining in the formidable presidential powers Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have asserted since Sept. 11, 2001, the law gives some of those powers a solid statutory foundation. In effect it allows the president to identify enemies, imprison them indefinitely and interrogate them — albeit with a ban on the harshest treatment — beyond the reach of the full court reviews traditionally afforded criminal defendants and ordinary prisoners.

Taken as a whole, the law will give the president more power over terrorism suspects than he had before the Supreme Court decision this summer in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that undercut more than four years of White House policy.

The recognition by the legislative branch that the executive has inherent constitutional powers is not actually a shift in said power.

Pirates of the Mediterranean (ROBERT HARRIS, 9/30/06, NY Times)

IN the autumn of 68 B.C. the world’s only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome’s port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped.

The incident, dramatic though it was, has not attracted much attention from modern historians. But history is mutable. An event that was merely a footnote five years ago has now, in our post-9/11 world, assumed a fresh and ominous significance. For in the panicky aftermath of the attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty. One cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself. [...]

Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of “serious” physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant — all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.

A dude's gotta move merchandise and Mr. Harris has a new book out, but it's a shame to see a normally sensible conservative make such an inane argument. The violence he has to do there to the term citizen would appall any Roman republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


With Senate Vote, Congress Passes Border Fence Bill (Jonathan Weisman, September 30, 2006, Washington Post)

The Senate gave final approval last night to legislation authorizing the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border, shelving President Bush's vision of a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in favor of a vast barrier.

The measure was pushed hard by House Republican leaders, who badly wanted to pass a piece of legislation that would make good on their promises to get tough on illegal immigrants, despite warnings from critics that a multibillion-dollar fence would do little to address the underlying economic, social and law enforcement problems, or to prevent others from slipping across the border.

It's the perfect piece of legislation: ineffective against immigration; a subsidy for Boeing, but in an area of its business that doesn't matter; and the full-moon Right loves it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Could Puno and Guantanamo Be The Next Hong Kongs? (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, August 9, 2006, Independent Institute)

Puno, a poor region in southeastern Peru, could become an economic powerhouse and stem the politics of resentment that is invading the Andes—if the government would allow a real free-enterprise zone to be established. Likewise, Guantanamo could erode Cuba's communism in the way West Berlin eroded East Berlin's communism if the U.S. authorities gave Cubans an opportunity to turn the controversial naval base into a new economic Hong Kong.

The Andean region, where authoritarian populism is ripe, needs a quick economic success story. Social resentment has already produced two Andean presidents—Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales—and came within an inch of producing a third one, Ollanta Humala in Peru. The way to erode these movements that play the ethnic and the ideological card against globalization is to permit free enterprise.

Puno is 60 times bigger than Hong Kong. Unlike the rocky Chinese territory, it has agriculture, livestock, silver, copper, the highest navigable lake in the world and a mythology going back to the origin of the Incas. Peru's successive regimes have kept that region poor by using political tools to prevent local entrepreneurship from flourishing. Today, 80 percent of the population is impoverished. Puno would be even poorer were it not for 20,000 people who smuggle products from neighboring Bolivia and resell them across the country. [...]

President Alan Garcia, who took office last month, says he supports plans for Puno’s free-enterprise zone. If he truly does, he should go beyond the law that was passed by Congress and his recent decree expanding its purview. The law frees industrial and agricultural activities, but keeps many commercial restrictions that affect small businesses and current smugglers of consumer products and other goods from Bolivia. If special interests elsewhere in the nation are affected by free commerce in Puno, then that is a great argument to get rid of commercial barriers the way the Baltic country of Estonia did in 1992—which touched off an economic boom.

Guantanamo is another interesting prospect.

The smaller the better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


Masterclass Theatre: From Tony Blair, the best political memo on how to win in 2008 (Bruce Reed, Sept. 29, 2006, Slate)

Anyone who wants to find out how to win the next campaign should read Tony Blair's farewell address to the Labour Conference earlier this week in Manchester. Although largely overlooked here in the American press, Blair's swan song is the best political speech of 2006—and the best political memo for 2008.

The British press hailed Blair's performance as "a masterclass in the art of political speaking." It was even harder to top as political theater. For weeks, Labour had been battered by all-out civil war between supporters of Blair and his likely successor, Gordon Brown, who lives over the shop at 10 Downing Street and has waited a decade to take over the family business. On Tuesday, Brown's party conference speech was drowned out by unconfirmed reports that Blair's wife Cherie had walked out in the middle and called the man a liar. When Blair took the podium the next day, he not only gave Brown a ringing endorsement, but delivered one of the great stand-by-your-spouse lines of all time: "At least I don't have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door."

Blair devoted part of his speech to how much New Labour has transformed Britain's economy and politics over the past decade. "The core vote of this Party today is not the heartlands, the inner city, not any sectional interest or lobby," he said. "Our core vote is the country." But Blair expressed more interest in New Labour's future. Far from offering the stale incumbent mantra of "stay the course," his plea was just the opposite—to apply the same tough-minded rigor of reform and change to today's challenges that enabled New Labour to take office in the first place.

Mr. Reed and his fellow New Democrats are sad figures., wandering the political landscape, unabl to accept that the post-Clinton Democratic Party has utterly rejected the Third Way and ceded Blairite reform to the GOP.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
We'll keep the stars and stripes flying here: If we end up with a Cameron v Brown personality contest, the Americanisation of our politics will be complete (Gerard Baker, 9/29/06, Times of London)

IT WAS FITTING that Bill Clinton should make an appearance at the public obsequies of the Blair era this week. The Blair project was wrapped from the first in layers of American packaging. The Clintonisation of the party, with its image rebranding and focus-group vocabulary, was hated initially by the Labour traditionalists who loved the cleansing futility of defeat more than the soiling exigencies of victory.

They came around. But soon, in their critical minds, to the Americanisation of campaigning was added the presidentialisation of British government, as Mr Blair replaced time-consuming encumbrances such as the Cabinet with personal enhancements such as his own aircraft.

The ease with which the Prime Minister segued from the Clinton years to the Bush era — with its fateful consequences for him — only underlined the extent to which Mr Blair seemed unhealthily fixated on the US.

While the Right in Britain fixates on the style of Mr. Blair, the ease of that segue was a function of their similarities on substance.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:26 AM


Nato unable to find Afghanistan reinforcements (Richard Beeston, The Times, September 29th, 2006)

NATO yesterday failed to find any volunteers to contribute 2,500 reinforcements that are needed for combat duty in Afghanistan.

After two days of talks in Portoroz, Slovenia, defence ministers from the 26-nation alliance said that nobody had produced the reserve force, first requested by Nato commanders more than three weeks ago.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, asked Nato colleagues to “step up to the plate” to help American, British, Canadian and Dutch forces currently engaged in fierce fighting with the Taleban in southern Afghanistan.

“There was no offer of more troops. There were some encouraging signs but it is unlikely anything will be decided until our next meeting in Riga in November,” said a British official at the talks.

Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is a NATO launched and run war, but except for a small Dutch contingent all the fighting is being done by the usual Anglospheric suspects. The Europeans have shown a marked preference for directing traffic in Kabul and other “nation-building” exercises. Originally conceived as a very specific response to a very specific threat, NATO has morphed into a vague and wispy expression of what little harmony remains between Europe and North America--sort of a UN for democracies--at least in North American eyes. For most of Europe, however, it remains an outfit designed solely to protect them from themselves (Bosnia, come on down!) and a vehicle for containing American foreign policy without spending much on defense. Why do North Americans remain so attached to an alliance that obliges them legally to fight for Latvia or Hungary when the Europeans are perfectly happy to sit back and watch a successful war turn around for lack of muscle?

Perhaps one reason why we are so slow to see things clearly is that an assignment to NATO in Brussels is one of the most pleasant and lucrative boondoggles available to the American and Canadian military and one assumes there is no shortage of lengthy policy analyses touting NATO’s key strategic importance flowing back across the Atlantic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Search planes find wreckage of Brazilian passenger airliner (CNN, 9/30/06)

Search planes scouring the dense Amazon rainforest in Brazil have found the wreckage of the Boeing 737-800 airliner that disappeared with at least 145 people on board, a Gol Airlines spokesman said Saturday. [...]

The plane was heading from Manaus to Brasilia, and was set to land at 6:12 p.m. before going on to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, a spokesman for Brazilian civil aviation said. [...]

Federal aviation officials on Saturday backed away from local media reports that the plane had collided with a smaller corporate jet, saying it was impossible to confirm, AP reported. [...]

Gol is the fastest-growing airline in South America and was launched in January 2001 as the first low-fare airline in Brazil.

September 29, 2006

Posted by Stephen Judd at 8:14 PM


Senator Joseph Lieberman, Independent Democrat: The PajamasMedia Video Interview
(PoliticsCentral, 9/29/2006)

But, you know, I want to go back. Your question surprised me and it’s an interesting one. So, I’d say, I remain a Democrat but disappointed not to have been nominated by my party and believing that, as much as I am a Democrat, that being a Democrat is not my highest loyalty. My party is not my highest loyalty. My highest loyalty is to the people of the State of Connecticut who were good enough to elect me. It’s to the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM


REVIEW: of V for Vendetta (David Edelstein, New York Magazine)

With even retired Supreme Court justice (and Reagan appointee) Sandra Day O’Connor warning of the “beginnings” of a dictatorship, it’s the perfect moment for the ridiculous but riotously enjoyable revolutionary comic-book thriller V for Vendetta—which will doubtless outrage conservatives and unnerve fuddy-duddys but liberate the rest of us with its magisterial irresponsibility. [...]

Whatever else it is, V for Vendetta is not frivolous. The Wachowskis—one of whom is reportedly in the midst of a sex change—introduce a lesbian martyr to make a plaintive case for the right to be what one is.

John Hurt (who once played Winston Smith in a version of 1984!) is the country’s Fascist chancellor, Sutler, who’s largely seen on monitors bullying his underlings, among them a pasty Stephen Rea as a plodding, good-hearted inspector. This part of the movie might have seemed fresher if Sutler weren’t such an old-fashioned Hitler type; he might have, for instance, folksily counseled his countrymen to put food on their children or accidentally shot an acquaintance in the face. But even without the nudge-nudge parallels, V for Vendetta’s Pop Art mixture of revolutionary symbols from history, literature, and painting feels gladdeningly subversive.

Finally got around to watching the movie, which is a triumph of art design and a caastrophe for coherence. It's exactly as vapid as the notion of "magisterial irresponsibility."

What's really stunning though is that, even after 9-11, the makers of the film seem to take seriously the idea that something good can come of "destroying a building" and that, as Mr. Edelstein hints (once he's done comparing our President and Vice President to Hitler), the sole purpose of the "revolution" would appear to be making England safe for sexual aberrance. You can see why a transsexual would think that, but what interest can the folks who march towards Parliament at the end of the movie have in anarchy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Foley Resigns From Congress Over E-Mails (DAVID ESPO and JIM KUHNHENN, 9/29/06, Associated Press)

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former teenage male page. [...]

In 2003, Foley faced questions about his sexual orientation as he prepared to run for Sen. Bob Graham's seat. At a news conference in May of that year, he said he would not comment on rumors he was gay. He later decided not to seek the Senate seat to care for his parents.

Once again we see that the difdference between Republicans and Democrats is that the GOP guys who get caught are forced out by the party. If memory serves, Congressman Studds was even re-elected.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:11 PM


Marriage a `shared failure,' Domi says (Toronto Star, September 29th, 2006)

Former Maple Leaf Tie Domi broke days of silence about his divorce saying he had not spoken until now to spare his three children "any added spectacle."

Without mentioning Liberal MPP Belinda Stronach, the woman accused of being his mistress and the reason cited in the divorce application by his estranged wife Leanne, Domi said he was speaking "this one time to correct the public record." "Our marital challenges are not a recent development," Domi said, adding that problems in his marriage, a "shared failure," date back to 1999. "Since then, we have worked hard on our marriage but, sadly, it has been a struggle," he said in a statement released yesterday.

Papers filed in court by Leanne Domi allege Domi and Stronach were having an affair. Stronach has refused to comment saying a sexist double standard lies behind lurid media reports.

Wow, it’s not easy to pack so many boilerplate shibboleths about modern divorce into three short paragraphs. For those who need a translation, what Mr. Domi is saying is it’s really all his wife’s fault for driving him into the arms of another and we would all do exactly the same if we had to live through the hell he has been with her. Furthermore, she is a poor and uncaring mother for having the bad taste to complain to anyone about it. Ms. Stronach is lamenting the fact that the world is hard on sluts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


The relevance of Sun Tzu: a review of The Art of War translated by John Minford (Dmitry Shlapentokh, 9/30/06, Asia Times)

The army is an integral part of society as a whole, and this is one of the basic premises of Sun Tzu's holistic approach to society as a whole. A profound change in the spirit of the armed forces would require the same profound changes in US society.

An army of well-paid and well-cared-for troops whose attachment to the cause transcends the limits of a mercenary paycheck cannot be created by flag-waving statements that "united we stand" and propaganda shows where selected brave servicemen and -women announce to TV viewers that they are thankful for the honor given to them: to fight and, if need be, die for the defense of liberty. The creation of armies whose soldiers are ready for a war that could last for generations requires a dramatic increase in benefits and remuneration for those who fight and for their immediate families.

This would require a massive redistribution of wealth. It would mean the end of the perks of various societal bodies irrespective of whether they are supported by the left or the right, and, of course, massive intervention by the state in all aspects of life. This society, if it were to emerge, would come to resemble Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or China - or at least the Oriental monarchies such as the one in which Sun Tzu lived.

Of course no arguments or even problems most Americans would see as manageable would be able to push the United States away from the operational model by which it has lived throughout most of its history. Change at the very core of society would need not just tolerable discomfort but massive and acute pain, which would demonstrate the futility of all the old medicine.

In the 1970s you used to read this kind of nonsense, about how a democracy necessarily had a disadvantage in wartime because it couldn't be as cohesive and efficient as a totalitarian state. Maybe Mr. Shlapentokh has been in a coma for thirty years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


'The operation is on!' Iraq's Sunni tribes fight Al-Qaeda (Paul Schemm, 9/29/06, AFP)

Western Iraq's powerful sheikhs have launched an offensive against foreign Al-Qaeda extremists on their territory, they have said, in an important victory for the US-backed government.

"The operation is on!" said Sheikh Abdel Sattar Baziya, head of the Abu Risha clan and chair of the Anbar province tribal council.

"The sons of Anbar's tribes today captured three Saudis, two Syrians and three Iraqi teenagers and turned them over to police," he told AFP Friday.

Ever wonder if the folks who prepare these Intelligence estimates read the newspaper?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


Oil falls sharply, despite Nigeria, Venezuela cuts (Randy Fabi, 9/29/06, Reuters)

Oil prices fell more than a dollar on Friday as traders questioned whether planned output cuts by OPEC members Nigeria and Venezuela would be enough to stem a two-month slide in prices. [...]

"People are waiting for evidence that the market is beginning to tighten or that actual cuts are being instigated, rather than just talk before prices can be bid up again," said London-based oil analyst Geoff Pyne.

"There is still plenty of oil around at the moment."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


Blair pinched speech from The Grapes of Wrath (GORDON RAYNER, 27th September 2006, Daily Mail)

Mr Blair has confided to friends that he drew inspiration for his big sign-off from a favourite passage of John Steinbeck's 1939 classic The Grapes of Wrath.

The Premier ended his last conference speech by telling delegates: 'Whatever you do, I'm always with you. Head and heart. Next year I won't be making this speech. But in the years to come, wherever I am, whatever I do, I'm with you. Wishing you well, wanting you to win.'

He later admitted he had borrowed heavily from a speech by Tom Joad, the central character of Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize-winning novel about the Great Depression.

Unlike Joe Biden, he had sense enough not to also claim he was the son of a sod-busting Okie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Democrats See Strength in Bucking Bush (CARL HULSE, 9/29/06, NY Times)

The Democratic vote in the Senate on Thursday against legislation governing the treatment of terrorism suspects showed that party leaders believe that President Bush’s power to wield national security as a political issue is seriously diminished.

The most vivid example of the Democratic assessment came from the party’s many presidential hopefuls in the Senate. [...]

Over all, 32 Democrats voted against the measure while 12, including some of those in the most difficult re-election fights, backed it.

So it was necessary to vote against it if your main concern is competing with other Democrats in primaries, but deadly if you're facing an actual election, and the Times this means the politics of the issue is good for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Harper stands firm at Francophonie
(DANIEL LEBLANC, 9/29/06, Globe and Mail)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper blocked a last-minute resolution at the Francophonie summit on Friday that would have recognized only Lebanon's suffering during this summer's conflict in the Middle East.

Mr. Harper said an institution like la Francophonie could not recognize suffering based on the nationality of its victims, and he called for recognition of the conflict's effect on Israeli residents.

The resolution was proposed by Egypt at the last minute of the annual meeting of French-speaking nations.

Should have known better than to let a representative of the Anglosphere attend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Many Rights in U.S. Legal System Absent in New Bill (R. Jeffrey Smith, September 29, 2006, Washington Post)

President Bush's argument that the government requires extraordinary power to respond to the unusual threat of terrorism helped him win final support for a system of military trials with highly truncated defendant's rights. The United States used similar trials on just four occasions: during the country's revolution, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and World War II.

Ah, so they're entirely typical of wartime and not actually extraordinary at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Michigan woes fuel GOP election hopes (Charles Hurt, 9/29/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

[Oakland County Sheriff Michael] Bouchard often tells voters on the campaign trail that Mrs. Stabenow is a "nice" lady but that they're not running in a nice-lady contest. He then rattles off reasons why he thinks she should be replaced.

He tells people that Mrs. Stabenow voted to grant Social Security benefits to illegal aliens, is one of the biggest pork-barrel spenders in Washington and has authored only one successful bill in Congress: a law to rename a federal building in Detroit.

Last month, Mr. Bouchard toured the state in a moving van to highlight the exodus of Michigan residents leaving the state in search of jobs. The flight is so bad, Mr. Bouchard said in an interview with The Washington Times, that when his neighbors put their house on the market, they had to wait more than a week before a "for sale" sign was available.

On his tour, he promised to curb federal spending, reduce "regulatory burdens" on small businesses and make tax cuts permanent.

Mrs. Stabenow, he says, has spent six years in Washington with little to show for it. She has authored 68 bills, according to records kept by the Library of Congress, and only one has been approved by the Senate. The bill, S.1285, renamed a building in Detroit the "Rosa Parks Federal Building" in honor of the civil rights activist. [...]

Despite her successes, even Mrs. Stabenow's staunchest supporters are somewhat at a loss to name her accomplishments as a U.S. senator.

A survey by The Washington Times of delegates who attended the state Democratic convention in Detroit in August found no one who could list any specific successes.

Larry Lewis of Detroit said, "She's done an outstanding job."

Asked to name any accomplishments, Mr. Lewis replied: "I don't have her record in front of me. I couldn't go over it verbatim."

Thelma Murrell of Southgate said: "Off the top of my head, I can't name them. But she does a great deal of things for us. It's not just caring; she really does help."

Carol Poenisch of Northville couldn't name any legislative victories for Mrs. Stabenow, but applauded her efforts to stop Canadian trucks from hauling tons of garbage across the border and dumping it in U.S. landfills. It's an issue that has dogged Michigan politicians for years.

Just last month, Mrs. Stabenow issued a press release boasting that she and other Democrats in the state had reached a deal with Canadian officials "to stop shipments of municipal solid waste to Michigan over the next four years."

But Canada's environment ministry officials weren't losing much sleep over the deal they cut with Mrs. Stabenow. They told local reporters that it does nothing to curb industrial and commercial waste, which makes up more than half of the 4 million metric tons of Canadian trash hauled into Michigan each year.

Moreover, they said the relatively generous deal was prompted by fears that bipartisan legislation moving through Congress would end all trash shipments by year's end.

"Our garbage trucks could have been turned back from the border as early as January 2007," Ontario's environment ministry spokeswoman, Kate Jordan, told the Detroit News. "We needed to find a solution to avert that."

Indeed, that legislation was approved by the House a few days later. But it's not likely to go anywhere soon because the Senate version of the bill — introduced by Mrs. Stabenow — has languished for more than a year in the chamber's Environmental and Public Works Committee.

And, as part of her deal with Canadian officials, Mrs. Stabenow agreed to drop any efforts to get tougher legislation through Congress for the next four years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


For Teams Still In the Hunt, It's Been Unsettling (Dave Sheinin, September 29, 2006, Washington Post)

With one weekend left in baseball's regular season, almost nothing about the playoffs is certain except for this: Next week, two of the four first-round series will open in New York, with the Yankees and Mets hosting and with the Statue of Liberty beckoning to all who harbor World Series dreams: "Bring me your flawed, your sputtering, your huddled, injured masses who yearn to spew champagne all over one another."

Indeed, scanning the lists of teams who, entering yesterday's play, had already clinched playoff spots (the Yankees, Mets, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins) and the list of those still in contention with three games to play (St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies), one would be hard-pressed to identify a single team without serious flaws and serious questions.

As much fun as the Yankees nearly being no-hit was, it's their pitching that's the problem, raising the question: if your Big Unit is collapsing, can you count on your Wang coming up big?

Mets get thrown for colossal loss (Mike Lupica, 9/29/06, NY Daily News)

Bringing his right arm to Shea Stadium was the start of everything. Now Pedro Martinez limps away from the Mets because his leg gives out on him. The Mets signed him for four seasons and figured they'd take three years of him being even close to what he was with Boston, where he was once one of the great righthanded pitchers of all time, a pitcher who didn't give up two runs a game sometimes, in an era in which all these sluggers with their steroid-aided muscles were hitting balls out of sight. Now, halfway into that contract, the Mets don't have him for the most important season they have had in a long time, the one that starts next week.

Feeling the heat? Slay the messenger
(Bernie Miklasz, 9/29/06, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH)
Memo to Terrell Owens: If you have any of that extra-strength pain medication
left over, please ship it to St. Louis.

In mass quantities.

The heat is really on, and so is the hurt. By the time the first 19 Milwaukee
hitters had stepped in at Busch Stadium Thursday to tee off on Jason Marquis,
the Cardinals already were down 8-0 and crashing to a 9-4 loss.

The Brewers needed only 19 hitters to douse Albert Pujols' home-run
pyrotechnics from Wednesday.

En fuego (Bill Plaschke, 9/29/06, Los Angeles Times)
How hot are the Dodgers?

They are so hot that, on Wednesday night, one of their best players was on fire.

``Literally,'' Derek Lowe said.

``Craziest thing I've ever seen,'' Manager Grady Little said.

In the top of the fifth inning, Lowe was standing in the corner of the dugout preparing to step into the on-deck circle.

Next to his right leg was a large space heater.

Lowe was so intent on watching the game that he didn't feel the heat or smell the smoke.

Then teammate Matt Kemp saw his polyester pants leg burning and cried out.

``He said, `Dude, you're on fire,' '' Lowe recalled.

Even better was when a young John Smoltz burned his chest because he used to iron his shirts while wearing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Menendez's Firing of Staffer Buoys New Jersey GOP Hopes (Shailagh Murray, 9/29/06, Washington Post)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) severed ties with a longtime campaign associate who was taped seeking a political favor on his behalf, the latest of several ethics-related incidents to shadow Menendez as he seeks a full Senate term in November.

According to yesterday's editions of the Newark Star-Ledger and the Philadelphia Inquirer, the associate, Donald Scarinci, was a Menendez childhood friend who became the senator's closest political adviser and a top fundraiser. In a transcript of the recording reviewed by the newspapers, Scarinci asked a client, a Hudson County psychiatrist who held lucrative local contracts, to hire another physician as a favor to Menendez. The psychiatrist, Oscar Sandoval, secretly taped the conversation, which took place in 1999, when Menendez was a House member.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) appointed Menendez in January to complete the governor's Senate term. The Scarinci story follows the disclosure of a federal review of a lease arrangement between Menendez and a Hudson County nonprofit organization.

The revelations have fueled Republican hopes that the New Jersey seat could flip to the GOP column in November.

But the Left and deranged conservatives keep telling us that Republican scandals are a function of their power so we should transfer control to the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Medicare drug premiums steady (Richard Wolf, 9/29/06, USA TODAY)

Average monthly premiums will hold steady next year under Medicare's prescription-drug program as competing insurers offer a range of new coverage options.

The average premium will be less than $24. Prices for the least expensive plans — as cheap as $1.87 in some parts of the country — will rise for the program's second year. Medicare officials will unveil details about 2007 plan offerings Friday. [...]

"The word seems to be pretty much price stability," says John Rother of the AARP, the nation's largest seniors organization.

...Democrats or conservative pundits?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Term should indicate new justices' influence (Joan Biskupic, 9/28/06, USA TODAY)

The Supreme Court will begin its annual term Monday with a schedule that includes cases on abortion rights, school integration and global warming, topics that will test the impact of the court's two new conservative members.

Such disputes, and a slate of business cases, could offer significant clues on how Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will influence the law. Both have roots in Ronald Reagan's administration and were touted by President Bush as reliable conservatives.

Roberts replaced another conservative, the late William Rehnquist. Alito succeeded the retired Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate justice who was at the court's ideological center. As her views evolved over her quarter-century tenure, O'Connor became the key vote on a divided, nine-member court. By voting with the court's four liberals, she helped to ensure abortion rights and the use of affirmative action in college admissions.

That's why the new cases could be poignant signs of how the court has changed with Alito on the bench instead of O'Connor. Alito's record as a lower court judge suggests he would be less open to abortion and affirmative action than she was.

Even though no one expects journalist to be anything but liberal hacks these days, it's still bad form to allow that "poignant" to slip in there and give away the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Parents, kids both welcome reopening of private schools (Zaid Sabah, 9/28/06, USA TODAY)

Under Saddam Hussein, all Iraqi children attended government-run schools that taught a standardized, state-approved curriculum.

Now, private schools that provide specialized programs and less-crowded classrooms are beginning to open in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

"In the pre-Saddam Hussein era, private schools were common in the country. But after 1979 (when Saddam became president), these schools were banned," says Ibrahim Abed Wali, manager of the private teaching sector of Iraq's Education Ministry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Oliver Stone takes a blast at Bush (AP, 9/28/06)

Filmmaker Oliver Stone blasted President Bush Thursday, saying he has "set America back 10 years." Stone added that he is "ashamed for my country" over the war in Iraq and the U.S. policies in response to the attacks of Sept. 11.

Boy, his Hollywood pals must have been furious about how non-partisan his new film was. Of course, the insult here is that this presidency is modeled on McKinley's, so only taking us back ten years is a massive failure.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:43 AM


Great Lakes machine guns raise ire in Canada (Margaret Philp, The Globe and Mail, September 28th, 2006)

The United States Coast Guard has started to patrol the Great Lakes with machine guns mounted on their vessels and is conducting live-ammunition training drills on the U.S. side to prepare officers to combat terrorists flooding across the border from Canada by boat.

The automatic-weapon drills started earlier this year but came to light only in the past two weeks after information about the Coast Guard's move to create 34 permanent live-fire training zones in the Great Lakes was published in the U.S. federal register.[...]

The high-powered drills have, however, stunned environmentalists, boaters and mayors in cities dotting the lakes in both countries who are outraged that the U.S. government would jeopardize the safety of pleasure boaters and commercial fishermen who could stray into the line of fire. Just as infuriating, they say, is the risk of lead exposure to fish and the more than 40 million people who draw drinking water from the Great Lakes.[...]

Others are raising alarms about the impact of tens of thousands of bullets made from lead, which has been linked to brain-development and behaviour problems in children. In recent years there have been efforts to reduce lead in the lakes, including the banning of lead paint and a more recent campaign asking fishermen to replace lead sinkers.

“We've spent years removing lead from the Great Lakes,” said Mary Muter, a long-time cottager and vice-president of the Georgian Bay Association, a coalition of cottage owners and boaters. “As a Canadian, these are binational waters and this is just offensive.”

These modern Canadian nationalists are just so embarrassing. You hand them slam dunk proof that the Rapacious Yankee Trader is plotting a secret invasion and the twits just prattle on about ADHD and mineral levels in fish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bibi encourages Olmert to meet Abbas (GIL HOFFMAN, 9/28/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received a surprising endorsement on Thursday for his plan to meet in upcoming days with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu feels the same way.

Olmert told Army Radio he would meet with Abbas regardless of whether kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit was released, because Abbas supported releasing Shalit.

Netanyahu told the radio station that if he were prime minister, he would also meet with Abbas.

"The dramatic change that has occurred is the development of an alliance of extremists against the alliance of moderates to which we belong," he said. "I would try to create a diplomatic process that would initiate an alliance between us and the Palestinians, but for this to happen, Hamas must fall." [...]

Netanyahu's rivals in the Likud accused him of shifting leftward for political reasons.

"Netanyahu's presentation of the terrorist Abu Mazen [Abbas] as a moderate is a repeat of his handshake with former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat," the Likud's Manhigut Yehudit forum said. "That handshake destroyed the nationalist camp and gave legitimacy to the Oslo process. Now again, when everyone knows there is no partner and the survival of Israel is at stake, Netanyahu is giving a certificate of kashrut to the enemy."

Short-sighted, but predictable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


T.O. cans talkative trainer (CHRISTIAN RED, 9/29/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

After completing his first full workout since breaking his right ring finger on Sept. 17, Owens finished the day by firing his longtime personal trainer, James (Buddy) Primm, after the 55-year-old Primm told the Dallas Morning News details of Owens' personal life - that Owens' fiancée had recently ended their three-year relationship and that Owens was upset he had missed his son's seventh birthday on Monday. Both the son and the ex-fiancée live in California.

Primm had suggested to the Morning News that both events may have been the cause for Owens to be upset. But Primm just wound up causing Owens to get more upset, and lost his job in the process.

"He shouldn't have said anything about my personal life - period. Now I really have to be guarded as far as who I talk to. If I can't trust my own trainer, I can't trust nobody," Owens told the Dallas paper.

Cutting ties with Primm was the latest bizarre development in the last 48 hours.

Bill Parcells, in particular, should be ashamed of himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


a href=>The Blind Leading the Willing: A compromise between those who don't care and those who don't want to know. (Dahlia Lithwick, Sept. 27, 2006, Slate)

Is it still called a compromise when the president gets everything he wanted?

A major detainee bill hurtling down the HOV lane in Congress today would determine the extent to which the president can define and authorize torture. The urgency to pass this legislation has nothing to do with a new need to interrogate alleged enemy combatants. The urgency is about an election.

Last time Congress rubber-stamped a major terrorism-related law no one had bothered to read in the first place, we got the Patriot Act.

Which is so popular it was renewed virtually unchanged.

September 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Senate OKs detainee interrogation bill (ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, 9/28/06, Associated Press)

The Senate on Thursday endorsed President Bush's plans to prosecute and interrogate terror suspects, all but sealing congressional approval for legislation that Republicans intend to use on the campaign trail to assert their toughness on terrorism.

The 65-34 vote means the bill could reach the president's desk by week's end.

Interesting that so many Democrats voted against a bill about which they had nothing to say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Afghanistan's good news: seeds of economic progress (Karl F. Inderfurth, 9/29/06, CS Monitor)

During his visit to Washington, Karzai met with a group of leading US CEOs. In Kabul, the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency has been set up as a one-stop-shop for the promotion, registration, and licensing of new investments - making Afghanistan, according to a 2005 World Bank survey, one of the world's leaders in the speed needed for business ventures to get started.

Next month, the Afghan government will sponsor its second annual business promotion road show in the US and Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


Dow Ends Up 29 After Reaching Milestone (Ellen Simon, 9/28/06, AP)

The Dow Jones industrial average reached a milestone Thursday in Wall Street's nearly seven-year recovery from corporate upheaval, economic recession and terrorism, briefly trading above its record high close of 11,722.98 set on Jan. 14, 2000.

Do you still call it "Black October" if it's only bad economic news for Democrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 PM


Union blocks foreign healthcare plan: Despite opposition, other companies are looking to send workers abroad for medical treatment (Patrik Jonsson, 0/29/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The planned journey to New Delhi by Mr. Garrett, a Leicester, N.C., resident wasn't just about fixing his aching left shoulder. His employer, Blue Ridge Paper Products of Canton, N.C., wanted to send a message to American hospitals: Control costs or we'll give our insured workers the option of going overseas for quality, but low-cost care.

Garrett, who belongs to the United Steelworkers, would have been the first union member to go overseas for medical care. But after his pioneering trip became public, the union stepped in and threatened to file an injunction to stop it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


Saudis in Quiet Talks To Revive Arab Peace Bid: Riyadh’s Envoy Lobbies U.S. Jews As Israeli Leaders Warm to Effort (Marc Perelman, Sep 29, 2006, The Forward)

[I]n New York the Saudis were lobbying the American Jewish community. The longtime Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal-al Saud, held a September 22 meeting with five prominent Jewish communal leaders, during which he stressed the need to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian process by reviving the so-called Saudi Initiative of 2002. The initiative offered Arab normalization with Israel in exchange for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 armistice line. The offer, which was endorsed by the Arab League, was rejected by then-Prime minister Ariel Sharon, mainly because of objections to the vague language about the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the return to the 1967 line

“It was a very worthwhile meeting; we were encouraged by the tone and what we heard on the Palestinian issue and on Iran,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. Harris was one of the five Jewish participants in the one-hour meeting with prince Faisal and the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki. The other participants were Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress; real estate mogul and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, and Robert Lifton, a former president of AJCongress and a founder of the Israel Policy Forum, who was involved in the 2002 Saudi plan. [...]

The day before his meeting with Jewish officials, Faisal said that Arab countries had reached a “very significant” consensus after the recent war in Lebanon on the need for a new start in the Middle East peace process. He urged Palestinian leaders to settle on a united stance toward Israel and to clarify whether they accept the Arab League peace initiative, which offers Israel full normalization of relations with the Arab world in return for a withdrawal to the June 1967 line and a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem on the basis of U.N. Resolution 194.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Bloggers Select The Greatest Figures In American History (Version 2) (John Hawkins, 9/28/06, Right Wing News)

Out of all the titans in American history -- Presidents and generals, inventors and entrepreneurs, reformers and revolutionaries -- have you ever wondered who the best of the best were? Well, RWN decided, for the first time in more than 3 years, to email more than 225 right-of-center bloggers to get their opinions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Free For All (Peter Beinart, 09.28.06, New Republic)

In 1991, the sociologist Orlando Patterson published a book titled Freedom in the Making of Western Culture. Our understanding of freedom, he argued, comes from the Greeks. But, for many Greeks, freedom was intimately connected to slavery: Unless you dominated others, you weren't really free. (Southern slaveholders made a similar argument.) Patterson called this "sovereignal freedom," which he defined as "the power to act as one pleases, regardless of the wishes of others." And he contrasted it with "personal freedom"--the right to act as one pleases while respecting the rights of others to do the same. [...]

Sixty years ago, when the United States supplanted Great Britain as the greatest power on earth, American leaders argued that the age of imperialism was ending. Freedom meant self-determination for formerly subjugated peoples (including peoples subjugated by the ussr). And self-determination for the weak meant limits on the power of the strong. As Harry Truman said in a speech to the then-fledgling United Nations, "All of us must recognize--it doesn't matter how great our strength is--that we must deny ourselves the license to always do whatever we want."

This sentiment, to be sure, was sometimes honored in the breach. But it disposed the United States to a generally positive view of international institutions and international law. When the United States embraced civil rights at home, it rejected the argument for sovereignal freedom that white Southerners had been making since slavery. And, when the United States committed itself to international standards on human rights, it rejected the argument for sovereignal freedom implicit in the imperialism of the past.

Did that prevent Third World nationalists from calling the United States a neo-empire that purchased its growing freedom and prosperity at the expense of others? Not at all. But it furnished Americans with counterarguments. Human rights and self-determination, leaders like Truman insisted, were not merely masks for U.S. domination; they were principles that restrained the United States as well.

That argument never convinced everyone. But it convinced many more people than it does today. In the Bush era, as even a thoughtful neoconservative like Robert Kagan has acknowledged, "America, for the first time since World War II, is suffering a crisis of international legitimacy." And it is that crisis on which men like Ahmadinejad and Chávez feed.

Combating Ahmadinejad and Chávez does not require abandoning the language of freedom. To the contrary, it requires rescuing it--by recognizing that, unless freedom imposes restraints on the United States as well as on other nations, it will sound to many in the postcolonial world like domination.

You can almost feel sorry for the folk of the Decent Left, who think that international legitimacy matters a good goddamn. Americans understand the matter better, tracing legitimacy a tad higher:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

It's worth noting that Americans believe in neither of the freedoms of which Mr. Beinart and Mr. Patterson speak, but instead in republican liberty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:04 PM


Infidel Documents: Intelligence, jihadists and the Iraq war debate (FOUAD AJAMI, September 28, 2006, Opinion Journal)

It was inevitable that the Arabs would regard this American project in Iraq through the prism of their own experience. We upended an order of power in Baghdad, dominated as it had been by the Sunni Arabs; and we emancipated the Shiite stepchildren of the Arab world, as well as the Kurds. Our innocence was astounding. We sinned against the order of the universe, but called on the region to celebrate, to bless our work. More to the point, we set the Shia on their own course. We did for them what they could not have done on their own. For our part, we were ambivalent about the coming of age of the Shia. We had battled radical Shiism in Iran and in Lebanon in the 1980s. The symbols of Shiism we associated with political violence--radical mullahs, martyrology, suicide bombers. True, in the interim, we had had a war--undeclared, but still a war--with Sunni jihadists. But there lingered in us an aversion to radical Shiism, an understandable residue of the campaign that Ayatollah Khomeini had waged against American power in the '80s. We were susceptible as well to the representations made to us by rulers in the Sunni-ruled states about the dangers of radical Shiism.

The case against the war makes much of Iran's new power in Iraq. To the war critics, President Bush has midwifed a second Islamic republic in Iraq, next door to Iran. But Iran cannot run away with Iraq, and talk of an ascendant Iran in Iraqi affairs is overblown. We belittle the Iraqi Shiites--their sense of home, and of a tradition so thoroughly Iraqi and Arab--when we write them off as instruments of Iran. Inevitably, there is Iranian money in Iraq, and there are agents, but this is the logic of the 900-mile Iranian-Iraqi border.

True, in the long years of Tikriti/Saddamist dominion, Shiite political men persecuted by the regime sought sanctuary in Iran; a political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its military arm, the Badr Brigade, rose in those years with Iranian patronage. But the Iraqi exiles are not uniform in their attitudes toward Iran. Exile was hard, and the Iranian hosts were given to arrogance and paternalism. Iraqi exiles were subordinated to the strategic needs of the Iranian regime. Much is made, and appropriately, of the way the Americans who prosecuted the first Gulf War called for rebellions by the Shiites (and the Kurds), only to walk away in indifference as the Saddam regime struck back with vengeance. But the Iranians, too, averted their gaze from the slaughter. States are merciless, the Persian state no exception to that rule.

We should not try to impose more order and consensus on the world of Shiite Iraq than is warranted by the facts. In recent days a great faultline within the Shiites could be seen: The leader of the Supreme Council for the Revolution in Iraq, Sayyid Abdulaziz al-Hakim, has launched a big campaign for an autonomous Shiite federated unit that would take in the overwhelmingly Shiite provinces in the south and the middle Euphrates, but this project has triggered the furious opposition of Hakim's nemesis, the young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Hakim's bid was transparent. He sought to be the uncrowned king of a Shiite polity. But he was rebuffed. Sadr was joined in opposition to that scheme by the Daawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, by the Virtue Party, and by those secular Shiites who had come into the national assembly with former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. A bitter struggle now plays out in the Shiite provinces between the operatives of the Badr Brigade and Sadr's Mahdi Army. The fight is draped in religious colors--but it is about the spoils of power.

The truculence of the Sunni Arabs has brought forth the Shiite vengeance that a steady campaign of anti-Shiite terror was bound to trigger. Sunni elements have come into the government, but only partly so. President Jalal Talabani put it well when he said that there are elements in Iraq that partake of government in the daytime, and of terror at night. This is as true of the Sunni Arabs as it is of the Shiites. The (Sunni) insurgents were relentless: In the most recent of events, they have taken terror deep into Sadr City. The results were predictable: The death squads of the Mahdi Army struck back.

It is idle to debate whether Iraq is in a state of civil war. The semantics are tendentious, and in the end irrelevant. There is mayhem, to be sure, but Iraq has arrived at a rough balance of terror. The Sunni Arabs now know, as they had never before, that their tyranny is broken for good. And the most recent reports from Anbar province speak of a determination of the Sunni tribes to be done with the Arab jihadists.

It is not a rhetorical flourish to say that the burden of rescuing Iraq lies with its leaders. No script had America staying indefinitely, fighting Iraq's wars, securing Iraq's peace. The best we can do for Iraq is grant it time to develop the military and political capabilities that would secure it against insurgencies at home and subversion from across its borders.

...if they just thought of the Shi'a as the Jews of the Arab world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


'Fertility gap' helps explain political divide (Dennis Cauchon, 9/28/06, USA TODAY)

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic mother of five from San Francisco, has fewer children in her district than any other member of Congress: 87,727.

Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, a Mormon father of eight, represents the most children: 278,398.

These two extremes reflect a stark demographic divide between the congressional districts controlled by the major political parties. [...]

GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district. seems like the party that keeps adding people has a long term advantage over the one that keeps subtracting. Even if there is political mileage to be made out of being nothing but reactionary--which seems unlikely--it's hard to believe there's much to be gotten from reacting against humanity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Man who lived with corpse gets 25 years (ASSOCIATED PRESS. September 28, 2006)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


From Far Left to Libertarian (Arnold Kling, 28 Sep 2006, TCS)

The question of how I became a libertarian ultimately is a question about how I changed my mental model of the political system from one of "good guys vs. villains" to one of the importance of limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility. I travelled the route from Far Left to libertarian. I think that quite a few libertarians have travelled that route, and yet I cannot think of anyone who has gone the other direction. This leads me to suspect that:

1. Far Leftists and libertarianism have much in common.
2. Libertarians know something that Far Leftists do not.

What I believe that Far Leftists and libertarians have in common includes:

1. A passion for social and political issues. I grew up in a household where the dinner conversation often was politics. Far Leftists and libertarians both care more than the average person about what goes on in public policy.

2. Frustration with political incumbents. Far Leftists and libertarians both have a tendency to exaggerate the flaws in Presidents while in office and to overstate the virtues of past leaders. For example, Presidents Clinton and Kennedy are much more popular with the Far Left today than when they were in office. Similarly, during his Administration, President Reagan was considered a disappointment by libertarians.

3. Anti-elitism. Both Far Leftists and libertarians are willing to reject what they see as elitist views among politicians and political pundits.

Not only is #1 a direct refutation of #3 (and an illusration of the truth that all humor is conservative), but it reveals the one thing they share in common above all else: an overweening focus on self to the point that they are blind to that self-absorption.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


NEO-NAZI TV: Putting the "National" in National News: Germany's right-wing NPD party used to shy away from the Internet. But now it has discovered the benefits of the new technology -- and created its own online news show. The party has big plans for its own "critical news" show. (Matthias Gebauer, 9/28/06, Der Spiegel)

The news segments gave a glimpse of the world through the eyes of the NPD. The show's producers reported on stories that, in the jargon of the NPD, are ignored or suppressed by the media of the "System." One news item featured the head of Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education -- a foundation created in 1952 and intended to promote awareness of the democratic values enshrined in the German constitution -- apparently insulting all Germans from the country's central regions as ignorant dolts. Meanwhile, in former East Germany, foreigners continue to attack German nationals. And a report from Cologne described a neighborhood that wanted to get rid of its non-German citizens. The far-right menu of news stories was garnished with praise for a Tehran exhibition that writes off the Holocaust as a myth.

Why not just broadcast Lou Dobbs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


'The Guardian' at the crossroads (Alan Dershowitz, Sep. 27, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Guardian, which used to be a liberal British newspaper, has become the full-fledged Pravda of the British hard Left, especially when it comes to its one-sided bashing of Israel. Like Pravda, it will not publish alternative points of view, even when the alternative point of view seeks to correct willful mis-statements of fact. It's gotten to the point where a reader simply cannot trust the credibility of the reporting.

What could be more typical of the Left in general and Mr. Dershowitz in particular than his belief that this started with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Boys told no standing to urinate (World Net Daily, September 28, 2006)

It's an entirely new definition of "Standing Room Only." Or perhaps a new measure of "equality" has arrived.

Whatever it is, it has sparked a huge political debate at a school in Kristiansand, Norway, according to Aftenposten.

The trigger for the explosion of opinion? A decision in the local district that schoolboys must sit on toilet seats when urinating, not stand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Marriage gap could sway elections: Residents' status often predicts district's vote (Dennis Cauchon, 9/28/06, USA TODAY)

The wedding band could be crucial in this fall's congressional elections, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 2005 Census data.

House districts held by Republicans are full of married people. Democratic districts are stacked with people who have never married. This “marriage gap” could play a role in the Nov. 7 congressional elections. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.

Twenty-seven of the 38 Republican-held districts with seats considered vulnerable by independent political analysts have fewer married people than found in the average GOP district. The USA TODAY analysis also shows that:

•Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people.

•Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.

The political tug-of-war is between people who are married and those who have never been.

We needn't believe that the Left intentionally spent its 70 years in power trying to destroy the institutions -- marriage, church, etc. -- that a healthy society is organized around, in order to understand that statists always have an interest in loosening these bonds in order that individuals become increasingly dependent on just one relationship, their own with the State.

On the Use That the Americans Make of Association in Civil Life: An excerpt from Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (Edited, translated and with an introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop)

I do not wish to speak of those political associations with the aid of which men seek to defend themselves against the despotic action of a majority or against the encroachments of royal power. I have already treated this subject elsewhere. It is clear that if each citizen, as he becomes individually weaker and consequently more incapable in isolation of preserving his freedom, does not learn the art of uniting with those like him to defend it, tyranny will necessarily grow with equality.

Here it is a question only of the associations that are formed in civil life and which have an object that is in no way political.

The political associations that exist in the United States form only a detail in the midst of the immense picture that the sum of associations presents there.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.

In America I encountered sorts of associations of which, I confess, I had no idea, and I often admired the infinite art with which the inhabitants of the United States managed to fix a common goal to the efforts of many men and to get them to advance to it freely.

I have since traveled through England, from which the Americans took some of their laws and many of their usages, and it appeared to me that there they were very far from making as constant and as skilled a use of association.

It often happens that the English execute very great things in isolation, whereas there is scarcely an undertaking so small that Americans do not unite for it. It is evident that the former consider association as a powerful means of action; but the latter seem to see in it the sole means they have of acting.

Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and equality?

Aristocratic societies always include within them, in the midst of a multitude of individuals who can do nothing by themselves, a few very powerful and very wealthy citizens; each of these can execute great undertakings by himself.

In aristocratic societies men have no need to unite to act because they are kept very much together.

Each wealthy and powerful citizen in them forms as it were the head of a permanent and obligatory association that is composed of all those he holds in dependence to him, whom he makes cooperate in the execution of his designs.

In democratic peoples, on the contrary, all citizens are independent and weak; they can do almost nothing by themselves, and none of them can oblige those like themselves to lend them their cooperation. They therefore all fall into impotence if they do not learn to aid each other freely.

If men who live in democratic countries had neither the right nor the taste to unite in political goals, their independence would run great risks, but they could preserve their wealth and their enlightenment for a long time; whereas if they did not acquire the practice of associating with each other in ordinary life, civilization itself would be in peril. A people among whom particular persons lost the power of doing great things in isolation, without acquiring the ability to produce them in common, would soon return to barbarism.

Unhappily, the same social state that renders associations so necessary to democratic peoples renders them more difficult for them than for all others.

When several members of an aristocracy want to associate with each other they easily succeed in doing so. As each of them brings great force to society, the number of members can be very few, and, when the members are few in number, it is very easy for them to know each other, to understand each other, and to establish fixed rules.

The same facility is not found in democratic nations, where it is always necessary that those associating be very numerous in order that the association have some power.

I know that there are many of my contemporaries whom this does not embarrass. They judge that as citizens become weaker and more incapable, it is necessary to render the government more skillful and more active in order that society be able to execute what individuals can no longer do. They believe they have answered everything in saying that. But I think they are mistaken.

A government could take the place of some of the greatest American associations, and within the Union several particular states already have attempted it. But what political power would ever be in a state to suffice for the innumerable multitude of small undertakings that American citizens execute every day with the aid of an association?

It is easy to foresee that the time is approaching when a man by himself alone will be less and less in a state to produce the things that are the most common and the most necessary to his life. The task of the social power will therefore constantly increase, and its very efforts will make it vaster each day. The more it puts itself in place of associations, the more particular persons, losing the idea of associating with each other, will need it to come to their aid: these are causes and effects that generate each other without rest. Will the public administration in the end direct all the industries for which an isolated citizen cannot suffice? and if there finally comes a moment when, as a consequence of the extreme division of landed property, the land is partitioned infinitely, so that it can no longer be cultivated except by associations of laborers, will the head of the government have to leave the helm of state to come hold the plow?

The morality and intelligence of a democratic people would risk no fewer dangers than its business and its industry if the government came to take the place of associations everywhere.

Sentiments and ideas renew themselves, the heart is enlarged, and the human mind is developed only by the reciprocal action of men upon one another.

I have shown that this action is almost nonexistent in a democratic country. It is therefore necessary to create it artificially there. And this is what associations alone can do.

When the members of an aristocracy adopt a new idea or conceive a novel sentiment, they place it in a way next to themselves on the great stage they are on, and in thus exposing it to the view of the crowd, they easily introduce it into the minds or hearts of all those who surround them.

In democratic countries, only the social power is naturally in a state to act like this, but it is easy to see that its action is always insufficient and often dangerous.

A government can no more suffice on its own to maintain and renew the circulation of sentiments and ideas in a great people than to conduct all its industrial undertakings. As soon as it tries to leave the political sphere to project itself on this new track, it will exercise an insupportable tyranny even without wishing to; for a government knows only how to dictate precise rules; it imposes the sentiments and the ideas that it favors, and it is always hard to distinguish its counsels from its orders.

This will be still worse if it believes itself really interested in having nothing stir. It will then hold itself motionless and let itself be numbed by a voluntary somnolence.

It is therefore necessary that it not act alone.

In democratic peoples, associations must take the place of the powerful particular persons whom equality of conditions has made disappear.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have conceived a sentiment or an idea that they want to produce in the world, they seek each other out; and when they have found each other, they unite. From then on, they are no longer isolated men, but a power one sees from afar, whose actions serve as an example; a power that speaks, and to which one listens.

The first time I heard it said in the United States that a hundred thousand men publicly engaged not to make use of strong liquors, the thing appeared to me more amusing than serious, and at first I did not see well why such temperate citizens were not content to drink water within their families.

In the end I understood that those hundred thousand Americans, frightened by the progress that drunkenness was making around them, wanted to provide their patronage to sobriety. They had acted precisely like a great lord who would dress himself very plainly in order to inspire the scorn of luxury in simple citizens. It is to be believed that if those hundred thousand men had lived in France, each of them would have addressed himself individually to the government, begging it to oversee the cabarets all over the realm.

There is nothing, according to me, that deserves more to attract our regard than the intellectual and moral associations of America. We easily perceive the political and industrial associations of the Americans, but the others escape us; and if we discover them, we understand them badly because we have almost never seen anything analogous. One ought however to recognize that they are as necessary as the first to the American people, and perhaps more so.

In democratic countries the science of association is the mother science; the progress of all the others depends on the progress of that one.

Among the laws that rule human societies there is one that seems more precise and clearer than all the others. In order that men remain civilized or become so, the art of associating must be developed and perfected among them in the same ratio as equality of conditions increases.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:43 AM


Town planning blamed for obesity (BBC, September 28th, 2006)

Poor town planning which limits opportunities for children to take exercise has been blamed for fuelling an increase in obesity.

Leading US paediatrician Professor Richard Jackson called for a rethink in the way towns and cities are developed. [...]

He said humans were so adaptable that they quickly adjusted to the environment in which they found themselves.

However, while this was an advantage in evolutionary terms, it spelled bad news when that environment provided little opportunity for exercise.

Humans were designed to keep active, he said, and they were not designed for the modern, sedentary lifestyle that had become the norm.

Just think of all the new outfits fatty can sue now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Illinois: Wal-Mart Reaches Chicago (LIBBY SANDER, 9/28/06, NY Times)

Wal-Mart opened its first store in Chicago, a little more than two weeks after Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed an ordinance requiring all “big-box” stores to pay their employees $10 an hour by 2010. More than 15,000 people applied to work at the 142,000-square-foot store, which is in the economically depressed Austin section on the West Side. Wal-Mart officials estimated that the store would produce 490 jobs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


As 2 Bushes Try to Fix Schools, Tools Differ (SAM DILLON, 9/28/06, NY Times)

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida has long played the dutiful younger brother.

Well before President Bush signed his No Child Left Behind law, Jeb Bush poured his own ideas into a school improvement program for Florida.

Over the years since, Governor Bush has mostly held his tongue about the president’s very different law, even as detractors of all stripes have attacked it.

But in recent weeks — perhaps seeking to cement his legacy as a school-policy expert as he prepares to leave office — Governor Bush has been speaking out about the federal law, mixing dollops of praise with measured criticisms — and taking an occasional potshot. He has been caustic, for instance, about the requirement that 100 percent of the nation’s students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

“I mean perfection is not going to happen,” Mr. Bush said Sept. 12 at a news conference in Orlando, arguing that achievement targets are important but that unrealistic ones discourage educators. “We’re all imperfect under God’s watchful eye, and it’s impossible to achieve it.”

Which is the point of the law--by making sure that the standards are unattainable you make what Democrats thought would be minimal remedies (like vouchers) universal instead. Can't blame local officials though for minding "failing."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Brown angry as unions deal blow to NHS plans: Row goes on after delegates reject use of private contractors (Patrick Wintour, John Carvel and David Hencke, September 28, 2006, The Guardian)

At one point in the stormy meeting of the party's national executive, Mr Brown urged the unions to be serious and put on a show of unity to the party and the country. He said the government would not back down over its plan to hand the NHS Logistics contract to a German company.

His aides said later he was angry the unions were unwilling to respond to the compromises offered by the leadership. At one point he rounded on the Transport and General Workers Union for making crazy demands on other issues.

Mr Brown's intervention swung just enough votes to ensure that the national executive voted 16 to 15 to support the government's use of private contractors in the NHS, a position then rejected by the conference.

The chancellor's stance suggests he would be unwilling to tack to the left to win the votes of union members in a leadership election, prompting some union leaders to complain in Manchester yesterday that there was no real difference between Mr Brown and Mr Blair.

Mr. Brown's only hope to succeed is if he hates Labour as much as Mr. Blair does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Anybody But McCain (JOHN BATCHELOR, September 28, 2006, NY Sun)

John McCain of Arizona has won the Anybody-But role for the Republican nomination in 2008. Is this good or bad news for Team McCain? It is a tradition in the Grand Old Party that choosing a nominee, especially to succeed a sitting Republican president, means that the party must perform a romantic opera that requires certain roles to be filled by credible performers. The lead role is that of Anybody But, which the 2008 election has now filled. Equally critical is the role of Who-Can-Stop-Him? which is filled this year with a lean, hungry triumvirate of Rudy Giuliani of New York, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Bill Frist of Tennessee. The junior roles are called What-Abouts? which best have a regional balance: George Pataki of New York, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Dick Armey of Texas, and Condoleeza Rice of California.

Republican history suggests that the Anybody-But role will be the nominee — from Blaine in 1884 to Taft in 1908, Nixon in 1960, and Mr. Bush in 1988 — and that all of the booms for the competing candidates know this as they plunge into the contest. No blame attaches to supporting a Who Can Stopper or a What Abouter, since the party expects you will eventually join the Anybody Buts. The Republican Party is the most successful third party in history just because it understands and enjoys these periodic tantrums in which the party faithful scrap with each other far more passionately than with the eventual Democratic opponent. The Republicans call them contests of ideas, but this is self-admiration, because there is only one idea in the Republican Party — liberty — and no party member is more equal in that debate. The tantrums are best seen as routine Big Manhood: Choose your Big Man and fight to control the party's money, which is the same as controlling the party.

George W. Bush is that rare Republican nominee who began life as an Anybody-But, rather than evolving from a Who-Can-Stop-Him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Revisions to Savings Rules Proposed (Michelle Singletary, September 28, 2006, Washington Post)

The Pension Protection Act of 2006, signed recently by President Bush, made it easier for companies to force employees to save for their retirement. I used the word "force" but I don't mean it in a negative way. After all, traditional pensions, known as defined-benefit plans, are about as rare as a belt on many a teenager's pants. Both are left hanging.

For the most part, workers are signing up for the defined-contribution plans that replaced them, electing to take pretax dollars and invest them in various investment options, including 401(k)s. But there are still holdouts. About one-third of eligible workers do not participate in defined-contribution plans, according to the Labor Department.

To encourage workers to save, some employers decided to automatically sign up workers. The theory is that once you enroll employees in a 401(k), most won't make the effort to stop the contributions.

Some companies, however, worrying that they may be sued for such a paternalistic move, have balked at creating an automatic enrollment system.

That's where the new law comes in. Chiefly, the law amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to shield fiduciaries of individual account plans when certain default investment alternatives are selected for workers. After all, if you're automatically enrolling people, then you have to invest their money somewhere.

ERISA would essentially provide fiduciaries relief from liability for the investment outcomes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Olmert to meet with Abbas soon (AP, 9/28/06)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in interviews broadcast Thursday that he hopes to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in coming days for what would be their first real talks since he came to power. [...]

Olmert said he hoped a meeting with Abbas would lead to broader peace talks and ultimately a deal to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Peace talks have been frozen for years. Israel cut off contacts with the Palestinian Cabinet after the election of Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction. However, Israel has said it would maintain ties with Abbas, of the more moderate Fatah Party, who was elected separately last year. Abbas has been trying to pressure Hamas to soften its stance.

If no peace deal can be worked out, Olmert said in the interviews he would carry out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from most of the West Bank while strengthening Israel's hold over large settlement blocs. However, Olmert's aides have said he has abandoned the plan following his plunge in popularity after the war in Lebanon, which killed more than 150 Israelis and more than 850 Lebanese.

Recent polls showed that less than a quarter of Israelis were happy with Olmert's job performance and nearly 70% disapproved of his actions as prime minister.

Olmert presented Israel's performance in the war as a clear victory — an assessment disputed by many in Israel and Lebanon — and said he did not foresee another violent conflict beyond minor border skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah in the near future.

Sad what he's done to the strong hand that Ariel Sharon dealt him.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:48 AM


While we’re at it (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, June,/July, 2006) (Scroll down)

It becomes wearying to point out that the Inquisition of the thirteenth century resulted in the deaths of about three people per year; that the Spanish Inquisition of the late fifteenth century was a matter of crown policy and was significantly moderated by the Church; that at the time rulers thought that religious uniformity was necessary to the safety of the state; and that the same assumption in England, where there was no Inquisition, resulted in numerous deaths of both Protestants and Catholics. The Inquisition in its various forms over three hundred years accounted for fewer deaths—about three thousand in all, according to modern scholars—than the number of people killed on any given afternoon under the fanatically anti-religious regimes of Stalin and Hitler. Yet in the hysterical polemics about the threat of an American theocracy, the Inquisition is right up there with the Gulag Archipelago and the Holocaust. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Inquisition was a good thing. The pertinent fact, however, is that secular rulers believed heresy was a threat to the state and were determined to stamp it out. The Church, mainly in the form of the Dominicans, was enlisted to conduct legal inquiry (inquisitio) into whether an accused person was really guilty of heresy. Most of those charged were acquitted, and those who recanted their heresy were given penances of the same kind as those imposed in the Sacrament of Penance, such as fasting, pilgrimage, or the wearing of distinctive crosses on their clothes. Unlike other penances, those imposed by the Inquisition were legally enforceable. Should the Church have stepped in to moderate and bring under control the determination of rulers to stamp out heresy? Today almost everybody would say no. It is, however, no more than a chronological conceit of superior righteousness to claim that the answer was self-evident at the time. For St. Thomas More against Protestants, Queen Elizabeth against Catholics, and Ferdinand and Isabella against Jews and Muslims, there was no doubt that religious uniformity was essential to the well-being of the state. If an argument can be made that it was the case then, it is certainly not the case now.

Arguing about history with a leftist or libertarian is, as Fr. Neuhaus says, often wearisome. They are just so fiercely glued to the ideological principle that the modern is superior to the past by definition at all times and in all ways (and just wait for the future!). If you point to a problem such as substance abuse or STD’s as an incident of modern culture, you will be quickly assured there is little to worry about as it was much worse sometime somewhere in the 19th century. (One is thankful the folks of the 19th century weren’t so smug and sanquine about their superiority to the 14th century.) If you try to engage them in the idea that maybe, just maybe, the unspeakable slaughters and genocides of the last hundred years have something to do with modern thinking, you are waved aside brusquely so they can talk about a real outrage like Galileo’s trial. But the most charming conceit by far is the notion that pre-Enlightenment secular leaders were proto-human rights activists struggling to throw off an oppressive theocracy in the name of freedom and independent scientific inquiry.

A dispassionate reading of Western history reveals to all but the most ideologically hidebound that were it not for the Church (es) there would have been no universities, scientific inquiry, fair trials, abolitionist movement, rights for women, limited government, international law, rules of warfare, protection for serfs, aboriginal rights, and many, many other rather important things. There would, however, have been lots of torture and some really great parties.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:52 AM


An Almost-Chosen People (Paul Johnson, First Things, June/July, 2006)

It is important to grasp that American society embraced the principles of voluntarism and tolerance in faith in a spirit not of secularism but of piety. Almost unconsciously the consensus grew that voluntary adherence to one faith, and tolerance of all others, was the foundation of true religion. In this respect English and American society bifurcated as early as the 1650s. While England was debating whether to have a Presbyterian or a Congregationalist settlement, and then in practice getting an Anglican one, the former governor of Massachusetts, Sir Henry Vane, was expounding the principles of civil and religious liberty, arguing that they were inseparable and that freedom of religious belief was essential to the maintenance of a Christian society: “By virtue then of this supreme law, sealed and confirmed in the blood of Christ unto all men...all magistrates are to fear and forebear intermeddling with giving rule or imposing in those matters.” This document, and the sentiments it articulated, were more instrumental in determining the spirit of the American Constitution in religious matters than were the writings of the Enlightenment.

It is probably true that the American Revolution was in essence the political and military expression of a religious movement. Certainly those who inspired it and carried it through believed they were doing God’s will. Its emotional dynamic was the Great Awakening, which began in the 1730s. The man who first preached it, Jonathan Edwards, believed strongly that there was no real difference between a political and a religious emotion, both of which were God directed. The right kind of politics were, to his way of thinking, no more than realized eschatology. He said he saw no reason why God should not “establish a constitution” whereby human creatures should cooperate with him and all might know that the hour was coming when God “shall take the kingdom”; he looked for “the dawn of that glorious day.”

Edwards saw religion as the essential unifying force in American society, and that force was personified in his evangelical successor George Whitefield. Until this time America was a series of very different states with little contact with each other, often with stronger links to Europe than to their neighbors. Religious evangelism was the first continental phenomenon, transcending differences between the colonies, dissolving state boundaries, and introducing truly national figures. Whitefield was the first American celebrity, as well known in New Hampshire as in Georgia. His form of religious ecumenicalism preceded and shaped political unity. It popularized the real ethic of the American Revolution, which was not so much political as social and religious—the beliefs and standards and attitudes that the great majority of the American people had in common. It was a Christian and to a great extent a Protestant ethic, infinitely more important than the purely dogmatic variations of the sects.[...]

Even those most strongly influenced by the secular spirit of the Enlightenment acknowledged the centrality of the religious spirit in giving birth to America. As John Adams put it in 1818, “The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. [It] was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.” He saw religion, indeed, as the foundation of the American civic spirit: “One great advantage of the Christian religion is that it brings the great principle of the law of nature and nations, love your neighbour as yourself, and do to others as you would that others do to you, to the knowledge, belief and veneration of the whole people. Children, servants, women and men are all professors in the science of public as well as private morality....The duties and rights of the man and the citizen are thus taught from early infancy.”

The United States of America was not, therefore, a secular state; it might more accurately be described as a moral and ethical society without a state religion. Clearly, those who created it saw it as an entity, to use Lincoln’s later phrase, “under God.” The Declaration of Independence in its first paragraph invokes “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as the entitlement of the American people to choose separation, and it insists that men have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” because they are so “endowed by their Creator.” The authors appeal, in their conclusion, to “the Supreme judge of the world” and express their confidence in “the Protection of Divine Providence.”

An observant outsider can’t help but notice that one thing that unites all Americans is their fealty to the ideals of the Revolution and the principles of the Founders. The difference seems to be between those who think they meant what they said and those who hold that it was all just a feint for popular consumption in their goal of emulating France, which would have happened had the glorious experiment not been hijacked by an oppressive alliance of big business and privileged religion within a few weeks of Yorktown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


House OKs terrorism detainee bill in victory for Bush (Anne Plummer Flaherty, September 27, 2006, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The House approved legislation Wednesday giving the Bush administration authority to interrogate and prosecute terrorism detainees, moving the president to the edge of a pre-election victory with a key piece of his anti-terror plan.

The 253-168 vote in the House came shortly after senators agreed to limit debate on their own nearly identical bill, all but assuring its passage on Thursday.

The Democrats are nothing but a reactionary party these days and even they seem to have learned they can't afford to react against the WoT.

September 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


All Iraqi Ethnic Groups Overwhelmingly Reject al Qaeda (World Public Opinion, September 27, 2006)

Al Qaeda is exceedingly unpopular among the Iraqi people.

Overall 94 percent have an unfavorable view of al Qaeda, with 82 percent expressing a very unfavorable view. Of all organizations and individuals assessed in this poll, it received the most negative ratings. The Shias and Kurds show similarly intense levels of opposition, with 95 percent and 93 percent respectively saying they have very unfavorable views. The Sunnis are also quite negative, but with less intensity. Seventy-seven percent express an unfavorable view, but only 38 percent are very unfavorable. [...]

Some observers fear that with the ascension of Shias to a dominant role in Iraq, there is potential for the formation of an alliance between Iraq and Shia-dominated Iran. In this poll, though, Shias show only mildly positive attitudes toward Iran, while Kurds and Sunnis are quite negative. Asked whether Iran is having a mostly positive or negative influence on the situation in Iraq, just 45 percent of Shias say it is having a positive influence (negative 28%, neutral 27%), while Iran’s influence is viewed a mostly negative by large majorities of Kurds (71%) and Sunnis (94%).

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does a bit better among Shias, with 64 percent having a very (28%) or somewhat (36%) favorable view. But Kurds have a largely unfavorable view (very 43%, somewhat 34%) and the Sunnis an exceedingly unfavorable view (very 80%, somewhat 17%).

While some have expressed fears of Syria being a link in an emerging Shia crescent (though very few Syrians are Shia), public opinion in Iraq would hardly be the cement. Most Shias (68%) think Syria is having a negative influence on Iraq’s situation, as do most Kurds (63%). Sunnis are only mildly positive, with 41 percent having a favorable view (17% negative, 43% neutral).

Hezbollah elicits highly polarized views. An overwhelming 91 percent of Shias have a very (50%) or somewhat favorable (41%) view of Hezbollah, while an equally large 93 percent of Kurds have a very (64%) or somewhat (29%) unfavorable view. Sunnis are also fairly negative, with 59 percent having a very (10%) or somewhat (49%) unfavorable view.

Always amusing to listen to analysts try to dissect minutiae to determine whether the Civil War has begun in Iraq and how much we're to blame when it's actually been going on across the Middle East for 1400 years.

Talking with the Saudis (THE JERUSALEM POST, Sep. 26, 2006)

An increasingly belligerent Iran, with growing military capabilities, is a menace to both Jerusalem and Riyadh.

Encouraging signs that the Saudis are willing to speak out about a Muslim country threatening regional stability, irrespective of Israel's position in the conflict, deserve recognition.

Indeed, even as Olmert denied having met with the Saudi king, he rightly praised his government's criticism of Hizbullah, the Shi'ite militia that receives weapons and spiritual guidance from Iran, for provoking this summer's bloody war. As two countries with some influence in the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia could work together diplomatically to encourage US leadership regarding Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


Airfares stay low, for better and for worse: Passengers benefit, but the industry is running on empty (Alexandra Marks, 9/28/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

[O]ther factors have held sway: the recent fall in the price of oil, a slowing economy, and the low-cost carriers' ever-growing share of the marketplace. That combination has prompted some other aviation analysts to predict that instead of rising, airfares could go into a sudden free fall.

"We've got what looks like a perfect storm coming for prices to plummet, at least in the short term," says Mr. Mitchell.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 10:00 PM


Excerpts of secret report released (9/26/06, Reuters)

The war in Iraq has bred deep resentment in the Muslim world and provided Islamist militants with a "cause celebre" that allowed the global movement to cultivate supporters, according to excerpts of a secret intelligence report released on Tuesday. [...]

[T]he declassified section, which contained 10 judgments about global terrorism including one on Iraq, reached no sweeping conclusion about the war's ultimate effect on global terrorism.

Here's a toughie: Is it the bureaucracy or the media that is actually this confused?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:04 PM


How White House Warmongers Learned to Love Empire (Joshua Holland, September 27, 2006, AlterNet)

Long before President Bush articulated his Middle East doctrine, an earlier Republican administration argued that a different region was so corrupt, so in need of reform, and was saddled with such oppressive and backward rulers that bringing about stability and the potential for prosperity for its citizens was beyond the realm of politics or diplomacy.

Ronald Reagan smilingly asserted that only U.S.-backed violence and American-style nation building could give the benighted people of Central America a chance to join the modern world.

He followed the claim with his infamous "dirty wars," and his administration framed the bloodshed in the loftiest and most idealistic terms. The Reagan administration launched an intensive public relations campaign to convince Americans that the tens of thousands of civilian deaths that resulted were regrettable but necessary, not only because of the United States' mission to promote human rights and democracy around the world but also in order to defeat terrorism.

Clearly, there are differences between Reagan's wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua two decades ago and Bush's debacle in Iraq today.

The only significant difference is that Democrats don't hold either house of Congress, so they can't try to criminalize the crusade this time.

(*) Remarks at a Joint German-American Military Ceremony at Bitburg Air Base in the Federal Republic of Germany (Ronald W. Reagan, May 5, 1985)

Four decades ago we waged a great war to lift the darkness of evil from the world, to let men and women in this country and in every country live in the sunshine of liberty. Our victory was great, and the Federal Republic, Italy, and Japan are now in the community of free nations. But the struggle for freedom is not complete, for today much of the world is still cast in totalitarian darkness.

Twenty-two years ago President John F. Kennedy went to the Berlin Wall and proclaimed that he, too, was a Berliner. Well, today freedom-loving people around the world must say: I am a Berliner. I am a Jew in a world still threatened by anti-Semitism. I am an Afghan, and I am a prisoner of the Gulag. I am a refugee in a crowded boat foundering off the coast of Vietnam. I am a Laotian, a Cambodian, a Cuban, and a Miskito Indian in Nicaragua. I, too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.

The one lesson of World War II, the one lesson of nazism, is that freedom must always be stronger than totalitarianism and that good must always be stronger than evil. The moral measure of our two nations will be found in the resolve we show to preserve liberty, to protect life, and to honor and cherish all God's children.

That is why the free, democratic Federal Republic of Germany is such a profound and hopeful testament to the human spirit. We cannot undo the crimes and wars of yesterday nor call back the millions back to life, but we can give meaning to the past by learning its lessons and making a better future. We can let our pain drive us to greater efforts to heal humanity's suffering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Why Darwinism is doomed (Jonathan Wells, 9/27/06, World Net Daily)

On Aug. 17, the pro-Darwin magazine Nature reported that scientists had just found the "brain evolution gene." There is circumstantial evidence that this gene may be involved in brain development in embryos, and it is surprisingly different in humans and chimpanzees. According to Nature, the gene may thus harbor "the secret of what makes humans different from our nearest primate relatives."

Three things are remarkable about this report. [...]

Third, the only thing scientists demonstrated in this case was a correlation between a genetic difference and brain size. Every scientist knows, however, that correlation is not the same as causation. Among elementary school children, reading ability is correlated with shoe size, but this is because young schoolchildren with small feet have not yet learned to read – not because larger feet cause a student to read better or because reading makes the feet grow. Similarly, a genetic difference between humans and chimps cannot tell us anything about what caused differences in their brains unless we know what the gene actually does. In this case, as Nature reports, "what the gene does is a mystery."

So after 150 years, Darwinists are still looking for evidence – any evidence, no matter how skimpy – to justify their speculations. The latest hype over the "brain evolution gene" unwittingly reveals just how underwhelming the evidence for their view really is.

The truth is Darwinism is not a scientific theory, but a materialistic creation myth masquerading as science. It is first and foremost a weapon against religion – especially traditional Christianity. Evidence is brought in afterwards, as window dressing.

Whenever Darwinism has reached a tipping point like this in the past it has foisted a hoax upon the public. The rapidity though with which skeptics were able to demolish the hobbit hoax suggests they may have a harder time getting away with such a thing nowadays.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


New home sales up... (Chris Isidore, 9/27/06,

Meanwhile, the folks who've been holding off on buying a house are making a killing in the market and the Fed's about to start cutting rates. Just wait'll immigration amnesty adds tens of millions of new home buyers....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


The World's Most Competitive Countries (Paul Maidment, 09.27.06, Forbes)

Being a small European country with snow is conducive to economic growth. More correlation than causality, no doubt, but the three countries topping the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report are Switzerland, Finland and Sweden--habitual winners all.

Denmark, Singapore, the U.S., Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. round out the top ten. OK, forget the snow, size and location. Soundly run government, being business-friendly and plowing back money into innovation, education and public health are more of what really matter. [...]

Switzerland wins its No. 1 ranking (up from what would have been fourth last year on the new methodology) because of high scores for the quality of its institutions, efficient markets and high levels of technological innovation. The country has a well-developed infrastructure for scientific research, intellectual property protections are strong, and its companies spend generously on R&D. [...]

The U.S., which would have ranked at the top last year on the new methodology (although it was second on the old one), continues to score well for being business-friendly, having efficient markets, and for its world-class technology development. But the overall score was pulled down to sixth this year, by its budget and trade deficits. Any disorderly adjustment of such macroeconomic imbalances, the WEF warns, risks knocking the U.S. further down the ranks.

Nordic countries, with Finland (2nd), Sweden (3rd) and Denmark (4th) all among the top ten most competitive economies, have been running budget surpluses and have lower levels of public indebtedness, on average, than the rest of Europe. Prudent fiscal policies have let governments invest heavily in education, infrastructure and the maintenance of a broad array of social services.

Finland, Denmark and Iceland have the best institutions in the world (ranked 1, 2 and 3, respectively) and, together with Sweden and Norway, hold top ten ranks for health and primary education. Finland, Denmark and Sweden also occupy the top three positions for higher education and training.

A well-schooled workforce has helped Nordic companies become global powerhouses. Sixty-four companies from Nordic countries make the Forbes 2000 list of the world’s biggest public companies, such as Finland’s Nokia (nyse: NOK - news - people ), Denmark’s TDC Group, and Sweden’s LM Ericsson (nasdaq: ERICY - news - people ).

The top of the Growth Competitiveness Index rankings is remarkably stable, even allowing for the change in methodology. The Netherlands (up from 11th to ninth) pushed out Taiwan (eighth to 13th)--the only change in the top ten. Of the top 15, only one country, Israel, which scored highly on the education, technology and innovation criteria this year, would have been outside the top 20 last year. Good habits become self-reinforcing and self-rewarding.

But while the Nordic countries continued to fare well, Old Europe is another story. Its big economies appear to be losing their competitive edge, with Britain slipping one place to tenth, Germany falling two places to eighth, France down four places to 18th and Italy moving four places lower to 42nd.

Other losers included Russia (62nd, down from 53rd), where the private sector has serious misgivings about the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice, the WEF says. Property rights are weak and getting weaker. Russia’s ranking in this indicator during the last two years has suffered a precipitous decline, from 88th in 2004 to 114th in 2006, among the worst in the world.

China fell from 48th to 54th. Buoyant growth coupled with low inflation, one of the highest savings rates and manageable levels of public debt meant the country scored well on macroeconomic measures. But the WEF sees the largely state-controlled banking sector as a structural weakness.

China also scored poorly on penetration rates for the latest technologies and secondary and tertiary school enrollment rates. By far the most worrisome development, the WEF says, is a marked drop in the quality of China's institutions, with poor scores across all 15 institutional indicators, and spanning both public and private institutions.

India moved up two places to 43 on the list. It scored well for innovation, use of technology and rates of technology transfer. But insufficient health services and education and poor infrastructure are limiting a more equitable distribution of the benefits of India’s high growth rates, the WEF finds. Meanwhile, the country’s public sector deficit is one of the highest in the world.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa dominate the bottom of the list. These are mostly places where official corruption is rife, the rule of law weak, and press freedoms and other civil liberties even weaker, while political unrest often deteriorates to the point of civil unrest or war. Capital that is the lifeblood of business does not linger in such places, assuming it has arrived in the first place.

There's something deliciously naive about a global "Competitiveness" ranking where demographic decline and the lack of a military aren't negatives. Even with that, the United States stands out again this year because it is so much bigger, diverse, and engaged in the world than its peers on the list, which are generally small, homogenous, Protestant and geographically isolated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM


Rush to Error: Congress should not allow itself to be pushed into approving a flawed plan for holding terrorist suspects. (Washington Post, September 27, 2006)

AFTER BARELY three weeks of debate, the Senate today will take up a momentous piece of legislation that would set new legal rules for the detention, interrogation and trial of accused terrorists. We have argued that the only remedy to the mess made by the Bush administration in holding hundreds of detainees without charge at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere since 2001 was congressional action. Yet rather than carefully weigh the issues, Congress has allowed itself to be stampeded into a vote on hastily written but far-reaching legal provisions, in a preelection climate in which dissenters risk being labeled as soft on terrorism.

As we have said before, there is no need for Congress to act immediately. No terrorist suspects are being held in the CIA detention "program" that President Bush has so vigorously defended. Justice for the al-Qaeda suspects he has delivered to Guantanamo has already been delayed for years by the administration's actions and can wait a few more months.

Indeed, they can wait indefinitely, like every other group of war prisoners has. There is no need for such innovative and aconstitutional legislation. They get to go home when we decide the war is over.

Posted by Pepys at 12:01 PM


The Washington Times on GOP Optimism (Jay Cost, 25 Sep 2006, RCP)

The Washington Times offered an article today about improving GOP prospects that, to me anyway, seemed long on conclusions and short on evidence...
The Times is certainly a right-leaning paper. But right-leaning news outlets, beyond talk radio at least, do not seem to me to be historically guilty of being pollyannaish about the Republicans (I think the left-leaning ones like The New York Times are typically pollannaish about Democratic prospects, which in turn actually damages Democratic prospects). So -- the Times is clearly picking up on a vibe that the GOP elites seem to feel, but do not really justify it well at all. This means one of either two things (or possibly a mixture of both): (a) there is no justification to the vibe, and modified GOP expectations will yield disappointment on November 8; (b) there is some justification to the vibe, but the data that is driving this expectation is not yet publicly available.
I don't know about you all, but I'm putting my money on Rove.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Swedish Mexican Food, Straight From the U.S. (Gregory Rodriguez, September 24, 2006, LA Times)

I wasn't fully prepared for the Swedish taco craze. For one thing, there don't seem to be too many Mexicans here.

You see, here — as in other parts of Europe — Mexican food was not brought over by Mexicans at all. Rather, it was introduced by American TV shows and movies. That explains why there's a "Gringo Special" on the menu at the Taco Bar, a Swedish fast-food chain, and why nearly all the Mexican products in the grocery stores — "Taco Sauce," "Taco Spice Mix" and "Guacamole Dip" — are labeled in English. [...]

[A]ccording to a recent market research study, Sweden is now the highest per capita consumer of Mexican food in Europe. That's why in 2001, the Nordfalks spice company changed its name to Santa Maria, after its most successful brand.

"I would wager that every family in Sweden has tacos at least once a month, and maybe a third eats them every week," Anne Skoogh, a local food blogger, told me. "It's a Friday night come-home-from-work-relax-thing," she said. "It's really popular."

Having spent a year of high school as an exchange student in Long Beach, Skoogh says Taco Bell is one of the things she misses most about life in the States. She says Swedes are under no illusion that the items they so enjoy bear any resemblance to the food most Mexicans eat. "People here don't think of tacos as Mexican as much as they think they are American," she said, "probably because their only concept of Mexico comes from American movies. I think the products are in English because the makers want you to feel that this is cool, new and American."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Cranky? It may benefit you in long run (Joe Burris, 9/27/06, The Baltimore Sun)

Are you a forty-something grouch who's first to shout invectives in a slow-moving checkout lane? A youngster who mocks your dad's counsel? A graduate student known for driving your professor crazy with sardonic verbiage?

Take hope: Today, you might be dismissed as a smart-aleck. In your old age, you might be viewed as smarter than average.

Or at least that's what Jacqueline Bichsel suggests.

Bichsel, a psychology professor at Morgan State in Baltimore, recently co-authored a study that invites the conclusion that upon reaching 60, disagreeable people maintain a higher level of intelligence than more easy-going seniors.

"These individuals have a higher vocabulary," she said. "They have a better use of words, a better knowledge of facts."

It also suggests that those dismissed as grumpy old men and women are often smarter in some ways than the young.

What monstrous dumbass needed a study to determine that Father knows best?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Blair 'sets up' a heavyweight Reid-Brown bout (JAMES KIRKUP AND GERRI PEEV , 9/27/06, The Scotsman)

TONY Blair yesterday began his long goodbye to Labour, raising the prospect of a succession battle between Gordon Brown and John Reid and warning that success at the next election depends on continuing his programme of reform.

In his last party conference speech as leader, Mr Blair mounted an unyielding defence of his record, insisting that he had been right to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, right to shake up public services, right to enact controversial anti-terrorism laws and, above all, right to drag Labour to the political centre-ground.

He was rewarded with a seven-minute ovation. Some delegates wept, others waved placards praising "the best prime minister ever". Even longstanding critics admitted that the speech was a virtuoso display and some Labour MPs said it outshone the Chancellor's less spectacular address on Monday and undermined Mr Brown's claim to the top job.

Although he observed a recent peace deal with the Chancellor by praising "a remarkable man, a remarkable servant to this country", Mr Blair yesterday stopped short of endorsing Mr Brown as his chosen successor.

The Prime Minister even used a joke to tacitly admit the frosty relations between his wife, Cherie, and Mr Brown. "I don't have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door," he quipped, leaving Mr Brown visibly startled for a second.

When does the one-armed man show up to warn them: "And that's why you never, ever stray from Blairism...."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Released part of intel study notes new threats (Bill Nichols and David Jackson, 9/26/06, USA TODAY)

The Iraq war has become the "cause célèbre" for Islamic militants, breeding resentment in Muslim nations and cultivating supporters worldwide, according to portions of a secret intelligence study the Bush administration released Tuesday.

That it has sidetracked them from more significant causes is an argument in its favor, no? It may explain why they've been so unsuccessful at launching follow-up attacks.

As War Over Leak Grips Washington, Al Qaeda Quails (ELI LAKE, September 27, 2006, NY Sun)

On a day when much of the capital's attention was focused on leaked excerpts of an intelligence estimate report that suggested the Iraq war was creating more jihadists, the military quietly released an intercepted letter from Al Qaeda complaining that the terrorist organization was losing ground in Iraq.

The letter, found in the headquarters of Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, after he was killed on June 7, was sent to Zarqawi by a senior Al Qaeda leader who signs his name simply "Atiyah." He complains that Al Qaeda is weak both in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and in Iraq. [...]

"Know that we, like all the Mujahidin, are still weak," he wrote in the letter dated December 11, 2005. "We are in the stage of weakness and a state of paucity. We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength, or any helper or supporter."

That assessment from Al Qaeda is in stark contrast to the key findings of a declassified national intelligence assessment released to the public by President Bush yesterday.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:12 AM


Is there a gay gene? (Jim Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, September 26th, 2006)

One of the great mysteries of human sexuality is what causes some men to be gay.

Scientists have rejected earlier notions that homosexuality is a mental illness. The thinking now is that sexual orientation is determined by roughly 40 percent genetic factors and 60 percent environmental factors.

And now researchers at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute are hoping to identify one or more genes that help determine sexual orientation.

The Molecular Genetic Study of Sexual Orientation is recruiting 1,000 pairs of gay brothers to donate blood samples for DNA analysis.

"We hope our study will dispel mythologies and ignorance about homosexuality," said Dr. Alan Sanders, a Northwestern University psychiatrist who is directing the five-year study.

If science can show that homosexuality is a biological trait, like eye color, the public likely would be more accepting of gays, said Timothy Murphy, a University of Illinois at Chicago bioethicist and paid consultant to the study.

They don’t even pretend anymore, do they?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:49 AM


Love in the Age of Neuroscience (Mickey Craig and Jon Fennell, The New Atlantis, Fall, 2005)

More importantly, the teaching of Dupont University is precisely that the soul and the moral dimension of being are illusions. In the past, the university (at its best and in principle) sought to cultivate the human soul toward completion or excellence. The modern university, as Wolfe portrays it, denies that there are truthful distinctions between higher and lower; it teaches that the soul is not real, and that perfection of the soul is thus a thing of the past.

The setting of I Am Charlotte Simmons is truly “postmodern”—a world dominated by Nietzsche and neuroscience, a world which has jettisoned the moral imagination of the past. Not only is God dead, but so is reason, once understood as the characteristic that distinguishes man from the rest of nature. We now understand ourselves by studying the behavior of other animals, rather than understanding the behavior of other animals in light of human reason and human difference. We learn that it is embarrassing for any educated person to be considered religious or even moral. Darwin’s key insight that man is just another animal, now updated with the tools and discoveries of modern biology, has liberated us from two Kingdoms of Darkness. Post-faith and post-reason, we can now turn to neuroscience to understand the human condition, a path that leads to or simply ratifies the governing nihilism of the students, both the ambitious and apathetic alike.[...]

I Am Charlotte Simmons is an indictment of the primary centers of higher education in America today. These institutions do not well serve the real longings and earnest ambitions of the young people who flock to them, at great cost and with great expectations, year after year. Instead of pointing students to a world that is higher than where they came from, the university reinforces and expands the nihilism and political correctness that they are taught in public schools, imbibe from popular culture, and bring with them as routine common sense when they arrive on campus. Of course, these two ideologies are largely incompatible: nihilism celebrates strength (or apathy) without illusion; political correctness promulgates illusions in the name of sensitivity. But both ideologies are the result of collapsing and rejecting any distinction between higher and lower, between nobility and ignobility, between the higher learning and the flight from reason.

This tragic miseducation of the young has two kinds of consequences. The first is personal. As the new pope declared to the conclave that elected him, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” This sounds very much like the world of Dupont. But of more immediate importance is what the new pope added: People who live in a world “emptied of God” suffer from “leaden loneliness and inner boredom.” Given the vacuum resulting from the evaporation of all that is higher, it is hardly surprising that Charlotte feels so alone, that she is desperately driven to “hook-up” with others in whatever way she can, and that she inevitably finds the result of doing so to be wholly unsatisfying. Compared to the inhabitants and products of Dupont University, the oft-maligned other-directed “gray flannel suits” of the 1950s were deep. In their case, there was at least a genuine self that was presumably denied and repressed.

The second cost imposed by the teachings of Dupont is political. The American experiment depends on a self-governing citizenry. This self-governance is a form of moderation in which the individual restrains personal desire and ambition in light of something higher than himself. This is as true of citizens as it is of leaders. Such voluntary restraint—a function of a soul that respects, loves, and admires something higher—is absent at Dupont, where everyone wishes to be the master of all. The individual in the world described by Wolfe is limited only to the degree his will is thwarted by another equally unrestrained “playa.” There is nothing moral about this interaction, for there is nothing beyond individual will by which one’s actions may be judged. The metamorphosis of Charlotte takes her beyond all virtue; it represents a paradigmatic instance of adaptation in the interests of survival in a changing environment. By constituting the environment requiring such adaptation, and by requiring the abandonment of self-governance (while making it impossible), Dupont has not only harmed the young student, it has betrayed the American Republic.

If Wolfe’s description of Dupont accurately portrays the character of our elite universities, then the dissolution of the American way of life is nearly complete. Our ancient faith is no longer a vibrant and effective part of the education of future leaders. Our ability to perpetuate our culture and our constitutional soul will wither alongside our belief in the soul itself. As Lincoln understood, once it loses its ancient faith, the Republic cannot long endure. Perhaps our situation is not as dire as the metamorphosis of Charlotte Simmons makes it seem. But if the portrayal is right, only time will tell whether Wolfe’s diagnosis of our condition can help effect a recovery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Cards' Lead in NL Central Just 1 1/2 Games (R.B. FALLSTROM, 9/27/06, The Associated Press)

Ronnie Belliard homered twice and had three RBIs for the Cardinals, who also got a two-run single from Jim Edmonds in his first start in a month after being sidelined with post-concussion syndrome. It didn't prevent them from losing their seventh in a row because Carpenter (15-8) failed to protect a three-run lead.

St. Louis appeared to have all but clinched the division title with a seven-game lead and 13 games to go. But the Cardinals' skid has coincided with a winning streak for the Houston Astros, who beat Pittsburgh 7-4 Tuesday night for their seventh victory in a row.

"We're not OK because we can't make enough happen to win a game," La Russa said. "But we're still alive, so we understand that also."

Given all the damage he's done to the game -- chiefly through the reliance on lefty/righty specialists -- it would be a fitting thing for Mr. LaRussa to become this generation's Gene Mauch. Meanwhile, Mets fans ought to be panicking, because an Oswalt, Clemens, Pettite rotation will hand them their heads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A Star Trying to Hide in Plain Sight (KELEFA SANNEH, 9/27/06, NY Times)

[Jack] White isn’t the kind of guy who can slip unnoticed into a proficient four-piece band. He still has that ferocious, catlike scream; he still has that tendency to push a song off-kilter with a thunderous, wobbly guitar solo; he still looks like a star, even when (as in nearly every Raconteurs photograph) he’s trying hard to blend into the background. On Monday the band members acknowledged Mr. White’s overwhelming presence by pointedly declining to acknowledge it. [...]

Their best-known song, “Steady, as She Goes,” is one of the year’s biggest alt-rock hits; it topped Billboard’s modern-rock chart earlier this year. And they saved it for the encore, where it provided one of the night’s most memorable images. Mr. White and Mr. Benson shared a microphone near the end, leaning into each other as the song’s jaunty bass line went around and around.

“Broken Boy Soldiers” is an album that doesn’t cover its tracks: “Hands” has a vocal harmony that recalls the prog-rock classic “I’ve Seen All Good People,” by Yes; “Level” begins with some synthesizer notes that evoke the new-wave pioneer Gary Numan (and also, perhaps accidentally, Korn); “Together” swipes a melodic phrase from Elton John’s “Rocket Man”; and “Steady, as She Goes” shares that jaunty bass line with the Joe Jackson hit “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”

It’s a warm, well-made album, but not an especially memorable one.

Even if you're a fan, you can't help but notice thast his most memorable project is Van Lear Rose, with a genuine star.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Moving Beyond String Theory (Mark Anderson, Sep, 26, 2006, Wired)

This fall, Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit has published a critique of string theory (Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory), pointing out that in more than three decades, string theory still has yet to make a single prediction that can be verified in the lab or through the lens of a telescope. If all scientific disciplines maintained such fluffy and forgiving standards, Woit argues, science would devolve into little more than medieval disputations about angels and heads of pins. [...]

Oxford University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, author of The Road to Reality, invented a mathematical tool called "twisters."

Smolin and Penrose take a look at the diverging paths beyond string theory.

Twistor String Theory. This retooling of string theory uses Penrose's twistors, which reduce the number of dimensions in the theory to the familiar four -- three spatial dimensions plus time. Twistors are by definition four-dimensional objects that locate not a position in space and time but rather a network of possible causal relationships between space-time events. Depicting a particle such as an electron as occupying a definite x, y, z and t gives a false sense of definiteness: Space and time are fuzzy at quantum scales. But cause and effect are not, and cause and effect are effectively what twistor space maps.

"What's rather striking about this twistor string approach is that it really is four dimensions," said Penrose just after a conference on twistor string theory. "So my objections (about string theory's extra hidden dimensions) essentially evaporate."

Pros: The mathematical beauty of string theory remains mostly unassailed, while the universe gets its four dimensions. Actual predictions for future particle accelerator experiments may yet emerge.

Cons: It's still unclear what this "theory" is...

...the math works perfectly and means nothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Dubya labels his own intelligence info 'naive' (RICHARD SISK, 9/27/06, NY DAILY NEWS)

President Bush criticized his own intelligence agencies yesterday as "naive" for saying the Iraq war was spreading terror worldwide and rallying new recruits for Al Qaeda.

In heated remarks, Bush said, "I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe."

"To suggest that if we weren't in Iraq we would see a rosier scenario, with fewer extremists joining the radical movement, requires us to ignore 20 years of experience" of terror attacks, Bush said. "I think it is naive."

Bush ordered excerpts of the highly classified National Intelligence Estimate to be made public yesterday because he implied they would support his argument.

The media still hasn't figured out that the Intelligence community is just trying to undermine the elected government and that the President holds them in contempt?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Court to hear case over politics, union fees (Chris Borowski, 9/27/06, Medill News Service)

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a Washington state case that will decide whether labor unions can spend bargaining fees from nonmembers on political causes without their explicit permission. [...]

The so-called paycheck-protection law, ruled unconstitutional by the state court, was passed by 73 percent of Washington's voters in a 1992 initiative. [...]

Opponents of the union said they were pleased the U.S. Supreme Court would take on the case.

"This is a good indication of how the Supreme Court will likely rule," said Mike Reitz of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a think tank that played a key role in pushing the case against WEA. "No one should be forced to pay for political causes they do not support."

A ruling against the WEA would have wider negative repercussions for labor organizations by weakening their ability to fund political activities, said Professor Daniel Jacoby, chair of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case in January.

Nice use of "so-called," eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Super-bad Bush nominees get a needless day in court (CRAGG HINES, 9/27/06, Houston Chronicle)

At least Arlen Specter is a man of his word. He kept his deal with the devil.

To forestall conservatives from challenging his accession as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the current term began, the Pennsylvania Republican essentially promised to give all of President Bush's judicial nominees a hearing, regardless of how bad some were certain to be.

In fastidious maintenance of that pledge, Specter scraped the bottom of the barrel Tuesday and paraded before the committee the only two Bush nominees to be rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association this year. [...]

[L]o and behold, amid this legislative whirlwind Specter found time to convene a meeting of the full committee to consider judicial nominees that the nation's major group of lawyers has concluded do not belong on the federal bench. [...]

After two separate ABA inquiries into [Michael B. ] Wallace's nomination earlier this year, the bar committee came up with the same conclusion: Wallace, while of the "highest professional competence," lacks a judicial temperament and a commitment to equal justice.

You could no more explain to the far Right why the McCain deal on nominees was a victory for conservatives than you could convince them that they're not going to be able to get rid of the Department of Education anytime soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


DeVos Weathers Counterattack (THOMAS BRAY, September 27, 2006, NY Sun)

With the help of $15 million or so in advertising, much of it fueled by his personal fortune, Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos is in a statistical dead heat with incumbent Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm in the polls. [...]

[T]he DeVos campaign continues to stress the need for fundamental change in the Michigan economic climate, starting with elimination of the state's detested Single Business Tax. Ms. Granholm crows about her success in bringing a Google office to Ann Arbor and several Japanese auto operations to other areas of Michigan. But the number of jobs she claims to have "created" is a drop in the bucket compared to the 100,000 or so jobs Michigan has lost since she took office in 2002.

Likewise, her proposals to pour more money into education have aroused little enthusiasm — perhaps because during her tenure Michigan's K through12 system has continued to deliver mediocre results at best while costing taxpayers far more per teacher than in other states. As if to reinforce the image of a labor movement with its head in the sand, the Detroit teachers recently went on strike to demand higher pay even as students were fleeing the city in droves — some 30,000 students in just the last year, according to official statistics.

Mr. DeVos could still blow the opportunity he has created for himself. But the Granholm campaign has seemed lackluster at best. Meanwhile, local GOP activists are muttering about a Vice President DeVos in 2008, and national Republicans are excited by the prospect of a re-energized state party that could help the GOP reclaim the Michigan electoral vote in 2008 after three straight losses to Democratic presidential candidates.

In short, the Michigan GOP seems both unified and motivated to achieve the once-unthinkable, the defeat of an incumbent not so long ago hailed as a Democratic superstar.

It would seem hard to sustain a general attack on the economy at this point, but easy to pin a Democrat down on taxes and possible to separate one from their black base on the issue of education vouchers for those fleeing students.

September 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM

NO "SEEMS" ABOUT IT (via Mike Daley):

Free speech is truth's best hope: Forthrightness requires thick skins, but the benefits are clear and wide-ranging (James Allan, September 26, 2006, The Australian)

Left-wing political parties need to rediscover humour (which at present seems to me to be almost exclusively the preserve of the Right). They need to jettison the reflexive fear of offending sacred cows (could they even say that?) and impinging upon shibboleths. They need to demand thicker skins of their supporters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 PM


Bush hosts dinner to end bitter feud between key allies in war on terror (Francis Harris in Washington and Harry Mount in New York, 27/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

President George W Bush was struggling last night to calm fierce and increasingly personal exchanges between the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, key allies in America's war on terror.

With tensions rising between President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mr Bush asked both to dinner at the White House this evening in an attempt to help defuse a damaging row.

"You know, it will be interesting for me to watch the body language of these two leaders to determine how tense things are," Mr Bush said with a smile, after a meeting with Mr Karzai.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Showman Blair steals the spotlight from Brown (George Jones, 27/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair set Gordon Brown the challenge yesterday of matching his own political courage, leadership skills and personal rapport with the voters if he is to achieve his ambition of becoming prime minister.

As he paid an emotional and highly personal farewell to the Labour Party conference, Mr Blair paid tribute to the Chancellor's role in helping him create New Labour, but stopped well short of anointing him as his successor.

He warned Labour activists — who gave him a standing ovation at the start and end of his final conference speech as leader — that the party would lose power if it retreated to a "comfort zone" and abandoned his policies after he was gone. [...]

In a packed conference hall in Manchester some delegates were close to tears as Mr Blair delivered one of the most dazzling speeches of his career, much of which he had written himself.

There was a sense of the end of an era, with nostalgic party activists coming to terms with losing a leader who had delivered a record three general election victories.

The bookmakers reacted by lengthening rather than shortening the odds on Labour winning a fourth term, claiming that Mr Blair would be a hard act to follow and the door was now wide open to a "refreshed" Conservative Party led by David Cameron.

The order of speeches is reversed, but this was the point at which Al Gore made the thoroughly bizarre decision to jag back to McGovernism, rather than running on the Clinton/Gore record and New Democrat rhetoric. Mr. Brown seems to better recognize that he can only win by convincing voters he's at least as far Right as Mr. Blair was, but the hand-off has gotten awfully awkward.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Dow Closes at Second Highest Level Ever (Tim Paradis, 9/26/06, AP)

Wall Street surged higher Tuesday, carrying the Dow Jones industrials to their second-best close ever as positive economic data further buoyed a growing sense of optimism among investors. The Dow closed just 53 points away from its record high close. [...]

Jack Albin, chief investment officer with Harris Private Bank, said the market's advance reflects widespread investor enthusiasm and a realization that the Federal Reserve might have room to ease short-term interest rates. He pointed to low inflation and the recent nearly 20 percent pullback in oil prices.

"The Fed has a lot more elbow room to lower rates. The Fed could maybe even lower this year."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Abe Is Elected Japanese Prime Minister (MARTIN FACKLER, 9/26/06, NY Times)

Members of Mr. Abe’s staff have said these aides will have their own staff of experts and researchers, allowing them to draw up policy directly without relying on ministry bureaucrats. [...]

In particular, the security advisor will eventually have a staff of several dozen, with the announced aim of creating a Japanese-version of the U.S. National Security Council. This has led many here to comment that Mr. Abe was trying to make the traditionally weak prime minister’s office look more like a seat of strong executive power.

“Mr. Abe is definitely trying to build something that looks like the White House,” said Tomoaki Iwai, a professor of politics at Nihon University.

After winning leadership of the ruling party last week, Mr. Abe reportedly spent several days holed up in his country retreat near Mt. Fuji, deciding whom to include in his new Cabinet.

Mr. Iwai and others said Mr. Abe’s choices reflected a hawkish bent to the new administration. Most were also in their 50s, a decade younger than many Cabinets in the past.

One of the most watched appointments was to the new post of national security advisor. This went to Yuriko Koike, a 54-year-old former television news reporter who has been a vocal supporter of economic sanctions on North Korea since it admitted kidnapping Japanese citizens two decades ago.

Another was the selection of Eriko Yamatani to the post of education advisor. A 56-year-old former reporter for the Sankei Shimbun, a right-wing daily, Ms. Yamatani has been a vocal critic of sexual education and teaching of "excessive" gender equality in schools. The incoming state minister in charge of gender equality, Sanae Takaichi, was another social conservative who opposed allowing women to legally keep their maiden name after marriage.

The choice of Mr. Shiozaki as chief Cabinet secretary, Japan’s equivalent of the White House chief of staff, was widely viewed as a move to strengthen Mr. Abe's personal control. Mr. Shiozaki, 55, is a Harvard-trained former central banker and close ally of Mr. Abe who is widely respected among younger Liberal Democratic lawmakers.

In contrast, the new Cabinet featured no political heavy-weights in top economic posts, reflecting what some economists and political scientists said was a shift in priorities toward foreign policy and national security.

May as well just hire Paul O'Neill if you're going to be that much like the White House....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Top Uruguayan Soccer Player Loses Leg (The Associated Press, September 25, 2006)

The shattered right leg of top Uruguayan soccer player Dario Silva was amputated after he was thrown from his car in a highway accident, hospital officials said Monday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 PM


Golf legend Nelson dies (BRAD TOWNSEND and BILL NICHOLS, 9/26/06, The Dallas Morning News)

Nelson amassed 18 victories during the 1945 season. During one stretch that year, he won 11 consecutive starts, a run that dwarfs golf's next-best streak, six. Another record Nelson always called his most satisfying was the 113 consecutive cuts he made during the 1940s – a feat unmatched until Tiger Woods surpassed him en route to a new record of 142.

Nelson won five major championships: The 1937 and 1942 Masters, the 1940 and 1945 PGA Championships and the 1939 U.S. Open.

Even his swing was the stuff of legend. As wood-shafted golf clubs were being converted to steel, he was the first notable player to incorporate his feet and legs for extra power. He is widely credited as being the father of the modern swing, to the extent that the U.S. Golf Association's club-testing apparatus is called the "Iron Byron."

But to peers, friends and even fans who met him in passing, Nelson the person transcended the golf legend. That may be his most towering attainment of all.

"Byron is an icon of golf," said eight-time major champion Tom Watson, Nelson's longtime friend and protégé. "But more important, he was a good man, in the true sense of the word." [...]

Nelson once said his willingness to help young players probably stemmed from an exchange following the 1930 Texas Open in San Antonio.

An amateur at the time, Nelson had teamed with a Scottish pro named Bobby Cruickshank to finish second in the pro-am competition. Afterward, a proud Nelson figured he had a compliment coming from Cruickshank.

"Laddie, if you don't learn how to grip the club right," Cruickshank told him, "you'll never make a good player."

"Thank you, very much," responded Nelson. He returned home to Fort Worth and revamped his grip. Like many caddies-turned-players at the time, he had his left hand too far over the top of the club and tended to hook the ball to get more roll.

Nelson studied and copied Harry Vardon’s overlapping grip and, of course, became one of golf's greatest players...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Consumer confidence rebounds in September (Greg Robb, Sep 26, 2006, MarketWatch)

The consumer confidence index rose to 104.5 in September from a revised nine-month low of 100.2 in August.

The rebound was stronger than expected. Economists had forecast that the index would increase to 102.7 from the initial August reading of 99.6, according to a survey conducted by MarketWatch.

Moreover, consumers' outlook for the next six months was less pessimistic in September, the Conference Board's survey showed.

Stocks moved higher immediately after the confidence report was released.

Confident? If gas goes any lower the far Right'll be digging up their Krugerands...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM


NASA Study Finds World Warmth Edging Ancient Levels (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Sep. 25, 2006)

A new study by NASA scientists finds that the world's temperature is reaching a level that has not been seen in thousands of years.

Temperatures go up. Temperatures go down.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:56 PM


The Apathy of Defeat (Mark Steyn, Western Standard, September 25th, 2006

Bernard Lewis, the West's pre-eminent scholar of Islam, worked for British intelligence through the grimmest hours of the Second World War. "In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues," he told The Wall Street Journal a few months ago. "It is different today. We don't know who we are, we don't know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy."

That first is the most important: it's not just that "we don't know who we are" but that cultural relativism strips the question of its basic legitimacy. In Britain, they used to say that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, the sort of line it's easy to mock as a lot of Victorian hooey. But it contains an important truth. This present conflict will be won (if at all) in the kindergarten classes of America's grade schools, and Canada's, and Britain's and Europe's. Because the resolve necessary to win a war can't be put on and taken off like a suit of armour. It has to be bred in the bone, and sustained by the broader institutions of society. And the typical western education, even when it's not telling you that your country's principal legacy is racism and oppression, teaches history in a vacuum--random facts, a few approved figures, but no overarching heroic narrative. And, if the past isn't worth defending, why should the future be?

Which brings me back to where we came in: are we gonna win or lose? I'd say right now the best bet for much of the world is a slow ongoing incremental defeat, the kind most folks don't notice until it's too late. That's to say, in 20 years' time many relatively pleasant parts of the planet are going to be a lot less pleasant. That doesn't mean "Islamofascism" or "radical Islam" or even just plain "Islam" is going to win. But it's interesting that big-shot analysts in Moscow and Beijing have concluded that, just as Hizb'allah is a useful proxy for Iran, so the broader jihad can be a useful (if unwitting) proxy for Russia and China. I doubt that will work out too well for them in the long run, but they're not wrong to conclude that a civilization's overwhelming military dominance, economic dominance and technological dominance count for naught if it's ideologically insecure. The issue is self-defence. If you're a genuine cultural relativist--if you really believe our society is no better or worse than any other--you're about to get the opportunity not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk. Good luck.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM


12 Traps That Keep Progressives From Winning (George Lakoff, September 26, 2006, AlterNet

Richard Wirthlin, chief strategist for former president Ronald Reagan, made a discovery in 1980 that profoundly changed American politics. As a pollster, he was taught that people vote for candidates on the basis of the candidates' positions on issues. But his initial polls for Reagan revealed something fascinating: Voters who didn't agree with Reagan on the issues still wanted to vote for him.

Mystified, Wirthlin studied the matter further. He discovered just what made people want to vote for Reagan. Reagan talked about values rather than issues. Communicating values mattered more than specific policy positions. Reagan connected with people; he communicated well. Reagan also appeared authentic -- he seemed to believe what he said. And because he talked about his values, connected with people and appeared authentic, they felt they could trust him. For these four reasons -- values, connection, authenticity and trust -- voters identified with Reagan; they felt he was one of them. It was not because all of his values matched theirs exactly. It was not because he was from their socioeconomic class or subculture. It was because they believed in the integrity of his connection with them as well as the connection between his worldview and his actions.

Whatever we may think of Reagan, this has been a winning formula for conservatives for the past quarter century. Progressives need to learn from it. Politics is about values; it is about communication; it is about voters trusting a candidate to do what is right; it is about believing in, and identifying with, a candidate's worldview. And it is about symbolism. Issues are secondary -- not irrelevant or unimportant, but secondary. A position on issues should follow from one's values, and the choice of issues and policies should symbolize those values.

One misunderstanding, common among progressive circles, is that the Reagan and George W. Bush elections were about "personality" rather than anything substantive. Nothing is more substantive than a candidate's moral worldview -- and whether he or she authentically abides by it.

The very essence of the multiculturalism and tolerance that progressives advocate is the denial of morality. Until they figure that out, they've got no shot at regaining power in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:30 PM


Twins' Remarkable Run Leads to Playoffs (DAVE CAMPBELL, 9/26/06,
The Associated Press)

With his blue shirt soaked to the skin and champagne and beer dripping off his goggles, Torii Hunter led a toast in a circle of his teammates. Colored bottles raised, the Twins cheered their spot in the playoffs but made clear they're still pushing for the division title.

"It ain't done yet!" Hunter yelled.

Minnesota capped a remarkable turnaround by clinching a wild-card spot Monday night, beating the Kansas City Royals 8-1 behind home runs from Hunter and Justin Morneau.

Boof Bonser came up with another strong start to help the Twins reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five years -- a feat that certainly looked unlikely when they were 25-33 in early June.

You knew the ChiSox rotation would turn from a strength to a weakness, because of how hard Ozzie was riding them, but if you foresaw the Twins going 68-30 and challenging for the best record in baseball after that start, you ought to buy a lottery ticket posthaste.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Wiretap Bill Moves Closer to Passage: After Changes, Senate Holdouts Pledge Support (Jonathan Weisman, 9/26/06, Washington Post)

Last-minute changes to legislation authorizing the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program have won the support of three balking Senate Republicans, improving the chances that a bill expanding the Bush administration's surveillance authority will pass Congress this week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill this month that would allow, but not require, the administration to submit its warrantless wiretapping program to a secret national security court for constitutional review. But three Republicans who last year helped delay the renewal of the USA Patriot Act -- Sens. Larry E. Craig (Idaho), John E. Sununu (N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- combined forces again to express strong misgivings about the bill's implications for civil liberties.

The senators announced yesterday that those concerns had been met by three changes to the bill, although critics said the changes would not have the impact that the lawmakers claimed. be able to surrender gracefully.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


Clinton Doth Protest Too Much: The ex-president's tirade on Fox News reveals a politician insisting on a legacy he doesn't deserve (Andrew Klavan, September 26, 2006, LA Times)

THERE'S NO LIMIT to what a man can do," President Reagan used to say, " Â… if he doesn't care who gets the credit."

Former President Clinton's motto seems to be a little different: "There's no limit to how much credit a man can get, if he doesn't care what he's actually done."

Reagan came to office after the Jimmy Carter catastrophe. He pulled the American economy out of a graveyard spin, restored the country's military and its confidence and helped bring one of the most oppressive empires on Earth to the brink of collapse. But in those days, my children, there was no Internet, no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh — the media was almost all Colmes and precious little Hannity — and if you got your news from the New York Times, say, or CBS, you would've thought the country was being run by a miserly, warmongering idiot instead of the greatest president of the century's second half.

And yet even after his two terms were over, when left-wing news sources sourly continued to portray his administration solely in terms of its faults, as nothing but a big deficit and the Iran-Contra scandal, I cannot remember Reagan ever "defending his legacy" with anything more than a quip and a smile.

Compare and contrast Clinton.

It isn't really fair to expect a Democrat to have a sense of humor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Barrel of theories for gas-price slide (BRAD FOSS, 9/26/06, The Associated Press)

According to a new Gallup poll, 42 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections."

Fifty-three percent did not believe in this conspiracy theory, while 5 percent said they had no opinion.

Almost two-thirds of those who suspect President Bush intervened to bring down energy prices before Election Day are registered Democrats, according to Gallup.

Why would you vote a party out of power that can lower gas prices at will and stop hurricanes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


GOP's uptick just in time for Election Day (Ralph Z. Hallow, 9/26/06,

A 58 percent majority of Democratic insiders polled by National Journal, as well as an overwhelming 94 percent of Republican insiders, say the Republican National Committee is doing a better job for November than the Democratic National Committee. [...]

So far this year, there has been no indication of a Democratic surge. In 36 of 39 primaries, the Democratic turnout has been lower than the average of the past 20 years. Only Connecticut, North Dakota and Vermont had higher-than-average Democratic turnouts this year.

Republicans are doing a better job than Democrats of communicating with their core voters, says Mr. Zogby.

"I think Republicans are talking in an effective way to their base, which is particularly concerned about terrorism," says Mr. Zogby. "But Democrats, whose base wants to hear how we get out of Iraq, simply dance around the answer. Democrats are acting like John Kerry in 2004, trying to appeal to swing voters in yet another election in which there are no swing voters."

Oil prices retreat; natural gas at new three-year low (The Associated Press, September 26, 2006)
Oil prices retreated Tuesday after an overnight rally lifted crude futures by almost US$1 a barrel on worries that the recent drop in prices could prompt OPEC to cut production. Natural gas hit a new three-year low.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM


Musharraf 'war-gamed' U.S., concluded Pakistan would lose (PAUL KORING, 9/26/06, Globe and Mail)

Pakistan's military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, says he contemplated war with the United States in 2001 but opted instead to forsake the Taliban and become President George W. Bush's ally.

"I war-gamed the United States as an adversary," the Pakistani leader wrote in his martially titled memoirs In the Line of Fire, published yesterday. It apparently didn't take the general, then an international pariah for having staged a coup to toppled his country's democratic government, very long to conclude that Pakistan would lose.

"The answer was a resounding no," he wrote, having concluded that the world's most powerful military would wipe out his forces, destroy his nuclear weapons, wreak havoc on Pakistan's threadbare infrastructure, help India seize disputed Kashmir and then turn to his archrival in New Delhi for the support and bases it needed to topple Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

The beauty of being the hyperpower is that we retain that option vis-a-vis every other nation on Earth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Ottawa's $2-billion hit list: Liberal programs long loathed by Tories get axe despite government's big surplus (STEVEN CHASE, 9/26/06, Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government tightened federal purse strings by $2-billion yesterday -- slashing spending hated by many Conservatives, such as medicinal marijuana research -- even as Ottawa disclosed that its coffers are bulging with another near-record budget surplus.

Last year's surplus was $13.2-billion, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced yesterday -- the third highest in recent years. He said it will all go to reduce the national debt, signing an oversized cheque to that end at a press conference that resembled an election campaign event. [...]

The Tories used yesterday's spending cuts to put their own stamp on the federal government, slashing programs loathed by rock-ribbed Conservatives but cherished by previous Liberal regimes.

It's all fine and dandy when a regime you approve of can't be slowed by the opposition. Our system is wisely designed to provide greater checks and balances, even at the cost of making harder to get good things done sometimes.

How far will this free marketeer go? (KONRAD YAKABUSKI, 9/26/06, Globe and Mail)

Lobbyists from Canada's archrival telephone and cable companies seeking insight into Industry Minister Maxime Bernier's thinking would do well do brush up on the writings of Bernier idol Frédéric Bastiat.

In particular, they should read the 19th-century French economist's tongue-in-cheek Petition from the Candle Makers, a satirical take on interest-group politics in which France's candle industry lobbies the government for protection from “unfair competition” from the sun.

These days, Mr. Bernier is inundated with petitions from all directions seeking to influence the tenor of a major, market-oriented reform of Canada's $33-billion telecommunications sector that the minister intends to unveil this fall.

But despite their pleadings, Mr. Bernier remains focused on Bastiat's cardinal rule: Economic policy should always put the consumer first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Olmert denies talking with Saudi king (Michael Freund, Herb Keinon and JPost staff, 9/26/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and a senior Saudi government official denied in interviews with The Jerusalem Post on Monday reports that Olmert met recently with a senior member of the Saudi family, perhaps even the Saudi king himself.

Olmert characterized the reports as "speculation, imagination, things that are beyond the limits."

Nevertheless, he did praise the Saudis for the positive role they have played in the region recently. "When you examine their performance over the last couple of months, you see something that you haven't seen in the past," Olmert said. "More sense of responsibility, and a greater degree of readiness to stand up and speak up against Shi'ite extremists like Hizbullah."

Sunni leaders have an obvious interest in Jews fighting Shi'ites.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Detainee Measure to Have Fewer Restrictions (R. Jeffrey Smith, September 26, 2006, Washington Post)

Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed over the weekend to alter new legislation on military commissions to allow the United States to detain and try a wider range of foreign nationals than an earlier version of the bill permitted, according to government sources.

Lawmakers and administration officials announced last week that they had reached accord on the plan for the detention and military trials of suspected terrorists, and it is scheduled for a vote this week. But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants," the sources said yesterday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations over the bill.

Kind of reminds you of how the Democrats victory on NCLB stuck them with a voucher program they hate, or the creation of a Department of Homeland Security gutted civil service protections, or the prescription drug bill passed HSAs after fifteen years of futile GOP effort....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Stricter Voting Laws Carve Latest Partisan Divide (JOYCE PURNICK, 9/26/06, NY Times)

Republicans say the laws are needed to combat fraud, especially among illegal immigrants. Democrats say there is minimal fraud, if any, and accuse Republicans of suppressing the votes of those least likely to have the required documentation — minorities, the poor and the elderly — who tend to vote for Democrats.

In tight races, Democrats say, the loss of votes could matter in November.

Of course you don't wabnt people who are dependents of the state to have the vote, but it would be better to just amend the Constitution to bar them (and government employees).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Etta Baker, 93, Blues Guitarist, Dies (AP, 9/26/06)

The American bluesman Taj Mahal, who recorded an album with Ms. Baker in 2004, was among those who found inspiration from her rhythmic finger-picking.

“I came upon that record in the 60’s,” Taj Mahal said. “It didn’t have any pictures so I had no idea who she was until I got to meet her years later. But man, that chord in ‘Railroad Bill,’ that was just the chord. It just cut right through me.”

Ms. Baker was raised in a musical family in western North Carolina. She made her first mark in music in 1956, when she appeared on a compilation album called “Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians.” The recording influenced the growing folk revival, especially her versions of “Railroad Bill” and “One-Dime Blues.”

She worked for 26 years at a textile mill in Morganton before quitting at 60 to pursue a career as a musician.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Labour's idea of a truce... Brown a 'liar' (JAMES KIRKUP, 9/26/06, The Scotsman)

Four words attributed to Mrs Blair shortly after noon yesterday blew apart the carefully stage-managed launch of Mr Brown's public campaign for the Labour leadership.

Mr Brown was delivering a considered, even conciliatory speech to the Labour Party conference, effectively making a carefully crafted peace offering: the speech had praise for Mr Blair, warm name-checks for almost the entire Cabinet and even a tacit admission that Mr Brown himself bore some responsibility for a decade and more of Labour in-fighting.

The intention was to allay growing Labour doubts about the Chancellor's character, to assure the country he is not a bitter, sulking plotter but a leader of humility, warmth and honesty.

Tackling his partnership with Mr Blair head-on, Mr Brown opened up by admitting that his "differences" with the Prime Minister have "distracted" the government, something he said he regretted. But, overall, he told delegates: "It has been a privilege to work with and for the most successful ever Labour leader and Labour Prime Minister."

At that point, Mrs Blair - watching the speech on a television outside the auditorium of Manchester's G-Mex centre - was allegedly overheard by a US television producer saying: "Well, that's a lie." She then walked out of the conference complex.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Talking About Peace (HILLEL HALKIN, September 26, 2006, NY Sun)

With the war in Lebanon scarcely over, Israel now faces a new "peace offensive" from Syria. Its initial reaction has been as inept as was its handling of the war against Hezbollah.

"We want peace — peace with Israel," proclaims Bashar Al-Assad from Damascus. "The conditions for peace talks are not yet propitious," replies Ehud Olmert from Jerusalem. This is a less than brilliant response. Prime Minister Olmert might as well have said in plain words, "Peace may be a concern of the Syrians, but Israelis couldn't care less about it."

Now in a certain sense, this is true. When Syria speaks of peace negotiations with Israel, it is speaking, as it has always done, of an agreement that would involve a total Israeli withdrawal from all of the Golan Heights. In fact, it is speaking of a more than total withdrawal, since it also is demanding a small sliver of pre-1967 Israel along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which its troops were in occupation of before the Six-Day War. In such a peace, Israel indeed has no interest.

And yet though it is perfectly true that, practically speaking, negotiations with Syria are pointless as long as the Syrians stick to this position, it is a diplomatic blunder of the first order for Israel to stress its disinclination to negotiate. To let the Syrians portray themselves as the side eager for peace, and Israel as the side indifferent to it, is to give Syria a victory it does not deserve.

What should the Israeli position be? The next time Prime Minister Olmert is asked about the Syrian overture, he might try responding this way: [...]

"We eagerly await the day when Syria has a democratically elected government -- like its neighbors: Turkey, Kurdistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon -- that we can have meaningful negotiations with."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Iran close to nuclear suspension (Bill Gertz, September 26, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Iran is close to an agreement that would include a suspension of uranium enrichment but wants the deal to include a provision that the temporary halt be kept secret, according to Bush administration officials.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:04 AM


Free speech is truth's best hope (James Allan, The Australian, September 26th, 2006)

Why allow people to speak words and draw pictures and convey thoughts that others find deeply offensive?

John Stuart Mill's answer was that truth had a better chance of emerging where virtually all speech, even words perceived to be offensive, insulting and, yes, false, was allowed.

It is not just that constraints on speech can be manipulated by those in power to protect their own privileged positions, though they clearly can be and regularly are.

We all know that there is nothing handier to those in power than to forbid all criticisms of oneself. But the point is wider than that.

As the great US Supreme Court judge O.W. Holmes more or less put it: "We don't really know what the true position is. Whatever it is, though, it has a better chance of emerging in the marketplace of competing ideas where everything is open to criticism, even offensive criticism."

In other words, the short-term costs of forcing people to have a thick skin will carry with them long-term benefits that are huge.

People will have their ideas and beliefs and prejudices exposed to potential attack from all sides. Those who can withstand such widespread attack are more likely to approximate truth.

It is more than passing strange to see the same people who deny there is such a thing as truth go on to assert it will emerge from a cacophony of folks yelling out their ignorance and insulting prejudices. People who argue this way are always oblivious to their underlying unstated assumption that offensive speech will always remain on the margins and be drowned out by a sensible majority. However, it is one thing to celebrate tolerating a few wacky Nazis marching through a Chicago suburb, quite another when half a million of them are marching on Washington.

Free speech is to be cherished because it is an incident of democracy and individual freedom, not a pathway to truth. It sits on a bedrock of shared ideas of civility, respect and common sense among the majority and may quickly become menacing if that bedrock crumbles. It is true that societies without a good measure of it are oppressive, but the notion that free speech by itself is a certain route to liberty and prosperity is ahistorical drivel.

September 25, 2006

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:48 PM


Freud's light on the neurosis of the mighty (The Manchester Guardian, September 25th, 1939)

Freud's first fundamental belief is that every event in the mind can be described and explained in mental terms: the other, loaded as it is with complex philosophical implications, can only be mentioned.

It is that determinism applies as rigidly to the mind as to the body. For Freud the word chance had no meaning, except in the scientist's sense. In his view, the wildest dreams, the most obscure delusions, the most trivial forgetting are as much a matter of cause and effect as an eclipse of the sun.

He believed that the dream was the functional nervous disorder in miniature, that in it indirect satisfaction was obtained during sleep for mental trends which in waking life were unsatisfied or repressed.

But the system of analysis or dissection of dreams which Freud created must be carefully distinguished (and it seldom is) from the interpretation of dreams which he proposed.

By reminding us that so-called free association is not free at all but is ruled by laws, Freud again contributed to knowledge. For Freud the dominant factor in human life was the sex instinct. He meant by the word sexuality very much more than the narrow meaning often put upon it.

But in fairness it should be recorded that he probably meant something much more related to our popular conception of it than some of his apologists would have us believe.

As with Marx and Darwin, the key to understanding Freud is not found in arguments as to whether he was right or wrong. He had many valid insights, although they were not nearly as original as his disciples claim. His genius and his evil lay in taking those insights about human nature and using them to craft a comprehensive, systematic theory of behaviour based upon scientific rationalism that sought to exclude all other knowledge and experience, as science is wont to do. The result has been untold havoc, the least of which is our collective subservience to a huge and powerful caring profession that doesn't care and about a billion self-help books all saying the same thing.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:08 PM


The shadow cast by a mega-mosque (Philip Johnston, The Telegraph, September 25th, 2006)

When Abu Izzadeen, the firebrand Islamist militant, berated John Reid last week for "daring" to visit a Muslim area, the Home Secretary bridled, as did many others, at his suggestion that part of London was off limits for a British minister of the Crown.

There was nowhere in this country from which anyone should be excluded, Mr Reid said; nowhere that could be called exclusively Muslim. He was speaking just a couple of Tube stops from West Ham, close to the site for the 2012 Olympic stadium, where a huge row is about to erupt over plans to construct a mosque. However, this is not any old mosque built to serve the local community. It will be the largest place of worship in Europe, a gigantic three-storey Islamic centre, with schools and other facilities, able to hold at least 40,000 worshippers and up to 70,000 if necessary.

It will be called the London Markaz and it is intended to be a significant Islamic landmark whose prominence and stature will be enhanced by its proximity to the Olympic site. When television viewers around the world see aerial views of the stadium during the opening ceremony in six years' time, the most prominent religious building in the camera shot will not be one of the city's iconic churches that have shaped the nation's history, such as St Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, but the mega-mosque.

Some days one fears that the real useful idiots in the West are not the moral relativists and multiculturalists on the left, but rather the smug conservatives who cite selective history and isolated passages from the Koran to prove Islam is on the verge of collapse and can’t possibly survive in a modern technological world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


That They May Have Life: A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (First Things, October 2006)

We are grateful that as Christians, Evangelicals and Catholics together, we can speak with one voice on a matter of paramount urgency for our society and the world. We address this statement to all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to all people of goodwill who share our concern for a more just and humane social order.

Recent years have witnessed a new pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We are grateful that the project known as “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) has played a part in this development—a development that has occasioned both controversy and high hopes within our respective communities. In the public life of our country, the changing relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics has also occasioned curiosity, anxiety, and even alarm.

This convergence has implications for our culture and civil order. In the present statement we intend, however briefly and inadequately, to make the case for what is commonly called “a culture of life”—and to do so in a way that invites public deliberation and engages questions of public policy. Our primary purpose, however, is to explain to our communities why we believe that support for a culture of life is an integral part of Christian faith and therefore a morally unavoidable imperative of Christian discipleship.

To those who do not identify with our communities, or with any Christian community, we respectfully suggest that it is in our mutual interest that they try to understand better the reasons and convictions that have recruited so many millions of their fellow citizens to the cause of the culture of life. Greater understanding does not necessarily lead to agreement, but it at least makes possible a more civil engagement of our disagreements.

The present moment in American public life is frequently described in terms of “culture wars,” and there is some merit in that description. We need not and must not, however, resign ourselves to unremitting warfare. A culture is composed of many parts, but different cultures are distinguished by different understandings of reality, of the meaning of life and death, of rights and duties, of rights and wrongs.

There is what is called a Judeo-Christian worldview, a worldview that was crucial to the formation of our civilization and is, we believe, clearly reflected in the convictions that inspired the American founding. To speak of American culture today is to speak of a culture marked by different worldviews in conflict. So severe is the conflict, also in the political realm, that many despair of finding any commonalities by which warfare can be replaced, or at least tempered, by civil discourse.

We refuse to join in that despair. We refuse to despair because we share with those who oppose us a common humanity. We also share a common interest in sustaining the American experiment in its aspiration to be a free, just, and virtuous society. In our common humanity, we share a Godgiven capacity to reason, to argue, to deliberate, to persuade, and to discover moral truths regarding questions related to the right ordering of our life together. As members of the community of Christians, we are obliged to bear an uncompromising witness to our faith. As members of this civil order, we are also obliged to engage respectfully those who do not share our faith. In this statement, we intend to do both.

Between Evangelicals and Catholics there have been long-standing differences on the capacities of human reason. To put it too briefly, Evangelicals (and the Protestant traditions more generally) have accented that human reason has been deeply corrupted by sin. Catholics, on the other hand, while recognizing that human reason has been severely wounded by sin and is in need of healing, have held a higher estimate of reason’s capacity to discern truth, including moral truth. We, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, affirm that the knowledge of God necessary for eternal salvation cannot be attained by human reason alone apart from Divine revelation and the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith’s response to Jesus Christ the only Savior. (These questions are addressed in more detail in our 1998 statement, “The Gift of Salvation.”)

We also affirm together that human reason, despite the consequences of sin, has the capacity for discerning, deliberating, and deciding the questions pertinent to the civil order. Some Evangelicals attribute this capacity of reason to “common grace,” as distinct from “saving grace.” Catholics typically speak of the “natural law,” meaning moral law that is knowable in principle by all human beings, even if it is denied by many (Romans 1 and 2). Thus do we, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, firmly reject the claim that disagreements over the culture of life represent a conflict between faith and reason. Both faith and reason are the gift of the one God. Since all truth has its source in Him, all truth is ultimately one, although our human perception of the fullness of truth is partial and inadequate (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus do we invite those who disagree, including those who do not share the gift of faith in Christ, to join with us in attempting to move beyond “culture wars” to a reasonable deliberation of the right ordering of our life together.

As Christians, we are informed, inspired, and sustained by our faith in a commitment to a culture of life, which includes the protection and care of the unborn, the severely disabled, the dependent elderly, and the dying. The culture of life encompasses also the poor, the marginalized, and those who, for whatever reason, are vulnerable to neglect or exploitation by others. This is not a uniquely Christian commitment. Disagreement on our obligations to those in need should not be viewed as a conflict between Christians and non-Christians.

We are sadly aware that many who identify themselves as Christians do not share our understanding of a culture of life. It is not the case that we wish to “impose” our moral convictions on our fellow citizens or, as some recklessly charge, to establish a “theocracy.” Our intention is not to impose but to propose, educate, and persuade, in the hope that, through free deliberation and decision, our society will be turned toward a more consistent respect for the inestimable gift that is human life.

This statement and the questions addressed are emphatically public in nature. Christianity—its scriptures, doctrine, intellectual tradition, and institutions of communal allegiance and mission—are part of our common history. Christianity claims at least the nominal adherence of the great majority in our society. To be a Christian is a personal but not a private decision. To be a Christian is to be associated with a historical movement bearing public witness to universal moral truths.

Such truths are not accepted by all in our society, nor is there complete agreement about their meaning and implications among all who do accept them. But the assertion of these truths, including their significance for public policy, is part of, and in no way to be excluded from, genuinely public discourse. Whatever is meant by “the separation of church and state,” it cannot mean the separation of public life and public policy from the deepest convictions, including moral convictions, of the great majority of a nation’s citizens.

As Christian truth claims are public, so also are the questions pertinent to a culture of life. There is no more inescapably public and political question than who belongs to the polis of which we are part. The contention over abortion, for instance, is not about when human life begins. That is a biological and medical question about which there is no reasonable dispute. The moral and political dispute is over which human beings, at whatever state of development or decline, possess rights that we are bound to respect. The question is this: Who belongs to the community for which we accept public responsibility?

In what follows we hope to make the case that the defense of the humanum is made imperative by the Christian understanding of reality. Our position with respect to questions such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the creation and destruction of 19 embryos for research purposes is integral to that understanding of reality. Every human life is, from conception, created by God and is infinitely precious in His sight. The fulfillment of human life is, by the grace of God, “life and life abundant” through faith in Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

We believe it is of utmost importance that everyone involved in the public discussion of these questions understand the unbreakable connection between a Christian worldview and the defense of human life. We can no more abandon our contention for a culture of life than we can abandon our allegiance to the lordship of Christ, for our contention is inseparably part of that allegiance.

At the same time, we contend that the public policies pertinent to the defense of the humanum are supported by reasons that are accessible to all and should be convincing to all. The term “humanism” is frequently employed in opposition to Christian faith, as in the phrase “secular humanism.” We propose a deeper and richer humanism that is firmly grounded in the bedrock of scriptural truth, that is elaborated in the history of Christian thought, that is in accord with clear reason, that honors the best in our civilization’s tradition, and that holds the promise of a future more worthy of the dignity of the human person who is the object of God’s infinite love and care. This more authentic humanism is in no way alien to Christianity. There is in world history no teaching more radically humanistic than the claim that God became a human being in order that human beings might participate in the life of God, now and forever. [...]

Every human life is intended by God from eternity for eternity. Human life is sacred because it is the creation of God, the Lord of life. “For you did form my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Nature shares in the consequences of sin and innumerable lives are lost before they have an opportunity to develop in the womb, as many die in disasters such as famine, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Mortality is the common denominator of all life on earth. We are morally responsible, however, for the protection and care of life created in the image and likeness of God. The commandment “You shall not kill” is the negatively stated minimum of what we owe to our fellow human beings.

The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic research is rightly understood as murder. In the exceedingly rare instance of direct threat to the life of the mother, saving her life may entail the death of the unborn child. Such rare and tragic instances are in sharpest contrast to the unlimited abortion license created by the Supreme Court, resulting in more than forty million deaths since 1973.

The blindness of so many to this moral atrocity has many sources but is finally to be traced to the seductive ways of evil advanced by Satan. Jesus says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life may be attended by what is believed to be compassion, especially in the case of the dependent and debilitated aged. While we can sympathize with those who view their own life or the life of another as a burden and not a gift, and while, by the grace of God, there can be repentance and forgiveness for those who are guilty of committing great evil, there can be no moral justification for murder. We are determined to employ every legal means available to protect, in law and in life, the innocent and vulnerable members of the human community.

And all the Culture of Death has to offer as an alternative to the truth that every person is ordained directly to God is pabulum about choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Japan's unorthodox reformer steps down (Bennett Richardson, 9/26/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Japanese banks have been overhauled, employment has recovered, and the economy is in its second-longest expansion since World War II. Land prices are rising more than 10 percent a year in central Tokyo, the number of marriages is up, and the old factional style of politics that hamstrung effective decisionmaking in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is increasingly a thing of the past.

On the flip side, Koizumi's more muscular foreign policy and his visits to a shrine dedicated to the nation's war dead have lost Japan much goodwill around Asia. Wage disparities have increased, regional economies are still struggling, and a population decline has yet to be reversed.

Plop him down in the line that includes Thatcher, Clinton, Gingrich, Blair, Howard, Bush, Harper, Cameron, etc. and he's utterly orthodox. It's only being a leader in Japan that makes him seen unusual. And it would be surprising if the system there doesn't revert to sclerotic form.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Among 'the Disciple Generation,' fervor and diversity: A 'nonbelieving' journalist spends time with the young and evangelical (Jane Lampman, 9/26/06, CS Monitor)

Welcome to the Evangelical youth movement. Or what Lauren Sandler calls "the Disciple Generation" - an ever-growing population of young Evangelicals, ages 15 to 35, "who are equally obsessed with Christ and with culture as a means to an Evangelical end."

Formerly a reporter for National Public Radio, Ms. Sandler had encountered many Christian groups during her travels. But as Evangelicals became more influential in politics, she set out to scout in depth the evolving youth movement. What she found surprised and disturbed her, an avowed secularist and nonbeliever who was barely 30 herself.

-REVIEW: of Righteous (Sandi Dolbee, San Diego Union Tribune)
Yet this is not a total bash book. Despite her obvious misgivings, Sandler acknowledges a certain admiration, even warmth, for many of the young men and women she encountered along the way.

Take her experience at a small group meeting in Colorado Springs, home to the Air Force Academy and New Life Church, whose ambition is to usher in the Second Coming.

“In spite of all the loathsome warmongering, Gordon (the Bible study leader) and his reverent community have convinced me that in their own way they are capable of translating Jesus' legacy of agape into their daily lives,” she writes. “Tonight they demonstrated the simple concept that powers and sustains this movement: They have shown me the kindness of strangers.”

She does not let her side off the hook, either.

“Until secular America strengthens its own front lines by developing strong communities and a culture that uplifts rather than invalidates, this army will have no viable opponent,” she writes. “It aims to destroy everything that it is not. Maintain no illusion: They are wide awake. They are ready.”

If she thought a little harder it might occur to her that secularism is antithetical to community and the value of life, because focussed completely on the self.

-Lauren Sandler: Exploring How Youth Gets Righteous (Donna Freitas, 8/9/2006, Religion BookLine)

"I always wanted to see something seize my generation," said Lauren Sandler, author of Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement (Viking, Sept.), when asked what inspired her road trip to some of the more extreme and young evangelical communities in America. She added, "I just never imagined it would be this."

Sandler expressed surprise over the fact that, when given the choice, many in this generation of Americans have chosen fundamentalist Christianity as their defining touchstone, rather than, say, the anti-war protests of the 1960s.

A career journalist, Sandler has reported from places far and wide, including the front lines of Iraq in 2003. An atheist herself, she never expected to travel the country in search of fervent Christian teens and twenty-somethings. "When I was originally given the assignment at NPR to produce a series on religion in America, I rolled my eyes. Religion was not something that interested me," Sandler said. "I went through my own conversion in terms of my fascination with the topic."

What prompted the change of heart? "The people I met showed me that the need for what they have—the rigid structure of the lifestyle, the intense community—is deep among this generation," said Sandler. "They want an alternative to mainstream culture, and they believe they are the true radicals out there. So Christianity spreads by being cool."

Holy Rock 'n' Rollers (Lauren Sandler, December 23, 2002, The Nation)
Rock For Life finds its biggest constituency at Christian rock festivals every summer, a dozen gigantic Jesuspaloozas across the nation, drawing more than a half-million people combined--festivals with names like Kingdombound, Alive and Sonshine, which director Bob Poe began two decades ago. Back then, Christian rock was a marginal genre. In the early 1980s he'd host seven or eight bands for a small crowd. "That's all the Christian world had to offer," he says. "Now we have 125 bands and turn away more than twice that many." As evangelism has spread ferociously throughout the country in the past several years, the Christian music industry has flourished in tandem.

The Christian rock festival has become the superchurch for the thrashing masses and the ultimate mobilizing force for antiabortionists. Says Bryan Kemper, "It's one thing to hear a message in a church, a message at school, to hear a message in an institution where you're supposed to hear a message that isn't coming from you, it's coming from a quote-unquote authority. The whole concert scene is supposed to go, 'Let go.' We're bringing a message there where people have guards down, where people are open to listen. In school, kids' guards are up, at a concert they're open to a lot of stuff. It's on their turf. It's their own identity. And music is such a huge part of every kid's life--music connects almost everybody--when you have that passion in the music, the singer says, 'Hey, stand up for this, look into this,' it causes kids to look into it and stand up like nothing else." [...]

It's moving, actually, to be surrounded by a mass of kids dressed in the accessories of anger and marginalization, scowling their teen scowls, and hear the opposite of what you'd expect at a secular gig--a voice, Murray's in this case, shouting to the crowd, "If you want to talk to any guy in this band about what's going on with you, come up. We can help." And then to see guys with tattoos, guys with downcast eyes peering from their black sweatshirt hoods approach band member after band member, saying, "My friend brought me, and he thought I could talk to you," a bizarre twist on the cool-posturing punk shows I'd occasionally check out in high school. To watch a community of people form before your eyes, reaching out to each other, connecting through music and performance to each other and to a shared vision, committing to the political causes they identify as joined with that vision--it's the active community of a liberal utopian's dream.

That is, if you squint so you can't see those Rock For Life shirts. If you can block out the repetition of "Jesus" and "Lord" from the songs and conversations. This, of course, is impossible. Even though "religion" is a dirty word to these instruction-fearing believers (as Murray says, "We're against religion--our God is a God of freedom, not one of religion who won't let you have tattoos"), it's the only reason this scene works. And that's the reason politics so effortlessly becomes a part of the scene. It's the nature and extraordinary effectiveness of evangelical Christianity--the whole-life, whole-belief experience. So whether you're praying in church or at a club, or screaming on a stage or at the doors of an abortion clinic, it's all just an articulation of the oft-repeated "way we live." Is it a political movement? Not in the usual sense. But it is a massive and exponentially self-replicating cultural movement that binds itself inherently to politics.

It's hard to imagine that anytime soon a secular rock band might, as John Lennon said, be bigger than Jesus.

God Save the Teens: Local Kids Seek a New Kind of Church Through Hardcore and Hip-Hop (Lauren Sandler, May 30 - June 5, 2001, Village Voice)
Jay Bakker, prodigal son of Jim and Tammy Faye, has a call on the other line. It's his tattoo artist, phoning to talk to him about freshening up one of his carefully inked arms. Bakker's oft photographed snarl through his lip pierce has rendered him the it-boy popularizer of a long-burgeoning phenomenon: devil music for the Lord. "It used to be 'You're saved now, burn all your albums,' but that's changed," says Bakker. "Now we're refusing to do that. We're saying we'll make the music we want, but we'll make it to glorify God."

From hardcore punk to hip-hop, die-hard young Christians have turned to what were once the most heathen niches of pop culture to express their faith, minister to marginalized cohorts, and spiritually seduce new groupies. New York-area ensembles offer up heavy bass to the heavenly boss, in churches and clubs from the South Bronx to suburban Long Island, stopping off at mainstream

venues in between. Summertime is prime time for rocking and holy rolling: The Jersey shore will be dotted with shows all season long; Rapfest—the big local event for religious rapscallions—will be born again in August; and this weekend will see the annual punk and indie Cornerstone gathering resurrected on Long Island. "Now all over America you can go to, say, a hardcore festival, usually an atheist scene, and hear about Jesus and realize you don't have to give up everything," Bakker says. "You don't have to comb your hair and put on a suit. You can be all you are—tattoos and all—and God will accept you for that."

‘Righteous’ preaches against proselytism: a review of “Righteous: Dispatches from The Evangelical Youth Movement” By Lauren Sandler (Michael Givens, September 23, 2006, Boston Herald)
-REVIEW: of Righteous (Sarah Peasley, Rocky Mountain News)

Kosher reggae for the masses?: Matisyahu's music has religious theme that rings with youth (JEFF DIAMANT, Aug. 26, 2006, Religion News Service

Moshe Herson seemed perplexed. Never before had the 72-year-old Orthodox rabbi been asked to listen to reggae to see whether he could hear Talmudic overtones.

Of course, until three months ago, no Hasidic Jew had ever been crowned Best New Entertainer at the International Reggae and World Music Awards.

So one recent morning in his office, Herson, dean of the Rabbinical College of America, listened on a borrowed iPod to the 27-year-old Hasidic music sensation known as Matisyahu, whose mix of reggae, rap and rock has won gold status for two recent albums, "Live at Stubb's" and "Youth."

Orthodox youth generally avoid pop music, but since 2004, Matisyahu's religious-themed reggae has become familiar to many young people across the Orthodox world, which includes the leafy campus of the rabbinical college.

Matisyahu is part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism. He wears black religious garb while performing. And his songs, which have sold more than a million albums, draw lyrics from prayers, psalms and Jewish themes on God, messianism and nationhood.

Herson had never heard the music. But as Matisyahu's popularity has surged, Herson -- like most Lubavitch Jews -- has come to know who the singer is.

"He seems to have transcended the Jewish community," Herson said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


Reflections on the Revolution in France (Edmund Burke, 1790)

You will observe that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity — as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown, an inheritable peerage, and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation and a sure principle of transmission, without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free, but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy, working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence are handed down to us, and from us, in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the order of the world and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts, wherein, by the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, molding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old or middle-aged or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood, binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties, adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections, keeping inseparable and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small, benefits from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity which prevents that upstart insolence almost inevitably adhering to and disgracing those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom.

It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits, its monumental inscriptions, its records, evidences, and titles. We procure reverence to our civil institutions on the principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men: on account of their age and on account of those from whom they are descended. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational and manly freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges. [...]

WE KNOW, AND WHAT IS BETTER, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society and the source of all good and of all comfort. In England we are so convinced of this, that there is no rust of superstition with which the accumulated absurdity of the human mind might have crusted it over in the course of ages, that ninety-nine in a hundred of the people of England would not prefer to impiety. We shall never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the substance of any system to remove its corruptions, to supply its defects, or to perfect its construction. If our religious tenets should ever want a further elucidation, we shall not call on atheism to explain them. We shall not light up our temple from that unhallowed fire. It will be illuminated with other lights. It will be perfumed with other incense than the infectious stuff which is imported by the smugglers of adulterated metaphysics. If our ecclesiastical establishment should want a revision, it is not avarice or rapacity, public or private, that we shall employ for the audit, or receipt, or application of its consecrated revenue. Violently condemning neither the Greek nor the Armenian, nor, since heats are subsided, the Roman system of religion, we prefer the Protestant, not because we think it has less of the Christian religion in it, but because, in our judgment, it has more. We are Protestants, not from indifference, but from zeal.

We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long.

Thus did Burke enunciate and basically create conservatism.

Here liberalism:

Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it, and exist in much greater clearness and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection; but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves, and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. But as the liberties and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances and admit to infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that principle.

The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men, each to govern himself, and suffer any artificial, positive limitation upon those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the constitution of a state and the due distribution of its powers a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions. The state is to have recruits to its strength, and remedies to its distempers. What is the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician rather than the professor of metaphysics.

The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science, because the real effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation, and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects it produces in the beginning. The reverse also happens: and very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions. In states there are often some obscure and almost latent causes, things which appear at first view of little moment, on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may most essentially depend. The science of government being therefore so practical in itself and intended for such practical purposes — a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be — it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.

These metaphysic rights entering into common life, like rays of light which pierce into a dense medium, are by the laws of nature refracted from their straight line. Indeed, in the gross and complicated mass of human passions and concerns the primitive rights of men undergo such a variety of refractions and reflections that it becomes absurd to talk of them as if they continued in the simplicity of their original direction. The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and, therefore, no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature or to the quality of his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade or totally negligent of their duty. The simple governments are fundamentally defective, to say no worse of them. If you were to contemplate society in but one point of view, all these simple modes of polity are infinitely captivating. In effect each would answer its single end much more perfectly than the more complex is able to attain all its complex purposes. But it is better that the whole should be imperfectly and anomalously answered than that, while some parts are provided for with great exactness, others might be totally neglected or perhaps materially injured by the over-care of a favorite member.

The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes; and in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in governments are their advantages; and these are often in balances between differences of good, in compromises sometimes between good and evil, and sometimes between evil and evil. Political reason is a computing principle: adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral denominations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


Ed Driscoll has a podcast up at Tech Central Station in which he interviews Bruce
, the co-editor of, "American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia."

Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Bacardi Denies 151-Proof Rum Caused Bar Burn Injuries (AP< September 25, 2006)

Bacardi said its 151-proof rum was not the cause of burns suffered by three women who sued the spirits company and alleged that their injuries were caused when a bottle used to pour shots turned into a "flame thrower." matter what I once said to the Dean of Freshman, Double Tvarscki Vodka (180 proof) burns so hot it will actually melt the linoleum on a college dorm floor....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Seeing Red: A response to George Will (Thomas B. Edsall, 09.25.06, New Republic)

George Will's column has taught me several new rhetorical tricks. The first is how to use verbs to distort and impugn. In a column last week about my book Building Red America, Will wrote (emphases mine): "The GOP," Edsall laments, 'has achieved a gradual erosion of the popular consensus behind the major progressive and social-egalitarian movements of the twentieth century."

This artful sentence labels me as a mindless, knee-jerk liberal. In fact, I argue that the left has not come to terms with the fact of eroding support for the liberal agenda. That may or may not be lamentable, but my book leaves the emoting to others. Will writes:

Edsall complains that conservatives pursue an agenda that does not have the public's "decisive support." Whatever that means, liberals such as Edsall are ineligible to make that complaint. They increasingly have abandoned persuasion and legislation and resorted to litigation and judicial fiats to advance an agenda the public finds unpersuasive.

Again, I don't complain about the fact that the public is closely divided on the conservative agenda and on many key issues; I report that division as fact, something very few people--left, right, or center--disagree with.

But verbs aren't the only tool at Will's disposal; he also deploys distortion admirably: To him, I have "abandoned persuasion and legislation and resorted to litigation and judicial fiats" to get what I want. In fact, I agree with the criticism of liberalism as overly court-dependent. Building Red America cites many of the rulings that have protected the liberal agenda from Election Day feedback, and I have written elsewhere with Michael A. Fletcher that "After losing control of the White House when Bush took office in 2001, Democrats and liberals have largely turned to the courts as a last resort." My book is nothing, however, if not an exercise in persuasion. [...]

Then, there's misdirection. Will lumps me in with those on the left who claim that the GOP and conservatives have played a bait-and-switch game on the white working and middle classes, getting their votes with a culturally conservative agenda and then using the power of office to reward the rich. Sadly for him, this is false: I explicitly disagree with major pillars of that theory--made most famously by Thomas Frank in What's the Matter with Kansas?. Instead, I argue that many of the cultural issues have significant economic implications for working and middle class families, who see condom distribution in the public schools, challenges to authority (patriarchal and otherwise), the explosion in the number of divorces, the rejection of traditional religious values, and assertions of the "right" to self-expression and self-fulfillment as threatening qualities--restraint, postponed gratification, and devotion to family--that engender economic success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Day of reckoning for DDT foes? (Steven Milloy, September 25, 2006, Washington Times)

Overlooked in all the hoopla over the announcement is the terrible toll in human lives (tens of millions dead, mostly pregnant women and children under age 5), illness (billions sickened) and poverty (more than $1 trillion in lost GDP in sub-Saharan Africa alone) caused by the tragic, decades-long ban. [...]

Rachel Carson kicked off DDT hysteria with her pseudoscientific 1962 book, "Silent Spring." Miss Carson materially misrepresented DDT science in order to advance her anti-pesticide agenda. Today she is hailed as having launched the global environmental movement. A Pennsylvania state office building, Maryland elementary school, Pittsburgh bridge and a Maryland state park are named for her. The Smithsonian Institution commemorates her work against DDT. She was even honored with a 1981 U.S. postage stamp. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of her birth. Many celebrations are planned.

It's quite a tribute for someone who was so dead wrong. At the very least, her name should be removed from public property and there should be no government-sponsored honors of Miss Carson.

The Audubon Society was a leader in the attack on DDT, including falsely accusing DDT defenders (who won a libel suit) of lying. Not wanting to jeopardize its nonprofit tax status, the Audubon Society formed the Environmental Defense Fund (now simply known as Environmental Defense) in 1967 to spearhead its anti-DDT efforts. Today the National Audubon Society takes in more than $100 million yearly and has assets worth more than $200 million. Environmental Defense takes in more than $65 million yearly with a net worth exceeding $73 million.

In a February 25, 1971, media release, the president of the Sierra Club said his organization wanted "a ban, not just a curb" on DDT, "even in the tropical countries where DDT has kept malaria under control. Today the Sierra Club rakes in more than $90 million per year and has more than $50 million in assets.

Business are often held liable and forced to pay monetary damages for defective products and false statements. Why shouldn't the National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club and other anti-DDT activist groups be held liable for the harm caused by their recklessly defective activism?

WHO calls for more DDT use vs. malaria (LAURAN NEERGAARD, 9/15/06, AP)

A small number of malaria-plagued countries already use DDT, backed by a 2001 United Nations treaty that set out strict rules to prevent environmental contamination. But the influential WHO's long-awaited announcement makes clear that it will push indoor spraying with a number of insecticides — and that DDT will be a top choice because when used properly it's safe, effective and cheap.

"We must take a position based on the science and the data," said Dr. Arata Kochi, the WHO's malaria chief. "One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying. Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT."

"It's a big change," said biologist Amir Attaran of Canada's University of Ottawa, who has long pushed for the guidelines and described a recent draft. "There has been a lot of resistance to using insecticides to control malaria, and one insecticide especially. ... That will have to be re-evaluated by a lot of people."

The U.S. government already has decided to pay for DDT and other indoor insecticide use as part of
President Bush's $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to control malaria in Africa.

Finally: Good News for Malaria Victims (Paul Driessen, September 17, 2006, Chron Watch)
In Kenya alone, 34,000 young children a year perish from malaria, says Health Minister Charity Ngilu. Uganda suffers 100,000 deaths annually, notes Minister of Health Dr. Stephen Malinga – the equivalent of a jetliner with 275 people slamming into its Rwenzori Mountains every day.

Africa has 400 million cases of acute malaria per year; up to 2 million die. Countless millions are too sick to work or go to school, countless millions more must stay home to care for them, and meager family savings are exhausted on anti-malaria drugs.

The disease costs Kenya 170 million working days and billions of dollars annually. It is a major reason that few tourists and investors go to Africa, and that the sub-Sahara region remains one of the poorest on Earth.

Instead of improving, in recent decades the disease rates have worsened. A principal reason, as epidemiologist Robert Desowitz observed, has been insecticide-resistant mosquitoes lethally combined with insecticide-resistant health authorities, who insisted on politically correct policies, instead of proven, practical solutions.

Indeed, since the US banned DDT in 1972, despite an independent commission finding that it was safe for people and most wildlife, malaria has killed an estimated 50 million people. Opponents have focused relentlessly on the alleged risks of using DDT--while ignoring the undeniable tragedies the chemical could prevent.

DDT is no “silver bullet,” nor is it appropriate in all places or cases. However, it is a critical element of many successful malaria control programs. Sprayed just twice a year on the inside walls of homes, it keeps 90% of mosquitoes from even entering, irritates those that do come in so they don’t bite, and kills any that land. No other chemical, at any price, does that.

Look Who's Ignoring Science Now (Sebastian Mallaby, October 10, 2005, Washington Post)
DDT, to give that chemical its more familiar name, works miracles against diseases that are spread by insects. During the Second World War, vast quantities of the stuff were dusted over troops and concentration-camp survivors to kill the body lice that spread typhus. Later, DDT was used widely in Latin America to beat back dengue and yellow fever. But the chemical's noblest calling is to combat malarial mosquitoes. In the early 20th century, Dunklin County, Missouri, had a higher rate of malarial mortality than Freetown, Sierra Leone. Between 1947 and 1949, DDT was sprayed on the internal walls of nearly 5 million American houses, and at the end of that process malaria had ceased to pose a significant threat in the United States.

DDT also helped to eliminate malaria in Europe and parts of Asia, and in 1970 the National Academy of Sciences estimated that the chemical had prevented 500 million deaths. And yet, despite that astounding number, DDT has all but disappeared from the malaria arsenal. Some 500 million people still get the disease annually, and at least 1 million die, but the World Health Organization refuses to recommend DDT spraying. The U.S. government's development programs don't purchase any of the chemical. In June President Bush made a great show of announcing a new five-year push against malaria; DDT appears to play no part in his plans.

But the worst culprit is the European Union. It not only refuses to fund DDT spraying: In the case of at least one country, it has also threatened to punish DDT use with import restrictions.

That country is Uganda, which suffered a crippling 12 million cases of malaria in a population of 27 million in 2003. The Ugandans know perfectly well that DDT can help them: As Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute recently testified to Congress, DDT spraying in one part of the country in 1959 and 1960 reduced the prevalence of malaria from 22 percent to less than 1 percent. Ugandans also know the record in South Africa, where the cessation of DDT spraying in 1996 allowed the number of malaria cases to multiply tenfold and where the resumption of spraying in 2000 helped to bring the caseload down by almost 80 percent.

So the Ugandans, not unreasonably, would like to use DDT. But in February the European Union waved an anti-scientific flag at them. The Europeans said Uganda might need to institute a new food monitoring program to assuage the health concerns of their consumers, even though hundreds of millions have been exposed to DDT without generating any solid evidence that the chemical harms people. The E.U. proposal might constitute an impossible administrative burden on a poor country. Anti-malaria campaigners say that other African governments are wary of even considering DDT, having seen what Uganda has gone through.

Why does Europe impede Uganda's fight against malaria? The standard answer starts with "Silent Spring," the book that helped launch the environmental movement in the 1960s and that painted a scary picture of DDT's potential impact on the food chain. But this is only half right. The book's overblown claims led to the banning of DDT in the United States in 1972 and its disappearance from aid-funded programs thereafter. But "Silent Spring" was really about the dangers of large-scale agricultural use of DDT, not the limited spraying of houses. Today mainstream environmental groups concede that in the context of malarial countries, the certain health benefits of anti-malarial spraying may outweigh the speculative environmental risks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Stop Taxing Inflation (PHILIP KERPEN, September 25, 2006, NY Sun)

The old fight over indexing the basis for the capital gains tax is starting up again, and this is shaping up to be the best chance ever to finally end the unfair tax on inflationary gains. Legislation sponsored by Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana and Eric Cantor of Virginia, H.R. 6057, would use the Gross Domestic Product implicit price deflator to index the capital gains tax basis for inflation, ending one of the most egregious practices of our tax system. Perhaps more encouraging, it may be possible for the president to introduce indexing administratively, without the passage of any legislation. [...]

The Pence-Cantor bill would be an excellent vehicle for finally ending the inflation tax, but if Congress fails to act, the president should instruct the Treasury Department to index the capital gains tax basis for inflation administratively. The Internal Revenue Code defines a capital gain as the value of an asset when it is sold less its cost, but "cost" is not defined in the code. A regulation interpreting cost in real economic terms would almost certainly pass the reasonableness standard that courts would use in reviewing Treasury Department discretion in the matter.

It has been a decade since the Contract-with-America Republicans led the last major push for this reform, and since then many of the young, enthusiastic House staffers who were in that fight have moved on to positions of influence in the Treasury Department. Thus, the stage may finally be set for ending this long-running battle with a pro-growth victory.

It will be a quintessential victory for Neoconomics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Oil drops below $60 a barrel (AP, 9/25/06)

Oil prices fell below $60 a barrel on Monday amid signs of growing petroleum inventories and after BP said it had permission to restart the eastern half of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field.

"Hedge funds and investors have been bailing out because geopolitical tensions have eased and they also realize that inventories are high during this period of seasonally weak demand at the end of summer," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery fell 80 cents to $59.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe. November Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange dropped 94 cents to $59.47 a barrel.

Natural gas futures on the Nymex fell nearly 17 cents to $4.460 per 1,000 cubic feet — after its lowest close last week since Sept. 10, 2004. Gasoline futures slid 2 cents to $1.4503 per gallon, while October heating oil futures declined a cent to $1.6350 a gallon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Wal-Mart grows 'green' strategies (Mindy Fetterman, 9/25/2006, USA Today)

[M]any environmentalists are ecstatic. Wal-Mart is a very big rock to throw into the pro-environment pond, and its ripples, they say, will be felt across the globe.

"Wal-Mart is a huge player, and they have enormous clout," says Scott Burns of the World Wildlife Fund, which has 10 employees working with Wal-Mart on several projects, including sustainability of fisheries. "They're sending a very powerful signal that already is having effects on the way people produce products for them."

Wal-Mart says it will:

• Slash gasoline use by its trucking fleet, one of the largest in the USA, and use more hybrid trucks to increase efficiency by 25% over the next three years and double it within 10 years. That will save $310 million a year by 2015, the company says.

• Buy 100% of its wild-caught salmon and frozen fish for the North American market only from fisheries that are certified as "sustainable" by the non-profit Marine Stewardship Council within three to five years. That designation means areas of the ocean aren't fished in ways that destroy fish populations.

• Cut energy use at its more than 7,000 stores worldwide by 30% and cut greenhouse-gas emissions at existing stores by 20% in seven years. Wal-Mart is the largest private electricity user in the USA.

• Reduce solid waste from U.S. stores by 25% within three years.

The company, second-largest in revenue in the world behind ExxonMobil, has vowed to invest $500 million a year in energy-saving technologies.

It has built test lab stores in Aurora, Colo., and McKinney, Texas, where it is experimenting with everything from wind power to permeable asphalt that lets rainwater seep through parking lots to help refill groundwater aquifers. It wants to build stores that produce 30% fewer greenhouse emissions in the next four years.

And it has reached out to environmental groups, many of which were once highly critical of the company; Wal-Mart has made them part of its in-house planning.

The other environmentalists oppose these initiatives precisely because they're driven by market forces rather than fetishism.

GM developing home hydrogen refueling device (Chris Woodyard, 9/25/06, USA TODAY)

General Motors is building a prototype for a home hydrogen refueling unit in hope of selling fuel-cell cars by 2011.

The unit, which would make hydrogen using either electricity or sunlight, would help sidestep one of the most vexing problems surrounding the creation of the pollution-free, alternative-power cars: how to persuade oil companies to invest in expensive new hydrogen stations that would compete with their core product, gasoline.

The automaker's goal is an affordable, compact unit that would allow customers to fill their cars overnight in their own garages, says GM spokesman Scott Fosgard.

GM would join Honda, which has already created a model for a home refueling hydrogen unit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Tigers Clinch Playoff Berth (The Associated Press, September 25, 2006)

Brandon Inge was there at the low point, when the Detroit Tigers set an AL record for losses by going 43-119 in 2003. Detroit fought off its late-season slump and clinched its first playoff berth since 1987, scoring nine runs in the second inning Sunday and coasting to an 11-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

"I've been waiting for this," said Inge, who was given a champagne shampoo by teammates. "You don't think about this in spring training, and then something like this happens." [...]

Enjoying a turnaround season under new manager Jim Leyland, Detroit assured itself of no worse than the AL wild-card berth and headed into the final week of the season with a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL Central over second-place Minnesota.

The Tigers, who regained the best record in the major leagues at 94-62, went ahead early for the second straight day, following up on Saturday's 10-run first.

"It is really overwhelming," said Tigers owner Michael Ilitch, who bought the team in 1992. "It is probably one of the highlights of my life. In the final outs, we were all holding our breath. After the final out, I did a lot of hugging."

Verlander allowed two runs and six hits in six innings, extending Kansas City's losing streak to six.

"Those guys out there in the clubhouse made me pretty smart," Leyland said. "I don't take the credit. I think I've been a beneficiary of catching them at the right time."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Officials: Barghouti will not be freed (, Sep. 24, 2006)

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday that as part of any deal for the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit the PA would demand that Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti be freed. According to Israel Radio, the PA would also demand that Ahmad Sa'adat, who planned the murder of former minister Rehavam Ze'evi, be released.

Abbas spoke in an interview to an Egyptian station, and also said that the Egyptian government was in charge of negotiating a prisoner exchange agreement.

Officials in the prime minister's office said in response to Abbas' announcement that Israel's position on Barghouti and Sa'adat was unchanged, and that they would not be released.

It makes sense to pretend to decouple the exchange, but the release of Mr. Barghouti serves Israeli interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Corzine's gambit: Dems fear pick to fill Sen. seat big blunder (Ben Smith, 9/25/06, NY Daily News)

New Jersey Democrats are privately expressing buyers' remorse over Gov. Jon Corzine's decision to appoint then-Rep. Robert Menendez to an open Senate seat last year.

Public polls show a tight race between Menendez and Republican Tom Kean Jr., despite a national mood that favors Democrats. And the polls suggest most voters haven't yet focused on a federal investigation that touches on Menendez's personal finances.

Some now worry that New Jersey could be a rare exception in an election that seems poised to bring Democrats back to power in at least one house of Congress. "There's the feeling that Jon Corzine's now blown it twice. He blew it in ‘04 as chairman of the DSCC [Democratic Senate Campaign Committee], and now he may have blown it again," said a Democrat who was involved in the process by which Menendez was selected.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


FBI Is Casting A Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks (Allan Lengel and Joby Warrick, 9/25/06, Washington Post)

Five years after the anthrax attacks that killed five people, the FBI is now convinced that the lethal powder sent to the Senate was far less sophisticated than originally believed, widening the pool of possible suspects in a frustratingly slow investigation.

The finding, which resulted from countless scientific tests at numerous laboratories, appears to undermine the widely held belief that the attack was carried out by a government scientist or someone with access to a U.S. biodefense lab.

What was initially described as a near-military-grade biological weapon was ultimately found to have had a more ordinary pedigree, containing no additives and no signs of special processing to make the anthrax bacteria more deadly, law enforcement officials confirmed. In addition, the strain of anthrax used in the attacks has turned out to be more common than was initially believed, the officials said.

As a result, after a very public focus on government scientists as the likely source of the attacks, the FBI is today casting a far wider net, as investigators face the daunting prospect of an almost endless list of possible suspects in scores of countries around the globe. [...]

Specifically, law enforcement authorities have refuted the widely reported claim that the anthrax spores had been "weaponized" -- specially treated or processed to allow them to disperse more easily. They also have rejected reports that the powder was milled, or ground, to create finer particles that can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Such processing or additives might have suggested that the maker had access to the recipes of biological weapons made by the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

In fact, the anthrax powder used in the 2001 attacks had no additives, writes Douglas J. Beecher, a scientist in the FBI laboratory's Hazardous Materials Response Unit, in an article in the science journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"A widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapons production," Beecher writes in the journal's August edition, in what is believed to be the most expansive public comment on the nature of the powder by any FBI official. "The idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone."

The FBI would not allow Beecher to be interviewed about his article. But other scientists familiar with the forensic investigation echoed his description. Whoever made the powder produced a deadly project of exceptional purity and quality -- up to a trillion spores per gram -- but used none of the tricks known to military bioweapons scientists to increase the lethality of the product. Officials stressed that the terrorist would have had to have considerable skills in microbiology and access to equipment.

"It wasn't weaponized. It was just nicely cleaned up," said one knowledgeable scientist who spoke on the condition he not be identified by name because the investigation is continuing. "Whoever did it was proud of their biology. They grew the spores, spun them down, cleaned up the debris. But there were no additives."

Moreover, scientists say, the particular strain of anthrax used in the attacks has turned to out to be a less significant clue than first believed. The highly virulent Ames strain was first isolated in the United States and was the basis for the anthrax weapons formerly created by the United States. The use of the Ames strain in the 2001 attack was initially seen as a strong clue linking the terrorist to the U.S. biodefense network.

But the more the FBI investigated, the more ubiquitous the Ames strain seemed, appearing in labs around the world including nations of the former Soviet Union.

"Ames was available in the Soviet Union," said former Soviet bioweapons scientist Sergei Popov, now a biodefense expert at George Mason University. "It could have come from anywhere in the world."

September 24, 2006

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:40 PM


Muslims must apologise for conquest: Aznar: Former Spanish PM defends Pope (9/24/06, Agence France-Presse)

Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar on Friday defended Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about Islam, saying the pontiff had no need to apologise and asking why Muslims never did, according to newspaper reports published on Saturday.

“Why do we always have to say sorry and they never do?” Mr Aznar told a conference in the United States.

“It is interesting to note that while a lot of people in the world are asking the pope to apologise for his speech, I have never heard a Muslim say sorry for having conquered Spain and occupying it for eight centuries.” [...]

“I support Ferdinand and Isabella,” he proclaimed, in reference to the medieval Catholic monarchs who drove Muslims out of Spain in 1492.

Word is, the Spaniards are gearing up for a tough election fight, as the League of Ferdinand and Isabella tries to fend off the resurgent Patriotic Union of al-Andalus. The winner gets Madrid. The loser gets beheaded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Poll blow for Brown as Blair refuses to back him (George Jones, 25/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Gordon Brown's hopes of being acclaimed as Tony Blair's successor at this week's Labour conference are severely dented today by a poll for The Daily Telegraph showing a sharp fall in the number of voters who think he would be a good prime minister.

The Chancellor, who will today stake his claim to No 10 by promising to govern from the centre and not retreat from New Labour, lags behind David Cameron, the Tory leader, and even Mr Blair as the voters' preferred choice. [...]

While he is seen as decisive and effective, public confidence in him as the next prime minister is on the slide. Earlier in the year, 36 per cent of voters thought he would prove to be a good prime minister. That figure has fallen to 27 per cent, while the proportion thinking he would probably fail as prime minister has risen from 33 per cent to 44.

The Conservative leader has a five-point lead over Mr Brown as "the best prime minister" and Mr Blair was well ahead of him when the public was asked to choose between them.

The poll shows that Mr Brown has considerable work to do to improve his image. He is seen as a highly divisive and partisan figure, even "morose and introverted".

Didn't stop Richard Nixon....

Brown to stake all on Middle England (Philip Webster, 9/25/06, Times of London)

GORDON BROWN will lay claim to the Labour crown today by reassuring Middle England voters that his Government will never retreat from reform but entrench its place in the Centre.

The Chancellor, making the most important speech of his life at the Labour conference in Manchester, intends to set out his political philosophy and his personal manifesto to become Labour’s sixth Prime Minister and create a “new Britain”.

In the face of polls casting doubt on his electability and fears that he may take Labour to the left, Mr Brown will promise to change the way that Britain is governed, ushering in a “new politics” to make Government more accountable to Parliament and public, while carrying forward new Labour’s modernisation crusade in an even more radical way. He will talk of a ten-year programme to meet Britain’s challenges.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


Brisk reforms expected from Reinfeldt (The Local, 24th September 2006)

Sweden's next prime minister, newly-elected Fredrik Reinfeldt, is expected to undertake brisk economic reforms he vowed to implement once in office, namely job creation, tax cuts and privatisations, analysts say. [...]

"They have a very ambitious plan for opening up the labour market with several economic incentives to get people into the labour market in the short term," SEB bank chief economist Klas Eklund told AFP.

The Alliance has proposed to cut taxes for low income earners, provide subsidies to companies that hire jobless workers, and reduce generous unemployment benefits to encourage people to go to work.

Some 50,000 jobs could be created in two or three years, said HÃ¥kan Frisen, head of economic research at SEB.

"If you have these three factors together, you could actually boost the labour market quite a lot," Eklund added.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


The US doesn't need more college grads (George C. Leef, 9/25/06, CS Monitor)

There are lots of American students who are eager to learn and proceed to master skills that aid them in their careers. But government and private support already get almost all of these passionate pupils into college. The trouble is that many other students enter college with no enthusiasm for learning. Boosting college participation would mean recruiting still more of these disengaged students. Increasing their numbers will not give us a more skilled workforce; it will just put more downward pressure on academic standards. [...]

In reality, although we may have entered the so-called "knowledge economy," the true backbone of the economy will continue to consist of low- and medium-skilled jobs. Take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics's 10 fastest growing occupations between 2004 and 2014, and you'll find that six of the 10 professions do not require a four-year degree, and four of these call for no academic degree at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


Americans and the God question (The Monitor's View, 9/25/06,CS Monitor)

About 5 percent of the 1,721 respondents were atheists, but the rest had a view of God that fit one of four basic "types": [...]

The study found that even people within the same denomination hold different concepts of God - which may explain schisms over dogma. Evangelicals and black Protestants, however, hold the most uniform views (a majority sees God as authoritarian).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


This winter, cost of heating homes is forecast to drop: A homeowner could save as much as $250 on heating bills over last year (Ron Scherer, 9/25/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Since last year at this time, the price of natural gas at the wellhead has plunged 47 percent, and the wholesale price of home heating oil is down 20 percent. If prices were to remain close to these levels - and if the winter is not overly cold - homeowners could save as much as $250 compared with last year, some energy analysts estimate.

"This is the equivalent of a major tax cut - almost the same as right after 9/11 when the government sent checks to everybody," says Dennis Jacobe, chief economist for the Gallup Organization in Washington. "What's nice is that it particularly helps middle- and lower-income people who were hurt the most when prices were soaring."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


After the war, Hizbullah reevaluates: The Lebanese guerrillas admit they can't return to the south but defiantly reject calls to disarm (Nicholas Blanford, 9/25/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

The new situation here represents a third phase in Hizbullah's long struggle against Israel from south Lebanon. Between 1985 and 2000, Hizbullah was engaged in a campaign of resistance against Israeli forces occupying a strip of south Lebanon. After Israel's withdrawal in May 2000, Hizbullah began launching attacks against Israeli positions in the Shebaa Farms, a remote mountainside along Lebanon's southeast border. [...]

One possibility, analysts say, is to link Hizbullah's military wing more closely to the Lebanese Army, now deployed in strength in south Lebanon.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:08 PM


The lessons I learned at CBC (Robert Fulford, National Post, September 23rd, 2006)

In their own quiet way, CBC people have become a remarkable cult, the proprietors of a vast reservoir of smugness they are incapable of recognizing as such. For generations, they have been constructing a body of impregnable, self-regenerating opinion. As employees they are pre-selected and their views are pre-recorded, like most of their programs. A single rule governs all personnel selection: Like hires like. That principle, followed for seven decades, produces seamless intellectual agreement in all corners of the staff. Occasionally a few oddballs somehow slip through the screening process. They are allowed to hold unofficial views, providing they have the good sense not to express them. Otherwise, the CBC encourages everyone to speak up.

CBC producers glory in what Wordsworth called "smooth and solemnized complacencies." They believe in universal one-tier medicare, feminism, the Kyoto accord, employment equity and the United Nations. They consider Israel an embarrassing upstart state and remain unimpressed by its accomplishments. They hate the Bush administration but they are routinely anti-American even when someone more agreeable occupies the White House. They don't much like business. In their view the free market causes more trouble than it's worth, and globalization is another word for evil. They believe unions are usually on the right side (even if they think their own unions are led by idiots). They have learned that there is one side to every question.

Much of this will sound like caricature to those who are unfamiliar with life in the CBC. Surely it can't be that bad? But those who get close to it often come away with similar observations. Their prejudices naturally affect their programs, as many viewers and listeners notice. One of my readers wrote to me: "The CBC has conditioned me to expect an anti-business, anti-American view on just about every conceivable issue."

But citizens who complain to management receive CBC-justifying letters that inevitably explain that the CBC is consistently fair. These letters are so long and tedious that they fill with glue, perhaps fatally, the mind of anyone who reads them. I think of this process as Death by Ombud. Its purpose is to ensure that the citizen in question will never, ever write a letter of protest again.

We understand a standard job interview at the CBC consists of two questions: “What contribution do you feel you can make to our organization?” and “What’s the matter with Kansas?”.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:02 PM


Darwin's paradise in peril (Robin McKie, The Observer, September 24th, 2006)

n 1995, Godfrey Merlen, director of the environment group WorldAid, visited Isabela, an island in the Galapagos. What he saw horrified him.

Hundreds of goats were chewing their way across its grasslands and were denuding the once-lush terrain, transforming it into patchy grassland. 'It was total chaos,' said Merlen in the journal Science

Merlen's discovery sent shock waves through the environmental movement. For years, it had struggled to save these magical equatorial islands, home to some of the world's most exotic animals, from destruction caused by feral animals such as goats, pigs, cats and rats.

Now it seemed the place where Charles Darwin made his key discoveries in his path to outlining the idea of natural selection was about to be destroyed. One of the planet's most precious wild places was fighting for its life: its giant tortoises; its marine iguanas, the world's only sea-going reptiles; and its colonies of blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants and albatrosses, all under threat of extinction.

The development galvanised environmentalists and led to the setting up of an £10m rescue programme to fight invasive species. Last week, campaigners announced the first major victory: the islands of Isabela, Santiago and Pinta were now officially goat-free, it was revealed - an act of species-cleansing that had required the killing of 140,000 goats.

'This is a phenomenal victory,' said Roslyn Cameron, of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Not only had a major threat to the islands' wildlife been eradicated, the project had established key methodologies for dealing with other feral pests, she added.

To rid themselves of the goats, sharp shooters were hired, packs of tracker dogs were imported from New Zealand, helicopters were used to ferry marksmen into the remote hearts of islands, while 'Judas' goats - sterilised females, plied with hormones - were used to entice solitary male goats towards hunters and their doom.

The resulting victory has been a major boost to environmentalists' morale...

Granted most of us wouldn’t hestiate to pop a goat or two to save Grandad, but gosh, even the ancient Hebrews thought one goat at a time on occasion was enough to propitiate the Deity at His angriest. Remember this the next time a Darwinist tells you it’s all strictly based on rational science and that there is absolutely no connection with the idea that it is morally acceptable to exterminate one species so that another may flourish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Wary Democrats drawing provisional bead on Dean (CRAGG HINES, 9/24/06, Houston Chronicle)

It's beginning to dawn on Democrats that they may not win control of the House or Senate in the November elections, so a pre-emptive blame game has begun. And the designated fall guy is Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. [...]

Although Democrats remained at least strongly competitive in public polls last week, new reports revealed the Republican National Committee with more than three times as much cash on hand as the DNC at the beginning of September — $39 million vs. $11 million.

Separate Democratic finance operations in the House and Senate are competitive or lead their Republican counterpart. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began September with $29.8 million on hand, as against the $18.6 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Dean's best explanation for his on-hand shortfall is that he has already spent millions in what he views as seed money to rebuild state party organizations, an expenditure that he believes will pay off not only in November but also in years to come, including in the 2008 presidential campaign.

That line of argument carries little immediate weight with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. Reviewing Dean's tenure at the DNC, a House Democratic strategist said: "They don't have a problem fund-raising, but their burn rate is extremely high."

House and Senate Democratic campaign leaders now face urgent pleas from candidates in swing states and districts for last-minute infusions of funds. These are needed not only to finance television ads but also to match Republican turnout efforts that rest on several years of steady voter identification and motivation.

This Republican "ground game" was most evident and effective in the narrow re-election of President Bush two years ago, particularly in such close-run state contests as Ohio.

Far be it from us to defend Mr. Dean, but this is just another way for the Democrats to avoid asking themselves the most basic question in politics: what ideas do they advocate that the American people agree with?

They've become a completely reactionary party, opposed to reform of the Welfare State, opposed to tax cuts, opposed to liberalizing the Middle East, opposed to limits on abortion, etc., etc., etc.... For the most part they've had sense enough not to mention any of these positions openly, but that's left them talking only about "corruption," which no one cares about, and hoping for the economy to tank. Instead gas prices are plunging this fall and consumers notice that rather quickly.

They're a party about nothing in a country where people believe in certain things.

THE HATE TRAP (CRAIG CHARNEY, September 24, 2006, NY Post)

THE leftist and liberal throng who cheered Ven ezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez at a Harlem church Thursday, a day after he called President Bush "the devil," are just the latest sign of a real problem for the Democratic Party and the nation: Bush-hate is now the opiate of the party's base.

A recent Fox News poll gets at the disturbing truth: A majority of Democrats say they want to see the president fail. Such deep hatred is bad news for the country at a time when America needs to bridge the partisan divide. It's also bad news for the Democrats, who risk repeating the Republicans' mistakes of a decade ago, driving away the centrists they need to regain power or going too far if they do manage to win.

Fox's question was revealing: "Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?" Democrats said "not," 51 percent to 40 percent - where the public at large wanted success by almost two to one. [...]

Hate is a fatal response in American politics. It leads to irrational, sectarian, and self-defeating behavior. Republicans, their base consumed by hatred for then-President Bill Clinton, showed this in 1998. Their impeachment drive pushed Clinton's polls into the stratosphere, yielding unprecedented mid-term gains for the Democrats.

In today's polarized environment, Democratic candidates feel pressure to respond to their angry voters to avoid the fate of centrist Senator Joseph Lieberman. He lost his Connecticut primary to a blog-powered anti-war newcomer, Ned Lamont. But the positions such candidates take may leave them out of the mainstream and unelectable. Lamont is discovering this in his general election rematch with Lieberman, who is running as an independent.

Some say a little anger is needed to fire up the Democratic base. Reality check: the Democratic base is just two-fifths of the electorate and liberals number just one voter in five. Yet the independent and moderate voters the Democrats must win over to regain a majority are repelled by candidates who pander to rageful supporters with tunnel vision.

A Campaign in Crisis Mode (CHARLES BAXTER, 9/24/06, NY Times)
WHILE my assignment was to write about Minnesota’s important Senate race, I think there’s more to be learned right now from the far closer contest in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, which borders Minneapolis-St. Paul to the east, north and west. The race, between Michele Bachmann, the Republican, and Patty Wetterling, the Democrat, has revealed a Bush-era national trend now visible locally.

That is, we are facing a choice between a “conservative” who wants to institute radical reforms and a “progressive” who wishes largely to maintain the status quo. In Minnesota’s Sixth District, liberalism is the new conservatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


A Bad Bargain (NY Times, 9/22/06)

Even before the compromises began to emerge, the overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal flaws. It allows the president to declare any foreigner, anywhere, an “illegal enemy combatant” using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the fact that many of the Guantánamo detainees are not terrorists and will never be charged, but it also chokes off any judicial review.

The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It’s time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation’s severely damaged reputation.

THE SILENT PARTY (Charles P. Pierce, Tapped)
You worthless passel of cowards. They're laughing at you. You know that, right?

The national Democratic Party is no longer worth the cement needed to sink it to the bottom of the sea. For an entire week, it allowed a debate on changing the soul of the country to be conducted intramurally between the Torture Porn and Useful Idiot wings of the Republican Party, the latter best exemplified by John McCain, who keeps fashioning his apparently fathomless ambition into a pair of clown shoes with which he can do the monkey dance across the national stage.

Don't Vote Democrat (Greg Saunders, 9/22/06, Huffington Post)
I'm not kidding. If the last week is any indicator of what we've got to look forward to in a Democratic Congress, then don't bother. The last time they were in charge we got the Patriot Act, the Iraq War resolution, and the Medicare drug bill. Now with every poll supporting the Democrats and the Republicans on the ropes, these cowards are still afraid to throw the first punch.

Instead, we see the torture issue (yeah, that's how far we've sunk) being co-opted by a group the media have dubbed the Republican "Rebels" whose grand act of rebellion consisted of giving the President the right to do whatever he wants.

These guys are no less estranged from America than the crew at National Review who thinks Republicans shouldn't vote for Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Taking Aim: a review of PRETENSIONS TO EMPIRE: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration By Lewis H. Lapham (JENNIFER SENIOR, 9/24/06, NY Times Book Review)

[Lewis Lapham, t]he editor emeritus of Harper’s Magazine and its Notebook columnist for more than 25 years, Lapham compares the Bush administration to a “criminal syndicate” and Condoleezza Rice to a “capo.” He likens the United States to “a well-ordered police state” and the policies of its Air Force to those of Torquemada and Osama bin Laden. He calls Bush “a liar,” “a televangelist,” “a wastrel” and (ultimately) “a criminal — known to be armed and shown to be dangerous.”

Well. At least his point of view is unambiguous. But unless you agree with it 100 percent — and are content to see almost no original reporting or analysis in support of these claims — you may feel less inclined to throttle Lapham’s targets than to throttle Lapham himself. For this book is all about Lewis Lapham: the breathtaking lyricism of his voice, the breadth of his remarkable erudition. He goes across the street and around the corner to confirm the worst stereotypes about liberals — that they’re condescending, twee, surpassingly smug. “What I find surprising is the lack of objection,” he writes of the misguided American public. “The opinion polls show four of every five respondents saying that they gladly would give up as many of their civil rights and liberties as might be needed to pay the ransom for their illusory safety.” Wouldn’t Lapham be a more interesting columnist if he took this finding seriously? And analyzed it, perhaps, giving it its due? (Though later he generously allows that not every Idahoan and Nebraskan “is as dumb as Donald Rumsfeld,” based on his “reading of the national character in the library of American history and biography and a fairly extensive acquaintance with the novels of Melville, Twain, Howells, James, Wharton, Dreiser, Faulkner, Cather, Anderson, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, O’Hara and Roth.” Idahoans and Nebraskans, rejoice.)

People who are serious about politics don’t just preen. They report, explain, explore contradictions, struggle with ideas, maybe even propose suggestions. If they do none of these things, they’re simply heckling, and if the best Lapham can do is come up with 50 inventive new ways to call Bush an imbecilic oligarch, that’s all he’s doing: heckling. Like his worst counterparts on the right, he compares those he doesn’t like to fanatics, as when he refers to David Frum and Richard Perle as “Mufti Frum” and “Mullah Perle,” adding, “Provide them with a beard, a turban and a copy of the Koran, and I expect that they wouldn’t have much trouble stoning to death a woman discovered in adultery with a cameraman from CBS News.” Possibly, but provide Lapham with a blond wig, stiletto pumps and a copy of “The Fountainhead,” and I suspect he wouldn’t look much different from Ann Coulter. He’s just another talk-radio host, really — only this time by way of Yale and Mensa.

There’s one column that’s conspicuously absent from this collection, and that’s the one from September 2004, which included a brief account of the Republican National Convention. Lapham wrote it as if the convention had already happened, ruefully reflecting on the content and sharing with readers a question that occurred to him as he listened; unfortunately, the magazine arrived on subscribers’ doorsteps before the convention had even taken place, forcing Lapham to admit that the scene was a fiction. He apologized, but pointed out that political conventions are drearily scripted anyway — he basically knew what was going to be said. By this logic, though, I could have chosen not to read “Pretensions to Empire” before reviewing it, since I already knew Lapham’s sensibility, just as he claims to know the Republicans’. But I dutifully read the whole book. And I discovered, with some ironic poignancy, that Lapham did have a point: some people never acquire any more nuance as they go.

The sad thing is that even when more nuanced critics actually report from Red America their analyses aren't much better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


The Netroots Hit Their Limits: Liberal online activists are finding you can't move elections with just modems and IM (PERRY BACON JR., 9/24/06, TIME)

You've heard the story: the Netroots, the Democratic Party's equivalent of a punk garage band—edgy, loud and antiauthoritarian—are suddenly on the verge of the big time. The gang of liberal bloggers and online activists who helped raise millions of dollars for Howard Dean's presidential campaign two years ago are now said to be Democratic kingmakers. Last month in Connecticut, they fanned anti-incumbent and antiwar flames and were widely credited with the primary defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman, leading him to run as an independent. After they relentlessly derided Senator Hillary Clinton as calculating, overly cautious and lacking true liberal bona fides, she hired an adviser just to deal with them and even demanded that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resign. Coincidence? Moderate Democrats say it with remorse, conservatives with glee, but the conventional wisdom is bipartisan: progressive bloggers are pushing the Democratic Party so far to the left that it will have no chance of capturing the presidency in 2008.

Or maybe the Netroots aren't all that. Make no mistake, these online activists are having a profound impact on the Democrats and on politics in general. But the phenomenon is in its infancy. Compared with established interest groups like organized labor and conservative Christians, the Netroots play a small role in national politics. Even their most ardent players now recognize that you can't create a true movement using nothing but modems and instant messaging. "The Netroots cannot elect someone alone," says Matt Stoller, a blogger at the popular group site MyDD. [...]

No one recognizes the Netroots' limits more than the activists themselves, which is why they are changing their tactics. First of all, they're becoming pragmatic about policy goals. There's little demand from the Netroots for Democrats to support gay marriage, for example, even though 91% of the people who gave money to or worked on Dean's campaign back it, according to a 2005 Pew poll. "We're not asking anyone to commit political suicide," says Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn. If the Democrats win the House, it will be on the strength of moderate candidates in places like Indiana, many of whom don't support one of MoveOn's top priorities, a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. And the bloggers are actively supporting and giving money to many of these more centrist candidates. Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb was encouraged to run and has received more than $280,000 from the Netroots, even though he served in the Reagan Administration as Navy Secretary and was a Republican until recently.

If they're willing to ditch social issues and appeasement in order to win elections, why not just support Joe Lieberman in the first place?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Cameron's chance to convince the country (Iain Martin, 24/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

One team is looking backward, the other is looking forward. The contrast could not be better for David Cameron. Alongside Tony Blair at the Labour Party conference in Manchester will be a former American President who makes the Prime Minister look like an amateur when it comes to sentimentality and showbiz shmaltz. The sense that Manchester is a full-stop at the end of an era of "progressive politics" is summed up by Blair having his old friend Bill Clinton on hand to help him say goodbye. Next weekend, however, Cameron is due to share a platform with the Republican front-runner in the race to be the next man in the Oval Office.

Cameron strategists plan to make as much as possible of the presence of Senator John McCain at their conference. He will be welcomed next Saturday by Cameron himself, then, on Sunday, they will both appear on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: interviewed separately, but seated alongside each other at the end of the show. Then, later the same day, they will make their speeches.

The abiding image, his advisers hope, will be of the trim 68-year-old Senator and the prime ministerial frontrunner looking like men who can do business together.

Oughtta invite Jeb too.

Poll brings pain for Democrats (DAVID YEPSEN, September 24, 2006, Des Moines Register)

Today's Iowa Poll of the 2008 race for president in the Hawkeye state ought to make Republicans happy and cause a pause on the Democratic side.

It's particularly bad news for Gov. Tom Vilsack and Sen. Hillary Clinton, two Democrats gearing up for that contest.

We asked likely Iowa voters what they'd do in some hypothetical 2008 matchups in the state. The two GOP front-runners, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, beat the Democratic front-runners - Clinton, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

(Giuliani beats Clinton 56-37; Edwards, 51-43; and Kerry, 53-40. McCain defeats Clinton 54-37; Edwards, 47-46; and Kerry, 53-39.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM

THAR, SHE BLOWS! (via Qiao Yang):

The Airbus Fiasco (Thomas Lifson, 9/23/06, Real Clear Politics)

As a supreme symbol of Europe's prowess in aerospace, indeed in modern technology itself, the A 380 superjumbo jet, is melting down. No longer the embodiment of European cooperation and unity, its third announced delivery delay reveals internal chaos, bickering, finger-pointing and recrimination within Airbus and its parent EADS.

The whalejet, as it is known to some, has morphed from queen of the air into drama queen of the air. [...]

Airbus and its parent EADS are the product of mergers done in the name of European unity, intended to produce a giant that could compete with the likes of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin in both civil aviation and defense. State shareholders and "launch aid" funding make it beholden to political interests, not markets alone, in its decision-making. It is often cited as a "social enterprise" of the European model, not merely interested in profits, but in public service and the welfare of its employees.

Such muddled thinking has produced results that are currently serving nobody. Except maybe sales executives of rival Boeing, chalking up more and more orders for the 787 Dreamliner, a smaller, more efficient, longer range competitor, offering passengers the option of avoiding crowded hub airports and time consuming changes of plane, and flying nonstop to their destination.

The confusing, even contradictory reactions of A 380 customers to the third announcement of a delay, as reported in the world press, are a sign of the hardball negotiations underway. Billions of dollars are at stake, but in aviation, nobody wants to undermine passenger confidence, so direct expressions of dismay and votes of no confidence are as rare as French military triumphs in the last two centuries.

On the bright side, it's not like anyone will care if they quietly kill the project.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Brown vows to change way Britain is governed (Patrick Hennessy, 24/09/2006, Sunday Telegraph)

Gordon Brown today commits himself to a "new politics" and a change in the way that Britain is governed, in a radical personal manifesto for the leadership of the Labour Party.

The Chancellor believes that the Government "still has lessons to learn", more than nine years after Tony Blair entered Downing Street, and must be more accountable to both Parliament and the public. [...]

The Chancellor spoke to The Sunday Telegraph on a whistle-stop trip to New York last week. He indicated that he would sweep away Mr Blair's "sofa" style of government, in which decisions are taken by a small clique of advisers, and the spin and sleaze rows that have dogged the Prime Minister's time in office.

In their place would come a return to Cabinet government, a greater role for Parliament and a wholesale devolution of powers in providing public services that are likely to see politicians losing day-to-day control in a wide range of areas, including the NHS.

The plans could also see the abolition of an entire ministry, the Department for Trade and Industry.

His officials later suggested that Mr Brown was also studying plans to give Britain its first written constitution, a document that would enshrine the roles of monarchy, government, parliament and judiciary, as well as the legal rights of citizens.

The race to Blair's Right continues....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Hamas Says It's Serious on Power Share (IBRAHIM BARZAK, 9/24/06, Associated Press)

[Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas] signaled a willingness to compromise Sunday.

"We are going to resume talks on the formation of a national coalition government," he said in a statement. "We have serious intentions to make it succeed, and we hope that the talks will resume soon."

Haniyeh and Abbas were to meet in Gaza on Monday or Tuesday.

Despite their differences, Hamas and Abbas appear to have little choice but to govern together.

Hamas needs Fatah to win international recognition and restore foreign aid. Abbas could fire the current government and install a new one, but would then require the approval of parliament, which is controlled by Hamas. Early elections are seen as an unpopular option, and there are no guarantees Fatah would win.

Peretz: Talks with Hamas possible ( Staff, Sep. 22, 2006)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Saturday that if Hamas were to recognize Israel and agree to abide by agreements previously accepted by the Palestinian Authority, he would urge the government to negotiate directly with Hamas.

Speaking in a Rosh Hashana interview with Israel Radio Saturday, Peretz said that if Hamas met these conditions, a Palestinian unity government was not needed as a prerequisite to talks.

Peretz added that it was necessary to "wait and see what the unity government's basic priniciples and orientation will be."

"What difference does it make what the government is called? If Hamas were to recognize Israel's right to exist, I would recommend direct talks with Hamas," Peretz said.

The defense minister said a Palestinian unity government should be judged on the basis of whether it intends to take the path of negotiations with Israel, or continue on the path of terrorism.

It's an ideal point for the Israelis to allow themselves to bve forced into releasing the Prisoners' Group, which has the credibility to make these concessions that the Hamas leaders on the ground fear they don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Democrats' edge erased in new poll (Donald Lambro, September 24, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Democrats' yearlong lead among likely voters has evaporated, strengthening Republican chances of holding majority control in the House, according to the Gallup Poll.

Gallup's latest survey of voters who say they will go to the polls Nov. 7 showed the contest is a "dead heat" between those who say they will vote Republican (48 percent) and those who say they intend to support Democrats (48 percent). The poll of 1,003 adults was conducted Sept. 15-17.

Just wait'll gas falls another 50 cents a gallon and the Fed starts cutting.

Democrats set to air ads in bid to derail Steele (Jon Ward, September 24, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's assertive campaign for U.S. Senate since the Sept. 12 primary has prompted national Democrats to start running attack ads sooner than they had planned.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee originally bought $1 million worth of TV time for the two weeks leading up to the Nov. 7 general election, then decided to start running ads Tuesday, according to the Steele campaign.

"This is a clear indication of the national Democratic Party bosses' scramble to maintain control over Maryland," said Michael Leavitt, campaign manager for Mr. Steele, a Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Failing pupils to learn trades at new schools (EDDIE BARNES, 9/24/06, Scotland on Sunday)

TENS of thousands of Scottish pupils will be removed from traditional academic classes to learn trades under a controversial plan to be unveiled by Jack McConnell today.

The First Minister wants pupils aged 14 and over who are failing academically to attend 'Skills Academies', where they will be taught how to become plumbers, electricians, joiners and other skilled workers.

As many as a 100 such academies are to be created, based either at further education colleges or on school premises.

The move is a radical attempt to deal with the thousands of demotivated school-leavers who head into the workplace without either qualifications or job skills.

McConnell, in an astonishingly blunt outburst, declared there was no point in such youngsters sitting through French lessons when they can't speak English properly.

The notion that everyone should have a degree has served us all poorly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Iraqi parties agree to federalism bill (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, 9/24/06, Associated Press)

Iraq's fractious ethnic and religious parliamentary groups agreed Sunday to open debate on a contentious Shiite-proposed draft legislation that will allow the creation of federal regions in Iraq, politicians said.

The agreement came after a compromise was reached with Sunni Arabs on setting up a parliamentary committee to amend Iraq's constitution, a key demand by the minority. [...]

The federalism bill calls for setting up a system to allow the creation of autonomous regions in the predominantly Shiite south, much like the self-ruling Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Sunni Arabs have said they fear the legislation will split Iraq apart and fuel sectarian bloodshed.

The Kurdish north and Shiite south hold Iraq's oil fields, while the predominantly Sunni Arab areas are mostly desert.

The main question remains why (and whether) Mookie would allow the Sunni to dominate even just a central state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Big is beautiful on the Milan catwalk: After London row over 0-0 models, size 16s step out (Barbara McMahon, September 24, 2006, Observer)

Milan Fashion week kicked off with another band of glamorous models sashaying down the runway, yet there was one notable difference: they had flesh on their bones. With the row over too-thin models rumbling on, it was ironic that the opening show in the famously chic Italian fashion capital featured clothes for the fuller-figured.

Size 14 and 16 models strutted their stuff at the Elena Miro fashion show, displaying busts, hips and bottoms with abandon. Curves were confidently on show and body mass indices, the measure of body fat based on height and weight and the rating that has caused so much controversy in the past week, were clearly not an issue. [...]

The fashion label caters for women whose sizes range from 12 to 26, but, according to Miroglio, its core customer will be in the 16-18 range. 'We like to think that we design for real women,' he added. 'They're feminine and sexy and they will show a lot of decollete. We don't think our customers should miss out on fashion just because they are not the standard sizes.'

And by standard they mean looking like heroin addicted rent boys....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Madama Butterfly Is Ready for Her Close-Up (MATTHEW GUREWITSCH, 9/24/06, NY Times)

At 52 [Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of “The English Patient,] claims to have the metabolism of a tortoise, meaning that he moves slowly. Decades ago, when he first to came to London as a young playwright, his friend and landlord David Parry, a conductor, was already pressuring Mr. Minghella to put his mind to opera. Nearly a year ago Mr. Parry got his wish when the English National Opera in London unveiled the Minghella “Butterfly.” (Mr. Parry conducted. Monday night, James Levine will do the honors. All later Met performances are to be conducted by Asher Fisch.)

The timing of the project fell just right for Mr. Gelb, who as president of the Sony Classical label released the soundtrack of Mr. Minghella’s film “The Talented Mr. Ripley” in 1999.

“When I was appointed in the fall of 2004,” Mr. Gelb said recently in his incompletely renovated office, “Anthony sent me an e-mail congratulating me. I wrote back saying, ‘When will you do your first opera with us?’ And he wrote back, ‘I am doing my first opera.’ ”

As it happened, Mr. Minghella had started down this same road with the London company before, only to withdraw in dismay at the realities of opera casting.

“In the movies I would have been auditioning Japanese teenagers,” he said, “but no teenager can sing ‘Butterfly.’ ” Yet, as he came to realize, the inherent make-believe of opera leaves the door wide open for theatrical invention. In the boldest stroke of his production, he cast the silent role of Trouble, Butterfly’s little son by Pinkerton, with a bunraku-style puppet, manipulated in plain sight of the audience by three operators from the experimental puppet troupe Blind Summit Theater.

This is Mr. Minghella’s solution to a problem many viewers might suppose does not even exist. Played the old-fashioned way for more than a century, Trouble’s scenes have always seemed as close to surefire as it gets. To the director Mark Lamos, whose “Butterfly” has been affecting audiences at the New York City Opera for many seasons, the boy’s entrance is one of the greatest in all of drama.

“If you don’t already know the story,” Mr. Lamos said recently, “it’s completely unexpected. He stands for Butterfly’s innocence as much as for the mistake that caused him. He’s a paradigm for his parents’ relationship, as most children are. But if he’s too little, he’s too cute and steals the audience’s attention in spite of themselves. If he’s too old, he’s not believable. Casting him takes great care. If he’s good and he’s carefully staged, it’s heartbreaking.”

Mr. Minghella was determined to evoke the heartbreak by other means.

“Once you give up your 15-year-old native Japanese Butterfly,” he said, “why cling to the 2-year-old child? Ask any Butterfly. Once the boy is onstage, the performance is all about managing the kid. A child can’t inhabit the part of a Eurasian orphan at the start of the 20th century. At best he can navigate his way around the stage.

“It’s as if you were doing ‘Henry V,’ and suddenly a real horse came onstage in a battle scene. The horse would invalidate the whole premise of the prologue, which invites the audience to use its imagination. What we want to say to the audience is: ‘Come with us. Let’s pretend together.’ ”

Wasn’t that, pretty much, the message of the theater guru Peter Brook’s classic manifesto “The Empty Space”? Yes, and it is a text Mr. Minghella reveres.

By all accounts audiences have responded warmly to the bunraku Trouble, and so have sopranos, though Ms. Gallardo-Domâs admits that her first reaction, seeing the production in London, was shock.

“It’s a big change not to have a baby, a boy, a human being,” she said. “But it amazed me to see how strong a presence the puppet is. And when I began work at the Met, from the first moment that I met my puppet son, we immediately had a relationship: Butterfly, the boy and the three puppeteers. Whatever my feelings are, the puppet interprets them, articulates them. He gives me concentration.”

As opera is a fusion of many arts, directing opera sums up all Mr. Minghella has learned in other disciplines. At the same time, he finds in this new line of work an unaccustomed freedom.

“I’m an interpreter in this context, not the creator,” he said. “The blessing is that I don’t have to know it all. I can bring in experts. Film requires one eye, one vision. You have to make a decision every three seconds. In theater the group carries the load. It’s not necessary to do everybody’s job, and there’s no pleasure in that.”

Now that he has taken the plunge into opera, chances are, there will be more.

Between how much money they makje and how annoying they are, you have to wonder if eventually movie actors will mostly be replaced by CGI, animation, puppets and the like.

September 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 PM


Former Washington Post senior political reporter, Thomas Edsall, with an extremely candid look at mainstream media (The Hugh Hewitt Show, 9-21-06)

HH: Welcome to the program now Thomas Edsall, whose new book, Building Red America, has turned a lot of heads. He's got an article in the New Republic this week. I'm going to focus on the book. Thomas Edsall, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. [...]

HH: I know, but national politics. Local politics is different. I think it’s in the selection of stories, stories not pursued. I mean, right now, the canard is oh, I covered the impeachment of Bill Clinton, liberal Democrats who are newsroom types tell me. I say, well, you have to. That’s a story you can’t…it’s like not seeing the iceberg, and taking the Titanic down. But in the agenda setting stuff…let me approach it this way. Is there any big name political reporter, and you know them all, Thomas Edsall. That’s why your book, Building Red America, is getting read left and right. Are there any of them who are conservative?

TE: Big name political reporter?

HH: Right.

TE: Jim Vandehei of the Washington Post.

HH: Think he’s voted for Republicans for president?

TE: Yes, I think he has. I don’t know, because he’s never told me. But I would think he has.

HH: And so, of those sorts…and he’s a very fine reporter.

TE: He is.

HH: He probably is a Republican. But given that number of reporters out there, is it ten to one Democrat to Republican? Twenty to one Democrat to Republican?

TE: It’s probably in the range of 15-25:1 Democrat.

HH: Can the mainstream media ever be fair as a result?

TE: Well, you know, you’re asking, I think, a wrong question. I think the problem is that there is a real difficulty on the part of the mainstream media being sympathetic, or empathetic, whatever the word would be, to the kind of thinking that goes into conservative approaches to issues. I think the religious right has been treated as sort of an alien world…


(AP, September 24, 2006)

The union representing Newsday's reporters and editors violated its own ethics by contributing money to politicians covered by the daily, the paper reported yesterday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM


Experts look for the floor on oil prices (KRISTEN HAYS, 9/22/06, Houston Chronicle)

An oil economist who accurately predicted two years ago that oil would reach $70 a barrel has reversed course, saying recent steep declines could foreshadow a sell-off to $20 or less.

"Nobody in the government sector who thinks about policy thinks it can happen. That's the greatest danger," said Philip Verleger, an independent economist who heads PK Verleger in Aspen, Colo. [...]

The overall consensus among analysts suggests that the factors behind the drop don't suggest a free-fall.

The Morgan Stanley report said the run-up to nearly $80 a barrel coincided with political tensions in Lebanon, Nigeria and Iran, as well as fears that hurricanes could once again batter the Gulf Coast oil business during the peak summer driving season.

But prices fell as those worries ebbed and the U.S. Energy Department said gasoline and heating oil stockpiles were up.

Another factor in the price slide has been commodity investors, skittish over the decline, who are pausing, taking profits or fleeing, Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst John Herrlin Jr. said in a report this week.

"In reality, many made investment suppositions predicated on scarcity or supply disruption that didn't occur. Now the markets have to adjust to 'the unwinding,' " he wrote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Global cooling effect
(Terence Corcoran, September 16, 2006, National Post)

News that the Conservatives might be taking a more cautious approach to Kyoto and climate change could not come at a more appropriate time. The science behind the idea of man-made global warming, always theoretical and often speculative, appears set to receive another blow. A report in New Scientist magazine yesterday chronicles the work of a crew of scientists who forecast a new wave of global cooling brought on by a decline in activity in the sun. [...]

Dramatic global temperature fluctuations, as New Scientist reports, are the norm. A Little Ice Age struck Europe in the 17th century. New Yorkers once walked from Manhattan to Staten Island across a frozen harbour. About 200 years earlier, New Scientist reminds us, a sharp downturn in temperatures turned fertile Greenland into Arctic wasteland.

These and other temperature swings corresponded with changing solar activity. "It's a boom-bust system, and I expect a crash soon," says Nigel Weiss, a solar physicist at the University of Cambridge. Scientists cannot say precisely how big the coming cooling will be, but it could at minimum be enough to offset the current theoretical impact of man-made global warming. Sam Solanki, of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, says declining solar activity could drop global temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius. "It might not sound like much," says New Scientist writer Stuart Clark, "but this temperature reversal would be as big as the most optimistic estimate of the results of restricting greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 in line with the Kyoto protocol." [...]

Another scientist tracking the sun, one among many, was Theodor Landscheidt, the late and renowned German solar expert and forecaster. "Analysis of the sun's varying activity in the last two millennia indicates that contrary to the IPCC's speculation about man-made global warming as high as 5.8 degrees Centigrade within the next 100 years, a long period of cool climate with its coldest phase around 2030 is to be expected."

Worth noting here is Timothy Ball, the former University of Manitoba climatologist and frequent contributor to the idea that official government science is ignoring the role of the sun and that global cooling may be looming, not warming. Mr. Ball, for his thoughts, has become the victim of a slanderous campaign by David Suzuki and his associate, Vancouver public relations guru James Hoggan. They charge Mr. Ball with being a climate change "denier" -- as if it were akin to denying the Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


On Rough Treatment, a Rough Accord (R. Jeffrey Smith, September 23, 2006, Washington Post)

Draft legislation to create a new system of military courts for terrorism suspects would allow prosecutors to introduce at future trials confessions that were obtained through "cruel, unusual, or inhumane" interrogations by the CIA or the military before 2005, but not afterward.

The legislation would also allow defense attorneys to challenge the use of hearsay information obtained through coercive interrogations in distant countries only if they can prove it is unreliable, a daunting task if the information consists of written statements from people the lawyers have no right to confront in court.

These complex provisions reflect some of the last-minute changes to broad legislation drafted by the White House and Republican lawmakers to establish a unique set of rules for detaining, interrogating and trying foreigners believed to be involved in hostilities against the United States.

The bill is designed to confer Congress's approval for the first extrajudicial U.S. trials of non-soldiers since World War II. Many of its provisions were put in to ensure that the rough detention and interrogation policies adopted by the Bush administration in 2001 and 2002 -- and ruled illegal in June by the Supreme Court -- may continue undisturbed. [...]

The bill is complex partly because negotiations were rushed, following a timetable set by President Bush. The White House wants Congress to pass the legislation before adjourning at the end of next week, expecting Democrats to withhold challenges to its most controversial provisions in the pre-election period for fear of being portrayed as soft on terrorism.

But the language is also opaque because its chief objective -- the legitimization of irregular interrogations by the CIA -- is a topic shrouded in official secrecy.

"As you know, specific techniques are classified," White House national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said Thursday evening when he was asked which interrogation techniques the law sanctions. "This whole effort is to get a legal framework supported by the Congress" without letting terrorists know exactly what they will confront after capture, Hadley said. But he added that the draft language meets the CIA's needs.

From the outset, the challenge for the bill's Republican authors was to fit the government's desire for rough treatment and long detentions of terrorism suspects into a web of domestic and international rules and laws requiring fair trials and humane treatment for those held in captivity anywhere. These include the 10-year-old U.S. War Crimes Act, and the 50-year old Geneva Conventions.

Critics said yesterday that the bill's language abuses both of these, as well as the U.S. Constitution.

Detainee Deal Comes With Contradictions (ADAM LIPTAK, 9/23/06, NY Times)
The compromise reached on Thursday between Congressional Republicans and the White House on the interrogations and trials of terrorism suspects is, legal experts said yesterday, a series of interlocking paradoxes.

It would impose new legal standards that it forbids the courts to enforce.

It would guarantee terrorist masterminds charged with war crimes an array of procedural protections. But it would bar hundreds of minor figures and people who say they are innocent bystanders from access to the courts to challenge their potentially lifelong detentions.

And while there is substantial disagreement about just which harsh interrogation techniques the compromise would prohibit, there is no dispute that it would allow military prosecutors to use statements that had been obtained under harsh techniques that are now banned.

The complex, technical and often ambiguous language in the 94-page measure was a subject of debate, posturing and, perhaps, some wishful thinking yesterday.

You muddy the waters until everyone thinks they won...except the Democrats, GOP Upbeat on Terror-Trial Bill (Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman, September 23, 2006, Washington Post)
The House response all but settles an intraparty squabble and puts congressional Democrats in a difficult spot six weeks before elections in which they hope to wrest many House and Senate seats from the GOP. Some of the Democrats' liberal constituents dislike the bill, viewing it as a green light for President Bush to resume a CIA policy of interrogating foreign terrorism suspects with harsh techniques that some critics consider torture. But to oppose the compromise, which Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has embraced, would subject them to charges of being soft on terrorism, several analysts said.

Many Democrats would undoubtedly like to change the bill, "but probably those in competitive races will just have to stay behind McCain," said political scientist Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. A House Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss political strategy, said: "We had really hoped the White House had caved, but it's looking more and more like the senators caved."

'Maverick' GOP Senators Cave to Torture President (Cenk Uygur, September 23, 2006,

Wow, what mavericks! Those courageous, rebel Republican senators are at it again. They showed Bush a thing or two. Now, he wants be able to maim, rape and mutilate detainees. That ought to show him.

On the torture issue, the senators basically pretended to get a concession when the president said he would not reinterpret the Geneva Conventions ... when it comes to "grave breaches." But anything other than a grave breach the president has free reign to interpret and reinterpret any damn way he pleases.

First, let's go over what the "grave breaches" are: torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, performing biological experiments, murder, mutilation or maiming, rape, causing serious bodily injury, and sexual assault or abuse, and taking hostages.

Great, we won't be doing biological experiments on the detainees anymore. Since cruel and inhuman treatment's definition is not spelled out, this leaves us exactly where we were before. The president can order waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, physical abuse, etc., etc. It's all cool as long as no one is getting raped or mutilated. Are we not merciful?

In the end, what did the brave maverick Republican senators get on the torture issue? Bupkus!

Critics say bill on detainee interrogation will not prevent torture (Margaret Talev and Greg Gordon, 9/23/06, McClatchy Newspapers)
Several Democrats and civil-rights advocates charged Friday that a Republican compromise over the treatment of terrorism suspects leaves the door open for torture and abuse, while stripping captives of a basic right to a court appeal.

"This is a bill that's essentially going to continue to allow coercive interrogations," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented about 500 detainees, many of them held for more than four years at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

"I find it just shameful as a human-rights lawyer who's spent my life suing every dictator in the world over this kind of stuff."

Some military defense lawyers also assailed the compromise, contending the proposed rules would prevent them from learning whether evidence used against their clients was obtained through coercion or torture.

"It is worse than the system that was in place before," said Marine Corps Maj. Michael Mori, a military defense lawyer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


NBC Draws Protests From Conservatives (EDWARD WYATT, 9/23/06, NY Times)

“VeggieTales,” which NBC added to its Saturday morning line-up this month, was originally created for home video, and episodes of the video series routinely contain religious themes, Bible verses and statements about God’s love and purpose.

NBC secured the rights to the show as part of a children’s programming partnership called Qubo, which it formed earlier this year with Classic Media, the owner of the VeggieTales franchise; Scholastic, the children’s publisher; Ion Media Networks; and Corus Entertainment. When the deal was announced in August, the partners said the “VeggieTales” episodes would be edited to NBC programming guidelines.

Since the show went on the air, however, Phil Vischer, the co-creator of “VeggieTales,” has complained on his Internet site ( that NBC has ordered most if not all of the references to God and the Bible to be excised from the episodes prepared for NBC. [...]

Mr. Wurtzel said NBC did not believe it had deleted the show’s religious message; he said the network had bought the rights to “Veggie Tales” because of its positive religious themes but that it did ask for changes to comply with its standards.

“We are not a religious broadcaster,” he said. “There are universally accepted religious values that we do think are appropriate,” but the promotion of “any particular religion or a particular denomination” is not allowed.

“Clearly the show has religious themes,” Mr. Wurtzel said. “It puts forth some very specific religious values. We had to make a decision about where it went further than we considered appropriate.”

Fans of “VeggieTales” have objected that the edited versions make the message unrecognizable, and L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, wrote letters to NBC executives complaining about both the “VeggieTales” decision and another issue, a Madonna concert scheduled to be broadcast in November.

Even when they try to appeal to Red America they biff it. Maybe when they make programming decisions they could try and have a couple Kansans in the room?

September 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


America’s Republican guard: why so many US golfers align themselves to right-wing politics and born-again Christianity (Bruce Selcraig, 9/15/06, Irish Times)

[T]here’s still one significant cultural divide that, while hardly apparent to the casual golf fan, has now become so sensitive an issue most players simply avoid addressing it when they’re on the other’s turf. Simply put, many Europeans and other international players are put off by the overwhelming number of American PGA Tour players who identify themselves as George Bush-loving Republicans who support the US occupation of Iraq.

"Every movie you see, every book you read is like, ‘America, we’re the best country in the world,’" German Alex Cejka told me in May at the Byron Nelson tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. "When I hear this (from players) I could throw up. Sure it’s a great country . . . but you cannot say ‘we have the most powerful president in the world, the biggest country in the world’ . . . It’s sad that they are influenced by so much bullshit."

The affable and well-read Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who won the US Open and has lived in Arizona with his Texas wife for four years, says: "A lot of their conservative views (on tour) are way off the map . . . I think George Bush is a bit dangerous. I think the world is scared while he’s in office, (but) there’s less tolerance of diversity (in opinions) over here (and) people have more blind faith in their government."

Various Europeans have hinted that they have similar views, but say privately they’ll be crucified in American locker-rooms and newspapers if they publicly oppose Bush, his fundamentalist Christian agenda or the Iraq war. [...]

And sure enough, when told of the above comments by European golfers, American tour player Olin Browne, a 14-year veteran, responded thus: "The players who like to criticise America sure do like to come over here and play in our events." [...]

[T]here is definitely a sizeable and often vocal element among the Americans that follows politics, advocates right-wing Republican policies – tax cuts for the rich, corporate welfare, pro-death penalty, anti-gay marriage, anti-labour unions – and increasingly, identifies with evangelical Christian ideology.

In a Sports Illustrated survey of 76 US Tour players published in March, 88 per cent said they supported the American invasion of Iraq, and 91 per cent supported Bush’s controversial nomination of Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court – a judge who was welcomed by Republican and fundamentalist Christian groups as the court’s swing vote in one day outlawing abortion.

This Republican tilt on tour has been documented since at least the Ronald Reagan administration and is so widely accepted as fact that in the presidential election year of 1996, Golf Digest asked me to do a story on tour politics and specifically hunt for any golfer who would actually admit to supporting Clinton, a Democrat. (In 1993, some Republicans on the American Ryder Cup team threatened to boycott a visit to the White House to protest a Clinton tax plan that raised taxes on the rich.) My search turned up only one heretic – the former US Open winner Scott Simpson – a free spirit and "born-again Christian" who has now reversed his thinking and supports Bush.

For those unfamiliar with American politics, the Republican party has become inextricably tied to the evangelical Christian movement, which can mobilise millions of votes through its churches to affect local, state and national elections. George Bush, who campaigned for office as a born-again Christian, is the icon of the evangelical movement and once famously told a group of Amish farmers: "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job." [...]

David Feherty, the former Europe Ryder Cup member from Northern Ireland who is now a popular TV golf commentator in America, believes the very public display of fire-and-brimstone Christianity is still unsettling to most Europeans.

"I think a lot of Europeans find that conservative Christian thing as frightening as conservative Muslims," he says. "If you find any European pros who are in that Bible-thumping category, it’s usually because they’ve been to the United States."

Again, the Pew Research Center studies shed some light. Their 2002 survey of 38,000 people in 44 nations found that more people in the US (59 per cent) said religion was "very important" to them than in any other developed country – vastly more than even heavily Catholic Italy (27 per cent) or Poland (36 per cent).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


European job-killing machine (Richard W. Rahn, September 21, 2006, Washington Times)

A major reason the U.S. has grown more rapidly than most other developed countries is that unions and the government have, for the most part, been sensible enough to recognize both differences in job requirements and in personal preferences to allow employees and employers to voluntarily find ways to accommodate each other's needs to everyone's benefit. France, Germany and some of the other European countries have extremely rigid work rules, such as the French requirement that workers not work more than 35 hours weekly, even if they want to, and the almost impossibility of firing workers, no matter how lazy and incompetent. The predictable result is there has been little growth in private-sector employment in these countries -- the U.S., with a smaller population, has created more private sector jobs in the last four years than Europe has in the last 20.

Sweden is often cited as an example of the success of the high-tax high-spend European model. But in fact, Sweden has created virtually no new net private sector jobs since 1950, and has fallen from the fourth-richest, on a per capita basis, member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the group of major industrial countries) in 1970 to only 16th now.

Germany has had little economic growth in recent years, yet it has only flirted with economic reform, rather than moving boldly toward reducing job destroying impediments as Margaret Thatcher did in Britain and Ronald Reagan did in the United States.

Posted by Pepys at 3:32 PM


Even for Shoe Bombers, Education and Success Are Linked (AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, 14 Sep 2006, NY Times)

The fifth anniversary of 9/11 passed with a great deal of hand-wringing over all the people who want to kill Americans. Especially worrisome is the apparent rise of terrorists whose origins seem far from fanatical.
These terrorists are not desperately poor uneducated people from the Middle East. A surprisingly large share of them have college and even graduate degrees. Increasingly, they seem to be from Britain, like the shoe bomber Richard C. Reid and most of the suspects in the London Underground bombings and the liquid explosives plot.
This has left the public wondering, Why are some educated people from Western countries so prone to fanaticism?...
And sadly, it seems that educated and intelligent terrorists are better at doing that than uneducated, fundamentalist lunatics. Oh, that it weren’t so. Like the old advertisement said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
He doesn't even know how right he is. Imagine the last 200 years without intellectuals.

Posted by Pepys at 1:04 PM


Law and War: Competing Visions (Ronald Cass, 20 Sep 2006, RCP)

President Bush's position is easy to state and to understand: We are facing an enemy that has no national government, obeys no rules, and is dedicated to our destruction. They have attacked us repeatedly over more than a decade. We cannot fight al-Qaeda by destroying its homeland. We cannot retaliate against its atrocities by cutting off trade or attacking their cities.
The opposing position...
Is fully endorsed by Senators Kerry and McCain in all its glorious nuance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


The Detainee Deal: The White House Won — and So Did McCain: With Republicans together, the pressure is now on Democrats. (Byron York, 9/22/06, National Review)

Who won? Before the final deal came out, there had been speculation that the White House had “blinked” in the much-hyped confrontation. By the end, though, representatives of both sides professed satisfaction. “I think there is every reason for both sides to be happy,” the source says. “This was a situation where both the Congress and the administration shared a common objective,” Hadley told reporters afterward. “And what we did in a fairly creative way was come up with ways that we could all support to achieve that objective.”

Is one or the other — or both — spinning? Perhaps a little, but it does appear that both sides did, in fact, get the main things they wanted. And that raises questions about whether the showdown was ever quite as fundamental as the hype suggested. The Republican “dissenters” never wanted to cripple the CIA’s interrogation program — a program hated by many of the administration’s critics on the left. Rather, they wanted to work out a way to make most of the program legal using existing American law, not the Geneva Convention. And in that, they appear to have succeeded.

During a conference call after the senators announced the deal on Capitol Hill, Hadley said the proposed legislation satisfied President Bush’s number-one concern. “The president said that his sole standard with respect to Common Article III [of the Geneva Conventions] was going to be whether the CIA would be able to go forward with a program for questioning terrorists,” Hadley said. That program has “saved lives, both here at home, and saved lives on the battlefield.”

During the negotiations, Bush had issued a forceful threat to end the program if Congress did not give him what he wanted. Now, Hadley said, that won’t be an issue. “The program will go forward,” he explained, “and the men and women who are asked to carry out that program will have clarity as to the legal standard, will have clear congressional support, and will have legal protections as we ask them to do this difficult work.”

How did that come about, giving the president what he wanted while still addressing McCain/Graham/Warner’s concerns? The key to the deal was the decision to have Congress define, in U.S. law, what are called “grave breaches” of the Geneva Convention. “We recognized that the president has the authority to interpret treaties,” says the source aligned with McCain/Graham/Warner, “but Congress now has the authority to define ‘grave breaches.’” In doing so, the negotiators enumerated nine offenses that everyone agreed constituted a grave breach of the treaty: torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, performing biological experiments, murder, mutilation or maiming, rape, causing serious bodily injury, and sexual assault or abuse, and taking hostages.

The funny thing is, there are nuanced arguments to be made over who won more in the negotiations, but no question about who lost: the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


'Republicans Will Make History' (KEN MEHLMAN, September 22, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

Here at home, we are also working to reform government. We live in a global economy, one in which it is just as easy to create jobs in India as it is in Indiana. Republicans understand this, which is why we are committed to lower taxes, less regulation and fewer lawsuits. Republicans have cut taxes every year since George W. Bush was elected president. We have streamlined regulations, reformed bankruptcy laws, offered choice to Medicare recipients, and limited class-action lawsuits. The Democrats opposed every single one of those reforms -- and they are pledging to stand in our way as we move forward.

Republicans want to eliminate the death tax once and for all. Democrats want to bring it back. Republicans want to explore new sources of energy to bring gas and heating prices down. Democrats want to block domestic exploration. Republicans want small businesses to be able to band together to provide health care to their employees at a reasonable price. Democrats don't believe entrepreneurs should have that freedom. Republicans want all parents to have the choice of where they send their kids to school. Democrats would limit that choice to the rich and powerful. The list goes on and on.

It would be foolish not to acknowledge the challenges Republicans face this election cycle. We are up against history. It has been close to a century since Republicans have held the White House and the House of Representatives for eight straight years. Winning four elections in a row doesn't happen that often.

You can understand that Democrats oppose all these things. What's harder to explain is why National Review types do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


Afghanistan's Booming Economy (Ann Marlowe, 9/19/06, The Wall Street Journal

The recent spate of violence shouldn't be allowed to detract from the real story here: Afghanistan's booming economy. Frightened by exaggerated scare stories, American and other Western companies are missing out on lucrative investment opportunities grasped by ostensibly less sophisticated Afghan and regional players.

There's no shortage of profit to be made in an economy that grew 14% in the 12 months to March 21, and is expected to expand by a similar amount in the current financial year. In Kabul alone the number of cars and taxis has increased by one-third since last year to 400,000, up from fewer than 1,000 under the Taliban. Large sections of the city boast three- and four-storey buildings where mud brick houses stood only a few years ago, and twin 17- and 20-storey towers are currently under construction in Herat.

Telecom was one of the first big success stories. U.S. companies stood by as Afghanistan's first four mobile-phone licenses were auctioned off, starting in January 2003. The Afghan-American and regional investors who got licenses have profited as the number of private mobile-phone users rocketed from zero to 1.5 million over the last five years.

Now finance and banking is taking off -- and, once again, Western companies are missing out. First in the door were institutions from neighboring countries. Banks from Pakistan, Iran, India and the United Arab Emirates started opening branches in October 2003. Then, in 2004, the first two local banks opened up -- Kabul Bank and Afghanistan International Bank (AIB). A third, Azizi, joined them in June this year.

By next March, 16 banks are expected to be operating in Afghanistan.

What these investors see is a wide-open banking market.

We can't recommend Ms Marlowe's book highly enough.

Posted by Pepys at 11:18 AM


Women 'prefer skinny models' (Online Reporter, 20 Sep 2006, The Sun (UK))

WOMEN prefer thin models to those with fuller figures, new research claimed today.
Researchers handed 470 women pictures of models of various sizes.
Two-thirds gave a positive reaction towards the skinnier ones.
Only one in three reacted positively when faced with a larger model.
Those who preferred the skinnier models said they were "more elegant, interesting, likeable and pleasant".

Just take a look at the photos that go with the article. Clearly, the fashion industry is in a brutal race to the bottom. The feedback loop is simple, homosexuals wish the models were young boys and most women covet (secretly or not) their approval.

MORE: HELLO Magazine's Section on Liz Jagger in it's Special on "Hot Chicks"

Mick Jagger's 20-year-old daughter has already established herself as one of the hottest properties in the modelling business.
Having won a much-coveted contract as the face of Lancome cosmetics, the svelte brunette is unquestionably at the top of her game. And with a fee of £20,000 per shoot, she is also earning rather more than most women her age.

Yikes!!! You just knew that was not going to turn out well with Mick contributing 50% of the DNA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Thatcherism's final triumph: The complaint from the left against Blair is that he missed the chance to push Britain further leftwards. His failure to build a new consensus, plus the collapse in trust over Iraq, means the chance has now gone (Peter Wilby, October 2006, Prospect)

New Labour's public spending has not been high by either historical or international standards. True, more spending now goes on public services such as health and education, rather than on unemployment benefit, as was the case under the Tories. But the present level—the highest since 1997 at 43.1 per cent of national income and now set to fall—is still slightly below the average for industrialised countries. The "tax burden" is lower than in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and all the Scandinavian countries.

So how great was the public appetite for more tax-and-spend and more redistribution? Surveys consistently suggest it was considerable. For example, the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey in 2000 found that only 5 per cent of voters agreed the government "should reduce taxes and spend less on health, education and social benefits," while 50 per cent wanted more taxation and more such spending. Nearly 40 per cent agreed government should "spend more on welfare benefits for the poor even if it leads to higher taxes," while fewer than a third disagreed. After the budget of 2002—New Labour's most left-wing budget, with a sharp increase in NHS spending and a 1p national insurance rise to pay for it—Labour's poll ratings rose and Brown became the most popular chancellor in decades. More recently, BSA has reported that nearly three quarters of Britons think the gap between high and low incomes is too large and agree that taxes paid by the majority should help those most in need.

When it comes to the most characteristically Blairite policies—reform of public services, extension of choice and, in foreign affairs, the US alliance, even when that involves supporting George W Bush—public support has been lukewarm at best. The proportion of voters who think Britain is too close to America was recorded at 63 per cent by ICM this summer. Populus asked voters in 2004 if "taxpayer-funded public services… should be provided by the government, not private companies, because this is the best way to ensure everyone experiences the same standard of provision." It would be hard to think of a clearer statement of old-fashioned collectivist principle. Yet 71 per cent agreed.

All such findings have to be treated with extreme caution. People's behaviour doesn't always accord with what they tell pollsters and market researchers. And voters may will the end—decent public services and low levels of poverty, say—without accepting the means: that they may have to pay higher taxes themselves. In a Fabian study, carried out by ICM, well under 10 per cent thought the level of any of the main taxes—income tax, VAT, and cigarette, alcohol and petrol duty—was too low, and comfortable majorities thought them too high. Only when asked about income taxes on those earning over £70,000 a year did more than 25 per cent say they were too low. Just 0.8 per cent of respondents fell into that income bracket. In other words, when people say they support higher taxes, they usually assume that others will pay them. In the privacy of the polling booth, conscious of credit card debt, mortgages and fuel bills, they may support the party most likely to keep taxes down, and not tell anybody even when they've done so. Nevertheless, as Peter Kellner, director of YouGov, points out: "In 1997, most people expected Labour to put up taxes anyway, even though it had promised not to do so. In 2001, having established its economic credentials, it could certainly have raised the top rate of tax."

Kellner uses a new concept called "valence" to argue that, on most traditional left-right ideological issues, policies aren't nearly as important as politicians think. Provided they have confidence in the government's competence and good faith, voters don't care if taxes rise, or public services get reformed, or benefits go up. A "valence" position is one where people opt for a statement such as "what matters most is whether the government of the day taxes fairly and spends efficiently" in preference to statements that support any particular level of tax and spending, whether higher, lower or the same as now. YouGov polling finds that, on issues such as redistribution and taxation, people overwhelmingly opt for the "valence" statement. This applies particularly to those who have no strong party identification—the potential floating voters—but even among very strong Tory identifiers, more plump for the "valence" option than for a cut in taxes. True, on this measure, only 18 per cent of Labour's strongest supporters want more tax and spending and only 31 per cent more help for the poor; but, argues Kellner, the analysis suggests that "Blair and his ministers had more freedom to be progressive than is generally realised." Only on such issues as crime, punishment and immigration do people have strong preferences for particular policies—and those policies are mostly right-wing, suggesting that New Labour has at least been right to adopt a tough rhetoric, if not tough policies, on these subjects.

But if you are a leftist, you should now prepare to weep, for two reasons. First, in the wake of the Iraq war, the honours scandal and several other well-publicised disasters, notably at the home office, the government's competence and good faith are now widely questioned. "When there's a gap between rhetoric and reality, as there was in the case of WMD," says John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, "it's corrosive." Polls report high levels of contentment, confidence and optimism in Britain compared with other industrialised nations. Yet, asked if they think the government has improved or will improve anything, people give an overwhelming negative. In other words, the chances of "valence" working to Labour's advantage—of the government getting away with left-wing policies because the electorate broadly trusts its intentions—have receded considerably over the past three years.

Second, it seems that, far from building a progressive consensus, New Labour may have strengthened support for Thatcherism. Evidence for this comes from research by Curtice and Stephen Fisher, an Oxford sociologist, drawing on the BSA survey and the British Election Panel studies. They show that from 1986 to 1996, support for government redistribution from the better off to the less well off never fell below 43 per cent, and was often above 50 per cent. Since 1997 it has stayed consistently below 40 per cent, having first fallen from a peak of 51 per cent just after Blair became Labour leader in 1994. Attitudes to the welfare state—the belief that there are large numbers of scroungers, for example—have become less positive (or, at best, no more positive) since 1997. It is almost as if people had decided that if even a Labour leader didn't seem to believe in redistribution, the idea must belong to the political fringes.

Even more worryingly for the left, it seems that Blair has turned Labour supporters against the idea of redistribution. It is almost a truism that Labour is now a middle-class party, as perhaps it needed to be given that the middle classes now account for the majority of the population. But Blair has changed the ideological base of the party's support as well as its social base. According to Curtice and Fisher, he did so not so much by recruiting new supporters as by changing the views of existing supporters. On classic left-right social and economic issues, the differences between Tory and Labour supporters are considerably less than they were in the 1980s and early 1990s. And that is largely because Labour supporters, not Tory supporters, have changed.

In short, Labour probably had an opportunity to pursue left-wing policies, but it has gone.

The point of Blairism was to push Labour to the Right, not England to the Left

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Hugo's book club? Chavez speech sparks sales for Chomsky (CBC Arts, 9/21/06)

Author Noam Chomsky got an unexpected boost in sales after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cited one of his books in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Net Gains (JESSIE STONE, 9/22/06, NY Times)

TO many of us in the malaria-control business, it came as no great surprise last week when the World Health Organization recommended wider use of DDT in Africa to combat the mosquitoes that cause the disease, which kills more than a million people a year, most of them children in Africa.

The W.H.O.’s endorsement of DDT for spraying inside houses has the support of Congress and the Bush administration.

A helpful reminder that if the National Review types get their wish and Democrats are returned to power there are very real consequences.

May the Best Man Lose: Should anyone want to win the November election? (Jacob Weisberg, Sept. 20, 2006, Slate)

It is possible that the Republican defeatists are merely offering in advance a rationalization for a loss they expect in November, even if the latest polls and Slate's mathematician offer some encouragement for them to think they'll retain control of the House. And some Republicans—including several who contributed to a forum in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly—are primarily making a substantive point about how the GOP has abandoned its principles. They argue that Republicans, who have controlled the House since the 1994 Gingrich revolution, need to be punished for their corruption and pork-barrel excess. Out of power, some principled conservatives hope, their party might learn to stand for something again.

But to several other conservative analysts, the case for defeat is explicitly political. National Review writers Jonah Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru, among others, think Republicans really would win strategically by losing this election (or, if you prefer, lose by winning it). These conservatives tend to fixate on how popular Republicans would be fighting off lefty hate-figures, including would-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and the putative committee chairmen John Conyers, Charles Rangel, and Alcee Hastings.

With oil prices returning to realistic levels, the Fed about to start cutting, and a looming peace dividend as the WoT wraps up, it's a particularly good time to be in power. You'd think the GOP would have learned that lesson after letting Bill Clinton reap the windfall from ending the Cold War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


An American Victory Is in the Forecast (Thomas Boswell, September 22, 2006, Washington Post)

Just 19 years ago, the Ryder Cup came of age when, for the first time, Europe defended the Cup on American soil -- winning on a course built by Jack Nicklaus in Dublin, Ohio. Now, we've come full circle. The Americans are the betting underdogs, the scorned side, the losers of four of the last five Cups who were trounced two years ago by the ludicrous score of 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 . So, they seek revenge just a few miles from a different Dublin on an Arnold Palmer-designed American-style parkland course.

The Americans will win here. They're not the better dozen men. The winner in the Ryder Cup seldom is. Time after time, the disrespected team, or the favorite with its back to the wall on Sunday or the team with a sense of some unique purpose, carries the Cup home. And the team that overestimates itself or preens too soon, ends up feeling the pressure. Such factors matter inordinately in the Cup for a simple reason. Distinctions in golf talent are measured in tenths of a stroke. So, psychology rules.

To prove the point, 16 of the 24 players here are ranked in the top 24 in the world. Round off their scoring averages for the year to the nearest stroke: The best is 69 while the worst is 71. That's how, on a Ryder Cup Sunday, Phil Mickelson can lose to a Phillip Price, or Tiger Woods can fall to an aging Constantino Rocca. More to the point for Americans, who suffer on Friday and Saturday in four-ball and foursomes matches, a team of Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, neither a major championship winner, can beat a team of Woods and Mickelson.

Besides, some time in the last two years, the Europeans and Americans have mysteriously switched identities.

"This is probably, hate to say before the event starts, but this is our strongest team we've ever put together. [European captain] Ian [Woosnam] said it as well," said Colin Montgomerie, who has succeeded Seve Ballesteros as Europe's leader, clutch player and agitator of the Americans. Later, Monty surpassed himself on TV, saying, "I believe we're the best team there's ever been."

Then, just to jack up the intensity a notch, he noted that, since this was the first Ryder Cup played in Ireland: "I can't fathom losing in Ireland. We've got to win here. They are hugely expecting a victory. There's going to be a national state of mourning [otherwise]. The pressure's on."

Just two years ago, the United States was "hugely expected" to win in Michigan, and American players said their team was so deep anybody could be paired with anybody. In effect, a monkey could captain the team, which, of course, proved untrue. Now, the words have been exactly reversed, although unconsciously.

This Time, U.S. Ryder Team Has Done Its Homework (TONY DEAR, September 22, 2006, NY Sun)
Miguel de Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote," knew the value of preparation. "Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory," he famously said. Amelia Earhart thought it even more important — roughly 17% more. "Preparation is two-thirds of any venture," she once remarked. "Chance favors the prepared mind," thought Louis Pasteur.

If they're right, and they often were, Tom Lehman and his American team will surely win this year's Ryder Cup, which starts today at the K Club, just outside Dublin, Ireland.

For going on two years, Lehman has left precious few stones unturned in his quest to bring the little gold cup back to America. Not since 1999, when the U.S. side recovered from a 10–6 deficit after two days to win eight of the first nine singles matches on the Sunday and eventually win by a single point, has the chalice resided on this side of the Atlantic. However, if the captain's painstaking homework has anything to do with the outcome, the U.S. side is in a good position to halt a decade of poor showings for which a lack of team spirit has often been cited as the main culprit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


“The Axis of the Sacred“ and interreligious criticism. Byzantium in Regensburg (Pietro De Marco, 9/22/06, Chiesa)

John Paul II’s constant – and productive, contrary to many forecasts – practice of paying attention to Islamic sensibilities, as well as the objective convergence of the Holy See and the Muslim world on the issues of bioethics (beginning with what was called the “clash in Cairo” in 1994) seem to Benedict XVI to be secure achievements. From now on, he wants to open a new phase in relations with Islam. He is asking Islamic subjectivity for an increase of self-critical understanding. In other words, the pope wants to integrate whatever there is of reciprocal trust between the Church and the greater Islamic community, which has been laboriously achieved on pragmatic grounds, with the first attempt at a true and proper dialogue, which is something more than coexistence without open conflict.

This attempt at dialogue concerns the premises above all. One of these is the choice of a common terrain of reason. The second, which is almost a corollary, concerns militant faith. We know that militant faith is not pathological, but is an integral part of the salvation religions. But Islam must – according to pope Benedict – critically renounce the current violent and warmongering version of “jihad.” So it is that the “Dialogues with a Mohammedan” – contentious discussions between a Christian, the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos, and a learned Persian, composed by Manuel at the tremendous conjuncture of the end of the fourteenth century, during the years when Constantinople was under siege and help was sought in vain from Europe – seemed to Benedict XVI a perfect example upon which to focus. For the emperor, reflection upon the essential, which is the encounter of biblical law and Qur’anic law, was not made implausible by the fact that the enemy was looming. The urbane sovereign nonetheless thought of relations with the opposing and conquering religion as an encounter of truths.

At the same time, war-waging Islam was not assuaged, but in the seventh “Dialogue” it was traced back through the argumentation to its founder, Mohammed, in order to ask the Persian participant for a response (which would be extended and important, see “Dialogue” 7:5a-5d). In short, if the encounter between faiths did not dissimulate the presence of weapons, the armies of the sultan on the Bosphorus did not prevent posing the decisive question on the terrain of rational examination.

Pope Benedict wants, then, to tell his Islamic listener today that Christianity and the West know that Islam is armed and, in part, at war; and that they will be able to respond to this, as has already happened, after and notwithstanding the fall of Constantinople. But the pope is pointing out in the first place to the faith and the doctrine of men and cultures that the terrain of the encounter of truth and for truth is different. It is that of the “Logos.” But Islam has also practiced the “Logos,” and at the service of faith, for centuries and everywhere, from Andalusia to Baghdad, from Cairo to Persia.

He puts that an awful lot better than the Pope did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Brown feels the Cameron effect: Tory leader judged best PM, more likeable, honest and enthusiastic (Julian Glover, September 22, 2006, Guardian)

The scale of the challenge facing Gordon Brown as Labour's likely next leader is revealed today by a Guardian/ICM poll showing that voters believe David Cameron would make a more effective prime minister and that Britain will be better off if Labour loses the next election.

As activists prepare to head to Manchester for the party's annual conference, beginning on Sunday, the poll suggests voters may be tired of Labour: 70% said they agreed with the phrase it was "time for change", if there were a general election tomorrow, and only 23% agreed with the phrase "continuity is important, stick with Labour". [...]

Labour support has been on 31% or 32% in four of the last six Guardian/ICM polls, the party's worst sustained performance since the early 1990s. [...]

Asked what they would do if Mr Brown replaced Mr Blair, voters turn away from Labour, with support dropping one point to 31% while the Conservatives climb to 37%. A six-point lead could give the opposition the edge as the winner of the most seats at Westminster.

The most daunting prospect for Labour is that ditching Tony's partner hurts rather than helps--they're stuck to the Right.

Britain's Next Prime Minister - But for How Long? (NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT, September 22, 2006, NY Sun)

The next prime minister of Britain was in New York yesterday, addressing the Clinton Global Initiative. When asked where Gordon Brown was speaking, the woman on the desk answered, "Poverty. Second floor," which is hardly doing him justice. As the longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1832, Mr. Brown has transformed the British economy, ironing out its peaks and troughs, boosting the value of the pound, and allowing the British people 10 uninterrupted years of unprecedented prosperity. [...]

There is no doubt Mr. Brown is a strong and devoted Atlanticist who has stalwartly kept the Europeans and their single currency at one remove.

For the last 20 years he has vacationed in Cape Cod. Since his marriage in 2000, he has taken with him his wife Sarah and now their children, Jennifer and John, where, implausibly perhaps, but for those who know him quite typically, he has nestled down on the beach with a copy of the Federalist Papers or the latest biography of a Founding Father.

He is highly knowledgeable about American political history and the early years of the Republic, which, like his beloved Edinburgh, was a product of the Enlightenment. He values hard work and, as a son of the kirk — his father was a Presbyterian minister — piety, modesty and honesty. He counts among his friends Senator Kennedy, Bill Clinton, James Carville and Alan Greenspan. And if, when elected, he is not seen embracing President Bush as closely as his predecessor, it will be because he is a prudent politician who wishes to ensure victory in the next general election.

Always amusing to hear folks natter about how the American Century is over when you've got Labour leaders reading the Federalists and a Tocquevillian Pope.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:51 AM


Musharraf: U.S. threatened to bomb Pakistan 'into stone age' (Associated Press, September 21st , 2006)

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan says the United States threatened to bomb his country back to the Stone Age after the 9-11 attacks if he did not help America's war on terror.

Mr. Musharraf says the threat was delivered by Richard Armitage, then the deputy secretary of state, to Mr. Musharraf's intelligence director, the Pakistani leader told CBS-TV's 60 Minutes.

“The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,”' Mr. Musharraf said in the interview to be shown Sunday on the CBS television network.

It was insulting, Mr. Musharraf said. “I think it was a very rude remark,” he told reporter Steve Kroft.

Well, it sure would have been if it were true, but our sources say this is an outrageous lie and that all Armitage did was threaten to bomb them back to the Middle Ages.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:22 AM


Starbucks Raises Prices of Coffee Drinks (Associated Press, September 22nd, 2006)

Got three bucks? That and a nickel will buy you a coffee drink at Starbucks. Starbucks Corp. said Thursday that it planned to raise prices of its lattes, cappuccinos, drip coffee and other drinks by 5 cents, or an average of 1.9 percent.

The increase, which goes into effect Oct. 3 at all company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada, will mark the first time the company has boosted drink prices in two years.

Starbucks also is increasing the price of its coffee beans by about 50 cents per pound, or an average of 3.9 percent. That's the first price increase for whole beans in nine years, spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil said.

Thankfully, some things cost more than they used to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Russians are urged to take the afternoon off, go home and make a baby (Adrian Blomfield, 22/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The governor of a Russian province gave workers an afternoon off and told them to go home and multiply in the most direct attempt yet by officials seeking to tackle the country's growing depopulation crisis.

Bureaucrats have been dreaming up ever more imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia's demographic crisis – caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism – as the country's biggest threat.

But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga.

In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his "Give birth to a patriot" campaign launched last week offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia's Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:02 AM


Britain may apologise over slavery
(Philip Johnston, The Telegraph, September 22nd, 2006)

The Government may say sorry for Britain's role in the slave trade when the country marks the 200th anniversary next year of the legislation that led to its abolition.

An advisory committee, chaired by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, which is overseeing preparations for the bicentenary, is considering issuing "a statement of regret" on March 25, the date that the Slave Trade Act was passed by Parliament. Although such a declaration is said in Whitehall to fall short of the formal apology demanded by some campaigners, it would nevertheless be seen as one.[...]

Campaigners for a national apology say slavery was sustained by actions of the British government. But Whitehall advisers fear that an apology could leave the Government open to claims for reparation from descendants of slaves.

This recalls a hilarious parody of Nixon during Watergate when a talented mimic had him accepting full responsibility for the mess—but not the blame. “Let me explain the difference”, he intoned. “A person who accepts the blame loses his job. A person who accepts the responsibility does not.”

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:32 AM


California sues automakers for climate damages (Michael Kahn, Reuters, September 22nd, 2006)

The administration of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced it is suing six of the world's largest automakers over global warming, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in environmental damage in the state.

Named in the suit, filed late Wednesday, are: General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., the U.S. arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG and the North American units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.

"Global warming is causing significant harm to California's environment, economy, agriculture and public health. The impacts are already costing millions of dollars, and the price tag is increasing," Attorney-General Bill Lockyer said after filing the suit.

Shouldn't California politicians come with health warnings?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Listening With Ornette Coleman: Seeking the Mystical Inside the Music (BEN RATLIFF, 9/22/06, NY Times)

THE alto saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman, one of the last of the truly imposing figures from a generation of jazz players that was full of them, seldom talks about other people’s music. People generally want to ask him about his own, and that becomes the subject he addresses. Or half-addresses: what he’s really focused on is a set of interrelated questions about music, religion and the nature of being. Sometimes he can seem indirect, or sentimental, or thoroughly confusing. Other times he sounds like one of the world’s killer aphorists.

In any case, other people’s music was what I wanted to talk to him about. I asked what he would like to listen to. “Anything you want,” he said in his fluty Southern voice. “There is no bad music, only bad performances.” He finally offered a few suggestions. The music he likes is simply defined: anything that can’t be summed up in a common term. Any music that is not created as part of a style. “The state of surviving in music is more like ‘what music are you playing,’ ” he said. “But music isn’t a style, it’s an idea. The idea of music, without it being a style — I don’t hear that much anymore.”

Then he went up a level. “I would like to have the same concept of ideas as how people believe in God,” he said. “To me, an idea doesn’t have any master.” [...]

MR. COLEMAN’S first request was something by Josef Rosenblatt, the Ukrainian-born cantor who moved to New York in 1911 and became one of the city’s most popular entertainers — as well as a symbol for not selling out your convictions. (He turned down a position with a Chicago opera company, but was persuaded to take a small role in Al Jolson’s film “The Jazz Singer.”) I brought some recordings from 1916 and we listened to “Tikanto Shabbos,” a song from Sabbath services. Rosenblatt’s voice came booming out, strong and clear at the bottom, with miraculous coloratura runs at the top.

“I was once in Chicago, about 20-some years ago,” Mr. Coleman said. “A young man said, ‘I’d like you to come by so I can play something for you.’ I went down to his basement and he put on Josef Rosenblatt, and I started crying like a baby. The record he had was crying, singing and praying, all in the same breath. I said, wait a minute. You can’t find those notes. Those are not ‘notes.’ They don’t exist.”

He listened some more. Rosenblatt was working with text, singing brilliant figures with it, then coming down on a resolving note, which was confirmed and stabilized by a pianist’s chord. “I want to ask something,” he said. “Is the language he’s singing making the resolution? Not the melody. I mean, he’s resolving. He’s not singing a ‘melody.’ ”

It could be that he’s at least singing each little section in relation to a mode, I said.

“I think he’s singing pure spiritual,” he said. “He’s making the sound of what he’s experiencing as a human being, turning it into the quality of his voice, and what he’s singing to is what he’s singing about. We hear it as ‘how he’s singing.’ But he’s singing about something. I don’t know what it is, but it’s bad.”

I wonder how much of it is really improvised, I said. Which up-and-down melodic shapes, and in which orders, were well practiced, and which weren’t.

“Mm-hmm,” he said. “I understand what you’re saying. But it doesn’t sound like it’s going up and down; it sounds like it’s going out. Which means it’s coming from his soul.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Republicans Reach Deal on Detainee Bill (KATE ZERNIKE, 9/22/06, NY Times)

The Bush administration and Congressional Republicans reached agreement Thursday on legislation governing the treatment and interrogation of terrorism suspects after weeks of debate that divided Republicans heading into the midterm elections. [...]

Democrats have put their trust in Senators Graham, McCain and Warner to push back against the White House, and Thursday they signaled that they intended to continue cooperating. “Five years after Sept. 11, it is time to make the tough and smart decisions to give the American people the real security they deserve,” said the Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.

No wonder the Left has become so deranged, as they watch things like a "debate" that occurs wholly between a conservative president and conservative senators of his own party, with nary a Democrat willing to speak up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Case for Immigration (DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, September 22, 2006, NY Sun)

Annual immigration is a tiny fraction of our labor force. The Pew Hispanic Center Report shows that annual immigration from all countries as a percent of the labor force has been declining since its recent peak in 1999.

Annual immigration in 1999 equaled 1% of the labor force — by 2005 it had declined to 0.8%. Hispanics, including undocumented workers, peaked in 2000 as a percent of the labor force at 0.5%, and by 2004 accounted for only 0.4% (0.3% for Mexicans) of the labor force.

Looking at unskilled workers, Hispanic immigration as a percent of the American unskilled labor force (defined as those without a high school diploma) peaked in 2000 at 6%, and was 5% in 2004 (4% for Mexicans). Five percent is not "floods of immigrants."

Mr. Malanga writes that America does not have a vast labor shortage because "unemployment among unskilled workers is high — about 30%." It isn't. In 2005, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for adults without a high school diploma was 7.6%. Last month it stood at 6.9%.

Data from a recent study by senior economist Pia Orrenius of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank show that foreign-born Americans are more likely to work than native-born Americans. Leaving their countries by choice, they are naturally more risk-taking and entrepreneurial.

In 2005 the unemployment rate for native-born Americans was 5.2%, but for foreign-born it was more than half a percentage point lower, at 4.6%. For unskilled workers, although the total unemployment rate was 7.6%, the native-born rate was 9.1% and the foreign-born was much lower, at 5.7%.

According to Mr. Malanga, unskilled immigrants "work in shrinking industries where they force out native workers." However, data show otherwise. Low-skilled immigrants are disproportionately represented in the expanding service and construction sectors, with occupations such as janitors, gardeners, tailors, plasterers, and stucco masons. Manufacturing, the declining sector, employs few immigrants.

One myth repeated often is that immigrants depress wages of native-born Americans. As Professor Giovanni Peri of the University of California at Davis describes in a new National Bureau of Economic Analysis paper last month, immigrants are complements, rather than substitutes, for native-born workers. As such, they are not competing with native-born workers, but providing our economy with different skills.

The simple reality is that we need and can easily absorb far more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Polls Indicate Thais Welcome Military Action After Months of Political Uncertainty (Ron Corben, 22 September 2006, VOA News)

A poll released after Tuesday's military coup in Thailand showed Thais overwhelmingly support the action, because it ended months of political tensions.

The respected Rajabhat Institute poll showed more than 80 percent approval for the coup, which ended the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr. Thaksin is now in London.

Early this year, tens-of-thousands of protesters called on Mr. Thaksin to resign over allegations of corruption and abuse of power. There also were growing rifts between the prime minister and the military.

Democracy is too important to be left prey to bad election results.

September 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Branson will invest Virgin profits in a green future (CRAIG BROWN, 9/22/06, The Scotsman)

SIR Richard Branson yesterday announced he would invest £1.6 billion over the next decade to help tackle global warming and promote alternative energy.

The Virgin Group tycoon said he would redirect all profits from his travel firms over the next ten years.

If he really believes global warming is man-made, why doesn't he shut down the airline until alternative ways of powering the planes are found?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 PM


Abbas tells UN new Palestinian government will recognise Israel (AFP, 9/21/06)

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that any new Palestinian government would recognise Israel.

"I would like to reaffirm that any future Palestinian government will commit to all the agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority have committed to," he said in a speech to the assembly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


Would 24-hour breakfast sell like hot cakes? (CHERYL V. JACKSON, 9/21/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Memo to late-rising McDonald's sausage, egg and biscuit lovers: Get your hopes up. It might be possible to get the item way past traditional breakfast hours.

In describing a kitchen layout the company is developing that would enable customers to get a better view of food preparation, McDonald's Corp. CEO Jim Skinner painted a picture Wednesday of his chain serving breakfast all day long.

I love the smell of a McGriddle in the evening...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Smokers may have higher risk of HIV (Reuters, 9/21/06)

Smoking, already linked to several illnesses, may also increase the risk of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, researchers said on Thursday.

If they cared about themselves they wouldn't engage in high-risk pathologies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Sweden's Turn to the Right (Stanley Reed and Ariane Sains, 9/21/06, Business Week)

[Fredrik Reinfeldt, the 41-year-old leader of the Moderate Party,] a Stockholm native who compares himself to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, promised to reduce unemployment—officially about 5% but really more like 7.5% due to undercounting—by cutting taxes employers pay on wages of employees, and by trimming income taxes and other disincentives to investment and work.

The conservative coalition would also cut Sweden's current 1.5% tax on wealth above about $200,000, in a move intended to encourage entrepreneurship and even lure wealthy tax exiles and their capital home. Real estate taxes are also likely to be cut. These are all moves that business has been urging for years, arguing that punitive taxes were a threat to the country's competitiveness.

Sweden's tax system is geared "toward stopping wealth instead of stopping poverty," wrote Urban Backstrom, director general of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and a former Central Bank governor, in the Sept. 18 issue of Dagens Industri, the Stockholm business newspaper.

The idea isn't to dismantle the cherished Swedish welfare state, Reinfeldt explained in an interview with BusinessWeek last year. That would be too controversial. "I saw my party lose election after election on this," he said. Instead, Reinfeldt will reform and update the Swedish model, keeping winning elements such as the excellent educational system. Reinfeldt, for instance, would resume selling off state hospitals to private companies. "To be able to have a welfare state we have to make it more interesting for people to have a job," was how he summed up his approach. [...]

The defeat of the Social Democrats, who have ruled Sweden almost continuously since World War II, will be a boost for right-leaning groups in other European countries, from the Conservatives in Britain to France's interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading conservative candidate for next spring's presidential vote.

Odd that they never mention the implications for our own Democratic Party, which stands in the way of such reforms too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM


Army Ends Best Recruit Year Since 1997 (ROBERT BURNS, September 21, 2006, The Associated Press)

The Army is ending its best recruiting year since 1997 and expecting similar success in 2007, despite the weight of grim war news from Iraq, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said Thursday.

In an Associated Press interview, Harvey said the Army will enlist its 80,000th soldier on Friday, reaching its goal for the year with eight days to spare. That is a considerable turnaround from last year when the Army missed its target for the first time since 1999 and by the widest margin in more than two decades.

You just can't spin this few casualties into grim news.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


Assisted suicide bid for the depressed (Sam Coates, 9/21/06, Times of London)

BRITONS suffering from depression could soon be legally helped to die in Switzerland if a test case in the country’s Supreme Court is successful next month.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:29 PM


Hatred slithers back into soccer (Cathal Kelly, Toronto Star, September 21st, 2006)

After a summer of love in the stands, the hate has started to creep back into soccer's heart. Racist outbursts continued to mar matches across Europe only weeks after FIFA's huge push to counter terrace bigotry during the World Cup.

The persistent problem was illustrated during a Bundesliga match last weekend. A tilt between Alemannia Aachen and Borussia Moenchengladbach was disrupted by chants of asylant (refugee) directed at Moenchengladbach's Brazilian-born forward Kahe. At the half, referee Michael Weiner got on the stadium's loudspeaker to warn fans that the game would be forfeited if the taunt was repeated. The result? During the second half, Moenchengladbach's fans picked up where their opponents left off, shouting racial abuse at a Zambian player on Aachen.

Before the World Cup, FIFA president Sepp Blatter publicly mused about docking points from teams whose fans racially abuse opponents. During the tournament, FIFA's "Say No to Racism" flags were displayed before every match and on the hoarding at every stadium.

They took down all anti-Jewish signs for the ‘36 Olympics too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Iran could halt nuclear enrichment -president (Paul Taylor and Carol Giacomo, 9/21/06, Reuters)

Iran is prepared to negotiate a suspension of its most sensitive nuclear work if it receives fair guarantees in talks with major powers, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.

"Hey, Mahmoud, Richard Armitage on line 1...."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Harkin defends Venezuelan President's U-N speech against Bush (Darwin Danielson, 9/21/06, Radio Iowa)

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a democrat, today defended Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Nations speech in which Chavez called President George Bush the devil. Harkin said the comments were "incendiary", then went on to say, "Let me put it this way, I can understand the frustration, ah, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush's policies." Harkin continued what has been frequent criticism of the president's foreign policy.

Senator Harkin was on the wrong side in the Cold War too, if you'll recall:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


US threatened to bomb Pakistan 'back to stone age' after 9/11: Musharraf (AFP, Sep 21, 2006)

The United States threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" unless it cooperated in the US-led war on terror, President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview.

Musharraf, whose support for the US-led invasion of Afghanistan was instrumental in the fall of the hardline Taliban regime after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said the threat came from former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage.

"The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the stone age'," Musharraf said in the interview with the 60 minutes investigative news programme to be broadcast Sunday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


It’s the Bushes and Clintons, Finding Common Ground (PATRICK HEALY, 9/21/06, NY Times)

[T]here was President Bush meeting with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, at the Waldorf-Astoria. And there was former President Bill Clinton convening a conference on global concerns at a nearby Sheraton, and listening to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan chastise Pope Benedict XVI for the pope’s remarks about Islam. And there was the first lady, Laura Bush, giving the Clinton conclave some juice by announcing a new project to deliver clean water to 10 million Africans by 2010.

Mr. Musharraf, echoing an old slogan of Mr. Clinton’s, could have been reflecting the ethos of the Midtown diplomacy — not to mention the Bushes and the Clintons — when he told the conference that in dealing with all religious faiths, “This is a time to build bridges and not burn bridges.”

In truth, it was just another day in the intriguing world of BushClinton (or ClintonBush, if you will): A world in which a Bush presidency begat a Clinton presidency that begat a Bush presidency that may lead to — well, one can speculate.

Jeb Bush presiding over a Senate where Ms Clinton is Minority Leader.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


US expresses support for transatlantic free trade zone (Raphael Minder in Cairns, Australia, and Andrew Bounds in Brussels, September 20 2006, Financial Times)

Susan Schwab, US trade representative, on Wednesday welcomed the news that Germany was considering reviving plans for a transatlantic single market, saying these were unlikely to clash with attempts to relaunch the Doha round of multilateral trade talks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Fitzgerald given way out of Libby CIA leak case (Joel Seidman, 9/21/06, NBC News)

The judge in the CIA leak case ruled Thursday that if Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald feels that admitting certain classified documents at the upcoming trial of I Lewis "Scooter" Libby can jeopardize national security, Fitzgerald can then move to dismiss the perjury charges against Libby.

Mr. Libby ought to do time for misleading investigators, but the counsel's office has humiliated itself so badly they'll likeky take the graceful way out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:12 PM


Boeing takes 47 new jet orders, worth more than $4 bln (Reuters, 9/21/06)

Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA - News) announced new orders for 47 planes from unidentified buyers on Thursday, worth more than $4 billion overall, including 16 for its new carbon and titanium 787 Dreamliner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Hard to argue that the Yankees don't have the worst bullpen of the AL playoff teams

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Wal-Mart to Sell Generic Drugs for $4 (ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, 9/21/06, AP)

Wal-Mart announced today that it will start a test program in Florida, where it will sell generic prescription drugs for $4 for a 30-day supply. The test will start tomorrow in 65 Tampa Bay-area stores and is to expand to the whole state by January.

In a statement, CEO Lee Scott says the world's largest retailer intends to "take the program to as many states as possible next year."

On average, generic drugs tend to cost between $10 and $30 for a month-long supply.

The world's biggest retailer said Thursday that it will test the program in Florida and it will include 291 generic drugs available for conditions from allergies to high-blood pressure. The plan is available to its employees and customers, including those without insurance.

Wal-Mart officials said the reduced price represents a savings to the customer of up to 70 percent on some drugs.

Wal-Mart to Offer $4 Generic Prescriptions (MICHAEL BARBARO, 9/21/06, NY Times)
The giant discount chain, which has used its size to knock down the costs of toys, clothing and groceries, will sell 300 generic drugs for as low as $4 for a one-month supply.

Not if Democrats can stop them!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Why US speaks softly with China on trade: The new Treasury secretary worries that China's economy is more fragile than it appears (Mark Trumbull, 9/21/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"If reform stalls, the Chinese economy will stall, and that is in nobody's interest," says Daniel Griswold, an economist at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington. Paulson "understands that our interest is in a thriving, liberalizing China." [...]

Among the challenges: an outdated financial system heavy on bad loans, state-owned businesses in distress, a volatile social rift between prosperous urbanites and the rural poor, and the looming burden of a rising elderly population.

Why would a more affluent and liberalized China be more stable, rather than less?

MORE (via Andries Thijssen):
S. Koreans Search Far and Wide for a Wife: Facing a shortage of prospective rural brides, many men are forced to look abroad. (Barbara Demick, September 21, 2006, LA Times)

Despite the obvious pitfalls, South Korean men increasingly are going abroad to find wives. They have little choice in the matter unless they want to remain bachelors for life.

The marriage market in Asia is becoming rapidly globalized, and just in time for tens of thousands of single-but-looking South Korean men, most of them in the countryside where marriageable women are in scant supply. With little hope of finding wives of their own nationality and producing children to take over the farm, the men are pooling their family's resources to raise up to $20,000 to find a spouse abroad.

The phenomenon has become so widespread that last year 13% of South Korean marriages were to foreigners. More than a third of the rural men who married last year have foreign wives, most of them Vietnamese, Chinese and Philippine. That's a huge change in a country once among the most homogenous in the world.

To some extent, the globalized marriage market is having a trickle-down effect, exacerbating the shortage of marriage-age women elsewhere, particularly China.

"There is a long-standing son preference throughout Asia, but now it is happening in the context of this 21st century marriage market," said Valerie M. Hudson, a political scientist and author of "Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population."

The preference for sons has translated in South Korea into 113 male births for every 100 females. Ultrasound became widely available here in the 1980s, and the first generation screened for gender before birth is now coming of marriageable age.

Think freer trade will solve Asia's birth dearth?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM

MY BODY GUARD (via Tom Morin):

Quacks over the ages (Druin Burch, Times of London)

Expert opinion is treacherous. Consider a paper from last year’s British Medical Journal, looking at four decades of trials on new cancer treatments. The theory behind each treatment was excellent, the understanding of the molecular processes was first-rate, and initial small studies had shown some evidence of benefit. Doctors thought the new treatments would work; but the trials showed that they harmed as often as they helped. That is to say, without the benefit of large-scale, randomized, double-blind controlled trials, doctors were unable to pick out the treatments that worked from those that were total failures.

To an extent, the dangers of expert opinion explain why doctors have spent most of human history killing their patients. Women giving birth in hospitals frequently paid for the privilege with their lives, while physicians, apothecaries and surgeons all doled out bad advice and poisonous drugs. Therapeutic nihilists were the best the medical profession had to offer, like the seventeenth-century Italian who defended himself by saying, “I take the money not for my services as a doctor but as a guard, to prevent some young man who believes everything he reads in books from coming along and stuffing something down the patients which kills them”. Thomas McKeown first pointed out that the vast twentieth-century improvements in health came about before doctors developed much that was an effective therapy. We know that most medicines were worse than useless.

It all just comes down to hygiene and nutrition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Sweden Has Learned From Its Own Lesson (Johnny Munkhammar, Sep 2006, Tech Central Station)

The summary of Swedish success and failure is a story of markets against the state. Every time Sweden has taken a step towards freer markets, it has been very successful. And every time it has increased the size and power of the state, success has sooner or later faded away.

During the phase when Sweden went from agriculture and poverty to industry and wealth, the economy was very open and flexible. Free traders won in the late 19th Century the battle for free trade, which was very important for exports and industry. Entrepreneurs started up small businesses easily in a dynamic environment with low taxes and strong property protection. In fact, the tax pressure rose only from 10 to 20 per cent of GDP between 1890 and 1950.

During the socialist phase, however, the size of the state exploded. The tax pressure increased to 50 per cent of GDP during the three decades up to 1980. Many companies were socialised by the state. The state interference in markets grew and the ultimate aim was a more centrally planned economy.

The socialist period created problems. Growth decreased and Sweden started its decline in the OECD list of countries in GDP per capita. Inflation soared and so did budget deficits, at times at around ten per cent of GDP. Unemployment reached high levels. Problems with matching supply and demand in markets with state intervention and in the welfare monopolies were mounting. Only one of the 50 biggest companies today has been started before 1970, which indicates which period was successful and which one that was not.

This was followed by a rather intense period of market-oriented reforms from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. Inflation was reduced and the Central Bank made independent. The EU membership opened up markets and normalised several of the more radically socialist features of the Swedish society. Marginal tax rates were cut, making education and work more profitable. Many markets, such as telecom, taxi, finance and gas - were de-regulated. That led to a telecom success, with Ericsson as the flagship, and vastly lower prices for phone calls. A pensions reform substantially reduced the level of state pensions and allowed citizens to invest part of the state pension in the private market.

Where does that put Sweden today? A neo-liberal country that became socialist and then embarked on market-oriented reforms in several areas. Today, Sweden contains both socialism and free markets. But the same truth as before applies: where there has been free-market reform, there is success, and where there is socialism, there are problems.

The McKinsey Global Institute confirmed this in their recent thorough study of Sweden. The main explanation for better growth figures during the last ten years has been a substantial increase in productivity. In turn, the de-regulations fifteen years ago provide the explanation for that. But large parts of the Swedish society have remained un-reformed since the socialist era. And during the last ten years, almost nothing has happened.

The labour market is probably the best example of Sweden's problems. McKinsey estimated the total unemployment rate to be 15 per cent. Sweden has decreased the size of the labour force more than any other European country during the last 15 years, shuffling away hundreds of thousands of people from being called "unemployed" to "early retired". In EU-15, between 1995 and 2003, employment grew more in 11 countries than in Sweden. Youth unemployment is 22 per cent, the fifth highest in EU-25, and the number of people under the age of 30 that are "early retired" has increased from 13, 000 to 22,000 during the last six years.

The labour market is regulated concerning hiring and firing, it is very unionised and, in terms of wage bargaining, thus very collectivised. On top of that, the total tax level on labour is one of the highest in Europe and the biggest parts of the service sector - health care, education, elderly care, social insurance - are within the public monopolies. This is where Sweden is still plagued by socialism and where the need for reform is great.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


For Bush, cheaper gas is premium (Susan Page, 9/21/06, USA TODAY)

When it comes to President Bush's approval rating — the number that measures his political health — one factor seems more powerful than any Oval Office address or legislative initiative.

It's the price of a gallon of gas.

Statisticians who have compared changes in gas prices and Bush's ratings through his presidency have found a steady relationship: As gas prices rise, his ratings fall. As gas prices fall, his ratings rise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Airbus superjumbo flies towards new delays, company sources say (AFP, 9/22/06)

The Airbus A380 superjumbo airliner is heading for probable new delivery delays, sources inside the company said on Wednesday.

One source inside Airbus, who declined to be named, said that "a halving of deliveries next year seems logical in view of the industrial difficulties arising from adaptation of electric cabling to the specific requirements of customers". [...]

Earlier on Wednesday the French financial newspaper Les Echos had reported that Airbus was facing further delays in the delivery of its A380 superjumbo airliner, for as much as six months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Fed freeze spurs chills: With the rate tightening over (for now) analysts wonder if real trouble is coming (HEATHER SCOFFIELD, 9/22/06, Globe and Mail)

It's happened with alarming frequency: The Fed's rate-tightening cycle ends, and crises around the world start to pile up. Will this time be any different?

In 1984, it was an overleveraged Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust that started a run on banks. In 1987, it was a stock market crash.

In 1994, Orange County went bankrupt, and in 1998, Long Term Capital Management collapsed and the Russian currency crisis spread to Latin America. Then in 2001, rates were peaking just as Enron and WorldCom collapsed, shaking confidence across North America.

Now, with the Fed clearly on hold after yesterday's announcement of no change in interest rate policy, the pattern would dictate that another crisis is about to begin. [...]

"The Fed is well aware of their record of triggering financial crises," Sherry Cooper, chief economist for BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., wrote in a commentary yesterday.

Despite twenty-plus years of global deflation the Fed has periodically spooked itself into fighting an inflation that doesn't exist--it has to have some consequences when they biff policy that badly, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Yankee Way: Throw 'Em Under the Bus (TIM MARCHMAN, September 21, 2006, NY Sun)

We've all so heard so much about "the Yankee way" over the years that even the confirmed and true-believing Yankee hater — the hardcore Red Sox or Mets fan with a visceral hatred for pinstripes, pride, and tradition — will usually admit it exists and laud Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and, most of all, captain Derek Jeter and manager Joe Torre for their professionalism, integrity, and sense of winning play. Generally, this has been fair.

After this week, though, you can toss any notion of a Yankee way in the dustbin, unless it involves the large-scale, public, unprecedented betrayal of a teammate.

Hard to figure out why a team would want Derek Jeter as its captain when he won't come to the assistance of an embattled teammate. That betrayal is explained by a jealousy unbecoming of a putative team leader. Consider that Jeter is being touted for MVP and Arod for crucifixion, despite the fact that Arod has the higher OPS and moved to 3b to accomodate one of the worst fielding shortstops in the majors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


1,000 Taliban slain, NATO says: Canadians help inflict 'tactical defeat' (PAUL KORING AND GRAEME SMITH, 9/22/06, Globe and Mail)

More than 1,000 Taliban fighters were killed in the Canadian-led attacks west of Kandahar, NATO supreme allied commander General James Jones said Wednesday.

That body count far exceeds previous estimates for Operation Medusa, the massive military assault launched in early September to drive Taliban fighters from a stronghold in Panjwai district in the province of Kandahar.

Gen. Jones said North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces inflicted a “tactical defeat” on the Taliban, eliminating between one-quarter and one-half of the movement's overall fighting strength.

However, “I don't think they've been totally defeated,” he acknowledged, predicting that the Taliban would return to guerrilla hit-and-run tactics rather than the stand-and-fight battle that resulted in their defeat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Many in Bangkok Embrace Military Takeover: Thai Army Chief Vows to Turn Power Over to Interim Leader Within Two Weeks (Anthony Faiola, 9/21/06, Washington Post)

Despite the new period of uncertainty, ushered in by a coup that was denounced by the United States and other foreign governments, many Thais in the capital appeared overjoyed.

"Democracy has won!" said an ecstatic Orathai Dechodomphan, 59, a tailor and Thaksin opponent who joined hundreds of people handing out roses to soldiers near the army headquarters. "Thaksin tried to steal power and did not respect our king. He never would have left on his own. What happened yesterday is our first step toward recovering a real democracy."

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was seen by many here as having effectively allowed Thaksin's removal, endorsed Sonthi, appointing him the official head of a new governing council charged with creating "peace in the country," according to an announcement televised nationally.

Sonthi is close to the king, and there had been speculation that the monarch played a role in the coup. Sonthi dismissed those suggestions Wednesday, telling reporters: "I am the one who decided to stage the coup. No one supported me."

The general, who only a week ago had ruled out the chance of a coup, said the military had been forced to act because Thaksin's moves to remain in power had divided the country. At the same time, Sonthi said, Thaksin's actions were dangerously bordering on lese-majeste, a powerful charge in a country where the king is widely revered.

The ousted prime minister, a billionaire tycoon who rose to power in 2001, was extremely popular among rural Thais largely because of a series of lucrative local programs he backed. But allegations of corruption and abuse of power earned him the hostility of the country's elite, mostly in Bangkok. He had been accused of monopolizing the media, altering the constitution to enhance his powers and stocking electoral commissions with his supporters. He was also scorned for mishandling the increasingly violent Islamic insurgency in the south of Thailand, a mostly Buddhist country.

In a public opinion poll released Wednesday by Rajabhat Suan Dusit University, almost 84 percent of respondents supported the coup. The overwhelming majority of those taking part in the poll were from the capital.

One of the main reasons that it's a mistake to do away with monarchy is because a king acts as a final brake on a really rotten elected government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Both Parties in Ky. Battle Try to Take Right Flank (Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, 9/21/06, Washington Post)

This is one of the places where the "Republican Revolution" began in 1994 -- before then, Democratic representative William H. Natcher held the seat for 40 years -- and it is a good window into whether the GOP reign will end in 2006.

It is also the first stop in The Washington Post's nine-day trek through nine congressional districts that sit on the dividing line between the upper South and the industrial Midwest. There is no place outside the Ohio River Valley where so many competitive districts are clustered in an unbroken line.

The aim is to capture the 2006 campaign -- its characters, issues, back stories -- at eye level, touring 500 miles of main roads and less-traveled paths through Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia. Even in a year buffeted by unease over the Iraq war and other national issues, many competitive races are shaped by local twists. There is the Democratic candidate who worries that a decades-old high school basketball rivalry could cost him the election, and a Republican hopes to turn local pork-barrel spending into political gold.

And there is Kentucky's 2nd, where Weaver, a state representative, is running not only against Lewis but also against long currents of political history. Natcher, who as Appropriations Committee chairman prided himself on the bridges and highways his political clout made possible, was a beloved figure right up until his death in office in March 1994. In the special election to replace him, Lewis hit hard on President Bill Clinton's unpopularity in the district. At the time, Lewis's victory was seen as something of an aberration.

It was really an omen. That November, a generation of Southern Democrats were tossed out of office by voters turned off by their affiliation with a national party that was far more liberal than their districts.

The Democratic plan for reversing the past here and in similar districts centered on recruiting candidates who sound like Republicans, at least on social issues. A military background was a big bonus.

The party needs to sound Republican, as Bill Clinton did.

September 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 PM


Plenty of Holes Seen In a 'Virtual Fence' (Spencer S. Hsu and Griff Witte, September 21, 2006, Washington Post)

The selection of Boeing Co. to erect a "virtual fence" along 6,000 miles of U.S. border marks a potential turning point in the government's long quest to stop illegal immigration, but its success hinges on overcoming obstacles that doomed past efforts, funding shortages and other problems with the country's immigration controls, according to experts and former U.S. officials.'s not supposed to work, just give the wahoos something to play with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Abe takes helm of LDP, vows to stick with reforms (HIROKO NAKATA, 9/21/06, Japan Times)

Shinzo Abe, a conservative who favors hardline diplomacy and traditional values, was elected Wednesday as the 21st president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, paving the way for him to become Japan's youngest postwar prime minister.

He will also be the first prime minister born after World War II. [...]

"I declare that I will, as the first party president to be born after (World War II), take over the flame of reform," Abe said after the results were announced. "I vow to devote myself in working with you all toward creating a new and beautiful nation."

Mr. Abe has the least time of any of the Axis of Good leaders to reform his society and the hardest row to hoe in doing so, given how sclerotic the Japanese political system is, how nativist the population is, and the absence of a significant Christian demographic component to sustain reasonable fertility rates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


Polls, Pundits Tout GOP Gloom, But Smart Money Bets Different (JED GRAHAM, 9/19/06, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY)

[T]hose who put money behind their predictions see things differently. Quotes at show that futures traders favor Republicans to retain control of the House.

Late Tuesday, TradeSports' futures contract for GOP House control was trading at 53.8 — a 53.8% chance. TradeSports gives an 80.3% chance that Republicans will hold onto the Senate.

Betting exchanges, or futures markets, are worth paying attention to because they have a track record that would put most pundits to shame.

In 2004 the Iowa Electronic Markets, a research vehicle operated by the University of Iowa, gave President Bush a 51.4% chance of winning re-election vs. a 48.6% chance for a Sen. John Kerry victory. Those totals were eerily close to the popular vote results.

The prediction markets tend to do better than polls because they are able to capture "the wisdom of crowds" and consider questions a pollster wouldn't think to ask, said Don Luskin, chief investment officer at TrendMacrolytics.

Of course, the folks predicting a Democrat landslide have all their money tied up in oil futures.....

Will the Democrats Flip the House?: Slate's mathematician on the odds of a Democratic victory. (Jordan Ellenberg, Sept. 19, 2006, Slate)

The simplest model is to assume that the Democrats have a 50/50 chance of winning each race and that the races are mutually independent. That is, if we knew that the Democrat won in North Carolina, it's no more or less likely that the Democrat won in New Mexico. (You can find a more thorough discussion of independence, not to mention a stiff dose of 2001 nostalgia, in my article on Gary Condit's love affairs.) The theorem you need to know here is the Law of Large Numbers: If you have a bunch of independent 50/50 chances, it's very likely that just about half of them will go one way and half the other. In other words: Not only can you not expect everything to go your way, you can't even expect most things to go your way. Chances are that Democrats will win very close to half of the 24 tossups. Half is 12, and 12 is not enough.

The Law of Large Numbers suggests that it's unlikely Democrats will win as many as 15 of the 24 tossups. To guess exactly how unlikely requires a more powerful tool: the Central Limit Theorem. Imagine sketching a graph of the probability of various outcomes of the midterm election. The graph would have a big hump in the center, representing the most likely scenarios—the Democrats winning around 12 tossups—and would rapidly tail off in both directions as the outcomes became more extreme. What you just drew is the normal distribution, or bell curve—the foundation of all applied statistics. The Central Limit Theorem says that a random variable (like the midterm election) made of many small, identical, independent parts (like the individual House races) always obeys a law approximating the bell-shaped curve. The more individual events involved, the better the obedience to the bell curve.

If you flip a coin—or a congressional district—N times, you expect to get about N/2 heads. But it's too much to expect to hit N/2 on the nose—it's standard to see some deviation from dead center. But how much? The answer, naturally, is called the standard deviation, which in this case comes to half the square root of N. So, for our 24 tossup elections, the standard deviation is about 2.45. We shouldn't be too surprised, then, to see between nine and 15 seats go to the Dems. But the Central Limit Theorem does this one better; it says that the chance of beating expectations by one standard deviation or more is approximately 16 percent. To win control, the Democrats have to beat expectations by three seats, a bit more than one standard deviation; their chance of doing so should thus be a bit less than 16 percent. In fact, it's about 15.4 percent.

G.O.P. Gains Big Fund-Raising Advantage (JEFF ZELENY, 9/21/06, NY Times)
House Democrats have nearly as much as Republicans, while Senate Democrats have $10 million more than their Republican counterparts.

But that edge is being offset by the fund-raising of the Republican National Committee, which has said it would spend more than $60 million to make up for any shortcoming by the party’s Congressional committees.

The cash-on-hand figures, revealed in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, are critical indicators of the resources the parties can draw upon during the intense days ahead. The money is primarily devoted to television advertisements in districts that are — or will become — competitive, as well as to help finance get-out-the-vote operations.

The new fund-raising reports show that at the beginning of September, Republicans had $39 million in the bank, compared with $11 million for Democrats.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:57 PM


Canadian-led offensive may have killed 1,500 Taliban fighters (CBC, September 20th, 2006)

The U.S. general who heads all NATO military forces says a two-week campaign that cost five Canadian lives in southern Afghanistan may have wiped out half of the "hard-core" Taliban fighters in the country.

The Canadian-led push, Operation Medusa, ended on Sept. 15 when Taliban forces stopped fighting and slipped away, Gen. James L. Jones said on Wednesday.

The Taliban "suffered a tactical defeat in the area where they chose to stand and fight" and got "a very powerful message … that they have no chance of winning militarily," he told reporters at the Pentagon.

NATO estimates that "somewhere in the neighbourhood of around 1,000" Taliban fighters were killed, and the number could be higher, he said. "If you said 1,500 it wouldn't surprise me."

A lot of shibboleths have been challenged by the War on Terror. One is that the Canadian Forces are useless in war and another is that diplomats always lie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


President Bush Meets with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (Waldorf Astoria, New York, New York, 9/20/06)

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (As translated.) Mr. President, thank you very much. I'm honored to meet with you, as you said, for the fifth time during these past years.

First of all, I would like to thank you greatly for the wonderful speech that you have delivered yesterday before the United Nations, and talk about the Palestinian issues and your vision of two states, and you adopt this vision. Mr. President, you are the first American President to adopt the vision of two states living side-by-side.

Of course, I've talked with the President about the situation in the Palestinian Territories, and the difficulties that the Palestinian people are facing, as well as the possible solution that can get us out of these difficulties. And I mentioned to the President that more than 70 percent of the Palestinian population, they believe in the two-state solution, a state of Palestine and a state of Israel, living in peace and security next to each other. That means that the Palestinian people desire peace, and there is no power on Earth that can prevent the Palestinian people from moving toward the peaceful solution, and living and coexisting in peace.

The Democrats criticized the speech, the democrats welcome it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Clinton Praises Bush, Notes Brain Works Different ( Wires, Sept. 20, 2006 )

In some of his most candid comments since leaving the White House, former President Bill Clinton offered surprising praise for the man who replaced him — and said President Bush is right for staying the course in Iraq.

"I keep reading that Bush is incurious, but when he talks to me he asks a lot of questions," Clinton said in the wide-ranging profile penned by writer David Remnick in the Sept. 18 edition of The New Yorker magazine.

Clinton told Remnick he was surprised that Bush is often criticized as incurious and intellectually shallow. He quickly explained that people just misinterpret both Bush and his dad, the former president, because their brains work differently than most people. [...]

Clinton also expressed backhanded admiration for Bush's straightforwardness in presenting his agenda, which Clinton argues is one of the most conservative to emanate from a Republican-controlled White House. [...]

"Even more conservative than Reagan, probably, and way to the right of his father and Nixon and Eisenhower." [...]

But Clinton said that Bush, despite employing the slogan "compassionate conservatism," never hid his radical-right agenda. "He said, ‘Vote for me, and I'll give you judges like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia,' and that's exactly what he did."

Of course, Mr. Clinton governed as or more conservatively as Presidents Reagan and GHW Bush and you'd hardly expect him to criticize his ideological heir overmuch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


NBC undecided about Madonna mock crucifixion (Reuters, 9/20/06)

The NBC television network is still making up its mind about whether it will allow pop star Madonna to stage a mock crucifixion on its airwaves as part of her upcoming prime-time concert special.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:47 AM


U.S. scientific group backs access to clean needles in AIDS fight (Helen Branswell, Associated Press, September 19th, 2006)

A prestigious U.S. scientific body is urging governments to adopt politically controversial measures to cut the spread of HIV-AIDS among injection drug users.

A new report from the Institute of Medicine, commissioned by UNAIDS and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, suggests the scientific evidence is clear: Programs that provide access to methadone therapy and clean syringes reduce the risk of transmission of HIV among people who inject illegal drugs.

“A clean needle won't prevent a sexual transmission. ... But it will prevent a needle-borne transmission,” Dr. Hugh Tilson, chairman of the panel that wrote the report, said in an interview.

“So if your objective is to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission, you want to have the needle- and syringe-access program embedded in a multicomponent program which includes education, outreach, access to medical care and certainly information about effective methods of prevention of HIV transmission to sexual partners and, God help us, to their offspring.

Of course, if your objective is to keep young people from injecting illegal drugs in the first place, this may be the worst thing to do, but they aren’t funded by Bill and Melinda.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:22 AM


Why iLove modern luxury (Robert Fulford, The National Post, September 19th, 2006)

Every owner of an iPod, bebop lover or not, knows what I'm talking about. You carry a slice of plastic, about three times the size of the chocolate that some hotels leave on your pillow. Because a generation of inventors have dedicated themselves to nanotechnology, the plastic wafer contains a world of sound, some 1,000 separate items, all of which you have chosen. This object has been in my possession for only about six months, but it's already hard to remember how I managed without it.

It delivers Mozart horn concertos and a collection of Johnny Mercer songs, many Ben Webster solos and the wondrous 18th-century cello concertos of Leonardo Leo, great quantities of Ellington and Monteverdi, and hundreds of other items. Then there's the spoken-word material -- podcasts. Every week National Public Radio, that earnest network, sends me its best items free of charge, on which dedicated American liberals try to educate me. But I've only started exploring podcasts.

Like many electronic devices, the iPod divides people into two groups. Some find it outlandish and can't imagine why anyone would want it. This element frequently gives moral or even spiritual reasons. "When I'm alone I prefer to dream my own dreams," an acquaintance remarked recently, with an unmistakable air of superiority, like Plato talking to a teenager. Others listen with disdain to your naive enthusiasm. They acquired an iPod several months or even years ago -- after all, the first version appeared in October, 2001.

Every traditionalist worth the name knows how to spot the downside of a new invention, especially if it widely popular and involves an element of entertainment or fun. We are masters at taking an innocuous new technological widget and using it to paint an alarming picture of civilization in its death throes. The imagery can be near-poetic and consistency is not required. For instance, we are fully capable of attacking the cell phone as a destroyer of solitude and a means to keep us under a forced surveillance that would have alarmed the Founders while pointing to the television as the death of close-knit families sitting around together after a hard day’s labour spinning wool and telling rich tales of the ancestors. It doesn’t matter because we are so good at triggering visceral exasperation in modernists that they rarely notice. They usually just splutter something like “Tell me exactly how my Blackberry harms you!” and then flee out of concern for their blood pressure.

But what of this? How in the world can one object to a world immersed in one’s favourite music? C’mon, people, put your thinking caps on. This is important.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Abbas: PA gov't will recognize Israel (Khaled Abu Toameh, 9/19/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will tell US President George W. Bush on Wednesday that the proposed Palestinian unity government will recognize Israel's right to exist and previous agreements between the PLO and Israel," PA officials told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Thousands of Hamas supporters took to the streets of Gaza City on Tuesday calling on Abbas not to succumb to American "dictates" regarding the unity government and to work toward resolving the financial crisis in the PA.

"President Abbas will make it clear that the political program of the unity government will clearly refer to the Arab peace plan that was declared in 2002 and which is based on a two-state solution," said one official. "He will also tell Bush that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh promised that the unity government would honor all the agreements that were signed with Israel." The officials expressed hope that the US administration would change its negative position regarding the unity government following the planned meeting between Bush and Abbas.

"If the US wants to strengthen President Abbas, it must accept the unity government idea because there is no other alternative," another PA official told the Post. "I don't think the Palestinian public will accept a coup against a democratically elected government."

The official confirmed reports in the Arab media that Washington had threatened to boycott Abbas and his Fatah party if they went ahead with plans to join the Hamas-led government. "The US apparently doesn't understand that a national unity government with Hamas is the best solution to the current crisis in the Palestinian Authority," he added.

The President has won. Even if it's a messy he's never had trouble accepting that sort of victory in the past.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


CBC chair quits over furor (MURRAY WHYTE, 9/20/06, Toronto Star)

Guy Fournier, the chair of CBC's board of directors, resigned yesterday amid a growing furor over his remarks about the joys of defecation and the legality of bestiality in Lebanon.

On the bright side, the local cable channel in Emunclaw is looking for a programming director.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


The Buzz on DDT (THOMAS BRAY, September 20, 2006, NY Sun)

The environmental left has received some severe blows lately. One is the declining cost of oil, which environmental nannies fear will lead Americans to forget that they have a moral duty to consume less fossil fuel. The other is a decision by the World Health Organization to lift its ban on the use of the insecticide DDT for combating malaria in the Third World.

The latter strikes at the heart of the modern environmental movement, which was spawned in part by Rachel Carson's famous 1962 polemic, "Silent Spring." In lyrical — some might say hysterical — terms, she wrote of the dangers of chemicals like DDT that supposedly threaten to upset the natural balance. This led to a ban on the manufacture and export of DDT, resulting in millions of unneeded deaths in the malarial regions of the world.

The enviros still insist that malaria can be stopped by the widespread use of bed-nets and less harmful chemical substances. In the real world, DDT is still the cheapest, most effective, and easiest to use anti-malaria agent, a critical consideration in impoverished places like Africa, which accounts for about 95% of the one million deaths a year from malaria. And if used responsibly, according to a 2005 study in the British medical journal Lancet there is no evidence that it poses a threat to human beings.

Researchers haven't even been able to show conclusively that DDT is the cause of widely-cited declines in populations of eagles and other animals.

The amazing thing about the DDT ban is the way it revived our populations of wolves, bear, buffalo, and deer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Poll: Immigration top issue: Majority of voters back 'tough but fair' path to citizenship (Myung Oak Kim, September 18, 2006, Rocky Mountain News)

Nearly two of every three Colorado voters think illegal immigrants should be allowed to become U.S. citizens if they pay taxes, learn English and meet other requirements, according to a new Rocky Mountain News/CBS 4 poll.

Only 15 percent of those polled favor mass deportations.

"People want to be tough but fair," said pollster Lori Weigel. "It's like many issues. You tend to hear from extremes on both ends. Clearly, this data indicate that there's a silent majority that is supportive of a more middle-ground approach."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Rosh Hashana meal is full of meaning (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 20, 2006)

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. This year, it begins Sept. 22 at sunset. [...]



# 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
# 1/2 cup vegetable oil
# 1 1/4 cups honey
# 6 large eggs, separated
# 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
# 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
# Pinch of ground cardamom
# 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
# 1 tablespoon baking powder
# 1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-inch loaf pan or two 9-inch loaf pans. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to facilitate removal after baking. Set aside.

Place the chopped nuts in a baking pan and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Lower heat to 300 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the oil, honey, egg yolks and spices. Sift the flour and baking powder and blend into the honey mixture until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar gradually, continuing to beat until the egg whites are stiff. Fold a small amount of the egg whites into the honey mixture, then fold in the rest gradually, mixing gently each time until incorporated. Stir in the nuts.

Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 60 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center pulls out almost dry (it will have fine crumbs stuck to it). Place pan(s) on a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before turning out on a rack to finish cooling.

Variations: Add 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger to the batter instead of the nuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Papal Bull: Joseph Ratzinger's latest offense. (Christopher Hitchens, Sept. 18, 2006, Slate)

After the most perfunctory introduction, Ratzinger goes straight to his choice of quotation, which is taken from 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II. This potentate supposedly once engaged in debate—the precise time and place is unknown—with an unnamed Persian. The subject was Christianity and Islam. The Byzantine asks the Persian to "show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." (On the face of it, not a very open-ended inquiry.) But, warming to his own theme, the purple-clad monarch of Constantinople allegedly added that "to convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death."

Now, you do not have to be a Muslim to think that for the bishop of Rome to cite this is the most perfect hypocrisy. There would have been no established Byzantine or Roman Christianity if the faith had not been spread and maintained and enforced by every kind of violence and cruelty and coercion. To take Islam's own favorite self-pitying example: It was the Catholic crusaders who sacked and burned Christian Byzantium on their way to Palestine—and that was only after they had methodically set about the Jews, so the Muslim world was actually only the third victim of this barbarity. (Sir Steven Runciman's A History of the Crusades is the best source here.) Yet of all the words he could have chosen, to suggest that religion might wish to break its old connection with conquest, intolerance, and subjugation, Ratzinger had to select an example that was designed to remind his hearers of the crudest excesses of the medieval period. His mention of Manuel II was evidently not accidental or anecdotal. He refers to him repeatedly and returns to him again in the closing paragraph, as if to rub it in.

As much fun as it is to watch Mr. Hitchens take out the Pope here, honesty would compel him to acknowledge that he's one of the most vocal supporters of the current Christian Crusade and forced conversion. That psychological break will be a hoot to observe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Disastrous Rule of a Mayberry Machiavelli (Sidney Blumenthal, September 20, 2006, AlterNet)

No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history.

In his 2000 campaign, Bush permitted himself few hints of radicalism. On the contrary he made ready promises of moderation, judiciously offering himself as a "compassionate conservative," an identity carefully crafted to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals of the House of Representatives. After capturing the Congress in 1994 and proclaiming a "revolution," they had twice shut down the government over the budget and staged an impeachment trial that resulted in the acquittal of President Clinton. Seeking to distance himself from the congressional Republicans, Bush declared that he was not hostile to government. He would, he said, "change the tone in Washington." He would be more reasonable than the House Republicans and more moral than Clinton. Governor Bush went out of his way to point to his record of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats in Texas, stressing that he would be "a uniter, not a divider."

Trying to remove the suspicion that falls on conservative Republicans, he pledged that he would protect the solvency of Social Security.

Actually, George W. Bush won precisely because he ran as a revolutionary, not least on the issue of Social Security. What few predicted -- particularly on the Left -- is how successful he'd be in advancing Third Way policies like the FBI, HSAs, school vouchers, free trade, etc. In fact, SS is the only major issue where Democrats have been able to hold out against the revolution and, even there, they couldn't stop the retirement reform bill that shift private companies away from pension plans and towards 401ks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Splitting Heirs (James Wood, 09.20.06, New Republic)

Gordon Brown is a rather attractively old-fashioned figure. His father was a Presbyterian minister, and, raised in Adam Smith's town, Kirkcaldy, in Fife, he has Presbyterian virtues: He is sober, prudent (one of his favorite words), a little stolid. He is the anti-Blair. No seducer of the press, he speaks with measured gravity. Blair went to a fancy Scottish private school, and Brown to the local high school. He entered Edinburgh University at 16, studied history, and went on to write a doctorate there about the Labour Party in Scotland. Blair seems to have no great devotion to his party, and he has successfully renovated it by copying many of Margaret Thatcher's policies. Brown, by contrast, is a devoted Labour man. He has what seems a very Scottish, even Presbyterian, devotion to social justice and the redistribution of wealth. As chancellor, he has presided over a long period of economic growth, with low inflation and low unemployment, which has allowed him to stealthily tax the wealthy and give financial credits to the poor. He has massively increased funding to the health and educational systems; there have been real, if small, improvements in both.

Cameron is a youthful 39, 15 years younger than Brown. The two men offer a study in contrast. If Brown fairly vibrates with Scottishness, Cameron (despite his Scottish name) is all Englishness. He was born in Oxfordshire, the son of a stockbroker. His wife is the daughter of a baronet. Cameron went to Eton, where he was my exact contemporary. Though I hardly knew him--we were from rather different social classes--in those days he seemed a natural Etonian, and he seems one still: gently entitled, socially charming and at ease, attractively confident. After Eton, he went to Oxford, and he has worked both as a political adviser and as a director of corporate affairs for a TV company. His political experience is slender: He has been a member of Parliament since 2001 and the leader of his party since December 2005.

The country knows very little about the likely political decisions of either man. As chancellor, Brown has been a soft socialist with a cold Thatcherite heart, and he has kept the economy ticking along nicely. One could assume that a Brown government will retain the British pound and continue to give priority to the funding of public services (what the welfare state is now less threateningly called). But part of the sullen pain of his agon with Blair has meant that Brown has silently agreed to the prime minister's more flamboyant gestures while keeping his head down and running his own kingdom. His public support for the Iraq intervention has been lukewarm, and he is generally thought to lack Blair's messianic zeal in foreign affairs (except for a laudable involvement in reducing African debt); but no one really knows what a Brownian foreign policy would look like.

Cameron, meanwhile, has been shrewdly modernizing the image of the Conservatives--by copying Tony Blair and heading shamelessly for the center (poetic justice, since Blair has often said how much he admired Thatcher). Conservatives who dislike Cameron--and there are plenty--like to say that, just as Blair destroyed the old Labour Party to make his so-called "New Labour," so Cameron, channeling Blair, is destroying the old Conservative Party. His supporters are more apt to claim that, just as Blair destroyed the old Labour Party, now Cameron, channeling Blair, will destroy New Labour in the election of 2009. Cameron has made the environment a big priority, and he likes to cycle to work. He has voted for civil partnerships, which give legal recognition to same-sex couples, and he has voted against Blair's obsessive desire to introduce national identity cards. On a recent trip to India, he sent back a daily blog, complete with video clips. His wife, creative director of the posh stationery company Smythson, has a dolphin tattooed on her ankle. Most importantly, he has gracefully diverted attention from the remarkable anachronism of his Etonian background. Orwell said that Englishmen are branded on their tongues, and Cameron's green-welly accent certainly gives him away. Yet, on television, he seems a merely well-educated modern fellow, almost (if not quite) classless--like the current prime minister.

But what would a Cameron government look like? It looks as if, like Brown's, it would retain the pound and give priority to public services. And, like Brown, Cameron speaks an essentially Thatcherite managerial language about making these public services more efficient and consumer-friendly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Technocrat Recasts Yemen's Presidential Race, Political Future (Faiza Saleh Ambah, 9/20/06, Washington Post)

When Faisal bin Shamlan was approached several months ago by a coalition of opposition groups to run in this week's presidential election, he turned down the offer. The 72-year-old economist, who had resigned as oil minister to protest corruption, was enjoying his days reading and going on long, solitary walks. Running against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power for more than 28 years, would be an arduous journey better suited to a younger, more energetic man, he believed.

When bin Shamlan subsequently changed his mind, it turned what was set to be a conventional, lackluster exercise into the most competitive presidential election in the Arab world -- a far cry from 1999, when Saleh was pitted against a low-ranking member of his own party and won with 96 percent of the vote.

More important, his decision has been a boon for democracy in Yemen and set up a key test for reform in the region. By going up against an all-powerful president who has maintained his grip on the country for almost three decades, bin Shamlan broke a barrier of fear. [...]

The organization backing bin Shamlan, the Joint Meeting Parties, is an alliance of five opposition groups that includes the powerful religious party known as Islah and the Yemeni Socialist Party. The disparate partners put their ideological differences aside and formed the alliance in 2004 for the sole purpose of initiating political reform, says Islah's assistant secretary general, Abdul-Wahab al-Anisi.

"We subordinated our ideological agendas to the one thing we all had in common, which was a realization that political reform was a necessity if we were to save democracy in Yemen and stop the country's descent into endemic corruption," he said.

Bin Shamlan was chosen after much deliberation, Anisi said, because of his reputation for competence and, more important, honesty -- rare in Yemeni politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Liberals fear rural losses (IAN URQUHART, 9/20/06, Toronto Star)

There are 25 rural ridings in southern and central Ontario, and they normally lean Conservative at election time. But in the 2003 provincial election, the Liberals won 16 of them, which helped to give them a clear majority province-wide.

Yet in the federal election earlier this year, the Liberals won just two of those 25 seats.

It is always problematic to extrapolate results from one level of government to the other, but the loss of those seats in the federal election has caused the provincial Liberals to sit up and take notice.

A similar outcome in the 2007 provincial election would bring the Liberals perilously close to a minority if not an outright defeat.

The opposition parties certainly hope so. The Conservatives, in particular, are trying to capitalize on a feeling in the rural ridings that Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government are urban-centric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thailand: All the king's men (Shawn W Crispin, 9/21/06, Asia Times)

[T]his coup, with clear backing from the royal palace, unlike previous military interventions in Thai politics, has significantly been warmly received by Bangkok's elite and middle classes, including well-known democratic-reform advocates.

Although Thaksin is immensely popular in the country's rural countryside - where about 80% of the country's voters reside - real power in Thailand is still highly concentrated in Bangkok, and Bhumibol's authoritative endorsement of the caretaker premier's removal signals clearly that the coup is final.

The military's newly formed Administrative Reform Council (ARC) justified its seizure of power on the grounds that the Thaksin administration's actions had frequently bordered on "lese majeste" and had created "social division like never before". The council also indicated that Thaksin had "politically meddled" with state units and independent organizations and "faced growing doubts ... of widespread reports of corruption".

Those complaints resonate strongly across Bangkok's elite and middle classes, which at first supported but five years later now widely view Thaksin's divide-and-rule style of governance as a bigger threat to Thailand's democratic future than temporary military rule. Conservative elements close to the palace had tacitly supported the massive anti-government street protests that kicked up late last year, gathered pace early this year, and eventually pressured Thaksin to declare snap polls in late February.

The mainstream media have widely misinterpreted the potent but peaceful protests as being galvanized by the Thaksin family's controversial US$1.9 billion tax-free sale of its 49% holdings in the Shin Corporation to Singapore's Temasek Holdings. To the contrary, the protests, which were later co-opted by various special-interest groups aligned against the government, were first galvanized and primarily sustained by the explosive claims first made by firebrand media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul that Thaksin was on particular occasions disloyal to the throne.

Democratic-minded Thais have since loyally donned royal-yellow shirts to demonstrate their support for the King, months after the elaborate June celebrations that marked the 60-year anniversary of his accession to the throne.

Military Coup in Thailand: General Promises a Quick Return to Democracy (Der Spiegel, 9/20/06)
Late Tuesday though, the general pounced. With no sign that the months-long political stalemate in the country was close to being resolved, Sondhi sent tanks and soldiers onto the streets of Bangkok, declared martial law and seized power in the country. The government district was cordoned off, but elsewhere in the city of 10 million life continued largely as normal and there were no injuries reported.

The overthrow, Sondhi said in a statement broadcast on television, was necessary "in order to resolve the conflict and bring back normalcy and harmony among people." He continued, "We would like to reaffirm that we don't have any intention to rule the country and will return power to the Thai people as soon as possible." On Wednesday, he said that a general election would be held in October 2007.

Popularity Contest: Thailand's ousted prime minister is no democratizer. (Joshua Kurlantzick, 09.20.06, New Republic)
[S]ince first winning election in 2001, Thaksin has used his power to meddle with the country's independent watchdog institutions--such as the National Counter Corruption Commission--and remove independent civil servants from the bureaucracy only to replace them with his own loyalists. His family's company bought up much of the independent media and sacked critics of the prime minister, and Thaksin politicized the independent branches of government, such as the supposedly nonpartisan Thai Senate.

At the same time, Thaksin's brutal tactics during a rumbling conflict in southern Thailand only further stoked unrest, culminating in a series of bombings last weekend in the southern resort town of Hat Yai. And Thaksin seemed not to understand the line between serving as prime minister and serving his family's business, a telecommunications empire that made him the richest man in the country. A 2003 study by Vanderbilt University of publicly listed firms in 47 countries revealed that Thailand had the third-largest percentage of companies with connections to the governing party (Russia and Italy had the most). Eight of the ten largest conglomerates in Thailand had officials with links to their companies in Thaksin's cabinet. The final blow came earlier this year, when Thaksin appeared to use the power of his office to help sell part of his family's telecommunications to a Singaporean firm.

Eventually, Thaksin even alienated the most important power center in Thailand--the monarchy. Though Thailand's king is technically a constitutional monarch, he is deeply revered by most Thais, and, through surrogates in the Thai political scene, quietly wields vastly more power than someone like Queen Elizabeth. When the palace obliquely criticized Thaksin's corruption and amassing of power, Thaksin refused to budge. The army historically has close ties to the monarchy. Upon seizing power, the military transitional government released a statement condemning Thaksin for "lèse majesté"--insulting the honor of the king.

Now, Thaksin will have to rally just those liberals in Bangkok who previously had cursed him and called for his head. American policymakers, too, face a similar dilemma; democratizer John McCain, for example, has blasted Thaksin's policies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Natural gas prices heading down this winter (ANDREW SHAIN, 9/20/06,

Charlotte-area natural gas heating bills should fall at least 15 percent this winter, or an average of about $100, based on current rates.

And recent drops in wholesale costs -- approaching yearlong lows -- suggest more rate cuts are on the way. Also helping: Analysts say gas inventories stand at historic highs and state climatologists expect a mild winter. [...]

Wholesale costs so far this month are half what they were a year ago. A pair of Gulf hurricanes cut production in 2005, sending some early winter bills up as much as 80 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


East and West at Arm's Length: A Conversation with Bernard Lewis (Bruce Cole, July 2006, Humanities)

Bruce Cole: Members of one culture are sometimes reluctant to understand enough about another culture, or even learn the other's language. What causes this?

Bernard Lewis: There have been many civilizations in the world, and the normal practice of civilizations has been to dismiss with contempt those outside. The world is divided into civilized people--that means us--and barbarians.

Cole: Us and them.

Lewis: Them. "Them" usually are regarded as barbarians. The Greeks and the Romans ruled the Middle East but did not bother to learn any of the languages.

Cole: [...] Why should we know about the Arab Middle Ages? Why should we know about the Ottoman Empire? What relevance does that have for us today?

Lewis: I think it's always important to understand both sides of a relationship. The relation between Christendom and the Islamic world begins with the advent of Islam in the seventh century. When Islam came into the world, the whole of the Middle East and North Africa were Christian. They were part of Christendom. So Islam first expanded--apart from Iran--largely into Christian territory and even into Europe. That started an ongoing relationship, which has continued ever since.

I would make the further point. This ongoing conflict between Christendom and Islam arises not so much from their differences as from their resemblances. There are many religions in the world and there are many civilizations in the world, but as far as I am aware, Christianity and Islam are the only two religions which claim to be the possessors of God's final and exclusive truth.

Most religions have a sort of "relativist approach." That's the term that is used by the Catholic Church to indicate disapproval, but I'm using it to indicate approval. The relativist view would be something like this: Just as men have invented different languages to talk to each other, so they've invented different religions to talk to God, and God understands all of them. Perhaps not all equally well, but he understands all of them.

There is an interesting passage in one of the sermons of Saint John Capistrano, a Franciscan. In one of his collected sermons, he says the Jews propagate this monstrous and absurd idea that everyone can be saved in his own religion. Now, Saint John Capistrano says many things about the Jews and the Muslims--both of whom he disliked intensely--but on that particular one he's right. The Talmud says the righteous of all faiths have a place in heaven. That's not the Christian or the Muslim point of view.

We--whichever the "we" may be--we are the fortunate recipients of God's final message to mankind. If you accept that message, you will be saved. If you don't accept it, then your religion is either incomplete and superseded or false-incomplete and superseded if it's previous, false if it's subsequent. Where you have two religions making the same claim with the same self-perception and the same geographical area, you get this uninterrupted sequence of jihad and crusade. But that, I think, is also some ground for hope. I tried to make this point at a conference in Morocco. The theme of the conference was: Is a dialog of civilizations possible? I tried to make the point that the conflicts have arisen from resemblances rather than from differences, and this should, with goodwill on both sides, make a dialog possible.

Cole: Is goodwill on both sides feasible?

Lewis: Goodwill on both sides is so far rather conspicuously lacking. But not entirely. I think there are people on both sides of goodwill. The late pope was trying to open a dialog with other religions. I don't know where the new one stands on this, but so far his utterances have been quite positive.

Cole: I think there are very few people who don't have strong opinions on Huntington's book, The Clash of Civilizations.

Lewis: As far as I'm concerned, what really matters is the clash between Christendom and Islam, which begins with the advent of Islam and is continued to the present day.

As I said before, there is the long history of jihad and crusade, attacking each other, invading each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


All the King's Men: Sean Penn can't pull his weight in treatment of American classic. (Michael Atkinson, 9/20/06, Seattle Weekly)

Let loose with what is remembered as a large, meaty, all-American role within a properly Pulitzered and still school- assigned mega-fiction (filmed already in 1949 and showered with forgotten Oscars), Sean Penn goes for larger than life, wrapping his pinched frown around an unintelligible Louisiana drawl and swinging his arms like an autistic evangelist. (Maybe it's the hick-Eraserhead hair, encouraging us to place this cracker politician somewhere between his special-kid in I Am Sam and his obliviously narcissistic guitarist in Sweet and Lowdown.)

Characterwise, Penn is most effective at boiling pots with tight lids—he's an internal combustion engine. A small man, he even tries to evoke the working-class blubber of the original version's star, Broderick Crawford (and the character's model, Huey Long), pushing out his belly and swaggering like he's got 100 more pounds to heave around than he actually has. It's a florid, vein-popping spectacle, trying too hard and, in the end, seeming to know little under the skin about dirt-poor Americans. [...]

[Steven] Zaillian proceeds in typical adapt-a-big-book fashion, condensing, telegraphing, and boiling down drama into info-bytes.

Which raises the question once again: why remake classics when you could instead take a fresh stab at the bombs and misses? We don't need a new All the King's Men, but someone should do Tai-pan at least competently.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


New Fox Unit to Produce Christian Films: The studio plans to produce as many as 12 movies a year aimed at religious audiences. (Lorenza Muñoz, 9/19/06, LA Times)

In the biggest commitment of its sort by a Hollywood studio, News Corp.'s Fox Filmed Entertainment is expected to unveil plans today to capture the gargantuan Christian audience that made "The Passion of the Christ" a global phenomenon.

The home entertainment division of Rupert Murdoch's movie studio plans to produce as many as a dozen films a year under a banner called FoxFaith. At least six of those films will be released in theaters under an agreement with two of the nation's largest chains, AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas. [...]

"A segment of the market is starving for this type of content," said Simon Swart, general manager of Fox's U.S. home entertainment unit.

"We want to push the production value, not videotape sermons or proselytize."

CBS News decided to defy the American consumer and move its newscast even further Left with Katie Couric--only they can be surprised it failed. Sooner or later, business, which is all the media is, has to give folks what they want.

September 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


'Green' Lib Dems promise they will penalise wealth (George Jones and Brendan Carlin, 20/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The Liberal Democrats took a decisive shift to the Left yesterday by enthusiastically adopting a tax package which could leave two million people £2,500 a year worse off.

Although the party leadership claimed it would hit only the "top 10 per cent" – and millions of lower-income people would pay less tax – the measures will begin to bite on a family with an income over £54,000 a year.

As Charles Kennedy received a warm reception on his return to the political front line at the party conference in Brighton, his successor Sir Menzies Campbell signalled that he wanted to take the party to the Left of New Labour with a "redistributive" tax package.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


Showdown at the United Nations (Anshel Pfeffer, 9/20/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Bush routinely uses his right as host to speak at the beginning of the session and then to quietly disappear from his least favorite building in the country. He definitely had no plans yesterday to hang around for the afternoon session when Ahmadinejad was to take his place on the podium. The US might have issued the Iranian delegation visas, but Ahmadinejad isn't invited to Bush's reception.

The international press tried to build up the two presidents' simultaneous presence as the ultimate showdown, but Bush wasn't about to give him any satisfaction. Ahmadinejad might have invited his American counterpart to a televised debate, but Bush didn't even mention him by name in his speech.

Those who expected Bush to show a bit of humility - Annan was definitely one; last week he summed up his Middle East visit by saying that almost all the region's leaders agreed that the US intervention in Iraq was an unmitigated disaster - were fated to be deeply disappointed.

Bush insisted that Iraq was better off now then when under Saddam Hussein's heel and presented a totally unrepentant view of the Middle East. He divided the hot-spots into three categories: the good guys, the bad guys, and those who have to decide which side they are on. Iran and Afghanistan are the good ones, those who redeemed themselves from tyranny with a bit of help from the US. The leaders of those nations sitting in the assembly got a personal presidential nod.

Lebanon and the Palestinians received encouragement along with not-too-veiled threats against Hamas and Hizbullah.

But the central message was for Iran and Syria. Bush expressed deep "respect" for the people of both countries. When an American president respects a people, it usually means that their leaders are on the hit list.

Ahmedinejad is a time server and that time is almost up. The President should offer to meet with Ayatollah Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Never Say Die: Meet Dead Moon, the most highly regarded Northwest rock band you've never heard. (But Pearl Jam and Mudhoney sure have.) (Brian J Barr, 9/20/06, Seattle Weekly)(profanity alert)

If Fred Cole is unaware of the technological advances of late, he can be forgiven. He's never needed any to get by. Though he's a 59-year-old grandfather of seven, the guy is hardly out of touch. For the last 20 years, Cole has fronted Dead Moon, one of the most revered underground bands in the Pacific Northwest, whose extreme DIY ethic and wild brand of bare-bones rock and roll have made them an icon to many a Seattle music luminary.

Mention Dead Moon to Seattle's rock deities, and you'll get an uncannily positive response. To anyone familiar with the trio, it's a band that can do absolutely no wrong. Krist Novoselic of Nirvana calls them "the real Northwest rock." Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder counts them among his favorite bands. And Steve Turner of Mudhoney places singer-guitarist Cole on the same playing field as Neil Young. But mention the name Dead Moon to most people, and you'll doubtless be met with a shrug. Dead Moon are barely, if ever, spun on the radio and have never been signed to a major label—selling very few albums. But Dead Moon inspire an unparalleled loyalty among their fans.

"I want to know everything about them," says Love as Laughter frontman Sam Jayne, who cited low attendance at Dead Moon shows as his reason for leaving Seattle. "I want to know what they do all day when they're not on tour. I want to know what Fred Cole eats for breakfast."

Can't get more NorthWest than a tune called 5440 or Fight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


A-Rod Agonistes: Despite his extraordinary numbers, New York fans are quick to discount his contributions. And when things go wrong for A-Rod, even his teammates find him hard to motivate and harder to understand (Tom Verducci, 9/18/06, Sports Illustrated)

Torre had been concerned about Rodriguez and his game for weeks before he called him into his office. Effort hadn't been the issue. If anything, he 31-year-old Rodriguez works too hard, crams too many bits of information into his head. He even studies videotape shot from centerfield cameras to see if he can decode patterns in catchers' signal sequences with a runner on second base.

"I can't help that I'm a bright person," he said last month. "I know that's not a great quote to give, but I can't pretend to play dumb and stupid."

What bothered Torre most was Rodriguez's seeming obliviousness to how badly he was playing. In June, for instance, hitting coach Don Mattingly ordered Rodriguez into the cage and sternly lectured him on the flaws in his swing, which Mattingly thought A-Rod had been unwilling to address. "An intervention," Mattingly called it. "He got to a pretty good point with [his swing], but it lasted only a few days and he went right back to where he was."

In the 80 games the Yankees played from June 1 to Aug. 30 -- almost half a season -- Rodriguez hit .257 with 81 strikeouts while committing 13 errors. Tabloids mocked him. Talk radio used him for kindling. "I haven't seen anything like it since I've been here," said reliever Mariano Rivera, in his 12th year as a Yankee, of the rough treatment.

Torre hit .363 with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 and .289 the following season, giving him a deep understanding of the ebb and flow of performance. With veteran players especially he operates like an old fisherman checking the tide charts, believing that the worst of times only means the best is to come. Rodriguez will hit, he thought, and he kept telling his third baseman exactly that.

Torre's trademark placidity ended, though, when Giambi asked to talk to Torre in Seattle. "Skip," Giambi told Torre, "it's time to stop coddling him."

For all the scorn heaped upon Giambi for his ties to the BALCO steroid scandal, he is a strong clubhouse voice because he plays with a passion that stirs teammates and even opponents. This season, for instance, he reprimanded his former Oakland A's teammate, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, for occasionally showing up late to games out of frustration over another losing Baltimore season. "You're better than that," he told Tejada. So Giambi's gripe about Rodriguez sounded an alarm with Torre.

"What Jason said made me realize that I had to go at it a different way," Torre says. "When the rest of the team starts noticing things, you have to get it fixed. That's my job. I like to give individuals what I believe is the room they need, but when I sense that other people are affected, teamwise, I have to find a solution to it."

The players' confidence in Rodriguez was eroding as they sensed that he did not understand how much his on-field struggles were hurting the club. Said one Yankees veteran, "It was always about the numbers in [Seattle and Texas] for him. And that doesn't matter here. Winning is all you're judged on here."

Before Giambi went to Torre, he had scolded Rodriguez after a 13-5 win in Boston on Aug. 19. Irked that Rodriguez left four runners on base in the first three innings against a shaky Josh Beckett, Giambi thought A-Rod needed to be challenged. "We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent," Giambi recalls telling Rodriguez, "but you've got to get the big hit."

"What do you mean?" was Rodriguez's response, according to Giambi. "I've had five hits in Boston."

"You f------ call those hits?" Giambi said. "You had two f------ dinkers to rightfield and a ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you missed!

"When you hit three, four or five [in the order], you have to get the big hits, especially if they're going to walk Bobby [Abreu] and me. I'll help you out until you get going. I'll look to drive in runs when they pitch around me, go after that 3-and-1 pitch that might be a ball. But if they're going to walk Bobby and me, you're going to have to be the guy."

(Asked about Giambi's pep talk, Rodriguez said he could not remember what was discussed, though he added, "I'm sure we had a conversation.")

Did Giambi write the story or was he just the sole source?

Posted by Matt Murphy at 8:03 PM


Time to Move Beyond Bush-Hating (9/19/06, The Nation)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


The Man at the Top: General Manager Terry Ryan talks about the fall and rise of the 2006 Twins (Steve Perry, 9/20/06, City Pages)

As the Twins took the field last Wednesday to try to complete a series sweep against the West-leading Oakland A's, GM Terry Ryan sat in a packed press box surveying the field with raptor-sharp eyes. No, insisted the tall, prepossessing Ryan—the impending return of his overpowering rookie lefthander, Francisco Liriano, his overpowering rookie lefthander, Francisco Liriano, did not make this the most important game of the stretch run. "You get into this part of the season," Ryan says evenly, "every game's important. Today's no more important than yesterday." The idea, he figures, is to just keep winning series one at a time, so that none of your games become do-or-die. He is affable but emphatically terse on the subject of the club's needs past this season: "All those things are for a later time. Which is good. We should enjoy this moment."

It was a moment worth savoring: Ryan's team led the AL Wild Card chase by two and a half games over the defending champion White Sox, and trailed the once-invincible first-place Detroit Tigers by just a single game in the lost column. Ryan has seen a number of successful teams in his 20-plus years with the franchise—first as scouting director, then VP of player personnel, before being named the club's general manager in September 1994—but none has ever rivaled the shot-down-in-April, ridin'-high-in-July drama of the '06 Twins. Entering the season as a dark horse pick for the Wild Card, the club spent the month of April stinking up stadiums around the league. It was a total team effort. As of May 2, the Twins were dead last among 30 major league teams in scoring, and tied for 27th in runs allowed. With the exception of the lowly Kansas City Royals, they were statistically the worst team in baseball, and the Terry Ryan/Ron Gardenhire strategy of building for '06 with journeymen veterans like Tony Batista, Juan Castro, and Rondell White looked like a bust.

Then, in Ryan's words, "a lot of things started to happen," many of them spurred by personnel changes that Ryan and Gardenhire began making to the starting lineup and the pitching rotation. They went to the bullpen and the minor leagues to fortify the latter, a move that started Francisco Liriano on his abortive breakout season. The middle-of-the-lineup troika of Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, and Justin Morneau started hitting. Batista and Castro disappeared in favor of Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett. (Trivia question: When was the last time a team cashiered half its opening-day infield for non-performance and still wound up contending for the playoffs deep into September?)

Around baseball, Ryan is known as one of the premier judges and traders of horseflesh in the game. After his own pitching career as a Twins prospect came to an end—he was 10-0 in 1973, before an arm injury finished him—Ryan got a degree from the University of Wisconsin and went on to become a Midwest scout for the New York Mets. He joined the Twins as scouting director in 1986 and succeeded the much-celebrated Andy MacPhail as GM after the strike-shortened 1994 season.

It's too bad for Ryan that the 2002 non-tendering of David Ortiz has become one of his best-known personnel moves, because on the whole he's amassed a remarkable record of collecting talent, often at bargain-basement prices. As far as the 2006 roster is concerned, start with the 1999 acquisition of Rule 5 pick Johan Santana. In 2002, Ryan snatched shortstop Jason Bartlett from the San Diego Padres for a fading utility outfielder, Brian Buchanan. In 2003, he got Nick Punto and Carlos Silva from the Phillies for an effectively washed-up starter, Eric Milton. And he pulled off what may yet prove to be the best trade in baseball since St. Louis nabbed Mark McGwire for three going-nowhere relievers, swapping A.J. Piersynzski to the Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Along the way, he kept an eye out for useful pieces that had been discarded by others—like the invaluable lefty late-innings specialist Dennys Reyes, signed to a minor-league contract last winter.

If the Twins make the playoffs, Ryan is sure to contend once again for the Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year award he won in 2002.

There's a fair bit of talk about Santana or Morneau for MVP, but if you're going with a Twin, how can it not be Mauer? Not only is he going to finish at or near the top in batting average, near unheard of for a catcher, and leading the second best pitching staff in the AL, but has done such a good job throwing out base-stealers that they don't even run on him much (though he's no Pudge yet).

Yanks Finally Find a Spark, and Close in on the Title (TYLER KEPNER, 9/19/06, NY Times)

If the Yankees looked sleepy early on against the Blue Jays, it was mostly from the dazzling pitching of A. J. Burnett. [...]

“We were dead,” Rodriguez said. “He was dominating us as much as we’ve been dominated all year. It was nice to get that bloop base hit up the middle and a blast, and the captain came up with the big hit.”

That was a reference to Jeter, who ended his 25-game hitting streak Sunday when he grounded out on a 3-0 pitch in his last at-bat. That was the first time Jeter had swung on 3-0 since 2002...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM




Welcome to Independence First the Scottish independence referendum campaign. Our main news at the moment is that we are organising our first pro-democracy march on 30th September, 2006 in Edinburgh. 10,000 leaflets are being distributed all over Scotland and preparations are now well under way.

We are hoping for a great day and you too can play an important part. If your organisation would like some leaflets to distribute to your supporters or you would like to help us organise the march (there's still a lot of work to be done!) then contact

Our march has received official support from the Independence Convention and we will have speakers there from all the main pro- independence parties plus some exciting musical entertainment. See here for a copy of our leaflet with a lot more details.

Nearly worth violating the Time Zone Rule....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


Are Indians the Model Immigrants? (Vivek Wadhwa,

They have funny accents, occasionally dress in strange outfits, and some wear turbans and grow beards, yet Indians have been able to overcome stereotypes to become the U.S.'s most successful immigrant group. Not only are they leaving their mark in the field of technology, but also in real estate, journalism, literature, and entertainment. They run some of the most successful small businesses and lead a few of the largest corporations. Valuable lessons can be learned from their various successes.

According to the 2000 Census, the median household income of Indians was $70,708—far above the national median of $50,046. An Asian-American hospitality industry advocacy group says that Indians own 50% of all economy lodging and 37% of all hotels in the U.S. AnnaLee Saxenian, a dean and professor at University of California, Berkeley, estimates that in the late 1990s, close to 10% of technology startups in Silicon Valley were headed by Indians.

You'll find Indian physicians working in almost every hospital as well as running small-town practices. Indian journalists hold senior positions at major publications, and Indian faculty have gained senior appointments at most universities. Last month, Indra Nooyi, an Indian woman, was named CEO of PepsiCo (PEP ).

Census data show that 81.8% of Indian immigrants arrived in the U.S. after 1980. They received no special treatment or support and faced the same discrimination and hardship that any immigrant group does. Yet, they learned to thrive in American society. Why are Indians such a model immigrant group?

In the absence of scientific research, I'll present my own reasons for why this group has achieved so much. As an Indian immigrant myself, I have had the chance to live the American dream.

A society can't turn away people with the values he lists and be healthy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


CBC chairman facing ridicule in Quebec
(Graeme Hamilton, 9/19/06, National Post)

CBC chairman Guy Fournier recently told a French-language radio station that bowel movements are better than sex. [...]

Mr. Fournier recounted a train trip in the early 1960s during which a friend named Michel said going number two was as pleasurable as having sex.

"From that moment, I started paying closer attention -- and I have to tell you, I quickly realized that Michel was entirely right," Mr. Fournier said.

"And the most extraordinary thing is that, in the end, as you grow older, you continue to go poop once a day if you are in good health, while it is not easy to make love every day. So finally, the pleasure is longer-lasting and more frequent than the other."

He also advised against distractions while on the toilet.

The final triumph of the self.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:03 PM


Oil ends under $62 on hefty supply, OPEC talk (Myra P. Saefong, Sep 19, 2006, MarketWatch)

Crude futures closed under $62 a barrel Tuesday as a general cloud of uncertainty in the market, concerns over a potential glut in global oil supplies and easing worries about risks to production helped sent the October contract to its lowest level of the year.

Comments from the president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries dismissing the near-term likelihood of a production cut probably contributed the largest part of the price pressure Tuesday, said Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Alaron Trading.

If only W were who Democrats think he is--he could release the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and really drive prices down in time for the election....

Posted by Matt Murphy at 2:35 PM


9/11 anniversary events boost White House (Rick Klein, 9/18/06, Boston Globe)

Public confidence in President Bush's leadership appears to be rising since last week's campaign-style blitz touting his record in fighting terrorism, generating optimism among Republican lawmakers and operatives that they will be able to avoid losing control of Congress in the fall.

The president utilized a high-profile series of trips to important sites related to the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, along with a nationally televised Oval Office address, to emphasize that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism and that the United States has been free of terrorist attacks for five years due to the extraordinary vigilance of his administration.

The concerted effort, which also included new plans for bringing terrorists to trial and conducting surveillance to disrupt terrorist plots, appears to have had an effect on his approval ratings. A series of recent polls shows Bush's approval inching back into the low 40s -- a level at which many pollsters say he won't be a significant drag on candidates in House and Senate races. And more voters are citing terrorism as a top concern, allowing Republicans to highlight an area that has long been a strong suit for their party. [...]

Democratic Party leaders say they always expected to see the president's poll numbers climb slightly around the anniversary of 9/11, given the warm memories so many Americans have of Bush's leadership after the attacks.

But with violence continuing in Iraq and no signs of US troops coming home soon, voters won't be convinced to vote for Republicans based on national security issues this year, said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

``Frankly, it did work in 2002, and it worked in 2004, but it's not going to work this year," Schumer said, explaining that Democrats won't let Republicans conflate the war on terrorism with the Iraq War. ``We're not going to let them switch the focus. We've learned our lessons. Every time they go after us, we stand up and fight back."

Anybody here remember the classic Simpsons episode where Homer accidentally desecrated the sacred parchment of the Stonecutters, and then unwittingly pounded it with his fists while proclaiming he had learned his lesson? The Democrats likewise insist they have learned their lessons for the next election, but lately they've been like the college student who gets a hangover before the big finals and throws up on his desk.

Also: Isn't this at least the third election cycle in a row in which the media has endlessly told us that the Democrats are going to make big gains, even to the point of interpreting close Democratic losses a year away from the election as some kind of anti-Republican bellwether?

Mark Steyn says that the Democrats and the press live in a mutually reinforcing cocoon of delusion. While nobody knows for sure what will happen in November, I think most of us are hoping we get to bust that cocoon again in November. It's an addictive habit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


Police question Blair's wife for "slapping" boy (Reuters, 9/19/06)

The wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair only pretended to slap a cheeky teenager, but child protection officials reported her to the police and officers questioned her before dismissing the incident.

Cherie Blair was being photographed with teenager Miles Gandolfi at the UK Schools Games sports event in Glasgow, Scotland, when the 17-year-old jokingly raised his hand behind her head to make a "bunny ears" gesture.

In response, Blair, a prominent human rights lawyer and mother of four children, took it in good humor and pretended to slap Gandolfi, telling him he was cheeky. Newspaper pictures then showed them laughing and hugging each other.

Political correctness has contributed mightily to all humor being conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


Bush Fails to Recapture the Nation's Post-9/11 Unity (Ronald Brownstein, September 17, 2006, LA Times)

In his various remarks last week remembering the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush — as he has before — invoked Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. But Bush still shows no indication of having learned from their approach to building domestic support for foreign policy.

As America moved into World War II, Roosevelt named Republican Henry Stimson, President Hoover's secretary of State, as his secretary of war. He also tapped Frank Knox, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1936, as his secretary of the Navy. And FDR sent Wendell Willkie, his GOP opponent in 1940, on a global goodwill mission.

After the war, Truman built bipartisan support in Congress by consulting exhaustively, and compromising regularly, with Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan over every aspect of America's emerging strategy for the Cold War. They built a consensus broad enough to endure: Truman's strategy of containment guided American policy for more than 40 years.

Truman and FDR were, of course, lucky enough to have the GOP in opposition, rather than the Democrats. Whereas Republicans tend to place patriotism above partisanship, as LBJ discovered, even a Democratic president can't count on having his own party on our side in wartime.

A pluperfect illustration of where the partisanship in the WoT is coming from was Nancy Pelosi's attack today on the President's pro-democracy address to the UN. She'll be followed shortly by Assad, Ahmedinejad, etc....

Think it might have been a better moment to just say: "despite any difdferences we may have with the president, we couldn't agree more about liberalizing the Middle East"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


A Schwarzenegger landslide? Angelides is running out of time (Dan Walters, 9/19/06, Sacramento Bee)

Earlier in the summer, after Phil Angelides had won the Democratic nomination for governor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political advisers publicly declared that it would be a close, hard-fought battle for a second term.

Privately, however, those professional campaign strategists considered it possible, if they did their jobs well and the intangible factors broke Schwarzenegger's way, to run up a double-digit victory over Angelides.

With seven weeks -- just 49 days -- remaining before the Nov. 7 election, the possibility of a landslide Schwarzenegger victory is growing stronger. Given what's happened, and not happened, in the 3 1/2 months since the June primary, it now appears that there's nothing that Angelides can do to win.

The Governor isn't likely to chip in, but it would be helpful for John McCain and Rudy Giuliani to spend some time in state and for the national party to use its turnout operation so that the landslide will help other GOP candidates there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


US Treasury Sets New 1-Day Tax Receipt Record Of $85.8 Billion (Benton Ives-Halperin, 9/19/06, Dow Jones Newswires)

Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Randal Quarles said Friday's numbers provided a "continuing demonstration of the strength of the U.S. economy."

"In fact, Friday's gross receipts were the largest in a single day in the nation's history - 20% higher than receipts on the same quarterly tax payment date last year," Quarles said in a statement.

Funny sort of corporateering....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM


President Bush Addresses United Nations General Assembly (George W. Bush, United Nations, New York, New York, 9/19/06)

Mr. Secretary General, Madam President, distinguished delegates, and ladies and gentlemen: I want to thank you for the privilege of speaking to this General Assembly.

Last week, America and the world marked the fifth anniversary of the attacks that filled another September morning with death and suffering. On that terrible day, extremists killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, including citizens of dozens of nations represented right here in this chamber. Since then, the enemies of humanity have continued their campaign of murder. Al Qaeda and those inspired by its extremist ideology have attacked more than two dozen nations. And recently a different group of extremists deliberately provoked a terrible conflict in Lebanon. At the start of the 21st century, it is clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace.

Five years ago, I stood at this podium and called on the community of nations to defend civilization and build a more hopeful future. This is still the great challenge of our time; it is the calling of our generation. This morning, I want to speak about the more hopeful world that is within our reach, a world beyond terror, where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, where the voices of moderation are empowered, and where the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority. This world can be ours if we seek it and if we work together.

The principles of this world beyond terror can be found in the very first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document declares that the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world." One of the authors of this document was a Lebanese diplomat named Charles Malik, who would go on to become President of this Assembly. Mr. Malik insisted that these principles apply equally to all people, of all regions, of all religions, including the men and women of the Arab world that was his home.

In the nearly six decades since that document was approved, we have seen the forces of freedom and moderation transform entire continents. Sixty years after a terrible war, Europe is now whole, free, and at peace -- and Asia has seen freedom progress and hundreds of millions of people lifted out of desperate poverty. The words of the Universal Declaration are as true today as they were when they were written. As liberty flourishes, nations grow in tolerance and hope and peace. And we're seeing that bright future begin to take root in the broader Middle East.

Some of the changes in the Middle East have been dramatic, and we see the results in this chamber. Five years ago, Afghanistan was ruled by the brutal Taliban regime, and its seat in this body was contested. Now this seat is held by the freely elected government of Afghanistan, which is represented today by President Karzai. Five years ago, Iraq's seat in this body was held by a dictator who killed his citizens, invaded his neighbors, and showed his contempt for the world by defying more than a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions. Now Iraq's seat is held by a democratic government that embodies the aspirations of the Iraq people, who's represented today by President Talabani. With these changes, more than 50 million people have been given a voice in this chamber for the first time in decades.

Some of the changes in the Middle East are happening gradually, but they are real. Algeria has held its first competitive presidential election, and the military remained neutral. The United Arab Emirates recently announced that half of the seats in its Federal National Council will be chosen by elections. Kuwait held elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time. Citizens have voted in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, in parliamentary elections in Jordan and Bahrain, and in multiparty presidential elections in Yemen and Egypt. These are important steps, and the governments should continue to move forward with other reforms that show they trust their people. Every nation that travels the road to freedom moves at a different pace, and the democracies they build will reflect their own culture and traditions. But the destination is the same: A free society where people live at peace with each other and at peace with the world.

Some have argued that the democratic changes we're seeing in the Middle East are destabilizing the region. This argument rests on a false assumption, that the Middle East was stable to begin with. The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage. For decades, millions of men and women in the region have been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. And these conditions left a generation disillusioned, and made this region a breeding ground for extremism.

Imagine what it's like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You're 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country's shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.

Every civilized nation, including those in the Muslim world, must support those in the region who are offering a more hopeful alternative. We know that when people have a voice in their future, they are less likely to blow themselves up in suicide attacks. We know that when leaders are accountable to their people, they are more likely to seek national greatness in the achievements of their citizens, rather than in terror and conquest. So we must stand with democratic leaders and moderate reformers across the broader Middle East. We must give them voice to the hopes of decent men and women who want for their children the same things we want for ours. We must seek stability through a free and just Middle East where the extremists are marginalized by millions of citizens in control of their own destinies.

Today, I'd like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East: My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false, and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam, but we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction. Our goal is to help you build a more tolerant and hopeful society that honors people of all faiths and promote the peace.

To the people of Iraq: Nearly 12 million of you braved the car bombers and assassins last December to vote in free elections. The world saw you hold up purple ink-stained fingers, and your courage filled us with admiration. You've stood firm in the face of horrendous acts of terror and sectarian violence -- and we will not abandon you in your struggle to build a free nation. America and our coalition partners will continue to stand with the democratic government you elected. We will continue to help you secure the international assistance and investment you need to create jobs and opportunity, working with the United Nations and through the International Compact with Iraq endorsed here in New York yesterday. We will continue to train those of you who stepped forward to fight the enemies of freedom. We will not yield the future of your country to terrorists and extremists. In return, your leaders must rise to the challenges your country is facing, and make difficult choices to bring security and prosperity. Working together, we will help your democracy succeed, so it can become a beacon of hope for millions in the Muslim world.

To the people of Afghanistan: Together, we overthrew the Taliban regime that brought misery into your lives and harbored terrorists who brought death to the citizens of many nations. Since then, we have watched you choose your leaders in free elections and build a democratic government. You can be proud of these achievements. We respect your courage, and your determination to live in peace and freedom. We will continue to stand with you to defend your democratic gains. Today forces from more than 40 countries, including members of the NATO Alliance, are bravely serving side-by-side with you against the extremists who want to bring down the free government you've established. We'll help you defeat these enemies and build a free Afghanistan that will never again oppress you, or be a safe haven for terrorists.

To the people of Lebanon: Last year, you inspired the world when you came out into the streets to demand your independence from Syrian dominance. You drove Syrian forces from your country and you reestablished democracy. Since then, you have been tested by the fighting that began with Hezbollah's unprovoked attacks on Israel. Many of you have seen your homes and communities caught in crossfire. We see your suffering, and the world is helping you to rebuild your country, and helping you deal with the armed extremists who are undermining your democracy by acting as a state within a state. The United Nations has passed a good resolution that has authorized an international force, led by France and Italy, to help you restore Lebanese sovereignty over Lebanese soil. For many years, Lebanon was a model of democracy and pluralism and openness in the region -- and it will be again.

To the people of Iran: The United States respects you; we respect your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential. The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism, and fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons. The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom -- and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.

To the people of Syria: Your land is home to a great people with a proud tradition of learning and commerce. Today your rulers have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism. In your midst, Hamas and Hezbollah are working to destabilize the region, and your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran. This is increasing your country's isolation from the world. Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror, and living in peace with your neighbors, and opening the way to a better life for you and your families.

To the people of Darfur: You have suffered unspeakable violence, and my nation has called these atrocities what they are -- genocide. For the last two years, America joined with the international community to provide emergency food aid and support for an African Union peacekeeping force. Yet your suffering continues. The world must step forward to provide additional humanitarian aid -- and we must strengthen the African Union force that has done good work, but is not strong enough to protect you. The Security Council has approved a resolution that would transform the African Union force into a blue-helmeted force that is larger and more robust. To increase its strength and effectiveness, NATO nations should provide logistics and other support. The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act. Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake. So today I'm announcing that I'm naming a Presidential Special Envoy -- former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios -- to lead America's efforts to resolve the outstanding disputes and help bring peace to your land.

The world must also stand up for peace in the Holy Land. I'm committed to two democratic states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side-by-side in peace and security. I'm committed to a Palestinian state that has territorial integrity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel. This is the vision set forth in the road map -- and helping the parties reach this goal is one of the great objectives of my presidency. The Palestinian people have suffered from decades of corruption and violence and the daily humiliation of occupation. Israeli citizens have endured brutal acts of terrorism and constant fear of attack since the birth of their nation. Many brave men and women have made the commitment to peace. Yet extremists in the region are stirring up hatred and trying to prevent these moderate voices from prevailing.

This struggle is unfolding in the Palestinian territories. Earlier this year, the Palestinian people voted in a free election. The leaders of Hamas campaigned on a platform of ending corruption and improving the lives of the Palestinian people, and they prevailed. The world is waiting to see whether the Hamas government will follow through on its promises, or pursue an extremist agenda. And the world has sent a clear message to the leaders of Hamas: Serve the interests of the Palestinian people. Abandon terror, recognize Israel's right to exist, honor agreements, and work for peace.

President Abbas is committed to peace, and to his people's aspirations for a state of their own. Prime Minister Olmert is committed to peace, and has said he intends to meet with President Abbas to make real progress on the outstanding issues between them. I believe peace can be achieved, and that a democratic Palestinian state is possible. I hear from leaders in the region who want to help. I've directed Secretary of State Rice to lead a diplomatic effort to engage moderate leaders across the region, to help the Palestinians reform their security services, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts to come together to resolve their differences. Prime Minister Blair has indicated that his country will work with partners in Europe to help strengthen the governing institutions of the Palestinian administration. We welcome his initiative. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt have made clear they're willing to contribute the diplomatic and financial assistance necessary to help these efforts succeed. I'm optimistic that by supporting the forces of democracy and moderation, we can help Israelis and Palestinians build a more hopeful future and achieve the peace in a Holy Land we all want.

Freedom, by its nature, cannot be imposed -- it must be chosen. From Beirut to Baghdad, people are making the choice for freedom. And the nations gathered in this chamber must make a choice, as well: Will we support the moderates and reformers who are working for change across the Middle East -- or will we yield the future to the terrorists and extremists? America has made its choice: We will stand with the moderates and reformers.

Recently a courageous group of Arab and Muslim intellectuals wrote me a letter. In it, they said this: "The shore of reform is the only one on which any lights appear, even though the journey demands courage and patience and perseverance." The United Nations was created to make that journey possible. Together we must support the dreams of good and decent people who are working to transform a troubled region -- and by doing so, we will advance the high ideals on which this institution was founded.

Thank you for your time. God bless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Status Quo Election? (Bruce Bartlett, 9/19/06, Real Clear Politics)

It appears that congressional Republicans have dodged a bullet. If the election had been held six weeks ago, almost certainly they would have lost control of the House of Representatives and probably the Senate, as well. Since then, they have narrowed the gap with the Democrats to where it is starting to look like a status quo election in November, with no significant changes. [...]

I think this is too bad. The Republicans badly need a wake-up call. [...]

In any case, the problem of spending is not with programs subject to annual appropriations, but those where spending is automatic, known as entitlements. The real spending problem is in Medicare, which neither party has the guts to tackle. By comparison, all pork barrel spending plus every other case of waste, fraud and abuse taken together are a budgetary triviality compared to the problem of Medicare.

If Republicans end up losing in November, it should not be because they are gluttons for pork, but because they enacted a massively expensive, unfunded expansion of Medicare for prescription drugs.

Likewise, Mr. Bartlett must conclude that if Mr. Bush and the Republicans ring up their third consecutive surprisingly good result in this election it will be because of things like passing the prescription drug benefit that the overwhelming majority of America voters demanded and getting major Third Way reforms -- like HSAs -- in the process.

As much fun as it is to watch W make the Democrats' heads explode, it's going to be much more fun to watch all these libertarians and paleocons backpedaling wildly on their opinions of George W. Bush, just as they were forced to on Mr. Bartlett's old big-spending statist boss, Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


What Inflation? (Scott Reeves, 09.19.06, Forbes)

U.S. prices at the wholesale level rose just 0.1% in August, underscoring easing inflationary pressure that will probably allow the Federal Reserve to leave its key overnight interest rate target unchanged at 5.25% when it meets on Wednesday. [...]

Excluding food and energy costs, the core Producer Price Index fell 0.4%, the largest drop since April 2003 and the first back-to-back drop since 2002. Last month, prices excluding food and energy fell 0.3%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


A Challenge, Not a Crusade (JOHN L. ALLEN Jr., 9/19/06, NY Times)

The new pope is tougher both on terrorism and on what the Vatican calls “reciprocity” — the demand that Islamic states grant the same rights and freedoms to Christians and other religious minorities that Muslims receive in the West. When Benedict said in his apology on Sunday that he wants a “frank and sincere dialogue,” the word “frank” was not an accident. He wants dialogue with teeth.

Roman Catholicism under Benedict is moving into a more critical posture toward Islamic fundamentalism. That could either push Islam toward reform, or set off a global “clash of civilizations” — or, perhaps, both.

Either eventuality is satisfactory, but one is preferable. The alternative, that Islam not change, is a non-starter. Given which, it's hardly surprising that Muslims would be disconcerted. It would be helpful, though politically incorrect, for the Pope to acknowledge that what he's (we're) doing could indeed foment a clash and that Christianity is okay with that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


Democrat, Republican and a Bond of Addiction (MARK LEIBOVICH, 9/19/06, NY Times)

In the precarious course of his recovery, Mr. Kennedy, the 39-year-old son of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has come to rely heavily on [Representative Jim Ramstad, a Republican from Minnesota], 60. He has served as Patrick Kennedy’s sponsor, his primary source of advice and support in what he calls “the daily fight for my life” against addiction.

The day after the accident, Mr. Kennedy received a phone call from Mr. Ramstad, a recovering alcoholic who has been an evangelist in Congress for addiction treatment and 12-step recovery programs. The men did not know each other well.

But in battling their addictions, the two built a fast kinship that flouts the partisan divisions of Congress, their own divergent politics and the conditional nature of so many friendships in Washington. They speak daily, often several times. Mr. Ramstad visited Mr. Kennedy during his 28-day rehabilitation, driving two hours each Saturday from his Minnetonka home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


By way of the National Association of Manufacturers' blog we find this funny piece, Drop in gasoline prices signals drop in greed? (Andrew Cassel, 9/15/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Stop the presses. Alert the clergy. Tell charitable fund-raisers everywhere to get busy.

Altruism is breaking out all over. Greed is on the run!

This must be true, because why else would gasoline prices have dropped more than half a buck in the last month alone?

According to the latest surveys, pump prices in the Philadelphia region averaged $2.69 this week. That's down from $3.17 per gallon in early August.

How to explain such a reversal? For the millions of Americans who reject the idea of supply and demand, this is going to be a challenge.

If you're sure, for example, that $3 gas was the product of collusion among greedy oil companies, how do you account for the price tumbling back toward $2.50 a gallon?

Did Exxon and Sunoco have a great moral awakening? Did they suddenly decide to take pity on us motorists? Envisioning millions of SUVs headed for the scrap heap, were they suddenly filled with remorse?

The gates of Heaven only open when you get prices back around $1.50 a gallon.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


A Five-Star Classic: L.A. gets four straight home runs to erase 9-5 deficit in ninth, then wins it in the 10th on Garciaparra's two-run shot to retake West lead (Bill Shaikin, September 19, 2006, LA Times)

To call this an unlikely victory would be an understatement. The Padres bombed Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito for five runs in the eighth and ninth innings, and they took a 9-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew started the inning with back-to-back home runs off Jon Adkins, and the Padres rushed Hoffman into the game.

Russell Martin hit Hoffman's first pitch for a home run. Marlon Anderson hit Hoffman's second pitch for a home run, raising both hands high above his head as he passed first base.

The Dodgers became the fourth team in major league history to hit four consecutive home runs, the first since the Minnesota Twins did it in 1964, against the Kansas City Athletics.

Hoffman rebounded to get three outs, and the Padres nicked Aaron Sele for a run in the 10th inning.

But Kenny Lofton walked to lead off the bottom of the 10th against Rudy Seanez, and Garciaparra followed with a home run, pumping his fist as he rounded the bases and disappearing into a mob of teammates at home plate.

"I was just trying to make sure I hit every bag and touched home plate," he said.

This wasn't quite Kirk Gibson hobbling to bat in the World Series, but it wasn't bad. Garciaparra probably wouldn't be playing if this were July against the Washington Nationals, but there he was, despite a strained quadriceps muscle that he said he could not feel amid the painkiller that is victory.

"I'm not feeling it right now," he said of his injury. "I'm sure I will in a few minutes."

The Padres entered play with a half-game lead in the NL West and a 13-4 record against the Dodgers this season.

'The Most Wonderful Game I Have Ever Seen' (LEE JENKINS, 9/19/06, NY Times)
If the Dodgers go on to win the division, and the Padres do not, they can trace their respective rise and fall to the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night, which will be captured for posterity on classic sports highlight shows.

With the comfort of a four-run lead, San Diego Manager Bruce Bochy called on middle reliever Jon Adkins to start the ninth instead of his renowned closer, Trevor Hoffman. The first batter Adkins faced, Jeff Kent, hit a home run. The next batter he faced, J.D. Drew, hit a home run on the first pitch.

Fans who had left in the top of the ninth inning came sprinting back to their seats. Hoffman started warming up for the second time. Bochy was taking no more chances.

Hoffman has 475 saves in his career, three short of the major league record, and this would surely be No. 476. The Dodgers rank second-to-last in the N.L. in home runs. Dodger Stadium is known as a pitcher's park. The bottom of the order was due up. Surely, the Dodgers had spent all their power reserves.

But Hoffman’s first pitch, to Russell Martin, was bashed for another home run. The lead was down to one. Not since 2004 had a team hit three home runs in a row.

As Marlon Anderson walked to home plate for the Dodgers, he reminded himself to relax, take some time, let the game slow down and come to him.

Then he ignored all his own advice. Anderson swung at another first pitch and hit another high drive, deep into the right-field bleachers. Four batters, four home runs. Three pitches, three home runs. None of them were even cheap. They were all blasted.

Charging around the bases, Anderson raised his arms above his head, as if the game were over. When he reached the bench, the Dodgers formed a joyous mosh pit around him, jumping and dancing in their dugout.

“That was absolutely the most wonderful game I have ever seen in my life,” Anderson said. “It is the best thing that’s ever happened to me on a baseball field.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


U.S. hedge fund walloped on bad gas bet (JOHN PARTRIDGE, 9/19/06, Globe and Mail)

A major U.S. hedge fund with strong links to Canada appears to have lost about $3.3-billion (U.S.) -- 35 per cent of its capital -- after betting the wrong way on plunging natural gas prices.

Never let a Malthusian control your money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Inflation rate eases
(TAVIA GRANT, 9/19/06, Globe and Mail)

Canada's inflation rate pulled back in August, climbing at a 2.1-per-cent annual rate, as the pace of price increases slowed at the pump. [...]

The core rate, which excludes the eight most volatile items in the index, was unchanged at 1.5 per cent. This index, closely watched by the central bank as a sign of underlying price changes, has remained stable over the past year, Statscan said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Cipel airs his unhappiness over Oprah's chat with McG (Rush & Molloy, September 19, 2006, NY Daily News)

Golan Cipel has it in for Oprah for giving Jim McGreevey the chance to publicize his book. Jersey's former head of homeland security claims the ex-governor assaulted him.
Oprah Winfrey is wrong to promote former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's book on her show today, says his former homeland security adviser Golan Cipel.

McGreevey claims in his book, "The Confession," that Cipel was his lover, but the 37-year-old says he is the victim of McGreevey's sexual assaults and that Winfrey should empathize with that.

"I'm very sorry Oprah gave McGreevey a chance to speak," Cipel told us from Israel. "I wasn't his lover. The only things that happened were sexual harassments. And unwanted sexual advances and assaults."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Forget Homework: It's a waste of time for elementary-school students (Emily Bazelon, Sept. 14, 2006, Slate)

In The Battle Over Homework, Cooper has crunched the numbers on dozens of studies of homework for students of all ages. Looking across all the studies is supposed to offer a fairly accurate picture even though the science behind some of them is sketchy. For elementary-school students, Cooper found that "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero." In Kohn's book, he highlights a 1998 study that Cooper and his colleagues did with second- through 12th-graders. For younger students, the amount of homework completed had no effect on test scores and bore a negative relationship to grades. (The results weren't quite so grim for older students. Their grades rose in relation to the amount of homework they completed, though their test scores did not.) Kohn looks at these findings and concludes that most homework is at best a waste of time and at worst a source of tedious vexation.

The problem lies in assuming most men to be educable in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


As US nears milestone, a rising mix of immigrants (Brad Knickerbocker and Patrik Jonsson, 9/19/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

While growth is slowing almost everywhere in the developed world, three factors are powering the US population toward the 300 million mark. Couples are having enough babies to replace themselves. People are living longer. And the biggest reason: Immigration to the US has sharply increased in recent decades. [...]

On average, Hispanics in the US are considerably younger than the population as a whole: Their median age is about 27 compared with about 36 for the country generally. That means that as older non-Hispanics retire, there will be relatively more workers to pay into Social Security.

An elderly decrepit man always resents a young man's vigor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Four Taverns in the Town (Roger Angell, 1963-10-26, The New Yorker)

Already, two weeks after the event, it is difficult to remember that there was a World Series played this year. It is like trying to recall an economy display of back-yard fireworks. Four small, perfect showers of light in the sky, accompanied by faint plops, and it was over. The spectators, who had happily expected a protracted patriotic bombardment culminating in a grand crescendo of salutes, fireballs, flowerpots, and stomach-jarring explosions, stood almost silent, cricking their necks and staring into the night sky with the image of the last brief rocket burst still pressed on their eyes, and then, realizing at last that there was to be no more, went slowly home, hushing the children who asked, “Is that all?” The feeling of letdown, of puzzled astonishment, persists, particularly in this neighborhood, where we have come to expect a more lavish and satisfactory autumnal show from our hosts, the Yankees, the rich family up on the hill. There has been a good deal of unpleasant chatter (“I always knew they were really cheap,” “What else can you expect from such stuckups?”) about the affair ever since, thus proving again that prolonged success does not beget loyalty.

By choice, I witnessed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ four-game sweep at a remove—over television in four different bars here in the city. This notion came to me last year, during the Series games played in Yankee Stadium against the San Francisco Giants, when it became evident to me that my neighbors in the lower grandstand were not, for the most part, the same noisy, casually dressed, partisan, and knowing baseball fans who come to the park during the regular season. As I subsequently reported, a large proportion of the ticket-holders appeared to be well-to-do out-of-towners who came to the games only because they could afford the tickets, who seemed to have only a slipshod knowledge of baseball, and who frequently departed around the sixth or seventh inning, although all of last year’s games were close and immensely exciting. This year, then, I decided to seek out the true Yankee fan in his October retreat—what the baseball beer commercials refer to as “your neighborhood tavern.” I was especially happy about this plan after the Dodgers clinched the National League pennant, for I well remembered the exciting autumns here in the late forties and the mid-fifties, when the Dodgers and the Yanks, both home-town teams then, met in six different Series in what seemed to be a brilliant and unending war, and the sounds of baseball fell from every window and doorway in town. Those Series were a fever in the city. Secretaries typed only between innings, with their ears cocked to the office radio down the hall, and if business drew you reluctantly into the street (fingering your pool slip, designating your half inning, in your pocket), you followed the ribbon of news via elevator men’s rumors, snatches of broadcasts from passing taxi radios, and the portable clutched to a delivery boy’s ear, until a sudden burst of shouting and laughter sucked you into a bar you were passing, where you learned that Campy or Duke had parked one, or that Vic Raschi had struck out Furillo with two on.

Even before Stan Musial had thrown out the honorary first ball to open the first game this year, I discovered that there would be no such attendant melodrama in the city. Just before game time, I walked west in the mid-Forties and turned up Eighth Avenue, searching for the properly athletic saloon in which I could, in Jimmy Durante’s words, “mix wit’ de hoi pollew” who had not felt inclined to plunk down thirty-two dollars for a block of four home-game tickets at the Stadium. I stuck my nose in three or four likely-looking bars, only to find no more than a handful of fans who had staked out bar stools and were watching Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax complete their warmups. Finally, exactly at game time, I walked into O’Leary’s Bar, on the northwest corner of Fifty-third Street and Eighth Avenue, and found an audience of sufficient size and expectancy to convince me that it was not about to watch an afternoon quiz program. There wasn’t a woman in the place, and the bar stools and nearly all the standing slots along the bar were taken. It was mostly a young crowd—men in their twenties, in sports shirts and with carefully combed hair. There were some off-duty postmen in uniform up front, with their empty canvas mailbags under their feet. I ordered a beer and took up a stand beside the shuffle alley, near the front door, from where I could see the television screen just above the head of the bar. It was a color set, and I was appalled to discover that Whitey Ford had turned blue since I last saw him; he and all the other ballplayers were haloed in rabbit’s-eye pink, like deities in early Biblical color films. There was a black-and-white set at the back of the bar, and from time to time during the afternoon I turned around and watched that, just to reassure myself that Victor Mature was not likely to come in as a pinch-hitter.

It was a Yankee crowd at O’Leary’s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Prices at the pump keep tumbling (James R. Healey, 9/18/06, USA TODAY)

Gasoline prices continue to tumble briskly, dropping Monday to a U.S. average of less than $2.50 a gallon for the first time since March.

Service stations even are beginning old-fashioned gas wars to avoid losing customers to price-cutting rivals.

"Traders were racing to see how high they could take it. Now, retailers are racing to see how low. It's crazy," says Mike O'Connor, president of the Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association.

Poll finds rebound in Bush approval (Jill Lawrence and Susan Page, 9/18/06, USA TODAY)
Amid falling gas prices and a two-week drive to highlight his administration's efforts to fight terrorism, President Bush's approval rating has risen to 44% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. That's his highest rating in a year.

The poll also showed likely voters evenly divided between Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress, 48%-48%.

Ge it under $2 a gallon by Election Day and the President will be at his 50% ceiling where he's added defied historical norms by adding congressional seats in the last two elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 AM


IDF tackling Iran's WMD threat (Yaakov Katz, 9/19/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Post has further learned that in high-level talks with Israeli officials, senior Egyptian officials close to President Hosni Mubarak have given their discreet support for international efforts to stop Iran's race to obtain nuclear capability.

The Egyptian officials told their Israeli counterparts that according to their estimates, Iran will obtain a nuclear bomb within five years and must be stopped. Unlike Egypt, Israel has said that the point of no return regarding Iran's nuclear program was a few months away and at the point when the Islamic Republic would have independent research, development know-how and the ability to continue its program without outside help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A Weekend on the 'Trane (WILL FRIEDWALD, September 19, 2006, NY Sun)

When John Coltrane introduced "Chasin' the Trane" 45 years ago at The Village Vanguard, he immediately split the jazz world in two. It was perhaps the most extreme, avant-garde piece of jazz ever heard. Although "Chasin'" has come to be regarded as one of Coltrane's masterpieces, the piece continues to have a polarizing effect on listeners: Either you're for it or against it.

Jazz at Lincoln Center prominently featured "Chasin' the Trane" at both of the concerts in its celebration of Coltrane's 80th birthday this weekend. On Friday, it was played in the original trio format (with just bass and drums) by tenor saxophonist Todd Williams; then on Saturday, it was arranged for the JLC Orchestra by musical director Wynton Marsalis. In both cases, it was a considerably defanged version. The tune was stripped of its shrieks and squawks and its power to shock. Yet even shorn of those more controversial aspects, "Chasin' the Trane" continues to hold up as a fundamental, earthy blues, and it still sounds very good, even if it may no longer be what Coltrane intended when he spontaneously composed it at the Vanguard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Lusty or Tranquil in Spirit, but Always Unlikely in Sound (VIVIEN SCHWEITZER, 9/19/06, NY Times)

What happens when musical cultures intersect? Ara Guzelimian, the artistic adviser of Carnegie Hall, asked while introducing a concert by the Silk Road Ensemble on Saturday evening at Zankel Hall. It was the second of four programs that evolved from recent workshops in the Berkshires for young artists participating in the cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project.

With the border-hopping composer Osvaldo Golijov, what resulted was an exuberant mesh of unlikely instruments. The Silk Road was conveniently extended to Galicia to include the sultry Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato, who sashayed to center stage in shiny mauve pants, tossing her green hair and conducting with her hips in an almost carnal dance.

The silky, sensuous sound of her gaita, as the Galician instrument is called, was just one exotic voice in Mr. Golijov’s “Air to Air,” a new four-movement arrangement of music from his captivating song cycle “Ayre” and elsewhere, based on traditional Jewish, Arabic and Christian folk melodies.

“Ayre” was written for the soprano Dawn Upshaw; this chamber version featured Western strings, kemancheh (Persian spike fiddle), pipa (Chinese lute), ney (Persian bamboo flute) and a duo between gaita and sheng (Chinese mouth organ): unusual bedfellows even by the happy-family ethos of Mr. Golijov and the Silk Road Ensemble. The funky arrangement worked fine, ending with whoops from Ms. Pato and her companions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Krall returns to her roots: As motherhood looms, Diana Krall releases a new disc and takes a break (ASHANTE INFANTRY, 9/19/06, Toronto Star)

Krall's 10th album has her back on familiar ground, reinventing jazz favourites such as "Willow Weep For Me," "Day In, Day Out" and "How Insensitive," and not contributing a single original composition.

"I just didn't feel like it," she says simply. "A couple of people said to me `You have to write one song for this record.' I thought maybe I would, but I just didn't get around to it. I was busy writing arrangements and working on other arrangements.

"If something doesn't feel right for me, then I don't force it. I've written a couple things, but they're too hard for me to sing. I had other singers in mind like Sarah Vaughan or somebody like that. There's one I'd love to hear Dianne Reeves sing, because it's like a standard kind of ballad."

Recorded mostly with the stellar Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, but also a quartet made up of long-time collaborators guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, From This Moment On is a classically swinging big-band effort.

"I knew exactly what I wanted from the get go. I started writing down song titles last summer, but a lot of these tunes I've had in my back pocket for years. I've been working on `How Insensitive' for about 10 years. `Day In, Day Out' I started working on when I was about 24....

"Every tune has to have some sort of personal connection. But I didn't want it all to be too upbeat. Like `Willow Weep For Me,' which for me is more of a social comment, adds a question mark to that positive feeling.

"If you choose to express yourself through other people's words and music, then you have to find different stories in it. I was just watching Frank Sinatra singing something and I said to my husband, `You just know he's thinking about Ava Gardener or something that he's lived.'

"When I listened to these songs when I was 15, I hadn't experienced a lot of the kind of the heartache and things that I hear in them now," she says. "Once you've got that story in your mind, then you can sing it, but it also changes over the years.

"With `How Insensitive' there was a line in there where I couldn't believe the concept that I would be singing how cold I was to leave him — I would never do that. And now I feel like well, you know, I could do that, though I don't mean in my current situation.

"That's the difference between someone who is a great singer and a jazz interpreter like Billie Holiday, who you just know lived it and more. There are certain songs I would never touch, because Billie Holiday owns them, that are so personal to her even if she didn't write them."

September 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM


Chirac breaks ranks on Iran sanctions (Alec Russell in Washington and Colin Randall in Paris, 19/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

President Jacques Chirac last night provoked a diplomatic showdown at the UN when he broke ranks with America and its allies and called on them to stop threatening Iran with sanctions.

To the barely concealed fury of American and British officials, who have been calling on the UN Security Council to confront Teheran over its nuclear ambitions, Mr Chirac argued for more negotiations.

"I don't believe in a solution without dialogue," he said. He added pointedly that he had never noticed that sanctions had been effective.

Mr Chirac's comments shattered the shaky consensus between America and the EU-3 - Britain, France and Germany - which have been leading the diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

President Bush should invite Nicholas Sarkozy for a meeting and make it clear that Chirac is a nullity to the West.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


Jew! (Extreme Mortman, September 18, 2006)

A Virginia Senate campaign fought largely in Youtube got its newest Youtube moment today — courtesy the unlikeliest of sources, a reporter.

9News Now reporter Peggy Fox probably wouldn’t have been booed at Nuremberg. But that’s the treatment she got inside the Hilton McLean Ballroom this afternoon when she asked Sen. George Allen — onstage with Jim Webb in front of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce — whether his veins coursed with Jewish blood because his mother’s father Felix was reportedly Jewish. Allen’s middle name is – as Fox noted in her prosecution – Felix. J’accuse!

The crowd hissed and booed the question. Jews (full disclosure: I’ve been Jewish since birth. Both sets of parents? Yup, Jews) might liken the reaction to Purim, when every time Haman is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah he is given a vigorous vocal thumbs-down.

”I’d like to ask you, why is that relevant,” Allen said as the merchants continued to boo.

...what should they throw at Senator Allen? Motzahs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM


Revealed: the tough interrogation techniques the CIA wants to use (Ed Pilkington in New York and Clare Dyer, September 18, 2006, The Guardian)

Details emerged yesterday about the seven interrogation techniques the CIA is seeking to be allowed to apply to terror suspects. Newsweek magazine reported that a New York lawyer, Scott Horton, who has acted as an adviser to the US senate on interrogation methods, had acquired a list of the techniques. The details were corroborated by information obtained by the charity Human Rights Watch.

The techniques sought by the CIA are: induced hypothermia; forcing suspects to stand for prolonged periods; sleep deprivation; a technique called "the attention grab" where a suspect's shirt is forcefully seized; the "attention slap" or open hand slapping that hurts but does not lead to physical damage; the "belly slap"; and sound and light manipulation.

What next? Indian sunburns?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


Madonna's "Crucifixion" To Be Broadcast By NBC(Access Hollywood, September 18, 2006)

NBC's November Sweeps schedule includes crucifixion footage from Madonna's "Confessions" tour.

The spectacle, which occurs during her chart-topping "Live To Tell," features Madonna donning a crown of sparkling thorns and descending to the stage while mounted on a mirrored cross - evoking images of both the biblical and disco eras.

"We viewed it and didn't see it as being inappropriate," NBC said.

This will nicely illustrate the real difference between Christians and Muslims as NBC will be forced to cancel this stunt. Power trumps passion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


Hungary's prime minister in trouble over leaked recording (The Associated Press, September 18, 2006)

A leaked recording that caught Hungary's prime minister admitting the government had lied about the economy — keeping it afloat through "tricks" and relying on "divine providence" — has prompted protests outside parliament and calls for his resignation.

The tape was made at a closed-door meeting in late May, weeks after Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's government became the first in post-communist Hungary to win re-election.

It seemed to confirm the worst accusations leveled at him by the center-right opposition during the campaign — that Hungary's state budget was on the verge of collapse and that Gyurcsany and his ministers were concealing the truth in an effort to secure victory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Jihad, the Lord's Supper, and eternal life (Spengler, 9/19/06, Asia Times)

The Islamic world now views the pontiff as an existential threat, and with reason. Jihad is not merely the whim of a despotic divinity, as the pope implied. It is much more: jihad is the fundamental sacrament of Islam, the Muslim cognate of the Lord's Supper in Christianity, that is, the unique form of sacrifice by which the individual believer communes with the Transcendent. To denounce jihad on theological grounds is a blow at the foundations of Islam, in effect a papal call for the conversion of the Muslims. [...]

God's covenant with Abraham is unique and singular in world history. A single universal and eternal god makes an eternal pact with a mortal that can be fulfilled only if Abraham's tribe becomes an eternal people. But the price of this pact is self-sacrifice. That is an existential mortal act beyond all ethics, as Soren Kierkegaard tells us in Fear and Trembling. The sacraments of revealed religion are sublimated human sacrifice, for the revealed god in his love for humankind spares the victim, just as God provided a ram in place of the bound Isaac on Mount Moriah. Among Jews the covenant must be renewed in each male child through a substitute form of human sacrifice, namely circumcision. Christians believe that a single human sacrifice spared the rest of humankind.

Jihad also is a form of human sacrifice. He who serves Allah so faithfully as to die in the violent propagation of Islam goes straight to paradise, there to enjoy virgins or raisins, depending on the translation. But Allah is not the revealed god of loving kindness, or agape, but - pace Benedict - a god of reason, that is, of cold calculation. Islam admits no expiatory sacrifice. Everyone must carry his own spear.

We are too comfortable, too clean, too squeamish, too modern to descend into the terrible space where birth, death and immortality are decided. We forget that we cannot have eternal life unless we are ready to give up this one - and this the Muslim knows only through what we should call the sacrament of jihad. Through jihad, the Muslim does almost precisely what the Christian does at the Lord's Supper. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that grants immortal life to all Christians, that is, those who become one with Jesus by eating his flesh and drinking his blood so that the sacrifice also is theirs, at least in Catholic terms. Protestants substitute empathy identification with the crucified Christ for the trans-substantiated blood and flesh of Jesus.

Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to give all men eternal life, on condition that they take part in his sacrifice, either through the physical communion of the Catholic Church or the empathetic Communion of Protestantism. From a Muslim vantage point, the extreme of divine humility embodied in Jesus' sacrifice is beyond reason. Allah, by contrast, deals with those who submit to him after the calculation of an earthly despot. He demands that all Muslims sacrifice themselves by becoming warriors and, if necessary, laying their lives down in the perpetual war against the enemies of Islam.

These are parallel acts, in which different peoples do different things, in the service of different deities, but for the same reason: for eternal life.

Why is self-sacrifice always and everywhere the cost of eternal life? It is not because a vengeful and sanguineous God demands his due before issuing us a visa to heaven. Quite the contrary: we must sacrifice our earthly self, our attachment to the pleasures and petty victories of our short mortal life if we really are to gain the eternal life that we desire. The animal led to the altar, indeed Jesus on the cross, is ourselves: we die along with the sacrifice and yet live, by the grace of God. YHWH did not want Isaac to die, but without taking Abraham to Mount Moriah, Abraham himself could not have been transformed into the man desirous and deserving of immortal life. Jesus died and took upon him the sins of the world, in Christian terms, precisely so that a vicarious sacrifice would redeem those who come to him.

What distinguishes Allah from YHWH and (in Christian belief) his son Jesus is love. God gives Jews and Christians a path that their foot can tread, one that is not too hard for mortals, to secure the unobtainable, namely immortal life, as if by miracle. Out of love God gives the Torah to the Jews, not because God is a stickler for the execution of 613 commandments, but because it is a path upon which the Jew may sacrifice and yet live, and receive his portion of the World to Come. The most important sacrifice in Judaism is the Sabbath - "our offering of rest", says the congregation in the Sabbath prayers - a day of inactivity that acknowledges that the Earth is the Lord's. It is a sacrifice, as it were, of ego. In this framework, incidentally, it is pointless to distinguish Judaism as a "religion of works" as opposed to Christianity as a "religion of faith".

To Christians, God offers the vicarious participation in his sacrifice of himself through his only son.

That is Grace: a free gift by God to men such that they may obtain eternal life. By a miracle, the human soul responds to the offer of Grace with a leap, a leap away from the attachments that hold us to this world, and a foretaste of the World to Come.

There is no Grace in Islam, no miracle, no expiatory sacrifice, no expression of love for mankind such that each Muslim need not be a sacrifice. On the contrary, the concept of jihad, in which the congregation of Islam is also the army, states that every single Muslim must sacrifice himself personally. Jihad is the precise equivalent of the Lord's Supper in Christianity and the Jewish Sabbath, the defining expression of sacrifice that opens the prospect of eternity to the mortal believer. To ask Islam to become moderate, to reform, to become a peaceful religion of personal conscience is the precise equivalent of asking Catholics to abolish Mass.

Spengler cuts near the heart of the matter. What's ultimately at issue is not the manner in which Islam conducts its jihad, but the felt intuition that it is doomed to be converted by Christendom.

St. Ambrose: Selected Works and Letters

Chapter XVI.

St. Ambrose assures Gratian of victory, declaring that it has been foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel. This hope is further stayed upon the emperor’s piety, the former disasters being the punishment of Eastern heresy. The book closes with a prayer to God, that He will now show His mercy, and save the army, the land, and the sovereign of the faithful.

136. I must no further detain your Majesty, in this season of preparation for war, and the achievement of victory over the Barbarians. Go forth, sheltered, indeed, under the shield of faith, and girt with the sword of the Spirit; go forth to the victory, promised of old time, and foretold in oracles given by God.

137. For Ezekiel, in those far-off days, already prophesied the minishing of our people, and the Gothic wars, saying: “Prophesy, therefore, Son of Man, and say: O Gog, thus saith the Lord—Shalt thou not, in that day when My people Israel shall be established to dwell in peace, rise up and come forth from thy place, from the far north, and many nations with thee, all riders upon horses, a great and mighty gathering, and the valour of many hosts? Yea, go up against my people Israel, as clouds to cover the land, in the last days.”

138. That Gog is the Goth, whose coming forth we have already seen, and over whom victory in days to come is promised, according to the word of the Lord: “And they shall spoil them, who had been their despoilers, and plunder them, who had carried off their goods for a prey, saith the Lord. And it shall be in that day, that I will give to Gog”—that is, to the Goths—“a place that is famous, for Israel an high-heaped tomb of many men, of men who have made their way to the sea, and it shall reach round about, and close the mouth of the valley, and there [the house of Israel shall] overthrow Gog and all his multitude, and it shall be called the valley of the multitude of Gog: and the house of Israel shall overwhelm them, that the land may be cleansed.”

139. Nor, furthermore, may we doubt, your sacred Majesty, that we, who have undertaken the contest with alien unbelief, shall enjoy the aid of the Catholic Faith that is strong in you. Plainly indeed the reason of God’s wrath has been already made manifest, so that belief in the Roman Empire was first overthrown, where faith in God gave way.

140. No desire have I to recount the deaths, tortures, and banishments of confessors, the offices of the faithful made into presents for traitors. Have we not heard, from all along the border,—from Thrace, and through Dacia by the river, Mœsia, and all Valeria of the Pannonians,—a mingled tumult of blasphemers preaching and barbarians invading? What profit could neighbours so bloodthirsty bring us, or how could the Roman State be safe with such defenders?

Enough, yea, more than enough, Almighty God, have we now atoned for the deaths of confessors, the banishment of priests, and the guilt of wickedness so overweening, by our own blood, our own banishment—sufficiently plain is it that they, who have broken faith, cannot be safe. Turn again, O Lord, and set up the banners of Thy faith.

142. No military eagles, no flight of birds, here lead the van of our army, but Thy Name, Lord Jesus, and Thy worship. This is no land of unbelievers, but the land whose custom it is to send forth confessors—Italy; Italy, ofttimes tempted, but never drawn away; Italy, which your Majesty hath long defended, and now again rescued from the barbarian. No wavering mind in our emperor, but faith firm fixed.

143. Show forth now a plain sign of Thy Majesty, that he who believes Thee to be the true Lord of Hosts, and Captain of the armies of heaven; he who believes that Thou art the true Power and Wisdom of God, no being of time nor of creation, but even as it is written, the eternal Power and Divinity of God, may, upheld by the aid of thy Might Supreme, win the prize of victory for his Faith.

Religion of peace?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:01 PM


According to this, Jonathan Papelbon and Replacement Level (David Gassko, September 18, 2006, Hardball Times), Jonathan Papelbon doesn't have to be any great shakes as a starter for it to be worth moving him to the rotation.

Meanwhile, yesterday Bobby Murcer said that, at the current pace, Alex Rodriguez will have probably come to the plate with a total of 500 men on base this season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Goodbye to All That? (Tony Judt, NY Review of Books)

Leszek Kolakowski is a philosopher from Poland. But it does not seem quite right—or sufficient—to define him that way. Like Czeslaw Milosz and others before him, Kolakowski forged his intellectual and political career in opposition to certain deep-rooted features of traditional Polish culture: clericalism, chauvinism, anti-Semitism. Forced to leave his native land in 1968, Kolakowski could neither return home nor be published there: between 1968 and 1981 his name was on Poland's index of forbidden authors and much of the work for which he is best known today was written and published abroad.

Who even knew the Church controlled Poland then?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM


Man rejects first penis transplant (Ian Sample, September 18, 2006, The Guardian)

Chinese surgeons have performed the world's first penis transplant on a man whose organ was damaged beyond repair in an accident this year. The incident left the man with a 1cm-long stump with which he was unable to urinate or have sexual intercourse. "His quality of life was affected severely," said Dr Weilie Hu, a surgeon at Guangzhou General Hospital.

Doctors spent 15 hours attaching a 10cm penis to the 44-year-old patient after the parents of a brain-dead man half his age agreed to donate their son's organ. [...]

Although the operation was a surgical success, surgeons said they had to remove the penis two weeks later. "Because of a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife, the transplanted penis regretfully had to be cut off," Dr Hu said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


Mayor Daley vs. Labor (Robert Novak, 9/18/06, Real Clear Politics)

Richard M. Daley had just prevailed in the City Council, sustaining his first veto cast in 17 years as mayor of Chicago. But as I sat with him in his City Hall office late last Wednesday afternoon, he was not triumphant in defeating labor union efforts to punish Wal-Mart. Rather, he seemed frustrated by a confrontation that points to long-term problems for the Democratic Party nationally.

The council fell three votes short of overriding Daley's veto as it lined up 31 to 18 for the "big-box ordinance" to require Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers to pay workers $13 an hour. Daley turned around three aldermen from their July 26 vote after Target threatened to kill a planned store in Chicago. As I entered the mayor's office, demonstrating union members and community activists chanted that aldermen who voted against the ordinance "got to go."

This political situation transcends Chicago. Unions aligned against a Daley in a council vote actually represent weakness rather than strength by the labor movement. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, facing declining union membership and a depleted labor federation, launched a national campaign against Wal-Mart (employer of 1.2 million in America). However, even in its weakened state, labor remains a dominant Democratic interest group that can control Chicago aldermen and U.S. congressmen alike.

It is difficult to imagine the mayor's father, Richard J. Daley, facing a labor-driven City Council rebellion during his 21 years as mayor. But the son's role is quite different from the father's. While the two Daleys share credit for transforming dark and dingy Chicago into the shining city on the lake, they face different political circumstances.

Richard J., as the unchallenged Democratic leader of Chicago (and longtime Cook County party chairman), was assailed by Republicans as an evil political boss. Richard M., only vaguely a Democrat, is much admired by Republicans and talks occasionally on the phone with the target of Democratic abuse, George W. Bush. "I have a lot of respect for President Bush," he told me.

If his father were hosting a Democratic convention today, he'd have to loose the Chicago cops inside the hall as well as out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Bush’s Useful Idiots: the Strange Death of Liberal America (Tony Judt, 9/21/06, London Review of Books)

Why have American liberals acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy? Why have they so little to say about Iraq, about Lebanon, or about reports of a planned attack on Iran? Why has the administration’s sustained attack on civil liberties and international law aroused so little opposition or anger from those who used to care most about these things? Why, in short, has the liberal intelligentsia of the United States in recent years kept its head safely below the parapet?

It wasn’t always so. On 26 October 1988, the New York Times carried a full-page advertisement for liberalism. Headed ‘A Reaffirmation of Principle’, it openly rebuked Ronald Reagan for deriding ‘the dreaded L-word’ and treating ‘liberals’ and ‘liberalism’ as terms of opprobrium. Liberal principles, the text affirmed, are ‘timeless. Extremists of the right and of the left have long attacked liberalism as their greatest enemy. In our own time liberal democracies have been crushed by such extremists. Against any encouragement of this tendency in our own country, intentional or not, we feel obliged to speak out.’

The advertisement was signed by 63 prominent intellectuals, writers and businessmen: among them Daniel Bell, J.K. Galbraith, Felix Rohatyn, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, Irving Howe and Eudora Welty. These and other signatories – the economist Kenneth Arrow, the poet Robert Penn Warren – were the critical intellectual core, the steady moral centre of American public life. But who, now, would sign such a protest? Liberalism in the United States today is the politics that dares not speak its name. And those who style themselves ‘liberal intellectuals’ are otherwise engaged. As befits the new Gilded Age, in which the pay ratio of an American CEO to that of a skilled worker is 412:1 and a corrupted Congress is awash in lobbies and favours, the place of the liberal intellectual has been largely taken over by an admirable cohort of ‘muck-raking’ investigative journalists – Seymour Hersh, Michael Massing and Mark Danner, writing in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.

The collapse of liberal self-confidence in the contemporary US can be variously explained. In part it is a backwash from the lost illusions of the 1960s generation, a retreat from the radical nostrums of youth into the all-consuming business of material accumulation and personal security. The signatories of the New York Times advertisement were born in most cases many years earlier, their political opinions shaped by the 1930s above all. Their commitments were the product of experience and adversity and made of sterner stuff. The disappearance of the liberal centre in American politics is also a direct outcome of the deliquescence of the Democratic Party. In domestic politics liberals once believed in the provision of welfare, good government and social justice. In foreign affairs they had a longstanding commitment to international law, negotiation, and the importance of moral example. Today, a spreading me-first consensus has replaced vigorous public debate in both arenas. And like their political counterparts, the critical intelligentsia once so prominent in American cultural life has fallen silent.

Let's all put our heads together and see if we can figure out anything else that might have happened right around that time that could have served to discredit the Left and its opposition to Ronald Reagan? Anything? Anybody?

H. W. Brands offers a much more sensible description of the Strange Death.

The Long Twilight Struggle: What a Cold War realist can teach us about winning a "long war." (PATRICK J. GARRITY, September 6, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Of course, the bête noire of the Cold War school of competition management and stability was Ronald Reagan. Reagan disdained détente, warned of evil empires, spoke of transcending both Communism and nuclear deterrence; yet he wanted to build more missiles on the ground and defenses in the sky. The academic community, along with the majority of the foreign policy establishment, was appalled. Reagan's strategy seemed a radicalized version of Paul Nitze's NSC 68. Even Nitze, who served in the Reagan administration, was clearly uncomfortable with the new American assertiveness. Gaddis, surprisingly--though running as usual against the common wisdom--wrote favorably of Reagan, who he thought was pursuing a promising combination of symmetrical and asymmetrical strategies.

Then the Cold War came to a sudden and decisive end, flabbergasting diplomatic historians and international relations theorists. Gaddis, taking advantage of the wave of archival evidence flowing out of the former Eastern bloc and being translated and summarized by other scholars, staked out a landmark post-Cold War interpretation of the origins of the Cold War. In "We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History" (accent on "now," rather than "know"), published in 1997, Gaddis put the blame for the worst of the Cold War on Stalin. Although Stalin did not have a master plan for a global Communist empire, he was a despicable tyrant who saw the world through the ideological lenses of Marxism-Leninism. Stalin sought to dominate Europe as thoroughly as Hitler had wanted to do. Stalin assumed initially that the forces of history would bring this about naturally, as the capitalists fell out among themselves. But when the capitalists actually united in resistance, Stalin was perfectly capable of helping history along if the opportunity presented itself, as when he gave Kim Il Sung a "green light" for the invasion of South Korea. Stalin--and, to a lesser extent, his successors--had a strong streak of revolutionary romanticism that might well have led to strategic disaster had the United States not responded appropriately. The United States, of course, often did not respond appropriately or wisely, but this was the distinctly minor theme of Gaddis's analysis.

"The Cold War: A New History" goes even further. Gaddis does not abandon his structuralist argument or withdraw the conclusion that the United States overreacted in 1949-1950. He also celebrates the fact that the Cold War did not turn hot. But as he now sees it, the stable Long Peace--especially as manifested in détente--actually proved to be unstable. The structural determinants of international relations, it turns out, include not only the pursuit of power and security but a sense of justice. National and popular frustrations grew because unfair arrangements once deemed temporary (such as a divided Europe) had become permanent. Public fear of nuclear war challenged the elites' reliance on nuclear deterrence as a tool of Cold War management. Those living in command economies resented the manifest failure to improve living standards. There was a slow shift of influence from the supposedly powerful to the seemingly powerless, through the nonaligned movement, human rights organizations, and the like. The populations of captive nations were unexpectedly emboldened by new international standards for making moral judgments, such as the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords (1975).

Sensing these deeper historical trends, a few great "actor-leaders" found ways to dramatize them to make the point that the Cold War need not last forever. For Gaddis the greatest actor-leader (literally) was Ronald Reagan. "Reagan was as skillful a politician as the nation had seen for many years, and one of its sharpest grand strategists ever," Gaddis writes. "His strength lay in his ability to see beyond complexity to simplicity. And what he saw was simply this: that because détente perpetuated--and had been meant to perpetuate--the Cold War, only killing détente could end the Cold War." Others joined Reagan on stage, even though they were not all reading from the same script--Pope John Paul II (himself an actor as a young man), Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, and Deng Xiaoping. Finally there was poor Mikhail Gorbachev--completely at a loss to understand what fundamental change truly meant for his Soviet Union but aware that things could not go on as they were and, to his everlasting credit, willing to eschew violence and accept the verdict of history. Reagan, through decidedly un-Kennanesque means, had found a way to transform the Soviet regime.

According to Gaddis, not even these visionaries foresaw how soon and how decisively the Cold War would end. The final impetus was provided by ordinary people with simple priorities who saw, seized, and sometimes stumbled into opportunities to seek freedom (the East Germans, for example, who reached the West through Hungary when leaders there opened up the border). In doing so they caused a collapse no one could stop. Leaders had little choice but to follow, even if--like President George H.W. Bush, a confirmed member of the Cold War country club--they did so with great reluctance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Explaining the J Curve (JOHN BATCHELOR, September 18, 2006, NY Sun)

Simply, the J curve according to Mr. Bremer's Eurasia Group is drawn on a bar graph with "stability" as the X-axis and "openness" as the Y-axis. By stability, Mr. Bremmer means the ability to withstand shocks from the outside, such as a terror attack, as well as the ability to avoid shocking yourself, such as a market crash or a coup. By openness, Mr. Bremmer means that citizens have access to information both from outside the state and from fellow citizens, such as perfectly describes the internet. What is striking about the J curve is that a maximum tyranny such as North Korea, on the extreme left of the curve, is almost as stable as a maximum free society such as Denmark on the extreme right of the curve. The distinction with the difference is what happens to a nation when it moves from being the prison of North Korea on the left to being the liberated salon of Denmark on the right: the stability dips severely.This is the J shape, so that a country that throws off its tyranny will plunge into chaos quickly and keep sinking into Hades for some time before it can hope to rise to new enterprises as an open society. [...]

Currently slipping from intolerant stability to the long depths of chaos are Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. At the depths of the curve, when all hope is murdered, are South Africa after apartheid and Yugoslavia after the Soviets. And now climbing from the depraved depths toward enhancing openness, according to Mr. Bremmer, are Turkey, Israel, and India. Coyly, Mr. Bremmer sidesteps China and calls the PRC a dilemma. [...]

What hedgies do not readily entertain is that the historical record is filled with events that describe illogical possibilities that actually happened and changed the map, such as the contest between revolutionary Bonapartist France and imperial merchant England. Waiting out Napoleon's bloodthirsty vanity would not have worked, even over half a century of patience. Further, it is unimaginable, on reading the London Times in 1805, that anyone could have constrained the Admiralty from sending out Nelson and Collingwood to find the combined French and Spanish fleets. Horatio Nelson closing on the enemy at Trafalgar can sound as if he is schooling George Bush as he closes on Saddam at Baghdad: "When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive, I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."

Mr. Bremmer's genius does illuminate the present bootless homicide in Baghdad, however, because in order to gain the gift of an open democracy, Iraq must pass through the depraved low point of the J curve. Elections are not the objective. Stability with free-flowing information in a capitalist forum is the mission, and that will take time and intrepidity.

Using the J curve as an analytical lens through which to view just the 20th century, it becomes apparent that given three opportunities to shove things towards the upslope of the curve, even if it would have been more chaotic, we instead favored the left, and "stability," thereby retarding development and prolonging the Long War: when Wilson chose the League (perforce accepting the re-establishment of colonialism) over self-determination after WWI; when we failed to destroy the Bolshevik regime at the end of WWII; and when George H. W. Bush sided with the PRC and Ba'athist dictators after the Cold War. These episodes of Realism have all proved disastrous in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Support for Electronic Filing of Senate Candidates' Campaign-Finance Records Gains Momentum (Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, September 18, 2006, Washington Post)

[I]t's hard to find anyone who will defend the current law. On the other hand, lots of folks have problems with the situation and are eager to say so, including the Federal Election Commission. The FEC has recommended that the Senate move to electronic filing on "multiple occasions," said Michael E. Toner, the FEC's chairman. "Senate campaigns are the only ones that don't file electronically," he said, "even though there's widespread agreement that electronic filing works well and allows data to be publicly available within hours of it being received."

Senators from both sides of the aisle agree. Eleven senators (seven Republicans and four Democrats) sent a letter to Lott in July urging him to approve legislation that would mandate electronic filing. "We believe there is consensus among our colleagues to move to electronic filing and online disclosure of campaign finance reports," said the letter, which was primarily authored by the political odd couple of Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). "The next step in this process is Senate action."

Voters surely would have been better off if such a law been in effect in prior elections. When the polls opened in November 2004, voters were in the dark about $53 million in individual Senate contributions of $200 or more dating all the way back to July, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. If you were a South Dakotan choosing between Tom Daschle, the Senate's Democratic leader, and Republican challenger John Thune, you were almost certainly unaware of large donations totaling $24,000 from employees of the mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae to Daschle, as well as large contributions to Thune from employees of Coastview Capital and L.E. Lehrman and Co. ($12,000 each).

The only way you might have known about these and other major gifts would have been to leaf through the candidates' reports, each of which was about 3,400 pages long. North Carolina voters had it slightly better, but not much; the reports of major party candidates there were only 1,100 pages long.

Full disclosure is fine in theory, but in practice it's meaningless. Voters don't care who funds the campaigns, as long as it's not done with our tax dollars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Pope 'Sorry' About Reaction to Islam Remark (Alan Cooperman, 9/18/06, Washington Post)

Finally, Benedict addressed the controversy yesterday. Speaking to pilgrims at Castelgandolfo, his summer estate, he said he is "deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address . . . which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought."

If you're serious, you apologize for your own actions, not for how others react to them. If you aren't sorry, it's better to say nothing and accept the consequences.

Understanding Benedict (DANIEL JOHNSON, September 18, 2006, NY Sun)

Günter Grass, in his memoirs, recalls an encounter with the young Joseph Ratzinger while both were held in an American prisoner-of-war camp in 1945. The young Grass, a Nazi who had been proud to serve in the Waffen-SS, was taken aback by this soft-spoken, gentle young Catholic. Unlike God, the future pope played dice, quoting St. Augustine in the original while he did so; he even dreamt in Latin. His only desire was to return to the seminary from which he had been drafted. "I said, there are many truths," wrote Grass. "He said, there is only one."

Sixty years later, just before the conclave that elected him pope, Ratzinger proved that he had never changed. The then prefect of the Congregation of the Faith — in effect, the church's theological backstop — preached a sermon to the assembled cardinals in which he denounced the "dictatorship of relativism." From that moment on, there was no other serious candidate. [...]

So what was the pope really saying in that lecture he gave in Regensburg, his old stamping ground in Bavaria? It was a rich and elegant reflection on the rationality of faith, couched in the erudite language of a very German philosophical discourse.

But the message was, at heart, a straightforward one. The Jewish or Christian God acts in accordance with reason: In the beginning was the Word, the Logos. Benedict emphasizes that this new, logocentric understanding of God is already present in the Hebrew Bible, long before the fusion of Jerusalem and Athens in the New Testament. Our knowledge of God — the God of Israel or the God of Christianity — emerges in the unfolding of the encounter between faith and reason.

The contribution of Hellenic thought to this gradual enlightenment is, for Benedict, essential. He laments the "dehellenization" of Christianity since the Reformation. Its effect, he thinks, has been to "relegate religion to the realm of subcultures" and to treat scientific rationality as if it had nothing whatever to do with faith. "The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality," he warns. If the West ignores this theological perspective, it "can only suffer great harm."

But the Pope was saying that there is an alternative to the Jewish or Christian God: the God of medieval Islam. Allah is "absolutely transcendent," above even rationality. Benedict cites a Muslim authority to the effect that "God is not bound even by his own word."

It is in this context that the pope invokes the Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who recorded his dialogue with a learned Persian Muslim about the year 1400. Byzantium would finally succumb to Turkish conquest only half a century later, and Manuel wants to know how the doctrine of jihad can be justified, given that it is incompatible with God as Logos. For this Hellenic Christian, Muhammad's command to spread Islam by the sword must indeed be "evil and inhuman."

Yesterday, the pope insisted that he did not agree with Manuel. But it is clear that he sympathized with this monarch of a doomed Christian civilization enough to use him as a mouthpiece through which he could pose his own implicit questions to Islam. Does the Muslim understanding of Allah allow rational debate about the morality of violence, given that the doctrine of jihad is a central pillar of Islam? If Allah is above reason, might violent jihad, including terrorism, be not merely justifiable but obligatory, as many Muslim scholars argue?

Islam’s Unreasonable War Against Benedict XVI: In Regensburg, the pope offered as terrain for dialogue between Christians and Muslims 
“acting according to reason.” But the Islamic world has attacked him, distorting his thought, confirming by this that the rejection of reason brings intolerance and violence along with it. The uncertainties about the trip to Turkey (Sandro Magister, 9/18/06, Chiesa)
[A]t the Angelus on Sunday the 17th, Benedict XVI himself made this clarification:

“I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought. Yesterday, the cardinal secretary of state published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.”

This does not alter the fact that the lecture by Benedict XVI in Regensburg – reissued in its entirety by www.chiesa, in Italian and English, an hour after it was delivered – was truly and audaciously impolitic.

The pope took as his point of departure a dialogue that took place in 1391 between the emperor of Constantinople, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Muslim scholar from Persia on the irrationality of spreading the faith through violence.

Was the Pope Wrong? (Timothy R. Furnish, History News Network)
As for the numerous statements by Muslims spokesmen that the pope is “ignorant” of Islam and Islamic history—well, the reality is that they simply can’t handle the truth.

First, Muhammad was not just a man claiming that God spoke through him; he was also a political and military leader. Driven out of Mecca and taking the reins of power in Medina, Muhammad and the Muslims spread their faith not just via da`is (missionaries), but by the sword; in fact, Jews in Medina who refused to accept Muhammad’s prophethood (and who, to be accurate, were accused of plotting against King Muhammad) were killed or enslaved. The conquest of Mecca in 630 CE was accomplished at swordpoint, not by persuasion. The creation of a huge Islamic Empire by the first four caliphs, the Umayyads and the Abbasids (between 632 and the end of the first millennium CE) was carried out via conquest—not by handing out brochures. Granted, Jews and Christians within the Muslim-ruled territories from the Pyrenees to the Indus were not all forced to convert—but the relegation to second-class status known as dhimmah led, eventually, to the majority of people in North Africa and the Middle East converting to Islam.

The initial phase of Islamic conquests resulted in about half the territory of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire switching hands. For several centuries the borders stabilized and the Byzantines ruled a state pushed back into Anatolia and the Balkan Peninsula. But in the 14th century CE a new wave of Muslim jihadists, the Ottoman Turks, were again moving on Byzantine lands. This was the situation facing Manuel II, and no doubt his view of Islam as “evil and inhuman” was in no small measure influenced by watching what was left of his empire disintegrating.

After all, they'd shed a lot of blood to win that Empire...
Did the Pope Apologize? (Father Jonathan Morris, September 18, 2006, Fox News)
Contrary to many media reports, Pope Benedict XVI did not apologize on Sunday for his September 12 discourse at the University of Regensburg. He did not retract his words, and did not say he regretted his speech.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Sir Menzies insists tax revolt is 'no High Noon' for leadership (GERRI PEEV, 9/18/06, The Scotsman)

Grassroots members are threatening to scupper Sir Menzies's plans to drop the party's flagship policy of a 50p top rate of income tax. They will also challenge his pledge to keep the tax haul at the same level as the current government, rather than redistributing the tax burden to raise the overall take.

Another major outcry at this week's conference in Brighton is likely to be provoked by proposals to ditch the policy of championing a local income tax. Instead, senior party figures have admitted they are considering a 1 per cent levy on property values.

The property tax would "damp down" house prices, the Lib Dems said in their policy document. The proposal is only under consideration and is not a manifesto commitment, but the fact that senior party figures are considering such a move will alarm traditionalists.

If Gordon Brown does hang on, the Lib Dems can be the Left alternative to the two Third Way major parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Enough of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theories, Already (Matthew Rothschild, September 18, 2006, The Progressive

At almost every progressive gathering where there's a question and answer session, someone or other vehemently raises 9/11 and espouses a grand conspiracy theory. If you haven't had the pleasure of enduring these rants, please let me share.

Here's what the conspiracists believe:

* 9/11 was an inside job.
* Members of the Bush Administration ordered it, not Osama bin Laden.
* Arab hijackers may not have done the deed.
* On top of that, the Twin Towers fell not because of the impact of the airplanes and the ensuing fires but because the Bush Administration got agents to plant explosives at the base of those buildings.
* Building 7, another high-rise at the World Trade Center that fell on 9/11, also came down by planted explosives.
* The Pentagon was not hit by American Airlines Flight 77 but by a smaller plane or a missile.
* And the Pennsylvania plane did not crash as a result of the revolt by the passengers but was brought down by the military.

I'm amazed at how many people give credence to these theories. Everyone's an engineer. People who never even took one college science course can now hold forth at great length on how the buildings at the World Trade Center could not possibly have collapsed in the way they did and why the Pentagon could not have been struck by that American Airlines jet.

Why should their conspiracy theories be any more sensible than the rest of their ideas?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Migrating To Modernity (Sebastian Mallaby, September 18, 2006, Washington Post)

In " Let Their People Come ," a new book published by the Center for Global Development, Lant Pritchett reports that if rich countries permitted extra immigration equivalent to 3 percent of their labor force, the citizens of poor countries would gain about $300 billion a year. That's three times more than the direct gains from abolishing all remaining trade barriers, four times more than the foreign aid given by governments and 100 times more than the value of debt relief.

It's true that there's a downside to immigration from poor countries. This isn't that it depresses wages in the United States; researchers find that this effect is small or nonexistent . Rather, it's that when doctors, nurses and other skilled people leave Africa, they hit the development process in its weak spot . A lack of trained workers is a more serious obstacle to poverty reduction than any lack of money.

Still, Pritchett's numbers show that the development gains from migration swamp the brain-drain problem. For the migrants themselves, a ticket to the rich world is the fast track out of poverty: A laborer who moves from San Salvador to Phoenix can multiply his income without altering the type of work he does or how good he is at it. And this process benefits developing countries, too. Migrants send home remittances, which exceed aid flows and are probably more effective, since the migrants ensure that their hard-earned cash is used productively by relatives. After a few years the migrants may return home armed with savings and ideas. The brain drain becomes a brain gain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Unmanned Drone (MARK STEYN, September 18, 2006, NY Sun)

A lot of the 9/11 anniversary coverage struck me as distastefully tasteful. On the morning of September 12th, I was pumping gas just off I-91 in Vermont and picked up The Valley News. Its lead headline covered the annual roll call of the dead — or, as the alliterative editor put it, "Litany Of The Lost." That would be a grand entry for Litany Of The Lame, an anthology of all-time worst headlines. 9/11 wasn't a shipwreck: the dead weren't "lost," they were murdered.

So I skipped that story. Underneath was something headlined "Half A Decade Gone By, A Reporter Still Cannot Comprehend Why." Well, in that case maybe you shouldn't be in the reporting business. After half a decade, it's not that hard to "comprehend:" Osama bin Laden issued a declaration of war and then his agents carried out a big attack. He talked the talk, his boys walked the walk. If you need to flesh it out a bit, you could go to the library and look up a book.

Not just "a book;" they could read Mr. Steyn's excellent Face of the Tiger. This collection of his columns from the period around 9-11 should be read every year around the anniversary of the attacks. Mr. Steyn captured the outrage we all felt but expressed it in his own inimitable style.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Reinie and Woody (Leon Wieseltier, 09.13.06, New Republic)

Democratic realism, progressive realism, ethical realism--the pageant of the paradoxes goes on. The adjectives betray a bad conscience about the noun, they cleanse the noun of its brutality, and raise it up, so that it may be possible to be edifying without being stupid. The war in Iraq, and its plenitude of unanticipated consequences, has raised a suspicion that idealism might be stupid; and there is no denying the hallucinatory quality of a large part of the administration's analysis of the war. These days realism can mean nothing more than lucidity. And there is nothing really paradoxical about any of the above coinages: realism is not always the servant of cynicism, and more people have died at the hands of idealists than at the hands of realists. Moreover, there is no justification of power that cannot become a justification of evil. These are all commonplaces, but they were not always so: they were introduced into the American understanding largely by Reinhold Niebuhr, the greatest thinker about morality and power in the modern era. Niebuhr is the new god of Bush-era liberals. They could do worse, though I wish they would stop skipping all the religious stuff. (He was a professor at the Union Theological Seminary, not a fellow at the Center for American Progress.) It was not until very recently that I was made to appreciate the deep affinities between the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr and the thought of Brent Scowcroft.

The children of light are being sloppy. They treat all that is useful to their argument against the war, all the anti-Bush authorities, as essentially the same. I am confident that Niebuhr would have opposed the war in Iraq, but I am confident also that he would have despised Scowcroft, who is the most eminent representative of unethical realism in America. Niebuhr's opposition to the war would have been based, I think, on his principled distaste for Bush's style of nationalism, which he would have regarded as auto-idolatry, and on his insistence that the legitimacy of such an enterprise must be conferred by international institutions.

Presumably such opposition to nationalism and deference to transnationalism would likewise have forced Niebuhr to aggree that, as the UN said, "Zionism is racism?" No, the idea that George W. Bush's universalist crusade for democracy in the Middle East is nationalist is nearly as insipid as the notion that Niebuhr would have allowed a UN vote to determine whether a war was just.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

NEPTUNE & THE PLUTOS (via The Mother Judd):

A tale of two beaches (Alex Beam, September 13, 2006, Boston Globe)

Here is one of the great non-stories of the early 21st century: The beach at Siasconset , in Nantucket, home to the meta-rich and the members-only Sankaty Head golf and beach club, is washing into the ocean. So far Neptune has claimed five homes, nine have been moved elsewhere on the island, and seven have been moved farther back on their lots.

Yes, this is the part of Nantucket where homeowners have big lots. In fact, the tiny enclave cowering from the waves, populated by families named Roosevelt and Hostetter, is said to represent somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 percent of the island's tax base. That's a mighty nice neighborhood!

Except for the caddies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Corruption That Shook Capitol Isn't Rattling Elections: Abramoff Case and Others Not Necessarily Key Issues (Blaine Harden, 9/18/06, Washington Post)

For all the influence-peddling that has been exposed in the run-up to the midterm election, corruption on Capitol Hill has not become a decisive issue -- here or in much of the country. The Abramoff scandal, having ended the careers of a few lawmakers and stained the reputations of several others, can certainly rile up ardent Democrats, as the debate here demonstrated. But it is not making fundamental changes in the nation's partisan landscape, especially in races, as with Burns in Montana, in which candidates are facing only unsavory stories rather than indictments or guilty pleas.

In an interview, the senator said his polling shows that most voters regard the "Abramoff deal" as merely a political liability and not a damning verdict on his character. Several pollsters and observers of politics in this state agreed with that assessment. The controversy is almost certainly the main reason [Conrad] Burns is in a competitive race this year, but by no means is it a guaranteed career-ender.

"The Democrats started way early with baseless allegations, and now a majority of people are saying, 'Oh, well,' " Burns said. "We are just moving on."

What, then, are the consequences of the oiliest congressional scandal in a generation as it percolates into races far from Washington?

Unless Mr. Abramoff has enough money to maintain oil futures at their current artificially high levels, he has no consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Swedish centre-right alliance wins wafer-thin election victory (Nicholas Watt, September 18, 2006, The Guardian)

In a sign of how carefully he has watched Tony Blair, Mr Reinfeldt echoed the British prime minister's remarks on the day he entered Downing Street in 1997: "We campaigned as the New Moderates, we won as the New Moderates and together with our alliance partners we will rule Sweden as the New Moderates."

The election was watched closely across Europe because many leaders have hailed the "social model" as an example for the rest of the EU. Politicians including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel - who has said that Sweden shows that changes can be introduced without cutting off generous state provision - will be relieved that Mr Reinfeldt is not planning to take the axe to the "social model".

The result will also be scrutinised by Britain's Conservatives. Mr Reinfeldt embarked on a political strategy - moving on to the centre ground occupied by a centre-left government - two years before David Cameron.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


The Deep Blue Sia: Zero Seven's singer takes you down, then up. (David Skinner, 09/15/2006, Weekly Standard)

HER NAME IS SIA. She is one of the most promising singers to emerge on the music scene in the last few years. And Wednesday night at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., she was one of two featured performers of the British musical act Zero Seven. The couple standing behind me didn't know exactly what to make of her. "She's, um, quirky," said the man. "Yeah," replied his date.

Quirky, however, is a serious understatement for this hilarious, audacious, unbridled singer. She talks half nonsense into the microphone, her funny-girl cheeks always bunched up by a great moon-sliver of teeth, and then with barely a pause she busts out a song with a voice the size of houses, buildings, the streets, and the neighborhood. One wonders if this is what is what it was like to see Bjork when she was still with the Sugar Cubes or, for an odd pairing, maybe a young, rascally Natalie Maines before she became important. It was that kind of thing: power and personality and a singular stage presence without any forewarning.

Zero Seven, a wonderfully eclectic band started by a couple of recording engineers looking to experiment in techno music, has become a sometime home for a string of terrific vocalists, including Tina Dico, the soulful Mozes, and now singer-songwriter Jose Gonzales (who opened the show to much applause), whose careers have received a significant boost from the association. Although the band's founders, Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns, seem to be as inspired as any musical duo by the potential for new combinations of sounds, tracks, and rhythms in the modern recording studio, they have emerged as great champions of the oldest musical instrument around, the human voice.

Zero 7: The Garden (Mikael Wood, September 6, 2006, City Pages)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


In Politics, Aim for the Heart, Not the Head (Shankar Vedantam, September 18, 2006, Washington Post)

In 1935, researchers from Columbia University fanned out around the city of Allentown, Pa., and handed out leaflets ahead of local and state elections. What residents did not know was that they were part of an experiment in political persuasion -- an experiment whose results came to mind last week as Adrian M. Fenty stormed to victory in the District's Democratic primary.

Researchers first divided Allentown into sections. Five thousand campaign leaflets in some wards asked residents to answer a series of questions about policy matters. For example, it asked them whether they thought all children should have access to higher education irrespective of income, whether banks should be run on a nonprofit basis like schools and whether workers ought to have more say in running their workplaces.

Another set of 5,000 campaign leaflets went to a different set of wards. These leaflets contained a heartfelt letter -- supposedly from the young people of Allentown -- which said that with "Dad working only part-time on little pay, and Mother trying to make last year's coat and dress look in season," the future for young people in the city looked bleak.

The researchers looked at how many voters in the two sections they could persuade to vote for the Socialist Party, rather than the Republicans or Democrats. (The Socialist Party was chosen because it had no chance of winning the elections.)

What the researchers wanted to study was the contrast between rational and emotional appeals in political persuasion. The questionnaire's appeal was rational. It asked people who wanted a more egalitarian society to vote their views on policy matters. The letter's appeal was emotional: "We beg you in the name of those early memories and spring-time hopes to support the Socialist ticket in the coming elections!" it said. When the election was over, the Socialist vote increased by 35 percent over the previous election in the sections of the city that received the rational appeal. In the sections that received the emotional appeal, the Socialist vote increased by 50 percent.

The emotional are, of course, more inclined to the Left (towards security) to begin with, which is why the Democrats are the party of females.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Get-tough policy on employers has had limited effect (Alwyn Scott, 9/18/06, Seattle Times)

It was 4 in the morning when immigration agents roused Eugene Su from sleep in a new, five-bedroom house on a quiet suburban street in Tacoma.

He recalls being handcuffed and herded into the living room along with nine other people suspected of being illegal workers at the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant a few blocks away.

Su, a U.S. citizen, was released later that morning in 2005. Heavily armed agents took the other workers away in a van for possible deportation, he said.

The restaurant owner, Jian Zhong Tang, who owned the house, ended up behind bars.

"They looked like a SWAT team," Su said of the agents who burst into the house.

The Great Wall arrests are part of what federal immigration officials call a crackdown on companies that employ illegal workers. Rather than ineffective fines, employers now face the prospect of prosecution under criminal statutes for money-laundering or harboring immigrants that can lead to asset seizures and jail time.

But despite some big fines and a few jail terms for employers, the government's get-tough effort appears limited. In Washington state, agents have announced only two convictions of employers — both Chinese restaurants. They have missed other obvious sectors such as farms and construction sites where illegal workers are prevalent.

They aren't going to arrest white folk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Shop Class as Soulcraft (Matthew B. Crawford, Summer 2006, New Atlantis)

Anyone in the market for a good used machine tool should talk to Noel Dempsey, a dealer in Richmond, Virginia. Noel’s bustling warehouse is full of metal lathes, milling machines, and table saws, and it turns out that most of it is from schools. EBay is awash in such equipment, also from schools. It appears shop class is becoming a thing of the past, as educators prepare students to become “knowledge workers.”

At the same time, an engineering culture has developed in recent years in which the object is to “hide the works,” rendering the artifacts we use unintelligible to direct inspection. Lift the hood on some cars now (especially German ones), and the engine appears a bit like the shimmering, featureless obelisk that so enthralled the cavemen in the opening scene of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Essentially, there is another hood under the hood. This creeping concealedness takes various forms. The fasteners holding small appliances together now often require esoteric screwdrivers not commonly available, apparently to prevent the curious or the angry from interrogating the innards. By way of contrast, older readers will recall that until recent decades, Sears catalogues included blown-up parts diagrams and conceptual schematics for all appliances and many other mechanical goods. It was simply taken for granted that such information would be demanded by the consumer.

A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our mode of inhabiting the world: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves installing a pre-made replacement part.

So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world. Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence, most of us anyway, and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed: the hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past. But we might pause to consider just how hard-headed these presumptions are, and whether they don’t, on the contrary, issue from a peculiar sort of idealism, one that insistently steers young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work.

It's not a political program that anyone could run on, because no one wants to get their own hands dirty or have their kids dirty theirs, but few social reforms would be moree useful than curtailing the number of people we send to college and encouraging more into skilled crafts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


How a Professor Trained as an Engineer Came to Write a History of Holocaust Survivors Who Found Refuge in Turkey (Arnold Reisman, History News Network)

While browsing through an Istanbul book store I came across “Turkey and the Holocaust.” Being a Holocaust survivor and considering myself somewhat knowledgeable about its history the book grabbed my attention. I knew nothing about what was so painstakingly documented by its author Stanford Shaw. Noticing my agitation the shopkeeper engaged me in a conversation. Suddenly I realized that this Turkish native was very familiar with a subject which, upon my return to Cleveland, I learned that stateside people teaching Holocaust history were as ignorant on the matter as was I. Dealing mostly with the Turkish government’s role in saving Turkey-connected Jews residing in both occupied and Vichy France, the Shaw book briefly touches on the subject of the German and Austrian intellectuals invited to Turkey by Ataturk for the purposes of creating a modern system of higher education. This peaked my interest. With the help of professional archivists worldwide and a number of friends who live in Turkey and in Israel, I set about researching and writing the story.

The book chronicles the story of a group of individuals caught at a crossroads and targeted in the crossfires of history. In 1933 events in their native Germanic lands presented them with a “Hobson’s choice”—leave if you can or die! Their lives were saved because Turkey was discarding the society and culture inherited from the Ottomans’ derelict and shattered empire while recognizing and addressing the need to modernize its society, culture, way of living, and system of higher education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Neo-Nazis Enter State Assembly (Der Spiegel, 9/18/06)

Germany's far-right National Democratic Party, which wants to repatriate foreigners and believes Germany should stop atoning for the Holocaust, won seats in a state parliament on Sunday in the former communist east, tapping into general discontent with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and with the depressed local economy.

The neo-Nazi NPD won 7.3 percent in Chancellor Angela Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on the Baltic Sea coast, vaulting the 5 percent threshold needed to enter the assembly, according to preliminary official figures.

The result means far-right parties are now represented in three of eastern Germany's five state parliaments. The NPD entered the Saxony state parliament in 2004 and another far-right party, the German People's Union (DVU), has seats in Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin.

"The fight for Germany continues," NPD chairman Udo Voigt said in a video statement on the party's website, noting that far right has gained a foothold in a quarter of Germany's 16 state parliaments. [...]

General discontent in the east, which has suffered from depopulation and mass unemployment in the almost 17 years since unification, has fuelled support for fringe parties, especially the far right, which has been wooing bored young voters through rock concerts and local festivals. Election data showed 15 pct of 18 to 24 year olds voted NPD in Mecklenburg.

The NPD has also exploited xenophobic attitudes in east, where many blame immigrants for their economic problems.

September 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM

THEY AREN'T "WE" (via Mike Daley):

The new juristocracy (Andrew C. McCarthy, September 2006, New Criterion)

From the Founding right up until the still-quaking bombshell of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, issued at the end of the Supreme Court’s term in late June, the primary imperative of national government was to protect the security of the governed from hostile outsiders. The Framers, however, had an ingenious gloss on this venerable first principle. In the great American experiment in republican democracy, this power of self-preservation—what Justice Felix Frankfurter, in another era of grave peril, called “the most pervasive aspect of sovereignty”—would repose only in those political actors directly accountable to the people whose lives hung in the balance.

The arrangement made exquisite sense. On the one hand, if the public’s representatives were insufficiently attentive to national security, those with the most at stake could vote them out of office. On the other hand, if public officials failed to give due deference to the civil rights that guarantee our freedom, Americans, lovers of liberty, could show them the door. The epicenter of this dynamic would be the President of the United States, the only public official (besides the Vice President) elected by, and accountable to, all of the people.

Judges? They would have no role in national security. They, after all, are politically unaccountable. This is neither to disparage them nor suggest they are irresponsible, much less unpatriotic. They are unaccountable to the people because they are accountable only to the law. And not some universal law. They are custodians of the people’s laws, those governing the domestic body politic.

Those laws quite intentionally handcuff government for the sake of promoting freedom. They thus have no place in the international arena, a state of nature in which nations, insurgent militias, and, now, transnational terrorist networks all claim the right to use force. “The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite,” Hamilton observed in The Federalist (No. 23). “[F]or this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.”

In stark contrast, within the domestic realm, government would have a comparative monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Security would not be as pressing a concern. Within this fortress, judicial courts could guarantee Americans freedom from oppressive action by their government. They could preserve the rule of law indispensable for the American body politic to flourish. It was for those reasons—in abeyance of mortal danger—that the nation could afford to insulate them from popular passions, whims, and safety concerns.

However patently central it is to a good society, the judicial function remains largely irrelevant to the international order.

When folks start to seriously biff the Constitution it is almost always because they forget to refer to its ends in arguing about the means it lays out. You don't need to be a legal scholar to grasp that the text doesn't extend to outsiders.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 7:57 PM


Michigan stuns Notre Dame, puts up 47 points in South Bend rout (9/16/06, AP)

Take that, Notre Dame.

No. 11 Michigan finally put a Big Blue bruising on the second-ranked Fighting Irish in a 47-21 rout Saturday -- the most points scored against Notre Dame at home in 46 years.

"They deserve their just due," Irish coach Charlie Weis said. "I think it's important to understand that team just came and whupped us pretty good."

Indeed, they did. Chad Henne threw three touchdown passes to Mario Manningham, and Michigan intercepted Brady Quinn three times, forced him to fumble and shut down the rest of the Irish offense. [...]

The 34 first-half points by an opponent were the most since Purdue scored 45 in its' 51-19 win in 1960.

I was channel-surfing yesterday: It was a tie game when I left and 20-7 moments later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Airbus hit by new delays (Dominic O’Connell, 9/17/0-6, Times of London)

FRESH delays for Airbus’s flagship A380 programme are expected to be announced within weeks after a detailed internal study of the project.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


Exit poll: Alliance on the path to victory (The Local 17th September 2006)

Exit polls released by Swedish TV companies predict that the centre-right Alliance is on its way to power, ending Göran Persson's 12-year period as prime minister

SVT's poll gave the Alliance the bigger lead, with 49.7 percent against 45.6 percent for the Social Democrats' and allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM

HERE COMES MR. JESUS (via Matt Murphy):

Heaven Can Wait (Susan Jacoby, Spring 2006, Dissent)

In his call for left-wing moral revivalism as a counterweight to the ascendancy of the religious right in American politics (“A Difficult Marriage: American Protestants and American Politics,” Winter 2006), Michael Kazin cites the historian D.G. Hart’s argument that religion is “inherently useful in solving social problems because it yields moral guidelines that inevitably generate both a concern for justice and the welfare of all people.”

Inherently? Inevitably? Does the quote refer to an American religion that fought slavery over the opposition of many orthodox churches or to a religion that upheld slavery in the South and profiteering from slavery in the North? Are we talking about a minority faith that insisted women should have an equal voice in the house of God and man or a majority of clerics who denounced feminists, well into the twentieth century, as unnatural female infidels? Are Hart and Kazin referring to a religion that makes room for secular knowledge or a religion that refuses to listen to anything science has to say about the origins of life?

There is no such thing as generic religion or, for that matter, generic evangelical Protestantism, and most ecclesiastical leaders, whether evangelical or not, are interested in the welfare of all only insofar as welfare is defined in accordance with their particular faith. That is the fatal flaw in all proposals, whether from the left or the right, for a stronger religious voice in the public square. No one would deny that some religious spokesmen are capable of framing moral issues in transcendent fashion; the civil rights leadership provided by black churches is the prime twentieth-century example.

Ms Jacoby accidentally cedes the argument, for morality has to be transcendental. All else is opinion.

The Phone Book Test: Robert P. George explains how a simple experiment reveals the great divide in our culture. (Interview by Andy Crouch | posted 07/05/2006, Christianity Today)

Before we can talk about becoming a counterculture, we have to understand the culture. What's your reading of our culture right now?

I've argued in my book The Clash of Orthodoxies that the contemporary moment is marked by profound cultural division. We have a clash of two worldviews. On the one side are those who maintain traditional Judeo-Christian principles, such as the principle of the sanctity of human life, the principle that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, the principle that sex is integral to marriage but that sex ought not to be engaged in outside of marriage, and so forth.

On the other side of the cultural divide are people who have abandoned those principles in favor of some alternative ideology. Often it celebrates personal autonomy and freedom from traditional moral constraints, mixed with certain utilitarian elements. Sometimes it manifests itself in radical forms of feminism or quasi-pantheistic forms of environmentalism.

This division runs between elite and popular opinion. If I may borrow a concept from William F. Buckley Jr., consider what the results would be if we were to ask 800 members of the Princeton faculty about their views on abortion or homosexuality or other issues of that sort, and then make the same inquiry of the first 800 people in the Trenton, New Jersey, phone book.

Interestingly, the Princeton faculty and people of Trenton are probably going to vote largely alike—for Democratic candidates—albeit for different reasons. But when it comes to morally charged political issues, you're going to get answers from the 800 people consulted in the Trenton phone book that would be similar to those answers that would be given by 800 people from north-central West Virginia (where I grew up) or from Kansas or New Mexico. Their answers would be very different from those that would be given by the Princeton faculty or the editorial boards of The New York Times or The Washington Post. That's what I call a clash of orthodoxies. [....]

Daniel Dennett, a philosopher, even has a name for people who share the secularist orthodoxy. He calls them, and he includes himself in this, the Brights. And the implication of that is the others are the Dumbs or the Stupids.

The Dims.

That's a better word, the Dims.

Is it one orthodoxy versus another? Or is it a Judeo-Christian tradition versus a variety of orthodoxies?

Just as within the larger community of people who hold Judeo-Christian values and beliefs there are people who emphasize different things, there is a variety on the secular liberal side. There are people who emphasize different issues—some who emphasize environmentalism or animal rights, some who press for what they insist on calling "abortion rights," and some who push for the redefinition of marriage to include persons of the same sex or even "marriages" of three or more people.

But there's a family of views. They hang together on the basis of certain assumptions about human meaning, dignity, and destiny. In one perspective, the dignity of the human being depends on the human being's autonomy being strictly respected when it comes to issues that they regard as being of an intimate and personal nature. So, we are told, not only must we accept homosexual conduct and polyamorous relations, we must honor them and even accord them the status of marriage where that is desired, and so forth. Abortion has to be permitted, and not only permitted but paid for with public money, and there must be no stigma attached to it.

So, as I say, it's a family of views, but the rejection of Judeo-Christian principles is central to everything on the secular Left that marks it as distinctive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


France's savior is in the bullpen (Richard Z. Chesnoff, 9/17/06, NY Daily News)

He is no favorite of incumbent Chirac (their relations are often as frosty as frozen foie gras). Yet while Chirac's popularity steadily plummets, Sarkozy's is on the rise.

Here's why: Sarkozy comes bearing a tough-love message for his people that's long overdue: Arrogant France has fallen behind. Between lack of economic initiative, ravenous welfare costs and immigration woes, this once powerful nation has become a European sick man.

If the country wants to drag itself out of those doldrums, Sarkozy says, it's going to have to stop resting on its aging laurels. It must radically reform its perverse handout economy - where people work only 35 hours a week - and start to puts its nose to the grindstone.

What's more, in order to win the war on global terrorism, he insists, France has to join hands with its allies - not throw diplomatic tacks in their path.

And how's this for a breath of fresh air? Unlike all other French leaders of the last 50 years, Sarkozy genuinely admires America and Americans. He made that loud and clear when he visited the U.S. last week. Sarkozy told a Washington gathering. "I'm not a coward. I'm proud of this friendship, and I proclaim it gladly."

As even the French abandon it, American Democrats risk being the last ones advocating the French model instead of the Anglo-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Marriage vote seen as lifeline for Allen (Christina Bellantoni, 9/17/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Virginia's constitutional amendment on marriage will attract conservative voters who otherwise would have stayed home in frustration with national Republicans, grass-roots activists say.

The bump in turnout in November likely will benefit U.S. Sen. George Allen, a Republican who until recently appeared a lock for re-election and poised for a 2008 White House bid.

"Marriage amendments do drive turnout," said Victoria Cobb, executive director of Virginia's Family Foundation. [...]

Mr. Allen favors amending the state constitution, but his challenger, Democrat James H. Webb Jr., opposes the constitutional change as broad and discriminatory.

Morality discriminates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Home-building boom relies on illegal workers (Sanjay Bhatt, 9/17/06, Seattle Times)

When thousands of Seattle-area Latinos stayed away from their jobs May 1 to take part in a nationwide show of support for immigrants in the work force, the largest housing-construction project in all of King County became a ghost town.

The next day, the sprawling job site in the foothills of the Cascades was abuzz again with activity: Mexican workers were hanging heavy sheets of drywall while crews listening to Spanish radio installed cabinets and painted the walls of million-dollar homes with views of the Seattle skyline.

As the noon hour approached, a familiar taco truck made its way across the work site, honking the first stanza of "La Cucaracha" in a signal to hundreds of workers: lunchtime at Issaquah Highlands.

"If I look outside my window right now it looks like we're south of the border," said veteran builder Jim Nietmann, a superintendent for one of at least a dozen homebuilders at Issaquah Highlands, a community that will eventually have at least 3,250 homes. "Easily half are from Mexico, and they're fueling our industry."

Latino immigrants have become essential to builders at Issaquah Highlands and at other nonunion job sites across Puget Sound during the biggest wave in home construction in decades.

Locally, many inspectors, construction foremen and union organizers estimate that in the last few years they have come to represent anywhere from half to 90 percent of the work force at residential job sites in the Puget Sound region. They dominate unskilled-labor crews and are prevalent among drywallers, framers, roofers and other semiskilled trades.

And it's an open secret that many of these workers are here illegally.

Imagine thinking yourself a conservative but being made rabid by the notion of importing hard-working Christians to make home ownership more affordable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


How the Presidency Regained Its Balance (JOHN YOO, 9/17/06, NY Times)

[T]he president has broader goals than even fighting terrorism — he has long intended to make reinvigorating the presidency a priority. Vice President Dick Cheney has rightly deplored the “erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job” and noted that “we are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 to 35 years.”

Thus the administration has gone to war to pre-empt foreign threats. It has data-mined communications in the United States to root out terrorism. It has detained terrorists without formal charges, interrogating some harshly. And it has formed military tribunals modeled on those of past wars, as when we tried and executed a group of Nazi saboteurs found in the United States.

To his critics, Mr. Bush is a “King George” bent on an “imperial presidency.” But the inescapable fact is that war shifts power to the branch most responsible for its waging: the executive. Harry Truman sent troops to fight in Korea without Congressional authority. George H. W. Bush did not have the consent of Congress when he invaded Panama to apprehend Manuel Noriega. Nor did Bill Clinton when he initiated NATO’s air war over Kosovo.

The Bush administration’s decisions to terminate the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty and to withdraw from the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto accords on global warming rested on constitutional precedents going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln.

The administration has also been energetic on the domestic front. It has re-classified national security information made public in earlier administrations and declined, citing executive privilege, to disclose information to Congress or the courts about its energy policy task force. The White House has declared that the Constitution allows the president to sidestep laws that invade his executive authority. That is why Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of signing statements — more than any previous president — reserving his right not to enforce unconstitutional laws.

A reinvigorated presidency enrages President Bush’s critics, who seem to believe that the Constitution created a system of judicial or congressional supremacy. Perhaps this is to be expected of the generation of legislators that views the presidency through the lens of Vietnam and Watergate. But the founders intended that wrongheaded or obsolete legislation and judicial decisions would be checked by presidential action, just as executive overreaching is to be checked by the courts and Congress.

Putting the Legislative branch in its place is all well and good, but the Executive really needs to confront the Judiciary if the proper checks and balances are to be restored.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Called From Diplomatic Reserve: Former Secretary of State Leads Attempt to Salvage Iraq Mission (Michael Abramowitz, September 17, 2006, Washington Post)

Is Jim Baker bailing out the Bushes once again?

The former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, a confidant of President George H.W. Bush, visited Baghdad two weeks ago to take a look at the vexing political and military situation. He was there as co-chairman of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, put together by top think tanks at the behest of Congress to come up with ideas about the way forward in Iraq. [...]

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who came up with the idea for the study group and pushed for its formation, said he thinks the administration is "waiting anxiously" for the group's recommendations. He cited the "impeccable credentials" of the 10-member group, which also includes former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, investment banker and Bill Clinton adviser Vernon E. Jordan Jr., and former White House chief of staff Leon E. Panetta. The other co-chairman is the Democratic former Indiana congressman Lee H. Hamilton, who also co-chaired the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. [...]

Baker has offered some hints of his thinking -- and his dismay with the way the Iraq occupation has been handled by the administration.

"The difficulty of winning the peace was severely underestimated," Baker wrote in a recent memoir, citing "costly mistakes" by the Pentagon. These included, he wrote, disbanding the Iraqi army, not securing weapons depots and "perhaps never having committed enough troops to successfully pacify the country." [...]

Baker and panel members have been exploring different ideas, such as a greater degree of regional autonomy for Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions. But those familiar with the group's work said there is far from a consensus yet on what to do. One well-placed source said panel members came away from their trip sobered, with "a sense that we can't continue to do what we have been doing," adding that Baker was not simply looking to protect the administration.

"I think he basically wants to call it the way he sees it," said this source, a critic of the administration's approach to Iraq. "He's also been frustrated by the mistakes that have been made. In many ways, it has damaged the legacy he established as secretary of state."

His legacy was securing stability in Iraq by allowing Saddam to maintain his brutal repression, so it's no wonder he thinks the occupation should have been heavier-handed. But if the group now arrives at splitting Iraq in three it can do some good.

September 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM

BIRDS OF A THIRD WAY FEATHER... (via Kevin Whited):

Laura Bush Aiding Clinton Conference (JENNIFER LOVEN, 9/14/06, Associated Press)

Another member of the Bush family is getting cozy with former President Clinton.

First lady Laura Bush joins the former president as a keynote speaker opening his three-day Clinton Global Initiative in New York next week.

Clinton has famously formed a close friendship with the current president's dad. Clinton has been a repeat guest at the Kennebunkport, Maine, home of George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

Clinton also sparked curiosity when he was spotted at the White House last month. It turns out that he and the current president were having lunch, something White House aides said they do occasionally. [...]

This year's Clinton Global Initiative is a follow-up to the 2005 event that brought $2.5 billion in pledges to help solve challenges such as the HIV infection in Africa.

The first lady's speech next Wednesday will cover topics such as literacy and education, AIDS and women's rights that she has highlighted in her travels. They include 11 solo trips to 27 countries in the nearly six years of her husband's presidency.

She also is bringing a pledge of her own: the announcement of a partnership between the Bush administration and an American foundation to help provide clean drinking water in Africa _ a key component to improving health on the poverty-stricken continent.

Poor Jimmy Carter, he's already fallen to third best living ex-president and the second president Bush retires in two years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


'Oreo' Rises Again: Cardin Staffer Sacked In Blog Flap (WBAL Radio as reported by Leonard Roberts and Robert Lang, September 16, 2006)

A blog has apparently led to the firing of a staffer in the Ben Cardin for Senate campaign.

According to the Washington Times Insider Politics blog, a person labeling herself the 'Persuasionatrix' wrote that she was on the staff of a high profile, contested Senate campaign and was based in Baltimore.

Persuasionatrix wrote that staffers should pose holding Oreo brand cookies under the caption 'devouring the competition.' [...]

There have been claims since Steele ran for lieutenant governor in 2002 that hecklers either showed or threw Oreo cookies during a debate in Baltimore. [...]

The Cardin staffer also allegedly posted statements on her blog about not being able to fire a subordinate whose performance was inadequate because the junior worker was black.

The President and Karl Rove should be working on getting Kweisi Mfume to join the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


So The Daughter and I were playing on a new Candyland set at the In-laws and noticed that on the squares where you get stuck you lose just one turn -- instead of having to stay there until you get a card of the same color -- and the final square is now rainbow, so that no matter what card you get at the end you can finish. These aren't the playing fields of Eton.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Nice to see Josh Beckett demonstrate on a national stage today that his only problems this year have come from rotten batterymates.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:19 PM


One preacher's message: Have hotter sex (Brian Alexander, MSNBC, September 14th, 2006)

About 100 evangelical Christian couples stand in the convention hall of a Four Points Sheraton, bow their heads and thank God for their lives and the new day. Then they sing the old-timey hymn “There’s Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus.”

I have come here expecting exactly this scene. The occasion is a seminar called “Love, Sex and Marriage,” being given by Joe Beam, a Southern preacher out of the old school, a self-described “book-chapter-and-verse guy,” who runs an outfit based in Franklin, Tenn., called Family Dynamics. So I’m anticipating condemnation of American culture — especially America’s sexual culture — that has made conservative Christians feel besieged.

But then Beam, a portly, silver-haired basso profundo dressed in khaki slacks, a sweater vest and brown tasseled loafers that make him look like a retired country-club golf pro, walks to the front of the room and proceeds to tell the men in the audience how to make their semen taste better.

Sweet stuff works, he says, which provides a built-in excuse because "then you can say, 'I'm eating this cake for you, baby!'"

Welcome to the world of hot Christian love.

And you folks laugh at Orrin when he says the Reformation was a big mistake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM



Given the reaction in Muslim quarters to certain passages of the Holy Father's address at the University of Regensburg, and the clarifications and explanations already presented through the Director of the Holy See Press Office, I would like to add the following:

- The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: "The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting" (no. 3).

- The Pope's option in favor of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is equally unequivocal. In his meeting with representatives of Muslim communities in Cologne, Germany, on 20 August 2005, he said that such dialogue between Christians and Muslims "cannot be reduced to an optional extra," adding: "The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity".

- As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. On this point, it is worth recalling what Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in his commemorative Message for the 20th anniversary of the Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, initiated by his predecessor John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986: " ... demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time. ... In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions".

- The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions. Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervor of Muslim believers, warned secularized Western culture to guard against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom".

- In reiterating his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam, he hopes they will be helped to understand the correct meaning of his words so that, quickly surmounting this present uneasy moment, witness to the "Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men" may be reinforced, and collaboration may intensify "to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom" (Nostra Aetate no. 3).

At a time when Christendom is Reforming the Islamic world at the point of a sword, it's obviously silly to link Islam to violent conversion but absolve Christianity. But it's unimaginable that the Pope was being malicious. So you apologize for the statement and you begin the argument afresh. No harm, no foul.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:28 AM


Muslims vent fury at Pope's speech (Richard Owen and Suna Erdem, The Times, September 16th, 2006)

THE Pope’s visit to Turkey, which many hoped would herald a new era of improved relations between Islam and the West, was in doubt yesterday amid condemnation of remarks by the pontiff that appeared to link Islam and violence.

As Muslims all over the world protested, with effigies of Benedict XVI burnt during demonstrations in Pakistan, members of the Turkish Government urged the Pope to reconsider his visit in November. Senior officials in Turkey said that they could not guarantee his safety if he went ahead with the trip.

The Pope’s remarks were either “the result of pitiful ignorance” about Islam or a deliberate distortion of the truth, said Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of the strongly Islamic party led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Merkel ponders Atlantic free trade zone (Bertrand Benoit, September 16 2006, Financial Times)

Spurred by concern about China's growing economic might, Germany is considering a plan for a free-trade zone between Europe and the US.

A senior aide to Angela Merkel said the chancellor was "interested" in promoting the idea as long as such a zone did not create "a fortress" but rather "a tool" to encourage free trade globally, "which she is persuaded is a condition of Germany's future prosperity". [...]

News that the free trade zone, last pursued by Sir Leon Brittan, when European trade commissioner in 1998, is being debated in the German chancellery testifies to the rapprochement between Washington and Berlin since Ms Merkel's election last November.

This convergence of views was underlined this week when Wen Jiabao, Chinese premier, was politely chided by Ms Merkel for China's poor human rights record and recent restrictions on foreign news agencies, during an official visit to Berlin.

Remember how American/European relations would never recover from W telling them to get stuffed in the run-up to the Iraq war? What ever happened to all those anti-American leaders?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


A plea for empiricism: a review of FOLLIES OF THE WISE: Dissenting essays by Frederick Crews (Jerry A. Coyne, Times of London)

Some years ago, I decided to become a more well-rounded scientist and, on the advice of friends in the humanities, started to read Freud. Expecting deep insights, I began with the work of which Freud himself was proudest, The Interpretation of Dreams. But I found it puzzling. His analyses of nocturnal productions, such as his own dream of “Irma’s Injection”, are clever. But as a scientist, I couldn’t understand why Freud saw his interpretation (that he wished to be the primordial “father” possessing all of the women embodied by Irma) as correct, when there are numerous plausible alternatives. Nor was I convinced by his flat assertion that every dream represents the disguised fulfilment of a wish. The whole enterprise reminded me of the excesses of evolutionary psychology, where adaptive stories about human behaviour pass for scientific truth.

My discomfort with Freud’s lack of rigour only grew as I continued to read his books and case histories. The latter were especially problematic: surely there were better explanations of Little Hans’s fear of horses than their symbolic representation of his father, haunting Hans with the threat of retaliation for his Oedipal fantasies. (It has since more plausibly been suggested that Hans was simply traumatized after seeing a horse collapse in the street.) Was Freud making it all up as he went along? Or did I have a personality flaw that blinded me to the power of his contributions? After all, he is touted (along with Darwin and Marx) as one of the three greatest modern thinkers, and only a hermit could be unaware of how deeply his ideas permeate Western society.

Fortunately, Frederick Crews has made a much more thorough study of Freud, distilling and interpreting not only his whole corpus but also the past three decades of Freud scholarship. His conclusion is that Freud was indeed making it up as he went along. In Follies of the Wise, Crews takes on not only Freud and psychoanalysis, but also other fields of intellectual inquiry which have caused rational people to succumb to irrational ideas: recovered-memory therapy, alien abduction, theosophy, Rorschach inkblot analysis, intelligent design creationism, and even poststructuralist literary theory. All of these, asserts Crews, violate “the ethic of respecting that which is known, acknowledging what is still unknown, and acting as if one cared about the difference”.

Mr. Coyne's flaw is, rather, his faith that Darwin differs from Freud and Marx.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


WHO Reintroduces DDT in Battle Against Malaria (Catherine Maddux, 15 September 2006, VOA news)

The World Health Organization announced Friday it will once again use the controversial pesticide DDT to fight malaria, the mosquito-born disease that kills an estimated one million African children every year. [...]

The U.S. government is supporting the WHO effort to use indoor spraying of DDT as part of President Bush's $1.2 billion initiative to combat malaria in Africa.

Admiral Timothy Ziemer of the U.S. Agency for International Developement, the coordinator of the president's malaria initiative, also known as PMI, says just over a year ago, President Bush set the goal of reducing malaria deaths by half in 15 nations in about five years time. "Within six weeks of that announcement, the PMI fielded assessment teams that went to Uganda, Angola and Tanzania. And by last Decemeber, PMI launched significant malaria prevention and treament programs in all three countries, benefiting over one million people," he said. [...]

Reaction from major environmental groups has been muted. The U.S.-based Sierra Club told Reuters news agency that it supported the use of DDT reluctantly, given the scale of deaths attributed to malaria, a preventable disease.

Some smaller U.S.-based groups, like Beyond Pesticides, are firmly against the policy, calling it extremely dangerous.

Think National Review's Democrats would have pushed through DDT use?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Governing Realities: Where are the conservatives? (Jonah Goldberg, 9/15/06, National Review)

Conservative Republicans have learned a painful lesson over the last few years. It turns out power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Republican control of the White House and Congress hasn’t resulted in lights being turned off in Cabinet agencies or enormous garage sales of office furniture. Instead, Uncle Sam is still looking like Marlon Brando at the end of his career: bloated, sweaty, and slow moving. The GOP has become a Brando-like parody of its former self, reading its lines about cutting government without plausibility or passion.

The rub of it, from a conservative perspective, is that Republican control of the House doesn’t equal conservative control. It may not seem that way to liberals who think Joe Lieberman is right wing, but from the vantage point of the conservative movement, GOP dominance has been an enormous disappointment — good judicial appointments and tax cuts not withstanding.

The neocons and libertarians have never quite gotten a grasp on how little their concerns matter to the conservative party, which nominated and elected George W. Bush, largely over their objections, to cut taxes, move the country to the Right on moral/social issues, and implement Third Way entitlement reforms that would maintain (indeed increase) the size of government but transfer responsibility for the money government collects from bureaucrats to citizens. They're so bent on pie in the sky that they're unaware of the tectonic shifts beneath their feet, from public school vouchers to free trade to HSAs to civil service reform to the special relationship with India to retirement reform to the Faith-Based Initiative to stem cell research limits to the sunset commission to federal income tax revenues hitting their lowest level since 1950 and so on. Not all have required major congressional action and the entire agenda hasn't been enacted--SS privatization, for instance, requires more GOP senators, not fewer--but the revolution is much further along than anyone would have dreamt possible in January 2001.

Considering that Mr. Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru are generally the two most sensible writers at NRO, you almost have to assume that their recent essays are just attempts to stay in good favor with the gang.

2006 is year of surpluses, social issues (Pamela M. Prah, 9/15/06, has compiled a state-by-state summary of legislative action in each of the 44 states that held regular sessions this year. Its review shows the overriding theme in 2006 was budget surpluses. For the first time since the 2001 nationwide economic downturn, all but 10 of the 50 states were awash in money. The welcome reprieve from budget cutting and squeezing led legislatures to approve some tax cuts, some replenishing of states’ “rainy day” accounts and some overdue investment in schools, roads and other services cut in leaner years.

Alaska, Utah, Washington and Wyoming were in the enviable position of figuring out what to do with projected $1 billion surpluses.

The GOP economic boom even balanced the state budgets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Gordon, a Category 1, weakens further (AP, September 16, 2006)

Hurricane Gordon weakened again and Tropical Storm Helene crept toward hurricane strength Saturday as both storms churned in the open Atlantic, with neither immediately threatening land, forecasters said.

As gas prices subside to natural levels all the political benefit of Katrina to Democrats disappears.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Blue America, In More Ways Than One (George F. Will, September 17, 2006, Washington Post)

"The GOP," [Thomas B. Edsall of The New Republic, in "Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power," ] laments, "has achieved a gradual erosion of the popular consensus behind the major progressive and social-egalitarian movements of the twentieth century." But what actually "achieved" that? Edsall says the principal Republican objective has been to break "the trust . . . between the government and millions of its less advantaged citizens." But he acknowledges that Republicans have been helped "inestimably" by "the daily inefficiencies of government": "The monopoly nature of government guarantees that the public services will often lag in quality behind those delivered in the competitive private sector." Hence "the declining credibility of non-market solutions to economic problems" and the demoralization of "backers of a redistributive agenda." [...]

Edsall notes that one-third of American children -- and almost 70 percent of African American children -- are born to unmarried mothers. Then, in an astonishing passage about this phenomenon, which is the cause of most social pathologies, from crime to schools that cannot teach, he explains how Americans differ concerning what he calls "freedom from the need to maintain the marital or procreative bond."

"To social conservatives," he writes, "these developments have signaled an irretrievable and tragic loss. Their reaction has fueled, on the right, a powerful traditionalist movement and a groundswell of support for the Republican Party. To modernists, these developments constitute, at worst, the unfortunate costs of progress, and, at best -- and this is very much the view on the political left as well as of Democratic Party loyalists -- they constitute a triumph over unconscionable obstacles to the liberation and self-realization of much of the human race."

Looking for the real reason for the rise of "Red America"? Read that paragraph again.

To an astonishing degree, liberal elites want a red America to become more like blue Europe at the very moment that Europe is determing that it can't, and doesn't deserve to, survive as what it has become.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Sweden's burning with enthusiasm: Waste-to-energy incineration is clean, efficient and `absolutely feasible for Toronto,' disposal executives say (Toronto Star, Sep. 16, 2006)

With a population of 500,000, Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city, is typical. As part-owner of Sysav, a corporation created by 14 district municipalities, Malmo operates an incineration plant that burns waste and in the process provides district heating and electricity. Indeed, 40 per cent of Malmo homes are heated by Sysav, which also supplies 40 per cent of local power.

The plant, built in 1974, has been updated and expanded several times to meet growing demand and stringent European Union emission standards. Thanks to advanced flue-gas cleaning technology, exhaust is 98 per cent water. It's now so clean the locals didn't make a peep when the most recent expansion was launched last year. After completion in 2008, the facility will generate fully 60 per cent of the region's electricity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Republican Voters Dismayed by Biggest Spending Rise Since 1990 (Brian Faler, 9/15/06, Bloomberg)

Republican voters are angry, not for the first time, at big-spending politicians in Washington. This year, their wrath is aimed at their own party.

The Republican-controlled Congress heads into the Nov. 7 elections having increased federal spending this year by 9 percent -- the most since 1990 -- to about $2.7 trillion, according to projections from the White House Office of Management and Budget. The agency estimates government spending will grow to 20.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 from 18.5 percent when President George W. Bush took office in 2001.

``We've strayed a long way from the principles the party was founded upon,'' said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.

Mr. Flake could get us back to within spitting distance of that 18.5% by just eliminating all of the Defense and National Security spending we've undertaken since 9-11. Unfortunately for him, not reacting at all to the Islamicists is hardly consistent with GOP principles. Imagine trying to tell Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan that they were spending too much to defeat slavery and Communism to be considered good Republicans?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Lieberman Pleads For Unity Against `Barbarians' (MARK PAZNIOKAS, 9/16/06, Hartford Courant)

Using apocalyptic imagery of civilization lost, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman blamed politics Friday for undermining the war on terror and leaving the U.S. vulnerable to "barbarians at our gates."

The U.S. faces a patient and ruthless enemy in Islamic extremists, an enemy that "threatens not just America, but all of civilization," Lieberman said in a national security speech at Fairfield University.

"We remain too divided as a nation, and in Washington, spend too much time fighting each other rather than coming together to make our country safer," Lieberman said. "At stake is the kind of world we will live in, not far away abroad but right here, home in Connecticut." [...]

While criticizing Bush, he effectively buttressed comments the president made Friday that the world remains a dangerous place.

"We cannot ever again let down our guard or allow ourselves to go into denial," Lieberman said. "We must stay alert and engage in this war against the barbarians, because that is what they are - modern barbarians at our gates. Our enemies are patient and purposeful. They are ruthless. They are lethal."

His line about barbarians was one of Lieberman's many departures from a six-page text that was copied and distributed to reporters minutes before the speech at Fairfield's school of business.

Lieberman said Islamic terrorists are a threat to Americans of all races and creeds.

"They hate us all because we are Americans. And yet, we remain divided among ourselves in responding to them," he said. "It's really outrageous that that continues to be the case. We have got to move forward together."

He faulted some on the right for implying that Democrats do not care if terrorists succeed and some on the left for going "beyond dissent to demonize the president" and impugn the motives of those who support him.

Lieberman said Congress and the president must work in a bipartisan fashion. Sprinkled through his speech was praise for Republican senators with whom he has worked cooperatively: Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. He singled out no Democrat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Saudi newspaper: Shalit's release to be announced Sunday in context of deal (YNet, 09.16.06)

According to the report, Israel will release the Hamas minister and parliament members detained in Israel within the next day. Simultaneously, the release of kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit will be announced Sunday. In the next stage, according to the report, Israel is expected to release 740 Palestinian prisoners in two rounds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


America's moralpolitik (George Jonas, September 16, 2006, National Post)

What Saddam didn't understand about the U.S. nearly cost him his fiefdom in 1990. It did so conclusively in 2003 (and it may yet cost him his life). Iraq's former dictator failed to understand that U.S. foreign policy isn't guided by self-interest -- at least, not primarily. America and the Western democracies want to do the right thing. That they end up doing the wrong thing at times is a different matter.

Nations can pursue two types of policies. One is customarily identified as realpolitik, the cold, calculating, Machiavellian pursuit of what is perceived to be in the national interest. I'll use the term moralpolitik for a committed pursuit of what a nation perceives to be right, and argue that in the past 16 years America's policies in the Persian Gulf have been motivated by moralpolitik. [...]

If Kuwait or Saudi Arabia had been at least Western-style democracies -- but the sheikdoms of the Gulf were historical throwbacks. At least Iraq's Baathist system was a modern rather than an archaic despotism. So why was President Bush so hostile? Just because Saddam used poison gas against his Kurdish subjects in the north? Or because he oppressed and massacred his Shiite countrymen in the south? What were the Kurds and the Shiites to America?

Ah! They would have been nothing to an America guided by realpolitik. But that's what Saddam missed: America is being guided by moralpolitik. It has prompted three American administrations over 16 years to wage war against a bloodstained tyrant who wanted to sell oil to the West to protect bloodstained fanatics who want to obliterate it.

Historical reviews? Cromwell or Luther might applaud moralpolitik. Others might echo a French general's review of the charge of the Light Brigade: "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre" (it is magnificent, but it isn't war). If Machiavelli stopped spinning in his grave long enough to comment, it would probably be unprintable.

“I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else.” Which makes it useless to give us the advice you'd give the Prince.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Detroit Flails in Latest Effort to Reinvent Itself (MICHELINE MAYNARD, 9/16/06, NY Times)

With all of the auto companies here putting themselves on the chopping block, the upheaval shows that Detroit’s basic business strategy — built on the assumption that what has long been thought of as the Big Three would make money simply by dominating the mass market with a full range of vehicles — is irrevocably broken, said James P. Womack, who has written extensively about the auto industry.

“All the old rules of the game are gone,” said Mr. Womack, co-founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute. And, he said, the challenge is now to play by the new rules, as dictated by foreign competitors. “We’re now in the reinvention phase,” he added.

That includes more cuts that will continue at least through the end of the decade. Detroit companies will be focused on closing plants, eliminating blue- and white-collar jobs, and cutting more deeply into their operations to reduce costs. Moreover, the automakers remain liable for billions of dollars in health care costs, both for their active and retired workers.

At G.M., those costs add up to $5.2 billion a year, or the equivalent of $1,440 a car. But for all their efforts to lose excess weight, the biggest challenge facing Detroit’s car companies is convincing skeptical American buyers that their vehicles, developed amid this chaos, are as attractive as those from their aggressive rivals. Thus far, they have been failing, reflected in their falling market share in recent years.

Adding to Detroit’s woes, its Asian competitors are investing billions of dollars more in American factories and hiring thousands more American workers.

At this point, the companies exist to fund the benefits, not to make cars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Closing down: Sox considering Papelbon as a starter (SEAN McADAM, 9/16/06, Providence Journal)

It will be another few weeks before a decision is finalized. But all that's needed is a final meeting and a rubber stamp: Jonathan Papelbon's role as Red Sox closer -- successful as it might have been -- is over.

"Pretty much," said Papelbon yesterday when asked if he was preparing to start next season. "(The Red Sox) have talked to my agent and we've talked to doctors. Right now, my whole mindset is focused on going back to the (starting) rotation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Toensing and WSJ: Corn Outed Plame (Here We Go Again) (David Corn, 9/16/06)

Throughout my years in Washington, I've debated a lot of conservatives and Republicans. There are some for which I have no regard. There are others whom--though I disagree with them on politics and policy--I've considered friendlies: not quite friends, but people who are smart and whose company I enjoy, who are fun to drink and argue with. Among that group has been GOP lawyer Victoria Toensing. [...]

So I am disheartened to see her embracing a rather idiotic conservative talking point and ignoring basic facts to tag me as the true culprit in the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. It is an argument that defies logic and the record. But it is an accusation that pro-Bush spinners have used to defend the true leakers and columnist Bob Novak, the conveyor of the leak. By propounding this charge, Toensing leads me (regretfully) to believe that she cares more about scoring points than serving the truth. Here is what she wrote in today's Wall Street Journal:

The first journalist to reveal Ms. Plame was "covert" was David Corn, on July 16, 2003, two days after Mr. Novak's column. The latter never wrote, because he did not know and it was not so, that Ms. Plame was covert. However, Mr. Corn claimed Mr. Novak "outed" her as an "undercover CIA officer," querying whether Bush officials blew "the cover of a U.S. intelligence officer working covertly in...national security." Was Mr. Corn subpoenaed? Did Mr. Fitzgerald subpoena Mr. Wilson to attest he had never revealed his wife's employment to anyone? If he had done so, he might have learned Mr. Corn's source.

This is a canard that has been previously advanced by other conservatives--all to absolve Novak and the actual leakers (mainly Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, not Richard Armitage). And you see the suggestion: that Joe Wilson told me that his wife was an undercover CIA officer and that I then disclosed this information to the public. I've debunked this before. But for Toensing's benefit, I'll go through this again--though I doubt it will do much good.

Here's what Novak, citing "two senior administration officials," wrote on July 14, 2003:

[Joseph] Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.

Novak's column is syndicated and is posted on the web. This information appeared, I assume, in hundreds of places. Other nations and foreign intelligence services now knew that Valerie Wilson was a CIA operative. At this point, her cover--whatever it might have been--was blown to bits. The fact that Novak did not state she was a "covert" operative is utterly meaningless. (Does the CIA employ non-secret "operatives"?)

A White House Smear (David Corn, 7/16/03, The Nation)
Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others? [...]

The sources for Novak's assertion about Wilson's wife appear to be "two senior administration officials." If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson's wife is such a person--and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her--her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration. (Assuming she did not tell friends and family about her real job, these Bush officials have also damaged her personal life.) Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames." If she is not a CIA employee and Novak is reporting accurately, then the White House has wrongly branded a woman known to friends as an energy analyst for a private firm as a CIA officer. That would not likely do her much good.

This is not only a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent.

As even Mr. Corn reconstructs the matter, it certainly appears that he intentionally wrote about her being covert while Mr. Novak simply outed her as a generic CIA officer--of course, it's all elementary since she was not in the event a covert agent after all, just an operative.

September 15, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Revenge theory in stingray attacks (AP, September 12, 2006)

At least 10 stingrays have been found dead and mutilated on Australia's eastern coast since "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin was killed by one of the animals last week, an official said Tuesday, prompting concerns of revenge attacks on the normally docile fish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


The consequences of Richard Weaver (Roger Kimball, September 2006, New Criterion)

Weaver the man was—or became— almost as eccentric as his work. Born in North Carolina, he was the first of four children. His father, an outgoing man who owned a livery stable, died when Richard was only six and his mother was expecting her last child. The family eventually resettled in Lexington, Kentucky, where his mother managed Embry and Company, a millinery business owned by her brother. Although Weaver became a formidable debater, he was a shy, bookish boy: his sister Polly remembers him sequestered in his bedroom for hours on end with the family typewriter. He blossomed socially in college, though his intellectual vocation seems to have settled upon him only gradually. In an autobiographical essay called “Up From Liberalism” (1958), Weaver recalls that in his undergraduate years at the University of Kentucky earnest professors had him “persuaded entirely that the future was with science, liberalism, and equalitarianism.” By the time he graduated, in 1932, the Great Depression had swept the country and Weaver, like many others, had evolved into a full-fledged socialist. He served as secretary of the campus socialist party and, during Norman Thomas’s presidential campaign, rose to be secretary of the statewide socialist party.

His metanoia began at Vanderbilt where he came under the mesmerising spell of John Crowe Ransom, the “subtle doctor” to whom he dedicated The Southern Tradition at Bay. What one might call the “localness” of Ransom’s teaching—his agrarian emphasis on the importance of place, the genealogy of art and thought—began to wean Weaver from the centralizing imperatives of socialism. After taking a master’s degree in 1937, he spent a restless few years teaching, first in Alabama, then Texas. It was while driving across the Texas prairies in 1939, he recalled later, that he had a revelation: “I did not have to go back to this job … I did not have to go on professing the clichés of liberalism, which were becoming meaningless to me… . At the end of that year I chucked the uncongenial job and went off to start my education over, being now arrived at the age of thirty.”

Weaver now switched into high intellectual gear. At LSU he studied not only with Cleanth Brooks but also with such commanding figures as Robert Penn Warren and the literary historian Arlin Turner. Summers found him at Harvard, the Sorbonne, or the University of Virginia pursuing his studies. He finished his dissertation in 1943 and, recommended by Brooks, landed a job at the University of Chicago.

Weaver’s entire career unfolded at the University of Chicago. He taught there from 1944 until his early death, from heart failure, in 1963 at the age of fifty-three. Weaver was dutiful—he always insisted on keeping his hand in teaching introductory courses when most senior staff fobbed off that chore on junior colleagues—but he was never happy in Chicago. One biographer speaks of his “hermetically sealed existence” there. He had colleagues, but few if any close friends. He never married. He lived alone in a small apartment with his pipe, his books, and a nightly beer for company. In the summer, he would go south to stay with his mother in the house he had bought her. He traveled there by train—he boarded an airplane only once in his life, to lecture in California—and he always instructed his mother to have the garden plowed by horse or mule, not—abomination of desolation—by a tractor.

There was more than a little irony in Weaver’s situation. The great Henry Regnery, who published Weaver’s book The Ethics of Rhetoric in 1953, summed it up with his customary aptitude. How odd that a man who repudiated the modern world and all its works should spend virtually his entire career “at a university founded by John D. Rockefeller, where, not long before he arrived, the first chain reaction had taken place … and in the city where fifteen years before there had been a great exposition, ‘A Century of Progress,’ celebrating achievements of science and technology.” As Regnery noted, being so out of place must have been a powerful goad to Weaver’s ire, and hence to his work.

Weaver’s star rose dramatically in 1948 when Ideas Have Consequences was published by the University of Chicago Press. He instantly went from being just another disgruntled prof to being a sort of academic celebrity. He had a knack for telling people what they didn’t want to hear in such a way that they craved to hear it. “This is another book,” he began mournfully, “about the dissolution of the West.” It was Weaver’s constant theme. Ideas is a brief book, fewer than 200 pages. But it crackles with passion and extensive, if sometimes imperfectly digested, erudition. Its success, or perhaps I should say its notoriety, astonished everyone, not least its author.

Paul Tillich—then at the height of his fame—spoke for one contingent when he declared the book “brilliantly written, daring, and radical… . It will shock, and philosophical shock is the beginning of wisdom.” Others were less admiring. Writing in The Antioch Review, one critic denounced Weaver as a “pompous fraud” and his book as a retreat to “a fairyland of absolute essences.” Ideas was not a measured, carefully modulated argument; it did not elicit a measured, carefully modulated response. I suspect that some part of the book’s success lay in its title. It is not catchy, exactly, but it bluntly articulates an immovable intellectual truth: ideas do indeed have consequences. It is ironical, then, that Weaver intensely disliked the title, which was foisted upon him by his editor. In his excellent biography of Weaver, Joseph Scotchie reports that Weaver almost pulled the book from the press over the title. Weaver’s friend Russell Kirk said that The Adverse Descent was the title Weaver favored; other scholars say it was The Fearful Descent. Whatever it was, Weaver was fortunate that his editor prevailed.

As it happens, the whole Intro to Ideas is on-line

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


Royal Society's archive is free on the internet (Robert Colvile, 15/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The Royal Society has made every paper submitted to it since 1665 available free of charge on the internet, opening one of the greatest storehouses of scientific knowledge to the public.

Readers will be able to browse through countless papers of incalculable historical importance, including Halley's description of his comet, Watson and Crick's unravelling of the double helix structure of DNA and the first paper published by Stephen Hawking. [...]

The archive, at, will only be available free until December.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Dow falls short of record (, 9/15/06)

Stocks gained Friday afternoon, with the blue chips rising for the fifth of six sessions on bets that the morning's mild reading on inflation means the Federal Reserve won't have to raise rates when it meets again.

The Dow Jones industrial average (up 45.46 to 11,572.85, Charts) added 0.3 percent to come within shouting distance of its record high of 11,722.98, hit on Jan. 14, 2000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


A right-wing resurgence: The end of the Swedish dream?: He looks like Iain Duncan Smith, but talks like David Cameron - and now Fredrik Reinfeldt is set to seize power in a country once hailed as a left-wing success story. (Stephen Castle, 15 September 2006, Belfast Telegram)

A young, right-wing politician emerges from nowhere, captures the centre ground and ousts a discredited government after more than a decade in power. On Sunday, the dream of every conservative may be realised, not in Britain but in Sweden.

The land of Volvo, Ikea and the much-vaunted Swedish social model may be on the threshold of a political earthquake. For the past 10 years, Göran Persson has been Prime Minister, leading one of the most formidable vote-winning machines in democratic politics. But opinion polls show Sunday's election is on a knife-edge. The remodelled, centrist, Swedish conservative party, known as the Moderates, led by 41-year-old Fredrik Reinfeldt, could emerge at the head of a new coalition. And, whatever the result, the traditional dominance of Sweden's left is under threat as the country asks itself whether its famous social model is all it is cracked up to be.

With even Sweden, Canada, Germany and France shifting Right does this really seem like Pelosi time?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM


Jury convicts T-ball coach of beaning (Moustafa Ayad, September 15, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Fayette County jury yesterday convicted a Uniontown youth league baseball coach of hiring an 8-year-old to injure a teammate last summer.

After almost seven hours of deliberation, and twice asking a judge to clarify the charges, the jury convicted Mark R. Downs Jr., 29, of Dunbar, of criminal conspiracy to commit simple assault and corruption of minors for promising $25 to one of his best players if he hurled a ball at Harry Bowers Jr., 11, an autistic and mildly retarded teammate. [...]

Most of the evidence in the case hinged on the testimony of Keith Reese Jr., now 9, and his father, Keith Reese Sr., who said Mr. Downs asked Keith to hit Harry with a baseball as they warmed up before a playoff game in June 2005.

The father and son testified that Mr. Downs told Keith he would give him $25 if he hit Harry. The younger Keith testified that after he hit Harry, his coach asked him to go out there and "hit him harder."

Mr. Reese testified that Mr. Downs confessed after the playoff game that he done something "pretty ignorant."

During warmups before the game, Keith hit Harry twice with a baseball -- the first bounced and hit him in the groin, and the second ricocheted off the left side of his face, tearing his earlobe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Liberia: Legislature Puts Country's Land, Airspace, Waters At U.S. Disposal (The Analyst, 9/13/06)

The National Legislature has adopted a resolution yesterday assuring open access to the Bush Administration in its global approach to combating terrorism.

The resolution which was adopted in Joint Session of the Legislature Assembled in solidarity with the "brave and gallant people of America" coincided with the 5th Anniversary of what is generally referred to as "9/11".

The resolution reads in part: "Whereas, on September 11, 2001, the democratic, free and peaceful people of the United States of America were wantonly, unjustifiably and grievously attacked in their home Now, therefore, we, the Senate and the House of Representatives in Legislature assembled, reflecting the collective voice of the people of the Republic of Liberia, resolve That the people of Liberia shall continue to make available to the noble people of the Untied States its land, air space and territorial waters, as well as any other asset which lies within its domain in its search of justice against all aggressors." By opening up the Liberian territory to the U.S. government in its bid to track down what the Legislature described as aggressors, it hoped the Bush Administration would make a dramatic headway in combating international terrorism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM

MI-5: “The Special (Part 1) ” (A&E-TV)

Upcoming Airings:
Friday, September 15 @ 11pm/10C
Saturday, September 16 @ 3am/2C

The heart-pounding series about England's top anti-terrorist team is back with a bang - literally. As the MI-5 agents attend the funeral for Danny (killed by a Middle Eastern terrorist), a bomb explodes in a street market, killing innocent civilians. A new terrorist group, the Shining Dawn, is responsible, and it's vowed to detonate a bomb ever 10 hours unless its leader is released. The MI-5 team rushes to stop them, but they're thwarted by a mole in their headquarters and with the next bomb about to go off, they don't have time to find out who it is. Peter Firth, Rupert Penry-Jones, Nicola Walker, Olga Sosnokova, Rafa Jeffrey, Anna Chancellor, and Miranda Raison star.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM


Zogby: Battle for Congress Tightens (Zogby, 9/15/06)

Following an aggressive media blitz, the latest Zogby America poll finds the standing of President Bush and congressional Republicans climbing as the November elections rapidly approach.

The telephone survey was conducted Sept. 12-14, 2006, included 1,034 respondents, and carries a margin of error of +/– 3.1 percentage points.

The poll contains good news for congressional Republicans battling a strong Democratic push to retake the House and Senate. While Republican congressional candidates trailed their Democratic counterparts in the “generic ballot” question by a 39% to 31% margin a month ago, today they have whittled the Democrats’ lead to just three points, 37% to 34%.

Democrats Meander in a New New Direction (Dana Milbank, September 15, 2006, Washington Post)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the woman who will become speaker of the House if Democrats get lucky in November, began her weekly news conference yesterday holding up a red-white-and-blue brochure.

"I hope you all received 'A New Direction for America,' " she said, standing at a lectern that bore the same slogan. She called the manifesto "a compilation of many of the initiatives taken by our House Democratic Caucus that encompasses our new direction for all Americans."

It was a handsome booklet, full of homey photographs and popular proposals, but there was a problem. Democrats have had more "New Directions" recently than MapQuest.

Among the party's campaign slogans this year: "Culture of Corruption," "Culture of Cronyism," "Do-Nothing Congress," "Rubber-Stamp Congress," "Together, We Can Do Better," "Together, America Can Do Better" and, most recently, "Six for '06."

For those keeping score at home, Democrats arrived at "New Direction" yesterday by downgrading one of the "Six for '06" issues (health care) and upgrading three others (honesty, civility and fiscal discipline), for a total of eight items on the contents page.

The entire premise of the Democrats' campaign has always been inchoate disgust with W. But that disgust was just a function of gas prices. Now, with prices falling, they've nothing to fall back on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM


You are invited to join my on-line football office pool! To
accept this invitation and join the pool, click the link
below (or cut and paste the link into your browser's address
field). You'll be asked to enter the pool's password before
you can join. The pool password is included in this e-mail.

Our Pool password is: ericjulia

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Welfare-recipient drug screening backed (The Associated Press, 9/15/06)

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Mike McGavick on Wednesday proposed mandatory substance-abuse screening for welfare recipients with children. [...]

McGavick's plan says that if recipients refuse treatment, cash benefits would be redirected from the parents to a third party. Continued refusal to accept treatment or repeated drug-test failures would result in removal of children from the home.

Spokesmen for the state welfare program and the campaign of incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell did not immediately return after-hours telephone calls for comment.

Senate Campaign: Finding fairer fight (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD, September 15, 2006)
Mike McGavick has a political issue: We aren't tough enough on welfare mothers.

The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate calls for mandatory drug screening of parents receiving public assistance under the main welfare program. If the personal screening by specialists found substance abuse, treatment and drug testing would follow. In a rhetorical flourish, McGavick envisioned a "Strike Three" requirement by which parents with continuing problems would lose custody of their children.

It's disconcerting to see the former head of a major insurance company using some of society's neediest as a campaign target.

Worked prety well for the Governor of Arkansas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Wall Street Rises on CPI Report (Joe Bel Bruno, 9/15/06, AP)

Wall Street surged Friday after a key inflation report showed consumer prices rose in line with expectations last month, raising investors' confidence that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates unchanged.

The Labor Department reported consumer inflation slowed sharply from July, helped by a slower housing market and pullback in energy prices. Overall consumer prices and costs, excluding food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in August. [...]

"The news from this report shows that overall inflation is decelerating, and that's going to increase the markets confidence the Fed will leave rates unchanged next week," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist with Trusco Capital Management. "Stocks are going to respond strongly to something like this."

Oil Prices Fall After Natural-Gas Drop (AP, 9/15/06)
Crude-oil prices eased below $63 a barrel Friday after natural gas prices plunged to a two-year low, and supply concerns eased after Nigerian oil workers prematurely ended a strike in Africa's largest producer.

OPEC, meanwhile, sharply lowered its expectations for demand for its crude, increasing the prospect that the group may reduce its production quotas later this year. In its monthly oil market report, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cut expected need for its oil in the last three months of this year by 320,000 barrels a day from its month-ago estimate, to 28.86 million barrels per day.

Oil demand weaker than expected in first half of 2006: OPEC (AFP, Sep 15, 2006)
World oil demand growth was weaker than expected in the first half of 2006, OPEC has said.

"World oil demand growth in 2006 has been revised down by 0.1 million barrels per day (bpd) since the last MOMR (OPEC monthly report) to stand at 1.2 million bpd, as recent data shows weaker-than-expected demand in the first half of the year," it said in its report for September on world oil markets.

Gasoline demand in the United States "grew by only 0.7 percent, well below the annual average of 1.6 percent despite the stabilization of gasoline prices," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said.

Sadly, Ray Fair doesn't project mid-terms, but there can't be many instances where a party has lost control of both houses of Congress in economic times as robust as these.

Consumer confidence skyrockets (JEANNINE AVERSA, 9/15/06, AP)

Consumer confidence zoomed to a seven-month high as lower gasoline prices made people feel a lot better about the current economic climate and their own financial standing.

The RBC Cash Index, based on the results of the international polling firm Ipsos, showed confidence rebounding to 93.7 in early September.

That marked an improvement from August, when consumer confidence sank to a three-month low of 74.8. At that time, the toll of soaring energy prices was blamed for weighing on consumers' psyches. The recent drop in energy prices, however, provided people with some relief and propelled confidence to its best reading since February.

"The drop in pump prices is very visible to consumers and seems to have a huge impact," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Bank of America's Investment Strategies Group. "Consumers seem to view gasoline prices as a barometer to their overall well being."

The entire drop in W's popularity ratings was a function of high gas prices--so what do Democrats do as those prices drop another 50 cents a gallon by election day?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Italian Writer Oriana Fallaci Dies (ALESSANDRA RIZZO, 9/15/06, The Associated Press)

Describing Europe as "Eurabia," Fallaci said the continent "has sold itself and sells itself to the enemy like a prostitute."

"Europe becomes more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam," she wrote.

The current invasion, Fallaci went on to say, is not carried out only by the "terrorists who blow up themselves along with skyscrapers or buses" but also by "the immigrants who settle in our home, and who, with no respect for our laws, impose their ideas, their customs, their God."

She was not married and had no children. Information on funeral arrangements was not immediately available.

Rage is a thin gruel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


US to cut funds for two renewable energy sources: Geothermal and hydropower are mature enough for private enterprise to take the lead, the government says (Mark Clayton, 9/15/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Declaring them "mature technologies" that need no further funding, the Bush administration in its FY 2007 budget request eliminates hydropower and geothermal research, venerable programs with roots in the energy crises of the 1970s.

"What we do well is research and funding of new, novel technologies," says Craig Stevens, chief spokesman for the DOE. "From a policy perspective, geothermal and hydro are mature technologies. We believe the market can take the lead on this at this point."

For libertarians, the notion that Republicans helped to get innovative technologies ready to compete in the free market is reason enough to throw the bums out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Germans reconsider religion: Pope Benedict XVI's challenge to secularism meets with receptivity during his German visit (Christa Case, 9/15/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

[George Weigel, an American biographer of Pope John Paul II, and the author of "The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God"] points to the recent shift of Jürgen Habermas, one of Germany's foremost philosophers, as evidence of the potential for a rethinking of the public role of religion. A professed secularist who has spent nearly half a century arguing against religiously informed moral argument, he made some arresting statements in his 2004 essay, "A Time of Transition."

"Christianity, and nothing else," he wrote, "is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [to Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

The question isn't so much whether they can recognize that they've made a horrible mistake, but whether they can go backwards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Immigrants turn Utah into mini-melting pot (Jeffrey D. Allred, 9/15/06, USA TODAY)

Marriage and kids: They're the pillars of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which dominates many facets of life in Utah. But diversity?

Immigration is changing the complexion of communities across the USA. As it sweeps through Utah, traditionally one of the least diverse and most conservative states in the nation, its impact is particularly dramatic. About 98% white until 1970, Utah is becoming a mini-melting pot.

While conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing to tighten borders and make illegal immigrants felons, factors unique to Utah are attracting Hispanics to this reddest of red states. Among them: the Mormon church's philosophy of outreach and its embrace of large families.

These influences have helped give the state a reputation of being warm and welcoming to immigrants. Utah allows the undocumented to drive legally with a "driving privilege card." They can attend public colleges and universities and pay in-state tuition. Minorities — mostly Hispanics — make up 16.5% of the population, up from 8.8% in 1990. They could reach 20% by 2010. Hispanics are driving the growth among minorities here. The state's black and Asian populations also are growing but more slowly.

The changes are visible — and audible. Sounds of up to 70 languages reverberate in school hallways, cantinas are sprouting in the suburbs, and Spanish-speaking religious congregations are multiplying — scenes that are more Los Angeles and Miami than Salt Lake City.

"Word has gotten out that it's a place where immigrants are welcome," five-term Utah Republican Rep. Chris Cannon says.

Utahans in 2004 gave President Bush his biggest margin over Democrat John Kerry in any state — 72% to 26%. How can one of America's most conservative places be so receptive to immigrants?

Obviously the shared values make the GOP and immigrants natural allies. The big question is: how much longer can the Democrats afford to support mass immigration of people who are at odds with their political/social stances and so much more fertile than seculars?

Hispanic lawmakers question absence of immigration in new Dem agenda (Alexander Bolton, 9/14/06, The Hill)

House Democratic leaders passed around to colleagues Tuesday a plan they would focus on if their party wins control of the lower chamber on Election Day, but although the document was drafted to achieve consensus, it has already angered Democratic Hispanic leaders.

The cause of the consternation is not something the Democrats included in the agenda. Instead, it’s something lacking: any mention of immigration. While Republican candidates around the country are trying to make immigration one of the biggest issues of this fall’s elections, Democrats appear to be tiptoeing around it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Bush's Message to Iran (David Ignatius, September 15, 2006, Washington Post)

What would President Bush say to the Iranian people if he had a chance to communicate directly with them? I was able to put that question to Bush in a one-on-one interview in the Oval Office on Wednesday. His answer made clear that the administration wants a diplomatic solution to the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program -- one that is premised on an American recognition of Iran's role as an important nation in the Middle East.

"I would say to the Iranian people: We respect your history. We respect your culture. We admire the entrepreneurial skills of your people. I would say to the Iranian people that I recognize the importance of your sovereignty -- that you're a proud nation, and you want to have a positive future for your citizens," Bush said, answering quickly and without notes.

"In terms of the nuclear issue," he continued, "I understand that you believe it is in your interest -- your sovereign interest, and your sovereign right -- to have nuclear power. I understand that. But I would also say to the Iranian people, there are deep concerns about the intentions of some in your government who would use knowledge gained from a civilian nuclear power industry to develop a weapon that can then fulfill the stated objectives of some of the leadership [to attack Israel and threaten the United States]. And I would say to the Iranian people that I would want to work for a solution to meeting your rightful desires to have civilian nuclear power."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Ism Schism (Peter Beinart, 09.15.06, New Republic)

The more apt epithet for bin Laden is totalitarian. Hannah Arendt, totalitarian's foremost interpreter, insisted that totalitarianism and fascism were different. Totalitarians need not deify the nation: Hitler imagined a race-based utopia and Stalin imagined a class-based one. What linked them, in the philosopher Michael Walzer's words, was their "political messianism"--their vision of a perfect new world brought about through coercive state power. The perfection of the vision mandated the scope of the coercion: It had to be total. Most dictators merely try to control political behavior--behavior that threatens their hold on power. But, in a totalitarian state, all behavior is political because everyone must do their part to create a perfect world. In fascist Italy, the church remained largely autonomous. In a totalitarian state, however, you either actively participate in the ideological project or you are an enemy. Such a state, Arendt wrote, cannot permit "the autonomous existence of any activity whatsoever." It cannot even allow "the neutrality of chess."

For Al Qaeda, the utopia is religious. Bin Laden and his supporters call themselves salafis, from the word salaf, which refers to Mohammed's companions in the seventh century. And, since salafi society was perfect, recreating it requires total state control. A true Islamic state, wrote the influential salafist theoretician Maulana Maududi, must have a "sphere of activity [that] is co-extensive with human life. ...In such a state, no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private." Thus, the Taliban banned chess and virtually every game or hobby. Music, said the Taliban's education minister, "creates a strain in the mind and hampers study of Islam." In other words, it hinders the effort to create the pure Muslims required for a pure Islamic society.

So Islamic (or more precisely, salafi) totalitarianism is a good description of what bin Laden's followers believe. But Bush doesn't apply the term Islamofascist merely to followers of Al Qaeda; he applies it to the insurgents in Iraq and to the regime in Iran. And, in so doing, he destroys its clarity. The average Iraqi insurgent is not fighting to usher in a utopian vision of Islam; he is fighting because an American soldier killed his cousin or because Shia are stealing his country. America's enemy in Iraq includes totalitarians, but it is mostly nationalist and tribalist.

Iran isn't really totalitarian either. Its hybrid political system is far from democratic (and has grown more oppressive in recent years) but still permits some public disagreement. Within limits, it allows people to differ about the definition of an Islamic state, something a totalitarian regime cannot allow. Iran has also proved half-hearted about regulating apolitical behavior--the kind that doesn't threaten the regime but impedes utopia. Ayatollah Khomeini refused to ban non-Islamic music, art, and, yes, chess. And, unlike the Taliban, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he doesn't care how citizens cut their hair. Tehran's goal is less popular mobilization than popular indifference.

While the points above are sound, fretting over the use of the term Islamo-fascism is kind of absurd. After all, the Nazis weren't fascists either, but Darwinists.

The Fascist Disease: "Islamic fascism" is an accurate--and important--term. (Joseph Loconte, 09/14/2006 , Weekly Standard)

THE HISTORICAL PARALLEL HAS ITS LIMITS. European fascism elevated the state above all else, while today's Islamists regard the state as a means to an end: the establishment of a vast, borderless caliphate. Nevertheless, Mussolini's motto--"niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contra lo Stato ("nothing outside the state, nothing against the state")--aptly describes the totalitarian impulse of Osama bin Laden and his allies.

An American observer, writing in 1939, saw in fascism "a deliberate return to barbarism." The new barbarians share much with their European counterparts: a remorseless savagery, an obsession with blood and death, and a utopian vision of purity and power. If we consider the horrific plot to blow up 10 airliners bound for the United States; the ethnic cleansing of villagers in Sudan; the bombs hidden in Iraqi soccer fields and mosques; the beheadings of schoolgirls in Indonesia; the Lebanese boys, arms outstretched like Hitler Youth as they pledge martyrdom for Hezbollah--do we not see the stigmata of fascism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


NDP wins by-election (ROB FERGUSON AND ROBERT BENZIE, 9/15/06, Toronto Star)

Liberal attacks on the NDP's Cheri DiNovo backfired yesterday as voters chose the controversial United Church minister in the bitterly contested Parkdale-High Park by-election.

The riding was considered a safe Liberal seat for the decade it was held by former education minister Gerard Kennedy, but that changed during a nasty month-long campaign.

Jubilant New Democrats said voters showed Premier Dalton McGuinty's majority Liberals are on the run heading into the next provincial election in 13 months.

Too much to hope they go the way of the post-Mulroney Tories.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Brown and Thatcher 'one on Union' (JAMES KIRKUP, 9/15/06, The Scotsman)

GORDON Brown has declared that he "stands with Margaret Thatcher" in defence of the Union between Scotland and England.

The Chancellor's public praise for the former Conservative prime minister's attitude to Scotland was scorned as "a betrayal" by the Scottish National Party.

Mr Brown's statement came as he steps up his attempts to woo English voters in support of his efforts to replace Tony Blair as prime minister next year.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:59 AM


50 ways to irritate everyone (Philip Norman, The Telegraph, September 15th, 2006)

1. Being welcomed to places one has no wish to be in and thanked for things one has no wish to do. "Welcome to the Grottville Multi-Storey Car Park"; "Thank you for paying the Congestion Charge."

8. The gooey look that female TV news presenters fix on their male co-presenters while the latter are speaking, as if to say: "Have I ever told you, you're my hero?"

39. The wasting of vast sums of our money on logos and slogans for public bodies that simply state the bleeding obvious ("Metropolitan Police. Working for a safer London").

Contest time. You are all invited to name your three most irritating incidences of modern everyday life. Remember that the art of the curmudgeon is in recognizing and complaining about obscure little matters most people don’t even notice, so things like Michael Moore or The Taliban don’t really qualify. To start off, I nominate: A) People who command me to have a good day rather than wish me one; B) Restaurant and service personnel whose response to any request is “No problem.” (Do they imagine we care?); and C) Female teenagers singing the national anthem at sports events.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Pope's speech at University of Regensburg (full prepared text) (

Editor's note: The following is the prepared text from which Pope Benedict XVI spoke as he addressed an academic audience at the Unviersity of Regensburg on September 12. As he actually delivered it, the speech differed slightly. Because the speech has aroused an unusual amount of debate-- particularly regarding the Pope's references to Islam and to religious violence-- CWN strongly recommends reading the entire text.

[....] The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the whole of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.

The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: In the beginning was the logos. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos.

Logos means both reason and word-- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.

The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: Come over to Macedonia and help us! (cf. Acts 16:6-10)-- this vision can be interpreted as a distillation of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that he is, is already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates's attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: I am.

This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.

Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria-- the Septuagint-- is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act “with logos” is contrary to God's nature.

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV). God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love transcends knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history-– it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe. [...]

With all due regard to His oliness, there aren't 2 billion Christians just because we reasoned with the barbarians of Europe, the savages of the New World and Africa, and the heathens of Asia.

September 14, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Americans May Be More Religious Than They Realize: Many Without Denomination Have Congregation, Study Finds (Michelle Boorstein, September 12, 2006, Washington Post)

A survey released yesterday posits the idea that the United States -- already one of the most religious nations in the developed world -- may be even less secular than previously suspected.

The Baylor University survey looked carefully at people who checked "none" when asked their religion in polls. Sociologists have watched this group closely since 1990, when their numbers doubled, from 7 percent of the population to 14 percent. Some sociologists said the jump reflects increasing secularization at the same time that American society is becoming more religious.

But the Baylor survey, considered one of the most detailed ever conducted about religion in the United States, found that one in 10 people who picked "no religion" out of 40 choices did something interesting when asked later where they worship: They named a place.

Considering that, Baylor researchers say, the percentage of people who are truly unaffiliated is more like 10.8 percent. The difference between 10.8 percent and 14 percent is about 10 million Americans.

"People might not have a denomination, but they have a congregation. They have a sense of religious connection that is formative to who they are," said Kevin D. Dougherty, a sociologist at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion and one of the survey's authors. Baylor is a leading Baptist university, located in Waco, Tex.

The finding reflects the new challenges involved in trying to categorize religiosity in the United States, where people increasingly blend religions, shop for churches and worship in independent communities. Classic labels such as mainline, evangelical and unaffiliated no longer have the same meaning.

For example, 33 percent of Americans worship at evangelical congregations, which sociologists say are places that espouse an inerrant Bible, the importance of evangelizing and the requirement of having a personal relationship with Jesus. But only 15 percent of respondents to the Baylor survey said the term "evangelical" describes their religious identity.

Likewise, you sometimes hear people say a plurality of Americans believe in Darwinism, but 3 in every four folks who claim to accept natural evolution couple it with the directly conradictory belief that "God guided this process,"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 PM


City ballots don't add up: Totals are much larger than tallies for candidates; state wants explanation (DAVE UMHOEFER and DERRICK NUNNALLY, Sept. 13, 2006,

A day after the City of Milwaukee reported a primary election turnout above 80,000 - more than a quarter of the city's registered voters - a Journal Sentinel analysis found that the number might be inflated by tens of thousands.

Voter turnout figures in nearly two-thirds of the city's 314 wards are suspect, and state officials advised the city late Wednesday to recalculate its numbers. The city missed a 4 p.m. deadline to turn in polling lists and voter information to the Milwaukee County Election Commission. [...]

By the city's calculation, only about half the ballots cast in Tuesday's primary actually included votes in the hottest races - those for sheriff and attorney general. For example, the city reported 78,801 ballots cast in the attorney general race in primaries for the two major parties, but vote totals for the Democratic and Republican candidates combined amounted to only 40,971. By that count, 37,830 ballots did not include a vote in the race - a number that political observers regard as obviously flawed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM


Design: Critical deception? (Alan I. Leshner, 9/11/06, Akron Beacon Journal)

The writer is the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the executive publisher of its journal, Science.

Natural selection, the keystone of evolution science, is really a simple concept: The plants or animals that can most effectively adapt to changes in their environments are the most likely to thrive over many generations. Today, as the political campaign season heats up, we can see the workings of evolution in an unexpected locale: among the leaders of the ``intelligent design'' movement.

In the past year, they have experienced a series of high-profile defeats -- in federal court, in legislatures nationwide and on state and local school boards, including the Ohio Board of Education.

Today, in an effort to adapt, they are shifting to a doctrine they call ``critical analysis.''

Yet, Mr. Leshner objects to teaching kids exactly the analogy he's just made. It used to be possible to think these guys were just being deceiful when they did this, but by now you really have to assume that they just don't understand that they're arguing that evolution proceeds by intelligent design.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Carter Says He Hopes Lieberman Loses Election (Julie Farby, 9/14/06, All Headline News)

Lamont, who upset the three-term Lieberman last month in Connecticut's Democratic primary, got a boost Wednesday from former President Carter, who offered a blistering critique of Lieberman's support for the Iraq war, telling CNN's "Larry King Live," "He was one of the originators of public statements that misled the American people into believing that the Iraqi war was justified."

"He's joined in with the Republican spokespersons by saying that Democrats who disagree are really supporting terrorism," Carter said. "So for all these reasons, I've lost my confidence in Joe Lieberman and don't wish to see him re-elected."

Mr. Carter joins the NRO/TCS crowd in rooting against his own party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Cartoons mocking Holocaust prove a flop with Iranians (Angus McDowall, 14 September 2006 , Independent)

An exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust, some suggesting it was fabricated or exaggerated, has been a flop in Tehran. It drew audiences of fewer than 300 a day in its first week and now, three weeks after sparking international furore when it opened, attracts just 50 people a day.

Most of those approached in central Tehran said they had not heard of the exhibition and insisted the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis was a historical fact. "I'm sure the Holocaust was true - I've heard all about it from newspapers and television," said a housewife from a religious family. "I don't know why some say it didn't happen." [...]

Thousands of foreigners have visited the exhibition's website at, some of them engaging in angry debate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


Remembering the Ryan Express (Tom Lederer, Baseball Analysts)

The recent rant from Joe Morgan regarding radar gun readings while watching Detroit Tigers rookie fireballer Joel Zumaya placed a spotlight on measuring the speed of fastballs and recognizing the fastest of the fastest. It's a debate for the ages, covering legends Walter Johnson, Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan and continuing to a seeming glut of would-be fastball kings in the game today.

"Who throws the fastest?" and "How fast does he throw?" are questions that undoubtedly date to the origins of the game. Baseball Almanac put together an interesting chronicle of "The Fastest Pitcher in Baseball History." The article details a variety of tests to measure fastballs over the years, with Johnson's recorded at 134 feet per second or 91.36 miles per hour. Feller's 98.6 mph entry was achieved using a speeding motorcycle. But Rapid Robert claimed to have been clocked as high as 107.9 in a 1946 demonstration.

One of the most famous of the fastball documentation events was Nolan Ryan's official "clocking" at 100.9 MPH in 1974. As the oldest son of George Lederer, the California Angels Director of Public Relations and Promotions, I had an opportunity to play a small role in the event.

I sort of assumed the film of Feller vs. the motorcycvle would be on-line, but, if it is, couldn't find it. The amazing thing is that even with the distraction of having to time his throw, for precisely when the bike crossed the start line, he still threw a strike.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


Iraqi Official Testifies to Links Between Saddam and Al Qaeda (ELI LAKE, September 14, 2006, NY Sun)

A deputy prime minister of Iraq yesterday offered a sharp contradiction of the conventional wisdom here that Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda had no connection before the 2003 war, flatly contradicting a recent report from the Senate's intelligence committee.

In a speech in which he challenged the belief of war critics that Iraqis' lives are now worse than under Saddam Hussein, Barham Salih said, "The alliance between the Baathists and jihadists which sustains Al Qaeda in Iraq is not new, contrary to what you may have been told." He went on to say, "I know this at first hand. Some of my friends were murdered by jihadists, by Al Qaeda-affiliated operatives who had been sheltered and assisted by Saddam's regime."

A Kurdish politician who took his high school exams from inside a Baathist prison, Mr. Salih said he was the target of the alliance between jihadists, Baathists, and Al Qaeda in 2001, when a group known as Ansar al-Islam tried to assassinate him. In 2002, envoys of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two Kurdish parties sharing sovereignty over northern Iraq between the two Iraq wars, presented the CIA with evidence that the organization that tried to kill Mr. Salih had been in part funded and directed by Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.

The odds against a secular dictator like Saddam making common cause with al Qaeda have to be as long as those against a Hitler/Stalin pact....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 AM


OSAMA'S NIGHTMARE: Las Vegas in the Arabian Desert (Ullrich Fichtner, 9/14/06, Der Spiegel)

[D]ubai these days is mostly a noisy, rough, unkempt city -- one of the world's largest construction sites. Construction work is going on throughout most of the urbanized coastal strip, and the jackhammers can still be heard from the terraces of seaside hotels at night.

In five or six years, the around-the-clock construction work will produce a patchwork metropolis, a place with many town centers, divided up into theme parks for living, working, shopping, going out -- a post-urban city the likes of which has never existed before. And it will be an architectural mess: an aesthetic blend of Shanghai, Las Vegas, Disney World and southern Tenerife.

Outside the dark windows of Olaf Fey's Mercedes coupe, Dubai moves by like an endless construction site. Far outside of town, in Jebel Ali, the ground is being levelled for the construction of the new giant airport. Closer to the city, you can spot the contours of what will be Dubai Marina. Now it's a forest of uncompleted building structures. In three years it will be a city in its own right, with 124 apartment towers and space for 150,000 people.

Closer to the city center, one construction site follows another. Our trip takes us past gigantic offshore construction projects with names like "The Palm" and "The World," artificial islands for Europeans who have grown weary of civilization. It continues through new business districts like "Knowledge Village" and "Media City." Then, near the city center, there's a cluster of skyscrapers being built with names like "Business Bay," "Old Town," "Dubai Living" and "Festival City." In the middle of a gray sand field riddled with cranes stands the foundation of what will soon be the highest building in the world, Burj Dubai. In two or three years it will stand 180 to 200 stories high, up to 800 meters (or 2,625 feet) -- more than twice the height of the Empire State Building.

World records are a major consideration in Dubai's urban planning schemes. When Olaf Fey drives through the city, he points left and right, stringing together superlatives: the tallest building, the biggest shopping mall, the largest airport, and the biggest entertainment park, complete with the highest Eiffel Tower in the world, slightly higher than the original in Paris.

What about the large port in Jebel Ali? "Oh," Fey says. He doesn't have any contacts there. "That's not really very interesting." But Fey's answer is a long way from the truth.

Jabal Ali is the largest seaport ever built. The cranes, the ships, the wharfs -- everything is enormous. Take a tour through it and you'll feel like you're seeing the backdrop to an overblown sci-fi flick. The view from one of the giant cargo cranes is also striking: Millions of cargo containers form straight rows as far as the eye can see. There are ten or twelve such rows, each as broad as a highway. They seem endless, and they're as colorful as the world economy itself.

This panoramic view of the port facility is as overwhelming as London must have been in the 18th century, or Paris 150 years ago. It's a view that says: History is being written here; this is where old certainties break down. Dubai's port shatters the belief that America, Europe or China are the most modern of today's societies. It foreshadows an entirely different 21st century -- and an Arab world altogether different from the one the West thinks it knows.

The port recounts the magical tale of Dubai's rise to glory: Twenty years ago, four companies operated a few cargo cranes in this free trade zone. Today 6,300 companies from 100 countries have a presence here, and they are joined by new companies every day. A nodal point of world trade has taken shape in an extremely short time, linking India and Africa, China and Europe. It's as if the world had always been waiting for this transfer point.

That the port was built in the first place is owed to the boldness of Dubai's ruling Maktum family. When construction began in the 1970s, they had two things: money from oil sales and their old tradition as tradesmen -- not much more. What they added was the audacious plan to transform a barren stretch of desert into a buzzing free-trade zone and a tourist playground.

Ever since then, they've been handling capitalism like a construction kit.

There's a differenmce between being the Stupid Party and just being ignorant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Neanderthals may have lived longer than thought (ANNE MCILROY, 9/14/06, Globe and Mail)

They may have been the last of the Neanderthals, living in a cave on the southern edge of Europe long after modern humans dominated the continent.

Researchers excavating a cave in Gibraltar, near the southern tip of Spain, have found evidence that Neanderthals survived at least 2,000 years longer than previously believed.

Neandertals Had Long Childhoods, Tooth Study Suggests (James Owen, September 20, 2005, National Geographic News)
Our prolonged childhoods make us Homo sapiens unique among primates. Scientists have a theory to explain this lengthy maturation process: Our brains need many years of learning and physical growth before we're equipped for the complexities of human living.

Now a new study says we weren't the only humans who took their time growing up. Analysis of Neandertal teeth suggests that the extinct species had similarly lengthy childhoods.

And still do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


In R.I., a Model for Voter Turnout: Employing Senate Primary Strategy May Give GOP an Edge (Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, 9/14/06, Washington Post)

The turnout campaign that Republican operatives used to help pull Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee to victory in the Rhode Island primary was a potent demonstration of how money and manpower can transform a race even in an unfavorable political environment -- and a preview of the strategy that national party officials say they plan to replicate in the most competitive House and Senate races over the next 55 days.

In the past two national elections, in 2002 and 2004, Republicans outperformed Democrats in bringing their backers to the polls, but many Democrats and independent analysts have suggested that the competition may be different this year, in part because of slumping morale among GOP activists. But Chafee's performance -- combined with reports of late-starting organization and internal bickering on the Democratic side -- suggest that the Republican advantage on turnout may remain intact even as many other trends are favoring the opposition.

The Republican National Committee, convinced that Chafee is the party's only chance of keeping a seat in a Democratic-leaning state, spent $400,000 to ship 86 out-of-state volunteers and several paid staff members to Rhode Island. They targeted not just Republicans but also independent voters during the final days of the campaign, following a blueprint developed months ago by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Chafee campaign.

The effort helped Chafee survive a spirited challenge from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey by boosting primary turnout to an all-time high.

Mehlman to spend $60M, five times Dean’s $12M (Alexander Bolton, 9/13/06, The Hill)
The Republican National Committee (RNC) will spend its entire bank account, $60 million or more, helping Republicans try to retain control of Congress in the midterm elections.

The looming spending spree appears to have spurred Democratic House leaders to reach agreement over how much the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will help counter this onslaught.

The relationship between the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and DNC has been rocky. There is dispute over whether it took House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn’s (S.C.) intervention to broker the deal announced yesterday under which part of the DNC’s $12 million will be funneled to 40 House races.

Democrats are counting on voters to turn out because they're angry about gas prices, Terri Schiavo, gay marriage bans, New Orleans and spying on terrorists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Republican leaders back wiretaps without warrants (Jonathan Weisman, 9/14/06, The Washington Post)

Congress' Republican leadership Wednesday threw its weight behind two of President Bush's most controversial national-security programs — warrantless wiretapping and military tribunals.

But the party leaders are having trouble getting all their members on board, including the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And by backing the president's legislative demands, the leadership risks being labeled by Democrats as a rubber stamp for an unpopular president.

They can't really have not yet figured out that there is no risk in rubber-stamping any measure involved in the WoT--up to and including torture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Free Web calls (JEAN CHATZKY, 9/14/06, NY Daily News)

If your son or daughter just headed off to college, or you're thinking about starting a new job halfway around the world, you no longer have to helplessly watch your long distance phone bill skyrocket.

And no, it's not just that wireless minutes have gotten cheaper (which, incidentally, they have).

It's that a relatively new technology called Skype allows you to talk to your family and friends from anywhere in the world - for free.

Skype is only one of many companies offering Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a technology that allows you to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line.

Put Skype on our laptop the other day and it couldn't have been simpler.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Air America Faces a Cash Crunch, Its Star Host Says (DAVID LOMBINO, September 14, 2006, NY Sun)

Air America Radio, the liberal talk-show network, is fighting off bankruptcy, the face of the network, Al Franken, told The New York Sun yesterday.

Given that he's the face how could it not be?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


BAE chief says he expects more delays in Airbus A380 (USA Today, 9/14/2006)

European planemaker Airbus may further delay delivery of its superjumbo A380 airliner amid rising production costs, Mike Turner, CEO of British aerospace and military giant BAE, said Wednesday. [...]

Shares of EADS fell 2.5% on Wednesday to $29.50. The stock has lost 27% this year on investors' concerns about delays on the A380 and about development of the new A350 to challenge Boeing's successful 787 Dreamliner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM

President Saddened by Passing of Former Texas Governor Ann Richards (George W. Bush, 9/14/06)

Laura and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Governor Ann Richards of Texas. Ann loved Texas, and Texans loved her. As a public servant she earned respect and admiration. Ann became a national role model, and her charm, wit, and candor brought a refreshing vitality to public life. We extend our sympathies to Ann's family and friends. Texas has lost one of its great daughters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


No longer the political fringe (EVELYN GORDON, 9/14/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

MK Effi Eitam's statement on Sunday that Israel should expel West Bank Palestinians and bar Israeli Arabs from political life, since the latter are "a fifth column, a league of traitors," understandably raised a storm. Once, such statements belonged to the political fringe. But Eitam heads a nine-member Knesset faction, National Union. And another party, Israel Beiteinu, won 11 seats in March on a platform calling for transferring many Israeli Arab towns - and their inhabitants - to the Palestinian Authority. In short, about a sixth of the Knesset now backs such ideas.

Nor are these politicians disconnected from popular sentiment: In a poll last December, 40 percent of Israeli Jews said that the state should "encourage Arab citizens to emigrate." That is still a minority (52 percent disagreed), but it is clearly approaching the tipping point - especially since 63 percent termed Israeli Arabs "a security and demographic threat to the state," with only 13 percent disagreeing.

Effie’s Choice (The Forward, Sep 15, 2006)
Effie Eitam’s call for mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank would be lamentable at any time and place. Coming at a pivotal moment in Middle East diplomacy, fraught with new threats and new opportunities, such a statement by an influential Israeli lawmaker constitutes a singularly mischievous assault on decency. At the same time, it can be seen as a moment of unique clarity. What, after all, are the alternatives?

Expulsion is one of the most explosive doctrines in the Israeli political lexicon. Introduced into the public discourse in the 1970s by Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, it was ruled “racist” by the Knesset in 1985. Kahane became a pariah, and his party was outlawed. But the notion reappeared shortly afterward in the slightly more respectable guise of “voluntary transfer,” championed by former general Rehavam Ze’evi, a certified military hero. Since then it has hovered at the edge of legitimacy.

Eitam has taken the notion back to its roots, calling not for the encouragement of mass emigration, as Ze’evi and his disciples have done, but for old-fashioned expulsion. Because he believes the West Bank must remain forever under Israeli control, and because he understands that the territory’s Arab residents will never reconcile themselves to Israeli rule, he draws the logical conclusion: Boot them out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Fresh oil finds, technology can add to supply: Aramco (Gulf Times, 14 September, 2006)

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, said improving technology and new fields may help the world unlock 2tn barrels of oil in the next 25 years, or about double the existing proven reserves.

World has tapped just 18 percent of global oil supplies, Saudi executive says (Associated Press, September 13, 2006)
The world has tapped only 18 percent of the total global supply of crude, a leading Saudi oil executive said Wednesday, challenging the notion that supplies are petering out.

Abdallah S. Jum’ah, president and CEO of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known better as Aramco, said the world has the potential of 4.5 trillion barrels in reserves - enough to power the globe at current levels of consumption for another 140 years.

We'll never run out, so you have to use taxes to break our dependence.

Oil drops to $63 (Reuters, 9/14/06)

Oil fell to $63 on Thursday continuing a month-long retreat on swelling stockpiles and tensions taken in stride by the market.

September 13, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM


Flush With Jobs, Wyoming Woos Rust Belt Labor (KIRK JOHNSON, 9/13/06, NY Times)

Labor-starved Wyoming, with its energy boom in coal, oil and natural gas, is vigorously courting the workers of the Rust Belt — in particular, those in Michigan’s struggling auto industry. And the workers are responding, and adjusting to a very different life in the West.

Wyoming economic development officials and company representatives are planning their third recruiting trip this year, visiting job fairs next month in Flint, Lansing and Grand Rapids. A billboard depicting a lush Wyoming will go up on the highway outside Flint later this month and be seen by an estimated 65,000 people a day.

“Michigan has been very good for us,” said Ruth Benson, the director of the Campbell County Economic Development Corporation, who has twice led recruiting expeditions to depressed cities in Michigan.

So far, about 1,500 Michigan residents have signed up to receive job postings through the Wyoming work force Web site, and at least several hundred, employers and recruiters say, have moved to the state.

Mrs. Mellentine’s husband, Joe, is one of those who heard the call. Mr. Mellentine, 35, a former ironworker and landscaper from Chesaning, just outside Flint, moved here in March after hearing about Wyoming at a job fair. “I came to get a piece of the American pie,” said Mr. Mellentine, who works for a company that prepares sites for natural gas drilling.

Mrs. Mellentine and their two sons joined him in July, and he has since talked three of his childhood friends in Michigan into heading West as well.

They are all still very much adjusting to the change. But many former Michigan residents say their Wyoming experience — voting for change with their feet, trading the comfortable and familiar for a boomtown life more than 1,000 miles from home — has reaffirmed their faith that good things can still happen with a little gumption.

“A lot of people are afraid to take a chance,” said Eric Chapdelaine, 33, who was lured here by Mr. Mellentine and is now driving a cargo truck to coal mines and drilling sites. “But you’ve got to make it happen — or sit back and let it happen.”

The Timesmen just seemed shock that city folk can adjust to country life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


The Succession: What really happened in Britain last week? (PETER STOTHARD, September 13, 2006, Opinion Journal)

There is no chance now of the "orderly transition" that was the official hope for so long. If Mr. Blair is bundled out fast, his allies, who had been planning a nationwide Farewell-to-Tony triumph, will be as bitter against Mr. Brown as Margaret Thatcher and her friends once were against Prime Minister John Major. If there is a long goodbye, the Blairites might be happier. But many long suppressed Labour poisons will still come to the surface during the campaign.

Those who like to see rationalism in politics--and that includes most of the thinkers who support Labour--are amazed that this has been allowed to happen. Fights on policy between prime ministers and chancellors are nothing new: one such brought down Lady Thatcher. But this fight seemed to be about a mere few months on the Downing Street calendar, spurred suddenly by an ill-judged refusal by Tony Blair in a newspaper interview to set any fixed point for his departure. That failure to sense the mood on his street (a common failing of a top dog isolated too long) turned quickly into meetings at which Gordon Brown demanded ("blackmailed" as Mr. Blair's representative was authorized to put it) that the prime minister set a date by which he would be gone. Resignation letters from Mr. Brown's junior allies, with the threat of more to follow, forced Mr. Blair to the 12 months promise. Mr. Brown also wanted Mr. Blair to back his candidacy and to call off his own attack hounds, both demands which Mr. Blair has so far withstood.

Was this all as irrational as it looked? What really happened in Britain last week? Did Mr. Brown lose control of his allies? Did he get suddenly more frightened of Mr. Cameron, who is reciting directly and successfully from the New Labour playbook of the 1990s? The answer is simpler. This change at the top could never be smooth. There was always going to be a big fight in this back alley. The TB-GB traumas are too old and deep. It may surprise Mr. Blair's American admirers to know that their man is not seen as honest and true to his neighbors as he is to his faraway friends. Mr. Brown's admirers have also got a good deal more to learn.

Moving to Bill Bradley's Left cost Al Gore the 2000 election, leaving George W. Bush free to claim the mantle of Clintonism -- entitlement reform and free trade in particular -- unchallenged. David Cameron already seems a better Blairite than Gordon Brown, but if there's a real leadership fight and Mr. Brown too jags Left he's electoral toast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Lebanon - a reassessment (ASHER SUSSER, 9/14/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)

In the Arab world, views vary from the one extreme, which sees the ultimate victory of the Arabs in more missiles and rockets that will surely bring Israel to its knees in the not too distant future, to those at the other end of the spectrum, according to whom Hizbullah, Lebanon and the Arabs have, in fact, been defeated. [...]

Even a cursory perusal of the Arab press, will reveal that Hizbullah's status in Lebanon has changed for the worse, as many Lebanese come to the rather shocking realization that the south of their country, unknown to them, had in fact been transformed into an Iranian and Syrian launching pad against Israel posing an existential threat to their own livelihoods and to their entire country. Hizbullah is now on the defensive, trying to protect its political assets against a more assertive Lebanese domestic majority, that seems more determined than ever to contain Hizbullah's "state within a state," so that they are not drawn again into a destructive war with Israel, without as much as a word of consultation.

Many in Lebanon, especially non-Shi'ites, but also some important Shi'ite spokespersons, are calling for an end to the armed phase of Hizbullah's development and its integration into the Lebanese political system, like all other political parties, lest further provocation of Israel will expose Lebanon to even greater devastation in the future. In other words, they are demanding the disarming of Hizbullah.

Muna Fayyad, a Shi'ite professor at the University of Lebanon, and the Mufti of Tyre, Sayyid Ali al-Amin, for example, both questioned the right of Hizbullah to bring disaster on the Shi'ites of Lebanon, by dragging them into an ill considered adventure they never wanted, in the interests of a foreign power like Iran, about whom they were never consulted.

NASRALLAH NOW has to contend with his newly constructed image as the destroyer of Lebanon rather than its protector, as he himself regularly claimed before the war, as a main justification for the very existence of his militia.

It's all to the good if thery insist that Hezbollah not bring down another war upon them, but what stake do the Shi'a have in a Lebanon that sidelines them? Permanently dividing Lebanon is a victory for Nasrallah and the Shi'a.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


Drive to crush Taliban is 'on verge of major success' (Patrick Bishop, 14/09/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Nato forces claimed last night to be on the verge of achieving their first major success against the Taliban since the launch of their campaign to pacify southern Afghanistan.

The militia's fighters were reported to be scrambling to escape from an operation to crush them inside a corridor bounded by a road and a river west of the strategically vital city of Kandahar.

"There are definite signs that they have had enough," said a senior officer with the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). "There is no doubt they have taken a big hit."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 PM


Oil prices poised to drop sharply, energy consultant says (Kevin G. Hall, 9/14/06, McClatchy Newspapers)

The recent sharp drop in the global price of crude oil could mark the start of a massive sell-off that returns gasoline prices to lows not seen since the late 1990s - perhaps as low as $1.15 a gallon.

"All the hurricane flags are flying" in oil markets, said Philip K. Verleger, a noted energy consultant who was a lone voice several years ago in warning that oil prices would soar. Now, he tells McClatchy Newspapers, they appear to be poised for a dramatic plunge.

Crude oil prices have fallen about $14, or roughly 17 percent, from their July 14 peak of $78.40. After falling seven straight days, they rose slightly Wednesday in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, to $63.97, partly in reaction to a government report showing fuel inventories a bit lower than expected. But the overall price drop is expected to continue, and prices could fall much more in the weeks and months ahead.

Here's why.

The Fed should apologize and cut a full point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


The right way to streamline bureaucracy: The Bush administration should focus on management and ideology, not individual programs (Paul C. Light, 9/14/06,m CS Monitor)

The Bush administration's audacious plan to create a sunset commission to review every last federal program and agency is now facing its own congressional sunset. Under intense opposition from interest groups that represent thousands of potential targets, the commission is now stalled in the House and Senate and seems unlikely to survive the fall.

There are good reasons to worry about the Bush proposal. By creating a commission that would operate at least until 2026, the administration's proposal would create a platform for terminating programs. Coupled with fast-track, up-or-down congressional review, the sunset commission would have unprecedented authority to eliminate any program that did not measure up to the fuzzy criteria the administration has proposed.

That idea has always struck me as the most worthy of being enshrined in the Constitution.

Sunset Commission Resource Center (OMB Watch)
Bush's Most Radical Plan Yet: With a vote of hand-picked lobbyists, the president could terminate any federal agency he dislikes (OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON, 4/21/05, Rolling Stone)

If you've got something to hide in Washington, the best place to bury it is in the federal budget. The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past.

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them."

The administration portrays the commission as a well-intentioned effort to make sure that federal agencies are actually doing their job. "We just think it makes sense," says Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, which crafted the provision. "The goal isn't to get rid of a program -- it's to make it work better."

In practice, however, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it.

That has to be a nom de guerre, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


Back from the brink, Iran and the US must now build comity: On his US trip, Khatami urged mild rhetoric and offered a way forward on Iraq. (Helena Cobban, 9/14/06, CS Monitor)

Khatami's suggestion that the US should engage Iraq's neighbors and the UN as it works out an endgame there seems very sensible to me. But would Khatami be the best "channel" for such an approach? Perhaps, or perhaps not. He has clear political differences with Mr. Ahmadinejad - but a much more nuanced relationship with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has made increasingly clear in recent months that he is the real seat of power in the country.

It was not clear to me whether Khatami was proposing himself for any key diplomatic role. What did seem clear was his commitment, in a general but philosophically deep way, to the ideals of peaceful coexistence that motivated his US trip. If this visit - and Mr. Bush's wisdom in letting it proceed - helps the world avoid a US-Iranian explosion and brings the two countries closer to improved relations, then that is already cause for huge relief.

What Mr. Khatami could do now, that he conspicuously failed to do when in power, is begin to erect a Reformist superstructure that will offer a viable alternative in the next election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


BMW to roll out hydrogen-powered 7 Series (Reuters, 9/12/06)

BMW will roll out the world's first hydrogen-burning car in serial production early next year, the German premium automaker said on Tuesday, eager to put its stamp on cars with green credentials.

The specially equipped 7-Series executive cars emit only water vapor when running on hydrogen.

The car hits the market next April and will be shown at the Los Angeles car show in November, the company said. It had said in March the hydrogen cars would arrive within two years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM

THERE'S ALWAYS A NEXT TIME (via jim hamlen):

Correction: Report of Hekmatyar's Capture Incorrect: Initial report of Hekmatyar's capture was a case of mistaken identity (Bill Roggio, 9/13/06, The Fourth Rail)

On 9-11, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported “the commander of the Hizb-i-Islami militia in Hafezan in the eastern province of Nangarhar, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, was arrested after credible intelligence led Afghan and coalition forces to his compound.” An independent intelligence source confirmed the initial report, which led to my post on this matter, however a subsequent identification by fingerprinting indicates the person in question is not Hekmatyar. The capture suspect is a high level commander in Hezb-i-Islami, and is said to be a dead ringer for Hekmatyar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


Punter makes worst shank of his life (Tom Wright, September 13, 2006, Greeley Trib)

Northern Colorado punter Mitch Cozad brought a whole new meaning to the word "shank" Monday night.

In a move only Tanya Harding can appreciate, Evans police allege Cozad, a Northern Colorado backup punter, stabbed Bears starting punter Rafael Mendoza in the back of his right thigh Monday evening in the parking lot of Mendoza's Evans apartment.

What football fan (coach/player/etc./) hasn't wanted to stab his team's kicker at some point?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 AM


How to Win by Losing (RAMESH PONNURU, 9/13/06, NY Times)

CONSERVATIVES are dreading the November elections. The Republican capture of the House of Representatives in 1994 was one of modern conservatism’s signal political accomplishments. Now the Democrats are poised to take back the House. If that happens, however, conservatives will find several silver linings in the outcome.

It would be worse for conservatives if Republicans actually gained seats. The Congressional wing of the party lost its reformist zeal years ago and has been trying to win elections based on pork and incumbency. An election victory would reward that strategy, leaving the congressmen even less interested in restraining spending, reforming government programs and revamping the tax code. Political incompetence and complacency, sporadic corruption and widespread cynicism: having paid a price for none of it, Republicans would indulge in more of the same. [...]

There is also the matter of the 2008 elections. Do Republicans really want to go into 2008 running a unified government? The last time an election maintained unified party control from one presidency to another was in 1928.

Realistically, this mid-term doesn't matter very much. Even if the GOP does well, Democrats will likely retain enough seats in the Senate to filibuster the next major set of Third Way reforms. Even if Democrats do well they aren't going to win enough seats to break a GOP filibuster in the Seanate, nevermind override presidential vetoes. And the Republicans are going to increase their current majorities in '08, regardless of whether John McCain or Rudy Giuliani is at the top of the ticket.

What's revealing here though is the conservative terror of governance. Note the date that Mr. Ponnuru cites: 1928. In the pre-Depression era the Republican Party was the governing party, America being a naturally conservative country. Indeed, the only Democrats to be elected president from Lincoln to FDR were the rather conservative Grover Cleveland (the Bill Clinton of his day) and Woodrow Wilson, who owed his election entirely to the petulance of Teddy Roosevelt. But today some on the Right are so invested in their small government cant that they'd rather be powerless and pure than be responsible for running what is inevitably a strong government.

Contrary to Mr. Ponnuru's essay, the signal achievement of modern conservatism was not a mere election, but the legislation, appointments, and policies that Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich/Bill Clinton, and George W, Bush have put into effect: tax cuts, breaking the Air Traffic Controllers, Welfare Reform, NCLB, GATT, NAFTA, myriad bi-lateral trade agreements, civil service reform, Medicare Reform, judicial appointments, democratizing eastern Europe and the Middle East, etc., etc., etc..... Winning in '94 was fun for conservatives. The Party ran on a set of crytal clear ideas. But things get messy when you have to try to turn ideas into law. You have to compromise and you even lose sometimes. But it is the great flaw of the intellectual to prefer the idea in your head to he reality of human affairs and it is a flaw that should be anathema to conservatives. We are, after all, the Stupid Party and that stupidity is what makes us perfectly suited to run the Stupid Country.

Meanwhile, you'd pretty much have to be as Bright as a libertarian to explain how electing Democrats is a good idea for the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Meeting in the Oval Office (Mona Charen, Sep 13, 2006, Human Events)

President Bush was at his most passionate on the subject of democracy. He reiterated his belief that policies of previous administrations toward Middle Eastern autocracies helped give rise to the fever that now convulses the Arab world. "I understand why they did it," he adds, "concerns about oil or the Cold War with the Soviet Union. But while the surface may have looked calm or stable, we've seen what was happening beneath the surface." This administration is determined that the only way to break the fever is to change the conditions that give rise to extremism. "You can call it draining the swamp. I call it advancing democracy." Acknowledging that he wasn't thrilled when Hamas won the election in the Palestinian territories, he nonetheless believes that the election itself was a blow to centuries of absolutism.

As for the progress of democracy in Iraq, the president is basically optimistic and impatient with the nation's impatience. "We live in a world where there has to be instant success. 'Why is there no democracy in Iraq yet?' Because there are people willing to kill to stop it." (Would the Second World War have been won if we'd had daily body counts in places like Normandy and Iwo Jima?) "We must be steadfast in our deep belief in liberty and stand with those who are committed to freedom."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Far-Right Gains Expected In German State Election: Germany's neo-Nazi National Democratic Party is set to make strong gains in an eastern state election on Sept. 17. Nationwide, far-right extremists remains marginalized, but the NPD's regional successes are an embarrassment to Germany and a warning that xenophobia is rife in the economically depressed east. (David Crossland, 9/13/06, der Spiegel)

This weekend could be potentially embarrassing for Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, as voters go to the polls in two state elections.

Opinion polls indicate the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) will get 6 percent or 7 percent, above the minimum 5 percent needed to enter the state assembly in Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a rural region known chiefly for its beautiful Baltic Sea coastline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Jersey Turns, Dems Panic; Torricelli, Anyone? (Steve Kornacki, 9/18/06, NY Observer)

As with Mr. Torricelli, it is ethics that have dragged down Mr. Menendez, who won his appointment in part through the hefty political muscle he built as the reputed boss of Hudson County, a colorful collection of gritty towns that could easily have spawned just about every character Damon Runyon ever wrote about. The ghosts of his machine past have haunted Mr. Menendez in periodic news stories this year, and Republicans have made the notion that he has disqualifying “baggage” their central line of attack.

That is why the federal investigation is so damning for Mr. Menendez: The jury is already poisoned against him. Sure, he can cry foul and vow to fight. But the race was essentially a tie before this, so any fallout at all puts Mr. Kean in the lead.

Now, Mr. Menendez’s options are limited—and all bad. He began by attacking the prosecutor as overly partisan—a weak response given the dozens of corrupt Republicans who have been brought down by Christopher Christie, the U.S. Attorney leading the Menendez inquiry.

And his ongoing efforts to change the subject to national politics—as Mr. Torricelli sought to do in ’02—can now be trumped by Mr. Kean, who can lift a page from Mr. Forrester. “My name,” he can tell the masses, “is Tom Kean, and I’m running against a man who is the subject of a federal criminal investigation.”

If Mr. Menendez tanks in the coming weeks, it really will feel like 2002 all over again for national Democrats, who need a gain of six seats to win back the Senate—a feat that would be impossible with a loss in blue-state New Jersey.

We always used to keep Handi-Wipes on hand so that you could disinfect yourself after campaign trips to Hudson County.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Reinventing Medicare (ROBERT SAMUELSON, 9/13/06, The Washington Post)

Some economists believe that we've gotten our money's worth from higher health spending. Since 1960, life expectancy at birth has risen from about 70 to more than 77. Harvard health economist, David Cutler, attributes about half the increase to medical advances — new drugs, surgeries and therapies. (Candidates for the other half: less smoking, less-punishing jobs, fewer accidents.) Academic studies suggest that people value an extra year of life at about $100,000, says Cutler. That's how much they'd pay — in theory — to live a year longer. Since 1960, the average extra health spending at all ages needed to increase life expectancy one year has been less than $100,000 per person. Therefore, we've gotten value for money.

By this logic, higher health spending is non-threatening. In a recent paper, economists Robert Hall of Stanford and Charles Jones of the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that health spending may reach 30% of national income by 2050, up from 16% today and 5% in 1950. But they are unperturbed, because as Americans get richer, they prefer more health spending — longer and better lives — to a "third car (or) yet another television."

A decent liberal must certainly rebel against the notion, but health care is just another consumer good at this point and not properly considered one of the necessities (since de facto universal). The best option for getting a handle on prices is to accelerate the commodification process via HSA's, which make individuals into shoppers again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Controversial Historian In McCain's Orbit: Niall Ferguson Compares America to British Empire (TOM LANE, Sept. 4, 2006, ABC News)

A recent New York Times article about John McCain's growing "kitchen cabinet," contained a piece of information that might have been meaningless to many American readers, but resonated strongly with most British ones.

According to a McCain aide, the article said, one of the senator's unofficial advisors as he ponders a possible run for the White House is the British-born Harvard historian Niall Ferguson.

Though relatively unknown in the United States, Ferguson is a controversial figure in the United Kingdom, where he continues to spend much of his time. Ferguson has been besieged by critics and admirers in Britain ever since the publication of his 2003 book "Empire" and its companion TV series.

For some time, much of Britain has regarded its imperial history with a mixture of shame and embarrassment. Indeed, the prominent think-tank, Demos, once suggested that Queen Elizabeth II ought to be forced on "a world tour to apologize for the past sins of Empire."

Ferguson stepped into this environment of national hand-wringing and self-hatred with a shocking proposition -- that the British Empire should be regarded, like any empire, in a broad historical context. To even greater uproar, he suggested that it might actually have been of some global merit in that it helped spread democratic values around the world.

Central to the notion that "we needed more boots on the ground" is the notion that we should govern places like Iraq because the wogs can't. The imperialist nature of that argument should be an issue when Senator McCain is the candidate in '08, but Democrats have sort of trapped themselves by seizing upon the exact same criticism of W and Rumsfeld without ever understanding it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Oil, gas prices take a dive (Patrice Hill, September 13, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Oil prices plunged below $64 a barrel yesterday and settled 19 percent below this summer's record highs, bringing a major dose of inflation relief to hard-pressed consumers and the economy. [...]

Some analysts say a sea change is occurring in the oil market, and it will not revisit soon the record high of $78.40 set in July by premium crude in New York. Premium crude prices settled at $63.76 a barrel in New York trading yesterday, the lowest since March.

"We're in the midst of a tectonic change," said Peter Beutel, president of Cameron Hanover Inc., an energy consultant. "The rally that's lasted almost five years may be over. We keep seeing lower demand estimates which show the impact of very high prices."

Yesterday, the International Energy Agency trimmed its forecast for world oil demand this year by 100,000 barrels a day, and by 160,000 barrels next year, citing slackening demand in the United States and elsewhere.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, told a conference in Vienna that oil producers plan to invest nearly $100 billion in new oil and gas projects in the next five years to meet rising demand -- raising the prospect of a long-sought easing in the tight supplies that have fueled record oil prices.

Feeding the optimism on Monday, Iraq's oil minister said the war-ridden country hopes to double its oil production to more than 4 million barrels a day in the next five years -- a development that could cause further dramatic drops in oil prices. Though it has the world's second-largest conventional oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia, much of Iraq's production has been idled for years because of a lack of investment and maintenance as well as sabotage by insurgents.

It's an ideal time to impose new gas taxes so as to keep damping down demand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


October Baseball in Detroit Is Looking More and More Bleak (CHRISTINA KAHRL, September 13, 2006, NY Sun)

The reason why the Tigers are coming up short is an imploding offense. As the table reflects, scoring fewer than four runs a game, as the Tigers have done by scoring an average of 3.6 runs in their 32-game tailspin, is more this club's problem. The Tigers currently rank a mediocre eighth in the American League in runs scored, and they're 11th in runs scored since the All-Star break. Overall, if you adjust for park effects, league-wide offensive levels, and the opposing pitchers, they drop to a weak 10th in the American League in Equivalent Average.

Put plainly, the Tigers aren't a good offensive ballclub. Since the break, only third baseman Brad Inge, shortstop Carlos Guillen, and outfielder Craig Monroe have done well at the plate, while veterans like catcher Ivan Rodriguez, right fielder Magglio Ordonez, and center fielder Curtis Granderson have all failed to put many runs on the board. In Granderson's case, some of his struggling may be forgiven — manager Jim Leyland has foregone carrying a reliable backup center fielder for most of the season, placing a heavy workload on the rookie.

There are some precise reasons for this offensive collapse, some of which were accidents, but many self-inflicted. Losing second baseman Placido to a dislocated shoulder shouldn't have been crippling — Polanco only ranks 35th among all major-league second basemen in Value Over Replacement (VORP), lower than teammate Omar Infante (32nd). But rather than play Infante, the Tigers had the very bad idea of acquiring veteran infielder Neifi Perez from the Cubs, and Perez has been as bad as you'd expect from one of the game's most historically inoffensive middle infielders, hitting .159 AVG/.213 OBA/.159 SLG as a Tiger, and .239/.258/.314 overall. In terms of VORP, he's 68th out of 68 big-league second basemen this year. He's exactly the player you don't want to use as a replacement, and the Tigers have lost eight of the 12 games he's started since getting him.

Similarly, the club's attempt to replace starting first baseman Chris Shelton after his titanic slump has gone for naught — popular veteran Sean Casey has been awful as a Tiger, hitting a paltry .230/.266/.320, and like Perez, Casey's best years are long since behind him, generating little hope that he'll get much better. Even here, a better option was on hand — since the All-Star break, Dmitri Young has been one of the Tigers' few productive hitters (.292/.331/.504), but a bad patch in September led to the hasty (or panicked) decision to release him. The organization has subsequently been whispering that Young was a clubhouse cancer, but better to risk going radioactive and score some runs than die with the acceptably anemic Casey and Perez.

The three moneyball teams (Yankees, A's, BoSox) were put together with one offensive idea in mind: taking pitches. Not only do hitters who take lots of pitches tend to have higher on base percentages but a team that sees a lot of pitches tends to wear out the opposition starting pitchers and get into the universally awful middle relief corps. Yet when the Sox and Tigers played last month Detroit had almost 200 less walks than Boston. They're still likely to win their division, but the Tigers really should have topped the Yankees offer for Bobby Abreu, who sees more pitches than any hitter in the majors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


I'm a true Blairite - Brown's insistence to unions (JAMES KIRKUP, 9/13/06, The Scotsman)

GORDON Brown last night moved to reassure centre-ground voters that he would maintain Tony Blair's reforming policies, issuing a public rebuke to left-wingers who heckled the Prime Minister's final speech to the Trades Union Congress.

Now restored to their traditional status as Labour's biggest financial backers, and with Mr Blair scheduled to quit within months, many union leaders believe they have a good chance to kill off many of his policies, particularly the involvement of private firms in providing health-care and education services.

But in a carefully co-ordinated show of unity following last week's bitter Labour infighting, the Chancellor told union leaders at a private dinner that he would not take the party back to the left if he entered No10 next year.

The contest between Mr. Brown and David Cameron -- as the ones in the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, etc. -- just comes down to who can be trusted to more vigorously pursue the Third Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Bush Tells Group He Sees a 'Third Awakening' (Peter Baker, September 13, 2006, Washington Post)

President Bush said yesterday that he senses a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation's struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as "a confrontation between good and evil."

Bush told a group of conservative journalists that he notices more open expressions of faith among people he meets during his travels, and he suggested that might signal a broader revival similar to other religious movements in history. Bush noted that some of Abraham Lincoln's strongest supporters were religious people "who saw life in terms of good and evil" and who believed that slavery was evil. Many of his own supporters, he said, see the current conflict in similar terms.

"A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me," Bush said during a 1 1/2 -hour Oval Office conversation on cultural changes and a battle with terrorists that he sees lasting decades. "There was a stark change between the culture of the '50s and the '60s -- boom -- and I think there's change happening here," he added. "It seems to me that there's a Third Awakening."

It's America--no one can be surprised to hear that it's a religious war we're waging.

-The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening (Tom Wolfe)
-Completing an Awakening (Richard F. Lovelace, March 18, 1981, Christian Century)
-The Day the Enlightenment Went Out (GARRY WILLS, 11/04/04, NY Times)
-President's Remarks at National Prayer Breakfast (Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., 2/07/02)
-God and George W. Bush (Bill Keller, May 17, 2003, NY Times)
-Bush's Gospel (Terry Eastland, 03/01/2004, Weekly Standard)
-The Bush Doctrine (Tony Carnes, 04/25/2003, Christianity Today)
-With God on His Side (Garry Wills, 3/30/03, NY Times Magazine)
-George Bush and the Treacherous Country (Steve Erickson, 2/13/04, LA Weekly)
-Dangerous Religion: George W. Bush's theology of empire. (Jim Wallis, September-October 2003, Sojourners)
-The new Nero (Francois de Bernard, 3/31/03, Ha'aretz)
-Fundamentally, Bush Works on Faith (Peter Schweizer and Rochelle Schweizer, April 11, 2004, LA Times)
-Our Union’s Jewish State (David Klinghoffer, 3/17/04, The Forward)
-REVIEW: of Jonathan Edwards: a Life by George Marsden (Brothers Judd)
-ARCHIVES: Puritan Nation (Brothers Judd)
-ARCHIVES: Crusader State (Brothers Judd)
-ARCHIVES: George W. Bush--Religion (Brothers Judd)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Cardin Leads in Md. Senate Race (Matthew Mosk and John Wagner, , September 13, 2006, Washington Post)

Maryland's Democratic primary voters gave Baltimore Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin a commanding lead over former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume this morning in the race to be the party's candidate for U.S. Senate, but chaos at polling sites delayed final results for that and other key races.

Selected, not elected!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Iran Offers Talks On Nuclear Issue: But Proceedings at U.N. Must Stop, Newly Disclosed Proposal Warns (John Ward Anderson, 9/13/06, Washington Post)

Iran's confidential response three weeks ago to an international proposal over its nuclear program offered extensive negotiations to resolve the standoff, but only if proceedings against Iran in the U.N. Security Council were stopped.

In a detailed and sometimes rambling document given to foreign governments, Iran stopped short of rejecting demands to halt its nuclear enrichment program, saying the issue could be resolved in talks. The response, closely held for weeks, was made public on a Web site Monday.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not intend to reject the whole issue unilaterally, and is ready to provide an opportunity for both sides to share their viewpoints on this issue and try to convince each other and reach a mutual understanding," the document says.

Like Hamas, they want defeat without too much embarrasment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Moderate GOP Senator Beats Conservative Challenger in R.I. (Shailagh Murray and Zachary A. Goldfarb, 9/13/06, Washington Post)

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, a moderate who has frequently clashed with the Bush administration, beat back a strong conservative challenger Tuesday night in the GOP primary in Rhode Island.

The victory came amid heavy turnout, after the same Republican establishment that Chafee has so often defied rallied to his side with money and logistical support for a vigorous get-out-the-vote effort. While there is little personal affection for Chafee at the White House, operatives there and in the Republican Party leadership calculated that he is the GOP's best chance of holding the seat in a Democratic-leaning state in November.

The Chafee win represented a rare bit of political good news for Republicans...

Rare? Hasn't every one of these supposed critical tests turned out well for the Party and badly for the Left and far Right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM

MAYBE AL QEDA CAN WIN (via Jorge Curioso):

Ayatollah al-Sistani and the end of Islam (Spengler, 9/08/06, Asia Times)

It is important to be clear that there is nothing at all religious about the present civil violence in Iraq. It is not 1572 in France or 1618 in Germany, in which both sides accuse the other of heresy and preach crusade to purify the true faith. The issues under contention have to do with caste and tribal privileges.

The Sunni insurgents stem largely from the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, who have no particular religious objection to the Iraqi Shi'ites. They simply wish to rule the country as they have since the British invented Iraq. As Professor Angelo Codevilla wrote in 2003, "Iraq was not a good idea in the first place. American and British Wilsonians decided to re-create something like the Babylon empire: Sunni Mesopotamian Arabs from the Baghdad area would rule over vastly more numerous southern Shi'ite Arabs, and Arabophobe Kurds. Why the ruled should accept such an arrangement was never made clear."

Despite the secular character of the old Ba'athist regime in Iraq, traditional Muslim life flourished there even as it languished in Iran. A crisis of faith in the Islamic world underlies the desperation of the Iranian regime, I have argued in a series of essays during the past year. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the collapse of Iran's fertility rate. As projected by the United Nations, Iran's fertility rate already has fallen below the replacement level of 2.1 births per female. Iraq's fertility rate now stands at just below 4, compared with 1.79 for Iran. This has potentially catastrophic consequences, as I reported in an earlier study (Demographics and Iran's imperial design, September 13, 2005). At present, six Iranian workers support every retiree. By mid-century the number will fall to 1.5 workers per retiree.

Sistani represented Islam, the real religion that permeates the lives of believers. "The ayatollah's concerns hardly overlap with those of the American occupation officials whom he refuses to address directly. On the contrary, what preoccupies him are the minutest issues of daily existence, most of all the question of ritual purity within traditional society," I wrote of him two years ago (Why Islam baffles America, April 16, 2004). His website, as I reported at the time, contains detailed instructions for regaining ritual purity after sodomy with an animal, for washing the anus after defecation, as well as for the precise posture and deportment during prayer. [1] Sistani, I wrote in the cited article, "addresses the inhabitants of traditional society for whom spiritual experience means submission, that is, submission to communal norms, whence the individual derives a lasting sense of identity. In the most intimate details of daily life, culture and religion become inseparable. For traditional society it is the durability of communal norms that lends a sense of immortality to the individual, a life beyond mere physical existence."

Adherence to traditional society was the source of Sistani's influence among Iraqi Shi'ites, because it is the wellspring of Islam itself. A birth rate comparable to that of secular Europe demonstrates that the Islamic Revolution in Iran has been a failure, for it failed to restore the norms of the traditional world. On the contrary, the fertility rate fell from 6.5 children per female in 1980, just after ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution, to only 1.79 today.

Just as the Islamicism of Khomeini and OBL is a secular/rational Western import it could prove as destructive to Mulsims as did to the Europeans unless we can effect the Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM


Dance of Diplomacy Is Grist for the Gossip Mill (HELENE COOPER, 9/13/06, NY Times)

[I]t took a two-hour flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, this week, followed by a 90-minute motorcade north up Highway 102 to Pictou County, for Ms. Rice to find herself linked to someone with similar star appeal: Peter MacKay of Canada, the single, sophisticated foreign minister, routinely named Canada’s sexiest M.P. by The Hill Times in Ottawa, and the closest thing to eye candy on the diplomatic circuit. Tall, athletic, young, blond and recently dumped by his girlfriend, a fellow member of Parliament, Belinda Stronach, who parted with him when she switched parties, Mr. MacKay does not look like your usual foreign minister.

He has a tan and the build of someone who spends his time on the rugby field, not holed up reading G-8 communiqués. Sure, at 40 years old, he is younger than Ms. Rice, who is 51, but that did not stop gossips from engaging in baseless speculating.

Even the protesters who routinely show up wherever Ms. Rice goes got in on the act. “Pete, Condi, Make Love Not War,” read one sign, carried by a grinning demonstrator who had roused himself to take a position early Tuesday morning in front of the Museum of Industry here, where the two spoke to local leaders and the press.

Marriage is a key stepping-stone if Ms Rice is to president some day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


NOVAK: ARMITAGE DID NOT TELL ALL (Drudge Report, Sep 13 2006)

"When Richard Armitage finally acknowledged last week he was my source three years ago in revealing Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA employee, the former deputy secretary of state's interviews obscured what he really did," Bob Novak claims in a column set for Thursday release.

Novak, attempting to set the record straight, writes: "First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he 'thought' might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson. Second, Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column."

We'd hoped and assumed Mr. Armitage was smart enough to recognize that it was the Plames and the CIA trying to subvert their elected government that made the information worth leaking to the public.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


They Came, Saw, Left: Couric Drops to 3rd (Associated Press, September 13, 2006)

Katie Couric led the "CBS Evening News" to its first weekly ratings win in more than five years, but her honeymoon may be short -- she slipped to third place on Monday.

Couric's first evening-news broadcast, on Sept. 5, brought in nearly 13.6 million curious viewers. The numbers went down through the rest of the week but she stayed in first place each day, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


With the neocons discredited, here comes libcon Cameron: Bush and Blair believe al-Qaida threatens our way of life. They are wrong, and the Tory leader seems to get it (Simon Jenkins, September 13, 2006, The Guardian)

He is right or he is wrong. Which? "The war on terror is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century," said George Bush on Monday. "It is a struggle for civilisation ... The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle on the streets of Baghdad." It is as Manichean as that.

Bush is wrong. My parents endured one life-or-death struggle, against Hitler's fascism, and I grew up during another, against Soviet communism. Both were real threats. When Bush was dodging war service in Vietnam and Tony Blair was a supporter of CND, I had no qualms about backing nuclear deterrence. Foreigners did not just want to conquer my country and change the way I lived, but they had amassed sufficient state power to make that ambition plausible. I call that a threat to the security of the nation. It required massive defence.

Putting Osama bin Laden (or Saddam Hussein) in this league is ludicrous. No force they could command could possibly have ranked with Hitler or Stalin as "a threat to the future of civilisation". Such a concept of history is illiterate and warped. The comparison offends those who fought and died in previous conflicts. It is populist rant, the exploitation by nervy politicians of the obvious fact that modern terrorism can kill more people than before (though it rarely has), and its perpetrators seem invulnerable to reason (though they rarely were).

Modern terror may be more outrageous but it is weaker as a political force. IRA outrages were as effective as al-Qaida's are not. Fanatical hatred has nowhere to go beyond a bigger bomb, and the bigger the bomb the greater the revulsion from those on whom the bomber depends. [...]

Nato's impending failure in Afghanistan will run alongside the November elections in America, Blair's departure from office and Cameron's new-found enlightenment. All suggest a worm starting to turn. The stupid party in foreign policy is in retreat. Perhaps, at last, the intelligent party is returning to power.

Mr. Jenkins succumbs to the natural need to believe the war one suppored mattered utterly, but the reality is that neither Nazism nor Communism were existential threats either. The fight against Islamicism is for the sake of Muslims in the Middle East, not for our own.

Meanwhile, calling the Tories the Intelligent Party is a blood libel.

September 12, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


No such thing as Gulf War Syndrome -- who knew? (Michael Fumento, 9/12/06)

Since 1993 I have been arguing that Gulf War Syndrome, or "Gulf Lore Syndrome" as I titled one of my articles, is a myth. I wrote almost 30 articles on the subject. And I received the sort of invective you'd expect, questioning my patriotism and loyalty to the troops for putting science ahead of hysteria and political considerations. Now the Institute of Medicine has released a report based on a review of 850 studies and found "the results of that research indicate that ... there is not a unique symptom complex (or syndrome) in deployed Gulf War veterans." Of course, out of 700,000 men and women who went over some have fallen ill and some have died. It's been 15 years, after all. But they don't have anything non-deployed vets have, or for that matter civilians. Not that this will stop the activists...

As Mr. Fumento understands better than anybody, it's not about medicine, just political correctness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM


Hamas forced to give ground in fight to keep territory afloat (Stephen Farrell in Gaza and Ian MacKinnon in Ramallah, 9/13/06, Times of London)

The move is a retreat by Hamas under pressure of international sanctions imposed after it swept to victory in elections in January.

Support within the Palestinian territories has ebbed as 140,000 civil servants went unpaid for seven months and Israel closed border crossings, which led to increased hardship and shortages of food.

One opinion poll on Monday found a surge in support for Fatah, with 34.8 per cent, against 18.8 per cent for Hamas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Joachim Fest (Daily Telegraph, 13/09/2006)

Joachim Fest, who died on Monday aged 79, was the most celebrated historian and the most distinguished journalist of the post-war generation in Germany.

For some 20 years, he was one of the publishers (i.e. editors) of Germany's leading newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, responsible for its prestigious Feuilleton or culture section.

Because he was a journalist rather than a scholar, Fest's popularity aroused the envy of professorial rivals, none of whom could match the incisive elegance of his writing. Equally important was his flair for controversy. He was determined to prevent the wrong lessons being drawn from the past by the Left-wing establishment that had dominated German intellectual life since the 1960s.

Conservative in politics and Catholic by upbringing, Fest stood out among his contemporaries for his rejection of the influence of the Marxist sociologists of the Frankfurt school on the historiography of the Third Reich. Fest saw the Nazi phenomenon not as a product of capitalism, but as a moral catastrophe, made possible by the abdication of responsibility on the part of educated Germans.

IN MEMORY OF JOACHIM FEST: The Proud Loner (Matthias Matussek, 9/13/06, Der Spiegel)

When he told me about his memories of childhood and youth over dinner in London one-and-a-half years ago, he seemed to want to supplement his previous work with information about everyday life, the history of common people. There was nothing proud or arrogant about that. On the contrary. "It was no special childhood," he said casually. "Nothing spectacular. Except that my father prevented me and my siblings from becoming Nazis."

But that was exactly what was extraordinary. He kept telling me about how his work was progressing - sometimes in euphoric tones - but then his declining health forced him to take painful time off. Now we know that when he was working on this book, he was working on his testament. This was what he wanted to bequeath to his compatriots: a tale about how it was possible to remain decent. And that a good upbringing - bourgeois, Catholic, Prussian - was essential.

He sent the first proofs to SPIEGEL. In the midst of the ruckus caused by Günter Grass's confession - a ruckus that had its mindless moments - it became possible to let Fest's more quiet and far more important voice be heard.

Fest's book can be considered the counterpart to Grass's coquettish confessions and elaborations about his membership in the Waffen SS. Now Günter Grass is touring Germany's theater stages, stuffing his pipe and announcing: "I was there too, buddy. Everyone was - even the Pope, in a way." Fest said: "I wasn't."

The fact that such a fuss is being raised about Grass speaks volumes about the German public's interests and moral fiber. People appreciate what is crooked, not what is straight, because what is straight always contains an implicit accusation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Brief Nuclear Halt May Lead to Talks With Iran: Rice Suggests Temporary Move Could Be Enough (Glenn Kessler and Dafna Linzer, 9/12/06, Washington Post)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled yesterday that a temporary suspension of Iran's nuclear programs might be enough to pave the way for the first direct negotiations involving the United States and Iran in more than a quarter-century.

It's the perfect storm--the ayatollahs don't actually want nuclear weapons and we don't want to have to attack them.

Iran steps back from the brink (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 9/13/06, Asia Times)

Iran has finally blinked, reportedly agreeing to a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, as a confidence-building measure in response to growing international pressure. [...]

In a sign of moderation toward Iran, US President George W Bush permitted a visa to Khatami and made the conciliatory gesture of stating his willingness "to learn about that country". This is a timely turnabout from his incendiary remarks in August, calling Iran the leader of a global "Islamic fascist" movement.

Certainly, the US and Iran policy of labeling has gotten the two countries nowhere and the sooner they shelve their reciprocal demonization in favor of a prudent, and polite, diplomacy, the better.

As long as Washington ignores Iran's stability role in the region and limits itself to castigating Iran's "subversive" role, there can be no meaningful progress on a key aspect of the incentive package, namely, security.

The package calls for Iran's inclusion in a regional security arrangement and, again, an important prerequisite is Iran's and the United States' ability to see beyond the fog of their hostile rhetoric-supplanting policy and explore their wealth of shared or parallel interests.

Both Tehran and Washington support the present besieged governments in Kabul and Baghdad, and the combination of impending civil war in Iraq, potentially spilling over to neighboring countries such as Iran, and the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan alone dictates fresh thinking on Tehran's and Washington's part on how not to let the situation in the region get out of hand.

Clearly, the nuclear crisis can add a qualitative turn for the worse in the current Middle East crisis still grappling with the tenuous ceasefire in Lebanon, whose economic infrastructure has been wiped out. No matter how Iran publicly celebrates Hezbollah's victory, the fact is that Hezbollah has sustained serious injury and faces an international buffer between itself and Israel that, in turn, denies Iran crucial leverage in its geostrategic game with the US.

This observation leads us to question seriously the conclusion of a recent study by London's Chatham House, which naively proclaims Iran a "major beneficiary" of the "war on terror". Sure, the change of regimes in Kabul and Baghdad has been a security plus for Iran, but the massive infusion of US military might, bolstered by base-building in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan and elsewhere in Iran's vicinity, have been tantamount to major tremors threatening the wellspring of Iran's national security.

Any premature conclusion that ignores the security predicament of Iran in the post September 11, 2001, milieu cannot possibly be taken seriously.

In fact, the real, clear and present danger of a US military threat against Iran has caused a state of semi-emergency that the government's leaders yearn to end and to return to the state of normalcy - this against the present pattern of war games and war preparation draining precious resources and deflecting from burning economic priorities.

How do you say, "It's the Economy, Stupid," in Persian?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


A Chilled Relationship, For Now (Sebastian Mallaby, September 11, 2006, Washington Post)

British politics has delivered its own verdict on the war on terror. By a poignant coincidence, Tony Blair, the prime minister who has often been the world's most forceful exponent of a virile response to militant Islam, became a political eunuch last week -- just as the world was taking stock of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. A revolt within Blair's Labor Party forced him to promise that he would be gone within a year. He had become too close to the foreign policy of George W. Bush: in short, too pro-American.

Blair has always been that way, even before those hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the 1990s he bonded with the Clinton team, promoting a new politics that eschewed the statist left and free-market right in favor of a Third Way synthesis. Ideas such as welfare reform and wage subsidies for poor workers were test-driven in the United States and then rolled out in Britain. The Blairites embraced the Clinton mix of pro-market economics and pro-poor social policies.

But Blair's affinity with the United States went deeper than policy. His can-do optimism, his relentlessly on-message spin, his frank love of the camera: All would have been unremarkable in an American pol, but all challenged British tradition. Blair's predecessors respected their countrymen's distaste for showmanship, and they often seemed mousy when appearing alongside U.S. leaders. But Blair smiled his enormous chipmunk smile. He was even more upbeat than Americans.

It's worth pondering these things as you contemplate the future of the war on terror. The United States has few allies in the world, and Blair's forced promise to step down reduces America's most faithful friend to lame-duck status.

Mr. Mallaby seems to think it's 2004, when Chretien, Schroeder, Chirac, etc. were distancing their countries from the US. The notion that the rise of yet another W-like conservative leader -- soon to be followed by another in France -- is bad news for the President and America is patently absurd.

Insurgents melt away from battle (GRAEME SMITH, 9/12/06, Globe and Mail)

Hundreds of insurgents have scattered from a grinding Canadian military advance in Panjwai district, as soldiers punched into a former Taliban stronghold in a cascade of dust and flying rubble.

US-British 'Special Relationship' Endures: When Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from the White House for the 9/11 memorial services in Washington his wife was on one arm, and on the other was Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain. (Gary Thomas, 9/12/06, VOA News)
[T]he "special relationship" transcends the personalities of an American president and a British prime minister, even when the two leaders may not get along as well as President Bush and Mr. Blair do.

The director of the Institute for Transatlantic European and American Studies at Dundee University, Alan Dobson, says it encompasses a wide range of links.

"It is that interdependence, it is the de-facto existence of what we might call togetherness in the economic, intelligence, and cultural sphere, and political sphere, it seems, that gives this resilience to this relationship," he said.

Many analysts agree that the relationship is strongest in the security field, particularly in intelligence cooperation. An intelligence and security expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Bob Ayers, says that the attacks of September 11th, 2001 in New York and the terrorist bombings last year on the London transport system have led to greater intelligence cooperation between the two nations.

"The intelligence relationship has probably never been better [than] since 9/11 because there is a common enemy that all the international nation-states are trying to take and hopefully defeat," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


Reborn: We have always been told there is no recovery from persistent vegetative state - doctors can only make a sufferer's last days as painless as possible. But is that really the truth? Across three continents, severely brain-damaged patients are awake and talking after taking ... a sleeping pill. And no one is more baffled than the GP who made the breakthrough. (Steve Boggan, September 12, 2006, The Guardian)

For three years, Riaan Bolton has lain motionless, his eyes open but unseeing. After a devastating car crash doctors said he would never again see or speak or hear. Now his mother, Johanna, dissolves a pill in a little water on a teaspoon and forces it gently into his mouth. Within half an hour, as if a switch has been flicked in his brain, Riaan looks around his home in the South African town of Kimberley and says, "Hello." Shortly after his accident, Johanna had turned down the option of letting him die.

Three hundred miles away, Louis Viljoen, a young man who had once been cruelly described by a doctor as "a cabbage", greets me with a mischievous smile and a streetwise four-move handshake. Until he took the pill, he too was supposed to be in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state.

Across the Atlantic in the United States, George Melendez, who is also brain-damaged, has lain twitching and moaning as if in agony for years, causing his parents unbearable grief. He, too, is given this little tablet and again, it's as if a light comes on. His father asks him if he is, indeed, in pain. "No," George smiles, and his family burst into tears.

It all sounds miraculous, you might think. And in a way, it is. But this is not a miracle medication, the result of groundbreaking neurological research. Instead, these awakenings have come as the result of an accidental discovery by a dedicated - and bewildered - GP. They have all woken up, paradoxically, after being given a commonly used sleeping pill.

Across three continents, brain-damaged patients are reporting remarkable improvements after taking a pill that should make them fall asleep but that, instead, appears to be waking up cells in their brains that were thought to have been dead. In the next two months, trials on patients are expected to begin in South Africa aimed at finding out exactly what is going on inside their heads. Because, at the moment, the results are baffling doctors.

And only a year and a half ago they were decrying the fundamentalism of those who don' think it right to kill these folks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Abbas Announces Deal With Hamas: Rival Palestinian Movements Agree to Work Together to Create Unity Government (Scott Wilson, 9/12/06, Washington Post)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced Monday that the governing Hamas movement and his rival Fatah party have agreed on the principles of a power-sharing government and may soon form a new cabinet to lead the beleaguered Palestinian Authority.

Under the plan, Abbas, the authority's president, is to dissolve the current Hamas-led cabinet within 48 hours. Abbas would then nominate the current Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas officials said, to assemble a coalition cabinet that would include members of his party, Fatah, other factions, and so-called technocrats unaligned with the leading movements.

Details of the agreement mark the first time Hamas has tacitly endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if not explicitly the Jewish state's right to exist.

Olmert looking to restart diplomacy (Herb Keinon, 9/11/06, THE JERUSALEM POST)
"What are the options," one official said. "There is the feeling now that Abbas really wants dialogue, and that he is trying to be active on the ground to push forward his point of view."

He said there was a feeling that the Palestinian street was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Hamas government, because it had not delivered on its pre-election promises.

This was supported by an assessment the cabinet heard from OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin. Yadlin said there were signs indicating that Hamas understood that it was not bringing the results it had hoped for.

He said Hamas had not dealt with the PA's economic challenges, had been unable to bring about an end to the anarchy in Gaza, had been unable to burst out of its international isolation and had not been able to carry out terrorist attacks, despite its best efforts. Signs of public discontent inside the PA were growing, the cabinet was told, with the recent strikes there the best example.

The deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), whose name cannot be published, said Abbas would be going to Washington on September 14 and wanted to go there with some "achievement" to present the US administration. For this reason, he said, Abbas was pushing Hamas to show "flexibility."

But, he said, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was the one putting obstacles in the way. He said that if the discussions on a national unity government go nowhere, it was quite possible Abbas might dissolve the present government and form a new one so that he could go to Washington with an achievement in hand.

He said it was not in Israel's interest for Fatah to join a PA national unity government, since this would give Hamas - as a member of that government - a degree of legitimacy in the international community.

Elections were a trap and Hamas fell right in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Thanks to Bush, Bin Laden won (Richard Cohen, 9/12/06, NY Daily News)

I hear Osama Bin Laden laughing. I heard him all day on Sunday and yesterday as the mass murder of Sept. 11, 2001, was memorialized at the Pentagon and in that field in Pennsylvania and, especially, here where the most people died and where countless cameras recorded it all for posterity and an abiding, everlasting, anger. He laughs, the madman does, whenever George Bush says, as he has over and over, that America is "winning this war on terror." Osama Bin Laden knows better. He has already won.

Even setting aside that the winners don't generally end up hidden in caves--alive or dead--you have to pretty radically misunderstand bin Ladenism to think that his goal was Shi'a dominance of a democratic Iraq and Lebanon and extension of democracy and/or democratic reforms to Afghanistan, Palestine, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc., at such a negligible cost in American life and wealth. Here's a simple test of who's winning: try to name a country in the Islamic world where the status quo pre-911 was preferable to the current trend.


U.S. embassy in Damascus attacked
(ALBERT AJI, 9/12/06, Associated Press)

Armed militants attempted to storm the U.S. Embassy in a bold attack Tuesday using automatic rifles, hand grenades and at least one van rigged with explosives, the government said. Syrian security forces killed three of the attackers and no Americans were hurt.

That's their best shot five years into their victory?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


White House Gains Concessions in Senate Measure on Tribunals (R. Jeffrey Smith, 9/12/06, Washington Post)

The Bush administration has won concessions from key Senate Republicans in proposed legislation on standards for detainee treatment and the rules for military trials of terrorism suspects, although some disagreements persist between the lawmakers and the White House, Senate sources said yesterday. [...]

In a sign that Congress is nonetheless preparing to act quickly to establish "military commissions," as the trials are known, and provide other legal relief sought by the administration, the Senate trio at odds with the White House circulated a revised bill yesterday containing their concessions.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) last week had circulated a draft that diverged more sharply from the White House's version. But President Bush's speech on the plan Wednesday, when he announced his intention to put 14 key terrorism suspects on trial, has made Senate Republicans more wary of bucking the White House.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Afghan mission, 9/11 linked (TONDA MACCHARLES. 9/12/06, Toronto Star)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, backed by relatives of Canadian terror victims and soldiers, urged the country yesterday to remember its own victims of the 9/11 tragedy and why Canada is waging war in Afghanistan.

"The menace of terror must be confronted," Harper said in a live televised address to the nation to mark the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks against America.

But Harper's extraordinary statement went farther than a simple acknowledgment of loss, and appealed directly to Canadians to support a military mission now fraught with high casualties and growing misgivings on the part of the public and his political opposition.

Harper drew a direct link between the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks against America, and Canada's decision to join the United Nations-mandated assault on Afghanistan to topple its Taliban regime.

He has a long way to fgo to ge folks as mad at him as they are at Bushblair for linking terror attacks with our attacking extremists in the Middle East. Good start though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


St Andrew's Day off (for some) (HAMISH MACDONELL AND LOUISE GRAY, 9/12/06, The Scotsman)

JACK McConnell yesterday backed plans to make St Andrew's Day a public holiday, saying it would help bring the country together to celebrate the good in Scotland. [...]

Announcing his backing, the First Minister said yesterday: "I want to make sure that each year here in Scotland we celebrate St Andrew's Day as one country, many cultures, so we all come together and celebrate everything that is good about Scotland."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:30 AM


Al-Zawahri hints at wider war on the West (Reuters, September 11th, 2006)

Al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, condemned U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon as enemies of Islam and warned that the terrorist group will strike the Persian Gulf and Israel, suggesting new fronts in its war against the West in a video Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Al-Qaida released a string of videos for the anniversary, showing increasingly sophisticated techniques as it tried to demonstrate that it remains a powerful, confident force five years into the United States' war on terrorism.

One video showed images of the planes striking the World Trade Center, lionizing the 19 suicide hijackers as men "who changed history." Another was a 91-minute documentary-style video in which Osama bin Laden is seen smiling and chatting with the planners of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in an Afghan mountain camp.

Obviously it is only a matter of time before they discover the homing pigeon. And then where will we be?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:09 AM


Climate change caused civilisation, scientist says (Alok Jha, The Guardian, Sepetember 11th, 2006)

Severe climate change was the main driver behind the birth of civilisation, a scientist said yesterday.

An increase in harsh, arid conditions across the globe around 5,000 years ago forced people to start living in stable communities around remaining water sources. The major shift in climate, caused by natural fluctuations in the Earth's orbit around the sun, weakened the monsoon systems in the northern hemisphere, where humans had previously enjoyed a fruitful hunter-gatherer existence.

"We can certainly say that the earliest civilisations arose on the backdrop of increasing aridity, which are driven by natural, global-scale changes in climate," said Nick Brooks of the University of East Anglia. "The cultural transitions track changes in environmental conditions quite closely."

Speaking at the British Association festival of science in Norwich, Dr Brooks said his research turned traditional ideas of how the world's first civilisations - such as those in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, the Indus Valley region and South America - on their head.

One of the reasons we’re kind of attached to global warming around here is we are counting on it to wipe out Puff Daddy and Paris Hilton.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Australian welcome for Indian migrants (Phil Mercer, 9/12/06, BBC News)

Indians have emerged as the fastest-growing group of migrants entering Australia.

They are now the third-largest immigrant group behind the British and New Zealanders.

The Indians bring with them the expertise that Australia's booming economy desperately needs, amid a chronic skills shortage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Thomas sets mark, homers in 6th straight (The Associated Press, 9/12/06)

Frank Thomas homered in his sixth straight game Monday night, setting an Oakland Athletics record in a 9-4 loss to Minnesota.

Thomas hit the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning from Minnesota starter Carlos Silva just over the wall and beyond center fielder Torii Hunter's reach, giving Oakland a 1-0 lead. It was the 36th homer and 98th run batted in of the season for Thomas, making a strong comeback after ankle injuries hampered the final two of his 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

The major-league record for consecutive games with a home run is eight, set by Pittsburgh's Dale Long (1956), Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees (1987) and Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. (1993).

Not only is his comeback one of the best stories off the year, but he's gotten better as the season goes on, unlike Nomar who fell apart in the second half.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Is There an Elephant in Here? (Ryan H. Sager, 12 Sep 2006, Tech Central Station)

If the conservative movement is a family, it's a far-flung, rowdy, dysfunctional one. But CPAC brings it all together.

If only for three days.

But for those three days, all the brothers and sisters, crazy aunts and sleazy uncles, barely-tolerated in-laws and disgruntled step-children, black sheep and golden boys and grandmas and grandpas of "the movement" (as those in the family are known to call it) are under one roof. It's a bit like the holidays -- inasmuch as there's a reason the suicide rate spikes around the holidays.

Various bizarre scenes unfold all around. An iMac plays footage of Ronald Reagan on a loop. Republican committeemen from the Midwest can be overheard debunking the theory of evolution while waiting in line for dinner ("What do you call an animal with a half-fin-half-wing? Kibble."). Al Franken and G. Gordon Liddy face off over at Radio Row. And books full of Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinions are given out as party favors.

Meanwhile, a walk around CPAC's convention floor takes one on something of a whirlwind tour of the Right. There, the 90-plus organizations and corporations that sponsor the conference set up booths to push their pet causes: Americans for Tax Reform ("reforming" taxes to within an inch of their lives), Americans for Immigration Control (keeping Mexicans in Mexico), the Family Research Council (keeping gays out of marriage), the Log Cabin Republicans (wedding gays to the GOP), the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute (grooming the next generation of Ann Coulters), the National Rifle Association (defending the right to shoot), the Drug Policy Alliance (defending the right to shoot up), the Objectivist Center (deifying Ayn Rand) and the National Right to Work Foundation (demonizing the unions). Just to name a few.

As in most large families, however, there is one marriage that undergirds the entire enterprise: For the conservative family, that is the marriage between social conservatism and small-government conservatism. There is no one group at CPAC -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- that fully represents either of these philosophies. Rather, these are the two main currents of thought that push the conservative movement along. Social conservatives (a.k.a. traditionalists, the Christian Right, the Religious Right) place the highest value on tradition and morality -- or "Western values," as they often put it. Small-government conservatives (a.k.a. libertarians) value human freedom and choice above all else.

These two kinds of conservatives, whose fundamental views of the world are at odds as often as not, were brought together in the 1950s and '60s by a concept known as "fusionism," the brainchild of conservative thinker Frank Meyer, an editor at National Review from its earliest days and a tireless movement activist until his death in 1972. In Meyer's formulation, social conservatives and libertarians should be natural political allies. Not only are their goals compatible, he argued, but their philosophies are complementary -- if not codependent. Either philosophy, if not reined in by the other, risks veering wildly off the tracks.

At CPAC, watching anti-immigration activists frothing at the mouth and calling illegal immigrants "burglars" and "wage thieves," and watching libertarians selling t-shirts urging "Capitalists of the world unite," it's not hard to see how that might happen.

Meyer began expounding his theory in a series of essays in National Review in 1956. It boiled down to a simple formulation: No act is truly moral unless it is freely chosen. While Meyer agreed with social conservatives about the importance of moral order, he feared that they were so wrapped up in preserving Western tradition that they were willing to resort to authoritarianism to achieve their goals. At the same time, while Meyer was in sympathy with libertarians and their emphasis on the need for a limited state, he feared that their philosophy was prone to degenerate into the pursuit of freedom for its own sake, free of any moral boundaries.

As Meyer wrote: "Truth withers when freedom dies, however righteous the authority that kills it ... Free individualism uninformed by moral value rots at its core and soon surrenders to tyranny."

What's more, Meyer argued, social conservatives had a vested interest in the small government pursued by libertarians. It was the government, particularly the federal government, that was to blame for what many perceived at the time to be America's moral decay. As conservative writer David Frum summed up Meyer's thinking: It was federal judges who were banning prayer in schools; it was city planners destroying inner cities with their highways and public-housing projects; it was New Deal welfare programs that fostered illegitimacy. The way to achieve social conservatives' goals, Meyer argued, was to beat back big government. In other words, in a conservative society, libertarian means would achieve traditionalist ends.

It was a clever argument, especially in light of the threat from "Godless" international Communism, which was equally despised by libertarians and social conservatives. And to the extent that the conservative movement has congealed and succeeded in the decades since Meyer began pushing it, that success -- first within the Republican Party and then on the national stage -- has been due to the libertarian and social-conservative factions sticking together.

These partners got the Republican Party to nominate Barry Goldwater, a libertarian-conservative and militantly anti-Communist U.S. Senator from Arizona, for president in 1964. While Goldwater lost that race in a spectacular fashion, getting less than 40 percent of the popular vote, his candidacy committed the Republican Party to the cause of conservatism.

Out of Goldwater's failed campaign rose many of the pillars of the modern conservative movement. An out-of-work actor and former Democrat named Ronald Reagan launched his political career at the 1964 Republican national convention with a rousing, nationally televised speech, "A Time for Choosing," in support of Goldwater. Anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, best known today for her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, first became known for writing a pro-Goldwater book, A Choice, Not an Echo, attacking the liberal Republican establishment that had elected Dwight Eisenhower and nominated Richard Nixon for turning the party into a weak imitation of the Democrats. And, last but not least, the idea for the American Conservative Union -- which founded and runs CPAC and serves as something of an umbrella organization for the conservative movement -- was born in a meeting just five days after Goldwater's defeat, with the idea of carrying on the fight begun in the 1964 campaign.

From these humble beginnings, the conservative movement went on to elect Reagan as president in 1980 and 1984. It turned over control of both houses of Congress to the Republican Party in 1994. It elected Bush in 2000. And it reelected him, with increased margins in Congress, in 2004.

So why was all not well in the Republican Party in the months after Bush's reelection? Why, as Democrats wept over the election returns, did a significant segment of the conservative movement weep with them? Why, as activists and students and journalists gathered for CPAC, was there a distinct sense that something was amiss?

Because the marriage at the heart of the conservative movement was falling apart.

To be sure, the relationship's had its rocky patches before. It's always been more Married With Children than Ozzie and Harriet. Whatever alliances have been formed, libertarians have always tended to see social conservatives as rubes ready to thump non-believers on the head with the Bible first chance they get, and social conservatives have always tended to see libertarians as dope-smoking devil worshippers.

The exaggeration's only slight. In 1957, Communist-turned-social-conservative Whittaker Chambers famously wrote of libertarian favorite Ayn Rand that "from almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber -- go!'" In 1961, Ronald Hamowy, reviewing the first years of National Review's existence for the libertarian New Individualist Review, blasted editor William F. Buckley Jr. and his colleagues for plotting to reintroduce the burning of heretics. In 1969, a libertarian delegate to the conservative youth group Young Americans for Freedom, which was holding a convention in St. Louis, burned his draft card on the floor of the convention hall -- sparking a physical confrontation and the tossing out of 300 libertarian YAF members.

The split underway between libertarians and social conservatives today is less dramatic than those of the past -- there are no punches being thrown (yet), and Nazi analogies in contemporary politics are usually confined to the crowd -- but it is far more profound.

This time, the split is not a spat. It is a slow-but-sure breaking apart.

The sides here are not arguing over one unpopular war, as they were during Vietnam. They are not arguing about any of the various vagaries and fine points of conservative thought that have fueled so many heated internal debates over the decades. They are not fighting over one administration's failure to rein in the size of government, as some conservatives did during the Reagan years.

Today, no longer bound together by the Cold War or opposition to Bill Clinton and having tasted power at the small price of bending their beliefs, the two sides are fighting over nothing less than whether the Republican Party will complete its abandonment of the very principle upon which their fusionist marriage has been based these many years: a commitment to limited government.

Will social conservatives continue to accept federally funded "character education" in lieu of education reforms that would let parents choose their children's schools? Will they continue to accept billions of dollars of government money channeled to religious charities in lieu of reducing the tax burden on Americans so that they could give more money to charity themselves? Will they continue to accept the idea of government as nanny, protecting children from sex and violence in TV shows, movies, video games and every other conceivable medium, in lieu of demanding a society in which parents are expected to be responsible for their own children? Will they continue to embrace the machinery of federal power that they once feared, simply because the "good guys" are the ones pulling the levers for the time being?

In other words: Can social conservatives and libertarians return to the common ground they once shared, or will their differences grow irreconcilable?

There can obviously be no reconciliation between someone who holds freedom itself as the highest end of humankind and someone who holds the maintenance of the "enduring moral order" as the highest end. However, it's worth noting how divorced from reality the libertarianism envisioned here is. The "education reforms" of which he speaks would require universal vouchers--a vast expansion of government -- just as a reduction in the money channeled to religious charities would simply mean a redirection off that money back to the government bureaucracies (and more money besides, because government delivers the services less efficienty than the private sector, as both sides would argue). Libertarians ultimately just have to determine whether they prefer the Third Way of the Judeo-Christian conservatives or the moral permissiveness of the secular Left. They're likely to pick the latter when young and choose the former as they mature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Brown takes family into No 10 as Hain launches his challenge (Philip Webster, Greg Hurst and Peter Riddell, 9/12/06, Times of London)

LABOUR’S succession woes took a bizarre twist last night when it emerged that Gordon Brown would be fully installed in No 10 within weeks, and Peter Hain began his campaign to become deputy leader.

The Times was told that the Chancellor and his family — wife Sarah, son John and the latest arrival Fraser — would be moving to live in the flat above No 10 from their small property in Westminster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Mystery of Capital Deepens (The Economist, 9/10/06)

In 1981 about 1,800 families occupied a stretch of wasteland in the municipality of Quilmes on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The squatters lacked legal title to their new place in the sun, but they did not lack for tenacity. They outlasted Argentina's military junta, which tried several times to evict them, and in 1984, after the return of democracy, the provincial government passed a law expropriating the land from its rightful owners so that the squatters could enjoy formal ownership of it.

This is a tale that would warm the heart of Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist, celebrated by this newspaper and many others for his book “The Mystery of Capital” (2000), and for his vigorous efforts to extend secure property rights to the poor. In his book, Mr de Soto argues that the poor have more assets—shacks, stalls, plots—than you might think. But because they lack title to these assets, they cannot pass them on, divide them up, or offer them as collateral for a loan to expand their makeshift businesses and fully express their entrepreneurial energies. Their assets remain embalmed as “dead capital”.

But the victory of the Buenos Aires squatters was only partial. Eight of the former landowners accepted the government's compensation in 1986, one did not relent until 1998, and the remaining four are still contesting it in Argentina's Dickensian courts. As a result, several hundred families now own their land, but their neighbours still squat uneasily on theirs.

This is unfortunate for the squatters, but a rare opportunity for economists to test the power of property rights. Sebastian Galiani of San Andrés University and Ernesto Schargrodsky of Torcuato di Tella University believe the case provides a natural experiment*. The families lucky enough to win title can be compared with a ready-made control group: the otherwise identical families that did not. This makes it possible for the study to distinguish cause and effect; to isolate the impact of title from all the other confounding factors.

The results of the experiment are mixed. Secure land rights do encourage the poor to build their nests. But even in a relatively advanced country such as Argentina, title is not enough in itself to animate the dead capital interred in land and property.

The landowning families invested more in their homes, which had noticeably better walls and roofs. They were also more likely to lay concrete pavements. But the titled households enjoyed no better access to bank loans, credit cards or bank accounts, and only 4% of them managed to acquire a mortgage.

Disappointing, but not surprising, Messrs Galiani and Schargrodsky argue. Argentine banks tend to lend only to workers with high wages and a stable job. Titled or not, the former squatters still fell well below the official poverty line. The cost of making and enforcing a loan contract might exceed the modest sums they were able to borrow. Others say the experiment might be too recent to deliver a conclusive verdict. The government did not allow the newly entitled families to transfer their land for a decade, thus by the time they answered the economists' survey in 2003, they had enjoyed full rights to their property for seven years, not 17.

The credit market has also been slow to respond to a much bigger urban-titling movement in Peru, carried out by the government with the help of Mr de Soto's think-tank, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD). The campaign had awarded over 1.5m titles by July 2006. But it did not do them all at once. [...]

The ILD has always pushed for broader changes in the legal system so that it can handle the kind of collateral the poor provide, at a cost that makes it worthwhile to do so. Credit also appears to have grown quite quickly in Peru after 2000, the year of the survey used by Ms Field and Mr Torero. The World Bank's own studies show that mortgages worth $136m were approved in 2003, compared with $66m three years earlier.

So they're personally more responsible but it's taking awhile for institutions to recognize it and treat them accordingly--that is hardly surprising.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Khatami’s good will hunt: Harvard speech draws protest (Jessica Fargen, 9/11/06, Boston Herald)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami rolled through Harvard on his feel-good tour of the United States yesterday extolling democracy and peace, principles at odds with the regime he led for eight years.

“One should not and ought not engage in violence in the name of any religion,” Khatami said in his speech yesterday at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, which drew about 200 protesters outside, and periodic approving applause along with critical questions inside.

The speech, entitled “The Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence,” was followed by a Q & A session in which some audience members drilled Khatami about his position on Hezbollah, terrorism, Israel and the Sept. 11 attacks. [...]

Khatami joined the rest of the audience and stood for a moment of silence for Sept. 11 victims and condemned the attacks as “barbaric and savage acts.”

“I express my deepest sympathies with the families of the victims,” he said, those words followed by audience applause.

In response to an audience question, he said he wants to see Osama bin Laden captured.

“I have my problems with him,” he said.

Iran Offers Security Help to Visiting Iraqi Prime Minister (VOA News, 12 September 2006)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he has offered to help Iraq bring its insurgency under control.

At a news conference in Tehran with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Mr. Ahmadinejad said improved security in Iraq will enhance stability throughout the region.

Mr. Maliki met the Iranian president Tuesday at the beginning of a two-day visit.

September 11, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


The man who saved geometry: Crying `Death to Triangles!' a generation of mathematicians tried to eliminate geometry in favor of algebra. Were it not for Donald Coxeter, they might have succeeded. (Siobhan Roberts, September 10, 2006, Boston Globe)

[D]espite these modern applications, geometry was, for much of the 20th century, a discipline very much in jeopardy. It was deemed by a generation of mathematicians to be old-fashioned, a fine recreation for idling away a lazy afternoon, but in essence little more than a trivial tinkering with toys. Modern mathematics was all about prickly algebraic symbols and undulating equations-impenetrable hieroglyphs with no diagrams, no shapes.

The task of fending off these attacks fell to H.S.M. ``Donald" Coxeter, the greatest classical geometer of the last century. Through his lifelong work as geometry's apostle, Coxeter, who died in 2003 at 96 (prematurely by his measure-his lifelong vegetarianism guaranteed he should live to 100, he figured), became known by his followers around the world as ``the man who saved geometry" in a mathematical era characterized by all things algebraic, abstract, and austere.

Fifty years ago this summer, Coxeter was summoned by the Mathematical Association of America on a roving lecture tour through the United States. He traveled as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska, as far west as Stanford, Calif., and east to New York City, speaking with a missionary's zeal to schoolteachers and any other willing listeners.

Coxeter lectured about ``the beauteous properties of triangles," about circles and spheres, and about the Platonic solids: the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron. According to a recent cosmological hypothesis (and a similar theory put forth by Plato) the dodecahedron is a potential model for the shape of the universe-bound by 12 walls, each the shape of a pentagon.

Coxeter had a special affection for the Platonic solids. Educated at Cambridge, in his native England, he spent most of his professional life at the University of Toronto. But before coming to Toronto he did a two-year stint at Princeton. It was there that he launched his career, choosing as his specialty polytopes, an extension of the Platonic solids in higher dimensions.

But just as Coxeter set out upon his career, classical geometry-with its emphasis on shapes and diagrams-was being supplanted by modern mathematicians' penchant for algebra.

A secret society of the créme de la créme of French mathematicians epitomized the shift in the mathematical zeitgeist of the early 20th century. Writing under the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbakis, the collective set out in the 1930s to rewrite the history of mathematics in one grand mathematical treatise, and perhaps the most distinctive feature of their work was the absence of diagrams.

The Bourbakis espoused mathematical rationality and rigor. They believed the subjective and fallible visual sense was easily led astray, falling victim to impressionistic reasoning. In 1959, at a conference in France addressing the need to overhaul the French education system, Jean Dieudonné, a founding member of the Bourbakis and the group's scribe, infamously proclaimed: ``Down with Euclid! Death to Triangles!"

Eventually, the Bourbakis way of mathematics pervaded the Western world, reaching even into grade schools with the Sputnik-motivated New Math reforms of the 1960s, which aimed to improve students' performance and to ensure America was not left in the scientific dust by the Soviet Union. Instead of shapes, children studied axioms and set theory.

As a consequence, mathematical and scientific investigation suffered from what Walter Whiteley, a great admirer of Coxeter and director of applied mathematics at York University in Toronto, calls the ``geometry gap." Whiteley's thesis holds that when the areas of the brain that process visual and geometric concepts fall into disuse, the realms of mathematics and science suffer as well.

So Coxeter set out to make the case for the visual geometric approach, using a number of tactics.

On a popular level, he proselytized for the classical geometric treasures he loved, praising their simple beauty and symmetry. The elegance of his talks and essays gained him an avid following around the world, a fan base of professional and amateur geometers alike who became just as passionate about classical geometry as he was.

If anything we should drop algebra and keep geometry, which teaches kids how to think.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


President's Address to the Nation (George W. Bush, The Oval Office, 9/11/06)

Good evening. Five years ago, this date -- September the 11th -- was seared into America's memory. Nineteen men attacked us with a barbarity unequaled in our history. They murdered people of all colors, creeds, and nationalities -- and made war upon the entire free world. Since that day, America and her allies have taken the offensive in a war unlike any we have fought before. Today, we are safer, but we are not yet safe. On this solemn night, I've asked for some of your time to discuss the nature of the threat still before us, what we are doing to protect our nation, and the building of a more hopeful Middle East that holds the key to peace for America and the world.

On 9/11, our nation saw the face of evil. Yet on that awful day, we also witnessed something distinctly American: ordinary citizens rising to the occasion, and responding with extraordinary acts of courage. We saw courage in office workers who were trapped on the high floors of burning skyscrapers -- and called home so that their last words to their families would be of comfort and love. We saw courage in passengers aboard Flight 93, who recited the 23rd Psalm -- and then charged the cockpit. And we saw courage in the Pentagon staff who made it out of the flames and smoke -- and ran back in to answer cries for help. On this day, we remember the innocent who lost their lives -- and we pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that others might live.

For many of our citizens, the wounds of that morning are still fresh. I've met firefighters and police officers who choke up at the memory of fallen comrades. I've stood with families gathered on a grassy field in Pennsylvania, who take bittersweet pride in loved ones who refused to be victims -- and gave America our first victory in the war on terror. I've sat beside young mothers with children who are now five years old -- and still long for the daddies who will never cradle them in their arms. Out of this suffering, we resolve to honor every man and woman lost. And we seek their lasting memorial in a safer and more hopeful world.

Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy -- but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam -- a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations. The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.

Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not been since the start of the Cold War. We saw what a handful of our enemies can do with box-cutters and plane tickets. We hear their threats to launch even more terrible attacks on our people. And we know that if they were able to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, they would use them against us. We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes. America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I. But the war is not over -- and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new century -- and determine the destiny of millions across the world.

For America, 9/11 was more than a tragedy -- it changed the way we look at the world. On September the 11th, we resolved that we would go on the offense against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them. So we helped drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. We put al Qaeda on the run, and killed or captured most of those who planned the 9/11 attacks, including the man believed to be the mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He and other suspected terrorists have been questioned by the Central Intelligence Agency, and they provided valuable information that has helped stop attacks in America and across the world. Now these men have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, so they can be held to account for their actions. Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice.

On September the 11th, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores, whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states. I'm often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat -- and after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfills the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.

Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out. Our enemies in Iraq are tough and they are committed -- but so are Iraqi and coalition forces. We're adapting to stay ahead of the enemy, and we are carrying out a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds.

We're training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation. We're helping Iraq's unity government grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done. Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad. Osama bin Laden calls this fight "the Third World War" -- and he says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's "defeat and disgrace forever." If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement. We will not allow this to happen. America will stay in the fight. Iraq will be a free nation, and a strong ally in the war on terror.

We can be confident that our coalition will succeed because the Iraqi people have been steadfast in the face of unspeakable violence. And we can be confident in victory because of the skill and resolve of America's Armed Forces. Every one of our troops is a volunteer, and since the attacks of September the 11th, more than 1.6 million Americans have stepped forward to put on our nation's uniform. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts in the war on terror, the men and women of our military are making great sacrifices to keep us safe. Some have suffered terrible injuries -- and nearly 3,000 have given their lives. America cherishes their memory. We pray for their families. And we will never back down from the work they have begun.

We also honor those who toil day and night to keep our homeland safe, and we are giving them the tools they need to protect our people. We've created the Department of Homeland Security. We have torn down the wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence from sharing information. We've tightened security at our airports and seaports and borders, and we've created new programs to monitor enemy bank records and phone calls. Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement and intelligence professionals, we have broken up terrorist cells in our midst and saved American lives.

Five years after 9/11, our enemies have not succeeded in launching another attack on our soil, but they've not been idle. Al Qaeda and those inspired by its hateful ideology have carried out terrorist attacks in more than two dozen nations. And just last month, they were foiled in a plot to blow up passenger planes headed for the United States. They remain determined to attack America and kill our citizens -- and we are determined to stop them. We'll continue to give the men and women who protect us every resource and legal authority they need to do their jobs.

In the first days after the 9/11 attacks I promised to use every element of national power to fight the terrorists, wherever we find them. One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom. The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower. They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever, girls enrolling in schools, or families worshiping God in their own traditions. They know that given a choice, people will choose freedom over their extremist ideology. So their answer is to deny people this choice by raging against the forces of freedom and moderation. This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization. We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. And we're fighting for the possibility that good and decent people across the Middle East can raise up societies based on freedom and tolerance and personal dignity.

We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom. Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom, and whether the forces of moderation can prevail. For 60 years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither. So we changed our policies, and committed America's influence in the world to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism.

With our help, the people of the Middle East are now stepping forward to claim their freedom. From Kabul to Baghdad to Beirut, there are brave men and women risking their lives each day for the same freedoms that we enjoy. And they have one question for us: Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia? By standing with democratic leaders and reformers, by giving voice to the hopes of decent men and women, we're offering a path away from radicalism. And we are enlisting the most powerful force for peace and moderation in the Middle East: the desire of millions to be free.

Across the broader Middle East, the extremists are fighting to prevent such a future. Yet America has confronted evil before, and we have defeated it -- sometimes at the cost of thousands of good men in a single battle. When Franklin Roosevelt vowed to defeat two enemies across two oceans, he could not have foreseen D-Day and Iwo Jima -- but he would not have been surprised at the outcome. When Harry Truman promised American support for free peoples resisting Soviet aggression, he could not have foreseen the rise of the Berlin Wall -- but he would not have been surprised to see it brought down. Throughout our history, America has seen liberty challenged, and every time, we have seen liberty triumph with sacrifice and determination.

At the start of this young century, America looks to the day when the people of the Middle East leave the desert of despotism for the fertile gardens of liberty, and resume their rightful place in a world of peace and prosperity. We look to the day when the nations of that region recognize their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people. We look to the day when moms and dads throughout the Middle East see a future of hope and opportunity for their children. And when that good day comes, the clouds of war will part, the appeal of radicalism will decline, and we will leave our children with a better and safer world.

On this solemn anniversary, we rededicate ourselves to this cause. Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country, and we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us. We will defeat our enemies. We will protect our people. And we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.

Earlier this year, I traveled to the United States Military Academy. I was there to deliver the commencement address to the first class to arrive at West Point after the attacks of September the 11th. That day I met a proud mom named RoseEllen Dowdell. She was there to watch her son, Patrick, accept his commission in the finest Army the world has ever known. A few weeks earlier, RoseEllen had watched her other son, James, graduate from the Fire Academy in New York City. On both these days, her thoughts turned to someone who was not there to share the moment: her husband, Kevin Dowdell. Kevin was one of the 343 firefighters who rushed to the burning towers of the World Trade Center on September the 11th -- and never came home. His sons lost their father that day, but not the passion for service he instilled in them. Here is what RoseEllen says about her boys: "As a mot