August 31, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


How Britain put Nazis' top men to work (Stewart Payne, 31/08/2007, Daily Telegraph)

German scientists and technicians were abducted at the end of the Second World War and made to work in Britain as part of a secret programme to plunder the defeated nation's trade secrets and intellectual assets, declassified government documents have revealed.

An elite British Army unit captured hundreds of Germans in possession of Nazi scientific and technical know-how and transported them across the Channel to work in government ministries and private companies.

Others were forced to travel to Britain, where they were interviewed by commercial rivals and detained if they did not reveal trade secrets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Laura Bush presses UN over Burma (Jonathan Beale, 8/31/07, BBC News)

US First Lady Laura Bush has urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to condemn Burma's crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

In a rare political intervention, she also called on the UN Security Council to act to prevent further violence.

Her direct intervention shows growing frustration in the White House with the UN's muted response to problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


Texas spiders' monstrous webs baffle scientists (Ed Stoddard, 8/31/07, Reuters)

A monstrous network of sheet-like webs covering several acres has been spun over trees in this state park 50 miles (80 kms) east of Dallas, baffling scientists who say it is an almost-unheard-of occurrence in the region.

"The dominant spiders here seem to be long-jawed spiders but this is unusual. Social spiders build communal nests in the tropics but the longjaws are not social," said Mike Quinn, a Texas state insect biologist.

"We still don't have a clear answer for what is going on here," he said as he stood beneath the ghostly canopy of webbing which shrouded a patch of oak and juniper trees.

Has a Mythical Beast Turned Up in Texas? (ELIZABETH WHITE, 8/31/07, Associated Press)
Phylis Canion lived in Africa for four years. She's been a hunter all her life and has the mounted heads of a zebra and other exotic animals in her house to prove it.

But the roadkill she found last month outside her ranch was a new one even for her, worth putting in a freezer hidden from curious onlookers: Canion believes she may have the head of the mythical, bloodsucking chupacabra.

"It is one ugly creature," Canion said, holding the head of the mammal, which has big ears, large fanged teeth and grayish-blue, mostly hairless skin.

Working in TX, we used to find the odd javelina skull, which was more terrifying than the live rattlers. But our favorite creature was the product of an ad campaign. Lone Star was running commercials where a giant armadillo would storm stores and take the beer. So whenever there was a dead armadillo on the side of the road folks would roll it over on its back and prop a Lone Star bottle in its paws.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


New Cars Seen Raising Gas Mileage Levels (KEN THOMAS, 8/31/07, Associated Press)

New vehicles are expected to set records for average gas mileage in driven by improved technology and demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, the government reported.

Vehicles from the 2007 model year are projected to average 26.4 miles per gallon overall, a gain of 1 mpg over the previous year and above the previous record of 26.2 mpg in 1987.

The increases are attributed to higher demand for hybrids and more fuel-efficient vehicles with gas prices hovering around $3 for much of the year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


Ultra-observant Jews press trade with Gaza (Joshua Mitnick, August 31, 2007, Washington Times)

Israel faces pressure from ultra-observant Jewish communities to ease a blockade of the Gaza Strip so they can import food and thus remain faithful to the tradition of not growing or consuming food cultivated on Jewish land once every seven years. [...]

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of agriculture for Palestinians in Gaza, where more than half of the population depends on outside aid to survive.

Farms in the blighted coastal strip account for 10 percent of the territory's economy, supporting more than one in six of its 1.4 million residents.

Though Israel's army says opening Gaza's main commercial crossing is too much of a security risk, both Palestinians and Israelis acknowledge that managing trade with Gaza is ultimately a political decision.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Reintroduced kite shot dead in Ireland (David McKittrick, 31 August 2007, Independent)

A rare bird of prey, released into the Irish countryside in an attempt to reintroduce the species after a 200-year absence, has been found dead with seven shotgun pellets in its carcass. Police are investigating the killing of the red kite, a species protected under European law. News of the death was received with dismay by environmentalists and ornithologists. Ironically, the bird was shot during the republic's National Heritage Week – and just six weeks after it was set free.

It is not yet known whether the shooting was deliberate or accidental. But the incident may highlight tensions between the environmental lobby and farmers, who fear that eagles and other birds of prey pose a risk to livestock.

Likewise, the recovery of hawks in America is a function of the hunting bans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 PM


Skeptical Moroccans look hopefully to Islamists (Zakia Abdennebi, 8/31/07, Reuters)

Many members of the secular-minded elite that has ruled Morocco since independence hail from Fez, but the former imperial city has seen a surge in support for the [the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD)] in the decade since the party was formed.

The PJD became the third biggest party and the main opposition in the Rabat parliament in 2002 and has built political capital by rounding on corruption and calling for more morality in public life.

It has also voiced strong support for the monarchy and condemned religious extremism.

Several PJD politicians hail from the same political class that has ruled the country for half a century and its policies seem to differ little in substance from those of its rivals.

But many ordinary Moroccans are hoping its religious grounding means that, if elected, PJD officials would strive harder against corruption than their predecessors.

"I will put my faith in this party and if it disappoints the people once again, may it assume its responsibility before God," said Abdulkrim, a 32-year-old clothing and perfume seller.

"All the political parties have plundered Morocco's riches," says Kenza Niyari, 52, a housewife wearing a headscarf and loose djellaba robe.

"I have no confidence in any party but if there's one that commits to enforcing true Islam, it'll get my vote because we have failed to follow Islam properly and ended up backward."

The PJD has said it would need to show quick results to avoid alienating its supporters, but says ambitious promises would be pointless before it knows how powerful a government under its command will be.

Morocco's electoral system discourages large majorities by political parties, forcing political groups to form coalitions after the elections. Even if a party wins the majority a lot still hangs on negotiations with the palace, where the king holds the ultimate veto.

Transformation of Turkey (SOLI OZEL, 8/31/07, Japan Times)

The president obviously represents the state and is more than a mere figurehead. He sits in Ataturk's chair. He has wide-ranging powers, including the authority to make senior government appointments. He appoints judges to high courts and members to the Higher Educational Council (YOK). He selects the presidents of state universities from a list submitted by the YOK. In times of peace, he is the commander in chief of the armed forces.

This is why the crisis over the presidential election was actually a crisis of the constitutional order installed by the military when it ruled from 1980-1983. That constitution — unlike Ataturk's — was written by and for the military on the assumption that the Cold War would never end, and that the president would always be either a military person or someone close to the military.

But the Cold War is long over, and a lot has since changed in Turkey. An International Monetary Fund-supported program in 2001 unleashed rapid economic growth, based on Turkey's gradual but definitive transformation into a market economy. At the same time, Turkey moved decisively onto the path of political and administrative reform to start EU accession negotiations.

Moreover, Turkey's economic and social transformation brought forth a new elite. The AKP came to represent this new elite and its quest for political power.

Many foreign commentators described the presidential and parliamentary elections as a contest between Turkey's secular past and a putative Islamist future. However, the contest is more accurately seen as one between an open and an introverted Turkey; between civilian, democratic rule and military tutelage; and between a globalizing and a protectionist economy. The AKP's support came from both the winners and losers of globalization, from conservative middle Anatolia and cosmopolitan Istanbul, from the nationalist Black Sea region and the predominantly Kurdish Southeast.

The FP Memo: Brothers In Arms: The United States and the Muslim Brotherhood have more in common than they think. But if the Brotherhood is to win over American skeptics, its actions will have to match its words. (Marc Lynch, September/October 2007, Foreign Policy)
TO: Mohammed Mahdi Akef
Supreme Guide
Muslim Brotherhood
FROM: Marc Lynch
RE: How to Talk to America

When you took over the reins as head of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2004, promising to put freedom at the top of your agenda, you probably couldn’t have imagined where your organization would be today. Although still technically banned, the Brotherhood has emerged as the leading opposition group in Egypt, with 88 seats in parliament. Your calls for governmental transparency and accountability represent an entirely new battle in Egyptian politics—and you’ve got the scars to prove it.

Since contesting parliamentary elections, you’ve seen the Egyptian regime aggressively tamper with the ballot box, launch a massive campaign of arrests of Brotherhood members, and alter the Constitution to prevent your participation in the political process. Many in the West are concerned about the way you’ve been treated by the Egyptian government. But your continued ambiguity about the Brotherhood’s core political commitments, your ambivalence toward Hamas’s attacks on Israel, and questions about your connections with Islamic extremism have left even your backers doubting your true intentions.

You recently complained that the United States “only knows the language of violence and blood and destruction and doesn’t even offer dialogue as an option.” But today you have a historic opportunity for such a dialogue. Americans now recognize they are losing the war of ideas in the Arab world, that Islamic extremism is on the rise, and that the promotion of democracy in the region has collapsed. A vigorous debate has ensued in Washington about the Muslim Brotherhood. Some now see you as a relatively moderate force and a potential partner in a common struggle for democracy and against Islamic extremism. But many others see you as an enemy to be confronted, your Islamist agenda as a major source of extremism and anti-Americanism, and your talk of democracy as a deception meant to fool gullible Westerners. How you engage with this debate will have long-lasting repercussions for your relationship with a United States that isn’t leaving the region anytime soon.

If you are sincere about seeking meaningful dialogue with the West, then you must tackle this debate now, while it’s hot. But repeating the same tired slogans isn’t going to cut it. Demonstrate that, despite many policy differences, you share two fundamental goals with the United States: democracy in Arab countries and curtailing the influence of al Qaeda. If you truly want to persuade Americans—and other Arabs and Muslims—of the value of engaging with you, here’s how to do it:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Former Europe minister calls for referendum (Aislinn Simpson, 31/08/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Keith Vaz urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to allow a vote on the treaty, feared to be simply a rehash of the EU Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

The Leicester East MP said: "As a former Minister for Europe, I believe the time has come for the Government to hold a referendum and decide once and for all Britain's place is at the heart of Europe".

In an open letter to The Sun, Mr Vaz said the referendum - promised by Labour in their manifesto but later rejected in favour of an MPs vote - should be held at the same time as the next General Election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


Swedes go abroad for medical care (The Local, 31st August 2007)

Swedes are increasingly looking abroad for medical treatment, according to new statistics.

The number of Swedish patients treated in other EU countries at the expense of the Swedish state doubled between 2005 and 2006, according to new statistics from the Swedish Social Insurance Administration (Försäkringskassan).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


Rise in India's female feticide may spark crisis (Nita Bhalla, 8/31/07, Reuters)

Increasing female feticide in India could spark a demographic crisis where fewer women in society will result in a rise in sexual violence and child abuse as well as wife-sharing, the United Nations warned.

Despite laws banning tests to determine the sex of an unborn child, the killing of female fetuses is common in some regions of India where a preference for sons runs deep.

As a result, the United Nations says an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.

This has led to skewed sex ratios in regions like Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh as well as the capital, New Delhi, where a census in 2001 showed there are less than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Fortunately, historic enemy has the same problem, so a quick and dirty war that kills a few tens of millions of males clears the whole thing up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


Reincarnate (Matthew Philips, 8/27/07, Newsweek)

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM


How life returned to the streets in a showpiece city that drove out al-Qaeda: An American ‘martyr’ is being hailed in the Sunni Triangle for restoring peace to a town where soldiers now fight only water leaks (Martin Fletcher, 8/31/07, Times of London)

In Ramadi last weekend I did things unthinkable almost anywhere else in this violent country. I walked through the main souk without body armour, talking to ordinary Iraqis. Late one evening I strolled into the brightly lit Jamiah district of the city with Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Turner, the tobacco-chewing US marine in charge of central Ramadi, to buy kebabs from an outdoor restaurant – “It’s safer than London or New York,” Colonel Turner assured me.

I listened incredulously as Latif Obaid Ayadah, Ramadi’s Mayor, told me of his desire to build an airport and tourist resort in Ramadi and talked – only half in jest – of twinning his city with Belfast and Oklahoma City. “I want it to be a small slice of heaven,” he declared.

I had met Captain Patriquin while embedded with US troops in Ramadi last November. He was a big man, moustachioed, ex-Special Forces, fluent in Arabic and engaged in what was then a revolutionary experiment for a US military renowned for busting doors down. He and a small group from the First Brigade Combat Team, part of the 1st Armoured Division, were assiduously courting the local sheikhs – tribal leaders – over endless cups of tea and cigarettes.

They were encouraging them to rise up against the hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters – Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian, Sudanese, Yemeni – who had arrived in Ramadi two years earlier, promising to lead the battle against the infidel Americans. What al-Qaeda actually did was recruit local thugs, seize control of the city, and impose a Taleban-style rule of terror. Mayor Latif said that they regularly beheaded “collaborators” in public and left the heads beside the corpses. Mischievous children would then put cigarettes in the mouths of the disembodied heads.

Captain Patriquin may have offered more than mere words. His main interlocutor, Sheikh Abdul Sittar Bezea al-Rishawi, told The Times that he gave them guns and ammunition too. The sheikhs did rise up. They formed a movement called the Anbar Awakening, led by Sheikh Sittar. They persuaded thousands of their tribesmen to join the Iraqi police, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats, and to work with the reviled US troops. The US military built a string of combat outposts (COPs) throughout a city that had previously been a no-go area, and through a combination of Iraqi local knowledge and American firepower they gradually regained control of Ramadi, district by district, until the last al-Qaeda fighters were expelled in three pitched battles in March. What happened in Ramadi was later replicated throughout much of Anbar province.

Ramadi’s transformation is breathtaking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:48 PM


Reform rollback or emerging ‘sane modernity’: Evangelical Catholicism triumphant, Vatican watcher states (John L. Allen Jr., 8/28/2007, National Catholic Reporter)

History always cuts deeper than headlines, a point that clearly applies to recent Vatican moves to dust off the old Latin Mass and to declare Catholicism the one true church. Beneath the upheaval triggered by those decisions lies a profound shift in the church’s geological plates, and perhaps the best way of describing the resulting earthquake is as the triumph of evangelical Catholicism.

Beginning with the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, Catholicism has become a steadily more evangelical church – uncompromising and unabashedly itself. Evangelical Catholicism today dominates the church’s leadership class, and it feeds on the energy of a strong grass-roots minority.

Proposing a Catholic counterpart to evangelical Protestantism may seem the ultimate in apples-and-oranges comparison, especially since some evangelicals would view being lumped in with the pope as tantamount to fighting words. Yet in a secularized, pluralistic world in which Christianity is no longer the air people breathe, Protestants and Catholics face the same crucial question: Should the relationship between church and culture be a two-way street, as most liberals say, with the church adjusting teachings and structures in light of the signs of the times? Or is the problem not so much a crisis of structures but a crisis of nerve, as most evangelicals believe, with the antidote being bold proclamation of timeless truths?

Liberal Catholicism enjoyed a heyday from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, and it’s not about to die off, overeager prophecies in some circles notwithstanding. During the last quarter-century, however, the evangelicals have won most of the fights in terms of official Catholic policy. Whether that’s a rollback on reform or the emergence of a “new, sane modernity,” as Pope Benedict XVI claims, is a matter for debate, but there’s no mistaking which way the winds are blowing.

The wind became a hurricane when they chose a Tocquevillian as pope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Core inflation gauge up 0.1 percent (David Lawder, 8/31/07, Reuters)

Core U.S. consumer prices rose by a less-than-expected 0.1 percent in July, showing stable prices that held the year-on-year rate of nonfood, nonenergy inflation to 1.9 percent for the second month in a row, the Commerce Department said on Friday.

"It doesn't seem like pricing pressures are moving out of control," said George Davis, chief technical strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

What pressures?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM


Iraqi Government Calls on Other Militias to Follow al-Sadr's Lead, Freeze Activities (VOA News, 31 August 2007)

The Iraqi government has called on the country's armed groups to follow the lead of the Shi'ite Mahdi Army militia and freeze their activities.

In a statement issued late Thursday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's decision to halt militia activities provided "a good opportunity" for other militias to suspend their operations in order to maintain stability and sovereignty of Iraq.

Follow the leader.

U.S. panel will urge broad overhaul of Iraqi police (David S. Cloud, August 31, 2007, IHT)

An independent commission established by Congress to assess Iraq's security forces will recommend remaking the 26,000-member national police force to purge it of corrupt officers and Shiite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, administration and military officials said Thursday.

The commission, headed by General James L. Jones, the former top United States commander in Europe, concludes that the rampant sectarianism that has existed since the formation of the police force requires that its current units "be scrapped" and reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, according to one senior official familiar with the findings. The recommendation is that "we should start over," the official said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM


'End of our international isolation of the past few decades' (Dr Manmohan Singh, August 31, 2007, Rediff)

Why do we place so much importance on nuclear energy? I have no doubt whatsoever that the sustainability of our long-term economic growth is critically dependent on our ability to meet our energy requirements of the future. When a country of the size of India begins to grow at the rate of 9% per annum, with the prospect of even higher rates of growth, energy becomes a critical issue.

A lot has been written and said on what our energy requirements will be. A few simple truths stare us in the face. First, our proven resources of coal, oil, gas and hydropower are totally insufficient to meet our requirements. Second, we do not enjoy the luxury of an either�or choice. India needs energy from all known and likely sources of energy. Third, the energy we generate has to be affordable, not only in terms of its financial cost, but in terms of the cost to our environment.

Nuclear power is recognised as an important and environmentally benign constituent of the overall energy mix. There is today talk the world over of a nuclear renaissance and we cannot afford to miss the bus or lag behind these global developments.

Our friends get to indulge their nuke fetishes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


Swiss nationalists campaign to deport criminal foreigners evokes Nazi-era practice (The Associated Press, August 31, 2007)

The campaign poster was blatant in its xenophobic symbolism: Three white sheep kicking out a black sheep over a caption that read — "For more security."

The message was from no fringe force in Switzerland's political scene but from its largest party — the nationalist Swiss People's Party, which controls the Justice Ministry and shares power in an unwieldy coalition that includes all major parties.

The party is seeking to whip up enthusiasm for a deportation scheme that anti-racism campaigners say evokes Nazi-era practices.

As Harry Lime pointed out, they've no culture to assimilate to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Hot Policy Wonks For The Democrats: The New Realists: See Ya, Dick Holbrooke! Neo-Liberalism Is Passé, Anti-Ideologues Surge (Jason Horowitz, August 14, 2007, NY Observer)

For years, top Democratic advisers on foreign policy have been drawn from the neoliberal or “Wilsonian” school. Its adherents at the Progressive Policy Institute, the Democratic Leadership Council and, of course, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University advocate that a Democratic president project the country’s strength to spread American values. Most of the members of the school favor a careful withdrawal from Iraq, and they are, for the most part, committed multilateralists. But they also argue that the Iraq experience should not discourage future interventions or engagement in support of American values, especially in the Middle East. In an interdependent world, they argue, more democracy, liberty and rule of law will ultimately increase American security.

Ms. Flournoy, a 46-year-old former Department of Defense official in the Clinton administration, and her colleagues think the war in Iraq and the country’s plummeting reputation abroad changes the equation, and that the next president may have to reign in his or her ambitions when it comes to the projection of American power.

As Ms. Flournoy and CNAS co-founder Kurt Campbell wrote in an influential June policy paper called The Inheritance and the Way Forward, “First, U.S. strategy must be grounded in a common sense pragmatism rather than ideology. U.S. national security strategy must be based on a clear-eyed assessment of the challenges and opportunities of the new security environment as well as realistic objectives derived from our national interests.”

These self-styled realists feel chastened by the raft of problems inherited from the Iraq war and want to ratchet back direct American engagement, concentrate more on rebuilding America’s reputation and, not unlike the paleoconservatives who guided foreign policy under George H.W. Bush, let national interests be the nation’s guide.

While some of this is just a short term function of their becoming the reactionary party, in the longer it's hard to imagine a secular Darwinist party caring about the liberation of foreigners.

Odd Man Out: What Bayard Rustin Would Tell The Democrats (James Kirchick, 08.31.07, TNR Online)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM

Salad with Latin flavour: Tomato, Avocado & Grilled Corn Salad (Susan Sampson, 8/31/07, The Star)

3 ears corn, shucked

1 tbsp + 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt + freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

2 small bunches arugula (about 1 lb...), large stems discarded, leaves torn in bite-sized pieces

3 ripe tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch dice

2 ripe avocados, cut in 1/2-inch dice

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut in 1/4-inch dice

2 tbsp lime juice

1-1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/4 tsp hot sauce

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1/8 tsp ground cumin

1/4 lb ... queso fresco, crumbled (about 1 cup)

Preheat barbecue to 500F. Place corn on barbecue grill pan. Brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes, or until browned. Let sit until cool.

Spread pumpkin seeds on small baking sheet. Roast in preheated 400F oven, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to plate.

Cut corn kernels from cobs and transfer to large bowl. Add arugula, tomatoes, avocados and cucumber.

In medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, vinegar, hot sauce, sugar and cumin. Whisk in remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add to vegetables. Toss gently.

Place on serving platter. Scatter queso fresco over top. Scatter pumpkin seeds over top.

August 30, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


Bush blasts Myanmar's arrests of activists (AP, 8/30/07)

President George W. Bush lambasted Myanmar's governing military junta on Thursday for arresting pro-democracy activists on charges of protesting against recent fuel price hikes.

"I strongly condemn the ongoing actions of the Burmese regime in arresting, harassing and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations," he said, using Myanmar's old name.

"These activists were voicing concerns about recent dramatic increases in the price of fuel, and their concerns should be listened to by the regime rather than silenced through force," Bush said in a statement.

The presidential statement came after Myanmar authorities arrested participants in a series of protests, and raided the homes of known activists and their friends.

Bush also reiterated that Myanmar's military leaders must free all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and lift restrictions on humanitarian groups in Myanmar.

Or we'll do what? Given that it's military rule, their entire military would seem legitimate targets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


Fruit fly parasite's gene invasion raises questions over evolution (Alok Jha, August 31 2007, The Guardian)

Scientists have found the genes of an organism fused wholesale into the genome of an entirely separate species, raising new questions over how evolution works. The discovery suggests that simple bacteria and animals might swap entire genes more often than previously thought. Such large-scale transfer of genes would allow species to acquire entirely new functions and abilities in a very short space of time, rather than the much slower sequence of random mutations that normally evolves species over several generations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


Back to School: Could teachers become the new lawyers? (Ann Hulbert, Aug. 30, 2007, Slate)

It's back-to-school season, and students aren't alone in suffering from a case of nerves. Linda Perlstein, a former Washington Post reporter who spent 2005-06 embedded in Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis, Md., opens Testing: One American School Struggles To Make the Grade with a snapshot of its anxiety-ridden principal. "You could not tell by looking that Tina McKnight was in pain," Perlstein writes of the woman desperate to make her all-minority school a success in the No Child Left Behind era. "Her back throbbed, sore from hours of bending over the toilet, possibly from food poisoning but more likely from stress." At the opposite end of the spectrum, Alec Klein spent the 2006 spring term in New York City's most selective public high school, Stuyvesant. In A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One of America's Best High Schools, he introduces a principal equally wracked with tension. "Shaggy-haired, bearded, emaciated, and incredibly tired," Stanley Teitel "buries his head in his hands, uttering, 'God, I'm not going to get through these weeks.' "

Enter a schoolhouse door these days with a journalist or a screenwriter, and you'll find the grown-ups within looking like masochistic martyrs. The Hollywood glow of the educator-as-hero, a figure familiar from stump speeches and pop entertainment, has faded. Don't go to HBO's The Wire, set last season in the Baltimore public school system, for a dose of idealism. The much-praised independent film Half-Nelson is grim, too, with Ryan Gosling starring as a drug-addicted maverick trying—and failing—to teach history his own way in a New York City middle school. The Sundance Channel's documentary The Education of Ms. Groves, which aired this week, unsparingly exposes a new teacher's naive optimism, according to the New York Times. Freedom Writers is the exception: To watch Hilary Swank single-handedly create an oasis of harmony in a gang-ridden L.A. high school seems a throwback to a simpler narrative arc.

In the eclipse of the saintly teacher image by the hard-boiled scene in recent insider accounts, are we seeing yet another cause for educational alarm? The picture of beleaguered teams of educators, as doubt-plagued as they are driven, isn't pretty. Yet the new profile of teachers and administrators outlined in Perlstein's and Klein's books may, oddly enough, give a useful boost to the prestige of a profession in urgent need of cultural cachet. [...]

Strangely, perhaps, the spectacle of obsessive administrators and anxious teachers in the trenches presented by both Perlstein and Klein just might help buttress a field that could use some defeminizing. High-pressured and punishing—of such macho qualities is social cachet often built in the world of work. Nowhere in Tyler Heights or Stuyvesant, in Perlstein's and Klein's portrayals, do you hear anyone touting the familiar (female- and family-friendly) perks of the profession: the long summer months off, the seasonal breaks, the 3 o'clock dismissals, the heartwarming kids. Teachers' unions never get mentioned, nor do bonuses. The scene is more reminiscent of, say, the Union army, beset by struggles and squabbles within the ranks, yet striving to make slow headway on divisive home ground.

'No Child Left Behind' should really be called 'No Test Left Behind.' (Edward Humes, July 29, 2007, LA Times)
The conceit of Perlstein's book is simple: to reveal up close the effects on one elementary school, and, by extension, all public schools, of the testing and accountability culture mandated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's signature education initiative.

Statistical studies of this law abound, but an examination of its human effects is long overdue. "Tested" succeeds in filling this void on several levels, providing descriptions that, for many readers, will seem a stunning indictment of No Child Left Behind and the state and local policies it has engendered. The endless regimen of testing, drilling, report filing, student bribing and student berating that Perlstein describes could only have been conceived by politicians and ideologues who rarely set foot in actual public schools (and would never subject their own children to the Frankenstein classrooms their policies have created).

Perlstein chose Tyler Heights Elementary School in suburban Annapolis, Md., a campus of mostly poor and minority students surrounded by schools with far more affluent and academically prepared student bodies. But unlike troubled inner-city schools, suburban Tyler has considerable financial resources at its disposal with which to close the "achievement gap."

She begins with the announcement in May 2005 that, after years of poor scoring, Tyler Heights has dramatically improved its performance on the Maryland School Assessment, the annual testing mandated by No Child Left Behind. These questions set up the drama of the following school year depicted in "Tested": Was this a fluke, and Tyler a one-hit wonder? Or did the scripted lessons and ruthless teaching-to-the-test payoff, a worthy model for other schools? Or had the state lowered the bar so far on its tests that even failing students appeared to shine? Finally, there is the question that most haunts Tyler's principal and teachers throughout the book: Can we do it again?

In charting the answers to those questions, Perlstein depicts a school obsessed not so much with educating as with measuring education, and with doling out a kind of pallid simulation of knowledge. Stories, for example, are always analyzed for their structure, almost never for their actual content. Creative writing is discouraged in favor of repetitive paragraphs called "Brief Constructed Responses," or BCRs -- an acronym Tyler kids hear endlessly.

"They're learning to do the formula," one teacher laments midway through the school year, "and forgetting how to think."

The goal, Perlstein shows, is to limit teaching to ideas, skills and knowledge...

Thankfully, this moves us away from the inane egalitarian notion that everyone is creative and can produce content worth considering and back towards providing just the basic skills that everyone can learn, no matter how little use they'll be to most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM

WHEN DID IT MATTER? (via Gene Brown):

Media Showers: Why would the public lose trust? (DANIEL HENNINGER, August 30, 2007, Opinion Journal)

[F]or the media ponderers there's a more troubling issue than the restoration of trust. It's the possibility that too many people now simply don't much care about the major media anymore. Normally the great media combines would overcome periods of lassitude by forming up focus groups to tell them what to do next. Hah! They want "Survivor"! Alas, living as we do now in a world of seemingly infinite choice, it is possible not to care for a seeming infinity of reasons, which is why the established media are having such a hard time knowing what to do.

Mr. Paxman identified one reason not to care: "In the last quarter century we've gone from three channels to hundreds. . . . The truth is this: the more television there is, the less any of it matters." Once there was a time when TV announcers used to say, "Stay with us." Now no one stays. They go surfing, endlessly seeking a five-minute wave of TV that will take them just a little higher than the five minutes they just watched.

More difficult are the I-don't-care revolutionaries, who argue that digitization has reversed the media world's authority and power. The old aristocracy of programmers and editors has been overthrown by average people who now blog new political priorities, download media and form themselves into clickable communities. The Snowman wins. Get over it.

One part of me likes this scenario. Some say we're living out Marshall McLuhan's long-ago forecasts, such as, "The circuited city of the future . . . will be an information megalopolis." Could be. If it is so that these new technologies are redistributing power into millions of liberated hands accessing "what I want, when I want it," then we are also cruising toward what another seer predicted in three words: "Free to choose." That seer, of course, was Milton Friedman.

Has anyone ever presented evidence for the proposition that the citizenry ever either cared about or trusted the media?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


Carpenters endorse Edwards (Domenico Montanaro, 8/30/07, NBC First Read)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Running fast, but where is he going?: Pro-American, inspired by morals but pragmatic too: Nicolas Sarkozy sets out his ideas for a new foreign policy (The Economist, 8/30/07)

Some observers even suggest that Mr Sarkozy might be preparing for a return of France to NATO's integrated military command, which De Gaulle pulled out of in 1966.

For the moment, Mr Sarkozy has started to sound more muscular and supportive on some issues that America cares about. This week he described Russia as “playing its trump cards, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality” and accused China of “transforming its insatiable search for raw materials into a strategy of control”. He talked bluntly of the risks of a confrontation between Islam and the West. He spelled out the stark choice over Iran, should sanctions fail: “an Iranian [nuclear] bomb, or the bombing of Iran.”

His second idea is to restore a moral dimension to French diplomacy. The choice of Bernard Kouchner, a former UN administrator of Kosovo and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, as foreign minister was hugely symbolic. Mr Sarkozy says he wants to end French paternalism in Africa. There is nothing new about a French president insisting that his country carries a “message of values”, enshrined in its declaration of human rights. But, say his supporters, Mr Sarkozy wants to show concrete results. He pushed hard, for example, for the UN Security Council resolution on a new peacekeeping force for Darfur.

There is a third idea, not articulated, but which seems to be guiding this new diplomacy: a fresh pragmatism, based on a more realistic assessment of France's rank, and a touch of opportunism. In his entire speech, Mr Sarkozy mentioned neither French grandeur nor gloire, both staples of Chirac-era discourse, preferring less ambitious terms such as France's “influence” and “role”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Iraqi Shiite heir steps into a tough role: Ammar Hakim, scion of a top clerical family, is set to lead a party that is the chief U.S. ally in Iraq, but has deep ties to Iran. (Alexandra Zavis, August 30, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

Ammar Hakim and Sadr are close in age, and both are the charismatic scions of clerical families that have long vied for leadership of Iraq's Shiite majority. But Hakim, a polished orator with a classical Arabic diction, is a sharp contrast to the gruff Sadr, who speaks in the colloquial dialect of the Iraqi poor. Hakim plays down the rivalry, noting that his mother is from the Sadr clan.

Hakim was groomed from an early age for a leadership role. The family home in Najaf was a frequent hide-out for men battling the Iraqi regime. In a recent interview with The Times, he said that from age 4, it was his job to pass food in secret to the fugitives. By the time he was 7, he was acting as a lookout to help his father elude Hussein's henchmen.

"I was able to spot the security men even if they were dressed in civilian clothing," he said, breaking into one of many smiles. His family fled to Iran in 1979 to escape persecution, and by age 9, Hakim was addressing thousands of Shiite faithful at mosques and religious festivals there.

Many here and in Washington are suspicious of Hakim's close ties to Iran, where he has spent more than half his life. Iran's Revolutionary Guard trained, equipped and at one point led the Badr Organization, which fought alongside Iran during the 1980s war against Iraq.

By contrast, Sadr is an Iraqi nationalist who routinely denounces both U.S. and Iranian influence, although he, too, has accepted assistance from Iran and spends considerable time there.

During constitutional negotiations after Hussein was ousted, some supreme council members advocated giving senior Shiite clerics, or ayatollahs, veto power over legislation. Hakim argued for changing the country's name to the Islamic Republic of Iraq, a proposal he now says was intended to recognize that most Iraqis are Muslim, not to exclude those who are not.

Hakim has alienated Sunni Arabs by pushing for greater regional autonomy and, until recently, resisting proposals to allow members of Hussein's ousted Baathist regime to take jobs in the government and military.

His tendency to travel in flashy convoys studded with gunmen have led some to dub him "Uday" Hakim, after Hussein's corrupt and violent son.

Note that he is exactly who the Right claims Sadr is.

Allawi Gets a Baathist Endorsement (BOBBY GHOSH, 8/30/07, TIME)

Iyad Allawi's bid to become Iraq's prime minister again has received an endorsement from an unexpected source: the Baath Party. A spokesman for the exiled leadership of Saddam Hussein's old party told TIME that Allawi "is the best person at this time to be given the task of ruling Iraq." He said he hoped that Allawi would pave the way for the Baath Party to "return to the political life of Iraq, where we rightfully belong."

The spokesman, known only as Abu Hala, said the Baath leadership under Saddam's deputy, Izzat al-Douri, were "more than willing to work with Allawi, because we see him as a nationalist and Iraqi patriot, and not a sectarian figure." He said the party didn't agree with all of Allawi's policies when he headed a transitional Iraqi government in 2004, but "we have no doubt that he would represent the interests of Iraq, not of Shi'ites or Sunnis or any other group."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Islam, the American way: Why the United States is fairer to Muslims than “Eurabia” is (The Economist, Aug 30th 2007)

IN PITTSBURGH, a Turkish group, pious but peaceful, decides to rethink its plans for an Islamic centre after an angry public hearing. In Clitheroe, a town in northern England, a plan to turn an ex-church into a mosque wins planning approval after seven failed bids. In Austria a far-rightist, Jörg Haider, grabs headlines by proposing that no mosques or minarets should be built in the province of Carinthia, where he is governor. In Memphis, Tennessee, Muslims manage to build a large cemetery despite local objections to their burial customs.

On the face of it, there is something similar about all these vignettes of inter-faith politics in the Western world. They all illustrate the strong emotions, and opportunistic electoral games, that are surfacing in many countries as Muslim minorities, increasingly prosperous and confident, aspire to build more mosques and other communal buildings. All these stories show the way in which whipped-up fears of a “clash of civilisations” can inflame the humdrum politics of a locality.

But there is a big transatlantic difference in the way such disputes are handled. Although America has plenty of Islam-bashers ready to play on people's fears, it offers better protection to the mosque builders. In particular, its constitution, legal system and political culture all generally take the side of religious liberty. America's tradition of freedom is rooted in the First Amendment, and its stipulation that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” Another recourse for embattled minorities of any kind is “Section 1983” of America's civil-rights legislation, which allows an individual who is deprived of a legal or constitutional right to sue the official responsible.

More important than the letter of the law is an ethos that leans in favour of religious communities which are “new” (to their neighbours) and simply want to practise their faith in a way that harms nobody. In America the tone of disputes over religious buildings (or cultural centres or cemeteries) is affected by everyone's presumption that if the issue went to the highest level, the cause of liberty would probably prevail.

Fascinating the way our worst impulses are still disciplined by the Founding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


The Youngest Brother's Tale: Harry Potter's grand finale: a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (Alan Jacobs, Books & Culture)

Nota Bene: Much that happens in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is revealed here.

A little more than a hundred years ago, a number of British educators, journalists, and intellectuals grew exercised about the reading habits of the nation's children. The particular target of their disapproval was the boy's adventure story—the kind of cheap short novel, full of exotic locations and narrow escapes from mortal peril and false friends and unexpected acts of heroism, that had come to be known as the "penny dreadful." Surely it could not be good for children to immerse themselves in these ill-made fictional worlds, with their formulaic plots and purple prose; surely we should insist that they learn to savor finer fare.

Then came riding into the fray a young man—twenty-five at the time—named Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who, though a journalist and an intellectual himself, repudiated the hand-wringing of his colleagues and planted his flag quite firmly in the camp of the penny dreadfuls: "There is no class of vulgar publications about which there is, to my mind, more utterly ridiculous exaggeration and misconception than the current boys' literature of the lowest stratum." Chesterton is perfectly happy to acknowledge that these books are not in the commendatory sense "literature," because "the simple need for some kind of ideal world in which fictitious persons play an unhampered part is infinitely deeper and older than the rules of good art, and much more important. Every one of us in childhood has constructed such an invisible dramatis personae, but it never occurred to our nurses to correct the composition by careful comparison with Balzac."

Nor should our nurses have done so, because what matters most about the penny dreadfuls is the soundness and accuracy of their moral compass, and their power of inspiring their readers to discern the significance of moral choice:

The vast mass of humanity, with their vast mass of idle books and idle words, have never doubted and never will doubt that courage is splendid, that fidelity is noble, that distressed ladies should be rescued, and vanquished enemies spared … . The average man or boy writes daily in these great gaudy diaries of his soul, which we call Penny Dreadfuls, a plainer and better gospel than any of those iridescent ethical paradoxes that the fashionable change as often as their bonnets.

And above all, what Chesterton loves about the penny dreadful is this: "It is always on the side of life."

I have been meditating on these thoughts in recent days, as I have scanned cyberspace for the many and varying responses to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final tale of the Boy Who Lived. It is a story full of exotic locations and narrow escapes from mortal peril and false friends and unexpected acts of heroism; it is a story which suggests that courage is splendid and fidelity noble. Of course, that's not enough for some people; and for others it's precisely the problem.

We already know that some Christians mistrust the Potter series because of its depictions of magic; we already know that some critics (Harold Bloom most prominent among them) deplore the books' lack of literary grace. But another and different set of critics has emerged here at the end of the series, for whom the evident traditionalism of the books is their greatest flaw. One of the participants in's Book Club thinks that the novel, and its epilogue in particular, "feels awfully bourgeois in its concern with little other than our heroes' marriages and children." (I did not know that concern for marriage and children was the exclusive province of the bourgeoisie; but that's why I read Slate, to learn stuff like that.) And as I scanned the blogs I lost track of the number of people who complained that the epilogue, and indeed the whole series, is defaced by "heteronormativity." Not a gay or lesbian couple in sight—though, if it makes anyone feel better, I have seen that a few readers of the previous book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, think that Harry's obsession with finding out what Draco Malfoy is up to marks a welcome homoerotic interlude.

What could one say in defense of these books, so unliterary, so unsophisticated in their morality and style, so bourgeois, so heteronormative? Perhaps only this: that J. K. Rowling has produced, in the vast, seven-book, thirty-five-hundred-page arc of Harry's story, the greatest penny dreadful ever written. [...]

It should be obvious at this point that the Harry Potter books amount to something more, far more, than your average penny dreadful. But they belong, firmly, to that moral universe, even as they expand it beyond what we might have thought possible. Many years ago Umberto Eco wrote that the greatness of Casablanca stems from its shameless deployment of every narrative cliché known to humankind: "Two clichés make us laugh. A hundred clichés move us. For we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion." The Harry Potter books are like that: every trope and trick of the penny dreadful raised to the highest power and revealed in all their glory.

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

[I] came upon what I still find the most exquisitely sorrowful moment in a book filled with exquisitely beautiful sorrow.

The wise and good Arwen, who has given up her elvish immortality to be the mortal Aragorn’s queen, is overcome at his deathbed and pleads for him to stay with her longer. He refuses, saying that it is right for him to go with good grace and before he grows feeble. Then he tells her:

I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men.

Arwen replies that she has no choice:

I must indeed abide the Doom of Men whether I will or nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Elves say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.

In this new and bitter knowledge, she goes away alone after Aragorn’s death, “the light of her eyes . . . quenched . . . cold and gray as nightfall that comes without a star.” She dies alone in the dead land of Lorien, where deathless Elves once lived.

For Arwen, otherwise infinitely wiser than we, death is the one unknown, a new and unexpected discovery. Aragorn knows better; he knows, as all mortals should, that comfort is impossible and even unworthy in the face of death. Yet he still holds fast to what Arwen has only known as an abstract theological tenet: that death is truly God’s gift.

I cry whenever I reread this passage; it haunts me like no other, though it’s hard to explain why. At the heart of it is the phrase “the gift of the One to Men.” Tolkien looks unblinkingly at “the loss and the silence” of death, but remains steadfast: death is our curse, but also our blessing.

He has hidden this particular tale away in an appendix, but the same idea of mortality permeates the whole book. The plot centers on a ring that gives immortality and corrupts its bearer. Much of the book’s character interest arises from the interactions between mortal and immortal races, who both mystify and fascinate each other. The structure of the work also echoes mortality itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


Terrorism Policies Split Democrats: Anger Mounts Within Party Over Inaction on Bush Tactics (Jonathan Weisman, August 30, 2007, Washington Post)

A growing clamor among rank-and-file Democrats to halt President Bush's most controversial tactics in the fight against terrorism has exposed deep divisions within the party, with many Democrats angry that they cannot defeat even a weakened president on issues that they believe should be front and center.

The Democrats' failure to rein in wiretapping without warrants, close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay or restore basic legal rights such as habeas corpus for terrorism suspects has opened the party's leaders to fierce criticism from some of their staunchest allies -- on Capitol Hill, among liberal bloggers and at interest groups.

Restore? Was a single German POW's petition for habeas corpus granted in WWII?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:50 PM


Cuba Will Forgo World Championships (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/30/07)

Cuba will not send a boxing team to the world championships in Chicago in October, heeding Fidel Castro’s fears about future defections after two fighters abandoned their teammates during the Pan American Games last month in Brazil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Boeing gets biggest European 737 order from Norweigan airline (AP, 8/30/07)

Norwegian Air Shuttle on Thursday announced a deal to buy 42 new Boeing 737-800 airliners worth $3.1 billion dollars, with an option to buy 42 more.

The low-cost airline, which operates under the name Norwegian, said the order is the biggest for 737 aircraft received by Boeing in Europe this year.

"These new aircraft will strengthen Norwegian's position in the Norwegian, Nordic and European markets," said the airline's managing director Bjoern Kjos. "These aircraft are also significantly more environmentally friendly than the ones we use today." ...]

Norwegian has rapidly expanded after changing its business model in 2002 from being a domestic commuter airline to a low-cost airline with destinations in Norway and abroad, challenging the Norwegian branch of the Scandinavian Airlines System, which then operated as SAS Braathens. Last year, Norwegian carried 5.1 million passengers. least not the ones trying to turn a profit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM


Belgium Taps Legislator to Defuse `Political Crisis' (James G. Neuger, Aug. 29, 2007, Bloomberg)

Belgium's king, warning of a ``political crisis,'' tapped the head of the lower house of Parliament to explore options for forming a new government after an 11-week standoff between French and Flemish parties spurred concerns that the country might break apart.

The head of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Yves Leterme, last week abandoned a bid to put together a coalition as French- speaking parties torpedoed demands for the transfer of more power to Flanders, the country's wealthier northern region.

With Belgium lacking a new government almost three months after national elections, the king described the deadlock as a ``crisis,'' and a poll showed that fewer than a third of Belgians are certain that the country will still exist in 10 years.

Another one of FDR's quagmires.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


Eastern Europe faces generation crisis (Judy Dempsey, August 30, 2007, NY Times)

Just as the governments of Eastern Europe are grappling with the labor shortage caused by young, educated and skilled citizens moving West for higher wages, economists are warning of an even more serious crisis looming: The average age of those left behind is going up, and fewer are working.

The two trends are bumping up against each other in a way that will pose immense challenges, economists say. The labor shortage will make it hard to sustain the high economic growth levels of recent years, but without such growth, cash-strapped governments will be hard-pressed to pay for the demands of an aging population - especially with fewer and fewer people contributing to the pension and health systems.

"Eastern Europe, along with the former Soviet Union, will by 2025 have populations that are among the oldest in the world," said Arup Banerji, human development economics manager at the World Bank. "The heart of the matter is this combination of the skilled labor shortage and the demographic trends."

And folks wonder why Iraqis, Palestinians, etc. don't want to adopt the continental European model?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


Wanted Taliban leader killed in raid (Sayed Salahuddin, 8/30/07, Reuters)

A wanted Taliban insurgent leader in Afghanistan, Mullah Brother, was killed on Thursday in a U.S.-led raid in the southern province of Helmand, the Afghan Defence Ministry said, citing ground commanders.

Brother served as a top military commander for the Taliban government until its removal from power in 2001 and was a member of the movement's leadership council led by its fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

We kill their commanders--they don't get ours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


Getting Vietnam Right (Mark Moyar, 8/30/2007, American Spectator)

In the past week, the criticisms swirling around the President's VFW speech have provided much less insight into the President or the speech than into the critics. Rather than address the speech's central issue -- the 1975 debate over the ramifications of abandoning Vietnam -- these individuals have tried to push their own views on Iraq by mentioning other aspects of Vietnam. Emblematic of the attackers was Senator John Kerry, who said that the President's comparison of Vietnam with Iraq was "irresponsible" and "ignorant of the realities of both of those wars." Kerry explained that in Iraq, as in Vietnam, "more American soldiers are being sent to fight and die in a civil war we can't stop and an insurgency we can't bomb into submission." Senator Ted Kennedy, another opponent of both wars, backed this interpretation with the comment that the United States lost the Vietnam War because the South Vietnamese government "lacked sufficient legitimacy with its people."

Kerry and Kennedy missed key facts about Vietnam, some of them long obvious, others newly emerged from historical studies. The New York Times and NBC News and CNN and so on missed them, too, because they chose to rely on outdated historians or their own prejudices. The insurgency in Vietnam was dead by 1971, thanks to South Vietnam's armed forces, America's forces, and a South Vietnamese civilian population that overwhelmingly viewed the South Vietnamese government as legitimate. During 1972, after all American combat units had departed, South Vietnamese forces defeated a massive North Vietnamese invasion with the help of American air power. The so-called Christmas bombing of 1972 bombed North Vietnam into submission, resulting in a peace treaty. Had the antiwar Congress not slashed aid to South Vietnam and prohibited the use of American aircraft over Vietnamese skies, the South Vietnamese probably could have repulsed the North Vietnamese when they violated the peace treaty in 1975.

If the Left could accept the reality of South Vietnam, that it was succeeding after we withdrew and fell only after they stabbed it in the back, they'd have a powerful historical argument for withdrawing our troops from Iraq but maintaining assistance to the popular Shi'a and Kurdish governments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


BJP's rethinking on n-deal isolates the Left (Amulya Ganguli, August 30, 2007, Rediff)

Perhaps realising that the Bharatiya Janata Party was unnecessarily alienating the middle class by opposing the nuclear deal, L K Advani has now decided to change tack. It's not full support to the measure yet. That would have been too much of a climbdown, which would have left Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie high and dry -- the fate of all those who try to be more loyal than the king. So, a few caveats have been entered, such as ensuring India's strategic independence and an assurance of uninterrupted fuel supply.

But, even then, there is enough of a turnaround to confirm that the BJP had initially opposed the pact without much thought. Evidently, it was something of a reflexive action common to virtually all Indian Opposition parties, which take their task of opposing the government far too literally. The BJP's earlier grouses against VAT are a case in point. In the present instance, the party practically joined hands with the Left to create the impression, which the comrades conveniently exploited, that a majority in the Lok Sabha was against the agreement.

The BJP might have taken this unwise step because it felt that if the government succeeded in pushing ahead with the deal without too much difficulty, it would run well ahead of its opponents by winning over nearly the entire middle and upper classes. It would thereby deprive the BJP of large segments of what it had come to regard as its natural constituency. It is a loss which the party cannot sustain, especially in its present state of disarray, where the old order comprising Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, is refusing to fade away while the new order -- Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj -- is yet to take its place. So, if it let the government clinch the deal, the BJP will have to say farewell to any hope of returning to power in the foreseeable future.

However, before it could inflict too much damage on itself, the BJP decided to change course by saying it was all right for India to be a strategic partner of the US. How far this latest stance will help it regain lost ground is difficult to say, but at least the party can no longer be accused of hypocrisy. If it had laid itself open to this charge, it was because of the fact that for long periods in its history, starting from the Jan Sangh days, it was regarded as pro-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century (American Rhetoric)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


IAEA: Iranian Cooperation Significant (GEORGE JAHN, 8/30/07, AP)

The U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday that Iran was producing less nuclear fuel than expected and praised Tehran for "a significant step forward" in explaining past atomic actions that have raised suspicions. [...]

[T]he report confirmed that Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program, reflecting the Islamic republic's defiance of the U.N. Security Council. Still, U.N. officials said, both enrichment and the building of a plutonium-producing reactor was continuing more slowly than expected.

Luckily, the genuine state of an enemy's WMD program is immaterial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


'If he is a terrorist, kill him,' says Shahid's father (Sheela Bhatt, August 30, 2007, Rediff)

"Kambakhat bhag gaya hai (the wretched fellow has run away)," says Mohmmad Abdul Waheed , father of Shahid alias Bilal, while talking exclusively to

Shahid is suspected to be the mastermind behind the bomb blasts in Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and, although it is not yet confirmed, investigators suspect his involvement in last Saturday's twin bomb blasts as well. [...]

Shahid's family has been living in Moosrambagh in the Malakpet area of Hyderabad for the last 40 years. It is a mixed locality comprising middle-class Hindus and Muslims. There are no ghettos here nor is there any sign of alienation of the minority community. People who directed this reporter to Shahid's home were not looking tense. Waheed's father was in the police force and for many generations the family lived in the Telangana area of Andhra Pradesh.

On seeing me, he did not try to avoid me nor was he reluctant to face questions.

He said, "I am a Sunni Muslim but I am neither a Tablighi (member of the conservative Tablighi Jamaat) nor linked to any other such outfits."

He says Shahid, like him and other family members, performed namaz five times a day. "I feel ashamed that I could not give my children better education, I made them study in Urdu schools. But you know how these Urdu schools are run." [...]

When asked what he would do if his son is found guilty, he says, "Then don't spare him. We are born here. We are happy to be Indian. We live in this land and we don't want anything done to this land. If he is a terrorist kill him."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


U.S. 2nd qtr growth upgraded to 4.0%+ (AP, 8/30/07)

The U.S. economy grew an annualized real 4.0 percent in the second quarter of 2007, up from an initially estimated 3.4 percent and hitting the highest growth since the first quarter of 2006, the Commerce Department said in a revised report Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Myanmar junta fails to quell protests (Seth Mydans, August 30, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Linking arms for mutual support, grim in the face of plain-clothes paramilitary gangs, small groups of protesters in Myanmar have staged street demonstrations for nearly two weeks in the most sustained defiance of the junta in a decade.

The protests have dwindled in size since they began on Aug. 19, but to the surprise of outside analysts, they have continued to erupt in several parts of the country.

They do not appear to be centrally organized and have continued despite the arrests of a number of activist leaders.

The authorities are hunting down opposition figures and have reportedly told hotels and guest houses to notify them of their presence.

"A week and a half ago people were saying the protests didn't have that much future," said Dave Mathieson, an expert on Myanmar with Human Rights Watch in Thailand. "But they are starting to spread, and they are continuing in Rangoon."

It's always shameful when freedom is on the march and we aren't at least following.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Sarkozy promises more tax cuts and labor market reform (The Associated Press, August 30, 2007)

President Nicolas Sarkozy promised Thursday to press for further tax cuts and labor market reform to create jobs and stimulate France's flagging economy.

The pledge from Sarkozy, who took office in May, amounted to a second round of proposed economic measures. Parliament approved a first set of reforms in a special session last month.

In a speech to French business leaders, Sarkozy called for reforming the unemployment system, urged changes in European Central Bank policy and criticized France's 35-hour work week law, which he said needs to be changed.

The 35-hour work week is an "immense economic mistake," he said.

He forgot to pan the metric system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM


To vote or not to vote: Pressure grows for a plebiscite on Europe (The Economist, Aug 30th 2007)

IT WAS always assumed that Tony Blair's most troublesome bequest to his successor would be the war in Iraq. Serious competition, however, is coming from his promise in 2004 to hold a referendum on a proposed new constitution for the European Union. Buried after voters in France and the Netherlands rejected it, the constitution was replaced in June by a truncated draft reform treaty. Pressure is growing for a plebiscite on the new version.

Gordon Brown, anxious to avoid a referendum that he would probably lose, is strictly correct that Mr Blair's promise was to hold a vote on an EU constitution, and that the treaty is not a constitution. It amends, rather than replaces, existing EU treaties, hence the tortuous legalese with which it refers to particular articles of the older documents. But the content is little different. The removal of the preamble and references to the EU flag and anthem, as well as the relegation of the charter of fundamental rights to an annexe, are cosmetic changes. Furthermore, other European heads of government seem sure that the treaty is a constitution in all but name, as is the father of the original document, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

What should alarm the prime minister is that suspicion of the treaty is not limited to a small EU-bashing sect on the right of the Conservative Party. Ian Davidson, a backbench Labour MP, estimates that as many as 120 of his colleagues on the government benches want a referendum. Some ministers, including Jack Straw, the justice secretary, are thought to be sympathetic. Several large trade unions also favour a vote. On top of all this, some Liberal Democrat MPs, cross that the party is seen as impulsively pro-Brussels, are reportedly urging their leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, to back a referendum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Free Songs: Get Him Eat Him (Daytrotter Sessions, 30 August 2007)

-BAND SITE: Get Him Eat Him
-MYSPACE: Get Him Eat Him
-Artist of the Day: Get Him Eat Him (Peter Gaston, August 1, 2005, Spin)
-REVIEW: Get Him Eat Him Arms Down (Dan Raper, 6/05/07, PopMatters)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


Dean Fearing's Queso Fresco Mashed Potatoes (JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS, 8/29/07, The Dallas Morning News)


6 russet potatoes, peeled

5 tablespoons butter (divided use)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot, minced

2 ears yellow corn (kernels sliced from cob)

3 ounces queso fresco or San Pedro Cheese (Lucky Layla Farms, Plano)

1 pint half-and-half (or less, to taste)

Salt, to taste

Place potatoes in large pot and cover with water. Bring water to boil. Reduce to simmer; cook potatoes for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain.

Place potatoes in large bowl and mash by hand for homestyle (slightly lumpy) mashed potatoes, or with an electric mixer for smoothness.

Bring medium sauté pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add garlic and sauté until very light brown, about 1 minute.

Add shallot; sauté for 1 minute. Add corn kernels and sauté for 2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and add mixture to mashed potatoes. Fold in cheese. Stir to combine well; taste for seasoning.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter. Add melted butter.

Slowly add up to 1 pint half-and-half, stirring well so consistency is not too thin. Add salt to taste, and stir.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Brining adds flavor to chicken breasts (Dallas Morning News, August 29, 2007)

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, each cut in half

4 cups cold water

1 tablespoon table salt

Nonstick cooking spray

Place the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to pound them to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch.

Combine the cold water and salt and stir until the salt is dissolved and the mixture is clear. Put the chicken breasts into a large zip-top plastic bag and pour the saltwater mixture into the bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Remove the chicken from the bag, and pat it dry with paper towels.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Have the grill completely heated as soon as the brining is done, and coat the grate with cooking spray.

Grill the chicken breasts for about 6 minutes, then flip them and cook them about 5 to 6 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 F. Makes 4 servings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Bitterness Lingers 2 Years After Katrina (MARY FOSTER, 8/30/07, Associated Press)

James Chaney spent the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina doing what he's been doing since the killer storm crashed ashore—working on a damaged home.

"My house is pretty close to being done, now we're trying to get my sister home," said Chaney, 39. "Thank God for family and friends. If it wasn't for them nobody would ever get back here."

Two years after Katrina hit, a storm of bitterness and anger has yet to clear. While memorials were held to mark the day, residents fumed about the government's response and marched to demand help.

"We want people to know that nothing is being done to help people here," said Samuel Banks, 40, as he marched with about 1,000 other protesters Wednesday. "How can the city rebuild if nobody has money or jobs?"

...two years later, folks are still bitter at the feds over their own choice to live below sea level in a hurricane zone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Easy makeovers for the grilled cheese sandwich (J.M. HIRSCH, 8/29/07, The Associated Press)

The simplicity and speed with which this classic sandwich can be assembled makes it a natural for a low-labor dinner after a long day. On its own, it's great any time of year. Paired with a bowl of tomato soup, it's perfect comfort food. [...]

•Don't forget meat. Some thinly sliced deli meats, or shredded cooked chicken breast, go well with virtually any cheese, take no extra time and help turn the sandwich into a hearty meal.

•Bacon is divine. Cook a few strips in a skillet, then remove them from the pan, but don't drain the grease from it. Add the bacon to the sandwich and use the drippings as the fat for grilling the sandwich. Not healthy, but delicious.

•Even if bacon isn't your thing, don't automatically reach for butter. Experiment with oils such as peanut and sesame, which will lend savory, nutty flavors to the bread.

•Roll with this one: peanut butter and cheddar cheese. A little bit of each will create a warm, oozing delicious mess.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Cities in the dust (C.B. LIDDELL, 8/29/07, The Japan Times)

The Fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco wasn't everyone's cup of tea — but he did manage the unusual feat of transcending time.

Franco's restoration of the old aristocracy and the Catholic Church in Spain effectively turned the clock back, while his restrictive economic policies helped preserve Spain as a timeless land of beautifully aged buildings and clear brilliant skies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Anne-Sophie Mutter's Journey to Mozart (Fred Child, American Public Media, July 19, 2007 · Classical Sessions)

There's nothing quite like seeing and hearing a masterful violinist and pianist engaged in musical conversation right in front of you in a studio. Add to that the opportunity to talk with them about the music and their careers, and you've got a radio host's dream come true.

That was the case when violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis came by our studios to play Mozart. The two have been making music together for nearly 20 years and their long-standing musical relationship shows. [...]

Lately, Mutter has returned to Mozart. She's been rediscovering all of the composer's major works for the violin. With Lambert Orkis, Mutter has been on tour playing Mozart's Violin Sonatas. The two stopped by the Performance Today studio to play selections from some of their favorite sonatas.

-Anne-Sophie Mutter (St. Paul Sunday)
-PLAYING BEETHOVEN (The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript, April 28, 1998)

August 29, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Study: Democrats Get More A.M. Airtime (DAVID BAUDER, 8/29/07, AP)

A media watchdog organization charged Wednesday that the network morning news shows have spent considerably more time this year on Democrats running for president than on Republicans.

Men are in their cars listening to conservative talk radio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


The war against Iraq's prime minister: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin are calling for Nouri al-Maliki's ouster as a way of attacking Bush's Iraq policy. But do they understand the consequences? (Juan Cole, Aug. 29, 2007, Salon)

Levin started the latest round of Maliki bashing a week ago Monday, saying, "I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government." Clinton piled on two days later, saying that the Maliki government "cannot produce a political settlement, because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders." She added, "I share Senator Levin's hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister al-Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks."

By the time Clinton spoke, President Bush had worsened the situation with some injudicious, impromptu remarks, admitting, "I think there's a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general, inability to ... come together to get, for example, an oil revenue law passed or provincial elections." Journalists understandably thought he might be giving up on Maliki -- not at all his intended message, according to what I was told by someone with inside knowledge of the administration's Iraq policy. The president was constrained to clarify later that he thought Maliki a "good man" with "a difficult job" and said he supported him. He underscored his support with Tuesday's laudatory speech before the American Legion.

Some of the charges against the prime minister are true. Maliki had neglected to reach out to the Sunni Arabs in his national unity government. But Sunni demands, which included the rehabilitation of Baathists and the release of large numbers of detainees suspected of involvement in guerrilla actions, were often unpalatable to Maliki.

Some of the charges are based on a misreading of Iraq. Sen. Warner, for one, made several misstatements about Maliki during his appearance on "Meet the Press." "You've got to remember," he insisted, "that the Maliki government, Shia interests, are very closely aligned with Iran." He added that the Shiites, having gotten to the "top of the hill," are "[reluctant] to give up a fair share to the Sunnis, to the Kurds ... Unless you have a unity government between those three factions, Iraq will not become a strong sovereign nation."

Warner is wrong to imply that Maliki's Shiite government has bad relations with the Kurds. In fact, the Kurdistan Alliance is what keeps Maliki in power, given that two major Shiite factions have quit his governing coalition. Likewise, Warner doesn't grasp the role of Iran. Maliki is less close to Iran than his predecessor, Ibrahim Jaafari, was. Warner does not understand the Islamic Call Party or its history as an Iraqi nationalist organization with a Shiite emphasis.

And the pressure now coming from Congress to replace Maliki is also unlikely to produce positive change. Although any 55 parliamentarians may introduce a vote of no confidence, at this point it's hard to see how Maliki's Iraqi critics could overcome their own divisions to form the majority vote needed to unseat him. Nor is there an obvious, tested alternative who would have more chance of achieving Bush's benchmarks, which include provincial elections, changes in the harsh de-Baathification laws that have excluded many Sunni Arabs from public life, and a new law specifying equitable distribution of oil income. Former appointed interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has hired a fancy Washington public relations firm and is among four politicians aiming to bring down Maliki and take his place. But Allawi, an ex-Baathist, Shiite secularist and old-time CIA asset, only has 25 seats in parliament and does not have the popularity to come to power by democratic means.

If parliament brought down Maliki, it would not choose his successor directly. By the constitution, President Jalal Talabani would have to go to the single largest bloc in parliament (still the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance) and ask it to choose a prime minister. The new choice would come either from Maliki's Islamic Call Party or from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. SIIC is much closer to the ayatollahs in Tehran than Maliki is, and much less likely to compromise with the Sunni Arabs.

...that the Left and the Realists are indeed pro-Baath and anti-Shi'ite?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 PM


Barbecued Cowboy Steaks (Contra Costa Times, 8/29/07)


2 tablespoons sea salt

2 teaspoons Ancho powder

2 teaspoons dried granulated garlic

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground dried thyme


Four 1-pound, 2-inch-thick, bone-in rib-eye steaks

1. Combine all the rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly blended. Season the steaks with the barbeque rub by sprinkling it all over and then pressing it in. Allow the meat to sit for 30 minutes to come to room temperature.

2. Light charcoal or mesquite chunks in a starter chimney. Pour the hot coal into your grill. Maintain a hot fire (around 350 degrees) and place the meat as far above the coals as possible until it's nicely browned. Douse flare-ups with a squirt bottle.

3. When the steaks are nicely marked by the hot grill, move them away from the coals to a spot in your barbecue pit where they can cook indirectly until they reach the desired doneness. Remove them from the grill when they are slightly firm to the touch, or between 135-140 degrees for medium rare, 145 for medium, and 155 for medium well. The meat will continue to cook after it is removed, so allow it to rest before carving.

How To ... Create meat rubs: As promised on Wednesday, here are more recipes to make your own meat rubs. (Seattle PI, 8/29/07)


Makes: 1/4 cup

2 tablespoons ground ancho, New Mexico or other mild chili, or a couple of whole dried mild chilies

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

Put all ingredients in a small skillet and turn heat to medium. Toast, occasionally shaking pan, until mixture is fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Grind in a spice or coffee grinder until powdery. Store in a tightly covered container for up to several weeks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM


Potato skins retro, but great (, August 29, 2007)

6 large russet potatoes (about 3-3/4 lb), scrubbed
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 green onions, finely chopped
3 slices bacon, finely chopped
8 oz cheese, such as cheddar, gruyère or feta, shredded
Freshly ground pepper

PREPARATION: Prick potatoes all over with fork. Bake directly on rack in preheated 400F oven until cooked through and crisp on the outside, about 45 to 60 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, cut lengthwise into 4 wedges. Using spoon, scoop out most of flesh to form boat-shaped shells, leaving 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch potato lining. (Reserve excess potato for another use, such as mashed potatoes.)

Raise oven temperature to 450F. Place skins on baking sheet. Brush insides with butter. Bake 5 minutes or until browned.

Meanwhile, in small skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain; discard fat. Transfer bacon to paper towel to drain.

To assemble, season skins with pepper. Top with equal portions cheese, onions and bacon. Bake 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Zucchini-walnut bread (Mara Zepeda, August 29, 2007, Boston Globe)

Butter (for the pans)
Flour (for the pans)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans, then sprinkle them with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

3. In another bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, zucchini, and vanilla.

4. Stir zucchini mixture into the flour mixture until well blended. Fold in the nuts.

5. Divide the batter between the two pans. Transfer to the middle of the oven. Bake the loaves for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaves comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out and set right side up to cool completely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


Red Rover, Red Rover, Tag's All Over (AP, 8/29/07)

An elementary school has banned tag on its playground after some children complained they were harassed or chased against their will.

"It causes a lot of conflict on the playground," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus school.

Just before the Judds moved out of East Orange, where schools had reached over 90% black, a popular playground game was called "Get Whitey."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


Two Professors Fail To Clean Up Their Act (IRA STOLL, August 29, 2007, NY Sun)

In this latest iteration, the professors have tried to clean up their act — but only on the surface. The "Lobby" has been revised to the lowercase "lobby." Gone in this new presentation is much of the inflammatory rhetoric — the verb "manipulate," the term "stranglehold," the accusation that AIPAC is a foreign agent rather than an American interest group. The new version of this argument, with its stamp of approval from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, may be more acceptable for sale at a Barnes & Noble near you, for open discourse in the New York Times, on National Public Radio, and at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But from beneath the surface, try though the professors may have to suppress it, what Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt themselves define as anti-Semitism manages to poke through. The professors write that "anti-Semitism indulges in various forms of stereotyping and implies that Jews should be viewed with suspicion or contempt, while seeking to deny them the ability to participate fully and freely in all realms of society." They are at pains to emphasize that "the lobby is defined not by ethnicity or religion but by a political agenda." Then they proceed to jump in and do exactly what they say anti-Semites do.

What are we to make of the professors' classification of the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, as a supporter of Israel in part on the basis that "Dean's wife is Jewish and his children were raised Jewish as well"? Or of the assertion that "Christian Zionists exert less impact on U.S. Middle East policy than the other parts of the Israel lobby do," because the Christians "lack the financial power of the major pro-Israel Jewish groups, and they do not have the same media presence"?

Instead of the charge that the Jews or the "Lobby" are "manipulating" the press, the new, cleaned-up, book version of Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer asserts that, "If the media were left to their own devices, they would not serve up as consistent a diet of pro-Israel coverage and commentary." Left unexplained is exactly whose devices the press has been left to, if not their own.

To be fair to the professors, there aren't many areas where the media presents views that are in accord with 70% of the American people (their consumers) as they do in being pro-Israel, if they are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


Liberty & Security for All?: a review of Security First by Amitai Etzioni (JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN, August 29, 2007, NY Sun)

One doesn't usually write a book on current affairs unless one is exercised about something and Mr. Etzioni is mightily exercised in "Security First" (Yale University Press, 338 pages, $27). He thinks America has gone off the rails with an excess of democratic enthusiasm; indeed, he pronounces the policy of pushing democratization abroad a failure. Liberal interventionism, he believes, misconstrues matters by equating the spread of democratization with enhanced prospects for peace and security. But democracy, Mr. Etzioni insists, "does not beget security."

By contrast, Mr. Etzioni's "Security First" foreign policy — and it should be noted that the architects of the foreign policy Mr. Etzioni opposes would cavil at the suggestion that they have not put security first — would require America to eschew officially any plan to overthrow rogue governments and to ignore relatively "minor" threats. At the same time, his plan would require us to take the lead headfirst in the Rwandas and Darfurs of the world where security needs were, and are, ignored and another of Mr. Etzioni's first principles, "Primacy of Life," is violated in systematic and egregious ways. Basic security for all, he claims, does not mean democratic or constitutional regimes for all. The world will resist our attempts to democratize it but happily go along with our efforts to "provide security for one and all." This is a rather amazing conviction and a formidable challenge: How on earth do you focus on security for all, assuming it is in America's best interest? And on what grounds can one proffer reassurances that the world will welcome our "security for all efforts" with open arms?

Mr. Etzioni subsumes American national interest under service to the common good of a global community. He construes this as the vehicle to move from a "pragmatic and realistic foreign policy into one that is also principled and legitimate." At present, American foreign policy suffers from what Mr. Etzioni calls "Multiple Realism Deficiency Disorder," which invites us to get many important matters backwards. Putting democracy before security is but the most glaring example. But I am hard pressed to think of an American president or administration that put democratic initiatives abroad before American security needs.

What does "Security First" entail? Mr. Etzioni answers: freedom from deadly violence, maiming, and torture. Where is this security lacking? Primarily in failed states, in newly liberated states, and in the Middle East.

It is the founding premise of Brothers Judd that all of human thought, history, art, and affairs comes down to one simple question: where do you strike the balance between freedom and security?

The impulse towards both exists in every human being. Our differences are just about which is stronger and how much so.

In general, the problem with the security extremist vision (which Mr. Etzioni appears to advocate here) is that, for most people, the sacrifice of freedom it requires makes absolute security unattractive to most people. In particular, this vision is antithetical to Judeo-Christianity and, thus, to the American Republic. A foreign policy that would tend to prefer that, for example, the Poles be left in the grip of a totalitarianism that provided maximal physical security rather than seeking to help them emerge into an admittedly messy new liberation can never be sold to the vast majority of Americans, who remain faithful to Christianity on the religious front and the ideals of the Founding on the political.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Books for boys (Linda Wilson Fuoco, August 29, 2007, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

One of the keys to getting boys to read is to find books, magazines and newspapers that interest them.

There are many book lists on the Internet. One that comes highly recommended by many people, including Susan Claus, a librarian at Northland Public Library in Ross, is It was founded by Jon Scieszka, who is the author of popular children's books, including "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


You hate being affluent? Then swap with us: A Ghanaian filmmaker who toured the UK with a documentary on debt relief was shocked to find so many Britons down on development. (De Roy Kwesi Andrew, 8/29/07, spiked)

I was particularly stunned by two big supermarkets called Tesco and Asda. I was amazed to see so many varieties of food from different countries at affordable prices, all in one shop and kept in hygienic conditions. In Ghana, one has to wander around every nook and cranny of local markets just to gather basic ingredients - and they’re expensive. There’s none of the convenience of readymade food, which is affordable for most people in Britain. Why don’t NGOs campaign for Ghanaians to have easy access to cheap and nutritious food?

In people’s homes in the UK there are washing and drying machines for dishes and clothes. There are freezers and widescreen televisions. Many Ghanaians trek daily for miles, scrambling for firewood, water and foodstuff, carrying heavy loads on our heads and our backs. Yet scientific, technological and industrial developments have given our peers in the West enviable and unparalleled freedom, choices and opportunities in life. The labour-intensive work in Ghana is intolerable.

Given all of the conveniences that exist, it is not surprising that people in London seem to sleep very little. The bars, pubs, clubs and cinemas fill up in the evenings. People wine, dine and dance through the night, enjoying themselves with their friends and loved ones. In Ghana we rarely have time for such entertainment. When our daily activities consist of so much unproductive manual labour, how can we have time over for leisure? I never saw my father taking a stroll with any of his four children, let alone going on holiday. It was not because he didn’t love us or did not desire to do those things, but because there was no money and there was no spare time for relaxing activities. Lack of development in Ghana has denied us the vital pleasures and comforts of life; our activities are geared towards survival.

Yet, as I started my speaking tour in British schools, colleges and universities to promote the WORLDwrite documentary Damned By Debt Relief, which was filmed in Ghana and which I worked on, it soon became clear that all that glitters is not gold. The great ideas that spurred on pioneers to make life easier, more bountiful and pleasurable for those in the West are now under attack. The culprits in the dock are affluence, ambition, science and technology - and strangely, the jury prosecuting these benefits of modern life are those who already have and enjoy them.

I was surprised by the views of some quite cynical audience members during a discussion of affluence at the Battle of Ideas, a festival of debate in central London at the end of last year. This was the first time I heard the suggestion that flying abroad should be rationed, or worse still, banned. The denunciation of material comfort is so widespread in the West that even schoolchildren seem to think affluence is an evil. Many people I met in Britain told me that there is less happiness and laughter in British society due to economic development. Some said that Africans are happier than Brits even though they are poorer. I thought that freedom from toil was the centrepiece of economic development, handing anybody the ability to unleash their potential and gain unlimited opportunities: most people in Britain have that freedom; we in Ghana do not.

If Westerners are not happy with such great things, perhaps they should swap with us Africans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


The Death of Jazz: a review of Coltrane: The Story of a Sound
by Ben Ratliff (Ben Hughes, Esquire)

The jazz critic for the New York Times, Ratliff is engaging and opinionated throughout, picking up the loose strands of Coltrane's myth and weaving them back into the sturdy line of his music. But better yet, at 272 pages, he's a great editor. Whereas most jazz writing is like most jazz -- too long, too wanky, too dense -- Ratliff learned an important lesson from his subject: Sometimes a few well-chosen notes are more powerful than a barrage of impenetrable sound.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


That may even top the Pips.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Many Soul Legends on Wattstax Soundtrack Reissue: Too damn many to cram into a headline, that's for sure (Pitchfork, 8/22/07)

In the early 70s, Stax Records boasted a roster that comprised a heaping portion of the important funk, soul, and R&B artists of the pre-disco era. And so, with all that talent under a single roof, they held a huge concert in the summer of 1972 right in the center of the then riot-torn Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, an event that history often fondly remembers as "the black Woodstock."

Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays, Rufus Thomas, and oh-so-many others threw down on the stage of the Los Angeles Coliseum to a crowd numbering in the six digits. The concert became a film, and the film became a soundtrack, both entitled Wattstax. Now Wattstax is back, flipping the original two LPs into a jam-packed 3CD set featuring 47 tracks culled from the concert itself and select performances that took place in the week running up to the event.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


GOP Senators Say Craig Should Resign (DAVID ESPO, 8/29/07, AP)

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's political support eroded significantly Wednesday as three fellow Republicans in Congress called for his resignation and party leaders pushed him from senior committee posts.

The White House expressed its disappointment, too—and nary a word of support for the 62-year-old lawmaker, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge stemming from an undercover police operation in an airport men's room.

Good luck though finding a non-squirrely Idahoan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Get Well Soon: A wellness program can help your company save money on health-care costs (Business Week, 9/03/07)

Skyrocketing health insurance premiums were ruining the bottom line of Coral Chemical, a $20 million, 90-employee company in Zion, Ill. "The only way to control costs was cut benefits or make the employees pay more," says CEO John Schueneman, who couldn't bring himself to do either. "I was in a horrible losing situation for years."

Schueneman eventually found a different fix. First he switched to a high-deductible health plan. Then he adopted his insurer's wellness program, offering free health screenings and group walks to his employees. Schueneman's premiums now are 4% below where they would be without the program. "We've been able to get employees thinking about health, offer really rich benefits, and still save money," he says.

Wellness programs run the gamut from employer-sponsored group fitness activities and healthy cafeteria food to formal activities linked to an insurance plan. Destiny Health, Schueneman's carrier, has offered a wellness program bundled into its high-deductible insurance plan since 2001. UnitedHealth Group is testing a high-deductible plan paired with a wellness program for companies with 100 to 1,000 employees and plans to offer it to smaller companies in 2008.

High-deductible health plans, however, have their critics. These programs pair deductibles of up to $11,000 for a family with lower premiums. Employees can pay their health-care bills out of individual health savings accounts (HSAs), to which they or their employer may contribute money tax-free. But unless a plan is linked to an active wellness program and proper education, an employee may end up with debt rather than savings. And wellness programs need significant incentives and active leadership to be successful.

Done well, though, the combination can sharply lower expenses. Companies sponsoring wellness programs saw a 30% reduction in medical and absenteeism costs within 3.6 years, according to a 2005 survey by industry publication The Art of Health Promotion. And the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) found a $24 return for every $1 a small company spent on a comprehensive program.

Strange that congressional Democrats are trying to deny children these wealth building and cost-cutting types of programs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Skilled Immigrants? No Thanks: Germany is lagging behind other major industrialized countries in its efforts to attract skilled workers. While other nations see highly qualified immigrants as a benefit, Germany regards them more as a threat -- and is setting the hurdles as high as it can. (Michael Sauga, 8/29/07, Der Spiegel)

Ironically, just as the German economy embarks on its strongest boom in years, the country is on the verge of spoiling its own future by making it difficult for German companies to hire foreign nationals. Every other major industrialized country in the world may be competing for a limited supply of highly skilled specialists, but in Germany -- which currently ranks as the world's leading export nation -- political parties are determined to satisfy the growing demand for highly skilled specialists mainly from a shrinking domestic labor supply.

The German government failed to make any significant changes to the status quo at last week's brainstorming meeting in the eastern German town of Meseberg. And while the administration plans to make a few adjustments to the new immigration act, which recently became law after years of heated debate, the changes are minor.

One of the changes is the coalition government's decision to make it slightly easier for Eastern European engineers and foreign university graduates to move to Germany. But, at the same time, the measures were tied to so many conditions and limitations that they will likely attract very few highly qualified workers to Germany in the future. The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) called it merely a "small step in the right direction."

In principle, Berlin's grand coalition is holding fast to a failed immigration policy that has long made experts shake their heads in disbelief. For decades, many of the foreigners who were allowed to immigrate were barely literate in their native language -- let alone German -- and soon became burdens on Germany's social welfare system. At the same time, the government set high hurdles for eminently qualified would-be immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asia.

In the international technology race, Germany resembles a sprinter who decides to attach lead weights to his shoes shortly before the start. While other industrialized nations lure highly qualified foreign workers with tax benefits and recruitment incentives, and while tens of thousands of well-educated Germans emigrate each year, the country is doing its best to discourage qualified workers from even attempting to immigrate.

The regulations are so unrealistic that even the country's leading exporters are increasingly running into problems with German immigration law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Should We Be Worried About Russia and China Ganging Up on the West?: Probably not. Here's why. (Ian Bremmer, Aug. 29, 2007, Slate)

First, Russia is one of the world's leading exporters of oil and gas. China's demand for both has grown enormously in recent years—and will continue to rise as its economy expands. The two countries are building a solid buyer-seller energy relationship.

But the differences in their foreign-policy goals emerge when we remember that Russia needs high energy prices, while China would like to see them fall. So many international conflicts today have potential implications for energy prices that Russia and China will frequently find themselves on different sides of key issues. [...]

Second, China's economic and military expansion inspires dread among Moscow's military and security elite, which fears, among other things, that Russia's resource-rich Far East could eventually become a zone of intense Sino-Russian competition. There are some 18 million ethnic Russians in Siberia; there are now about 300 million Chinese across the border in China's northern provinces.

As Russians leave the sparsely populated eastern territories in search of opportunities in the country's increasingly prosperous cities, waves of (mostly illegal) Chinese migrants are moving in. The trend is likely to intensify, feeding an anti-Chinese xenophobia that has existed in Russia for centuries. The risk of interethnic violence is bound to grow, complicating relations between the two governments.

Third, state-owned Chinese firms have expressed interest in buying increasing volumes of Russian equities. Russia will happily accept the cash, but the Kremlin is loath to accept investment that gives any foreign power a stake in the so-called strategic sectors of the Russian economy.

More important--who cares? To the extent they think "ganging up" helps them they avoid facing their existential internal problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Through Analysis, Gut Reaction Gains Credibility (CLAUDIA DREIFUS, 8/29/07, NY Times)

Two years ago, when Malcolm Gladwell published his best-selling “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” readers throughout the world were introduced to the ideas of Gerd Gigerenzer, a German social psychologist.

Dr. Gigerenzer, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, is known in social science circles for his breakthrough studies on the nature of intuitive thinking. Before his research, this was a topic often dismissed as crazed superstition. Dr. Gigerenzer, 59, was able to show how aspects of intuition work and how ordinary people successfully use it in modern life. [...]

Q: O.K., let’s start with basics: what is a gut feeling?

A: It’s a judgment that is fast. It comes quickly into a person’s consciousness. The person doesn’t know why they have this feeling. Yet, this is strong enough to make an individual act on it. What a gut instinct is not is a calculation. You do not fully know where it comes from.

My research indicates that gut feelings are based on simple rules of thumb, what we psychologists term “heuristics.” These take advantage of certain capacities of the brain that have come down to us through time, experience and evolution. Gut instincts often rely on simple cues in the environment. In most situations, when people use their instincts, they are heeding these cues and ignoring other unnecessary information.

Q: In modern society, gut thinking has a bad reputation. Why is that?

A: It is not thought to be rational.

Reason is the tool folks use to talk themselves out of what they know to be right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Disney after dark: Aspiring performers used to be sniffy about working in shows at Disneyland Paris. Not any more. (Patrick Barkham, August 28, 2007, Guardian)

[W]hen Disneyland Paris was looking for a live production to celebrate its 15th birthday this summer, High School Musical seemed ideal. But this world created to satisfy the whims of six-year-olds is governed by its own rules: live musicals in Disneyland Paris are sung in a mix of French and English, and shrunk to fit the concentration spans of their young audiences.

The Legend of the Lion King has played in the Paris park since 2004, squeezing the tale of Simba into 30 minutes. With High School Musical, Disney does it in just 11 minutes. Though the TV movie's producer, Bill Borden, claimed the plot was a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it does not plumb Shakespearean depths of complexity; nevertheless, it is still a challenge to distil its hit songs into such a short production, which is playing up to 10 times a day until next month. [...]

This kind of show might once have been seen as the kind of embarrassing first step that singers and dancers go quiet about when they make it to the West End. While most of these young performers, living in student-dorm style accommodation with the rest of the 12,200 staff, are keen to move on to bigger stages and full-length shows, many are increasingly proud of working at the resort, says casting manager Madeline Aveson-Gruber. "People who have performed in The Legend of the Lion King are proud of it and they are putting it on their biographies."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Instant ayatollahs vie for power (Christoph Reuter, August 29, 2007, Record Online)

While Washington has been busy focusing on the divisions between Shiites and Sunnis that have led to nonstop sectarian violence in the country, the deep divisions within the Shia community itself have gone almost unnoticed. [...]

In addition, a new type of Shia leader has emerged: self-appointed clerics who combine the might of armed militias with an almost messianic sense of purpose.

Among these "instant ayatollahs" is Farqad al-Qazwini, who set up his own hawza after being dismissed from the Najaf seminary, and Dhia Abdul-Zahra al-Garawi, who headed a group called the Soldiers of Heaven before being killed during a confrontation with Iraqi and U.S. forces near Najaf earlier this year.

But the most powerful, and some would say the most dangerous, of these figures is Sayyid Mahmud Hassani al-Sarkhi

Many in Karbala regard him as a serious threat to security and stability, and accuse him of being behind several successful and attempted assassinations of Shia scholars and clerics who have criticized him.

Largely unknown before 2003, Sarkhi now presides over the Sadiq Hawza, with more than 500 students, leads the Wala (Loyalty) political party and commands between 15,000 and 20,000 followers in various southern provinces of Iraq as well as an armed militia.

His followers have clashed repeatedly with Iraqi security forces as well as with supporters of other ayatollahs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Bush's brand-new poodle (Pepe Escobar, 8/30/07, Asia Times)

With former British prime minister Tony Blair out of the picture, there's now a newer, leaner, meaner, adrenaline-packed "Made in France" version. Thanks to his unrelenting support for President George W Bush's war on Iraq, Blair used to be derided in all corners of the globe as Bush's poodle. Now the new self-appointed lap dog is French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The hyperactive "Sarkozy the First" - as he is widely referred to in France - has just pronounced his first major foreign-policy speech, to an annual conference of 200-odd French ambassadors from posts around the world. He took no time to engage himself in the current White House and neo-conservative-promoted Iran-demonization campaign.

Neo-cons and their ilk in France, plus mostly sycophant media, obviously loved it, with instant geopoliticians raving about the "prudent" and "firm" stand behind Sarkozy's rhetoric.

Mr. Sarkozy just recognizes that the only way for such a minor state to have any influence on world affairs is to line up behind America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Cleric Freezes Activities of His Militia (DAVID RISING, 8/29/07, AP)

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, and it will no longer attack U.S. and coalition troops, aides said Wednesday.

The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.

"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.

In Najaf, al-Sadr's spokesman said the order also means the Mahdi Army will no longer launch attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces.

Why would he attack his allies?

August 28, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


The TNR Q&A: Of Dog Fights and Men: For insight into the reaction to Vick's case, The New Republic spoke with ethicist Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. (Ben Crair, 08.29.07, TNR Online)

As regards their fake reports from Iraq, we're willing to accept that the editors of TNR were just dupes. But they can't pretend not to know that Peter Singer is a monster, who would see nothing wrong with feeding the infirm to those pit bulls. After all, the former have less utility as fellow humans than as food.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 PM


Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan: The nation's efforts to straddle the fault line between moderate and militant Islam offer a cautionary tale for the post-9/11 world. (Don Belt, September 2007, National Geographic Magazine)

If there is an address, an exact location for the rift tearing Pakistan apart, and possibly the world, it is a spot 17 miles (28 kilometers) west of Islamabad called the Margalla Pass. Here, at a limestone cliff in the middle of Pakistan, the mountainous west meets the Indus River Valley, and two ancient, and very different, civilizations collide. To the southeast, unfurled to the horizon, lie the fertile lowlands of the Indian subcontinent, realm of peasant farmers on steamy plots of land, bright with colors and the splash of serendipitous gods. To the west and north stretch the harsh, windswept mountains of Central Asia, land of herders and raiders on horseback, where man fears one God and takes no prisoners.

This is also where two conflicting forms of Islam meet: the relatively relaxed and tolerant Islam of India, versus the rigid fundamentalism of the Afghan frontier. Beneath the surface of Pakistan, these opposing forces grind against each other like two vast geologic plates, rattling teacups from Lahore to London, Karachi to New York. The clash between moderates and extremists in Pakistan today reflects this rift, and can be seen as a microcosm for a larger struggle among Muslims everywhere. So when the earth trembles in Pakistan, the world pays attention.

Travel 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) across this troubled country, as I did recently, and it becomes obvious that, 60 years after its founding, Pakistan still occupies unsettled ground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


Big Decline in U.S. Poverty Rate (AP, 8/28/07)

The nation's poverty rate dropped last year, the first significant decline since President Bush took office.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 36.5 million Americans, or 12.3 percent -- were living in poverty last year. That's down from 12.6 percent in 2005.

The median household income was $48,200, a slight increase from the previous year. [...]

The poverty level is the official measure used to decide eligibility for federal health, housing, nutrition and child care benefits. It differs by family size and makeup. For a family of four with two children, for example, the poverty level is $20,444.

Note that poverty level in America is roughly the GDP per capita of the Grecians and that if that family of four worked just 80 hours a week at $8.50 an hour they'd have an income of $35, 360. You have to really make a concerted effort to remain "poor" in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


The Decline and Fall of Declinism (Alan W. Dowd Tuesday, August 28, 2007, The American)

[T]he declinists were wrong yesterday. And if their record—and America’s—are any indication, they are just as wrong today.

Any discussion of U.S. power has to begin with its enormous economy. At $13.13 trillion, the U.S. economy represents 20 percent of global output. It’s growing faster than Britain’s, Australia’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Canada’s, even faster than the vaunted European Union.

In fact, even when Europe cobbles together its 25 economies under the EU banner, it still falls short of U.S. GDP—and will fall further behind as the century wears on. Gerard Baker of the Times of London notes that the U.S. economy will be twice the size of Europe’s by 2021.

On the other side of the world, some see China’s booming economy as a threat to U.S. economic primacy. However, as Baker observes, the U.S. is adding “twice as much in absolute terms to global output” as China. The immense gap in per capita income—$44,244 in the U.S. versus $2,069 in China—adds further perspective to the picture.

America’s muscular economic output comes courtesy of the American worker, who is growing ever more productive. Matthew Slaughter of the National Bureau of Economic Research details in The Wall Street Journal how, beginning in 1995, U.S. worker productivity began to accelerate. “From 1996 through 2006 it doubled, to an average annual rate of 2.7 percent.”

Another recent analysis—surprisingly filed by The New York Times—notes that this technology-driven “productivity miracle” has not manifested itself in other developed economies. Citing research (PDF) by John Van Reenen and others at the London School of Economics, the Times concludes that when U.S. firms take over foreign firms, the latter enjoy “a tremendous productivity advantage over a non-American alternative…It is as if the invisible hand of the American marketplace were somehow passing along a secret handshake to these firms.” As Reenen and his colleagues conclude, it appears that the way “U.S. firms are organized or managed…enables better exploitation of IT.”

This should come as no surprise. As Derek Leebaert explains in The Fifty-Year Wound, the information technologies that began emerging in the late 1980s “forced decentralization and demanded the sort of adaptivity made for America.”

So what do these numbers and comparisons tell us? For starters, as historian Niall Ferguson points out in Colossus, they tell us that the U.S. share of global productivity “exceeds the highest share of global output ever achieved by Britain by a factor of more than two.”

They also serve to explain how the United States can withstand not just the human losses and psychological blows of a 9/11 or Katrina, but the sort of economic and financial blows that would have overwhelmed any other country on earth.

What's amazing is that this dominance comes in spite of the social and economic retardation that was caused by the moronic Cold War, as chronicled so well in Mr. Leebaert's book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Iran's people await their share of riches: Amid Ahmadinejad's promises, many find that the oil boom has failed to trickle down. (Kim Murphy, August 28, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

Hussein Alinejad earns just $217 a month selling fragrant kebabs of chicken and lamb in a steamy shop here, and he knew Iran's leader couldn't help but be moved by his plight.

So when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to town in December, Alinejad wrote him a letter explaining his circumstances. He had three children, and a nice piece of land, but no money to build a house. Could he perhaps have a bank loan?

Twenty days later, he got a call from the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, a charity linked to the government: "Come and get the answer to your letter." When he arrived, someone handed him an envelope with more than a week's salary inside, his to keep. And his loan application was under review.

But it's been eight months since the president came through, and Alinejad still hasn't heard anything about his loan. A friend got one, but couldn't afford to buy more than a small garden plot with the money.

Across this city and other areas of relatively prosperous Mazandaran province in northern Iran, one of many rural regions where Ahmadinejad has enjoyed enthusiastic support since his election in 2005, there are growing worries that the trickle-down oil revenue the president promised has trickled only so far. As the Islamic Republic increasingly struggles with deep-rooted economic problems, some here are starting to mutter about broken promises. [...]

In June, 57 economists issued an open letter warning that "government mismanagement is inflicting a huge cost on the economy," with the current high oil prices only "delaying the imminent economic crisis."

"What you need to understand is that every 1% increase in inflation means that 100,000 Iranian people go under the poverty line," said Saeed Leylaz, a Tehran-based business consultant. "And the most pressure of inflation is not over people in Tehran, it is over the poor people in the provinces. And they are much, much more under pressure than they were two or three years ago."

In his free-spending trips to the provinces, Leylaz said, "Mr. Ahmadinejad is trying to exchange the oil income of petrodollars into loyalty, in one sentence. But day by day, this is working less and less."

Ghaemshahr, a city of half a million people about 100 miles northeast of Tehran, was once one of Iran's most successful industrial towns. Its five textile mills once employed more than 6,000 people in decent-paying jobs, turning out fabrics, uniforms and industrial storage bags that were sold all over Iran.

The city's troubles long predate Iran's current government. Like those in failing textile towns around the world, Ghaemshahr's aging mills found themselves ill-equipped in a globalized world to compete with cheap labor and materials from farther east in Asia. Worse, eight years of war with Iraq in the 1980s saw much of the city's workforce deployed to the front; afterward, aging skilled workers were often laid off in favor of unskilled war veterans.

In the early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the government was reluctant to import spare parts from Europe and the U.S. Instead, it insisted on manufacturing inferior replacements inside Iran and, later, on shutting down functioning equipment to provide spare parts for other machines.

Eventually, many of the remaining machines broke down too.

Now, only three of the original five factories are still open, and they are producing very little, said Aliasghar Moghaddesi, until recently manager of the Goni Bafi Bag Factory in Ghaemshahr.

"These factories need only two things, I can tell you. One, a healthy management, and two, to be updated," Moghaddesi said. "But politics and industry cannot be compatible, and slogans from politicians cannot do anything."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


The Dianafication of Modern Life (Theodore Dalrymple, August 24th, 2007, Britannica Blog)

The legacy of public figures is not necessarily what they want it to be, but it is nevertheless the outcome of their lives. Her death was a great godsend to the British Prime Minister of the time, Anthony Blair, who coined, or at least first used in public a phrase, the ‘People’s Princess,’ that perfectly captured his own domestic political programme (whether he knew at the time what it was or not): namely, demagogic populism combined with pork-barrel elitism. He needed an Eva Peron, and Diana fitted the bill perfectly, even being obliging enough to die before age destroyed her icy and self-conscious coquettishness and her good looks. A Diana with wrinkles or a thickening waist would have been of no public interest whatever.

In the orgy of demonstrative pseudo-grief that followed her death, Mr Blair said that the people had found a new way of being British. Indeed so: they had become emotionally incontinent and inclined to blubber in public when not being menacingly discourteous. They had come to believe that holding nothing back was the way to mental health, and their deepest emotional expression was the teddy bear that they were increasingly liable to leave at the site of a fatal accident or at the tomb of someone who had died in early adulthood.

The death of the Princess could not by itself have been a cause of the shallowness and vacuity of modern life in Britain; the scenes that followed it were only a symptom of such shallowness and vacuity. But they encouraged further such scenes, as when, for example, a chronically alcoholic Northern Irish footballer, George Best, died of liver disease. (At least he was the originator of one bon mot: ‘I spent most of my money on women and drink,’ he said. ‘I wasted the rest.’) But in general, our heroes and heroines now are all as banal as the rest of us.

We worship ourselves in our celebrities.

This is the Dianafication of modern life.

Perhaps more the democratization of British life? The reaction was hardly more labile and vacuous than our own to the sudden deaths of Lincoln and JFK some years or even a century before.

N.B.: The Britannica Blog is well worth checking out, with original essays by real authors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Thrillers and chillers: a review of The Draining Lake (Peter Guttridge, August 5, 2007, Observer)

George Steiner argued in After Babel that translation is reductive: 'ash is no translation of fire'. Perhaps because the language of crime fiction is functional rather than decorative, translations of international fiction can be pretty fiery. But however impressive the translations, too many international crime novels are simply not very good.

Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason, the first and last in-translation winner of the CWA Gold Dagger, is an exception. He is back with The Draining Lake (Harvill Secker £11.99, pp400), the latest Reykjavik Murder Mystery, ably translated by Bernard Scudder.

It's an atmospheric story that begins with the discovery of a skeleton half-buried in the exposed bed of a lake with a hole in its skull. It is weighted down with a Russian radio transmitter from the Cold War. Indridason's engaging police team, headed by Erlendur, sets off into the past to a time when idealistic Icelandic students studied in the 'heavenly state' of communist East Germany. Spying, murder and the dashed hopes of youth all figure in the narrative that follows. When the morose, troubled Erlendur first appeared, I thought he was a clone of Rebus, but he's definitely his own man now. A haunting, compassionate work.

There's a supposedly good film version of the first one, Jar City, but I'll be darned if I can find it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


Geothermal rocks! (Brad Frenette, August 28, 2007, National Post)

It would be a challenge to find a city with a higher musician-per-capita rate than Iceland's capital, Reykjavik. Belying its relative small size (the city has fewer than 200,000 inhabitants), the planet's most northerly capital has produced critically hailed artists such as The Sugar-cubes, Emiliana Torrini, GusGus and Sigur Ros. Despite its remoteness, the city has long been a haven for culture, boasting renowned music and film festivals that draw international audiences. Even geologists refer to the city as a "hot spot" due to the number of geothermal springs that abound there. [...]

Q What's your favourite song penned by a Reykjavik-based artist?

LJ That's a tough one. The most beautiful music ever made in Iceland belongs to a guy called Johann Johannsson. He is in his late thirties. Remember this name.

JOHANN JOHANNSSON - Viroulegu Forsetar (Boomkat)

Finally available again. We've been waiting for this second album from Iceland's Johann Johannsson with bated breath, anything even vaguely as majestic, original or beautiful as his massively acclaimed debut "Englaborn" would come as a much needed addition to this year's frankly astonishing collection of minimal music for home listening. "Viroulegu Forsetar" is all that and more, a breathtaking hour-long composition in four parts that reeks of all the majesty and grandeur of classical music as it seeps into the realm of imaginary soundtracking. Written for and performed by 11 Brass players, percussion, electronics, organ and piano, Johannson seems intent on making himself one of the most notable modern composers working in the field today.

Song of the Day: Johann Johannsson: Computer on the Radio (Tristan C. Kraft, August 9, 2007,
Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson pits the string orchestra against the computer, a struggle also known as "man vs. machine." In 1971, Johannsson's father recorded the sound of the IBM 1401 mainframe computer, using a radio receiver and a reel-to-reel tape machine to capture the electromagnetic waves emitted by different computer functions. Thirty years later, the younger Johannsson rearranged the tape for choreographer Erna Omarsdottir, adding a string orchestra and a recording of the IBM instruction tape he'd found in his father's attic. Late last year, Johannsson released the result on CD — as IBM 1401, A User's Manual — with conductor Mario Klemens and the City of Prague Philharmonic.

August 27, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


Hamas chief says Mideast conference doomed to fail (Reuters, 8/27/07)

"The American administration is fighting Hamas and working on isolating it," [Hamas chief Khaled] Meshaal said in the interview, which CNN reported was held in a heavily guarded Hamas safe house in the Syrian capital.

But Meshaal said Washington, which supports Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, would eventually realize it would have to deal with Hamas for the sake of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

"I only want to tell them to take a short cut and not waste their efforts," he said, while acknowledging that a U.S. invitation to Hamas to attend the upcoming conference was unlikely.

Meshaal called on the international community to deal with "the reality of the Palestinian arena" -- an apparent reference to Hamas's strong influence -- and move the Middle East closer to "genuine peace" in which "the waterfall of blood will stop".

The Administration has confused not being Realist with not being realistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


From Iran to US, Sarkozy speech signals French diplomatic shift (Angelique Chrisafis, August 28, 2007, Guardian)

The French president Nicolas Sarkozy last night demanded a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq; and said a nuclear-armed Iran would be "unacceptable".

In the first broad foreign policy speech of his presidency, Mr Sarkozy struck a notably more pro-US tone than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, setting out his vision for a world "challenged" by a confrontation between Islam and the west.

He described the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme as "undoubtedly the most serious crisis before us today", saying a diplomatic push to rein in Tehran was the only alternative to "the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran." This broke with Mr Chirac, who had earlier suggested that a nuclear-armed Iran might be inevitable.

In the speech to 180 French ambassadors, Mr Sarkozy also appeared to soften his stance on Turkey, saying France would not block negotiations between the EU and Ankara over Turkish membership as long as a special consultation committee was set up to consider Europe's borders.

In another break with the Chirac regime, Mr Sarkozy hardened his tone against Vladimir Putin, saying Russia was using its oil and gas wealth with "brutality".

Stressing the importance of a French presence in the Middle East, Mr Sarkozy said he was prepared to hold high-level talks with Syria if it backed French efforts to end the political crisis in Lebanon.

Mr Sarkozy's speech comes as France attempts to reconcile itself with the US and carve out a role as a mediator in Iraq.

One almost feels W should scratch his belly, or toss him a Scooby Snack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM


The Great Leap Backward?: : China's environmental woes are mounting, and the country is fast becoming one of the leading polluters in the world. The situation continues to deteriorate because even when Beijing sets ambitious targets to protect the environment, local officials generally ignore them, preferring to concentrate on further advancing economic growth. Really improving the environment in China will require revolutionary bottom-up political and economic reforms. (Elizabeth C. Economy, September/October 2007, Foreign Affairs)

China's environmental problems are mounting. Water pollution and water scarcity are burdening the economy, rising levels of air pollution are endangering the health of millions of Chinese, and much of the country's land is rapidly turning into desert. China has become a world leader in air and water pollution and land degradation and a top contributor to some of the world's most vexing global environmental problems, such as the illegal timber trade, marine pollution, and climate change. As China's pollution woes increase, so, too, do the risks to its economy, public health, social stability, and international reputation. As Pan Yue, a vice minister of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), warned in 2005, "The [economic] miracle will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace."

With the 2008 Olympics around the corner, China's leaders have ratcheted up their rhetoric, setting ambitious environmental targets, announcing greater levels of environmental investment, and exhorting business leaders and local officials to clean up their backyards. The rest of the world seems to accept that Beijing has charted a new course: as China declares itself open for environmentally friendly business, officials in the United States, the European Union, and Japan are asking not whether to invest but how much.

Unfortunately, much of this enthusiasm stems from the widespread but misguided belief that what Beijing says goes. The central government sets the country's agenda, but it does not control all aspects of its implementation. In fact, local officials rarely heed Beijing's environmental mandates, preferring to concentrate their energies and resources on further advancing economic growth. The truth is that turning the environmental situation in China around will require something far more difficult than setting targets and spending money; it will require revolutionary bottom-up political and economic reforms.

For one thing, China's leaders need to make it easy for local officials and factory owners to do the right thing when it comes to the environment by giving them the right incentives. At the same time, they must loosen the political restrictions they have placed on the courts, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the media in order to enable these groups to become independent enforcers of environmental protection. The international community, for its part, must focus more on assisting reform and less on transferring cutting-edge technologies and developing demonstration projects. Doing so will mean diving into the trenches to work with local Chinese officials, factory owners, and environmental NGOs; enlisting international NGOs to help with education and enforcement policies; and persuading multinational corporations (MNCs) to use their economic leverage to ensure that their Chinese partners adopt the best environmental practices.

Without such a clear-eyed understanding not only of what China wants but also of what it needs, China will continue to have one of the world's worst environmental records, and the Chinese people and the rest of the world will pay the price.

Can't someone figure out a wat to sic Al Gore on the PRC, which actually is all the evil things he thinks we are?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


The New American Cold War (Stephen F. Cohen, 10 July 2006 , The Nation)

Contrary to established opinion, the gravest threats to America's national security are still in Russia. They derive from an unprecedented development that most US policy-makers have recklessly disregarded, as evidenced by the undeclared cold war Washington has waged, under both parties, against post-Communist Russia during the past fifteen years. [...]

Nor is the Kremlin powerless in direct dealings with the West. It can mount more than enough warheads to defeat any missile shield and illusion of "nuclear primacy." It can shut US businesses out of multibillion-dollar deals in Russia and, as it recently reminded the European Union, which gets 25 percent of its gas from Russia, "redirect supplies" to hungry markets in the East. And Moscow could deploy its resources, connections and UN Security Council veto against US interests involving, for instance, nuclear proliferation, Iran, Afghanistan and possibly even Iraq.

Contrary to exaggerated US accusations, the Kremlin has not yet resorted to such retaliatory measures in any significant way. But unless Washington stops abasing and encroaching on Russia, there is no "sovereign" reason why it should not do so. Certainly, nothing Moscow has gotten from Washington since 1992, a Western security specialist emphasizes, "compensates for the geopolitical harm the United States is doing to Russia."

American crusaders insist it is worth the risk in order to democratize Russia and other former Soviet republics. In reality, their campaigns since 1992 have only discredited that cause in Russia. Praising the despised Yeltsin and endorsing other unpopular figures as Russia's "democrats," while denouncing the popular Putin, has associated democracy with the social pain, chaos and humiliation of the 1990s. Ostracizing Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko while embracing tyrants in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan has related it to the thirst for oil. Linking "democratic revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia to NATO membership has equated them with US expansionism. Focusing on the victimization of billionaire Mikhail Khodorkhovsky and not on Russian poverty or ongoing mass protests against social injustices has suggested democracy is only for oligarchs. And by insisting on their indispensable role, US crusaders have all but said (wrongly) that Russians are incapable of democracy or resisting abuses of power on their own.

The result is dark Russian suspicions of American intentions ignored by US policy-makers and media alike. They include the belief that Washington's real purpose is to take control of the country's energy resources and nuclear weapons and use encircling NATO satellite states to "de-sovereignize" Russia, turning it into a "vassal of the West." More generally, US policy has fostered the belief that the American cold war was never really aimed at Soviet Communism but always at Russia, a suspicion given credence by Post and Times columnists who characterize Russia even after Communism as an inherently "autocratic state" with "brutish instincts."

To overcome those towering obstacles to a new relationship, Washington has to abandon the triumphalist conceits primarily responsible for the revived cold war and its growing dangers. It means respecting Russia's sovereign right to determine its course at home (including disposal of its energy resources). As the record plainly shows, interfering in Moscow's internal affairs, whether on-site or from afar, only harms the chances for political liberties and economic prosperity that still exist in that tormented nation.

It also means acknowledging Russia's legitimate security interests, especially in its own "near abroad." In particular, the planned third expansion of NATO, intended to include Ukraine, must not take place. Extending NATO to Russia's doorsteps has already brought relations near the breaking point (without actually benefiting any nation's security); absorbing Ukraine, which Moscow regards as essential to its Slavic identity and its military defense, may be the point of no return, as even pro-US Russians anxiously warn. Nor would it be democratic, since nearly two-thirds of Ukrainians are opposed. The explosive possibilities were adumbrated in late May and early June when local citizens in ethnic Russian Crimea blockaded a port and roads where a US naval ship and contingent of Marines suddenly appeared, provoking resolutions declaring the region "anti-NATO territory" and threats of "a new Vietnam."

Time for a new US policy is running out, but there is no hint of one in official or unofficial circles. Denouncing the Kremlin in May, Cheney spoke "like a triumphant cold warrior," a Times correspondent reported. A top State Department official has already announced the "next great mission" in and around Russia. In the same unreconstructed spirit, Rice has demanded Russians "recognize that we have legitimate interests ... in their neighborhood," without a word about Moscow's interests; and a former Clinton official has held the Kremlin "accountable for the ominous security threats ... developing between NATO's eastern border and Russia." Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is playing Russian roulette with Moscow's control of its nuclear weapons. Its missile shield project having already provoked a destabilizing Russian buildup, the Administration now proposes to further confuse Moscow's early-warning system, risking an accidental launch, by putting conventional warheads on long-range missiles for the first time.

In a democracy we might expect alternative policy proposals from would-be leaders. But there are none in either party, only demands for a more anti-Russian course, or silence. We should not be surprised. Acquiescence in Bush's monstrous war in Iraq has amply demonstrated the political elite's limited capacity for introspection, independent thought and civic courage. (It prefers to falsely blame the American people, as the managing editor of Foreign Affairs recently did, for craving "ideological red meat.") It may also be intimidated by another revived cold war practice - personal defamation. The Post and The New Yorker have already labeled critics of their Russia policy "Putin apologists" and charged them with "appeasement" and "again taking the Russian side of the Cold War."

INTRODUCTION: to RONALD REAGAN: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader

In 1982, the learned Sovietologist Seweryn Bialer of Columbia University wrote in Foreign Affairs, “The Soviet Union is not now, nor will it be during the next decade, in the throes of a true systemic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability.” This view was seconded that same year by historian and eminence grise Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who observed that “those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse [are] wishful thinkers” who are only “kidding themselves.”

John Kenneth Galbraith, the distinguished Harvard economist, wrote in 1984: “That the Soviet system has made great material progress in recent years is evident both from the statistics and from the general urban scene.... One sees it in the appearance of well-being of the people on the streets.... and the general aspect of restaurants, theaters, and shops.... Partly, the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower.”

Equally imaginative was the assessment of Paul Samuelson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Nobel laureate in economics, writing in the 1985 edition of his widely used textbook: “What counts is results, and there can be no doubt that the Soviet planning system has been a powerful engine for economic growth.... The Soviet model has surely demonstrated that a command economy is capable of mobilizing resources for rapid growth.”

James Reston, the renowned columnist of the New York Times, in June 1985 revealed his capacity for sophisticated evenhandedness when he dismissed the possibility of the collapse of communism on the grounds that Soviet problems were no different from those of the United States: “It’s clear that the ideologies of Communism, socialism and capitalism are all in trouble.”

But the genius award undoubtedly goes to Lester Thurow, economist and well-known author, who, as late as 1989, wrote, “Can economic command significantly ... accelerate the growth process? The remarkable performance of the Soviet Union suggests that it can. Today it is a country whose economic achievements bear comparison with those of the United States.”

Wise men tend to be impatient with dummies, and thus we can understand the tone of indignation with which Strobe Talbott, a senior correspondent at Time and later an official in the Clinton State Department, faulted officials in the Reagan administration for espousing “the early fifties goal of rolling back Soviet domination of Eastern Europe,” an objective he considered misguided and unrealistic. “Reagan is counting on American technological and economic predominance to prevail in the end,” Talbott scoffed, adding that if the Soviet economy was in a crisis of any kind, “it is a permanent, institutionalized crisis with which the U.S.S.R. has learned to live.”

Equally scornful was Sovietologist Stephen Cohen of Princeton University, who wrote in 1983: “All evidence indicates that the Reagan administration has abandoned both containment and détente for a very different objective: destroying the Soviet Union as a world power and possibly even its Communist system.”

Finally, a wise man gets something right. But then he spoils it by condemning Reagan for pursuing a wrongheaded and suicidal objective, one that revealed that the president was suffering from “a potentially fatal form of Sovietophobia ... a pathological rather than a healthy response to the Soviet Union.”

Perhaps one should not be too hard on the wise men. After all, explains Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse: “History has an abiding capacity to outwit our certitudes.” The wise men may have been wrong, Schlesinger concedes, but then “no one foresaw these changes.”

But here is the problem with this view. The dummy foresaw them! Consider what he said long before the wise men issued their pronouncements. In June 1980, Ronald Reagan met with a group of editors at the Washington Post. As reporter Lou Cannon, who arranged the meeting, recalled the incident to me, his colleagues expressed grave concerns that Reagan was escalating the arms race. Reagan told them not to worry: “The Soviets can’t compete with us.” Everyone around the table was astonished, because no one shared Reagan’s presumption of Soviet economic vulnerability. Yet Reagan assured them, “I’ll get the Soviets to the negotiating table.” Cannon recalls, “When he said that, nobody believed him.”

In 1981, Reagan told the students and faculty at the University of Notre Dame, “The West won’t contain Communism. It will transcend Communism. It will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.” He repeated this theme, in almost exactly the same words, in a subsequent speech in Orlando before the National Association of Evangelicals.

How dumb can you get? From the wise men’s point of view, Reagan’s rhetoric was too inane and outlandish to take seriously. But Reagan wouldn’t stop. In 1982, he addressed the British Parliament in London. “In an ironic sense,” Reagan said, “Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis.... But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union.” Reagan added that “it is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying freedom and human dignity to its citizens,” and he predicted that if the Western alliance remained strong, it would produce a “march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history.”

The wise men could hardly contain their derision: Give the man a brain transplant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Profit Of Doom (Jason Miller, 27 August, 2007,

Capitalism, as Malcolm X suggested, is in its twilight. Under this egregiously malevolent and brutal system of economic organization, we have “evolved” to a point where corruption is so pervasive, the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” is so vast, and the imperial wars for resources are so frequent and destructive that as it is imploding, capitalism may take most of us with it.

Despite the fact that he mixed his metaphors a bit, Malcolm drew an astute conclusion. With the United States as its nexus, the complex array of components and dynamics known as capitalism sustains itself in much the same way as did Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the vampires of Slavic folklore.

Like the bloodthirsty undead of Transylvania, capitalism is essentially parasitic. Contrary to the inane mythology that anyone who dreams, comes up with a novel idea, follows Oprah “wisdom,” and works hard will eventually sport a net worth north of seven figures, there is very little true upward mobility in the United States. High regressive taxes, low progressive taxes, de facto monopolies, nepotism, cronyism, bribery, a legal system blind to economic crimes of the highest order, and a host of other factors ensure that the rich stay rich and that those in the working class have just enough to ensure their continued existence as hosts for their parasitic masters.
Most capitalists -those who rest comfortably at the apex of humanity’s pyramid of wealth and power AND reside in the penthouses of the Park Avenues of the world–do not engage in the activity which is the staple of existence for most of us.

Talk about stuck on stupid--does this character have any idea how many filthy rich capitalists there are in pretty much every suburb and exurb in America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Retreating Brits Cut Deal With Muqtada al-Sadr for Safe Exit (Sam Dagher, 8/27/07, Christian Science Monitor)

The last contingent of British soldiers based in the center of this southern city will leave by Friday, says a senior Iraqi security official, adding that a deal has been struck with leaders of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army to ensure their safe departure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


Gay By Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity: If science proves sexual orientation is more fluid than we've been led to believe, can homosexuality still be a protected right? (Gary Greenberg, August 27 , 2007, Mother Jones)

That's the usual interpretation of reparative therapy—that to the extent that it does anything, it leads people to repress rather than change their natural inclinations, that its claims to change sexual orientation are an outright fraud perpetrated by the religious right on people who have internalized the homophobia of American society, personalized the political in such a way as to reject their own sexuality and stunt their love lives. But Aaron scoffs at these notions, insisting that his wish to go straight had nothing to do with right-wing religion or politics—he's a nonobservant Jew and a lifelong Democrat who volunteered for George McGovern, has a career in public service, and thinks George Bush is a war criminal. It wasn't a matter of ignorance—he has an advanced degree—and it really wasn't a psychopathological thing—he rejects the idea that he's ever suffered from internalized homophobia. He just didn't want to be gay, and, like millions of Americans dissatisfied with their lives, he sought professional help and reinvented himself.

Self-reconstruction is what people in my profession (I am a practicing psychotherapist) specialize in, but when it comes to someone like Aaron, most of us draw the line. All the major psychotherapy guilds have barred their members from researching or practicing reparative therapy on the grounds that it is inherently unethical to treat something that is not a disease, that it contributes to oppression by pathologizing homosexuality, and that it is dangerous to patients whose self-esteem can only suffer when they try to change something about themselves that they can't (and shouldn't have to) change. Aaron knows this, of course, which is why he's at great pains to prove he's not pulling a Ted Haggard. For if he's not a poseur, then he is a walking challenge to the political and scientific consensus that has emerged over the last century and a half: that sexual orientation is inborn and immutable, that efforts to change it are bound to fail, and that discrimination against gay people is therefore unjust.

But as crucial as this consensus has been to the struggle for gay rights, it may not be as sound as some might wish. While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life. Even more important, some research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than we have come to think, that people, especially women, can and do move across customary sexual orientation boundaries, that there are ex-straights as well as ex-gays. Much of this research has stayed below the radar of the culture warriors, but reparative therapists are hoping to use it to enter the scientific mainstream and advocate for what they call the right of self-determination in matters of sexual orientation. If they are successful, gay activists may soon find themselves scrambling to make sense of a new scientific and political landscape.

It's appalling that political correctness seeks to forbid the medical profession from helping the ill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


In Hanover, a Banner Achievement (Matthew McCormick, 8/27/07, Valley News)

Five hundred school houses down -- 16 White House hopefuls to go.

A group of Hanover women has led a statewide effort to see that an American flag is in every classroom of New Hampshire's 500-plus public schools.

Now the women -- Marisa Kraus, Becky Jones, Heidi Postupack and Caroline Tischbein -- have invited 16 Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to help celebrate the achievement at the State House in Concord on Sept. 3.

“We believe, as corny as it sounds, that the flag is the symbol of all that is best in America, of liberty and justice for all,” Kraus, chairwoman of Operation Old Glory, said yesterday.

“For a symbol to remain potent, you have to respect it,” Kraus said.

While the flag can at times be a sticky subject on Capitol Hill, particularly during the near-annual debates over the need to protect the Stars and Stripes with a Constitutional amendment, the organization's members say they do not want to politicize their work.

But they are hoping the star power of candidates like former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney --the only firm presidential RSVP -- will help broadcast their story and inspire similar efforts across the country.

Kraus said three Democratic contenders, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina will not be in the state on Labor Day but have pledged to send remarks of support in time for the group's celebration.

“We want to expand this out to other states,” said Jones. “A lot of people assume there's a flag in every classroom. But when we started calling people, it was amazing how many classrooms didn't have a flag.”

Operation Old Glory began soon after the World Trade Center attacks; that autumn, Laura Bush called on the nation to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as a sign of national solidarity, and the organization's members-to-be noticed their sons and daughters at Hanover Middle and High Schools had to gather around an outside flag pole for the recitation.

“We asked the kids, why did you go outside to say the Pledge of Allegiance and they said ‘Well, we don't have flags in the classroom,' ” recalled Postupack. “We were like, you don’t have flags in the classrooms?”

“We were shocked,” added Kraus. [...]

In all, the organization found that nearly 90 Hanover classrooms were without flags. By February 2002, it had raised nearly $2,000 to purchase and install the Stars and Stripes and presented them to the school district in a ceremony attended by former Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., five state gubernatorial candidates and the Norwich University Color Guard.

Then Operation Old Glory turned its attention to the rest of the state, beginning with a questionnaire sent to each of the New Hampshire's 70-plus school administrative units asking superintendents to identify how many classrooms were without flags.

When responses to the forms were skimpy, the group began calling -- and calling, and calling. Finally, in early 2004, they had a tally: about 4,000 New Hampshire classrooms were flagless.

Operation Old Glory then partnered with the state American Legion, which divided the state's school districts among its posts and charged them with raising the funds needed to purchase the flags, said Dave Victor, chairman of the state legion's Americanism Committee.

Each school that had a flag in every classroom received a certificate from Operation Old Glory. Kraus said the organization sent its last one out this spring.

“We saw a need and we filled it,” Postupack said.

Five years ago, some doubting Thomas told Marisa that it was too big a job for a small volunteer group to do the whole state--I've never been happier to be humbled. Good going, ladies.


Operation Old Glory New Hampshire LABOR DAY CELEBRATION!


The Operation Old Glory New Hampshire committee is pleased to announce that our mission to ensure there is an American flag flying in every public school classroom has been accomplished.

OOG NH is a statewide project that was launched in the fall of 2002 when we realized that our own Hanover, NH schools needed over 100 flags and that the elementary school lacked assembly flags. As a result of this discovery we raised the necessary funds from community members and local organizations, ordered flags and organized a Flag Installation Day ceremony to commemorate this event. We also decided to expand our efforts to the entire state of NH.

There are approximately 500 public schools in NH. In the winter of 2002 we mailed a letter to the 79 Superintendents of the NH schools who reported back to us that 4000 flags would be needed to achieve our goal. We then partnered with the NH American Legion and gave the eight American Legion posts the flag data. Each post was given a list of schools in their area and the number of flags that each school required. The American Legion provided the flags to the schools and oversaw their installation. The Commanders of the eight American Legion posts have now verified to us in writing that at the present time all the schools in their districts have a flag in every classroom.

OOG NH recently mailed a framed certificate to all the NH Superintendents acknowledging that all the classrooms in their schools are equipped with an American flag. At last, the goal of OOG NH has been realized!

For more information about OOG NH please contact Marisa Kraus, 603-643-6431, email: or Heidi Postupack at 603-643-3670, email:


OOG NH Committee
Marisa Kraus, Chairman
Heidi Postupack, Becky Jones, Caroline Tischbein

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Ties with India top priority if elected: Obama (Aziz Haniffa, August 27, 2007, rediff)

United States Senator Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, has become the first Presidential candidate to issue a detailed and comprehensive policy paper spelling out his agenda vis-�-vis addressing issues of concern to the Indian-American community and his vision for US-India relations.

Obama also seems to have recovered strongly from the faux pas by his campaign when it circulated a controversial document that disparagingly described his rival Senator Hillary Clinton's Indian links and had the Indian-American community up in arms.

On foreign policy, the new paper said: "Barack Obama is an advocate of strengthening US relations with India, the world's largest democracy and a growing economic power."

It noted that he had voted for the India civilian nuclear cooperation deal in 2006 and has since worked to ensure that the agreement is implemented properly.

The paper said: "Obama also believes that India is a natural strategic partner for America in the 21st century and that the United States should be working with India on a range of critical issues, from preventing terrorism and fostering economic development to promoting peace and stability in Asia."

Apparently he tired of pegging the nitwit meter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


The biblical world of Luis Bunuel (Spengler, 8/28/07, Asia Times)

Busloads of Baptists did not descend on theaters when Bunuel's film was released nearly four decades ago, and it is unlikely that its release on an electronic medium will do much to increase the film's limited audience. That is a pity, for it offers a sort of litmus test for faith: if you don't laugh at the jokes, you probably don't believe a word of what you profess. [...]

[W]hen The Milky Way appeared in 1969, the Vatican embraced it (the Jesuits more than the Dominicans, Bunuel observed with a connoisseur's accuracy) while the director's left-wing friends recoiled in horror. Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar left a private screening in high dudgeon, accusing Bunuel (falsely) of having obtained secret financing from the Church.

Doubt is the handmaiden of faith, for without doubt no faith is required. An impassioned doubter might not make the best priest or parson, but it takes an agony of doubt to produce a great narrative work of art on a religious subject. That is why outsiders often produce the most profoundly religious art - Faust by the "great heathen" Johann Wolfgang von Goethe comes to mind.

On the surface, The Milky Way is surreal. Two French hobos panhandle and hitchhike their way through the venerable pilgrimage route to the Spanish shrine of Santiago of Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the tomb of the apostle James was said to lie. The clochards encounter divine beings, including the persons of the Holy Trinity as well as the Angel of Death, and wander in and out of episodes of Church history. Episodes from the life of Christ are interspersed, including one that is not documented by the Bible (the Virgin persuades Jesus not to shave his beard).

Throughout, Bunuel emphasizes the difficulties, if not the absurdities, of Scripture and doctrine. A cloaked personage (who turns out to be the First Person of the Trinity) encounters the protagonists as they attempt to hitch a ride outside Paris, and quotes the injunction of the prophet Hosea to bear children with a prostitute, and to call their names "You Are Not My People" and "There Is No More Mercy". At the conclusion of the film, the hobos at last reach Santiago, where a prostitute informs them that the pilgrims have ceased to come and the city is empty, whereupon they go off with her to produce these children. Hosea's curse upon errant Israel tells us a great deal about Bunuel's opinion of us.

Various characters attempt to explain transubstantiation and virgin birth (God is in the host just as a rabbit is in a rabbit pate, offers an innkeeper), under improbable and often silly circumstances. Meanwhile, divine beings pass in and out of the story. The clochards meet a young boy who bears the stigmata of Christ, and make a desultory effort to help him. The boy holds out his hand and a limousine stops to pick them up; the clochards unthinkingly blaspheme, and the chauffeur kicks them back out. A bit later, one of the bums expresses the hope that a car that refused to stop for them will crash; a moment later it does so, and in the back seat they find the Angel of Death, who turns on the car radio as it broadcasts a description of hell by St John of the Cross.

The hobos try to panhandle at an elegant restaurant at which the headwaiter and his staff debate the nature of the Eucharist; when the headwaiter dismisses atheists as a lot of madmen, the camera takes us to a discourse by an elegant gentleman who denounces the absurdities of religion. This enlightened opponent of faith turns out to be the Marquis de Sade, who is torturing a young girl who protests the existence of God. So much for rational objections to faith, Bunuel tells us; absence of faith is not rationality but the hatred of God that stems from perverse impulses. [...]

There is not a flyspeck of spirituality in the dreary world of Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish filmmaker who died last month, except perhaps for the pagan spirits flying about in The Virgin Spring. The dour Swede placed his characters (or to be precise, a single character recurrently played by Max von Sydow) in an existential tantrum over God's remoteness. Bergman is the only major director whose actual work is inferior to the lampoons of it (for example, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life ). But God is not remote to Bunuel; on the contrary, God is frighteningly real, for all his inscrutability, even absurdity.

...and, to God's chagrin, divine. How can the latter, in particular, not crack you up?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Poles top of UK class: Polish students have been performing so well at UK universities that their recruitment services have begun to scout for candidates from Poland (Krysia Kolosowska, 8/27/07, Polskie Radio)

Over 2800 Poles have been admitted at UK universities by July, which is twice as many as last year, and recruitment has not ended yet. Polish youths discovered the possibilities of studies abroad that opened to them after Poland entered the European Union in 2004 and were fast to explore and appreciate them. Pawel Walczak from Warsaw got enrolled at the University of Hull and found studies there a rewarding time.

“I decided to study in the UK because it’s easier to find a graduate job there, because there are more such posts available to university graduates compared to Poland. Once I graduate from a UK university it will be easier to find a job in Poland as well. I received an offer to study in UK at my institution in Warsaw from UK university and I accepted it.”

Polish students have already earned much praise as highly motivated and hard working. The University of Wales has even employed one of their Polish graduates to recruit students from Poland. Hywel Davis of the university recruitment department explains.

“Yes, we have someone who is a graduate of us, who is doing work for us. It is a matter of raising awareness that we do have these opportunities for students from all over the world, and we want students who are well prepared, well motivated. Students (from Poland) we’ve had so far have met these expectations.”

Pawel Walczak is not surprised that UK universities are encouraging Poles to come over for studies.

“I am not surprised because good universities require good students and we are definitely good students.”

If Poland had been an island, we'd all speak Polish today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


The Kibbutz Sheds Socialism and Gains Popularity (ISABEL KERSHNER, 8/27/07, NY Times)

For much of Israel’s existence, the kibbutz embodied its highest ideals: collective labor, love of the land and a no-frills egalitarianism.

But starting in the 1980s, when socialism was on a global downward spiral and the country was mired in hyperinflation, Israel’s 250 or so kibbutzim seemed doomed. Their debt mounted and their group dining halls grew empty as the young moved away.

Now, in a surprising third act, the kibbutzim are again thriving. Only in 2007 they are less about pure socialism than a kind of suburbanized version of it.

On most kibbutzim, food and laundry services are now privatized; on many, houses may be transferred to individual members, and newcomers can buy in. While the major assets of the kibbutzim are still collectively owned, the communities are now largely run by professional managers rather than by popular vote. And, most important, not everyone is paid the same.

Once again, people are lining up to get in. precisely the extent that it was French. It may yet succeed by becoming Anglo-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Gonzales resigns as attorney general: official (Reuters, August 27, 2007)

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned from office, an official confirmed on Monday.

Surprising he didn't wait until Friday evening, when no one would notice, instead of few.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


The Lobby (David Remnick, September 3, 2007, The New Yorker)

Last year, two distinguished political scientists, John J. Mearsheimer, of the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt, of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard, published a thirty-four-thousand-word article online entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” a shorter version of which appeared in The London Review of Books. Israel, they wrote, has become a “strategic liability” for the United States but retains its strong support because of a wealthy, well-organized, and bewitching lobby that has a “stranglehold” on Congress and American élites. Moreover, Israel and its lobby bear outsized responsibility for persuading the Bush Administration to invade Iraq and, perhaps one day soon, to attack the nuclear facilities of Iran. Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish a book-length version of Mearsheimer and Walt’s arguments on September 4th.

Mearsheimer and Walt are “realists.” In their view, diplomatic decisions should be made on the basis of national interest. They argue that in the post-Cold War era, in the absence of a superpower struggle in the Middle East, the United States no longer has any need for an indulgent patronage of the state of Israel. Three billion dollars in annual foreign aid, the easy sale of advanced weaponry, thirty-four vetoes of U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel since 1982—such support, Mearsheimer and Walt maintain, is not in the national interest. “There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence,” they write, but they deny that Israel is of critical strategic value to the United States.

...forever stuck trying to make the amoral or even immoral case to the Puritan Nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Is happiness enough?: Is personal happiness enough when there is so much suffering in the world, or is it selfish to focus on the misfortune of strangers to the exclusion of loved ones (Clive James, 8/24/07, BBC Magazine)

Not long ago I was in New York on business and the weather was getting hot enough to make you walk on the east side of the avenues in the morning and the west side in the afternoons, so as to keep in the shadow. If you're anywhere near Central Park, it's the ideal weather for a take-out deli lunch.

You don't have to eat fast food in America, because between every two fast-food emporia there's a deli full of good slow scoff. Armed with about 10 bucks worth of unimpeachable nutrition, I went into the park, sat on a rock, got started on my salad, and contemplated existence. I saw an old guy hobble past who was what I will be in about 10 years, if not 10 minutes. He looked happy and suddenly so was I.

For once I managed to hold back the thoughts of how few deli lunches had been eaten in Darfur that day, and I savoured the moment along with my slice of watermelon, which took me back to when I was kid in Australia. It was 60 years since I first had a slice of watermelon wrapped so far around my head that it chilled my ears.

That time, I hadn't questioned the legitimacy of my happiness, and I tried not to this time either. But I had to try, that was the difference.

I don't think it's true that the underdeveloped world starves because the developed world doesn't, but there's just no denying that you can't eat your fill without insulting a lot of people who have nothing to eat at all.

You find that out when you grow up. Finding that out is growing up. Life makes us melancholy, and the melancholy comes from the realisation that your moments of happiness are not only fleeting, but meaningless in the context of the sufferings of others.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM



THE Yankees have committed so thoroughly to young arms that even within the sweltering oven that is a pennant race, they have devised and are living by the restrictive Joba Rules.

They did this, in part, to protect Joba Chamberlain from Joe Torre's penchant for deploying favored relievers until their arms resemble overripe bananas.

At the point where you have to intervene to protect your pitching staff from their manager, he's outlived his usefulness. And a GM who hands the guy the best young arms in the organization isn't doing his job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


Iron will: Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power By Marcus Mabry (Steven Martinovich, August 27, 2007, Enter Stage Right)

Mabry’s research was thorough but throughout the book the reader can be forgiven if they believe that he failed to understand his subject. Given the subject, he probably can’t be faulted. Rice comes across largely as a vulnerability free person, someone who is so strong and focused that even a major setback is dealt with in a disconnected manner, someone so optimistic that failure is merely a chance to succeed at something else.

One incident in Rice’s life is telling in this regard. Rice, who learned to read music before she could read words, had been groomed from an early age to become a concert pianist and countless hours were invested in becoming a flawless player. At 17, however, Rice abruptly stopped playing the piano after a teacher determines that while her playing was “technically competent”, she wasn’t emotionally involved in the music the way the truly great pianists are. Faced with this hurdle, something that could have emotionally crippled another person, Rice simply decides to direct her energy into other avenues.

Given current events, it is likely Rice’s recent history that will be of most interest to readers and here Mabry does a better job of exploring the secretary of state. Mabry believes that Rice and George W. Bush are too close to allow her to play the role of doubting Thomas, and that adopting the Bush administration like a second insular family allowed her to ignore the dissenting voices over the Iraq war.

One peculiarity of the book is that Mr. Mabry frets over three aspects of the Secretary's life that particularly bother the Left: her sexuality; her "blackness"; and her Idealism. The conclusions he arrives at on all three points ought to dispel the notion that she's a crypto-liberal or a mere political climber. It is her views that make her a Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Indispensable Encounters: a review of Counterpoints: Twenty-Five Years of The New Criterion on Culture and the Arts Edited by Roger Kimball and Hilton Kramer (Paul Johnson, July/August 2007, The American Spectator)

In general, and thanks certainly to the consistency with which Kramer and Kimball have conducted the journal, the New Criterion is notable for four qualities. The first is the belief that there are absolute standards, not just in literature and the arts, but in public conduct and philosophical treatment of fundamental issues. The review is suspicious of relativism in any form but especially of its moral manifestations. Secondly, the paper and its contributions avoid any commitment to ideology and party but have a general disposition or temperament inclined to recognize the merits of long-established cultural facts, and to subject all novelties to skeptical scrutiny. Genuine originality, provided it is combined with skill and experience, is always acceptable and applauded. But here fashion gets short shrift, and every kind of specious neologism and euphemious dodging is cracked down on hard.

A third and important propensity is an eagerness to rescue from oblivion writers, artists, and ideas that have fallen from favor but are still relevant to our needs, and enjoyable. This is a very important task which, so far as I know, is undertaken by no other periodical. It is one of the chief reasons why I always look forward with relish to opening a copy of the New Criterion.

Finally, there is the sheer quality of the writing. There is nothing formulaic about the journal, none of the emollient uniformity that made the New Yorker, even in its best days, so tiresome. One gets the impression that editing is minimal. The real control of quality is exercised by the selection of the writers, who are notable for their clarity of expression, their ability to organize their material, and their liveliness of idiom. They, like the journal that gives them the hospitality of its pages, form a wide but also intimate circle of civilized men and women who light wise candles in a world that often seems threatened by modernity's tenebrae.

It's been on the bedside table this Summer--the perfect sort of book to dip into for an essay one at a time. Here's a favorite rescue from several years ago, The “deliberate sense” of Willimoore Kendall (Jeffrey Hart, New Criterion)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Agatha Christie, the mistress of all mysteries (A N Wilson, 27/08/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Since this is the last of the Marple stories, Christie can be quite overt about the extent to which she is writing a redemption myth. Miss Marple is named Nemesis, divine justice, by Rafiel (itself the name of an archangel).

She is charged with bringing justice, with scriptural words, "Let justice roll down like the waters,/And righteousness like an everlasting stream".

The religious convictions of Miss Marple, which in most of the stories is implicit, is here overt. She tells someone, "In my own village, things do rather revolve round the church."

When she goes to stay in the Old Manor, where the three rather sinister (very sinister!) Sisters reside in a palpable atmosphere of evil, she unpacks from her suitcase "a small devotional book which she had been reading".

When Miss Temple the dying pilgrim asks her to find out the truth, Miss Marple replies, "With God's help I will."

When they are sitting around at the end of the story to establish the pardon of the wrongly imprisoned Michael (another angelic name), the Home Secretary says that Miss Marple is "the most frightening woman I ever met", in spite of the pink fluffy shawls and the twittery manner.

She really is nemesis, and is surely a more impressive creation than those old women such as Mrs Moore in the novels of E M Forster, who are somehow meant to carry quasi-mythic weight and hidden wisdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Dunkin' Donuts Dumping Most Trans Fats (MARK JEWELL, 8/27/07, The Associated Press)

Dunkin' Donuts, the food-on-the-go chain whose name celebrates a treat that's symbolic of unhealthy eating, is trying to refresh its image by largely eliminating trans fat across its menu. [...]

The ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins, another unit of Dunkin' Brands Inc., plans to be zero grams trans fat by Jan. 1.

Consumers effect the changes that the Right fears the Nanny State will impose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Another Iraqi "Awakening" (Jeff Emanuel, 8/27/2007, American Spectator)

THE FIRST SIGNIFICANT SIGN OF SUCCESS resulting from the Army's public relations campaign in the southern part of the region was seen very recently, in the area just north of Salman Pak, along the road known to 3rd Brigade as "Route Wild," between the villages of Wuerdiya and Ja'ara -- and it all began with a simple cell phone call. During the first week of August, an Iraqi man who lived in the area, whose brother was the sheik of their tribe (the "al Jabouri"), called Captain Rich Thompson, head of 3rd Brigade's Baker Company 1-15 Infantry and the local ground commander, and asked for a meeting. Tired of the persistent insurgent infighting in his area -- and of its effect on the people of his tribe and his village -- the man wanted information on starting his tribe's own "Concerned Citizens" brigade, to augment the National Police and to defend their land and their clan against terrorism.

Called "basically a thumb in the eye at a Maliki government that won't get its [act] together" by one officer I spoke with, the Concerned Citizens program, another brainchild of MNF-I commanding General David Petraeus, puts ground-level security in the hands of the individual tribes and groups who need it most. The program, which has been implemented in other regions of Iraq as well (like Diyala Province), allows for members of individual tribes to arm themselves and to conduct their own security operations and patrols, provided that they agree to wear easily identifiable (and coalition-acknowledged) uniforms, to work with and respect the authority of the National Police and coalition forces, and to submit to being entered into the coalition's biometric identification database.

"I hope they're really serious about [this]," Thompson, a former enlisted Army Ranger, told me, as he prepared to attend the meeting with the leadership if the al Jabouri tribe. "If we can get them going with their own security, and the other tribes around them can see what a good thing they have and decide that they want it too, then we could see a serious improvement in this area." Thompson's view on the insurgency in Iraq is a very simple one: "I don't want them in my AO (area of operations). I don't care where they go, as long as they're not here -- and, if everybody takes that attitude, Iraqis and soldiers alike, and works for that goal, then sooner or later there won't be any place for [the insurgents] to go."

The premise of the Concerned Citizens program is simply the belief that citizen empowerment, backed by the coalition, will lead to a rejection of the forces that terrorize the civilian population in a given area. While the sweeping change in Anbar Province that accompanied last fall's "Anbar Awakening" was in part a result of the tribal leaders in that area responding to the Marines' daily efforts to build trust and rapport in the region, it was much more a response to the insurgents' constant promise of no brighter future than the chaos that had become the norm in the area in recent years. Fed up with those who offered, in the words of one tribal sheik, "only death," the leaders of those tribes made the eminently rational decision to rise up against the terrorists, and to work with the coalition to build a free and independent network of tribes and clans that is rapidly becoming a relatively united province once again -- only without the iron fist of Saddam Hussein holding it together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Baath party spokesman dismisses plan to ease ban on party members (The Associated Press, August 26, 2007)

A purported spokesman for Saddam Hussein's party Sunday dismissed draft legislation to ease the ban on party members from holding government jobs, saying his group would not deal with the Iraqi leadership until all U.S. and foreign forces leave the country.

Late Sunday, top Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders signed an agreement which among other things endorsed a draft bill to relax rules preventing many members of Saddam's Baath Party from holding government jobs and elected offices.

Even Operation Paperclip at least removed the evildoers from the nation they'd ruined.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


College Trustee Fight Heats Up: Mailings, Advertisements Draw Attention to Dartmouth (Peter Jamison, 8/27/07, Valley News)

What is surprising to outside observers, perhaps, is the time and money Dartmouth's sons and daughters are willing to spend indulging that passion. And the extraordinary lengths to which alumni have gone in an intensifying blood-feud over a somewhat confusing set of procedural questions have led some to question whether the parties involved really care, as they say, about undergraduates' experience at Dartmouth -- or see the college as a battleground in a larger culture war between political conservatives and liberal academe.

The recently formed Committee to Save Dartmouth College has claimed it plans to pour up to $300,000 into a national advertising campaign to bring alumni's attention to potential changes to the college's Board of Trustees. The group -- whose organizers have remained anonymous, signing online communications with a moniker of combined Dartmouth dormitory names -- is opposed to the work of a new governance committee examining the board's structure and how trustees are elected. Former Chairman of Trustees William Neukom announced the committee’s formation in May.

Critics of the college administration say the governance committee is a thinly disguised means of diminishing alumni influence.

At present, alumni hold 16 of the 18 trustee seats (the other two are held by college President James Wright and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch). Of those 16, alumni elect eight -- who are then formally approved by the board of trustees -- while the board itself chooses the other eight. The college's governing body is “unique” in the prominence it gives to alumni voices, according to Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

In recent years, a string of maverick candidates, earning a place on the ballot through petition, have defeated the handpicked candidates of the Alumni Council, an organization that critics say is too cozy with college administrators. These dissident trustees, who are openly critical of the Dartmouth administration, say the move to re-examine the Board of Trustees' current setup is intended to prevent more like them from winning office.

“This is a group of election-losers who realize they're being outvoted, and want to change the rules and thereby ignore the will of the majority,” said Stephen Smith, a 1988 Dartmouth graduate who in May won a seat on the Board of Trustees in a successful petition campaign.

Smith, a professor at University of Virginia Law School who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, said he expects the governance committee to suggest either doing away with alumni involvement in the selection of trustees entirely or relegating trustees chosen by alumni to “ceremonial” status.

Haldeman acknowledged that the governance committee was created in response to the recent trustee elections, but denied that the board's motives were those of sore losers. He said trustee elections were becoming too divisive and costly -- Smith said he spent about $75,000 campaigning, as did one of his opponents -- and were creating a “reputational hit” to Dartmouth.

Haldeman, who is on the governance committee, would not reveal the committee's recommendations, which are due to be presented to the full Board of Trustees at a meeting on Sept. 7 and 8, but said that the board's size -- which he described as smaller than at many other colleges and universities -- would be one area of the committee's focus. The full board must approve any changes.

Some say the college administration's critics have a hidden agenda of their own. David Spalding, vice president for alumni relations at Dartmouth and a 1976 graduate of the college, said the petition trustees might be agents of an organized effort to bring politically conservative leadership to Dartmouth. In recent years, conservative media voices -- including the National Review and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal -- have lent their support to the Big Green's outsider trustee candidates. Dartmouth itself has a reputation as a bastion of sometimes dubious collegiate traditions: The college has a strong Greek system, was the second-to-last Ivy League school to admit women, in 1972 (Columbia University did not go co-ed until 1983), and is home to The Dartmouth Review, an independent student newspaper that is arguably the most notorious conservative organ in American higher education.

“I think everybody ought to be very honest about what they're doing,” Spalding said. “I think if this is going to be a conservative takeover of the college, people should be very honest and open about that. It could be a coincidence that three out of the four (petition trustees) are strong conservatives, and it could be a coincidence that the only media covering them are conservative media. But these coincidences do pile up over time.”

To borrow the cant of Academia, oughtn't the Ivy League be diverse, like having one conservative college in its ranks?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Wanted: Latinos to fill federal jobs: Theirs is the only ethnic minority underrepresented in the government workforce. The U.S. is using media and other methods to try to change that (Claudia Lauer, August 27, 2007, LA Times)

[U]nless this program succeeds where others like it have failed, the end result may be no more than a fractional gain: Despite the government's efforts, Latino representation in the federal workforce rose just two-tenths of a percentage point from 2005 to 2006.

Historically, minorities have found federal employment a road to opportunity. The proportions of African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans working for the government all equal or exceed the corresponding percentages in the civilian workforce.

Latinos, on the other hand, make up 7.6% of the federal workforce, compared with 12.8% of the civilian labor force. But Latinos have made significant gains in federal internship programs at the agencies where they are most underrepresented. Because internships tend to increase the likelihood of a job offer, an increase in the number of Latino employees might be expected -- though it doesn't seem to be working that way.

As Thomas Sowell has written, immigrant groups that sought political power and patronage--the Irish Catholics of Boston, for example--ended up economically retarded, while those that eschewed government influence for economic success--for example, Jews--ended up with both. Why would Latinos choose to follow the formula for economic failure that blacks and Indians followed?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'Critics' give Bush a 'surge' (Khody Akhavi, 8/28/07, Asia Times)

As usual, the Bush administration has been getting by with a little help - perhaps unwittingly - from its friends in the US mainstream media.

The most recent "information surge" to pulsate through US broadcast news outlets originated from the pens of Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two so-called "critics" of the administration's "miserable handling of Iraq", who, in a July 30 New York Times op-ed titled "A war we just might win", wrote that US forces "are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms".

O'Hanlon and Pollack, who also work as fellows at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think-tank, were careful not to acknowledge the possibility of "victory in Iraq" - an oft-used phrase that, along with "stay the course", has been recently omitted from President Bush's rhetoric. But they wrote that they were heartened by the morale of US troops, surprised at the gains made by the "surge", and confident in its potential to produce a "sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with".

"There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008," they concluded. In doing so, O'Hanlon and Pollack jump-started an information surge that would end up providing political cover for the administration's war policy.

Didn't they used to call it "Right deviationism"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Close aides to Musharraf meet with his opposition (Salman Masood, August 27, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Close aides to Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, and the chief of the country's intelligence agency are in London to hold talks with Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the president's two main political opponents, two generally reliable Pakistani newspapers reported Sunday.

The high-level contacts with the two opposition leaders, who are planning to return to Pakistan to take part in elections, come at a time when government officials have said they are starting a dialogue with all the main political parties to seek "national reconciliation" and to ensure a smooth expansion of democracy.

The greater the democratic patina, the more ruthless the government can be in putting down the militants.

August 26, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


The elegant assassin: How an Englishman in Somerville is becoming the most feared man in American letters (Christopher Shea, August 26, 2007, Boston Globe)

THE BLOOD PRESSURE of some of America's leading novelists no doubt just shot up: James Wood, The New Republic's famously stringent book critic -- scourge of John Updike, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo -- has jumped to The New Yorker, giving him a much wider audience for his coolly incendiary literary sermons.

For a hiring that followed a familiar pattern -- small, good magazine to big, good magazine -- Wood's move caused an extraordinary stir in literary circles. At The New Republic, his immensely learned, barbed essays, utterly unbowed by conventional wisdom, earned him an ardent following and the ire of novelists who failed to meet his standards.

Wood is controversial partly for his unusually clear (his detractors say crabbed) ideas about what a great novel is -- or, rather, isn't. He is especially set against "hysterical realism," his coinage for books that attempt to convey the raucousness of contemporary life through outlandish proliferating plots, allegory, bizarre coincidence, and high irony. In other words: Pynchon, Salman Rushdie, much of David Foster Wallace, the first two Zadie Smith books, and half of "The Corrections," by Jonathan Franzen. [...]

[W]hat does it mean that the most storied magazine in American history has aligned itself with a critic who essentially rejects the premises of a broad swath of contemporary American fiction?

"I think he just doesn't get America," says Lindsay Waters, executive editor for the humanities at Harvard University Press, invoking the argument that a messy, sprawling country demands comparable novels.

Except that Americans hate those books too. He just doesn't suck up to Academia and the intellectuals who pretend those books matter.

One of the best pieces he's written defended T.S. Eliot from an insipid charge of anti-Semitism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


From Poland with Love (Susitha R. Fernando, 8/26/07, Sri Lanka Times)

"In the Desert and the Wilderness" (Childrens film) directed by Gavin Hood is another film that is to be screened at the Poland Film Festival. Gavin Hood, a South African born director is a writer, producer and director, best known for winning the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards for the 2005 film 'Tsotsi'.

He directed his first commercial short film, The Storekeeper, in 1998, which earned him his first Academy Award nomination. His first feature film, A Reasonable Man, followed in 1999. Hood then went on to direct the Polish language 2001 feature film 'In Desert and Wilderness' (Wpustyni i w puszczy) when the original director fell ill. This was followed by Tsotsi in 2005.

The film, based on a novel by Polish Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905), tells the story of two children - a 14 years old Polish boy Stas Tarkowski and an eight year old English girl Net Rawilson raped by an Arabian leader Mahdi during their stay with their fathers - engineers in construction work on the Suez Canal in Africa. The fathers organise the chase but it proves extremely difficult due to the war conditions in the continent.

The children, abandoned to their own fate, wander across wild Africa with their black friend- Kali and Mea.

Not only is the movie worthwhile, but there's a good recent translation of the novel by Miroslaw Lipinski.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Even I Question The 'Truth' About 9/11 (Robert Fisk, 26 August, 2007, The Independent)

Gosh, he seemed so well-balanced otherwise....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Out of the blue and in the pink (Ben Goldacre, 8/25/07, The Guardian)

I love evolutionary psychologists, because the ideas, like "girls prefer pink because they need to be better at hunting berries" are so much fun. Sure there are problems, like, we don't know a lot about life in the pleistocene period through which humans evolved; their claims sound a bit like "just so" stories, relying on their own internal, circular logic; the evidence for genetic influence on behaviour, emotion, and cognition, is coarse; they only pick the behaviours which they think they can explain while leaving the rest; and they get in trouble as soon as they go beyond examining broad categories of human behaviours across societies and cultures, becoming crassly ethnocentric. But that doesn't stop me enjoying their ideas.

This week every single newspaper in the world lapped up the story that scientists have cracked the pink problem. "At last, science discovers why blue is for boys but girls really do prefer pink," said the Times. And so on.

The study took 208 people in their 20s and asked them to choose their favourite colours between two options, repeatedly, and then graphed their overall preferences. It found overlapping curves, with a significant tendency for men to prefer blue, and female subjects showing a preference for redder, pinker tones. This, the authors speculated (to international excitement and approval) may be because men go out hunting, but women need to be good at interpreting flushed emotional faces, and identifying berries whilst out gathering.

Now there are some serious problems here. Firstly, the test wasn't measuring discriminative ability, just preference. I am yet to be given evidence that my girlfriend has the upper hand in discriminating shades of red as we gambol foraging for the fruits of the forest (which we do).

But is colour preference cultural or genetic?

The funniest thing about the study is that it contradicts everything Darwinists claim about coloration for mating purposes. After all, if men preferred blue and women pink, the Marines would wear pink and bikinis would be blue in order to attract the opposite sex.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Report: NKorea Begins Erecting Fence (AP, Aug 26, 2007)

Not that we're actually building one, Little progress on border fence (Richard Marosi, 8/25/07, Los Angeles Times)

Nearly a year after Congress passed legislation calling for the construction of 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, about 15 miles have been built, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

But it did quiet the wahoos.

August 25, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


India and the US-sponsored Pax Democratica (B. Raman, August 24, 2007, rediff)

In his address to Japanese Parliament, Dr Singh spoke of India's vision of an 'arc of prosperity' extending from India to Japan. Is there a well-concealed additional vision of an 'arc of democracy'? That is the nagging question in the Chinese mind. It will nag even more after they have read Dr Singh's positive reaction to the idea of 'closer co-operation among the major democracies of the region'.'

Indian leaders and policy-makers have been repeatedly stressing that India's developing relations with the US, Japan and Australia are not directed against China or any other country. This has not satisfied the Chinese because they see quite the opposite being said by analysts in the US. They saw and continue to see the agreement in principle on Indo-US Civil Nuclear Co-operation reached by President Bush and Dr Manmohan Singh during the latter's visit to Washington in July 2005, as an American quid pro quo for India agreeing to be a US surrogate against Iran and China. The expected role of India against Iran finds mention in the Hyde Act, but not its expected role against China.

Similar concerns are nursed by the military junta in Myanmar since Bush's visit to India in March 2006. This should explain their reported post-March 2006 decline in enthusiasm for the sale of gas to India from the gas fields in the Arakan area. It is even alleged by some sources that there has also been a decline in enthusiasm for energy co-operation with the military junta of Myanmar in New Delhi after Bush's visit to India.

The forthcoming joint exercise by the navies of India, the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore in the Bay of Bengal in the beginning of September has added to the concerns in China as well as Myanmar. The exercise has been projected partly as humanitarian to improve their co-ordination for disaster relief and partly to test their capabilities for joint or co-ordinated action against non-State actors such as pirates, maritime terrorists and maritime smugglers of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction material.

This projection has not carried conviction to Beijing [Images] and the Myanmar military junta. China tends to see it as one more step in the US designs to contain its naval power. Myanmar sees it as a US attempt to pep up the morale of the pro-democracy elements in Myanmar. For the first time in recent months, there were demonstrations by pro-democracy elements in Rangoon and some other parts of Myanmar on August 19 and 22, 2007. The demonstrations were ostensibly against the recent increase in fuel prices and the economic hardships of the people. The military junta seems to see a link between the recrudescence of unrest by pro-democracy elements loyal to Aung San Suu Kyi and the forthcoming naval exercise. Their fears may be imaginary, but may result in a further suppression of political dissidents.

...the Axis of Good is hidden from professional diplomats but obvious to even dissidents in Myanmar?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


The Squall After the Whirlwind: A British historian takes Americans to task for their role in the post-World War II occupation : a review of AFTER THE REICH: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation By Giles MacDonogh (Andrew Nagorski, August 26, 2007, NY Times Book Review)

There's a gruesome last chapter to World War II, the bloodiest war in history. During the forced expulsions of about 12 million Germans from the Reich's eastern provinces, mostly from territory that became part of the newly reconstituted states of Poland and Czechoslovakia, about 2 million died. Imprisonment in former Nazi concentration camps, death marches, starvation, beatings, rapes and outright murder were all commonplace. As the Red Army and many local inhabitants saw it, this was justifiable revenge for Germany's monstrous crimes. The Americans, Brits and French didn't engage in violence on anything close to that scale, but they, too, sometimes let their desire for revenge get the better of them.

For a long time, this record of retribution was a taboo topic outside of Germany. Even the Germans worried that emphasizing their suffering could open them to accusations of rewriting history to cast themselves as equal victims. But since the collapse of communist regimes in their countries in 1989, at least some Poles and Czechs have been confronting that history. (Don't expect anything of the sort from Putin's Russia, where Stalin is glorified once again.) And in the West, this is a painful subject that has been attracting more attention.

In After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh, a British author of several books about German history, chronicles the final weeks of the war and the occupation that followed. His ambitious mission: to offer a comprehensive, unsparing account of what happened to the German people when the tables were turned. MacDonogh works to assemble a massive indictment of the victors, and his array of detail and individual stories is both impressive and exhausting. But he's far less successful in navigating the tricky moral terrain that such a subject inevitably occupies. As a result, his is a deeply flawed book.

The Germans may have had it coming, but the real moral crime was leaving Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. to the ministrations of the Soviets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Mother Teresa felt "emptiness": archbishop (Bappa Majumdar, 8/25/07, Reuters)

Mother Teresa experienced "emptiness" like any human, and the revealing letters she shared with her colleagues portrayed her humility, said the Archbishop of Kolkata, where the nun lived most of her life.

A book of letters written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- now Kolkata -- has revealed that she was deeply tormented about her faith and suffered periods of doubt about God.

"Despite facing the negative side of life, she remained steadfast on her way to holiness, such was her greatness," Reverend Lucas Sircar, who knew her for decades, told Reuters.

Given that Christ Himself despaired of God on the Cross, how would we mere mortals avoid doing so on occasion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


New law ups stakes for 1st DUI: Breath test required before starting car (Monique Garcia, August 24, 2007, Chicago Tribune)

First time drunken-driving offenders now will have to pass a breath test every time they get behind the wheel, under legislation signed into law Friday.

The measure, among the strictest in the nation, would require an estimated 30,000 first-time offenders whose licenses have been suspended to blow into devices that measure blood-alcohol content. If alcohol is detected, the car will not start.

They'll be mandatory on all cars within five years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Clinton draws Democrats' ire with remark (Associated Press, 8/25/07)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew outrage from her opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday after saying that a terrorist attack in the United States would give Republicans an edge in the 2008 race.

Clinton raised the possibility of another terrorist strike at a small gathering in New Hampshire on Thursday, saying she would be the best Democrat to confront the Republicans in the wake of such an event. Her comments drew fire from not only her rivals but also the liberal blogosphere, with her detractors accusing her of seeking to use terrorism as a political weapon just as Republicans had in earlier elections.

...the Democrats are so weak on defense a president, like Hillary, would be obliged to overreact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Help Wanted Ads Go Unanswered in West (MATT GOURAS, 8/25/07, Associated Press)

The owner of a fast food joint in Montana's booming oil patch found himself outsourcing the drive-thru window to a Texas telemarketing firm, not because it's cheaper but because he can't find workers.

Record low unemployment across parts of the West has created tough working conditions for business owners, who in places are being forced to boost wages or be creative to fill their jobs.

John Francis, who owns the McDonald's in Sidney, Mont., said he tried advertising in the local newspaper and even offered up to $10 an hour to compete with higher-paying oil field jobs. Yet the only calls were from other business owners upset they would have to raise wages, too. Of course, Francis' current employees also wanted a pay hike.

"I don't know what the answer is," Francis said. "There's just nobody around that wants to work."

August 24, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM


The dark secrets of Roman Polanksi (Christopher Sandford, 25th August 2007, Daily Mail)

Just before he returned to Los Angeles, however, the director accepted another commission to take a series of photographs - again of adolescent girls - this time for French Vogue's associate magazine Vogue Homme.

His idea was to "show them as they really are" - which meant "sexy, pert and thoroughly human" - and by adolescent, he meant girls of 13 or 14 years old.

When Polanski got to Los Angeles a friend suggested "the perfect candidate'" for these photographs - the younger daughter of an aspiring actress.

Samantha Jane Gailey was 13, but no innocent.

She would later explain that she'd had sex twice in the year before she met the director, that she'd drunk alcohol and that "once I was under the influence of Quaaludes [a sedative used as a recreational drug in the 70s] when I was real little".

But Gailey was also a schoolgirl who kept pet rats and had a Spiderman poster on her bedroom wall.

She was also four years under the age of sexual consent then required in the state of California - and 30 years younger than Polanski - but that didn't matter to him.

When a friend later asked about her age, he snapped: "She was about to turn 14."

Polanski set off to visit Gailey, and her mother, at their small, nondescript home in the western Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills on the afternoon of February 13, 1977.

The director was disappointed on first sight.

She was "a good looking girl, but nothing sensational", he said. Nevertheless he showed her the photographs he'd taken for French Vogue and she agreed to a shoot the following Sunday.

When Polanski arrived a week later he found Gailey waiting for him wearing a pair of jeans and a patchwork blouse.

The director proceeded to take the girl to an isolated spot half a mile away. Then, after a few shots, he asked her to remove her shirt.

The published photographs, he assured her, would be cropped so there would be no "boobies", as he called them. Polanski maintained later that Gailey was "entirely at ease".

The director didn't arrange to see Gailey again until Thursday, March 10.

This time Polanski first took her to actress Jacqueline Bisset's house and then to his friend Nicholson's mansion on Mulholland Drive.

The Oscar-winning actor wasn't there, but his then girlfriend, actress Anjelica Huston was.

On the way over Polanski was reported to have asked the girl whether she was "still a virgin" but the director insisted she said she started having sex "when I was eight".

When they reached Nicholson's house, Polanski gave the girl a glass of Cristal champagne and again asked her to pose topless, which he insisted she did "with great aplomb".

Shortly afterwards he also suggested she get into the Jacuzzi, and quickly produced a Quaalude, which she took.

"I can barely remember anything," Gailey told the Grand Jury later. "I was kind of dizzy, you know, like things were kind of blurry."

Polanski took more photographs, before taking off his own clothes and joining her in the Jacuzzi.

The girl asked to go home, and he told her "I'll take you home soon".

But when she repeated her request, he told her to lie down in a nearby guest house.

Polanski said afterwards that Gailey had quickly assured him she was feeling better - after which, he maintained, "very gently, I began to kiss and caress her".

But the 13-year-old girl's account was different.

She insisted that she told the director she wasn't feeling better, and when he kissed her she told him: "No" and "keep away".

In the next few minutes, according to the girl, Polanski raped and sodomised her.

He later described them as "making love" but Gailey violently disagreed.

When asked if she resisted, she said: "Not really - because I was afraid of him".

Eventually an unrepentant Polanski drove Gailey home.

When her mother and sister saw the topless shots, they were horrified.

But her mother was even angrier when she discovered that Polanski had actually had sex with her daughter - so angry that later that evening she made a formal complaint to the police.

The following evening Polanski was arrested in the foyer of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where he kept a suite.

Detective Philip Vannatter, a tenyear veteran, who 17 years later would go on to be lead investigator in the O.J. Simpson case, asked if Polanski had the slightest idea why he was being arrested. "I honestly don't know," the director replied.

Polanski's celebrity in Hollywood meant that he was never handcuffed.

Indeed one of the district attorneys called him a "great artist". Reality set in when the booking sergeant asked him: "What in hell do you think you're doing, going around raping kids?"

He treated her like the meat the "fashion" world wants them perceived as, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


Moth study backs classic 'test case' for Darwin's theory (Steve Connor, 25 August 2007, INDEPENDENT)

Now a Cambridge professor has repeated the key predation experiments with the peppered moth, only this time he has taken into account the criticisms and apparent flaws in the original research conducted 50 years ago. Michael Majerus, a professor of genetics at Cambridge University, has spent the past seven years collecting data from a series of experiments he has carried out in his own rambling back garden. It has involved him getting up each day before dawn and then spending several hours looking out of his study window armed with a telescope and notepad.

He wanted a definitive test of the idea that selective predation by birds really was responsible for the differences in the chances of survival among black and peppered varieties of B. betularia. His garden outside Cambridge is in an unpolluted area so in this setting it should be the typical or peppered variety of the moth that has a better chance of survival than that of the black or carbonaria form; it is unlikely to be seen by birds against the mottled background of the lichen-covered trees.

In a seminal description of his results to a scientific conference this week in Sweden, Professor Majerus gave a resounding vote of confidence in the peppered month story. He found unequivocal evidence that birds were indeed responsible for the lower numbers of the black carbonaria forms of the moth. It was a complete vindication of the peppered month story, he told the meeting.

"I conclude that differential bird predation here is a major factor responsible for the decline of carbonaria frequency in Cambridge between 2001 and 2007," Professor Majerus said.

"If the rise and fall of the peppered moth is one of the most visually impacting and easily understood examples of Darwinian evolution in action, it should be taught. It provides after all the proof of evolution," he said.

Criticisms of the 1950s experiments with the peppered month, carried out by the Oxford zoologist Bernard Kettlewell, came to the fore in a 2002 book by the American author Judith Hooper. Hooper's book, Of Moths and Men, suggested that the scientists at the centre of these experiments set out to prove the story irrespective of the evidence.

While the professor has also described drawbacks to Kettlewell's methodology, he was able to address all of these concerns and even tested an idea that Hooper had raised in her book - that it was bats rather than birds responsible for moth predation - a suggestion he dismissed altogether.

Professor Majerus compiled enough visual sightings of birds eating peppered moths in his garden over the seven years to show that the black form was significantly more likely to be eaten than the peppered.

Nothing is more certain in science than that a professor whose sole purpose in life is to derive a certain result will, but Mr. Majerus, unfortunately, never understood that the test case was useless even without the fraud. The persistence of the peppered variety, the ease with which the two varieties breed, and subsequent environmental changes all strike more substantial blows at the utility of Natural Selection than the Creationists have ever landed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


Would a Bush Bailout Save the GOP? (James Pethokoukis, 8/24/07, US News)

The last politician who took advice from the bond market was Bill Clinton. When he pushed for a tax hike back in 1993 to cut the budget deficit, it was under the assumption that bond investors would respond by bringing down interest rates. (The theory here is that deficits are inflationary. Inflation is bad for bonds.) Yet long-term interest rates surged from 6.45 percent when Clinton signed his tax-hike bill on Aug. 10, 1993, to 8.16 percent on Nov. 7, 1994, the day before the midterm congressional election where Republicans won back the House and Senate.

Now PIMCO's Bill Gross, perhaps the most well-known bond fund manager in the world, is giving President Bush and the GOP some advice. He wants the government to start cutting checks to struggling homeowners, as both good policy and smart politics. [...]

2) Talk about playing on someone else's home turf. Any Bush bailout idea, if he should propose one, would inevitably start a bidding war with Democrats. Hillary Clinton, for instance, has already proposed a billion-dollar fund to boost state programs that help at-risk borrowers avoid foreclosure. I don't see why the Republicans would get more credit than the Dems.

3) We're not talking about a very big constituency here. Research firm First American CoreLogic projects 1.1 million subprime-related foreclosures, spread out over a total period of six to seven years. And it's blue state California—which Democrat John Kerry won by 11 points in 2004—where most of the trouble is, with a reported 39,013 foreclosure filings in July, the most of any state for the seventh month in a row and up 289 percent from July 2006, according to RealtyTrac.

4) Not that politicians necessarily care, but the economics of a bailout are pretty iffy.

They've also been telling us for decades that rates would come down if only we ran budget surpluses, yet both Chairman Greenspan and Bernanke have hiked rates into the teeth of falling deficits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Early exposure to farm animals lowers IBD risk (Reuters Health, 8/24/07)

Infants who are regularly exposed to farm animals appear to be less likely than others to develop inflammatory bowel disease in childhood, according to the findings of a German study published in the journal Pediatrics.

...but did you ever try convincing the Dean of Students that's why you were exposing yourself to farm animals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 AM


U.S. teen unlocks the iPhone (The Associated Press, August 24, 2007)

A teenager in New Jersey has broken the lock that ties Apple's iPhone to AT&T's wireless network, freeing the most hyped cell phone ever for use on the networks of other carriers, including overseas ones.

George Hotz, 17, confirmed Friday that he had unlocked an iPhone and was using it on T-Mobile's network, the only major U.S. carrier apart from AT&T that is compatible with the iPhone's cellular technology.

While the possibility of switching from AT&T to T-Mobile may not be a major development for U.S. consumers, it opens up the iPhone for use on the networks of overseas carriers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Libya's Berber minority begins to come in from the cold (AFP, Aug 24, 2007)

After decades of even denying the existence of a Berber minority, Libya has been lavishing new attention on a community that makes up around a tenth of the mainly Arab country's population.

A regime that since it took power in 1969 had derided Berber demands for recognition as a colonial plot to divide the Arab nation, this month allowed Berber activists to hold a congress in a Tripoli hotel for the first time.

Both Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam and Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi have also made high-profile visits to the Berber heartland in the Jebel Nefusa mountains southwest of the capital to launch major projects to boost the local economy.

The sharp relaxation in official policy in a matter of months has impressed activists from the wider Berber community which stretches across north Africa from Egypt to Morocco and totals more than 25 million people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Obama's Foreign Policy Reset (Michael Duffy, 8/23/07, TIME)

Once questions have been raised about your foreign policy judgment, it's not easy to put the genie back in the bottle.

But try you must, which is why Barack Obama's latest foreign policy offering, regarding how to open doors with Cuba as the Castro era ends, is at least as much about repairing his image for Democrtic voters as it is about reshaping U.S. relations with Havana.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Icy, spicy, cool: Handmade paletas — Mexican ice pops — have traditional flavors and cutting-edge style (Betty Hallock, August 22, 2007, LA Times)

SUMMERTIME is paleta time. These Mexican ice pops -- chock-full of chunks of fresh fruit and available in a hypnotizing array of colors and clear, not-too-sweet flavors -- conjure images of hot afternoons in the park, time spent on a bench under a shady tree, clear blue skies dotted with red, white and green balloons.

That's not just some idyllic Latino-Rockwellian fantasy. On a recent 80-degree-plus weekend in the courtyard of Plaza Mexico in Lynwood, a family of five took advantage of a park bench and a view of a replica of the Ángel de la Independencia, each of them holding fast to summer by his or her Popsicle stick. Customers at the nearby Paletería La Michoacana, a small, often crowded shop tucked into a corner of the plaza, lined up for paletas in flavors such as tamarindo, hibiscus flower and mango con chile. (If summer in L.A. had a flavor, it might be mango con chile.)

But if you haven't yet visited one of L.A.'s many neighborhood paleterías, you most likely haven't experienced fresh, handcrafted made-on-the-premises ice pops. Really, you've never had Popsicles or ice cream bars like these -- a treat so idolized that one city in Michoacán has even raised a statue of a paleta at the entrance to the town. [...]

Cucumber-chile paletas

Total Time: 30 minutes, plus freezing time

Servings: 9 (3-ounce) paletas

Note: From recipe tester Noelle Carter. Popsicle molds are available at select Bed, Bath & Beyond stores and online at and

2 pounds (about 2 large) cucumbers, plus an additional half cucumber, divided

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

½ cup sugar

1 dried New Mexico chile pepper, slightly crushed

1 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder

1 teaspoon cayenne chile powder

1 teaspoon salt

1. Place empty ice-pop molds in the freezer to chill. Dice 2 pounds of the cucumber into 1-inch pieces; do not remove the skins. Place the pieces in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Strain into a medium bowl through a fine mesh strainer, pushing out the juice with some of the pulp. You should have 2 1/2 cups juice and pulp. Set aside.

2. Peel the remaining half-cucumber and cut it into half-inch-by-one-eighth-inch pieces. Set aside in a small bowl.

3. Add the lime juice, sugar and crushed chile pepper to a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.

4. In a small bowl, combine the chile powders. Strain the cooled syrup into the bowl with the cucumber juice, discarding the crushed pepper. Stir in the salt and one-fourth teaspoon of the combined chile powders.

5. Pour some of the mixture into each mold, leaving about a half-inch of space at the top. Stir several pieces of cucumber into each mold. Place lid on the molds and fit with the wooden stick. Place the molds in the freezer and freeze until solid, 2 to 4 hours.

6. Remove the molds from the freezer and run them briefly under warm water to loosen the paletas. Gently pull them from the molds and sprinkle the tops lightly with the remaining chile powder mixture to taste, if desired. Wrap the paletas in plastic wrap and return them to the freezer if not serving immediately. They will keep 1 to 2 weeks in the freezer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Butch van Breda Kolff, 84, Fiery Coach, Dies (FRANK LITSKY, 8/24/07, NY Times)

Van Breda Kolff used to say that except for a chosen few, coaching basketball was a vagabond profession, and he was a prime example. He held 13 head-coaching jobs and for one season, when he was 61, he coached a high school team.

“I’ve had some good jobs that I’ve left, or they fired me,” he once said. “At the time, I thought it was the right thing for me to do. Whether it turned out right later, who cares?”

He coached Bill Bradley as a collegian and Wilt Chamberlain as a professional and never seemed fully satisfied with either player. When Bradley played for him at Princeton, he said, “Bill is not hungry.” He felt the same way about Chamberlain, who played for him with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the final minutes of the seventh and deciding game of the National Basketball Association’s 1969 championship playoffs, Chamberlain benched himself during the fourth quarter with what van Breda Kolff considered a minor knee injury. When Chamberlain asked to return to the game, van Breda Kolff refused, and the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics by 2 points.

“We played better when he was out,” van Breda Kolff said. “I have no regrets because in my mind at the time I thought it was the right thing to do. The only regret I’ll have would be if I don’t have a team.”

Shortly after, van Breda Kolff resigned, but as usual he soon had another team.

His greatest legacy was probably another coach, This Coach Stalks Overdogs (Paul A. Witteman, 3/19/1990, TIME)
Carril grew up as a no-car-garage guy in a $21-a-month apartment hard by Quinn's Coal Yard in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania. His father, an immigrant from Castile, Spain, spent long days, weeks and years shoveling coal into an open-hearth furnace run by Bethlehem Steel. What Pete remembers most clearly about this Depression-era environment was the ethnic bonding prevalent among the Spanish, Polish and Italian inhabitants. "We always had food to eat," he says. "Families stuck together." The absence of material possessions was an advantage, Carril believes. "It made us innovative, creative," he says. Sometimes there were no ball fields and few balls, which led Carril and his contemporaries to improvise games. One involved dodging thrown rubber balls in a narrow culvert. It was not for the slow of foot.

More organized sports pointed the direction away from the furnaces. Too puny for his first love, football, Carril discovered hoops in the seventh grade. "It was the game I could play," he says. And how. Pete was a dervish guard at Liberty High School, leading the team to consecutive 24-3 records. That earned him a place at nearby Lafayette College, where a raffish free spirit named Willem van Breda Kolff came to coach and inherited Pete, then in his senior year. "I had my preconceived notions," says van Breda Kolff of his sawed-off, would-be star. "He threw up some weird shots." But van Breda Kolff, a former player in the National Basketball Association, recognized talent. "Pete was very, very quick," he says. And deceptive. Years later, when Princeton graduate Bill Bradley was a young player with the New York Knickerbockers, he came to Carril for mano-a-mano pointers. Carril, who had not coached Bradley in college, was then in his late 30s; Bradley was in his prime. "He was not bad at making you think he was going to take the shot, when what he was really going to do was drive past you," says Bradley. "I was a player," says Pete.

Too small for the pros by maybe 4 in. in van Breda Kolff's opinion, Carril embarked on a career as a high school government teacher and basketball coach. He won early and often. In 1966 he applied for the coaching job at Lehigh and got it by default. One year later, as van Breda Kolff was completing a five- year-long coaching tour de force at Princeton, he recommended Carril to succeed him. The incumbent thought his protege would be a hard sell. "Pete is not in Princeton's image," says van Breda Kolff. "He is not gray flannels and herringbone suits."

So much for the importance of image. But Carril actually did try, taking up orange-and-black bow ties at one point. That is Armond Hill's first memory of him, when Hill was a senior at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn. (Carrilism: Always recruit at schools whose names begin with Bishop or Monsignor.) "I saw this short guy with a bow tie and a big cigar lying down in the bleachers," Hill recalls. "After the game he came down and told me everything I did wrong and that he could make me a better player. It was that, more than the mystique of Princeton. I wanted to play for this guy." So he did, becoming the last great player Carril molded and then sent on to the N.B.A. Today Hill is surely the only alumnus of the N.B.A. who is a curator of an art museum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Funk's Not Dead: Not while a former Riker's Island corrections officer named Sharon Jones and a backing band called the Dap-Kings are alive and kicking. (Scott Frampton, 8/22/07, Esquire)

[I]mprobably, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings are even better than the real thing.

Improbably, because the elevator pitch is almost insulting: A former Rikers Island corrections officer joins the Dap-Kings, the house band of Daptone Records, to form a classic-soul-and-funk band. Improbably, because you can't re-create a sound just by playing the right notes in the right kind of order. To make people believe in your music, it has to have what wine enthusiasts call terroir, a taste of the earth it was planted in. This is especially true when your band's back story reads like the premise for a Wanda Sykes midseason-replacement sitcom. But that's what makes the new 100 Days, 100 Nights so sublime: The grit in the Dap-Kings' eerily perfect restoration of the sound and feel of various '60s soul styles -- they can, as necessary, sound like the house bands at Stax and Muscle Shoals or James Brown's J.B.'s -- is more than matched by the brewing squall in the 51-year-old Jones's voice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Charlie Parker, Uptown and Down (NATE CHINEN, 8/24/07, NY Times)

On a fundamental level...the festival pays homage to Parker and his footprint in the city. In many ways he was the quintessential New York hero: a maverick and bon vivant, a subject of notoriety and myth. He loved the city, and he toasted it outright with a tune called “Scrapple From the Apple” that was recorded in a New York studio 60 years ago this fall and almost immediately became popular with musicians. (Along with a catchy melody, it had a familiar harmonic progression, with elements of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” and George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.”)

“Charlie Parker became a New Yorker,” said the jazz historian Phil Schaap, whose Parker-fixated weekday radio program, “Bird Flight,” has been heard in its current form on WKCR (89.9 FM) since 1981. “That was important to him, and he felt great about it, and he enjoyed New York nightlife as well as he dominated it for a while.”

Like so many celebrated New Yorkers Parker came from somewhere else. He was born in Kansas City, Kan., on Aug. 29, 1920, and began his musical career across the state line in Kansas City, Mo., during the waning days of its biggest nightlife boom. The depth of that experience will be a principal subject of “Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of the Young Charlie Parker,” a long-gestating biography by the critic Stanley Crouch due out from Pantheon next year.

Parker made his first foray to New York in 1939, on the heels of Buster Smith, his fellow saxophonist and Kansas City mentor. While crashing at Mr. Smith’s apartment, he hit jam sessions at Harlem spots like Clark Monroe’s Uptown House on West 134th Street.

“The only place he could really meet musicians who were going to help him realize his goals would have been New York, and specifically Harlem at that time,” the saxophonist and historian Loren Schoenberg said recently by phone from the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, where he is executive director. The museum’s August programming has been pointedly Parker-centric; next Tuesday the final lecture of the month takes place at the Harlem School of the Arts.

Lore has it that Parker’s initial Harlem sojourn included toiling as a dishwasher at Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, where the fearsome pianist Art Tatum held court. At another uptown spot, Dan Wall’s Chili House, Parker had what he later described as an epiphany, during one of many sessions with a guitarist named Biddy Fleet.

In an interview a decade later with Down Beat magazine, Parker recalled that he had tired of the stereotypical chord voicings then in use. “I kept thinking there’s bound to be something else,” he said. “I could hear it sometimes, but I couldn’t play it.” One night in 1939, improvising over the Ray Noble tune “Cherokee,” he brought his idea to life. “And bop was born,” Down Beat added, putting the kicker on a story so irresistible that Thomas Pynchon slipped it into his epic novel “Gravity’s Rainbow.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Fossil find pushes human-ape split back millions of years (AFP, Aug 24, 2007)

Ten million-year-old fossils discovered in Ethiopia show that humans and apes probably split six or seven million years earlier than widely thought, according to landmark study released Wednesday. [...]

The most startling implication of the find, the scientists agree, is that our human progenitors diverged from today's great apes -- including gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees -- several million years earlier than widely accepted research based on molecular genetics had previously asserted.

Where the Darwinist uses the term "widely accepted" they mean "this week's fairytale.'

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Smashing Capitalism! (Barbara Ehrenreich, 8/24/07,

Somewhere in the Hamptons a high-roller is cursing his cleaning lady and shaking his fists at the lawn guys. The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.

First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were "NINJA" loans, for example, awarded to people with "no income, no job or assets." Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of "economic literacy" that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn't these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don't they have personal financial advisors anyway?

Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor - a category which now roughly coincides with the working class -- stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that "it's no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month."

I wish I could report that the current attack on capitalism represents a deliberate strategy on the part of the poor, that there have been secret meetings in break rooms and parking lots around the country, where cell leaders issued instructions like, "You, Vinny -- don't make any mortgage payment this month. And Caroline, forget that back-to-school shopping, OK?" But all the evidence suggests that the current crisis is something the high-rollers brought down on themselves.

What Credit Crunch?: To Judge by Lenders' Teasers, It's Still Subprime Time (Nancy Trejos, August 24, 2007, Washington Post)
On this week, the Internet-based loan company LendingTree offered "Bad credit options" and a $425,000 loan for only $1,376 a month. And Countrywide Financial, the nation's largest mortgage lender, declared, "Bad Credit? Call Today. Refinance or Tap into Your Home's Equity" in an online ad from its Full Spectrum Lending Division.

No-money-down mortgages and subprime loans that cater to people with spotty credit are quickly disappearing as lenders tighten their standards in response to a rise in foreclosures. But you wouldn't know that if you looked at the ads that some banks and loan companies have placed on the Internet and in newspapers, including this one, often right next to the very stories chronicling the meltdown in the mortgage industry. So what's with the mixed messages?

"It's been a common feature of advertising," said Allen Fishbein, director of housing and credit policy at the Consumer Federation of America. "They offer their products not around interest rates but among monthly payments, ease of access, among 'you're more likely to get a yes with us than with others.' I don't think that has changed in this environment."

Orders for long-lasting goods jump (Reuters, 8/24/07)
New orders for long-lasting U.S.-made manufactured goods surged a much bigger-than-expected 5.9 percent in July, the biggest gain since September, and a business investment gauge posted the first gain in three months, a Commerce Department report showed on Friday. [...]

U.S. stock index futures and the dollar rose on the strong economic news, while government debt prices pared gains.

Home Sales Rise, Factory Orders Up (JEANNINE AVERSA, 8/24/07, AP)
Sales of new homes perked up, while factories orders took off in July, raising hopes that the economy can safely make its way through financial turmoil that has shaken Wall Street.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that new-home sales rose 2.8 percent in July, after falling 4 percent in June. The increase in July lifted sales to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 870,000 units. A second report showed that orders to factories for big-ticket goods jumped 5.9 percent in July, the most in 10 months.

Both reports were better than analysts expected. They were forecasting home sales to fall and were calling for a much smaller, 1 percent gain in factory orders. they're reduced to celebrating when GDP growth slows to 3%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


'Confluence of the two seas' (Purnendra Jain, 8/24/07, Asia Times)

Once characterized by a low-key bilateral relationship with India, Japan today shows an extraordinary interest in the South Asian country, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's three-day visit to New Delhi this week signifies this most strongly. [...]

In Indonesia, he signed a bilateral free-trade agreement, making it the sixth Southeast Asian country after Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei to have an FTA with Japan. Indonesia is the largest supplier of liquefied natural gas to Japan, and in an environment where there is a strategic race for energy security, Japan has secured supplies through this agreement. In return, Japan will provide liberal access to a range of Indonesian products, including farm produce - rice exempted - into its market. After India, Abe was scheduled to visit Malaysia, where he is to meet with his Malaysian counterpart and is expected to sign a joint statement promoting bilateral cooperation in areas ranging from security to environmental issues.

The most important visit on his Asian tour was that to India, a country that for long remained on the periphery of Japan's Asia vision. But the old vision has changed significantly and swiftly, and further change is on its way as Tokyo is keen to engage India in a comprehensive way. Calling it a "paradigm shift", Japanese Ambassador to India Yasukuni Enoki stated that within the framework of Japan's Asian diplomacy, now "the Japan-India partnership is the most important".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Two Horns Against the World (WILL FRIEDWALD, August 24, 2007, NY Sun)

The legendary Gerry Mulligan-Chet Baker Quartet of the early 1950s wasn't just a great band; it was a great idea for a band. The idea of allowing trumpet and saxophone to improvise freely and interact without the harmonic constraints of a piano gave the foursome both a playful quality and a seriousness not found in other modern jazz combos. The absence of a dominant chordal instrument motivated the four players to work harder, to avoid the clichés and familiar patterns that were already settling into bebop. Everything that the quartet did sounded fresh and original, and it still does more than 50 years later.

Since Mulligan and Baker played together for only two years, they hardly had the chance to grow stale. Both men tried to keep the idea going with different partners and slightly different instruments — Mulligan with Bob Brookmeyer and Baker with Stan Getz — but it wasn't the same. Remarkably, no other regularly working ensemble picked up the slack, and the two-horn, two-rhythm concept had to wait until Ornette Coleman (a mere six years later) to give it new life.

For the last few years, the Brooklyn-based trumpeter John McNeil has been exploring the possibilities of Mulligan's original concept: trumpet and sax with bass and drums and no piano or guitar, playing essentially a bop-based music based on traditional chord sequences. On his most recent album, last year's "East Coast Cool" (the title of which refers to how the West Coast Cool School sound of the '50s was largely invented by New Yorkers like Mulligan and Miles Davis), Mr. McNeil worked with the baritone saxophonist Allan Chase. This week, between Tuesday and Sunday, at the Village Vanguard, the other half of the frontline is the tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry.

No Coasting—an Iron-Lipped Trumpeter Bridges East and West: John McNeil's East Coast Cool (Francis Davis, March 3rd, 2006, Village Voice)
-BIT TORRENT: Gerry Mulligan Quartet - The Best Of The Gerry Mulligan Quartet With Chet Baker (Mininova)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Making Digital Books Into Page Turners: Despite tepid response to its Reader, Sony sees potential in the market--and Amazon may agree (Business Week, 9/03/07)

Nearly 10 Months After its debut, the Sony Reader is hardly a game changer. Reviews of the tiny handheld book-reading device have been tepid at best, and Sony Corp. (SNE ) has consistently declined to release sales figures, which just might tell you something. But Sony isn't backing away. In fact, as speculation continues in publishing circles that book e-tailing giant (AMZN ) is planning to come out with its own portable reader, Sony is launching a number of initiatives to give its Reader more sizzle.

The market for digital books is nascent, and Sony, despite the Reader's less-than-splashy debut, still sees its potential, believing people will eventually warm to reading on a flat screen everything from books to the magazine you're holding now. The half-inch-thick Sony Reader, which can store about 80 electronic books, allows readers to flip pages and adjust the type size. It sells for about $300, and digital book downloads range from $2 to $20 apiece.

The Reader, however, has not drawn the wows that, say, a new version of the iPod (AAPL ) can still elicit. Many users say they are unhappy with the interface (too many buttons and not intuitive) and complain that books for the Reader can only be purchased at Sony's online service, Connect. Less than a tenth of the titles on the shelves of your average Barnes & Noble (BKS ) or Borders (BGP ) are available at Connect. Lisa Phillips, a vice-president at Random House Direct who received her Sony Reader as a gift last December, is turned off by Sony's closed system. "An open format where you could go to different places and not just use their system would be helpful," she says.

As John Naisbitt predicted, for electronic readers to succeed they'll have to duplicate the tactile sensation of paper books and periodicals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Japan, US, Australia consider first summit (Aug 24, 2007)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his Australian counterpart John Howard and US President George W. Bush will discuss North Korea's nuclear disarmament and China's military build-up, it said, citing unnamed government sources.

Japan will propose holding the trilateral summit talks regularly, the Yomiuri said.

In March, Abe signed a security accord with Australia, Japan's first such agreement with any country besides the United States, its main ally.

Japan and Australia are both close US allies and supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


The ultimate global battle: a review of Boeing Versus Airbus by John Newhouse (Benjamin A Shobert, 8/24/07, Asia Times)

[B]y outsourcing large portions of the 787, Boeing sent a strong message to its workforce about what the company was prepared to do in case it had labor problems on its hands again.

Newhouse expands on this second point when he writes, "There is no evidence, however, that Boeing is saving much money by outsourcing the 787's wing or sections of the fuselage. Japan is not a cheap labor market. To the contrary. Neither is Italy. But the outsourcing does send a message to the unions that Boeing deals with. It says: 'If you mess too hard with us, we can always outsource your job to another place'" (p 169).

Third, the 787's systems-integrator model is an attempt by Boeing to break internal paradigms, the incestuous influence of years of success that set too many people's feet in concrete and made them resistant to change, even as Airbus became increasingly successful. Says Newhouse, "Boeing's engineers are in the main hostile to 'farming out tribal knowledge', as some of them put it" (p 28).

It would be hard to imagine how Airbus's now much-publicized and seemingly plagued A380 super-jumbo could be more different from the 787. Unlike Boeing's reduced-hub model, Airbus believes that the largest unserved market potential lies within Asia, and that the demand here is going to be for aircraft with capacities beyond those of the current generation of 747s. As Airbus officials shared with Newhouse, one out of every 10 flights into London's Heathrow is a 747 jumbo; using the A380, many more passengers could go through the airport with no increase in flights.

It remains a very subjective question, and one Newhouse leaves largely unexplored, how such a change would impact already congested destinations like Heathrow. We are left to wonder, at this early stage of the plane's introduction, how much of a joy it will bring the average traveler. Thoughts of these planes disgorging additional hundreds of people into already strained secondary security checkpoints, customs lanes and baggage claims leaves one less than enthused.

Similarly, the A380 does nothing to rekindle the glamour airplanes once had. Newhouse quotes Adam Brown, former vice president for consumer affairs at Airbus: "The A380 is ugly. [It has a bloated, snub-nosed look.] I concede that," he said. "It has to be, though. To be compatible with the parameters of airports, it is required to sit in an 80-meter-square box. "

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


AP Poll: God vital to young Amercians: Among America's young people, godliness contributes to happiness. (ERIC GORSKI and TREVOR TOMPSON, 8/24/07, Miami Herald)

An extensive survey by The Associated Press and MTV found that people aged 13 to 24 who describe themselves as very spiritual or religious tend to be happier than those who don't. [...]

Forty-four percent say religion and spirituality is at least very important to them, 21 percent responded it is somewhat important, 20 percent say it plays a small part in their lives and 14 percent say it doesn't play any role.

Among races, African-Americans are most likely to describe religion as being the single most important thing in their lives. Females are slightly more religious than males, and the South is the most religious region, the survey said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


The Political Perils of Targeting Immigrants (Kimberley Strassel, 8/24/07, Real Clear Politics)

History students call it a teaching moment: A week before the general election in 1884, fiery Protestant minister Samuel D. Burchard warned about the perils of allowing his party to identify with "Romanism." Standing by his side in New York was Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine. Catholic voters were furious.

Mr. Blaine lost the state by 1,149 votes, and the election to Grover Cleveland. It then took Catholics 100 years to get over it, when Ronald Reagan finally convinced them to trust his party again.

Today's question is whether Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are providing future scholars with their own teaching moment. Their spitting row over illegal immigration continues to lead the news, given how little else there has been to fill the newspapers in these dreary August days. At its current momentum, it also threatens to become a case study in how nativism can drive a political party off a cliff.

And all it took was a trip to Bob Jones for W to lose Catholics all over again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


CBO Projects Lower Fiscal 2007 Deficit (Richard Rubin, 8/23/07, CQ)

Surging individual income tax revenue is helping narrow the federal budget deficit this year, as lawmakers and the White House continue the long-running debate over the country’s fiscal future.

The budget deficit for fiscal year 2007 is expected to be $158 billion, the Congressional Budget Office announced Thursday. That’s $19 billion less than what the CBO projected in March, $47 billion less than the administration’s estimate and $90 billion less than the fiscal 2006 deficit. [...]

By 2012, CBO projects, the government will be running a $62 billion surplus, growing to $109 billion by 2017.

...can we cut taxes fast and deep enough to avoid the global economic problems that US surpluses trigger?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Clashes Break Out in the Caucasus (C. J. CHIVERS, 8/24/07, NY Times)

The shootout followed an outbreak of violence on Thursday in the mountains of Dagestan. Two officers were killed in an ambush, and two other attacks in Ingushetia left a Russian soldier dead. A total of at least 16 police officers and soldiers were wounded, the authorities said.

The attacks in Dagestan were the latest in a series this summer in the republics, which are adjacent to Chechnya. They underscored the degree to which the insurgency, weakened since 2004, has managed to survive and conduct operations against Russia’s numerically superior police and military forces.

They also raise questions about Russia’s official assertions that Chechnya and its neighboring republics, a few hundred miles east of Sochi, where Russia is to stage the Winter Olympics in 2014, are secure and under control.

Someone want to break it to Dilip Hiro<./a>?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Niekro to keep testing his knuckleball in Fresno (Andrew Baggarly, 8/24/07, Contra Costa Times)

For years, the Giants wouldn't let first baseman Lance Niekro throw his knuckleball, which was like telling one of the Wallendas that he couldn't touch a trapeze.

Now Niekro's family parlor trick might be the one thing that keeps him in the organization. His experimentation with the knuckler will continue at Triple-A Fresno, and if it's successful, the Giants could have a potent two-way player at the end of their bench next season.

"We know he's got a good one," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "It's just a matter of throwing it to hitters. It's a big bridge to cross. It's a lot different from playing catch with it. You've got to be competitive, throw it in the strike zone."

Niekro's late father, Joe, was an accomplished knuckleball pitcher for more than two decades; his uncle, Phil, rode his knuckler to the Hall of Fame.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


NPD Leader Charged with Inciting Race Hate: The leader of Germany's far-right NPD party has been charged with inciting race hate after proposing Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess for a Nobel Peace Prize. If convicted, he could face three years in jail. (Der Spiegel, 8/24/07)

NPD leader Udo Voigt could face three years in jail after being charged with inciting race hate.
For an award with such laudable intentions, the Nobel Peace Prize has certainly had its fair share of controversy over the last century. As well as no-brainer winners such as Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, there have been more contentious laureates such as Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

But Adolf Hitler's secretary and deputy Rudolf Hess? The fact that the head of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), Udo Voigt, proposed Hess for the peace prize during a speech last Saturday to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Hess's death only confirms how twisted the worldview of right-wing extremists is. Apart from the fact that a leading Nazi was never a likely contender for a peace prize, nominations to the Nobel Peace Prize are by invitation only and nominees must be alive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Rankin sorry JK joke 'got out of hand' (The Scotsman, 8/24/07)

CRIME writer Ian Rankin was joking when he said his wife had seen fellow city author JK Rowling sitting in a cafe writing a new book. [...]

"This was a joke that got out of hand," he said. "I made the comments at the Book Festival purely as a joke. There were 600 people in the audience and only one person didn't laugh."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Mendoza Line's 30 Year Low: Torn-apart lovers shoot out the lights, each other (Jason Gross, August 21st, 2007, Village Voice)

Artists usually dis fans who pick apart their "break-up albums," but denial's pointless with this Brooklyn band's powerful ninth (and final) record: It's the gruesome aftermath of a contact-sport affair. If singers and ex-partners Tim Bracy and Shannon McArdle matched their music to their emotions, they'd be grinding out ear-pounding death metal instead of 30 Year Low's country rock to match the cruelty they unleash.

August 23, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Gaping hole found in universe (Reuters, 8/23/07)

A giant hole in the Universe is devoid of galaxies, stars and even lacks dark matter, astronomers said on Thursday.

The team at the University of Minnesota said the void is nearly a billion light-years across and they have no idea why it is there. [...]

The void is in a region of sky in the constellation Eridanus, southwest of Orion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Turkey and Europe: A muddle with global ramifications (Kirsty Hughes, August 23, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

In July, the country's political parties took part in a robust democratic electoral campaign. Turnout was high. And Turkish voters showed what they thought of the military's clumsy intervention in politics by returning Erdogan's Justice and Development Party with an increased majority with 46 percent of the vote.

Even before putting his cabinet in place, Erdogan announced that his advisers are working on a new civilian constitution to replace the military-inspired one of 1981. This bold move suggests that a confident, strong new government will now move fast on political reforms. A replacement for Article 301 can be anticipated. So can a less-hawkish stance on the south-east and any incursion into northern Iraq, supposedly much favored by Turkey's generals. Meanwhile, the economy is booming.

Where then is the European Union? Unfortunately, there is little sign of it gearing up its foreign policy to support democratic modernization of this key geostrategic neighbor and NATO ally. The new president on the block, Nicolas Sarkozy, made clear before and after his election his visceral opposition to allowing Turkey into Europe. And at the end of June, France blocked the opening of membership talks with Turkey on the euro - notionally on "technical" grounds but essentially because Sarkozy wants Turkey to have nothing more than a "privileged partnership" with Europe, never to be a full member of the club. Other member states shuffled their feet and talked nervously in response, but did nothing.

This autumn, the European Commission is expected to issue a fairly critical annual progress report on Turkey, given Turkey's reform standstill in the last year. But it is for Europe's leaders, not its bureaucrats to rise to the moment, and respond to the new positive political situation in Turkey. Europe's position should be clear: If Islam and democracy can go hand in hand, then so can Islam and Europe through Turkey's bid to join the club.

But the EU is in a mess - there is no chance of it making a robust restatement of Europe's commitment to Turkey's membership.

Why wish the EU upon the Turks when they could join NAFTA instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


Does America need a recession? (The Economist, 8/23/07)

Most people think the question smacks of madness. According to received wisdom, the Fed should not cut interest rates to bail out lenders and investors, because this creates moral hazard and encourages greater risk-taking; but if financial troubles harm spending and jobs the Fed should immediately ease policy so long as inflation remains modest. Central bankers should be guided by the “Taylor rule”—and set interest rates in response to deviations in both output and inflation from desired levels.

But should a central bank always try to avoid recessions? Some economists argue that this could create a much wider form of moral hazard. If long periods of uninterrupted expansions lead people to believe that the Fed can prevent any future recession, consumers, firms, investors and borrowers will be encouraged to take bigger risks, borrowing more and saving less. During the past quarter century the American economy has been in recession for only 5% of the time, compared with 22% of the previous 25 years. Partly this is due to welcome structural changes that have made the economy more stable. But what if it is due to repeated injections of adrenaline every time the economy slows?

Many of America's current financial troubles can be blamed on the mildness of the 2001 recession after the dotcom bubble burst. After its longest unbroken expansion in history, GDP did not even fall for two consecutive quarters, the traditional definition of a recession.

The fact that you have to change the definition of recession just to pretend that there's been one in the time since Ronald Reagan first took office suggests that they aren't all that necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


In Beijing, Orwell Goes to the Olympics (ROSS TERRILL, 8/23/07, NY Times)

The penalty for “Chinglish” is usually humiliation, not incarceration. Still, citizens are asked to snitch, Mao-era style, on people who shame China with their shaky English. An outfit called the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program issues prefabricated foreign phrases to workers who cannot converse in any foreign tongue. The Olympics have become one more tool in the authoritarian state’s box of tricks.

Yes, curbing Chinglish — along with current efforts to eliminate spitting, littering and pushing to enter a bus or train — shows the better side of authoritarianism. Clean streets are agreeable, and Beijing’s may now be better than New York’s. The city’s Spiritual Civilization Office has begun a monthly “Learn to Queue Day,” surely welcome to all who have been victims of the scramble to board a Chinese bus. It reminds one that China could have a government far worse than it has now.

Yet behind the attack on Chinglish lies an Orwellian impulse to remake the truth. Banished from Beijing for the Olympics will be not only fractured English, but disabled people, Falun Gong practitioners, dark-skinned villagers newly arrived in the city, AIDS activists and other “troublemakers” who smudge the canvas of socialist harmony.

This summer, around the time of the 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, the government honed house arrest as a device to smoothly eliminate dissidents. Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, a young couple who often speak up for rights granted in China’s Constitution, and who were already veterans of hundreds of days of house arrest, were again locked up just minutes before they were to fly to Europe to show their documentary film “Prisoner of Freedom City,” which depicts the gap between fact and fiction in the political life of Beijing.

Fictions will abound for the month of August 2008. On all fronts the party-state will pull the rabbit of harmony from the hat of cacophony — “What do you mean by dissidents?” Scientists have been told to produce a quota of “blue days” with a clear sky, perpetuating a Chinese Communist tradition of defying natural as well as human barriers to its self-appointed destiny. Mao vowed to plant rice in the dry north of China as well as the lush south, to prove the power of socialism. “We shall make the sun and moon change places,” he cried. None of this occurred.

We will disgrace ourselves if we participate in this Potemkin farce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:19 PM


Hispanic Churches Add English Services (ERIC GORSKI, 8/23/07, AP)

While churches from every imaginable tradition have been adding Spanish services to meet the needs of new immigrants, an increasing number of Hispanic ethnic congregations are going the other way—starting English services.

It's an effort to meet the demands of second- and third-generation Hispanics, keep families together and reach non-Latinos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


Islamic Republic of Fear (The Economist, 8/23/07)

As much as the scale of the crackdown, its severity is raising eyebrows. Much of the police action has been accompanied by complaints of brutality, and in many cases by documentary evidence such as graphic footage of beatings, posted on dissident websites. Despite prison crowding, punitive use of solitary confinement appears to have grown more common. The number of executions nearly doubled last year, to 177, bringing Iran the unsavoury distinction of being the world's heaviest user of capital punishment per head of population. This year has seen not only a further jump in the number of judicial killings but a return of mass public hangings, which are sometimes broadcast on state television.

Such harsher treatment, say rights activists, is partly a product of the paranoid atmosphere generated by a government that has deliberately associated any form of civil disobedience with alleged foreign plots. Recent remarks by the country's chief of police made this link explicit. Once they had dealt with “propagators of moral decay”, he said, his forces would turn their attention to those who “theorise on corruption”, such as critics whom he tied to foreign conspiracies aimed at a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic Republic.

But foreign spies and decadent liberals are not the regime's only critics. Mr Shahrudi, the chief judge, has himself voiced dismay over the government's policies. In July he condemned the stoning to death of a man accused of adultery, and sponsored this month's mass amnesty in what was seen as a sign of discomfort with police excess. He has also joined a broad range of former officials, economists, oil executives and businessmen in attacking Mr Ahmadinejad's erratically autocratic economic policies, which have included forcing banks to slash interest rates, splurging on costly infrastructure projects and replacing respected technocrats with cronies.

The regime is right to be terrified of its people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


A Bump in India-U.S. Rapport: Defining ‘Ally’ (SOMINI SENGUPTA, August 23, 2007, NY Times)

The hullabaloo here contrasts sharply with the criticism that President Bush has faced at home from members of Congress, who accuse him of yielding too much to Indian demands, particularly on its right to test atomic weapons. Such a broad exception, critics say, stands to weaken international nonproliferation norms.

The Indian government, and supporters of the deal more broadly, contend that Indians ought not to fret about American domination. “The engagement with America is already complete,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, whose company, Bharti Enterprises, has entered into a partnership that allows Wal-Mart into the Indian market. “Wal-Mart is here. Indian companies are making acquisitions there.”

Mr. Mittal, who is also president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, said the nuclear accord would be a touchstone of far broader cooperation between the countries in everything from pharmaceuticals to agriculture. “If America and India are really seen as allies, as great partners in progress, you will see trade multiply,” he said.

Beyond the talk of shared values, good will for Americans, their culture, even their government prevails among many Indians. Indians make up the largest number of foreign students in the United States, and they get the largest number of work visas to the United States, according to the American Embassy here. Last year, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 56 percent of Indians surveyed had a favorable view of the United States, second only to Japanese’s view.

Prem Shankar Jha, a magazine columnist who has written in favor of the nuclear deal, said part of the good will came because, “by the grace of God, we never became your allies in past, we never got a chance to be let down.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Ahmedinejad held to election promises (Kimia Sanati, 8/24/07, Asia Times)

A poll run by the Tehran-based news website Baztab on the second anniversary of the elections that brought Ahmadinejad to power found his popularity plummeting. The poll of 20,000 people showed that 62.5% of respondents who voted for Ahmadinejad in 2005 would not elect him president again. And only 3.5% of those who did not vote for him said they would now vote for him for the presidency.

"The advocates of the [hardline] Ahmadinejad administration claim the Baztab poll was biased, but even a poll run by Fars news agency, which is known to be very pro-government, revealed that 44.6% of the respondents to the poll believed his economic policies had not had any positive effects on the economy, compared [with] 30.3% who believed he had made things better," a reformist activist in Tehran said on the condition of anonymity. Another 25.1% said things are worse economically than they were before Ahmadinejad came to power, said the activist.

"His campaign was mainly focused on promises of fighting corruption and improving people's lives economically," the activist said. "He claimed the oil money was being misappropriated and wasted. These were on the top of the list of the millions of ordinary people outside the minority hardline religious establishment, whose main concerns were issues of religious morality and religious values. The president's failure to deliver his economic promises has naturally disillusioned this large group of voters, who find themselves under even greater pressure than before.

"Voters clearly stated their disappointment with the government last December when they refused to vote for the electoral lists that the president's allies had put out for city councils and the Assembly of Experts. Things are worse now. Gasoline rationing and the problems it has caused in transportation, tourism, agriculture and many other areas are greatly contributing to people's disillusionment with the government," he said.

Darned electorates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Tolerance and tradition in Turkey (Husain Haqqani, August 23, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Turkey, the first secular republic with a majority Muslim population, is expected to soon have a president who prays in public and whose wife wears a headscarf as a manifestation of her religious convictions. Anti-religious secularists in the Muslim world see this development as a threat to Turkey's laicism. But it could also be an opportunity to define secularism in the Muslim world as a political system ensuring separation of theology and state rather than as an anti-religious ideology.

For almost a century, secular elites in Muslim countries have equated secularization with renunciation of Islamic symbols and practices.

All Turkey need do is look at the Europe dying around it to see the danger of secularism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Sadr's army proves hard to beat: U.S. soldiers battling Al Mahdi fighters say that in the eyes of Baghdad residents, the militia offers more than they can. (Julian E. Barnes, 8/23/07, Los Angeles Times)

In the east Baghdad strongholds of the Al Mahdi militia, U.S. efforts to weaken ties between the militant Shiite Muslim group and the Shiite population are falling short, say American soldiers assigned to carry out the plan. [...]

"They want to have the militia here," said one experienced noncommissioned officer who has served multiple tours in Iraq. "So, why are we here?"

The Americans see the militia as a criminal organization engaged in racketeering and execution-style slayings of Sunni Muslims, but many Iraqis believe the militants offer the only protection against attacks by Sunni insurgents and are a reliable source for scarce fuel supplies. So many residents reject the American message of peace between Shiites and Sunnis and continue to support the militia.

"These people are not going to change," said the noncommissioned officer in east Baghdad, who, like other troops, spoke on condition of anonymity because his views differed from those of his commander. "They should stand up to the militia, but they want to have Shiite and Sunni separated."

The flaws underscore the difficulty of crafting a strategy that can work in an environment in which few trust the ability of U.S. forces or the central government to improve their neighborhoods.

Many soldiers also say practices that worked against insurgencies in other wars or in other parts of Iraq may not apply to Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods.

The Al Mahdi militia is not a textbook insurgent group. To Iraqi Shiites, the militia offers a source for basic services and support for the political and religious work of popular anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr.

"The Mahdi militia provides services and protects the region," said a 25-year-old clothing salesman in the Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad who gave his nickname as Abu Atwar. "Militiamen do some killings from time to time, but we do not care about the crimes they commit. Only God can make them pay for that because, as you know, no law is working in Iraq now."

We didn't fight the Christian Democrats in Germany after the war, we put them in charge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


U.S., France savor taste of warmer ties
: Sarkozy's enthusiasm for things American has begun to rub off on his people. A film on a Parisian rodent has added some spice. (Devorah Lauter, August 23, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

The leader of the most powerful nation in the world can't wait to have a cookout in Maine, complete with hot dogs and blueberry pie, for the new president of France. "Freedom fries" have regained their rightful name. And American children have become familiar with the word "ratatouille" thanks to a film about a lovable French rat who can cook better than most humans.

Either food is the key factor in geopolitical relations, or Americans have changed their minds about France. Or both.

"After hatred, it's head-over-heels love -- especially for Sarko l'Americain," proclaimed Le Monde newspaper, using a frequent nickname for pro-American President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Although pro-American sentiment appears to be slowly surfacing on this side of the Atlantic as well, there is still ambivalence about getting too close to the United States. It's partly because of disagreements over the war in Iraq, but also because of fundamental questions the French are asking about their own future. The French are eager for change, but they also fear U.S.-style capitalism.

One expert calls the condition "French schizophrenia."

Giving up the dead end path they've pursued since the Enlightenment is predictably difficult. Acknowledging the hated English wisely avoided the same trap just makes it worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Health plans offer investment (Gregory Lopes, August 20, 2007, Washington Times)

Enrollment in health insurance plans with savings accounts has increased steadily since they became available in 2004, but 2008 could be their breakout year, according to some health care consultants.

August is the month when employers buy health insurance for their employees or switch plans. Health care consultants from Towers Perrin, Mercer and BearingPoint, three of the biggest health care benefits consulting firms in the country, said the current enrollment season indicates that in 2008, health savings accounts will increase dramatically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


New York Activists Say Giuliani Has Retreated on Gay Issues (Jose Antonio Vargas, 8/19/07, Washington Post)

Frustrated by what he regards as the shifting stance of Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani on gay rights, Ryan Davis logged on to MySpace, gathered a few of his friends and grabbed a video camera. Together, they created a minute-long YouTube video aimed at hurting the former New York mayor with social conservatives in early primary states.

"Gays for Giuliani," it's called.

"I couldn't think of a more ironic title," said Davis, a 25-year-old gay writer and director, sitting in his cramped Hell's Kitchen apartment, showing off what he calls his masterpiece. With the theme music of "The West Wing" in the background, the video shows gay New Yorkers saying things such as: "I would be hard-pressed to think of any conservative politician who embraces the gay community like Giuliani does."

Romney Struggles to Define Abortion Stance (Michael D. Shear, 8/23/07, Washington Post)
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said this week that as president he would allow individual states to keep abortion legal, two weeks after telling a national television audience that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure nationwide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Rising powers have the US in their sights (Dilip Hiro, Asia Times)

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States stood tall - militarily invincible, economically unrivaled, diplomatically uncontestable. and the dominating force on information channels worldwide. The next century was to be the true "American century", with the rest of the world molding itself in the image of the sole superpower.

Yet with not even a decade of this century behind us, we are already witnessing the rise of a multipolar world in which new powers are challenging different aspects of US supremacy - Russia and China in the forefront, with regional powers Venezuela and Iran forming the second rank. These emergent powers are primed to erode US hegemony, not confront it, singly or jointly.

Iran has a fertility rate of 1.7%, net migration of -4.29/1000, male life expectancy of 69.12 years, per capita GDP of $8,700 and several thriving separatist movements, not least among the 7% of the population who are Kurds.

Venezuela has just 26 million people, a net migration rate of -1.28/1,000, and a per capita GDP of $7,2000.

China has a net migration rate of -0.39/1,000, fertility rate of 1.75, 30 million excess males, a GDP per capita of $7,700, and several regions it has no prayer of holding onto including Tibet, Uighurstan, Hong Kong, etc..

Russia has a negative population growth rate at -0.484%, net migration at .28/1,000, fertility rate of 1.39, male life expectancy of 59.12 years, per capita GDP of $12,200, and various separatist movements, like the Chechens.

America has net migration of 3.05/1000, fertility rate of 2.09, life expectancy of 78, and a GDP per capita of $44,000.

It was always an asinine notion that the Nazis or the Communists posed a serious threat to the United States--to posit that this motley crew of dying nations are emerging challengers is hysterical.

It's the darndest thing--when we cook up a threat from some enemy we want to dispose of--be it Imperial Japan or Baathist Iraq--the regimes days are numbered. And when folks like the CIA or Mr. Hiro misjudge a threat--be it from the Soviets or Hugo--they don't last much longer. At some point you have to conclude that not only do we not have any peers but that there's nothing worse for a dictator's future than to be mistakenly perceived as one.

In Iran, living in the moment: Vacationing families put a dent in their gas rations, raising fears of chaos when the initial six-month allotments are depleted (Kim Murphy, 8/23/07, Los Angeles Times)

Since June, Iran has rationed gasoline to about 26 gallons a month for most private cars, leaving many families doubtful about their summer vacation plans and raising fears of pandemonium when school resumes in September and burned-through ration allocations run dry.

The rationing program is designed to stem the nation's crippling reliance on imported gasoline, in a country that has one of the world's largest proven oil reserves. The dependence on foreign gasoline, a result of the country's shortage in refinery capacity, is costing Iran more than $5 billion a year and rendering the nation vulnerable to the possibility of a new round of international sanctions that could cut off the fuel shipments.

The rationing has become the eventual focus of most conversations in Tehran, and the catalyst for a robust black market in fuel as holiday-makers seek ways to get to the shops and the seashores.

Although bookings have been down 25% to 30% here in the popular Caspian beach resorts since the rationing took effect, the crowd for the three-day holiday weekend this month was as big as ever. Hotels were turning away disappointed carloads of beachgoers well into the night. In restaurants offering plates of grilled sturgeon, Caspian trout heaped with coriander and saffron-sprinkled rice, diners were elbow-to-elbow.

Morteza Zarif Ali Hosseini, a printmaker, was camping in a dome tent along the beach with his wife, child and brother's family (they had crammed into one car for the 3 1/2 -hour journey from Tehran). He said he saved up his gas allocations for the long-planned trip.

"Praise God, once a week we use the car now," he said.

Iranian officials announced that average gasoline consumption had declined by more than 20% shortly after it began the rationing in late June. The rationing program is an effort to reduce the country's vulnerability in the event the United Nations elects to target gasoline exports to Iran when it reviews the nation's nuclear program.

"It's not just a matter of U.N. sanctions. Just to give you an idea, since 10 years ago, we have tripled the amount of gasoline we import. And if we don't stop it, we have no idea what this will lead to," said Mohammed Sadegh Jenan Sefat, an economics writer for the Tehran-based publication Kargozaran, which is allied with the party of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

What has many economists and officials worried, though, is that the "smart cards" issued in June with six months' worth of gasoline allocations may already be running close to empty for many families.

Considering that the debut of rationing sparked riots at a dozen gas stations, banks and department stores, officials here are worried -- so much so that parliament is seriously considering upping the allocations.

"To imagine what would happen if the government says, 'OK, this is the ration -- no more allocations.' We cannot imagine this scenario," Sefat said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Christian Resonances of Modern Epic (Hal G.P. Colebatch, 8/23/2007, American Spectator)

The phenomenal and enduring worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter tells us something which many cultural commentators may be missing.

Let us look at part of what these tales have in common. In each of them the hero begins as a young man who has lost his parents and is driven into exile as an orphan. He knows of a "Great Enemy" and, from a relatively carefree beginning, gradually becomes aware of the "Bad News" -- the worst news possible. He comes to be aware that this Enemy, bad enough if only a sort of generalized threat to the natural order of things, is also after him personally. This Great Enemy is robed in black and/or is referred to by names like "the Dark Lord." This Great Enemy is a representation not only of evil, but, most fundamentally and unmistakably, of Death. This is Everyman's story. The "Bad News" that comes to Everyman is that Death is after him personally and he is going to die.

The hero sets out on a long and perilous Quest, at first advised and protected by a wise and powerful old guide, and aided by various friends. In each case, however, the guide is killed, or rather, lays down his life to save the hero, who, without guide or friends, must in the end confront the Great Enemy alone. The guide had been indispensable and had brought the Hero a long way: in each case he may be seen as representing the tradition and heritage of goodness and wisdom -- even after he had "died" he continues in some way to offer advice, as traditions and wisdom from the past do.

In each case the hero explicitly expects to die in the final climactic encounter. He should be annihilated, but is saved by an unexpected intervention.

The Great Enemies is these stories not only are death but also dread death. They are in a situation of ultimate horror. They cling to a withered, ghastly life because that is the only form their desire for deathlessness can take. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Lord Voldemort speaks of "I who have gone further than anyone along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal -- to conquer death." Yet a few pages later he identifies himself with death: "Bow to death, Harry." In "Attack of the Clones" Anakin Skywalker, as the corruption that will turn him into Darth Vader begins to claim him, vows: "I will even stop people from dying."

In each case a crucial reason for the Enemy's defeat is the hero's willingness to sacrifice his own life. But another crucial reason is the fact (set out by Boethius in The Consolations of Philosophy just after the end of the Roman Empire in the West) that evil cannot understand good as good can understand evil. Evil cannot understand love and self-sacrifice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


God’s Harvard: The New Grooming Ground of the Evangelical Movement (Hanna Rosin, August 23, 2007, AlterNet)

I first visited Patrick Henry College in September 1999, a year before the school opened its doors. The "school," that afternoon, consisted of founder Michael Farris, a Christian homeschooling activist, manning an excavator on a construction site just off a Virginia highway exit. Farris was affable, his usual manner with reporters, as he laid out the plans for his revolution. The school would enlist the purest of born-again Christians in a war to "transform America" by training them to occupy the highest offices in the land." Year after year, it would churn out future congressmen, governors, and federal judges, until they finally had the majority. "Few students will know more about the political ramifications of reinforcing homosexuality through special rights than ours," he told me. One day, he bragged, he would introduce the ultimate graduation-day speaker: "President So and So, an alumnus of Patrick Henry."

It all sounded a little far-fetched. After all, he hadn't even laid the first brick.

Then Bush ran for president as a born-again former alcoholic, and won. Suddenly Farris seemed much less delusional. In the early winter of 2005 I visited again. The central building, Founders Hall, was now an impressive Federalist structure. Inside, the walls were covered with posters for an upcoming production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. A Whiffenpoofs-style singing group occupied the grand staircase. After talking to some kids having lunch, I concluded they were some of the most anal, competitive teenagers I had every come across. They input their daily schedules into Palm Pilots in fifteen-minute increments -- read Bible, do crunches, take shower, study for Latin quiz, write debate briefs. After Jesus Christ they bowed down to the "1600's" -- the handful of kids each year who'd gotten perfect scores on the SAT. The atmosphere was much more Harvard than Bob Jones.

They resembled the overambitious junior executives who populate the Ivy League these days -- only without the political apathy. Hardly a dorm window, car bumper, bathroom mirror, or laptop went unsullied by some campaign slogan -- for George Bush, John Thune, Bobby Jindal, or one of the many Christian conservatives who won during the 2004 campaign. Many students had taken a sanctioned two weeks off classes to volunteer for campaigns, and they were giddy with victory. One senior told me how she'd sacrificed a couple of weekends helping out Bush adviser Karl Rove. One Saturday afternoon, he stopped by to give her a thank-you present. "Good thing it was an ice-cream sandwich or I would have kept it forever!"

"You are the tip of the spear," Farris likes to tell his students at morning chapel, drawing on his limitless arsenal of military metaphors. Polls would place them among the 29 percent of Christian teens who attend church weekly, pray, read the Bible, and describe religion as "extremely important" in their lives. Sociologically speaking, they are a parent's dream. They are less likely than most teenagers to cut classes, do drugs, have sex, get depressed, feel alone or misunderstood, talk back, or lie. Within the third of Americans who call themselves "evangelical" or "born again" they make up an elite corps, focused, disciplined, and not prone to distraction.

When they use the word "Christian," they are speaking their own special language. To them, a Catholic or Mormon, with some exceptions, is not really a Christian. Someone who goes to church three times a year and sings hymns is not a Christian. Someone who goes to church every Sunday and calls themselves "evangelical" is not even necessarily a Christian. "She thought I was nice and Jesus was a great guy and she went to church a lot, but she wasn't a Christian," Farris once told a group of students about an acquaintance, and they understood exactly what he meant. To them, a "Christian" keeps a running conversation with God in his or her head always, Monday through Sunday, on subjects big and small, and believes that at any moment God might in some palpable way step in and show He either cares or disapproves.

On the issues that have come to define the modern Christian right, the students at Patrick Henry generally cleave to orthodoxy. During my year and a half on campus, I never heard any student argue that homosexuality is not a sin, or that abortion should be allowed in any circumstances. I heard people criticize Bush, but only from the right. After the 2004 campaign, I heard a rumor that someone had voted for John Kerry. I chased down many leads. All dead ends. If it was true, no one would admit it publicly. At Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a much older Baptist institution that's lately been trying to modernize, the student newspaper defended gay marriage in 2004. Such a transgression is unthinkable at Patrick Henry -- so beyond the pale that the possibility is mentioned only in passing in the otherwise-very-thorough student code of conduct.

Yet a Patrick Henry student is unlikely to be caught on camera giving a loony Jerry Falwell-style rant about gays and lesbians causing September 11. They worry about gay rights, but they worry just as much about mainstream culture's thinking they're homophobic. "Yes, it's a sin, but so are a hundred other things," one of the students told me, in a self-conscious nod to the "whatever" cadence of his peers. One day a CNN crew came to film a feature story on the school on the same day some students had made two snowmen holding wooden paddles. The snow sculpture was an inside joke about the students' fratlike ritual, recently criticized in the school newspaper, of paddling newly engaged boys. But Farris was mortified. "Do you really want a story to develop that suggests a connection between PHC and those that have beaten homosexuals, etc.?" he wrote in an e-mail to some students who had defended the snowmen as a harmless prank. "PHC 'a school for vigilante justice.' Is that the image you want?"

At first, when I encountered students who were wary about being interviewed by me, I assumed it was because of the usual evangelicals' suspicion of outsiders. After a while I realized it wasn't that at all. Mostly, they were protecting their résumés. "If I want to get into politics, no history is a good history," class president Aaron Carlson told me. "I want to be prudent that nothing I say is ever misconstrued." The Patrick Henry generation will not repeat the mistakes of their fathers. They are not the reckless, fuming, fed-up generation that left Egypt -- evangelical code for the modern world. They are the "Joshua Generation," as Farris likes to say, the first ones savvy enough to "take back the land."

Of course, it's not that long ago that Harvard was God's Harvard.

The bond between God and power: Once looked down upon, American Evangelicals have now risen triumphantly to the heights (The Economist, 8/23/07)

ON PALM SUNDAY 2002 George Bush and his entourage were flying home from El Salvador. Not wishing to miss church, they decided to improvise. Before long 40 worshippers were crammed into Air Force One's conference room. Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Adviser, led the worship, Karen Hughes, then Mr Bush's counsellor, gave the lesson and the service ended with everybody singing “Amazing Grace” and hugging each other.

In the first half of the 20th century, H.L. Mencken, a freethinker, dismissed Evangelicals as backwoods bigots and Richard Niebuhr, a theologian, said that theirs was a “religion of the dispossessed” (or, as one sociologist put it, of the “disadvantaged ranks of the stratification system”). Even as late as the 1990s there was a widespread perception that Evangelicals were poor, uneducated and easily led.

How did these supposedly ignorant buffoons arrive at the heart of the American power structure? Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, who has interviewed 360 Evangelicals who have made it into the American elite, including two former presidents, answers this question with a rare degree of skill and learning. The past 30 years have seen a revolution. Evangelicals have almost drawn level with other religious groups in terms of wealth and education. And they have penetrated almost every area of the American establishment. Look at the top of many a professional tree and you can find an arboreal gathering of born-again Christians.

August 22, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


Pigeon Dung's Toll on Bridge Examined (MARTIGA LOHN, 8/22/07, AP)

Pounded and strained by heavy traffic and weakened by missing bolts and cracking steel, the failed interstate bridge over the Mississippi River also faced a less obvious enemy: Birds, specifically pigeons.

Inspectors began documenting the buildup of pigeon dung on the span near downtown Minneapolis two decades ago.

Experts say the corrosive guano deposited all over the Interstate 35W span's framework helped the steel beams rust faster.

Shoot more birds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


The Free-Trade Paradox: Why is trade booming while trade talks are crashing? (Moisés Naím, September/October 2007, Foreign Policy)

In 2006, the volume of global merchandise exports grew 15 percent, while the world economy grew roughly 4 percent. In 2007, the growth in world trade is again expected to outstrip the growth rate of the global economy. This sustained, rapid pace of trade growth has led to a more than fivefold increase in world merchandise exports between 1980 and 2005. An unprecedented number of countries, rich and poor alike, are seeing their overall economic performance boosted by strong export growth.

So, what explains the paradox of gridlocked trade agreements and surging trade flows? The short answer is technology and politics. In the past quarter century, technological innovations—from the Internet to cargo containers—lowered the costs of trading. And, in the same period, an international political environment more tolerant of openness created opportunities to lower barriers to imports and exports. China, India, the former Soviet Union, and many other countries launched major reforms that deepened their integration into the world’s economy. In developing countries alone, import tariffs dropped from an average of around 30 percent in the 1980s to less than 10 percent today. Indeed, one of the surprises of the past 20 or so years is how much governments have lowered obstacles to trade—unilaterally. Between 1983 and 2003, 66 percent of tariff reductions in the world took place because governments decided it was in their own interests to lower their import duties, 25 percent as a result of agreements reached in multilateral trade negotiations, and 10 percent through regional trade agreements with neighboring countries.

So, who needs free trade agreements if international trade is doing just fine without them?

We all do. Although trade may be booming, giving up on lowering the substantial trade barriers that still exist—in agriculture, in services, or in manufactured goods traded among poor countries—would be a historic mistake. Even the more pessimistic projections show that the adoption of reforms like those included in the Doha Round would yield substantial economic gains, anywhere from $50 billion to several hundred billion. Moreover, according to the World Bank, by 2015 as many as 32 million people could be lifted out of poverty if the Doha Round were successful.

But it isn’t just the money. As the volume of trade continues to grow, the need for clearer and more effective rules becomes more critical.

...and you can get away with anything with the left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM


How to challenge Iran's militancy without using arms: Iran is not Al Qaeda. We need to isolate the ruling elite and radical clerics by reaching out to the Iranian people directly. (Marc Gopin and Gregory Meeks, 8/23/07, CS Monitor)

In a recent poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonprofit research group that develops strategies to counter terrorism, 70 percent of Iranians thought that normal relations with the West should be a high priority, but only 29 percent thought nuclear energy should be, and an astonishing 61 percent disapproved of Ahmadinejad's government.

The internal vulnerabilities of Iran's ruling circles make this a perfect time to extend an olive branch to the people of Iran with a diplomatic initiative that involves economic incentives and development opportunities for the poor, the middle class, and the reformers. Multilateralism is a must if we want this to happen, because Europe, Russia, Japan, and others maintain good relations with Iran's business sector, the kind necessary in order to provide socioeconomic development assistance. If the Revolutionary Guard and the president block these gestures then "it is on their heads," and we will likely see them increasingly marginalized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


Cuba's foreign minister backs Obama on embargo (Reuters, 8/22/07)

Cuba's foreign minister on Wednesday said he welcomed a call by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to ease the U.S. embargo on the communist-ruled island.

If a white candidate had turned screwing up policy pronouncements into such a high art he'd be out of the race by now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


President Bush Attends Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, Discusses War on Terror (George W. Bush, Kansas City Convention and Entertainment Center, Kansas City, Missouri, 8/22/07)

Across the Middle East, millions of ordinary citizens are tired of war, they're tired of dictatorship and corruption, they're tired of despair. They want societies where they're treated with dignity and respect, where their children have the hope for a better life. They want nations where their faiths are honored and they can worship in freedom.

And that is why millions of Iraqis and Afghans turned out to the polls -- millions turned out to the polls. And that's why their leaders have stepped forward at the risk of assassination. And that's why tens of thousands are joining the security forces of their nations. These men and women are taking great risks to build a free and peaceful Middle East -- and for the sake of our own security, we must not abandon them.

There is one group of people who understand the stakes, understand as well as any expert, anybody in America -- those are the men and women in uniform. Through nearly six years of war, they have performed magnificently. (Applause.) Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on the enemy that would do our citizens harm. They've overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world, and liberated more than 50 million citizens. (Applause.)

In Iraq, our troops are taking the fight to the extremists and radicals and murderers all throughout the country. Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year. (Applause.) We're in the fight. Today our troops are carrying out a surge that is helping bring former Sunni insurgents into the fight against the extremists and radicals, into the fight against al Qaeda, into the fight against the enemy that would do us harm. They're clearing out the terrorists out of population centers, they're giving families in liberated Iraqi cities a look at a decent and hopeful life.

Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq? Here's my answer is clear: We'll support our troops, we'll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed. (Applause.)

Despite the mistakes that have been made, despite the problems we have encountered, seeing the Iraqis through as they build their democracy is critical to keeping the American people safe from the terrorists who want to attack us. It is critical work to lay the foundation for peace that veterans have done before you all.

A free Iraq is not going to be perfect. A free Iraq will not make decisions as quickly as the country did under the dictatorship. Many are frustrated by the pace of progress in Baghdad, and I can understand this. As I noted yesterday, the Iraqi government is distributing oil revenues across its provinces despite not having an oil revenue law on its books, that the parliament has passed about 60 pieces of legislation.

Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it's not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position -- that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship.

Folks like Carl Levin pine for the good old days, when the Kennedys, Halberstams, and Cabot Lodges would decide that a leader wasn't perfect so they'd have him overthrown, sacrificing the future of his country for their liberal pieties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Latino Immigrants' Income Is Rising: Construction Boom Pushed Low-Paid Workers to Higher Earnings, Study Says (Krissah Williams and Sabrina Valle, 8/22/07, Washington Post)

Latino immigrants have steadily moved out of jobs paying the lowest wages and into middle-income employment in the past decade, helped by the boom in the construction industry, which hires millions of foreign-born workers, according to a study released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Recent Latino immigrants are moving up the ladder just as foreign-born workers did generations ago, said Rakesh Kochhar, author of the study.

"Foreign-born Latino workers are making progress, and if that appears contrary to our perception, it really has to do with the sheer growth in their numbers," Kochhar said. "Their numbers are so large that we are distracted. In relative terms, they are progressing out of the lowest-wage work and progressing toward middle-wage work."

Foreign-born Latino workers made up 36 percent of laborers earning less than $8.50 per hour in 2005, compared with 42 percent earning low wages in 1995, according to a Pew analysis of U.S. Census data. Kochhar said that the advancement of Latino immigrants to middle-income scale was faster than pay increases among native-born workers. He attributed Latino immigrants' rising incomes to the construction boom, which has since slowed down.

Even as many Latino immigrants moved up the pay scale, other foreigners replaced them at the bottom.

Those new folks are the ones the Latino middle class will want to keep out of the country in a few years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Freedom's False Ring: America's Hypocritical Impulse To Remake The World (Eric Rauchway, 8/22/07, TNR Online)

Presumably we should preserve and extend American ideals because they made us what we are. But if American history provides a script for becoming rich and free, how do you follow it? Postpone an end to chattel slavery for around 100 years and implementation of universal suffrage for around 200. Put off having a proper central bank until you're already among the richest nations of the earth, protect manufacturing industry from foreign trade with high tariffs until you're indisputably the richest nation, and display a fine disregard for the intellectual property of foreigners until you hold most of the worthwhile patents. Delay creation of a merit-based civil service for more than a century. Restrict the movement of foreign capital, and invest enormous public resources in education and state-funded enterprise.

Surveying this record, Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang says in Bad Samaritans that you can learn lessons about economic development from American history, but the benefits of free trade, free enterprise, democracy, and strong protection for private property are not among them. During the years when the United States developed industrial strength, Americans avoided free markets and, indeed, democracy. Yet nowadays the United States, along with the United Kingdom, the International Monetary Fund, and other major financial players, now prescribes free trade and a general withdrawal of the state from the economy as the only method of economic development, defying the actual history of today's rich nations.

It's interesting that the isolationists are sort of hoist on their own petard when they argue that Western values are not organic to most societies. Obviously it would be best if every country on Earth had been a Christianized colony of England, in which case democracy/capitalism/protestantism would indeed course through the lifeblood, but since they aren't they do need to go through an imperial phase where we force the script on them.

Why George Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” Is Here to Stay: Most people assume that when President Bush leaves office, most of his failed foreign policies—especially democracy promotion—will wither on the vine. But if there’s one thing we know about government, it’s that it’s much harder to dismantle programs than it is to create them in the first place. (Paulette Chu Miniter, August 2007, Foreign Policy)

In many ways, President Bush is hewing to another aphorism for entrenching political legacies: “People are policy.” This means not only ingraining your policies with bigger government, but carrying them out with strategically placed people who share your philosophy. Although it may be easy to discount talk of ending tyranny in the world as little more than that, backing political dissidents can help tip the balance. One example is Rebiya Kadeer, an ethnic Uighur from China and human rights activist who spent years as a political prisoner. The Bush administration lobbied for her release from prison, and she has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Is China’s communist regime stronger for it? Hardly. If anything, China’s restive Uighur minority is only more emboldened in their push for independence.

Bush has also created a government position many would likely notice if the next president abolished it: a special envoy to North Korea on human rights. Pushing for human rights is inherently a push for democracy—authoritarian regimes by their nature don’t respect the individual rights and aspirations of their people. This is just one appointment that has the potential to start a new trajectory for U.S. policy. Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback are already calling for a special envoy to Iran on human rights. The next president has the choice of supporting such envoys or risk looking callous to the plight of oppressed people, or worse, looking too soft on the world’s dictators. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton isn’t going that route. She’s not even willing to commit herself now to meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.

Indeed, Democrats are loath to be outdone by Republicans when it comes to something as all-American as supporting democracy and standing up to despots. We shouldn’t forget that it was former Democratic President John F. Kennedy who created the U.S. Agency for International Development, today the largest grant-making agency promoting democracy in the Middle East. Or that it was former Democratic President Jimmy Carter who first put human rights at the center of U.S. policy toward communist nations, calling for the establishment of what is today the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Although the next president might make the freedom agenda a smaller priority, or even neglect it a little, the infrastructure of the democracy bureaucracy will remain in place for the next president, and the next one after that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Japan's PM Calls for Closer Strategic, Economic Alignment with India: Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has been accorded the rare honor of addressing India's parliament. VOA's Steve Herman in New Delhi reports the Japanese leader told Indian lawmakers they need to consider a closer security alignment between the two Asian democracies. (Steve Herman, 22 August 2007, VOA News)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday called for India to join a Japan-inspired "arc of freedom and prosperity" across Asia and the Pacific. The idea, a clear example of Japan's more muscular diplomacy, was greeted largely with silence.

"The strategic and global partnership of Japan and India is pivotal for such pursuits to be successful," he said. "By Japan and India coming together in this way this broader Asia will evolve into an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the United States of America and Australia."

Speaking to a joint session of India's parliament, Mr. Abe said the four nations working together could protect maritime shipping lanes, vital to the world economy.

Mr. Abe is also hoping to expand economic ties between the two Asian democracies, something pledged by both countries at a summit in Tokyo last December.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


German Jews alarmed by mob attack on Indians (AFP, Aug 22, 2007)

Outrage grew Wednesday over a mob attack on Indian immigrants in the ex-communist east of Germany, as the Jewish community charged that Berlin has failed to do enough to combat far-right violence.

The general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, said the incident made clear that the government needed to do more to stop extremists from creating "no-go areas" for foreigners in the east.

Only the hatred remains the same.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Democrats Refocus Message on Iraq After Military Gains: Criticism Shifts to Factional Unrest (Jonathan Weisman and Anne E. Kornblut, August 22, 2007, Washington Post)

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line...

What would be really helpful is for Democrats to watch C-SPAN tapes from 1986-'88 and then the coverage of Ronald Reagan's death. The reminder that they tried to surrender in the Cold ar just as it was being won and then had to scramble later for a share of the credit would be most instructive as they do much the same in the WoT.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege (BENEDICT CAREY, 8/22/07, NY Times)

In academic feuds, as in war, there is no telling how far people will go once the shooting starts.

Earlier this month, members of the International Academy of Sex Research, gathering for their annual meeting in Vancouver, informally discussed one of the most contentious and personal social science controversies in recent memory.

The central figure, J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University, has promoted a theory that his critics think is inaccurate, insulting and potentially damaging to transgender women. [...]

The hostilities began in the spring of 2003, when Dr. Bailey published a book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen,” intended to explain the biology of sexual orientation and gender to a general audience. [...]

In his book, he argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies. Dr. Bailey described the alternate theory, which is based on Canadian studies done in the 1980s and 1990s, in part by telling the stories of several transgender women he met through a mutual acquaintance. In the book, he gave them pseudonyms, like “Alma” and “Juanita.”

Other scientists praised the book as a compelling explanation of the science. The Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that promotes gay, bisexual and transgender literature, nominated the book for an award.

But days after the book appeared, Lynn Conway, a prominent computer scientist at the University of Michigan, sent out an e-mail message comparing Dr. Bailey’s views to Nazi propaganda. She and other transgender women found the tone of the book abusive, and the theory of motivation it presented to be a recipe for further discrimination.

Dr. Conway did not respond to requests for an interview.

Dr. Ben Barres, a neurobiologist at Stanford, said in reference to Dr. Bailey’s thesis in the book, “Bailey seems to make a living by claiming that the things people hold most deeply true are not true.”

At a public meeting of sex researchers shortly after the book’s publication, Dr. John Bancroft, then director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, said to Dr. Bailey, “Michael, I have read your book, and I do not think it is science,” according to accounts of the meeting. Dr. Bancroft confirmed the comment.

It's hard to top the irony of someone at Kinsey--the avatar of junk science driven by personal predilections and political correctness--setting himself up as a judge of science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Pecan Pralines (Contra Costa Times, 08/22/2007)

[...] 12 ounces sugar

[...] 12 ounces light brown sugar

[...] 6 ounces heavy cream

[...] 3 ounces milk

[...] 3 ounces butter

[...] 12 ounces pecans

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine the sugar, light brown sugar, heavy cream, milk and butter in a saucepan; cook to [...] 230 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring continuously.

2. Add the pecans and salt and cook to [...] 237 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring continuously.

3. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Allow to cool, undisturbed, to [...] 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the mixture begins to look creamy, about 45 seconds.

5. Using a No. 50 scoop (or similar), deposit the pralines onto parchment paper, working quickly. (If the mixture crystallizes too much in the pot and becomes too thick, heat on direct heat while stirring to restore proper viscosity.)

6. Serve as soon as possible after making. Pralines lose quality quickly in storage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


In this case, getting soaked is a good thing (ELIZABETH PUDWILL, 8/22/07, Houston Chronicle)


* 1 cup coconut
* 1½ cups milk
* 4 eggs, separated
* 2 cups sugar
* ½ cup butter
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 2 cups flour
* 4 teaspoons baking powder
* ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (9-inch) cake pans with parchment paper.

Pour the milk over the coconut in a bowl and soak while you mix the batter.

Beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually while beating until very light and fluffy. Add the butter and vanilla, and mix well.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt.

Drain milk from coconut.

Add flour and drained milk alternately to egg mixture. Stir in coconut.

Pour into prepared cake pans. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool completely and frost.

Coconut frosting:

* 2 egg whites
* 1½ cups sugar
* 1 tablespoon light Karo syrup
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1½ cups sweetened, flaked coconut

Put the egg whites, sugar, syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan. Beat the mixture constantly over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until it's soft and holds peaks. While the frosting is still warm, frost one cake layer on top and sprinkle with a little coconut. Place the other layer on top of the first, and frost the entire cake. Sprinkle top with coconut, and press the remainder into the sides.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


What Presidents Don't Know ... (ANNE APPLEBAUM, August 22, 2007, The Washington Post)

Like John Kerry's flip-flops or John Edwards's haircuts, the foreign policy gaffes of Senator Obama have become a staple source of presidential campaign humor — so much so that the candidate himself has felt compelled to come up with counter-jokes. "To prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair," he told an Iowa audience on Sunday.

Yet given that his main rivals for the Democratic nomination include a one-term senator and another senator whose career, at least as an elected official, is only four years longer than Mr. Obama's, maybe we should pause before laughing. After all, the barb in the jokes comes from the assumption — usually unquestioned — that there really is some specific, specialized, inside knowledge of foreign countries that some candidates have and some don't, that is essential to holding the presidency. Is that true? Or, to put it in late-night talk-show language, do you really have to know the name of the Pakistani president to be a good American president?

Clearly you don't have to know very much of anything about other countries to become America's president, this not being a criterion that matters greatly to most voters.

The best presidents--Washington, Polk, Lincoln, Coolidge, Ike, Reagan, Clinton & W--have been the ones who understood America the best. The ones who understood--or claimed to--the rest of the world have been pretty uniform flops: TR, Wilson, FDR, JFK, Nixon, & Carter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


The Problem With Journalism Is Personal (Patrick O'Hannigan, 8/22/2007, American Spectator)

Last Sunday, the [(Raleigh, NC) News & Observer] devoted most of its opinion section to a remix of presentations given by news industry bigwigs to the North Carolina Press Association, which met recently in Charlotte. NCPA convention-goers were hot to find out whether this is the end of news as we know it, and whether public service journalism will survive.

Assuming that it would be impertinent to argue that all journalism is "public service journalism," my answers to those questions are yes and yes, but I am not a professional journalist. The NCPA does not care what I think. More distressingly, the people speculating about the future of journalism in Sunday's pastiche do not appear to have read Randall Hoven, either.

Writing recently for the American Thinker website, Hoven hit on the idea of cataloging known misdeeds for the benefit of anyone wondering why journalists are not as admired now as they were in 1897, when a famous editorial in the New York Sun settled the question of whether Santa Claus exists for an eight-year-old reader who trusted the answer because her father had said, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so."

It's revealing that the example of past press trustworthiness is an obvious lie. The notion that the press was ever trusted or held in much more than conmtempt is just historically inaccurate. Here's a weekend film festival for you that nicely shows what we thought of the media in its supposed heyday:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Trusted Guides: Texas Baptists want to help immigrants become citizens (Ken Walker, 8/22/2007, Christianity Today)

As immigration-reform efforts in Washington, D.C., have crumbled, Texas Baptists announced in June a new plan to help legal immigrants become citizens.
Related articles and links

The Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) is the first initiative to help churches across the country that want to host government-accredited assistance programs, according to organizers with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) and Buckner International Ministries. [...]

Conservative leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have long been at odds with the BGCT. But Richard Land, president of the sbc's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, applauds the ISAAC initiative to help churches.

"This sounds as if what they're doing is providing guidance, counseling, and resources to enable people to make their way through the maze of the immigration process, which is pretty difficult," Land said. "It's a patchwork of conflicting regulations and statutes."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


An Evil Ambition To Cure (CARL ROLLYSON, August 22, 2007, NY Sun)

"Karl Brandt: The Nazi Doctor, Medicine and Power in the Third Reich" (Continuum, 400 pages, $29.95) is the first full biography of Hitler's escort physician, who became the Reich Commissioner for Health and Sanitation, and the "Medical Supremo" responsible for Germany's infamous euthanization program and the horrifying medical experiments in concentration camps.

The Nuremberg trial judges declared that Brandt was guilty of crimes against humanity, rejecting his defense that euthanasia was a humane alleviation of human suffering and that the S.S. administrators bore full responsibility for whatever happened to inmates. He went to the gallows on June 2, 1948, the first of seven men condemned to death in the famous Doctors Trial.

Nothing in Ulf Schmidt's meticulously researched, if poorly written, book challenges the findings at Nuremberg. The chief value of Mr. Schmidt's biography is that he explores in excruciating detail how an idealistic man such as Brandt, who once applied to work with Alfred Schweitzer in Africa, came to believe in the virtue of mass murder.

Believers in the "rational utility" of mass murder are humane, they're just inhuman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Hardened But Sensitive (OTTO PENZLER, August 22, 2007, NY Sun)

Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer is as close to the quintessential American private detective of America in the 1960s as it is possible to get. Although his adventures began in 1949 and did not toll their final peal until 1976, his attitude and personality reflected a combination of California hipness and hippie-ness that could have existed nowhere else, nor at any other time.

While Archer started out as a tough guy with idealism in his bones, he slowly morphed into a tough guy whose idealism took a turn into the kind of sympathetic understanding and forgiveness that one is more likely to associate with a man of the cloth than of a former cop whose job is to identify and locate people who have killed other people.

I cannot think of many authors I admire more than Kenneth Millar, who used the Ross Macdonald pseudonym for most of the Archer novels and stories. [...]

A new complete collection of Archer's stories, "The Archer Files" (Crippen & Landru Publishers, 349 pages, $25), together with a group of previously unpublished notes, has just been released, and it is a major publishing event — even if it is from a small independent house.

As Mr. Penzler points out later, by the end Macdonald had strayed into some pretty dodgy territory as he gave in to the spiritual death of the 60s/70s, but the only challenger he really has for the master of the p.i. novel is Loren D. Estleman, who has the advantage of having written during a more American era.

Lew Archer is back on the case: Ross Macdonald helped rewrite the hard-boiled detective tradition. By spring, all of his novels will be back in print (Scott Timberg, August 22, 2007, LA Times)

[W]hile Archer narrates 18 novels, deemed by William Goldman in 1969 as "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American author," he remains almost spectral -- in the shadows of his own books.

Macdonald himself, according to biographer Tom Nolan, "liked to say that Archer was such a 'thin presence' that if he turned sideways he'd disappear."

But the brooding detective -- whose tales have proven inspirational to writers from Robert Crais to James Ellroy to Michael Chabon -- has become, this summer, a bit less elusive.

Vintage Books has just released two early Archer novels, 1951's "The Way Some People Die" and '52's "The Ivory Grin," on its Black Lizard imprint. These books, which have not been widely available for more than a decade, will be joined by two other Archers in December. When "The Instant Enemy" and "The Blue Hammer," Macdonald's last novel, come out next April, all 18 Archer books will be in print.

At the same time, biographer Nolan has for the first time compiled all of the short stories in which Archer appears, as well as 11 fragments he found in the author's archives at UC Irvine. They're all reprinted in the new "The Archer Files," which begins with Nolan's 25-page biographical sketch of the detective.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Magdalen Nabb: Expatriate crime writer whose Marshal Guarnaccia novels detailed the hidden side of Florentine life (Independent, 22 August 2007)

Magdalen Nabb, writer: born Church, Lancashire 16 January 1947; married (one son); died Florence, Italy 18 August 2007.

After a childhood tinged with tragedy, the crime writer and best-selling children's author Magdalen Nabb proved her spirit in her twenties. In 1975 she parted from her husband, upped sticks from her Lancashire home and moved with her young son, Liam, to Florence, although she knew no one there and couldn't speak Italian.

Nabb, creator of the award-winning Josie Smith novels and the television series based on them, never really got the acclaim she deserved for being the first – and arguably the best – of the expatriate writers to set a crime series in the rich soil of Italian politics and society. Her first Marshal Guarnaccia novel, Death of an Englishman, appeared in 1981, years before Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon began with their own series set in Italy.

It is scarcely a criticism to say that her series, though diverting enough, is not the equal of Ms Leon's and Mr. Dibdin's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Dark Matter Caught Behaving Strangely (Larry O'Hanlon, 8/21/07,Discovery News)

Dark matter detected in the midst of a galactic slam dance is acting badly, say astronomers who made the discovery using space and ground-based telescopes. Instead of hanging out with the stars, as it was found doing in another collision of galactic clusters a few months ago, it’s mingling with the dust and gases — which is unbecoming of the mysterious stuff.

"That’s weird because according to current theory, stars and dark matter should stay together," said astronomer Andisheh Mahdavi of the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

...current theory is always claptrap.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


At stake in Sudan: This trace of hope offers a rare chance for Darfur. The global consequences could hardly be greater (Václav Havel, August 22, 2007, The Guardian)

The critical conditions that prevail in Darfur are causing immense suffering. Both sides of the conflict - the government of Sudan and its allied forces, as well as all the opposition groups in Darfur - must understand that civilians should no longer fall victim to their political disputes.

The Sudanese government's consent to the deployment of the UN/African Union mission, which aims to keep peace in the region, is a welcome development. But the mandate of this mission must be strong enough to allow for full protection of civilians. Moreover, the force must have sufficient manpower and funding to put this vital objective into practice. The countries and institutions that have committed additional funds in order to help secure the success of this mission - notably France, Spain, and the European commission - should all be applauded.

It is important for international actors to assure Sudan's government that the UN/AU mission will not strive for regime change. At the same time, the Sudanese government must be fully aware that only by adhering to past commitments and by cooperating in helping to prepare, deploy, and maintain the mission will the international community be encouraged to continue its support.

As for the Darfur opposition, the recent efforts by some of its leaders to overcome fragmentation and reunify their movement are welcome. It is essential that all opposition groups achieve agreement about their aims and negotiating positions. Only then can they act as credible partners of the international community and the Sudanese government. All parties to the conflict must realise that, ultimately, there is no way to end their dispute other than through an equitable and sustainable peace agreement. The return of internally displaced persons, and care for them, must be a core component of any such arrangement.

Responsible people around the globe, particularly politicians and journalists, must focus on Darfur.

The Realists have always denied that people can have any responsibility outside their own borders, but sadly the modern Left has joined them. It is left to the dissidents--like Mr. Havel, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, etc.--to accept the responsibilities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Harper Lee breaks her silence (Seattle PI, 8/21/07)

At the end of the ceremony, Academy of Honor Chairman Tom Carruthers joked with Lee, saying he knew she had something she wanted to say to the crowd. "Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool," Lee said. The audience gave Lee a standing ovation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Disney hits high notes with 'High School Musical 2' (LA Times, August 22, 2007)

Disney Channel's unprecedented ratings success didn't end when the credits rolled for Friday's record-setting premiere of "High School Musical 2."

With that premiere drawing 17.24 million viewers -- the largest audience in cable television history -- Disney Channel averaged 5.93 million viewers for its prime-time programming from Aug. 13 through Monday, making it the third-most-watched network of the week, according to figures released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Falafel (Contra Costa Times, 08/22/2007)

13/4 cup dried chickpeas

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

1 small onion, quartered

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Neutral oil (grape seed or corn) for frying

1. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged.

2. Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not pureed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work, but no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.

3. Put oil in a large, deep saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches; more is better. The narrower the saucepan, the less oil you need, but the more oil you use, the more patties you can cook at a time. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350 degrees (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately).

4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes.

August 21, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 PM


Meet your new favorite bands (David Kieley, 8/21/07, Boston Globe)

If you love free music, but don't love the idea of stealing it from your favorite, underappreciated musicians, is a small miracle. The site lures some big names in indie rock (Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Of Montreal, Grizzly Bear, Jolie Holland) and smaller-but-interesting acts (Whispertown 2000, Harlem Shakes, Jana Hunter) into a studio in Rock Island, Ill., to record "exclusive, reworked, alternate versions of old songs and unreleased tracks." They then release eight of those songs every week for free.

But don't be fooled by Daytrotter's altruism or by the folky, hand-drawn art that the site's illustrators pack onto every page. The Daytrotter Sessions aren't some lo-fi scraps from a basement four-track -- they're high-quality recordings of intimate, impromptu performances that you can download to MP3, stream individually, or -- if you're in an exploratory mood -- play in a randomized radio-station format.

Highlights abound, from three unreleased Phosphorescent (above) tracks (including the great "Cocaine Lights") to a set from Cambridge's own the Dead Trees (formerly Furvis). Band members chime in for other weird and interesting features, such as recitations of book excerpts and, in the "Lasso'd" section, short lists of their favorite music, activities, and miscellany.

The site also carries a slew of interviews, album reviews, and, as of deadline, at least one live video performance by Architecture in Helsinki, which hopefully won't be the last of its kind. All that related content is fun, but the music is what's putting Daytrotter on the map, and likely, on your list of bookmarks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Hamas refashions its militancy: The Palestinian group has not claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Israel since taking over Gaza in June. (Joshua Mitnick, 8/22/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

[D]espite angry vows of revenge, Hamas continued to uphold Tuesday an undeclared policy, established after its takeover of Gaza in June, of limiting rocket attacks on Israel.

At a time when Hamas is trying to consolidate power and show the world it can rule responsibly since bringing to a violent end the unity government with rival Fatah, it is being careful to keep its fight against what it calls "the Zionist enemy" on a low flame of rhetoric and lower-impact mortar fire.

The best way to defuse the Hamas threat is to create a coherent state of Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:41 PM


How The New Republic Got Suckered: An inside look at scandal and the perils of publishing what one insider calls a “sociopath.” (Richard Miniter, 8/20/07, Pajamas Media)

The Monday after the party, at the magazine’s offices, Foer was locked in a long serious conversation with Leon Wieseltier, the bear-shaped intellectual who has run the magazine’s literary section with distinction since 1983. They were talking about Beauchamp. Foer couldn’t understand why anyone would just make things up.

Wieseltier did. “Maybe he [Beauchamp] is a sociopath.”

As new details about Beauchamp’s strange private life emerged, Wieseltier’s initial assessment would prove to be on target. Wieseltier did not return phone calls regarding the incident.

Meanwhile, a floor below Foer and Wieseltier, McGee was about to make a controversial and momentous decision, which would soon cost him his job.

He had just learned that Elspeth Reeve (a reporter-researcher at the magazine) had a husband who was somehow involved.

He decided to post anonymously to three different blogs—, Little Green Footballs, and Ace of Spaces ( –that the accused fabricator was married to a New Republic staffer.

“I avoided using Reeve’s name, referring to her only as a “TNR staffer.” Also, I initially said that ‘the staffer’s husband is either ‘Scott Thomas’ himself, or possibly one of the soldiers who is corroborating the claims in the article.’ (I didn’t phrase it that way out of coyness; I simply didn’t know for sure how Ellie’s husband was involved.)”

What he did not know: Reeve is a fact-checker for the magazine. Did Reeve fact-check her husband’s articles? So far, The New Republic has not publicly addressed that question.

McGee’s leaks would continue as he learned more. On July 25, “I first leaked Ellie’s [Elspeth Reeve’s] name late Wednesday evening, in a private email to the guy who runs the Ace of Spades.”

At roughly the same time, unknown to McGee, the magazine was busy trying to find who was leaking this damaging information. It wouldn’t take them long.

By the time Reeve’s name appeared on the Ace of Spades blog on Thursday, 26 July, The New Republic published a letter from Scott Thomas Beauchamp, revealing his real name and defending his work. Beauchamp did not admit his wife worked at the magazine and neither did The New Republic, at that point.

But McGee’s posts were not the magazine’s only worry. “I wasn’t a source for the Weekly Standard,” he says dryly.

The conservative weekly had launched its own investigation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Gaddafi son unveils reform plan (BBC, 8/21/07)

The son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has announced reform plans, including an independent central bank and free media.

Sayf al-Islam Gaddafi also called for a national dialogue on a new constitution to strengthen Libya's political system.

But he said Islamic Sharia law, security issues, Libya's territorial unity and his father's leadership would be kept out of any political debate.

Sayf al-Islam holds no government post, but is his father's most trusted envoy.

...but a sufficiently powerful prince will do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Globalization closes in on Swedes' treasured vacation (Ivar Ekman, August 20, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Swedish workers topped the European vacation rankings, entitled to an average of 33 paid vacations days in 2006 - close to 7 weeks, not counting public holidays.

Europe has long been the world leader in officially sanctioned time off, so Sweden's top ranking in the Continent likely means it has the most generous vacation entitlements in the world.

But the question is how long this laid-back state of affairs can last. Change is on the horizon, driven, it seems, by the invisible hand of globalization.

"The Swedish vacation is being adapted to the international situation," said Orvar Lofgren, a professor of anthropology at Lund University and author of the book "On Holiday: A History of Vacationing."

What could be more typical of the American Left than their current obsession with wanting more vacation time at the very moment when even the most formerly-socialist countries of Europe are ditching the idea as unworkable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Board approves 6th study of runway safety at LAX (Steve Hymon, August 21, 2007, LA Times)

City airport commissioners decided Monday to go ahead with a sixth study of whether the north runways at Los Angeles International Airport are too close together, and if so, what to do about it.

A group of five studies released earlier this year concluded that the two parallel runways are too close and suggested moving the northernmost runway. Community activists fear the new study will dovetail with its predecessors and set in motion a process to push the northernmost runway -- and the resulting noise and pollution -- at least 340 feet toward Westchester and busy Lincoln Boulevard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


The false modesty movement (Anne K. Ream, August 21, 2007, LA Times)

On websites such as Modestly Yours, Modesty Zone and, its adherents argue for curfews on college campuses, decry coed bathrooms and advocate a "chaste but chic" dress code for teens and young women. They call themselves sexual revolutionaries, but that might be something of a misnomer: In their world, abstinence is the order of the day and female virtue is the best way to ensure female safety.

The faith-based website, which encourages teen girls to "live the virtues of modesty and purity," instructs young women to be "helpful at home . . . obedient and happy." What's troubling about this language is how neatly it anticipates the findings of a Yale University study showing that men who get angry in the workplace are admired, while women who express displeasure are seen as "out of control." So much for the idea that well-behaved women rarely make history. Apparently, it's far more important for girls to make nice.

Marketers are getting modest too. Macy's now carries "Shade" clothing, created by a team of Mormon women devoted to demure dress, and Nordstrom features "Modern and Modest" apparel.

The mother of the modesty movement is Wendy Shalit, whose 1999 book, "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue," argues that today's young women have reverted to an earlier mode of femininity, deciding that in the face of sexual excess, chastity is the ultimate 21st century rebellion.

No one would argue that the right to say no to sex isn't a good thing. And surely we can agree that talking to girls about the value of their bodies, and their selves, is a welcome cultural shift. But when Shalit argues that "many of the problems we hear about today -- sexual harassment, date rape . . . are connected to our culture's attack on modesty," she is making a dangerous leap.

It's not a lack of female modesty but a sense of male entitlement that leads to sexual violence.

...doesn't mean we have to accept with a straight face the argument that women can treat themselves like skanky ho's but expect to be treated with respect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Iran to free U.S. academic on bail: source (Hossein Jaseb, 8/21/07, Reuters)

A U.S.-Iranian academic detained in Iran on security-related charges since May will be freed once bail of 3 billion rials ($320,000) has been paid and may be released as early as Tuesday evening, a judiciary source said.

Ayatollah Khamenei has no intention of letting Ahmedinejad squander the Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Senator Calls for Maliki's Ouster: Levin Urges Iraqis To Replace Leaders (Jonathan Weisman, 8/21/07, Washington Post)

Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.

It would be worth the price of admission if Mr. Maliki called for Senator Levin to be replaced since the Democrats have failed to deliver on any of the reforms they promised.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Sonny Rollins: Before reaching 21, Sonny Rollins played with Thelonious Monk—a sign of the saxophone colossus he would become. For more than 50 years, the jazzman has enriched the world of music with his progressive improvisational style. This month, he turns 77 and performs at the 50th anniversaries of the Monterey Jazz Festival and his first concert at Carnegie Hall. Here, Rollins reflects on his plumber, good food, and inner consciousness. (September 2007, Vanity Fair)

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Probably "You dig?"

What is your greatest regret?

Not saying some things to departed associates.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Of course my late wife, Lucille.

Which talent would you most like to have?

The one that I have.

What is your current state of mind?

Peaceful but active.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Listening to my inner consciousness and summoning the strength and determination to act on it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


McCain understands Granite State (Jennifer Donahue, August 21, 2007, Boston Globe)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN just spent two weekends in a row in New Hampshire. Unlike some of the candidates who didn't run in 2000, he understands two important things about the state's presidential primary contest. One is the importance of the August before the primary. In August 1999, McCain solidified his base in New Hampshire, while George W. Bush all but ignored the state. McCain won the primary, though not the nomination.

The other thing McCain knows is that New Hampshire gives supposedly faltering front-runners a chance to come back. By campaigning intensely in the state, Al Gore effectively stamped Bill Bradley out in August 1999. Similarly, as insurgent Howard Dean focused on Iowa over New Hampshire in August 2003, John Kerry faced frustrated voters in New Hampshire -- and ended up winning.

What McCain has in common this year with Gore and Kerry is that the press anointed all three as front-runners before the campaign began. The expectations for such "early favorites" are often based on polls taken so early that only the candidates with existing name recognition place well.

These expectations are also impossible to meet. As obscure candidates become known and gain a little ground in the polls, it suddenly looks as though the front-runner is in free fall. The money race is then affected by the press coverage and poll numbers, which make it harder for the "early favorites" to raise funds.

McCain has been both the beneficiary and the victim of this dynamic.

The dynamic that matters is that the GOP has nominated the next in line in every cycle since the primary selection system was adopted.

August 20, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Israel to reject refugees (MATTI FRIEDMAN, 8/20/07, The Associated Press)

Israel said Sunday it will no longer allow refugees from Darfur to stay after they sneak across the border from Egypt, drawing criticism from those who say the Jewish state is morally obliged to offer sanctuary to people fleeing mass murder. [...]

Israel’s response to the unexpected arrivals has been mixed. Threats to expel them have clashed with sentiments inspired by the memory of Jews seeking sanctuary from the Nazis before and during World War II and being turned away. Some volunteers have helped migrants find jobs and housing.

Eytan Schwartz, an advocate for Darfur refugees in Israel, objected to any ban on the asylum seekers. “The state of Israel has to show compassion for refugees after the Jewish people was subject to persecution throughout its history,” he said.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said in a statement that it is, “Israel’s moral and legal obligation to accept any refugees or asylum seekers facing life-threatening danger or infringements on their freedom.”

But Ephraim Zuroff of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said the Jewish people could not be expected to right every wrong just because of its past.

“Israel can’t throw open the gates and allow unlimited access for people who are basically economic refugees,” Zuroff said.

Some months ago we received an excellent book by Alex Grobman, Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West. Therein, Mr. Grobman provides a useful short history of Israel and an invaluable account of how the Soviet Union and Arab states used the auspices of the UN, the ideologies of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and, in particular, United Nations Resolution 3379 (which singled out Zionism as a form of racism) as weapons with which to distract their own restive internal populations and to attack Israel and its Western allies. He shows just how successful this strategy was and the degree to which it caught its targets off-guard, though we were finally able to repeal the resolution in the wake of the Gulf War alliance and the collapsing Iron Curtain. The book is remarkably thorough, passionately argued, and refreshingly fair and honest.

One function of Mr. Grobman's honesty though is that the main argument against the Resolution and against how Israel has been treated at the UN is not that there is no validity to the notion that Zionism entails a certain level of "racism" but that there is nothing unique about that and that there are certain historical reasons for it in Israel's case. Mr. Grobman describes Zionism as "an attempt to transform the Jewish people into becoming like all the other nations of the world" and as "an effort to enable Jews to live in their own land like every other nation." Zionism then is pretty indistinguishable from any other form of nationalism, except insofar as the reaction it has provoked, and nationalism is inextricably bound up with ideas of ethnicity.

The elements of nationalism (a less inflammatory term than racism) are easy enough to trace in Israel. Never mind that its central purpose is to provide a Jewish homeland, there are also policies like allowing any Jew in the world to make aliyah, while denying native Palestinians the "right of return," and Ariel Sharon's decision to disavow the drive for Eretz Israel and to create a Palestinian state in order to limit the number of Arabs within Israel's borders. While completely justified from the perspective of maintaining Israel's distinctively Jewish and democratic nature, such steps have undeniable racial components. What's most notable in this regard is that when, for example, the Scots seek to separate themselves from Great Britain, and polls show that the English overwhelmingly support seeing the back of them, we see none of the hysteria and rancor that Israel is subjected to for similarly nationalist sentiment. Or, to take another normal democratic ally in good standing, consider Japan, which has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the free world, for no other reason than to preserve the nation's ethnic identity. Despite a recent past of mass murderous nationalist warfare against its neighbors, Japan's current policies go largely unremarked. Meanwhile, the Jewish nation, whose people are recent victims of genocide are vilified for trying to preserve their national identity. Reasonable folk can differ over the advisability of the respective policies pursued by Scotland, Japan and Israel, but it is obviously unreasonable -- and something quite a bit more sinister -- to single out Israel for criticism.

It is, however, at the point where we might question these nationalist policies that the big question comes into play: is it a good idea for Israel to seek to be just another nation and to orient its policies around a nationalist axis? As a threshold matter, treating Jews as an ethnically distinct people, as a biological nation, makes Judaism an intellectual support for precisely those nationalist ideas that undergird Applied Darwinism. From a purely Darwinian standpoint, what can have been "wrong" with a struggle between the Germanic people and the Jewish, however violent? And once we repudiate the merely biological view of mankind and invoke Judeo-Christian morality and Western tradition in its stead, we open several cans of worms. What moral basis can a state have for treating two ethically similar people differently simply because they differ ethnically? While a state need not extend citizenship rights to those who seek its destruction, on what basis may it deny those rights to those who embrace the premises upon which it functions and the ends for which it was founded? And these are only the sorts of theoretical/philosophical issues that we encounter. On the more practical front, it appears that Israel has only bought itself some time when it comes to demographics. Eventually, perhaps not too many years from now, Jews will be a minority and Arab Muslims a majority even within the more modest borders that are being finalized. If steps are not taken now to base Israel's future on a more inclusive set of ideals, then how can it integrate non-Jews and treat them as Israelis yet still expect to preserve the Zionist vision? And, if that preservation came to require a denial of democratic rights to the majority or even a large minority, then what will have become of the moral claims of Judaism? And ought we to expect an America that is not nationalist, is explicitly organized around Judeo-Christian ideals, and always has been the main force for liberalization/democratization in the world to retain its unusually close relationship with an Israel that may be forced by nationalist considerations to depart so drastically from the American model?

These are all questions that we ought to be grappling with now, especially those of us who love, admire and support Israel. But it is difficult to discuss them in calm and considered fashion, in no small part because Israel's enemies may welcome the admissions that are required. This might well be the final victory of the Zionism=Racism crowd, that they have so tainted public dialogue that we choose a comfortable silence rather than a difficult debate. That would be truly tragic.

Don't Back Away (HILLEL HALKIN, August 21, 2007, NY Sun)

This week the Israeli cabinet voted, in a much-publicized decision, to create a national service program for youth that does not serve in the army. It's a good idea and not entirely a new one, since the option of working for a year or two in some socially useful capacity instead of serving in the Israel Defense Force has been available to religiously observant girls for several decades.

What's new is that now this option will be made available to other categories of youngsters as well, especially Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews. This is what makes the new program both highly promising and highly problematic, since it touches on the two sectors of the Israeli population that are the country's least integrated and the greatest threats to its long-term stability.

Traditionally, neither ultra-Orthodox Jews nor Arabs have served in the army, in which — in principle, at least — there is universal conscription at the age of 18. Despite being totally different from one another, both groups reflect a similar story. In neither case have they wanted to serve, in neither case has this bothered the army, and in neither case, therefore, has the government made them serve.

Their disinclination to serve is understandable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Atheist Tracts: God, they're predictable (Harvey Mansfield, 08/13/2007, Weekly Standard)

In our time, religion, having lost its power to censor and dominate, still retains its ability, in America especially, to compete for adherents in our democracy of ideas. So to reduce the influence of religion, it is politically necessary to attack it in the private sphere as well as in the public square. This suggests that the distinction between public and private, dear to our common liberalism, is sometimes a challenge to maintain.

If religion, then, cannot be defended merely on

the ground that it is private, what might be said in its behalf for the public good? We know from behavioral studies that, to the embarrassment of atheists, believers, or at least churchgoers, are better citizens--more active and law-abiding--than those who spend Sunday morning reading the New York Times. But why should this be so? And is it really true that atheists, with their newfound aggressiveness, are not public-spirited?

A person of faith might respond to the atheists that God's providence rules, but His mind is unknown to us. We might hope or guess or infer that God gives us freedom to make mistakes, to sin, to offend God, even to expound atheism--but we could not be sure of this. Our uncertainty as to God's intentions preserves the distance between man and God and prevents us from claiming imperiously that we know what God wants to happen. From this negative conclusion one might move to the positive inference that in leaving us free, God leaves us to choose and, to make choice effective, leaves us to choose not merely this or that detail of our lives, but a way of life comprehensively in politics.

But surely not just any politics, arbitrarily posited. We must have a politics that aims at justice. The atheists say that God is unjust because He allows injustice to exist, to thrive. Worse than that, God is complicit in injustice. The reason why "God is not great," in Christopher Hitchens's book title, is that God allows himself to be used, hence diminished, by His believers. Note that the atheist Hitchens, like a believer, wants God to be great. A God of limited powers is not God; God must be omnipotent to ensure that justice triumphs in the world. Hitchens doesn't believe in God, but that is because he does believe in justice. Justice must be realizable if the reproach to God is that He is unjust.

The atheist complain is not that there is no God--by their raging against Him they demonstrate their belief--but that He is not who they want Him to be. When Mr. Hitchens grows up he'll accept the God who is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


Migrant Cash Is World Economic Giant (WILLIAM J. KOLE, 8/18/07, Associated Press )

Josif Poro pats his new sofa, points with pride to his carpets and runs a wrinkled hand over a gleaming white refrigerator.

He and his wife barely scrape by on their $220 monthly pension. They'd have to do without many of the items in their cramped apartment if their son, a factory worker in Greece, didn't faithfully send home part of his earnings.

"We call him our golden boy," said Poro, 83, a retired textile mill worker.

Around the world, millions of immigrants are sending billions of dollars back home.

One sweaty wad of bills or $200 Western Union moneygram at a time, they form what could be called Immigration, Inc.—one of the biggest businesses on the planet.

Experts tracking the phenomenon told The Associated Press they have gotten a much clearer picture since the 9/11 attacks, when authorities trying to cut the flow of cash to jihadists began taking a harder look at how immigrants move their money around.

Mass migration, they say, has spawned an underground economy of staggering proportions.

Globally, remittances—the cash that immigrants send home—totaled nearly $276 billion in 2006, the World Bank says. Remittances have more than doubled since 2000, and with globalization increasing the numbers of people on the move, there's no end in sight.

Not that the nativists wouldn't kill the world economy for a bit of imaginary racial hygiene.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Humans 'more than big-brained apes' (Press Association, Aug 20, 2007)

The myth that many animals had human-like abilities arose because their similarities have been over-hyped, according to Dr David Premack, from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

The human brain was wired in a way unlike that of any ape and this is reflected in unique patterns of behaviour, he said in an article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ignoring the important differences between animals and humans had given a misleading impression, Dr Premack argued.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


Bear attacks unlucky hunter in Finnish season opener (AFP, Aug 20, 2007)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


Modern Cosmology: Science or Folktale?: Current cosmological theory rests on a disturbingly small number of independent observations (Michael J. Disney, 8/20/07, American Scientist)

It is true that the modern study of cosmology has taken a turn for the better, if only because astronomers can now build relevant instruments rather than waiting for serendipitous evidence to turn up. On the other hand, to explain some surprising observations, theoreticians have had to create heroic and yet insubstantial notions such as "dark matter" and "dark energy," which supposedly overwhelm, by a hundred to one, the stuff of the universe we can directly detect. Outsiders are bound to ask whether they should be more impressed by the new observations or more dismayed by the theoretical jinnis that have been conjured up to account for them.

My limited aim here is to discuss this dilemma by looking at the development of cosmology over the past century and to compare the growing number of independent relevant observations with the number of (also growing) separate hypotheses or "free parameters" that have had to be introduced to explain them. Without having to understand the complex astrophysics, one can still ask, at an epistemological level, whether the number of relevant independent measurements has overtaken and comfortably surpassed the number of free parameters needed to fit them—as one would expect of a maturing science. This approach should be appealing to nonspecialists, who otherwise would have little option but to believe experts who may be far too committed to supply objective advice. What one finds, in my view, is that modern cosmology has at best very flimsy observational support.

Science is never more than the prevailing folktale among the intellectual class.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Being more like Ike: The 34th president and ex-general delivered eight years of peace because he knew when a war was unwinnable. (Michael Korda, August 20, 2007, LA Times)

It may be possible to forgive a president for failing to understand the present or to foresee the future, but it is harder to forgive a total lack of interest in the past.

The Bush administration has displayed a peculiar disinterest in previous Republican presidencies, from which there is much to be learned. The president's own father set a good example of knowing when to stop, as when he took the wise step of not advancing to Baghdad. Ronald Reagan proved the immense power of soaring rhetoric. Richard Nixon, if nothing else, provided an object lesson in the perils of continuing to wage an unpopular war. But it is, above all, Dwight D. Eisenhower to whom Republicans should be looking for sound political wisdom these days.

How did the North Koreans, Poles, etc. like those 8 years of peace?

Corrects paragraph 3 to read "Shi'ite south and Kurdish north" instead of "Shi'ite north and Kurdish south" (Ross Colvin, 8/20/07, Reuters)

Fifteen former members of Saddam Hussein's regime go on trial in a U.S.-backed court on Tuesday for their role in the crushing of a Shi'ite uprising in 1991, but many Shi'ites still talk bitterly of an American betrayal.

The trial is likely to revive debate over former U.S. President George Bush's decision not to invade Iraq after forcing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.

With no threat of invasion, Saddam was able to use his elite Republican Guard units to swiftly suppress uprisings in the Shi'ite south and Kurdish north that erupted just days after the February 28 ceasefire ending the Gulf War. [...]

"I just want to laugh when I hear American politicians talk about spreading democracy in the Middle East. I ask them: 'Why then did you allow Saddam to kill women and children when the Iraqi people revolted against his dictatorship?" said Mohammed al-Jawahiry, 32, a doctor in the southern city of Basra.

As Democracy Push Falters, Bush Feels Like a 'Dissident' (Peter Baker, 8/20/07, Washington Post)

Two and a half years after Bush pledged in his second inaugural address to spread democracy around the world, the grand project has bogged down in a bureaucratic and geopolitical morass, in the view of many activists, officials and even White House aides. Many in his administration never bought into the idea, and some undermined it, including his own vice president. The Iraq war has distracted Bush and, in some quarters, discredited his aspirations. And while he focuses his ire on bureaucracy, Bush at times has compromised the idealism of that speech in the muddy reality of guarding other U.S. interests.

The story of how a president's vision is translated into thorny policy is a classic Washington tale of politics, inertia, rivalries and funding battles -- and a case study in the frustrated ambition of a besieged presidency. Bush says his goal of "ending tyranny" will take many generations, and he aims to institutionalize it as U.S. policy no matter who follows him in the White House. And for all the difficulties of the moment, it may yet, as he hopes, see fruition down the road.

At this point, though, democracy promotion has become so identified with an unpopular president that candidates running to succeed him are running away from it. At a recent debate, they rushed to disavow it. "I'm not a carbon copy of President Bush," one said. Another ventured that "maybe going to elections so quickly is a mistake." A third, asked if he agreed with Bush's vision, replied, "Absolutely not, because I don't think we can force people to accept our way of life, our way of government."

And those were the Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:58 PM


Gitmo plan has Kansans uneasy: Proposal to move detainees raises legal and safety questions (Kirsten Scharnberg, August 20, 2007, Chicago Tribune)

As high-profile Republicans increasingly join Democrats and civil rights groups in denouncing the U.S. holding of alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, a proposal to move detainees to this historic Army post in the geographic heart of America is gaining widespread political support.

Under the plan, several hundred foreign detainees could be transported from the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, a prison that has evoked worldwide outrage amid allegations of strong-arm interrogation tactics, to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks here, the Department of Defense's only maximum-security prison on U.S. soil.

The plan has drawn criticism from many residents around Ft. Leavenworth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


It must be the end of secularism (Spengler, 8/21/07, Asia Times)

Secular liberalism stands helpless before a new century of religious wars, Columbia University Professor Mark Lilla concedes in "The politics of God", a despairing vision of the political future published in the August 19 New York Times Magazine. It is one of those important statements, like the "end of history", that will repeat on us indefinitely, like a bad curry. It comprises most of the Times weekend magazine, presented with all the pomposity the newspaper can summon.

For the few of us who asked not how to avoid religious war, but rather how best to fight it, Lilla's essay provides double validation. Not only does he admit that the foundation has crumbled beneath the secular-liberal position but, even better, he lays bare the rank hypocrisy that infected this position from the beginning. Lilla does not love Reason; he merely hates Christianity. He is beaten, and knows he is beaten, but cannot bear to surrender to Western Christians; instead, he proposes to surrender to the Muslims, particularly to Professor Tariq Ramadan. If that sounds strange, it is not my fault. [...]

Never mind that the United States, which defined the modern democratic state, was founded by radical Protestant refugees from Europe who set out to build a New Jerusalem, and that impassioned religious faith has characterized American discourse from its founding. Lilla desires us to believe that an elite of political scientists much like himself managed to re-engineer the social order during the 18th century, before those awful fanatics came back. He reminds one of the scientists on the flying island of Laputa in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, who wander with their noses in the air and must be hit on the nose with inflated pig's bladders to prevent them falling over the edge.

Such, of course, is a main source of the intellectuals particular hatred of America and estrangement from the Anglosphere generally, that we never made the Rationalist error in the first place. Because we rejected their ideas grom the git-go, and held them in contempt throughout, they can't pretend that no one could have known better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


"High School" sequel smashes ratings record (Nellie Andreeva, 8/20/07, Hollywood Reporter)

Disney Channel's highly anticipated "High School Musical 2" danced its way to history Friday night when 17.24 million viewers tuned in, making the original movie's debut the most-watched basic cable telecast of all time. [...]

Overall, "Musical 2" was the most watched program on television since the season finale of Fox's hit drama "House" on May 29 logged 17.26 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Additionally, "Musical 2" ranked as the most-watched TV telecast ever in kids 6-11 (6.1 million) as well as the most-watched entertainment telecast ever (and the second-highest-rated overall, behind only the 2004 Super Bowl) among tweens 9-14 (5.9 million).

The numbers, which include an eye-popping 9.4 million cable homes, would be even higher if the fact that many kids and parents nationwide gathered to watch at viewing parties was taken into account.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Trials, and a series of errors, in the brain lab: Gary Lynch's UC Irvine brain research lab struggles to map the elusive molecular underpinning of retention and recall. (Terry McDermott, August 20, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

The myth of modern science, that it proceeds carefully, rationally, incrementally, building bit by bit from rock-solid foundations to impregnable fortresses of fact, comes unraveled in contemporary neuroscience. Fortresses, entire kingdoms of neuroscience have been built on what turn out to be frail premises that get swept away entirely when the next new thing comes along.

A few years ago, a huge amount of effort was spent researching the then-thought marvelous qualities of a humble molecule called nitric oxide. This molecule, better-known in the broader world as the key element in laughing gas, was celebrated as a vital actor in human memory and cognition.

Science Magazine, as if honoring a rock star or president, put the thing on its cover and declared it Molecule of the Year.

By the end of the next year, nitric oxide had fallen off the end of the Earth. Little of what had been claimed on its behalf turned out to be true. This was but one example in a long, sad tradition of a science, as if gripped by mass hysteria, going off the deep end and pretending it knew how to swim.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Artificial Life Likely in 3 to 10 Years (SETH BORENSTEIN, 8/19/07, AP)

Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."

You do have to love the way scientists sit in the lab and disprove Science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Bernanke's `Rookie Mistake' Forces Fed to Shift Focus to Market (Craig Torres, 8/20/07, Bloomberg)

Federal Reserve policy makers, who declared that inflation was their paramount challenge just two weeks ago, have been forced to make financial-market stability the trigger for changes in interest rates.

By lowering the discount rate and issuing a statement conceding threats to the economy, Federal Open Market Committee members effectively ripped up the economic-outlook statement from their Aug. 7 meeting. Some economists describe the about- face, coming after months of assurances that the subprime- mortgage rout was contained, as Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's first serious error since taking office last year.

``It was a rookie mistake,'' said Kenneth Thomas, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in Philadelphia. The Fed ``underestimated liquidity needs'' of investors and the fallout from the housing recession, he said, adding, ``This demonstrates the difference between book-smart and street-smart.''

Bernanke, a former chairman of the economics department at Princeton University, has elevated the role of forecasts in Fed policy rather than amassing clues from dozens of market indicators as predecessor Alan Greenspan did. The Fed forecasts showed that ``moderate'' growth would continue, and that inflation remained the biggest danger. The credit collapse has undermined that stance, and Bernanke may cut the benchmark interest rate by at least a quarter-point at or before the Sept. 18 FOMC meeting, analysts say.

A U.S. tax cut is needed just as much as rate cuts, to provide the world economy a sufficient amount of secure debt instruments

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Darwinism at AEI (Tom Bethell, July/August 2007, The American Spectator

The truth is that Darwinism is so shapeless that it can be enlisted in support of any cause whatsoever. Steven Hayward, a resident scholar at AEI, made this clear in his admirable introduction. Darwinism has over the years been championed by eugenicists, social Darwinists, racialists, free-market economists, liberals galore, Wilsonian progressives, and National Socialists, to give only a partial list. Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer, Communists and libertarians, and almost anyone in between, have at times found Darwinism to their liking. Spencer himself first used the phrase "survival of the fittest, "and Darwin thought it an "admirable" summation of his thesis.

Both selfishness and (with a little mathematical ingenuity) altruism can be given a Darwinian gloss. Any existing psychological trait, from aggression to pacifism, can be deemed adaptive by inventing a just-so story explaining how genes "for" that trait might have arisen. The genes themselves do not have to be identified, nor does the imagined historical scenario have to leave any trace behind.

The underlying problem is that a key Darwinian term is not defined. Darwinism supposedly explains how organisms become more "fit," or better adapted to their environment. But fitness is not and cannot be defined except in terms of existence. If an animal exists, it is "fit" (otherwise it wouldn't exist). It is not possible to specify all the useful parts of that animal in order to give an exhaustive causal account of fitness. If an organism possesses features that appear on the surface to be inconvenient-such as the peacock's tail or the top-heavy antlers of a stag-the existence of stags and peacocks proves that these animals are in fact fit.

So the Darwinian theory is not falsifiable by any observation. It "explains" everything, and therefore nothing. It barely qualifies as a scientific theory for that reason. The impact of Darwinism on any and all political groups can be argued any way you want and it's not very illuminating for that reason.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Taliban, US in new round of peace talks (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 8/21/07, Asia Times)

The few weeks between the visits to Pakistan of Richard Boucher, the US assistant secretary of state who left last week, and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who arrives on September 10, could prove crucial in determining the fate of Afghanistan.

This is the timeline for secret three-party talks to establish teega (a Pashtu word for a peace deal that resolves a conflict) between the Western coalition forces in Afghanistan (with Pakistan), the Afghan government, and the anti-coalition insurgents of Afghanistan. The first round of talks has already begun in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, Asia Times Online has learned.

The outcome of the talks will to a large extent decide the agenda of Negroponte's visit and the course of the US-led "war on terror" in the region.

The talks are based on previous Pakistan-inspired efforts to secure peace deals between the insurgents and the Western coalition in specific areas in Afghanistan with the longer-term goal of incorporating the Taliban into the political process both in Kabul and in provincial governments.

The enemy's sole advantage in the WoT lies in being so disorganized/decentralized that they are hard to target effectively. Any measure that makes them more visible and structurally coherent makes them easier to kill. Just in case....

August 19, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


The day the No1 Ladies' Detective Agency came to life (Alexander McCall Smith, 19th August 2007, Daily Mail)

Each year at about this time I come to Botswana, the country where Precious Ramotswe – Mma Ramotswe, as she is known – runs her small detective agency at the back of her husband's garage.

I usually come to speak to people, to hear the stories that will appear in the next volume of The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

I also come to soak up the atmosphere of this extraordinary southern African country, to look out over its vistas of plains dotted with acacia trees, to gaze into its high sky that arches over a landscape that seems to go on for ever.

This visit, though, is special.

Film director Anthony Minghella is here to translate the Mma Ramotswe books into film, and I am here in Gaborone, Botswana's capital, to visit the set and meet the actors who will be playing my characters on screen.

This will bring me face to face, for the first time, with the actress who has been chosen to be Mma Ramotswe.

The woman who has lived in my imagination for ten years or so is now being made flesh. [...]

Life in sub-Saharan Africa is not easy. In a dry country such as Botswana, for all its blessings, life is often quite hard, and this shows in the faces of the people.

The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency tells the story of Precious Ramotswe, a spirited woman from Botswana who uses the cattle left to her by her father to set up a small detective agency.

It is Botswana's first detective agency and she has no experience, but she makes a go of it. After an early, disastrous marriage to an abusive trumpet-player, Precious eventually marries Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, the owner of a nearby garage, Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.

Now I am being driven along a bumpy dirt road on a small industrial site on the edge of Gaborone. The road is blocked by a police car and there is a small crowd of onlookers, but we are waved through. And there it is, specially built for the film, Speedy Motors (as it has now become).

On the roadside, a fruit vendor tends a stall but sells nothing – an extra playing her role to convincing effect. There's a blue Jeep with Speedy Motors and the name of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni emblazoned on the side.

They have constructed the garage in its entirety – complete with old engines, all the necessary tools and grease on the floor.

And this is the point when I come face to face for the first time with the fictional characters of the series. American jazz singer Jill Scott, who plays Mma Ramotswe, certainly looks the part – traditionally built and with a face-bisecting smile.

Scott seems extremely modest and, most importantly, seems to understand the potential sensitivity of an African-American actress coming in to play the part of an African woman. Her modesty and courtesy are well suited for the part, and I suspect that Minghella's instincts in choosing her are exactly right.

'I hope that I'm doing it right,' says Scott, in the accent not of the American jazz singer that she is, but of an African woman. 'Is this how you see her?'

'You're doing it beautifully.'

I mean it: she seems to have found the voice remarkably quickly. Later, in conversation with the dialect coach, I am told: 'That woman has an ear! She can do it.'

And then Mr J.L.B. Matekoni himself appears in his mechanic's overalls. Lucian Msamati is a classically trained actor with a rich, bass voice. He is the ideal Mr J.L.B.

Matekoni – and a great foil to his two feckless apprentices, played with style by two young actors Minghella discovered in an acting workshop in Johannesburg.

'You have to tell me something,' says Lucian. 'What do the initials J.L.B. stand for?'

This is never revealed in the books, but I will tell people if asked directly. I whisper in his ear. He laughs. [...]

Later, Minghella draws me into Mma Ramotswe's office, now transformed by the addition of furniture. He produces a small computer on which are stored some of the sequences already filmed.

'I want to show you the scene where the teacher is reunited with his lost son,' he says. 'We did that the other day.'

Suddenly on the screen there is a group of schoolchildren singing.

Their singing falters and the teacher sees his kidnapped son, rescued by Mma Ramotswe, running across a dusty playground to embrace him. It is so beautifully filmed that I find myself struggling with emotion. I give in.

Minghella puts a hand on my shoulder. 'That's exactly what it did to me,' he says; the kindest thing for one man to say to another when one man is overcome.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM


Khomeini 'sought to drop Death to America chant' (Robert Tait, August 20, 2007, The Guardian)

One of Iran's most powerful politicians has provoked controversy by suggesting that the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the country's Islamic revolution, wanted to drop its signature chant, Death to America.

The claim is made by Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative and former president, in the newly-published latest volume of his memoirs, entitled Towards Destiny. Mr Rafsanjani discloses that a decision was made during Iran's 1980-88 war with Iraq, when he was speaker of the Iranian parliament and one of Khomeini's closest confidants.

Ayatollah Khamenei biffed when he tried installing Mr. Rafsanjani in the last presidential election, but has him better positioned this time around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


Why political thought is imprisoned in the present: Two new books offer striking insights into the suspicion of the public and fear of the future that underpins contemporary political analysis. (Frank Furedi, July 2007, spiked review of books)

The focus of Walter Laqueur’s anxiety, as expressed in The Last Days of Europe, is not so much on the political illiteracy of the public as on the cultural illiteracy of the European elites. Laqueur believes that for some time Europe has faced ‘an existential crisis – or, perhaps more accurately, a number of major crises, of which the demographic problems are the most severe’.

The Last Days of Europe explores the cultural and political consequences of the recent dramatic decline in the rate of fertility amongst European people. Laqueur is not sure why Europeans have lost interest in producing children, but he is certain that a society disinclined to reproduce is unlikely to survive for very long. Like the German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn – who fears that Europe’s ‘demographic capitulation’ calls into question the survival of the continent – Laqueur is convinced that Europe is running out of time. And that’s not the only problem…. The Last Days of Europe is also concerned, principally so, with the consequences of an unprecedented level of immigration into Europe.

Laqueur is worried about the differential fertility rates between Europe’s host populations and its more fecund immigrant communities. He points to the example of Brussels, where in 2004 more than 55 per cent of the children born were to immigrant parents. More worryingly still for Laqueur, a significant section of the new immigrant communities has no inclination to be integrated into European societies. Large immigrant communities seem to have little if any desire to participate in European culture; indeed, they appear to resent the values of the very societies that they inhabit.

Laqueur argues that integration has failed in part because immigrants were just not very interested in integrating, and also because they have been inadvertently encouraged, by the politics of multiculturalism, to establish parallel communities. For Europe’s decline, he blames policies that encouraged unplanned immigration, welfare systems that discouraged immigrants from pursuing productive economic activity, and an ethos of multiculturalism that refuses to affirm national cultures. According to Laqueur, the fault lies mainly with European governments and elites. And he simply cannot make sense of why they seem to have acted in such a confused and self-destructive manner:

‘It is difficult even in retrospect to establish what the authorities in these countries were thinking. Did they imagine that uncontrolled immigration would not involve major problems; that the economic, social, and cultural problems would be solved; and that the immigrants would one day disappear or that they would be well integrated?’

Yet his book is not simply a diatribe against the unanticipated consequences of large-scale immigration. Indeed, he recognises that the problems currently facing Europe are unlikely to be the outcome of immigration.

At one point, he rejects the idea that the ‘failure of integration was the fault of European societies’, only to contradict his own argument a page later. He notes that the European elites have lost faith in their own way of life, and that ‘among the establishment little pride was left of belonging to a certain nation (or to Europe)’. ‘Such societies were not in a position to provide guidance to newcomers’, he says, who in any case ‘were bound to gain the impression that prevailing laws and norms could safely be ignored’. In such a climate of ‘cultural and moral relativism’, it is understandable that many immigrants have not been inspired by the way of life of their host communities. Many have a sense of revulsion for their host society, rather than a desire to integrate into it. The anti-European radicalisation of some sections of immigrant youth can be seen, at least indirectly, as a form of disgust with the moral disorientation of the societies they live in. The problem lies clearly with Europe, not its immigrants.

The main merit of Laqueur’s book is that it is prepared to engage with some very uncomfortable but important truths. At a time when the European elites hide behind meaningless EU rhetoric, it is essential that we call on societies to provide an account of what they actually stand for. Europe’s failure to integrate some of its newcomers may well be a result of the fact that it is far from clear what these newcomers would be integrated into. So what is to be done? Laqueur is not very hopeful about the future. His conclusion? That Europe should carry out some damage-limitation exercises in relation to its immigrant communities. He seems resigned to the inevitability of European decline, while at the same time expressing hope that we might be able to avert a full collapse. For Laqueur, the present, for all of its faults, appears preferable to an uncertain future. He ends by arguing: ‘The debate should be about which of Europe’s traditions and values can still be saved.’

The truth that European elites can't wrap their intellects around is that Muslim Europe will be more Western than secular Europe was.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Ireland learns to adapt to a population growth spurt (Eamon Quinn, August 18, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Findings from the April 2006 census, which are being published in a series of releases this summer, showed that in the four years since a previous survey, the Irish population swelled by 322,645, roughly split between immigrants and births. That lifted the total population to 4.2 million.

No European Union country has a younger population: statistically, the Irish have been barely aging at all, with the median age staying close to 33. The country will remain young for decades, say the experts, and escape the "graying" fate of the rest of Europe.

Further, demographers now predict that the population could rise to over five million in about a dozen years, and to six million within a generation. With a growing population in Northern Ireland, the island could match its largest population — more than eight million before the devastating 19th-century famine that prompted waves of emigration — by 2032.

Edgar Morgenroth, a member of a panel of experts who predict Irish population growth, said the famine started a diminishing of the population that lasted to the late 1960s. "It was only in the 1990s that our population stabilized and started to grow, rapidly," he said. The population might reach the 19th-century level, but it will look very different.

Note how close Ireland is to America in the World Values Survey:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


The U.S. obstructed Japan's surrender to test nukes: claim (MICHAEL HOFFMAN, 8/19/07, Japan Times)

The moral questions swirling around Hiroshima and Nagasaki haven't been solved 62 years after the bombings and probably never will be. Did the bombs that ushered in the terrors of the nuclear age save lives by abruptly ending the war? Or did they butcher hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians to no purpose?

Kagoshima University professor Akira Kimura, chairman of the Japan Peace Foundation, is an eloquent exponent of the latter view. In an interview with Shukan Kinyobi, he goes beyond the widely held though disputed notion that Japan's surrender was known to be imminent, and that American political and military authorities ordered the bombings anyway, primarily as a warning to the increasingly obstreperous Soviet Union. Kimura adds to that a startling accusation. The United States, he says, in its determination to demonstrate the Promethean force it now commanded, deliberately obstructed Japan's surrender.

Hiroshima: the ‘White Man’s Bomb’ revisited: On the 62nd anniversary of Hiroshima, read Mick Hume's essay on how the dropping of the A-bomb was the final act of a bitter race war in the Pacific. (Mick Hume, 8/06/07, Spiked)
In 1993 the author Gar Alperovitz obtained hundreds of pages of US National Security Agency intercepts of secret enemy wartime communications. These revealed that US intelligence knew top Japanese army officers were willing to surrender more than three months before the Hiroshima bomb was dropped. For instance, one document intercepted by the NSA quotes a German diplomat reporting back to Berlin on the state of Japan on 5 May 1945: ‘since the situation is clearly recognised to be hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not regard with disfavour an American request for capitulation even if the terms were hard’ (see New York Times, 11 August 1993). Alperovitz has noted that the president’s rediscovered diary ‘leaves no doubt that Truman knew the war would end “a year sooner now” and without an invasion’ (Nation, 10 May 1993).

Despite the evidence that they knew of an impending Japanese collapse, the US authorities not only blasted Hiroshima, they also dropped another bomb on Nagasaki three days later, before the Japanese had a chance to assess the Hiroshima damage and surrender. Even Dwight D Eisenhower, the wartime Supreme Allied Commander in Europe who went on to become US president, later admitted that ‘the Japanese were ready to surrender and we didn’t have to hit them with that awful thing’ (quoted in Newsweek, 11 November 1963). All of which begs the question, why did they do it?

The decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki clearly rested on something more than battlefield calculations about the specific state of the military campaign in August 1945. Two broader political considerations made up Truman’s mind. First, the politics of international power dictated that the USA would definitely drop the Bomb somewhere, regardless of the state of the war. And second, the politics of racial superiority determined that that somewhere would definitely be Japan.

Having developed the Bomb, the US administration was always going to use it. Truman and his predecessor as president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had invested $2 billion in the Manhattan Project to develop the Bomb, a massive sum at that time. The government was under considerable pressure from Congress to show some bang for its megabucks expenditure. That was one reason why Truman’s Secretary of State, James F Byrnes, demanded that the atom bomb be dropped as soon as possible in order to ‘show results’. And international considerations proved even more influential in the Truman administration’s decision to use its new atomic weapon.

By the end of the Second World War, the USA stood head and shoulders above every other nation as the leading economic, political and military global force. America’s new standing was perfectly symbolised by its massive nuclear bomb programme, which gave Washington a unique power to destroy the world it dominated. To be effective as a tool of international politics, however, that power had to be demonstrated in practice. Detonating an atomic device at a time when no other state could come close to building one would be the ultimate demonstration of American supremacy on Earth - a demonstration to be aimed not merely at the Japanese regime, but at Stalin’s Soviet Union, the other Allies, the whole of Asia and indeed the world.

A detailed study by the Japanese Committee for the Compilation of Materials on Damage Caused by the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki puts the attacks in something like their proper international perspective:

‘the A-Bomb attacks were needed not so much against Japan - already on the brink of surrender and no longer capable of mounting an effective counter-offensive - as to establish clearly America’s postwar international position and strategic supremacy in the anticipated Cold War setting. One tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that this historically unprecedented devastation of human society stemmed from essentially experimental and political aims.’

In this sense, America’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was motivated less by a need to end the war than a determination to shape the postwar era in international politics.

If the US authorities always intended to drop the Bomb, it is equally certain that they always intended to drop it on the Japanese. There was no high-level discussion about using the Bomb in Europe against Nazi Germany. Only the Japanese were ever in the Allies’ nuclear bombsights. Here we come to the hidden history of Hiroshima: the story of the Allied powers’ race war against the Japanese, which culminated in the explosion of the White Man’s Bomb.

On 23 April 1945, General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, sent a memo to Henry L Stimson, the American Secretary of War, on plans for using the Bomb. It included the striking observation that ‘[t]he target is and was always expected to be Japan’ (emphasis added).

When he unearthed this memo during research in the 1990s, Arjun Makhijani discussed its implications with leading scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project. He reports that they were ‘amazed’ to learn of Groves’ attitude, 50 years after the event. Most leading members of the Manhattan project team were east European emigres, who had agreed to work on the Bomb only on the understanding that the Nazis were both the target and their competitors. Joseph Rotblat, the Polish scientist, told Makhijani that ‘there was never any idea [among the scientists] that [the Bomb] would be used against Japan. We never worried that the Japanese would have the Bomb. We always worried what Heisenberg and the other German scientists were doing. All of our concentration was on Germany’ (see A Makhijani, ‘Always the target’, Bulletin of AtomicScientists, May/June 1995). All of the concentration of the political and military strategists, however, was on using the Bomb against the Japanese. [...]

The racial dimension made the Japanese a very different enemy from the Germans. The Japanese posed not just a military threat to the old imperial order, but a political challenge to white power that could spark the fires of Asian nationalism. The leaders of the Allied powers saw the Pacific War as a life-and-death struggle to salvage the prestige of the Western elites. They had been humiliated by ‘Asiatics’. As a consequence they were fighting a race war, in which the enemy had to be not just contained, but crushed if the white powers were to retain any authority in Asia. The extent to which they saw the Japanese as different was reflected in the ruthless attitudes and actions adopted by Allied governments and forces during the Pacific War, culminating in the decision to drop the White Man’s Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Throughout the conflict, the Japanese were depicted and treated as a lower race. These attitudes predated Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. America’s president Roosevelt, the leader of Western liberalism, seriously considered the proposition that the Japanese were evil because their skulls were 2000 years less developed than the white man’s civilised cranium, and that the solution might be to encourage some cross-breeding to create a new ‘Euroindoasian’ race that could isolate the Japanese. On the British side, Churchill was always noted for espousing the blunt racial attitudes of his Edwardian background, disparaging Asian peoples as ‘dirty baboos’ and ‘chinks’ in need of a good thrashing with ‘the sjambok’. And Churchill was far from the exception. In the months before the Pacific War began, the diary of Sir Alexander Cadogan of the British Foreign Office records Cadogan’s own views of the Japanese as ‘beastly little monkeys’ and ‘yellow dwarf slaves’.

Once the war with Japan had begun, these prejudices were no longer confined to the private diaries and dinner party conversations of the Western elite. Instead, the politics of racial superiority were made public by Allied propagandists, and put into practice by the US and British military.

The American press branded Japan ‘a racial menace’, and routinely depicted the Japanese as monkeys, mad dogs, rats and vermin. Hollywood war movies emphasised the sadistic character of Japanese soldiers, who seemed to break the rules of ‘civilised’ warfare in every film. Allied propagandists made a clear distinction between their two major enemies. They showed the problem in Europe not as the whole German nation, but as Hitler and the Nazis. In Asia, by contrast, the enemy was ‘the Japs’ - an entire malignant race. As one of the best studies of the race war in the Pacific points out, ‘Western film-makers and publicists found a place for the “good German” in their propaganda, but no comparable counterpart for the Japanese’ (J Dower, War Without Mercy, 1986, p322n).

The racial denigration of the Japanese did not only happen in the movies. In America, the only German immigrants interned were those with suspected Nazi connections. Meanwhile, 120 000 Japanese-Americans, many of them born US citizens, were indiscriminately rounded up in camps. Asked to justify this treatment, General De Witt announced bluntly that ‘a Jap is a Jap’. Meanwhile in the Pacific war zone, working on the assumption that the only good Jap was a dead one, Admiral William Halsey of the US Navy urged his men to make ‘monkey meat’ out of the Japanese, and demanded that any Japanese survivors of the war should be rendered impotent.

The lower ranks took their lead from above. The US Marine Monthly “Leatherneck” counselled the extermination of the ‘Louseous Japanicus’, depicted as a vicious Asiatic cockroach. One US marine explained the racial outlook which made it easy for his comrades to slaughter the Japanese and mutilate their bodies on the battlefield:

‘The Japanese made the perfect enemy. They had many characteristics that an American marine could hate. Physically they were small, a strange colour and, by some standards, unattractive....Marines did not consider that they were killing men. They were wiping out dirty animals.’ (Quoted in J Weingartner, ‘Trophies of war: US troops and the mutilation of Japanese war dead, 1941-45’, Pacific Historical Review, February 1992)

If the Americans were happy ‘wiping out dirty animals’ with bayonets and flame-throwers on the beaches of Pacific islands, why should they worry about wiping out two whole cities of ‘beasts’ with the atom bomb?

The tragedy isn't so much that we atomic bombed Japan unnecessarily--nothing was stopping them from surrendering outright after all--but that we could have done lasting good by actually bombing Moscow and terminating the regime instead of just demonstrating the weapon in Japan. Had the Russians been Asian and the Japanese been European we'd have done just that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Americans are flocking to a hi-tech Creation Museum where man and dinosaurs frolick happily together ( 19 August 2007)

The Museum of Natural History in New York this is not. Welcome, rather, to the Creation Museum, a $27m facility that opened in May – to a veritable onslaught of enthusiastic visitors – on a 49-acre site in northeast Kentucky close to Cincinnati. There is no shortage of references to Darwin, whose teachings about evolution most of us are familiar with and more comfortable accepting. But the clear purpose is to demolish not celebrate them. You get the idea of where you are also when you learn that the folk behind it are the founders of a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis.

Theirs is a seductively simple, if controversial, thesis – that to solve the eternal conundrum of where we come from we need look no further than the first book of the Old Testament. And their contention here is that there is nothing scientists can throw at us – in paleontology, geology or astronomy – that will disprove this. Indeed, the point of the museum is to demonstrate that the more we consider the clues to our origins found by scientists – and there are a dozen thoroughly respectable sounding ones on the museum's own staff – the more they fit better with the Genesis version of creation than with Darwin's.

"We all have the same facts," explains one video in the museum showing two men working side by side to unearth a dinosaur fossil in the desert. One is a Darwinist, the other a creationist. "We are merely interpreting the facts differently, because we are coming from different starting points." No kidding.

The blurb on one exhibit bears the headline: "God's Word versus Human Reason". It's the latter you shouldn't trust. "The Bible is the word of God," explains Ken Ham, the museum's principle founder. The promotion of creationism has been his life since giving up teaching in Australia and he says he has no fear that one day evolutionary scientists will come up with something to shatter his young Earth beliefs. "I can stand boldly and tell you that that will never happen. They will never find something that will scientifically disprove what is the clear teaching in the Bible." Such conviction must be comforting.

Many of us will find the postulations of the museum and of Ham far too fantastic to take seriously. Nor would we be alone. About 50 protesters gathered outside its gates on opening day in May holding signs aloft excoriating Ham. He says the Ark was lifted by the flood a mere 4,500 years ago or thereabouts and dinosaurs were among the cargo. (Forget all you know about the massive creatures roaming the Earth 65 million years ago.) And if both the Bible and all other legends omit to mention dinosaurs living alongside humans, it is because the word was only invented 130 years ago. But myths are full of dragons. (One exhibit points to the depiction of a dragon on the Welsh flag.) Dragons and dinosaurs are but one.

But wait at least one second before dismissing Ham as a crackpot. For starters, his is about the slickest museum you are ever likely to visit. It has an interactive cinema that tells the creation story according to Genesis, with wind gusts in the auditorium, vibrating seats and squirts of water, as well as a state-of-the-art planetarium. Its animatronics are worthy of a world-class theme park. In fact, the principle designer also helped build exhibits for Universal Studios in Florida.

Something else impressive: the construction of the museum was funded entirely by private donations; it doesn't carry one dollar of debt.

In other words, in a country where the evolution-versus-creation debate is alive and raging, there are plenty of Americans ready to embrace Ham and support his museum. A recent Gallup poll in this country showed nearly 50 per cent of people accepting the notion that, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

Quackery, of course, but at least it's the quackery of the majority, not the fringe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


Rowling in new murder mystery (Ruairi O’Kane, 8/19/07, Times of London)

IT’S a case for Rebus, Scotland’s dogged detective. JK Rowling, who launched her career with stories scribbled in an Edinburgh cafe, has been spotted back in her old haunts with a notebook in hand and crime on her mind. [...]

Speaking to a reporter at the Edinburgh book festival, [Ian] Rankin told how his wife Miranda had seen Rowling “scribbling away in a cafe recently”.

“My wife spotted her writing her Edinburgh criminal detective novel,” he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM


The thrill is gone: Charles McCarry's great, but series has run its course: a review of CHRISTOPHER'S GHOSTS By Charles McCarry SAM ALLIS, Houston Chronicle)

It is a pleasure to report that Charles McCarry has regained his form after stumbling in his last book, Old Boys. Christopher's Ghosts is a fine, free-standing spy story about the childhood of master spy Paul Christopher, as well as essential reading for McCarry addicts.

John le Carré's gems featuring George Smiley have no equals in espionage fiction, but the best of McCarry's extended Christopher saga run a strong second. There's no shame here. No one has touched le Carré at the peak of his powers. McCarry's books are generally excellent, and the man is a sly, knowing writer.

...that not only are Mr. McCarry's books the finest series of political novels this side of Anthony Trollope, but they're written for folks who rooted for the West during the Cold War, unlike the LeCarre books.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


France Offers U.S. Symbol With Iraq Trip (KIM GAMEL, 8/19/07, AP)

The French foreign minister paid an unannounced and highly symbolic visit to Baghdad on Sunday—a gesture to the American effort in Iraq after years of icy relations over the U.S.-led invasion. Bernard Kouchner said Paris wanted to "turn the page" and look to the future. [...]

"Now we are turning the page. We want to talk about the future. Democracy, integrity, sovereignty, national reconciliation and stopping the killings. That's my big aim," Kouchner said in English after meeting the Iraqi foreign and prime ministers.

Meanwhile, Jacques Chirac was last seen buying soap-on-a-rope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Giuliani ducks probing into faith and family (Jonathan Martin, August 19, 2007, Politico)

His calculus is obvious. He has been married three times and cheated on his second wife. His children have publicly distanced themselves from him. If and when he attends Mass, he can’t take communion because his second marriage was not annulled. And he contradicts church teaching by backing abortion rights.

Naturally he’d rather talk about the taxes he cut as mayor.

But experts say it will be difficult for a candidate, particularly one running in a party whose base is dominated by cultural traditionalists, to ask voters to separate church and family from state. For many if not most conservatives, matters of faith and family are central to a candidate’s character.

“It is untenable,” GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said of Giuliani’s current posture. “With a third of the party, you can get away with it. The problem is the other two-thirds are the ones that control the nomination.”

“People want to get a sense what’s in that person’s heart,” said Fabrizio, who is uncommitted in the race. “Doing a good job on crime is all well and good, but if [voters] don’t have a sense as to what your moral compass is, that’s a problem.”

Pointing to a survey he recently did that showed two-thirds of Republicans believe religion “essential to living a good and moral life,” Fabrizio said, “It’s very difficult to see how you communicate what your values are without explaining what they’re based upon.”

Part of Giuliani’s problem is the precedent set by the two most recent presidents.

A Southern Baptist who could summon appropriate Scripture for any occasion, Bill Clinton was at ease in the pew or pulpit of any church and during his presidency regularly walked into his own church with Bible in hand. And though he despised having to do it, Clinton also took to national television during his 1992 campaign to admit, with his wife right next to him, that he had “caused pain" in their marriage.

President Bush has been equally open about his Christianity. Asked during the 2000 primary to name his favorite political philosopher, Bush responded without hesitation: “Christ, because he changed my heart.” He also candidly talked about the role of religion in helping him quit drinking — a decision that sustained his marriage.

...makes you the kind of man who can't be the nominee of the conservative party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM

THE PICTURE PERFECTIONIST:>Close Reagan aide Michael K. Deaver dies (Johanna Neuman, 8/19/07, Los Angeles Times)

In a statement, Nancy Reagan said Deaver was “like a son to Ronnie” and “the closest of friends to both Ronnie and me in many ways.”

“Our lives were so blessed by his love and friendship for over 40 years,” she said. “We met great challenges together, not just in Sacramento during Ronnie’s years as governor, but certainly during our time at the White House. I will miss Mike terribly.” [...]

“He is the godfather of our business,” Mark McKinnon, a political consultant who helped steer George W. Bush’s first presidential campaign, told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. “He plowed a lot of ground that we now tread. Deaver was one of the first guys to understand the power of media, of pictures and images.”

His flawless backdrops – of President Reagan in a divided Berlin demanding that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev “tear down this wall,” or of the president honoring “the boys of Point du Hoc” in Normandy at ceremonies marking the anniversary of D-Day in Europe, or even of Reagan being laid to rest as the California sun set over his presidential library in Simi Valley – were legendary.

“We remember the Reagan presidency through those stunning visuals,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, once said. “Image by image, Deaver took memorable visuals and paired them with memorable language.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Radical militia keeps Baghdad neighborhood safe -- for Shiites (SALLY BUZBEE, Aug. 19, 2007, The Associated Press)

The street market bustles in the early mornings and late afternoons as shoppers come out to buy fruit, bread, clothes and toys. Late into the hot summer nights, whole families gather to eat grilled kebabs at tiny stalls, their small children shrieking as they play tag.

The Hurriyah neighborhood of northwest Baghdad, gripped by a spasm of deadly ethnic violence a year ago, has grown markedly calmer over the past eight months. It is now the kind of area that both U.S. and Iraqi officials point to when they cite progress at stabilizing Baghdad.

But only Shiites are welcome – or safe – in Hurriyah these days. And neither Iraq’s government nor U.S. or Iraqi security forces are truly in control.

Instead, the Mahdi Army militia runs this area as it does others across Baghdad – manning checkpoints, collecting rental fees for apartments, licensing bus drivers, mediating family fights and even handing out gas for cooking.

MORE (via Gene Brown):

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Maldives President Wins Referendum (RAVI NESSMAN, 8/19/07, Associated Press )

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom won an overwhelming victory Sunday in a referendum on the Maldives' future form of government, a poll seen as an informal vote of confidence in his three-decade rule of the tiny Indian Ocean nation.

The vote was expected to clear the way for the Sunni Muslim nation of 300,000 people to adopt a new constitution in November and hold its first multiparty elections next year.

Gayoom, criticized as a dictator by the opposition, sought a U.S.- style political system with a powerful executive presidency. The opposition, wary of keeping power consolidated, backed a British-style parliamentary system.

The referendum was seen as the first true expression of democracy in the Maldives' 43-year history.

It's revealing that the US ended up with the system that is more nearly monarchical.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Sen. Leahy Lands Role in Batman Movie (AP, Aug 19, 2007)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Climate change protesters start day of direct action at Heathrow (Helene Mulholland, 8/19/07, Guardian Unlimited)

Anti-airport expansion protesters kicked off 24 hours of direct action with a midday march to the proposed third runway at Heathrow to form a human chain.

Two separate marches set off from the Camp for Climate Action outside the airport's perimeter fence, as local Harlington residents joined campaigners who have spent almost a week at the camp.

Campaigners oppose Heathrow's planned expansion because, they say, it will contribute to climate change.

Consensual government and free enterprise are the enemies of Airbus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Exit Polls Show Thais Approve Draft Constitution (VOA News, 19 August 2007)

Exit polls from Thailand's referendum on a draft constitution suggest voters have accepted the military-backed charter.

A polling agency, Suan Dusit, reports that 68 percent of voters said they approved the new constitution Sunday. [...]

The draft constitution reduces the number of parliamentary seats and limits the prime minister's time in office. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has said if the constitution is approved, general elections will be held in December.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Padilla Case Offers New Model of Terrorism Trial (ADAM LIPTAK, 8/19/07, NY Times)

The Justice Department’s strategy in the trial itself, using a seldom-tested conspiracy law and relatively thin evidence, cemented a new prosecutorial model in terrorism cases.

The central charge against Mr. Padilla was that he conspired to murder, maim and kidnap people in a foreign country. The charge is a serious one, and it can carry a life sentence. But prosecutors needed to prove very little by way of concrete conduct to obtain a conviction under the law.

“There is no need to show any particular violent crime,” said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at Wake Forest University and the author of a recent law review article on conspiracy charges in terrorism prosecutions. “You don’t have to specify the particular means used to carry out the crime.”

Indeed, the strongest piece of evidence in Mr. Padilla’s case was what prosecutors said was an application form Mr. Padilla filled out to attend a training camp run by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2000.

“It is a pretty big leap between a mere indication of desire to attend a camp and a crystallized desire to kill, maim and kidnap,” said Peter S. Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University who has also written on conspiracy charges in terrorism prosecutions.

The conspiracy charge against Mr. Padilla, Professor Margulies continued, “is highly amorphous, and it basically allows someone to be found guilty for something that is one step away from a thought crime.”

Prosecutors have long loved conspiracy charges in all kinds of cases. Judge Learned Hand, widely thought to be the greatest American judge never to sit on the Supreme Court, called conspiracy “that darling of the modern prosecutor’s nursery” in a classic 1925 decision. More recently, Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, now the chief judge of the federal appeals court in Chicago, lamented that “prosecutors seem to have conspiracy on their word processors as Count I.”

But recent terrorism prosecutions are doing more than using an old tool with new aggressiveness, legal experts said. They are also using it for a new purpose: preventive detention.

When the indicated desire is to destroy the Republic it would be anticonstitutional to protect it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


ADL local leader fired on Armenian issue: Genocide question sparked bitter debate (Keith O'Brien, August 18, 2007, Boston Globe)

The national Anti-Defamation League fired its New England regional director yesterday, one day after he broke ranks with national ADL leadership and said the human rights organization should acknowledge the Armenian genocide that began in 1915.

The firing of Andrew H. Tarsy, who had served as regional director for about two years and as civil rights counsel for about five years before that, prompted an immediate backlash among prominent local Jewish leaders against the ADL's national leadership and its national director, Abraham H. Foxman.

"My reaction is that this was a vindictive, intolerant, and destructive act, ironically by an organization and leader whose mission -- fundamental mission -- is to promote tolerance," Newton businessman Steve Grossman, a former ADL regional board member, said yesterday.

...that Abe Foxman is intolerant?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Meet the biggest jaw in town: Jason Statham's tough-guy look and demeanor got him his break. The next death-defying leap is his. (Geoff Boucher, 8/19/07, Los Angeles Times)

JASON STATHAM'S acting career began on the sidewalks of Argyle Street in London. Sitting on a milk crate with a suitcase of bogus jewelry, the young street hustler said whatever it took to persuade tourists to buy gold chains that would turn green by the time they flew home. "That was street theater. It was called fly pitching. You work with a team -- some people in the crowd, some guys who stand lookout for the police. Those were the most lucrative days of my youth."

Later, Statham would be introduced to a young filmmaker named Guy Ritchie who was looking to pepper the cast of his upcoming crime film with non-actors whose faces evoked London's seedier pubs. Statham laughed at the memory. "There were two reasons: He wanted to save money, and he wanted street credibility. Guy shoveled me up off the street. Without him, there wouldn't be all this." "All this" is Statham's career as a Hollywood action hero, which is ramping up right now like one of the turbo-charged cars he usually wrecks in his films.

Statham stars opposite Jet Li in "War," a bloody tale of Asian organized crime that opens Friday in theaters, and next week he leaves for Canada to begin filming "Death Race," the Universal Pictures remake of the nihilistic 1975 sci-fi film "Death Race 2000." The rugged Statham has been in 19 movies since 2000 and won the affection of discerning action fans with the deliriously dangerous stunts he did as the title character in "The Transporter" in 2002 and its sequel in 2005, but "Death Race" marks the first time that the 34-year-old will have a major studio and a blockbuster budget at his back when he jumps off a building.

"This is the big leap," Statham said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Concerns Raised on Wider Spying Under New Law (JAMES RISEN and ERIC LICHTBLAU, 8/19/07, NY Times)

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

They also emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance.

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.

Thanks, Nancy.

August 18, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


The Case for "Moral Democratic Realism" (George Weigel, August 1, 2007, THE CATHOLIC DIFFERENCE)

I first met Bob Kaufman when he was preparing a biography of one of my political heroes, the late Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington State. Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics was a triumph: here was Scoop in full, insightful, courageous, occasionally flawed, his life's story told by a biographer who didn't cotton to contemporary fashions in biography-as-pathography and who remained both respectful and critical. In his new book, Professor Kaufman tries something the Bush Administration seems oddly reluctant to mount -- a full-scale defense of its grand strategy of promoting free societies as the path to world peace and stability.

Robert Kaufman styles this "moral democratic realism." The first adjective is not pious padding:

"Moral democratic realism offers a ..compelling framework for American grand strategy...because it takes due measure of the centrality of power and the constraints the dynamics of international politics impose, without depreciating the significance of ideals, ideology, and regime type. It grounds American foreign policy in Judeo-Christian conceptions of man, morality, and prudence that innoculate us against two dangerous fallacies: a utopianism that exaggerates the potential for cooperation without power; and an unrealistic realism that underestimates the potential for achieving decency and provisional justice even in international relations. It rests on a conception of self-interest, well understood, and respect for the decent opinions of mankind, without making international institutions or the fickle mistress of often-indecent international public opinion the polestar for American action..."

"Moral democratic realism" follows Augustine in its determination to see things as they are and Thomas Aquinas in its resolve not to leave things as they are, when prudence indicates that positive change is possible. "Moral democratic realism" is one 21st century embodiment of what used to be called Catholic International Relations Theory -- although few Catholics today (including many publishing in America and Commonweal, where Catholic I.R. Theory used to flourish) remember that this distinctive way of thinking about the world ever existed.

In his new biography of Condi Rice, Marcus Mabry frets much over the question of how much she's bought into W's idealism and at what expense to her former Scowcroftian realism. He finally settles upon the notion of her having invented practical idealism--an advocacy of democratic reform as the most realistic way to guarantee our future security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


We're all so afraid of looking sour that we're nothing more than cultural conformists (Howard Jacobson, 28 July 2007, Independent)

One should never wish anything not to have been written, but just occasionally I can't help thinking what a better world we'd be living in if only Dickens had thought twice before publishing A Christmas Carol and Aesop had decided that "The Fox and the Grapes" wasn't much of a fable after all.

I don't pick these examples randomly, though on other days my selection would probably be different. But right now conformity holds us captive, and both the above lay flattering unction to conformity's soul. Both minister to the essential conservatism of our natures. Both give succour to the mass of mankind in its ceaseless war on the individual. Both make it difficult for a critic to demur, because both make demurral look like meanness of spirit.

Why couldn't Scrooge have hated Christmas on cultural and aesthetic grounds alone? Why must a miserliness rooted in childhood misery be adduced to explain an otherwise reasonable objection to false hilarity and insincere emotion? I know the story is the story, but sometimes a story does so much damage you wish it had been otherwise. After Scrooge no man can refuse festivity in good faith. The culture has made its mind up: you join in or you're a damaged skinflint.

Aesop's "The Fox and the Grapes" is more culpable still. In my old Penguin Classics translation it's briefly told. "A hungry fox tried to reach some clusters of grapes which he saw hanging from a vine trained on a tree, but they were too high. So he went off and comforted himself by saying: 'They weren't ripe anyhow.'"

Moral: "In the same way some men, when they fail through their own incapacity, blame circumstances."

The moral in the Harvard edition of Aesop delivers a heavier punch: "It is easy to despise what you cannot get."

Either way, this is the origin of "sour grapes", that expression so beloved of the common mind. It's significant that Americans tell it more bluntly than we do. A deeper seated regard for market forces is the explanation. Where success is the only measure, any refusal to acknowledge success is inexplicable without the concept of sour grapes. What other possible reason can there be for not coming to the party? Scrooge hates Christmas because he's a miserable, envious, life-denying bastard, and we hate whoever is for no good reason rich and famous because we're the same.

In this way the critic of anything becomes a marginalised figure, held to be incapable of making a judgement that isn't fuelled by failure, self-interest and envy. In a thrusting society we cease to value disinterestedness because we don't believe in its existence. Thus a partial truth becomes the whole truth, a sometimes bad motive is now an always bad motive, and nothing can be judged because no one judges fairly. Until at last the act of criticism itself withers away from suspicion and disuse.

Ah, reader, the brute inert power of what is. We rightly fear those utopists who would blow us into a better world, but no violence can compete with the immovable weight of incumbency. Once in place, it need do nothing. We wear ourselves out in opposition, we rail, we fume, we conjure alternative visions of happiness and beauty, and still it sits. Whoever would change us, it says, is envious. Whoever doesn't like us, only doesn't like us because they can't have what we have. An accusation so shaming that we wilt before it. Rather than be seen to be the fox who says no to grapes he cannot reach, we praise every grape on the vine, whether we can lay a paw on it or not. And so the dread of looking sour makes conformists of us all.

It doesn't help that we have so little to be unhappy about, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


For the glory of Allah: The early followers of the Prophet owed their astounding success in spreading the faith to intelligence and restraint as well as to zeal : a review of The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In
By Hugh Kennedy (The Economist, July 5th, 2007)

AN AGGRESSIVE Bedouin horde, drunk on religion, sweeps out of the Arabian peninsula—on the way burning the great library of Alexandria—and, through wholesale massacre and forced conversion, imposes Islam on a vast area stretching from Spain to the fringes of China. If this is your mental picture of the rise of Islam, dimly remembered from some long-ago history lesson, take note: it is in almost every respect wrong.

Hugh Kennedy sets out to explain an historical puzzle. How could Arab forces, relatively small in number and with no particular superiority in weaponry, have pulled off such an apparently impossible feat? In the century that followed the death of the Prophet in 632, they challenged two established empires (the Byzantine and Sasanian). They conquered Syria in eight years, Iraq in seven, Egypt in a mere two and Spain and Portugal in five. At the same time, they pushed deep into Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. How did they do it? Why did they not meet stronger and more sustained resistance? And, no less of a mystery, how did the empire they created endure?

By painstakingly reconstructing the series of Arab conquests, Mr Kennedy paints a picture strikingly at odds with the popular clichés. “The Muslim conquests”, he writes, “were far from being the outpouring of an unruly horde of nomads.” The Bedouin of Arabia were tough and highly mobile, fired by tribal honour and love of booty as well as by zeal for Islam. They were led by intelligent men from the Meccan elite who knew they had to channel the “frenetic military energies of the Bedouin” outwards, or else face a real risk of implosion.

These leaders also seem to have grasped that to have based their conquests on mass killings and conversion by the sword would have been a fatal mistake.

They were also confident then that their faith would win people over. Today's extremist violence is a function of too little faith, not too much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


Soccer tourney named after terrorist (JPOST.COM, 8/18/07)

A school in the West Bank town of Tulkarm this week organized a soccer tournament named after Ziyad Da'as, a Fatah terrorist, Palestinian Media Watch reported on Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM

ON THE ONE HAND... (via Jim Siegel):

Confessions of a BBC liberal The BBC has finally come clean about its bias, says a former editor, who wrote Yes, Minister (Antony Jay, 8/12/07, Times of London)

The growing general agreement that the culture of the BBC (and not just the BBC) is the culture of the chattering classes provokes a question that has puzzled me for 40 years. The question itself is simple – much simpler than the answer: what is behind the opinions and attitudes of this social group?

They are that minority often characterised (or caricatured) by sandals and macrobiotic diets, but in a less extreme form are found in The Guardian, Channel 4, the Church of England, academia, showbusiness and BBC news and current affairs. They constitute our metropolitan liberal media consensus, although the word “liberal” would have Adam Smith rotating in his grave. Let’s call it “media liberalism”.

It is of particular interest to me because for nine years, between 1955 and 1964, I was part of this media liberal consensus. For six of those nine years I was working on Tonight, a nightly BBC current affairs television programme. My stint coincided almost exactly with Harold Macmil-lan’s premiership and I do not think that my former colleagues would quibble if I said we were not exactly diehard supporters.

But we were not just anti-Macmil-lan; we were antiindustry, anti-capital-ism, antiadvertising, antiselling, antiprofit, antipatriotism, antimonarchy, antiempire, antipolice, antiarmed forces, antibomb, antiauthority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place – you name it, we were anti it.

Although I was a card-carrying media liberal for the best part of nine years, there was nothing in my past to predispose me towards membership. I spent my early years in a country where every citizen had to carry identification papers. All the newspapers were censored, as were all letters abroad; general elections had been abolished: it was a one-party state. Yes, that was Britain – Britain from 1939 to 1945.

I was nine when the war started, and 15 when it ended, and accepted these restrictions unquestioningly. I was astounded when identity cards were abolished. And the social system was at least as authoritarian as the political system. It was shocking for an unmarried couple to sleep together and a disgrace to have a baby out of wedlock. A homosexual act incurred a jail sentence. Procuring an abortion was a criminal offence. Violent young criminals were birched, older ones were flogged and murderers were hanged.

So how did we get from there to here? Unless we understand that, we shall never get inside the media liberal mind. And the starting point is the realisation that there have always been two principal ways of misunderstanding a society: by looking down on it from above and by looking up at it from below. In other words, by identifying with institutions or by identifying with individuals.

To look down on society from above, from the point of view of the ruling groups, the institutions, is to see the dangers of the organism splitting apart – the individual components shooting off in different directions until everything dissolves into anarchy.

To look up at society from below, from the point of view of the lowest group, the governed, is to see the dangers of the organism growing ever more rigid and oppressive until it fossilises into a monolithic tyranny.

Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for liberty, equality, self-expression, representation, freedom of speech and action and worship, and the rights of the individual. The reason for the popularity of these misunderstandings is that both views are correct as far as they go and both sets of dangers are real, but there is no “right” point of view.

The most you can ever say is that sometimes society is in danger from too much authority and uniformity and sometimes from too much freedom and variety.

In retrospect it seems pretty clear that the 1940s and 1950s were years of excessive authority and uniformity. It was certainly clear to me and my media liberal colleagues in the BBC. It was not that we in the BBC openly and publicly criticised the government on air; the BBC’s commitment to impartiality was more strictly enforced in those days.'d like to be able to congratulate him on achieving some insight. On the other, the notion that post-War Britain was a significantly authoritarian place is so loony you have to say he's still in pretty deep denial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


The Politics of God (MARK LILLA, 8/19/07, NY Times Magazine)

The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong.

An example: In May of last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent an open letter to President George W. Bush that was translated and published in newspapers around the world. Its theme was contemporary politics and its language that of divine revelation. After rehearsing a litany of grievances against American foreign policies, real and imagined, Ahmadinejad wrote, “If Prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior?” This was not a rhetorical question. “I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth,” Ahmadinejad continued, reminding his fellow believer that “according to divine verses, we have all been called upon to worship one God and follow the teachings of divine Prophets.” There follows a kind of altar call, in which the American president is invited to bring his actions into line with these verses. And then comes a threatening prophecy: “Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today, these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems. . . . Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.”

This is the language of political theology, and for millennia it was the only tongue human beings had for expressing their thoughts about political life. It is primordial, but also contemporary: countless millions still pursue the age-old quest to bring the whole of human life under God’s authority, and they have their reasons. To understand them we need only interpret the language of political theology — yet that is what we find hardest to do. Reading a letter like Ahmadinejad’s, we fall mute, like explorers coming upon an ancient inscription written in hieroglyphics.

The problem is ours, not his. A little more than two centuries ago we began to believe that the West was on a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, would inevitably follow. Though this has not happened, we still maintain our implicit faith in a modernizing process and blame delays on extenuating circumstances like poverty or colonialism. This assumption shapes the way we see political theology, especially in its Islamic form — as an atavism requiring psychological or sociological analysis but not serious intellectual engagement. Islamists, even if they are learned professionals, appear to us primarily as frustrated, irrational representatives of frustrated, irrational societies, nothing more. We live, so to speak, on the other shore. When we observe those on the opposite bank, we are puzzled, since we have only a distant memory of what it was like to think as they do. We all face the same questions of political existence, yet their way of answering them has become alien to us. On one shore, political institutions are conceived in terms of divine authority and spiritual redemption; on the other they are not. And that, as Robert Frost might have put it, makes all the difference.

If by "we" Mr. Lilla is referring to fellow intellectuals, or even the sorts of New Yorkers who read the Times Magazine, he has a point. However, if by "we" he means his fellow Americans generally, rather few share his confusion, which is why American presidents have routinely explained the extension of liberty abroad in theological terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 AM


Tenured bigots: Back-to-school: It is a statistical reality that most faculty members don’t like evangelicals, and they aren't ashamed to admit it (Mark Bergin, 8/18/07, WORLD)

In a recently released scientific survey of 1,269 faculty members across 712 different colleges and universities, 53 percent of respondents admitted to harboring unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals.
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"The results were incredibly unsurprising but at the same time vitally important," French told WORLD. "For a long time, the academic freedom movement in this country has presented the academy with story after story of outrageous abuse, and the academy has steadfastly refused to admit that the sky is blue—that it has an overwhelming ideological bias that manifests itself in concrete ways. This is another brick in the wall of proving that there's a real problem."

Unlike much of the previous foundation for that proof, this brick hails from a non-evangelical source. Gary A. Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, set out to gauge levels of academic anti-Semitism compared to hostility toward other religious groups. He found that only 3 percent of college faculty holds unfavorable views toward Jews. In fact, no religious group draws anywhere near the scorn of evangelicals, Mormons placing a distant second with a 33 percent unfavorable outcome.

Tobin was shocked. And his amazement only escalated upon hearing reaction to his results from the academy's top brass. Rather than deny the accuracy of Tobin's findings or question his methodology, academy leaders attempted to rationalize their bias. "The prejudice is so deep that faculty do not have any problem justifying it. They tried to dismiss it and said they had a good reason for it," Tobin told WORLD. "I don't think that if I'd uncovered bigotry or social dissonance about Latinos, women, blacks, or Jews, they would have had that same response."

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), told The Washington Post that the poll merely reflects "a political and cultural resistance, not a form of religious bias." In other words, the college faculty members dislike evangelicals not for their faith but the practical outworking of that faith, which makes it OK.

...that it is so compatible with the politics of Academia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Darling-Viola Duel at Yale Field (Don Harrison, 08/17/2007, Greenwich Citizen)

Ron Darling and Frank Viola enjoyed parallel careers as solid and occasionally outstanding major league pitchers during the 1980s and early 1990s. Darling won a World Series with the 1986 Mets, the lefthanded Viola experienced a similar high with the 1987 Minnesota Twins. For the better part of three seasons (1989-91), they were teammates on the Mets.

But whenever I think of these two men, now in their late 40s, I recall a long-ago afternoon at Yale Field in New Haven when a Darling-Viola pitching match-up attracted some 50 major league scouts and a crowd that may have exceeded 3,000.

Darling, 6-foot-3 junior righthander who was regarded as a can't-miss major league prospect, was wearing pinstripes - Yale pinstripes - and Viola was the ace of the favored St. John's squad in this NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game. The date was May 21, 1981.

Darling pitched the game of his life, holding the Redmen (this was pre-Red Storm era) without a run OR a hit across 11 innings. It remains the longest no-hitter in NCAA Tournament history.

Viola was sharp through 11 innings, too, surrendering seven hits but nary a run. The Bulldogs hurt themselves by leaving 13 runners on base.

12th, Darling struck out the side (giving him 16 for the afternoon) but St. John's 5-foot-9 leadoff hitter, Steve Scafa, crushed Yale's dreams by dropping a single into left field. He then stole second, third and, after a bobbled grounder gave the visitors a second baserunner, home on the back end of a double steal.

One run was sufficient.

Not only was Roger Angell there, but he watched the game with Smoky Joe Wood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The private man I knew who drove the public revolution: Tony Blair, far from failing as a Prime Minister, has actually ushered in the most profound political change since Disraeli (Will Hutton, May 13, 2007, The Observer)

It still surprises me how much his Christianity matters to Tony Blair. He has never raised it in the conversations we have been having on and off for nearly 20 years. You just know it's there. In the early 1990s, he and I were both attending some now long-forgotten conference and a local vicar surprised me by saying he had received a call from Tony Blair's office wondering what time he held communion. Other vicars in the area had received the same call. This was plainly a different kind of Labour politician.

And so he has proved. The more I have thought about his politics the more I have come to see his religious belief as the missing piece of his personality, which he has chosen to keep buried in secular times for fear of being cast as preachy or part of the God squad. Without an understanding of his religion, both friends and enemies make the easy charge that Blair is the true heir to Mrs Thatcher, a crypto-Tory who has been seduced by the enormous patronage power of the British state, a Trojan horse for American capitalism and Bush's yes-man. [...]

[B]lair has invented a new strain of British politics - liberal Labour.

In this respect, I think Blair is going to be as important to the Labour party as Disraeli and Macmillan have been to the Tory party. They were politicians of the right who set out to appeal to the centre not as a political tactic, but because the values of the centre sat where they wanted to be, and so they invented liberal conservatism. Blair has made the same choice. He wants to associate his party and its values with the values of the British centre. The inescapable reality for any Labour intellectual or trade union leader who talks about the attractiveness of radical socialism is that this urge has won three general elections.

Blair will leave an indelible mark on the British left. Liberal Labour will become as important a political tradition within it as Methodism, trade unionism or socialism. And it could not have been done without Blair's values-based politics, of which Christianity was a key component.

Once you understand how central his religious faith was you understand why he was so comfortable following the Thatcher line and bonding with American presidents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


An Optimist in Newark (George F. Will June 7, 2007, Washington Post)

[Cory] Booker is an African American whose father was born to a single mother in North Carolina in 1936. By the time Booker was an adolescent in an affluent northern New Jersey community, both his parents were IBM executives. After being a high school football All-American, Booker earned degrees from Stanford, Oxford (he was a Rhodes scholar) and Yale Law School. In 2002 he ran against the incumbent mayor, Sharpe James, another urban boss in the fragrant tradition of some northern New Jersey cities. Booker almost won; James prudently decided not to run in 2006, when Booker won with 72 percent of the vote. [...]

Fifty years ago Newark's population was 460,000. Now it is 284,000 -- up about 10,000 in five years -- of which 54 percent are black and 33 percent are Latino. In 1995 the state took over the school system, in which principalships were being sold and so much of schools' budgets went for the salaries of unionized teachers that some classrooms lacked even chalk.

Today, per-pupil spending tops $17,000, which is 75 percent above the national average and a (redundant) refutation of the public education lobby's not disinterested judgment that in primary and secondary education, cognitive outputs correlate with financial inputs. Seventy percent of Newark's 11th-graders flunk the state's math test. Booker says that under the previous mayor's administration, every elected official sent his or her children to private schools.

"I'm the Malcolm X of education -- 'By any means necessary,' " Booker promises. He says Newark should reverse the assumption that in education "time will be a constant, achievement will vary." If children are not succeeding, extend their school day, bring them in on Saturdays, extend the school year.

He also favors school choice, although he tiptoes around the word "vouchers," which inflames the more than 190,000 members of the state's teachers union. He advocates giving tax credits to companies for money contributed for scholarships to private as well as public schools. "Who," he has asked, "can object to a pool of money that will give poor children the same opportunities as middle-class kids?"

Mr. Booker and Harold Ford should both be Republicans by now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The end of Europe?: Blaming Europe’s decline on the fertility rates of fecund immigrants misses the point that the continent is politically, not physically, exhausted. (Frank Furedi, 8/17/07, Spiked)

The preoccupation with an ‘immigrant invasion’ of Europe shows the extent to which Malthusianism is influencing early twenty-first century thinking. There has been a shift in the cultural imagination in recent years, from a political mindset towards a new consciousness of natural limits. Natural cycles, the climate and biology are now looked upon as the main drivers of human destiny. Some argue that there must be a significant reduction in the number of humans inhabiting the planet if we are to protect and preserve the natural environment. Others take a different view: they worry about the declining birth rates amongst their people. Many thinkers and commentators are concerned about the reluctance of European natives to have large families, or to have any children at all, and thus they would like to see a reduction in the numbers of the ‘wrong kind of people’ being born or arriving in Europe.

Most of these New Malthusians discuss contemporary problems in a simplistic and politically illiterate manner. One interesting exception is the German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn. Although Heinsohn, too, expresses Malthusian sentiments, he does at least offer an eloquent and at times thoughtful demographic-determinist take on Europe’s current predicament. Like Malthus, Heinsohn is not simply concerned with alarming growth rates of the ‘wrong people’. Malthus’ concern about population growth was informed by his opposition to welfare measures designed to help the poor; today, Heinsohn is equally critical of foreign aid.

Heinsohn believes that Western nations’ misguided policy of providing aid to overseas countries encourages too many young men in the Third World to survive, and to survive in a state of anger. Frustrated by their low status, where they live on handouts and charity, these young men become resentful about their place in the world and occasionally turn to violence in order to gain power and prestige, says Heinsohn. He argues that many of the world’s violent upheavals – whether they are civil wars, revolutions or coups d’etat – are the work of these angry young men. He concludes that the West’s attempts to tackle unrest in the Third World through aid designed to alleviate hunger and provide employment are likely to have the perverse effect of encouraging violent reactions amongst the world’s poorest people.

However, Heinsohn does not simply provide a fatalistic Malthusian view of the world. He is concerned with what he perceives to be a gigantic ‘youth bulge’ in many Muslim countries, and its potentially destructive consequences. Heinsohn associates high fertility rates with what he refers to as a process of ‘demographic rearmament’. Linking fertility rates with the language of warfare has a long history. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many writers worried about the issue of ‘competitive fertility’: a perceived clash of fertility rates between Western societies and others. Like many other forms of competition – economic, political, military – the concept of competitive fertility raised issues of power and who is in the ascendant.

Today, those who express concern about the violence that might potentially spring from ‘demographic rearmament’ are not only worried about the future of the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world. Rather, their main concern is that there will be a demographic capitulation in Europe; that Europeans’ low fertility rates mean that our societies will fail to reproduce themselves and thus come to a standstill. Europe’s current regime of low birth rates is seen as a precursor of European decline and decadence. Unable to reproduce itself, Europe is looked upon by many as an ageing continent that will inevitably collapse under the weight of foreign influence. Prussia’s victory over France in 1871 was widely blamed on the stagnation of the French population, or what one writer has referred to as France’s ‘Devil of Declining Growth’. Today, Europe’s stagnant and ageing population is interpreted by some as an invitation to more fecund peoples to come here and take over our societies. In keeping with today’s consciousness of natural limits, the crisis in Europe is discussed in naturalistic, fertility-related terms rather than as a political problem – and the solutions put forward to deal with it tend to be naturalistic, too: whether it’s a demand for population control amongst the ‘wrong’ people or for raising awareness about the benefits of having large families amongst the ‘right’ people.

Yet why should large-scale population movements pose a threat to Europe’s way of life?

Of course they'll adopt the Western way of life. Indeed, they would if they stayed in their country of origin. The problem from a Malthusian point of view is that they can never be ethnically European. France and Germany and such are nations, not cultures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

The Boston Red Sox, WEEI Sports Radio 850 AM, NESN, and the Jimmy Fund are once again teaming up for the 6th annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon at Fenway Park. Thursday, August 16, kicks off the 26-hour, two-day event. Listen to the broadcast on WEEI 850 AM or watch NESN. Call in your gift to benefit the Jimmy Fund which supports the lifesaving mission of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Listen to or watch the broadcast

Thursday, August 16: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday, August 17: 6 a.m. to midnight

Last year the Radio-Telethon raised over $2.9 million, and through your continued support this year, these generous gifts will help fund research and care for both children and adults.

For more information:

Phone (toll-free): (877) 738-1234

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Excuse Me, Is This Your Phone?: We dropped 30 phones in 32 cities. How many would we get back? (Ed Shanahan, Reader's Digest)

Derrick Wolf was standing near a water fountain in New York's Central Park when he noticed a ringing cell phone on the ground. It didn't appear to belong to anyone. Should he answer it? Let it ring? Pick it up and put it in his pocket? What would you do?

After kicking at the ringing phone warily, Wolf did what he thought was the right thing. He bent over, picked it up and spoke to the person on the other end of the line. "I was hoping it wasn't a bomb," he told the caller.

Obviously, it wasn't. The caller was a Reader's Digest researcher, and Wolf, a 26-year-old technology worker, had just become an unwitting participant in an offbeat worldwide social experiment conducted by the magazine: How would busy people in bustling cities react when confronted with seemingly abandoned cell phones? Would their instinct be to help, to ignore -- or to play finders, keepers.

To get the answer, reporters in 32 countries where Reader's Digest is published "lost" 30 phones apiece in those countries' most populous cities. From Auckland, New Zealand, to Zurich, Switzerland, they "dropped" phones in heavily used public areas, then called them while observing from a distance. When someone answered a phone, reporters asked whether he or she would be willing to return it. If the person picked up the phone without answering it, the reporters waited for a call on one of the phone's preprogrammed numbers, or watched as the finder simply pocketed the phone and walked away.

Doesn't sound like a rigorous scientific study, you say? We don't disagree. But it is a reasonable, real-world test of human behavior around the globe.

So what were the results of this exercise? The average rate at which phones were returned per city: 68 percent. In other words, two-thirds of those who picked up a phone had an instinct to help. Age and income had no bearing on the subjects' response. Women were slightly more likely than men to return a phone.

...folks just won't act natural.

August 17, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


AUDIO: Give the Drummer Some: a Max Roach Tribute (Doug Schulkind, 8/17/07, WFMU)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Bernanke Blinks and Wall Street Rallies (James Pethokoukis, August 17, 2007, US News)

"Fed says 'no más,'" is how JPMorgan economist Bruce Kasman succinctly summed up the Federal Reserve's decision to cut the discount rate—the rate it charges banks on loans they receive from the Fed's so-called discount window—in his morning note to clients. And little wonder why: The whole global financial system seemed to be going a bit pear-shaped as the week ended. Even though Wall Street staged a late-day rally yesterday, Japan's benchmark Nikkei fell 5.4 percent overnight, its biggest drop in seven years.

The Fed move was a surprise, but its statement was even more so. Such a between-meetings statement is rare, and the language strongly hinted that the Fed will cut the federal funds rate in September. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee noted: "Financial market conditions have deteriorated, and tighter credit conditions and increased uncertainty have the potential to restrain economic growth forward.... the downside risks to growth have increased appreciably." In fact, Wall Street is now pricing in a series of rate cuts that would bring the fed funds rate down as much as a full percentage point to 4.25 percent.

There's never a bad time to retreat from usury.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM


Misreading the Oval Office Job Description (Patrick O'Hannigan, 8/16/2007, American Spactator)

[W]here is it written that the U.S. president must be a uniter, rather than a divider?

Did Abe Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and sundry other chief executives not get that memo? Would anyone care to hear what Jefferson Davis thought his job description was?

If unifying the country to one degree or another is a presidential duty, then why has the U.S. Supreme Court been brazenly trying to usurp that duty since approximately 1973?

Is unity the most important benchmark against which prospective policy should be measured? If so, does foreign policy get an exception?

Does unified mediocrity contribute more to domestic tranquility than fractious brilliance? [...]

RONALD REAGAN, ARGUABLY the greatest president of my lifetime, put a higher premium on integrity, freedom, and vision than he did on unity, which is why he was able to talk tough with Gorbachev, fire striking air traffic controllers, and kill the misnamed "Fairness Doctrine" before it strangled conservative radio in a fibrous embrace right out of Little Shop of Horrors.

The level of conformity in America is already such that a Hillary is nearly indistinguishable from a Giuliani. Do we really need to buff off even the minor differences?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


For Giuliani, Ground Zero as Linchpin and Thorn (RUSS BUETTNER, 8/17/07, NY Times)

As Rudolph W. Giuliani campaigns around the country highlighting his stewardship of New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, he is widely hailed for bringing order to a traumatized city. But he has also raised the hackles of rescue and recovery workers by likening his experience to theirs.

On at least three occasions, in responding to accusations that the city failed to adequately protect the health of workers in the wreckage, he has boasted that he faced comparable risks himself. In one appearance he declared that he had been in the ruins “as often, if not more” than the cleanup workers who logged hundreds of hours in the smoldering pile.

Another time he brushed aside safety claims by asserting that his long hours at the site had left him susceptible to “every health consequence that people have suffered.”

So, how much time did Mayor Giuliani spend at ground zero?

A complete record of Mr. Giuliani’s exposure to the site is not available for the chaotic six days after the attack, when he was a frequent visitor. But an exhaustively detailed account from his mayoral archive, revised after the events to account for last-minute changes on scheduled stops, does exist for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001. It shows he was there for a total of 29 hours in those three months, often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble. In that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts.

By September he'll have helped take back Flight 93 from the terrorists....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


Iraqi Sunnis slam new Shiite, Kurdish alliance (AFP, Aug 17, 2007)

Leaders of Iraq's disenchanted Sunni Arab community on Friday slammed the new Shiite and Kurdish alliance formed to salvage Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national unity government.

Maliki, however, made a fresh attempt to win the support from members of the former elite...

Bingo! That explains the situation in a nutshell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


Data on Atlantic flow are undercut: A perceived slowdown in circulation, linked to global warming, may actually have been normal variations in the flow pattern. (Alan Zarembo, August 17, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

A massive ocean circulation pattern that plays a crucial role in shaping the world's climate may not have been slowing down over the last few decades as scientists previously believed, according to a study released Thursday.

The perceived slowdown had been considered alarming support for computer predictions that global warming would disrupt the planet's heat regulation.

In a single year of measurements, published in today's issue of the journal Science, the scientists found enough normal variation in the pattern to suggest that previous studies were premature in asserting a long-term trend.

If only Al Gore were president today, he'd spin the oceans faster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Arthur Miller's Missing Act: For all the public drama of Arthur Miller's career—his celebrated plays (including Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, his social activism—one character was absent: the Down-syndrome child he deleted from his life. (Suzanna Andrews, September 2007, Vanity Fair)

No photograph of him has ever been published, but those who know Daniel Miller say that he resembles his father. Some say it's the nose, others the mischievous glimmer in the eyes when he smiles, but the most telling feature, the one that clearly identifies him as Arthur Miller's son, is his high forehead and identically receding hairline. He is almost 41 now, but it's impossible to say whether his father's friends would notice the resemblance, because the few who have ever seen Daniel have not laid eyes on him since he was a week old. When his father died, in February 2005, he was not at the funeral that took place near Arthur Miller's home, in Roxbury, Connecticut. Nor was he at the public memorial service that May, at Broadway's Majestic Theatre, where hundreds of admirers gathered to pay homage to his father, who was, if not the greatest American playwright of the last century, then certainly the most famous. In the days after his death, at the age of 89, Arthur Miller was eulogized around the world. Newspaper obituaries and television commentators hailed his work—including those keystones of the American canon Death of a Salesman and The Crucible—and recalled his many moments in the public eye: his marriage to Marilyn Monroe; his courageous refusal, in 1956, to "name names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee; his eloquent and active opposition to the Vietnam War; his work, as the international president of pen, on behalf of oppressed writers around the world. The Denver Post called him "the moralist of the past American century," and The New York Times extolled his "fierce belief in man's responsibility to his fellow man—and [in] the self-destruction that followed on his betrayal of that responsibility."

In a moving speech at the Majestic, the playwright Tony Kushner said Miller had possessed the "curse of empathy." Edward Albee said that Miller had held up a mirror and told society, "Here is how you behave." Among the many other speakers were Miller's sister, the actress Joan Copeland, his son the producer Robert Miller, his daughter the writer and film director Rebecca Miller, and her husband, the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Miller's oldest child, Jane Doyle, was in the audience but did not speak.

Only a handful of people in the theater knew that Miller had a fourth child. Those who did said nothing, out of respect for his wishes, because, for nearly four decades, Miller had never publicly acknowledged the existence of Daniel.

He did not mention him once in the scores of speeches and press interviews he gave over the years. He also never referred to him in his 1987 memoir, Timebends. In 2002, Daniel was left out of the New York Times obituary for Miller's wife, the photographer Inge Morath, who was Daniel's mother. A brief account of his birth appeared in a 2003 biography of Miller by the theater critic Martin Gottfried. But even then Miller maintained his silence. At his death, the only major American newspaper to mention Daniel in its obituary was the Los Angeles Times, which said, "Miller had another son, Daniel, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth in 1962. It is not known whether he survives his father." Citing the Gottfried biography, the paper reported that Daniel had been put in an institution, where Miller "apparently never visited him."

Miller's friends say they never understood exactly what happened with Daniel, but the few details they heard were disturbing. Miller had not only erased his son from the public record; he had also cut him out of his private life, institutionalizing him at birth, refusing to see him or speak about him, virtually abandoning him. The whole matter was "absolutely appalling," says one of Miller's friends...

One of the big lies the Left tells itself is that unrepentant Stalinists like Miller and the Hammett-Hellmans were just victims of misplaced compassion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM


Public Displays of Disaffection: Now Rudy begs for privacy for his kids? Recalling his very public humiliation of his family (Wayne Barrett, August 14th, 2007, Village Voice)

Why are the following samples from the Caroline grievance list irrelevant to the character test we apply to our presidential candidates?

Giuliani brought her to City Hall for Take Your Daughter to Work Day in 1994 and 1995, the first two years of his mayoral term, and never brought her again. By 1996, the relationship between Giuliani and his twentysomething press secretary had so poisoned the marriage that all such family events were impossible. In fact, Giuliani took a family vacation in November 1993, shortly after his election, and never took another one in his life. His family was so invisible in his public life that neither Donna nor the kids attended his victory party when he won re-election in 1997, and Donna refused to tell reporters at the polls if she voted for him. On the night of the millennium, with a billion people watching Giuliani drop the ball on a new century, Caroline, son Andrew, and Donna had their own small party in an office tower overlooking Times Square. Though Giuliani was still months away from publicly revealing his relationship with Nathan, he squired her around all evening�to the city facility at the square, the new emergency-command center, and a party he hosted at a nearby caf�.

Once Giuliani filed for divorce, he brought Nathan to a Gracie Mansion event, which sparked a court ruling barring her from the premises in the interests of the children. The judge branded his lawyer's public tirades "embarrassing and no doubt painful for these children." Giuliani complained in court that he wanted to introduce Nathan to the kids on Father's Day in 2001 and that Donna had blocked it. She might have still have been smarting from Father's Day in 1995�a day of revelation for her�when Rudy told reporters after a morning event that he was going back to the mansion to play ball with Andrew, but instead went to a deserted City Hall and headed for a basement suite with his ever-present press secretary. An enraged Donna arrived three hours later, only to be stopped from entering the suite by a Giuliani aide.

The breakup was so botched that everyone is still scarred. The kids aren't listed on Giuliani's website bio. Donna wasn't acknowledged in a four-page list of the hundreds of important people in Giuliani's life at the end of his bestseller Leadership, though the dog Goalie did get a thank-you. Giuliani didn't go to Andrew's high-school graduation, and, just a couple of months ago, he insisted on bringing Nathan to Caroline's. He and Judi wound up sitting in the balcony and leaving without speaking to her. No wonder Caroline told reporters at the graduation: "I am celebrating with my mom, my stepfather, my brother, and our other family members."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Zambrano signs 5-year, $91.5 million deal with Cubs (RICK GANO, 8/17/07, Associated Press)

Carlos Zambrano's long wait paid off. The Chicago Cubs talented and emotional ace agreed Friday to a five-year, $91.5 million dollar contract extension that features a vesting option for a sixth season.

What's the over under on how many starts he makes over the life of the contract? 80?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Stuff we like: decTOP $100 personal computer (LifeHacker, 8/17/07)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Giuliani and the Know Nothings (RYAN SAGER, August 17, 2007, NY Sun)

What an election: The one-time mayor of Ellis Island, grandson of Italian immigrants, has to make nice with the modern-day Know Nothings if he wants a shot at his party's nomination for the presidency. Mayor Giuliani gets immigrants. He's lived their dreams. He's governed their city. He's won their hearts and their minds and their votes. But now he must walk a razor's edge between advocating sensible immigration reforms on one side and demonizing immigrants as criminals and invaders on the other. Having transgressed from conservative orthodoxy irreparably on one issue, abortion, Mr. Giuliani has been pursuing a strategy of walking back his transgressions on other issues — all the while being careful to avoid the whiplash effect that has hobbled Mitt "Flip" Romney. On gun control, he hasn't apologized for his actions in New York City, but he's said regulation of guns should be left to states and localities. On civil unions, he's claimed that his past support was based on imprecise language and that he really only supports domestic partnerships.

Now we come to immigration. His problem here is just how far he stuck his neck out for illegal immigrants while mayor of New York City. Take this, from a 1994 press conference: "Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens," Mr. Giuliani said. "If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you're one of the people who we want in this city."

The guy's never met an anti-human position he won't advocate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Alternative Minimum Tax Plan May Prove To Be Veto-Proof (ALISON FITZGERALD and PETER COOK, August 17, 2007, Bloomberg)

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel, said a proposal to curtail the alternative minimum tax and boost taxes on buyout firms will have benefits for so many people that it may pass the Congress with enough votes to override a presidential veto.

The fix to the AMT will be combined with increases in the earned income and child tax credits so that about 90 million people could benefit from the final proposal, Mr. Rangel said in an interview Wednesday. He earlier said he plans to combine the AMT with a proposal to more than double taxes on carried interest — the compensation that investment managers at hedge funds and private equity firms earn.

"When you begin to see how many people in the U.S. would enjoy the benefits of a tax reduction, this might be a veto-proof bill," Mr. Rangel, a Democrat of New York, said

There is no downside for W, the historical record-holder, in adding further tax cuts to his legacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Saudis nip extremism in the bud (Christopher Boucek , 8/18/07, Asia Times)

It is from this background that the re-education program has emerged. Only three years old, the program was initially kept a secret to encourage its success away from media attention. Thus far, it has generated some noteworthy results, and it is now discussed openly and frequently in the Saudi media. The program's structure, process and relative successes, however, are all but unknown in the United States.

The counseling program to re-educate and rehabilitate terrorist sympathizers is part of a self-described "war of ideas" against extremism in the kingdom. This quiet struggle has been ongoing for some time, and the program represents a very distinctive Saudi solution to a Saudi problem. It incorporates many traditional Saudi methods of conflict resolution and conflict management. The fact that the program was started in secret, and not in response to outside pressures, is telling; its origins arose out of recognition in the kingdom that something had to be done to address extremist sympathies and is a tacit acknowledgment of the threat that the "war of ideas" posed.

The centerpiece of the Saudi strategy is dubbed the "counseling program", which is intended to assist those individuals who have espoused takfiri beliefs to "repent and abandon terrorist ideologies". The program seeks to de-radicalize extremist sympathizers by engaging them in intensive religious debates and psychological counseling. It is important to stress that participants in the counseling program are only terrorist sympathizers, and at the most individuals caught with jihadist propaganda. They are not individuals who have been active in terrorist violence in the kingdom; people "with blood on their hands" are barred from participating.

...will be tossing the heresy of Wahhabism on the asheap of history, which is a step the Sa'uds, who created it, can readily undertake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


The Natural Returns to St. Louis (Charles Krauthammer, 8/17/07, Real Clear Politics)

In the fable, the farm boy phenom makes his way to the big city to amaze the world with his arm. At a stop at a fair on the train ride to Chicago, he strikes out the Babe Ruth of his time on three blazing pitches. Enter the Dark Lady. Before he can reach the stadium for his tryout, she shoots him and leaves him for dead.

It is 16 years later and Roy Hobbs returns, but now as a hitter and outfielder. (He can never pitch again because of the wound.) He leads his team to improbable glory, ending the tale with a titanic home run that, in the now-iconic movie image, explodes the stadium lights in a dazzling cascade of white.

In real life, the kid doesn't look like Robert Redford, but he throws like Roy Hobbs: unhittable, unstoppable. In his rookie year, appropriately the millennial year 2000, he throws it by everyone. He pitches the St. Louis Cardinals to a division title, playing so well that his manager anoints him starter for the opening game of the playoffs, a position of honor and -- for 21-year-old Rick Ankiel -- fatal exposure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


...the unbearable wait is almost over.

The REAL High School Musical: The sequel to Disney's cash cow premières tonight. How does the franchise play with actual drama teachers? (Clayton Collins, 8/17/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

The production: "High School Musical," based on the 2006 Disney Channel movie that became a $100 million juggernaut and a tween culture phenomenon, spawning a No. 1 soundtrack album, sing- and dance-along DVDs, professional stage versions, and an ice show – not to mention new iPod-friendly stars including Vanessa Hudgens. Its sequel, "High School Musical 2," premièred at Disneyland in California Aug. 14 – a first for a Disney Channel production. It airs nationwide tonight. There's already talk of a cinematic release in 2009.

"I like the message that it brings across [that students should cast aside old jock/nerd stereotypes]," says Samantha, whose acting credits include a role in "Godspell." "But I really think it's pretty corny."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Romney, Giuliani Escalate Their Immigration Fight (Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz, August 17, 2007, Washington Post)

The two leading Republican presidential candidates have turned the GOP primary campaign into a nasty, week-long debate about illegal immigration, accusing each other of supporting efforts to give undocumented residents sanctuary from federal immigration laws.

At campaign stops, in radio ads and with increasingly hostile statements by supporters, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani are talking about little else as they position themselves on an issue critical to conservatives in their party.

"They are trying to rattle their sabers louder than the other and thump on their chests," said Angela Kelley, the deputy director of the pro-immigrant National Immigration Forum. "Both of these guys are trying to remake themselves."

At the point where you try to make up for supporting baby murder by fomenting hatred of brown people, you've lost the thread.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


Neo-con prophet unbowed (Greg Sheridan, August 18, 2007, The Australian)

He was forced out of this job for allegedly organising an over-generous promotion out of the bank for his partner. It was an absurd charge and the bank ultimately decided he had behaved ethically. Nonetheless there was a kind of frenzy of hostility to Wolfowitz, really from the day he started at the bank. [...]

Wolfowitz is proud of his achievements in his two years as World Bank president, and this sentiment is focused on Africa.

"I think I got a lot done in two years, to be honest," he says. "I think we certainly did establish Africa as the first priority for the bank, whereas many Africans have told me that they felt it was lip service in the past.

"There was also the emphasis on governance, and more and more Africans see that good governance is a key to economic success. This notion that somehow the emphasis on governance got in the way of us providing money is also nonsense. We did record levels of lending in both years."

Wolfowitz also cites getting the bank back into infrastructure as important. But while the bank must be involved with countries at various levels of development, Wolfowitz is clear that it is the way it responds to the needs of the very poorest countries that is the basis by which it should be judged.

And indeed he has a fascinating story to tell about Africa, about how there is more hope there than you might imagine.

Did you know, for example, that the economies of about 15 African countries have been growing at 4 per cent a year or more for the past 10 years? That Rwanda, which suffered a terrible genocide 13 years ago, has grown at 7per cent for the past 10 years; that Mozambique, which emerged 12 years ago from a gruesome civil war, has been growing at 8per cent for 10 years?

"People say, yeah that's easy off a small base. I wouldn't agree with that. It's never easy." Wolfowitz acknowledges this sort of growth is not yet evident in Africa's big countries: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Congo. But he believes if middle-sized African countries such as Tanzania moved from 4 per cent growth to an Asian style 7 per cent or 8 per cent, it could have a powerful demonstration effect.

"Just like Taiwan and Singapore demonstrated for China, it's possible, you're not constrained by your history or culture or geography from being successful."

Unless we missed something, Saddam is still dead, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


CPI Increases Rate Cut Optimism (Andrew Farrell, 08.15.07, Forbes)

Despite indications the Federal Reserve might hold steady on rates, futures traders' optimism for a cut was bolstered by a Wednesday report of quiescent inflation.

The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% during July, which matched consensus expectations. The core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2%, which also hit expectations. CPI growth over the past 12 months is now 2.4% and core CPI growth is 2.2%.

The in-line inflation data rallied hopes of a Federal Reserve interest rate cut.

Fed cuts rate for loans to banks (AP, 8/17/07)
The Federal Reserve, declaring that increased economic uncertainty poses risks for U.S. business growth, announced Friday that it has approved a half-percentage point cut in its discount rate on loans to banks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Sawdust Pie (Betty Miller, 8/15/07, Contra Costa Times

7 egg whites

11/2 cups sugar

11/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

11/2 cups pecans, chopped

11/2 cups shredded coconut

1 9-inch pie shell

Whipped cream and banana slices for garnish

# Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix egg whites, sugar, crumbs, pecans and coconut. Stir well. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the filling sets. Remove from oven and cool completely on rack. Top with whipped cream and banana slices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


T.G.I. Friday's Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad (Contra Costa Times, 08/15/2007)


4 skinless chicken breast fillets

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup corn flake crumbs

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup canola oil


1 cup canola oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

4 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

1 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

12 cups chopped romaine lettuce (2 heads)

1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)

2 11-ounce cans mandarin orange segments, drained

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1. Pound each chicken fillet to about 1/2-inch thick. You can do this easily by covering each chicken breast in plastic wrap and pounding away with a kitchen mallet.

2. Combine chopped pecans, corn flake crumbs and salt in a shallow bowl. Combine milk with beaten eggs in another shallow bowl. Dump the flour into another shallow bowl. Bread each chicken breast by coating each with flour. Dip the flour-dusted chicken breast into the egg mixture, and then coat the chicken with a thick coating of the pecans and corn flake crumbs.

3. Preheat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, saute the chicken fillets for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Cool chicken on a rack or paper towels. When you can handle the chicken, cover it and refrigerate for at least two hours.

4. As the chicken chills, you can make the balsamic vinaigrette by combining canola oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, granulated sugar and salt in a blender. Blend on low speed for just a few seconds, or until the dressing begins to thicken. Don't blend too long or your vinaigrette will get too thick, like mayonnaise. Pour vinaigrette into a small bowl and mix in minced garlic. Chill this until you're ready to use it.

5. When you're ready to build your salads, toss the lettuce and celery with about 3/4 cup of the balsamic vinaigrette. Arrange the lettuce on four plates, then sprinkle the cranberries over the lettuce (about 1/4 cup per serving). Combine the brown sugar with 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of this mixture on each salad. Sprinkle about 1/2 can of drained mandarin segments over each salad, followed by about 2 tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese. Slice each chicken fillet into thin strips. Arrange one sliced chicken fillet on top of each salad and serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Turkish Elections Put US Doctrine to Test (Gerard Baker, 8/17/07, Real Clear Politics)

It is certainly a conundrum of America's laudable foreign policy objective of democracy promotion that electorates sometimes freely vote for parties whose goals are distinctly inimical to US foreign policy objectives. In the last five years, as revolutionary forces have swept the Middle East, voters have repaid the West for its liberating strife by electing, in the Palestinian Authority and even in Iraq, Islamic extremists who would, given their druthers, happily extinguish the freedoms those voters have been exercising.

And yet, for all its perils, President George Bush is surely right to insist on the primacy of freedom. Even if we don't like sometimes what it produces in the short-term, history suggests it is still the surest route to long-term political stability and peace.

An important test of the president's idealism is about to be conducted in Turkey, one of the few Muslim-majority countries in the world that is also a democracy. Too bad the US looks to be getting ready to fail it.

The premise is, of course, false. Islamist parties serve U.S. goals by their unique capacity to lead consensual and functional governments in the region.

Iran builds a presence in Lebanon: Tehran has taken a key role helping reconstruct war-hit areas, in contrast to what Lebanese see as Beirut's indifference (Raed Rafei and Borzou Daragahi, August 17, 2007, Los Angeles Times)

Along the roadways of southern Lebanon, thousands of banners festoon street lights and utility poles. They feature a distinctive symbol, a red inscription from the center of Iran's flag, protectively swathing Lebanon's iconic green cedar.

The emblem belongs to the Iranian reconstruction organization. Its presence delivers a message that is not lost on critics of Iran's role here, nor supporters who have watched cratered roads filled in, damaged school walls resurrected and life return to some semblance of normalcy over the last year.

Other countries "have reconstructed everything: the schools, the buildings, the roads," said Nazim Khanafer, a 47-year-old building contractor in Ainata, a town ruined in the war between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah a year ago. It is now being rebuilt with the help of Iran and other countries. "They have paid money to the people, unlike the government."

The reconstruction of Lebanon after last summer's war was meant to strengthen the U.S.-backed Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Hundreds of millions of dollars poured in from U.S.-friendly Persian Gulf countries

Instead, as government officials acknowledge, the rebuilding effort in badly damaged areas of southern Lebanon, south Beirut and the Bekaa Valley has mostly highlighted the government's weakness.

NEWSFLASH: the government is the enemy of the Shi'a.

In Gaza, a lion's return brings hope: Hamas secured the stolen cub's release, a move that residents say underscores the security that has come with the group's rule. (Louise Roug, August 17, 2007, LA Times)

In the grubby little zoo outside Gaza City, a man gave a thumbs up to a lion in a cage.

"Welcome back," he said, as his children beamed at the animal.

Sabrina had been snatched from her cage two years earlier, and the young cub had become a symbol of the lawlessness that characterized the Gaza Strip. But last month, Hamas forces freed Sabrina from a notorious criminal gang.

To many Gazans, Sabrina's release is a vivid example of how security has improved since the Islamic militant group Hamas routed Fatah forces to take control of the Gaza Strip.

Which is why Hamas won the elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 AM

YOU KNOW WHAT'S REALLY FUNNY? (via The Mother Judd):

Sharing laughs and a love of philosophy: Old friends from Harvard combine philosophy and humor in 'Plato and a Platypus,' the surprise hit of the book world (David Mehegan, August 15, 2007, Boston Globe)

Two friends are having lunch, and one tells this joke: Guy comes home from a business trip and finds his wife in bed, a nervous look on her face. He opens the closet to hang up his coat, and finds his best friend standing there, naked. Stunned, he says, "Lenny, what are you doing here?" Lenny shrugs and says, "Everybody's got to be someplace." The joke-listener laughs, then says, "He's giving a Hegelian answer to an existential question," and the joke-teller says, "Hm. There's a book here somewhere."

This curious match of amusing with a musing is the true story of how Dan Klein of Great Barrington and Tom Cathcart of Sandwich conceived the zaniest bestseller of the year: "Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes." Released in the spring, the 200-page book jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list and stayed for five weeks; it's still no. 32 on the 35-title online list (the printed list has 15 titles). The book's career so far demonstrates at least one point: Writers shouldn't give up too soon on a book they believe in.

Crammed with 143 jokes and an occasional cartoon, "Plato and a Platypus" is a 10-chapter course on the classic categories of philosophy, written in a Marxist style (Groucho's), paced by the frequent appearance of Dmitri and Tasso, a comic two-man Greek chorus. The chapter titles -- "Metaphysics," "Logic," "Epistemology," "Ethics," "Existentialism," and "Philosophy of Language" -- are serious, but the content that follows is anything but.

Interviewed together on Cathcart's Cape Cod porch, the two writers manage to share the answers to questions without interrupting each other. They display such easy chemistry and create such a constant straight man/funny man repartee that one might forget that they are serious about philosophy and worked hard on this book. It's obvious that they are also serious about friendship -- the first thing out of Dan Klein's mouth was, "We've been best friends for 50 years."

Comedy explains philosophy, but philosophers are stumped by humor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Slammed from start, Bombers drop back (MARK FEINSAND, 8/17/07, NY DAILY NEWS)

If last night was any indication, these could be two long weeks for the Yankees.

As the Bombers began their crucial 14-game stretch against the American League's three division leaders, Mike Mussina was lit up for seven runs in five innings - including four in the first, courtesy of a Carlos Guillen grand slam - in an 8-5 loss to the Tigers at the Stadium. The two teams, who had not met since Detroit's victory in last October's AL division series, will play seven more times in the next 11 days.

"Things were going really well for a long time, but the last three days, we've made that disappear in a hurry," said Mussina, whose four-game winning streak was snapped. "We've got to get it straightened back out again or all that work we accomplished the last month or so will end up being a waste."

After winning 24 of 32 games to start the season's second half, the Yankees (67-54) have dropped three straight for the second time since June28.

They're playing at exactly their natural level--they got fat on really bad teams but now face their betters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Depression is over-diagnosed, psychiatrist claims (David Batty, August 17, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

Too many people are being diagnosed with depression when they are merely unhappy, a senior psychiatrist said today.

Normal emotions are sometimes being treated as mental illness because the threshold for clinical depression is too low, according to Professor Gordon Parker.

Prof Parker said depression had become a "catch-all" diagnosis, driven by clever marketing from pharmaceutical companies and leading to the burgeoning prescription of antidepressant drugs.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), he said the drugs were being marketed beyond their "true utility" in cases in which people were unhappy rather than clinically depressed.

The psychiatrist, of the University of New South Wales, Australia, said the "over-diagnosis" of depression began in the early 80s, when the diagnostic threshold for minor mood disorders was lowered.

His 15-year study of 242 teachers found that more than three-quarters met the current criteria for depression.

The lion's share of the blame should be pinned on the folks who demand the meds from their doctors rather than function like normal human beings.

August 16, 2007

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 6:40 PM


Jazz Master Max Roach Dies at 83 (LARRY McSHANE, 8/16/07, AP)

Max Roach, the master percussionist whose rhythmic innovations and improvisations defined bebop jazz during a wide-ranging career where he collaborated with artists from Duke Ellington to rapper Fab Five Freddy, has died after a long illness. He was 83.

The self-taught musical prodigy died Wednesday night at an undisclosed hospital in Manhattan, said Cem Kurosman, spokesman for Blue Note Records, one of Roach's labels. No additional details were available, he said Thursday.

Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz, dies at 83 (Peter Keepnews, August 16, 2007, IHT)
Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz who rewrote the rules of drumming in the 1940's and spent the rest of his career breaking musical barriers and defying listeners' expectations, died early Thursday in New York. He was 83.

His death was announced Thursday by a spokesman for Blue Note records, on which he frequently appeared. No cause was given. Roach had been known to be ill for several years.

As a young man, Roach, a percussion virtuoso capable of playing at the most brutal tempos with subtlety as well as power, was among a small circle of adventurous musicians who brought about wholesale changes in jazz. He remained adventurous to the end.

Over the years he challenged both his audiences and himself by working not just with standard jazz instrumentation, and not just in traditional jazz venues, but in a wide variety of contexts, some of them well beyond the confines of jazz as that word is generally understood.

As an 18-year-old in the early 1940’s, he played with Benny Carter’s LA-based big band, which also featured other soon-to-be major figures in the bop movement: Dexter Gordon, JJ Johnson and Miles Davis.

His mid-50’s quintet work with Clifford Brown (with either Sonny Rollins or Harold Land on tenor) remains some of the greatest jazz ever recorded.

And, of course, he work with Parker and Gillespie is truly historic.

Max Roach, Jazz Drummer, Dies at 83 (WILL FRIEDWALD, August 17, 2007, NY Sun)

As a small boy, Maxwell Lemuel Roach and his family moved from North Carolina to Brooklyn, where the youngster grew up studying drums and piano (well enough to occasionally work as a keyboardist early on). By the time he was in high school, Roach was part of a clique of forward-thinking Brooklyn musicians; he was encouraged both by Count Basie's drummer, Jo Jones, and Duke Ellington's drummer, Sonny Greer, and was even called upon to substitute for Greer in Ellington's Orchestra on one occasion. Although Roach didn't play regularly with Ellington, 20 years later, he and legendary bassist Charles Mingus worked with Ellington on "Money Jungle," one of the Maestro's most celebrated later albums.

By 1943, Roach was playing regularly in the after-hours clubs of Harlem, where bebop was born; he recorded for the first time that December with the saxophone pioneer ColemanHawkins. In1944–45, Roach went on the road with the big band of alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and also began his long working relationship with Charlie Parker. With the rise of bebop in the mid-'40s, Roach became the most celebrated drummer on the jazz scene, regularly winning polls and raves in the music press. He was a superlative musician (he later studied composition formally), possessing both the musical acumen and sheer technique necessary to help define the role of the drums in the new musical language of bebop, in which the percussionist no longer hid in the background; thanks partly to Roach, the drums were increasingly elevated to the role of soloist, as well as to driving the ensemble in an entirely new way.

Roach remained with Parker's quintet (which also included the young Miles Davis, with whom he also played on the famous "Birth of the Cool" album) off and on for nearly 10 years. He accompanied Parker on his famous 1949 visit to Paris, at which time the drummer recorded his first session as a leader, using Parker's quintet but with James Moody in place of Bird himself. His last major appearance with Parker was the famous 1953 Toronto concert, which also featured trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Bud Powell, and Mingus. By that time, Roach and Mingus had already co-founded Debut Records, for which Roach recorded his first album.

In 1954, Roach began co-leading a quintet with the brilliant 23-year-old trumpeter Clifford Brown. For the next two years, until the trumpeter's tragic early death in a car crash, this group, which also starred the equally prodigious Sonny Rollins, once again helped shift the overall direction of jazz. Like Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Brown-Roach band did much to define the new stratum of modern jazz known as hard bop.

Roach continued to experiment with new compositions and unusual time signatures — he was one of the only musicians ever to play bebop in waltz time. Roach also continued playing sessions and live dates with all the stars of the music — Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Thad Jones, J J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham, Oscar Pettiford, Rollins, and Mingus — even while leading his own bands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Are the Sunnis changing sides (James Dobbins, August 16, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

The war in Iraq began as a Sunni-dominated resistance movement to the American occupation. With the transfer of sovereignty to a democratically elected and therefore Shiite-dominated government in 2005, the conflict began mutating into a true civil war. Today the warring parties are more interested in fighting each other than expelling the United States, although most of them also retain that as an ultimate goal.

The latest development, much commented upon in recent weeks, is that Sunni insurgents are increasingly coming to the view that they cannot successfully resist both the United States and the Shiite-dominated government at the same time. Increasing numbers of Sunni fighters in Anbar Province are therefore preparing for a tactical accommodation with the less dangerous enemy, the United States.

The immediate objective of the Sunnis reaching out to America is to suppress their heretofore Al Qaeda allies. Their secondary objective, in all likelihood, is to strengthen their ability to resist the Shiite dominated government. put down the foreign fighters while identifying and detailing the Sunni resistance structure and then helping the Shi'ites put down the latter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


US in hush-hush talks over power sharing in Pakistan (AFP, Aug 16, 2007)

The United States is discussing with key political players in Pakistan amid reported moves by Washington to get President Pervez Musharraf to share power with opposition rival Benazir Bhutto, officials said Thursday.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the power-sharing arrangement idea in a telephone call to military ruler Musharraf last week, the New York Times reported Thursday, quoting American and Pakistani officials.

Former premier Bhutto also has been holding talks in recent weeks with senior officials of President George W. Bush's administration, including US envoy to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad, the paper said.

Destabilizing states towards democracy--it's what we do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


Ex-general most suitable to govern Guatemala: poll (Reuters, 8/16/07)

Guatemalans think former general Otto Perez Molina, running for president in September, is the most suitable person to govern the country, according to a poll on Thursday that is a blow to the leftist front-runner.

A former head of military intelligence in Guatemala's civil war, Perez Molina was deemed by 73.5 percent of those surveyed in the Siglo XXI newspaper poll to be capable of running the crime-ridden Central American country of 13 million people. [...]

Perez Molina has used billboards and radio spots to sell his message of a "strong hand" against the violence and corruption that blights Guatemala 11 years after the end of its 36-year civil war.

He backs using the army to fight crime in the country, which has one of Latin America's highest murder rates.

Guatemala's successful resistance to Marxist revolution during the Cold War still gnaws at the Dodd/Kerry/Harkin crowd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Republican Giuliani: "Leave my family alone" (Ellen Wulfhorst, 8/16/07, Reuters)

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, whose strained relations with his children have drawn unwelcome attention in the race for U.S. president, asked on Thursday that voters "leave my family alone."

Having treated them with such contempt, he's in no position to chide others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


Padilla is convicted on all counts in U.S. terror trial (Brian Knowlton, August 16, 2007, NY Times)

Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen long held in military custody as an "enemy combatant," was convicted Thursday of conspiring to support terrorists abroad.

It was a high-profile legal victory for the Bush administration against a man once accused of planning a radioactive bombing attack in the United States, although those allegations were not part of the case against him in Federal District Court in Miami.

The jury, which deliberated just over a day, also convicted two co-defendants, Adham Hassoun, a Palestinian accused of recruiting fighters for Al Qaeda from his Florida residence, and Kifah Jayyousi, a Jordanian-American school administrator in Detroit accused of furnishing equipment and money to overseas terrorist groups.'re entitled to a trial by a jury of your peers, not of Maureen Dowd's & Frank Rich's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Chairman Gioia makes NEA work (George Weigel, August 8, 2007,

Tradition tells us that baseball is the national pastime. Economics tells us that it's pro football. Casual conversation makes it clear that the America's favorite sport is complaining about government.

Herewith, then, something counterintuitive: an encomium to government, indeed to the federal government, in fact to a typically controversial part of the federal government -- the National Endowment for the Arts [NEA] which, thanks to its current chairman, the poet Dana Gioia, is actually spending your money on culturally important projects.

It wasn't always that way. Remember Karen Finley, the "performance artist" and NEA grantee, whose "art" consisted of smearing her naked body with chocolate and then sprinkling herself with bean spouts? There's been none of that sort of self-indulgent rubbish on Dana Gioia's watch. Instead, to take a first example, there's been Shakespeare.

Nearly all great art, like all significant exploration, has been a product of government sponsorship.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Hot tempers on global warming (Jeff Jacoby, August 15, 2007, Boston Globe)

INTRODUCING Newsweek's Aug. 13 cover story on global warming "denial," editor Jon Meacham brings up an embarrassing blast from his magazine's past: an April 1975 story about global cooling, and the coming ice age that scientists then were predicting. Meacham concedes that "those who doubt that greenhouse gases are causing significant climate change have long pointed to the 1975 Newsweek piece as an example of how wrong journalists and researchers can be." But rather than acknowledge that the skeptics may have a point, Meacham dismisses it.

"On global cooling," he writes, "there was never anything even remotely approaching the current scientific consensus that the world is growing warmer because of the emission of greenhouse gases."

Really? Newsweek took rather a different line in 1975. Then, the magazine reported that scientists were "almost unanimous" in believing that the looming Big Chill would mean a decline in food production, with some warning that "the resulting famines could be catastrophic." Moreover, it said, "the evidence in support of these predictions" -- everything from shrinking growing seasons to increased North American snow cover -- had "begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."

Yet Meacham, quoting none of this, simply brushes aside the 1975 report as "alarmist" and "discredited." Today, he assures his readers, Newsweek's climate-change anxieties rest "on the safest of scientific ground." of Mr. Meacham's beats is reporting on religion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Phil Rizzuto, RIP: Innocence Stolen (Jeff Kallman | August 15th, 2007, Catbird in the Nosebleed Seats)

Can you think of a better reason among innumerable ones to despise Osama bin Laden?

“I can’t bear to look out there anymore,” said Phil Rizzuto to New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden, for the latter’s book Pride of October, from the kitchen of the New Jersey home that formerly afforded a splendid view of the World Trade Center until 9/11. “They’re gone and I feel as empty as my view.”

After a couple of conversations plumbing Rizzuto’s Yankee career and memories, the former shortstop and broadcaster released to the sky a pair of silver birthday balloons and lamented “the unintentional symbolism of the balloons and the towers,” Madden observed.

“I’m an old man,” said Rizzuto, a Brooklyn native (his father was a streetcar motorman) who grew up rooting for the Dodgers and flunked a tryout with them because then-manager Casey Stengel dismissed his diminutive size (”Get yourself a shoeshine box, kid”), “and I’ve seen a lot. But this . . . this has really got to me. I thought I lost my innocence when I went into the Navy. I never thought I’d lose it again.”

This sit-down for coffee, cookies, and book conversation occurred just days after Rizzuto turned 84. At one point, after his wife, Cora, reminded him gently to straighten himself up—Rizzuto by then walked with a slight hunch—he spoke of his change of plan on the day the planes hijacked into murder weapons hit the towers.

“We were supposed to go on a cruise up to Canada for my birthday, but we canceled out. No way either of us wanted to go anywhere. Then my daughter, Penny, who works for the Albany County crisis intervention team, called me. She had just spent two days down on Pier 94 counseling all the victims’ families. ‘You’ve got to go down there, Dad,’ she said, and after talking it over for a couple of minutes, Cora and I decided to go. We didn’t know what we were supposed to do when we got there, but the families were so happy to see us, it was unbelievable. We wound up spending four and a half hours there. As always, Cora knew right away what to say. I just told my Yankee stories and they seemed so happy to have someone take their minds off their grief and the awful business of waiting for a death certificate or a body part.

“It was rewarding but so heartbreaking at the same time. I don’t think I’ll ever get out of my mind the image of all those teddy bears, lining the walls the whole length of the pier. They’d been sent by schoolkids in Oklahoma City, with individual notes on every one of them.”

And now Rizzuto’s gone, at 89, after a few years living in a New Jersey assisted-living facility and yet cheering up his neighbours with his Yankee stories. “I’ve lost my beautiful prince,” his wife, Cora, was quoted as saying, through one of the couple’s three daughters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Medellín, a former drug battleground, is reborn (Grace Bastidas, August 16, 2007, NY Times)

It was Thursday evening in Medellín and the open-air bars and cafés along fashionable Lleras Park were overflowing with after-work singles. At Triada, a stylish lounge with an orange neon bar and low-slung couches, laughter filled the subtropical air along with the deep-toned drumming of cumbia music. From around the corner, a small group of motorcyclists screeched by, their shiny engines puttering like machine guns. No one flinched, and the party kept rolling.

Not long ago, this scene would have been unthinkable in Medellín, once considered the most dangerous place on earth.

During the 1980s, Medellín, Colombia's second largest city, was home to the drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose infamous cartel turned the city into a bloody battleground and the world's cocaine capital. Gangs roamed the narrow streets, extortionists preyed on the city's residents and narcotics traffickers staged attacks against the police.

"You couldn't step outside," said Bibian Gomez, 28, a commercial real estate broker who sought refuge in the resort town of Cartagena at the height of the violence. "Whenever you saw a young guy on a motorcycle you thought that he was an assassin."

But in the last decade, this city of two million, with its beautiful colonial architecture and year-round springlike weather, has awakened from its drug nightmare. Escobar and his minions are gone and the cocaine trade has been largely dispersed. Bullet-riddled neighborhoods are coming to life with art museums and well-designed parks. And the constant rumble of construction - new shopping malls, flashy casinos and luxury hotels - can be heard throughout the city.

Nothing drives the Left crazier than the repeated success of rightwing regimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Cheaper gas helps to tame inflation (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 8/16/07, The Associated Press)

A big drop in the cost of gasoline in July contributed to the smallest rise in consumer prices in eight months.

Consumer prices, which had been surging earlier in the year, edged up a tiny 0.1 percent last month, the smallest advance since prices were flat last November, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food, was also well-behaved, rising by just 0.2 percent, the same as June.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Thompson's ready to step on toes (David Broder, 8/16/07, Seattle Times)

When Fred Thompson makes his long-delayed entrance into the Republican presidential race, he will not tiptoe quietly. Instead, he will try to shake up the establishment candidates of both parties by depicting a nation in peril from fiscal and security threats — and prescribing tough cures he says others shrink from offering. [...]

Thompson, like many of the others running, has caught a strong whiff of the public disillusionment with both parties in Washington — and the partisanship that has infected Congress, helping to speed his own departure from the Senate.

But he says he thinks that the public is looking for a different kind of leadership. "I think a president could go to the American people and say, 'Here's what we need to be doing. and I'm willing to go halfway.' Now you have to make them (the opposition) go halfway."

The approach Thompson says he's contemplating is one that will step on many sensitive political toes. When he says "we're getting a free ride" fighting a necessary war in Iraq with an undersized military establishment, "wearing out our people and equipment," it sounds like a criticism of the president and the Pentagon.

When he says he would have opposed adding the prescription-drug benefit to Medicare, "a $17 trillion add-on to a program that's going bankrupt," he is fighting the bipartisan judgment of the last Congress.

When he says the FBI is perhaps incapable of morphing itself into the smart domestic-security agency the country needs, he is attacking another sacred cow.

Thompson repeatedly cites two texts as fueling his concern about the country's future. One is "Government at the Brink," a two-volume report he issued as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee at the start of the Bush administration in 2001 and handed to the new president's budget director as a checklist of urgent management problems in Washington.

The difficulties outlined in federal procurement, personnel, finances and information technology remain today, Thompson said, and increasingly "threaten national security."

His second sourcebook contains the scary reports from Comptroller General David Walker, the head of the Government Accountability Office, on the long-term fiscal crisis spawned by the aging of the American population and the runaway costs of health care. Walker labels the current patterns of federal spending "unsustainable," and warns that unless action is taken soon to improve both sides of the government's fiscal ledger — spending and revenues — the next generation will suffer.

"Nobody in Congress or on either side in the presidential race wants to deal with it," Thompson said. "So we just rock along and try to maintain the status quo. Republicans say keep the tax cuts; Democrats say keep the entitlements. And we become a less-unified country in the process, with a tax code that has become an unholy mess, and all we do is tinker around the edges."

Trying to convince people there's a serious security threat seven years after 9-11 is pretty futile, but a campaign based on reforming/personalizing Social Security and health care would be useful.

August 15, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


Top U.S. official to go to Libya to cement ties (Sue Pleming, 8/15/07, Reuters)

The State Department's point man on Libya will visit there next week to cement closer ties with Tripoli and plan a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. [...]

Such a visit would be a tangible sign of the improved relationship.

"We have a very important chance to memorialize the shift in the relationship," said the official of a visit by Rice. "We have not set a date for it but the goal would be for that to happen this year."

Relations between the United States and Libya, a major oil producer, have improved dramatically since Tripoli gave up weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 PM


Giuliani opposes Palestinian state (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/15/07)

US Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said he opposes creation of a Palestinian state at this time and would take a tough stand with Iran, including destroying its nuclear infrastructure "should all else fail."

Hamas is ready to talk: We welcome the call for dialogue, and reject insincere demands for an undemocratic boycott (Mousa Abu Marzook, August 16, 2007, The Guardian)
While Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is busily courting Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas as a "partner for peace", successive voices continue to speak out against efforts to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government. As the Britain's Commons foreign affairs committee concluded on Monday, this strategy is counterproductive and doomed to fail, for the simple reason that the support of the Palestinian people is unmistakably lacking. Abbas's party does not democratically represent the Palestinians, yet what is in effect now a dictatorship in the West Bank is being welcomed by Israel and its western allies. The duplicity of this situation is shameful. Israel and its allies were quick to dismiss Hamas and the national unity governments and isolate both, and are now equally as quick to welcome an illegally formed self-proclaimed government for the Palestinians. Is this democracy?

The Palestinian people's struggle for freedom has been continuing for almost a century. During this time, we have faced every form of challenge, from persecution, abuse and humiliation, to military assaults, engineered starvation and social anarchy. All these trials have been deliberately imposed by an occupying power that is breaching international law on a daily basis.

Yet despite this, it is the popular Palestinian people's liberation movement that is being targeted by Israel and its allies for boycott and isolation. Hamas was formed in response to the pressures of the occupation and the need for change in Palestinian society. It was on this basis that it was given a popular mandate by its people in 2006. Hamas represents a guarantee that Palestinian people's rights will not be compromised. We have continued to insist that the rights of the Palestinian people be respected by the occupying power. Quite simply, in the present situation, it is not Israel that is threatened with annihilation but the Palestinian people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM

Roasted garlic stands in for fat you may miss (JIM ROMANOFF, 8/15/07, The Associated Press)

Roasting garlic is simple. Start with heads of garlic that have all the cloves intact and are tightly wrapped in the papery skin. Feel the weight of the head of garlic; the heavier the better, as this indicates an abundance of the flavor-packed essential oils.

To roast the garlic, remove as much of the papery outer layer as possible without separating the cloves. Next, slice about ½-inch off the top of the head, exposing the tops of the individual cloves.

Place the garlic on a square of foil and sprinkle with a tablespoon of water. Loosely wrap the garlic in the foil, then pinch the edges together. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. Unwrap and let the garlic cool slightly before squeezing the now pulpy cloves from casings.

Roasted garlic can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for four to five days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


A Humanizing Portrait of the Man Indians Call 'Father': Film Explores Gandhi's Painful Relations With His Son (Emily Wax and Rama Lakshmi, 8/15/07, Washington Post)

In the decades following his death in 1948, the man known as Mahatma Gandhi has become an icon. Photos of him at his spinning wheel wearing a white loincloth are as ubiquitous and globally recognizable as Bob Marley with dreadlocks or Che Guevara in a beret. Gandhi inspired civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. of the United States and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, among others.

Many know of Gandhi's courage and determination as a freedom fighter, but few know of his shortcomings as a father. In the film, Harilal views Gandhi as alternately aloof and domineering, stubborn and even selfish, traits that helped estrange his eldest son, even though firstborn males are traditionally the most favored children in Indian culture.

What makes the film significant is its humanizing portrait of one of India's most revered leaders, a depiction that would have sparked outrage even a decade ago. Released on the eve of India's 60th anniversary of independence from Britain -- being celebrated Wednesday -- it shows a far more vulnerable and even flawed figure than the saintly Gandhi portrayed in Richard Attenborough's Oscar-winning film 25 years ago. Attenborough's deification of Gandhi was celebrated across India with packed cinemas, night after night, for years.

Actually, the human Gandhi was exposed in a review of that earlier dreck film, The Gandhi Nobody Knows (Richard Grenier, March 1983, Commentary)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM


Black enough to invite hope (Lynne Varner, 8/15/07, Seattle Times)

Before tackling jobs, immigration or the plight of the uninsured, presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama understands he must first deal with the wearisome yet cutting question, "Is he black enough?" [...]

Obama's candidacy inspires hope not just about his chances to reach the White House but his chances of changing the world. His presence speaks to a world a lot browner than many have been willing to acknowledge. Obama challenges the political assembly of white, male entitlement, three things en route to becoming, to paraphrase former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, island specks in an ocean of color.

The challenge to Obama's racial identity is worthy of political-science and psychological studies. The Illinois senator is the progeny of a Kenyan father and a white mother. He is not the descendant of slaves like most African Americans. The question of whether he fully understands, and is committed to addressing, the residual damage of slavery, segregation and lingering racism is legitimate.

His wife, Michelle, tried to put all this to rest during an interview with National Public Radio.

Obama's "leadership is going to be informed by his experiences, and the bottom line is Barack is a black man who's lived in the world, who's walked the streets and felt the discrimination that many people of color have felt ... and that's going to inform his decisions," she said.

If from a biological viewpoint he's no more a black man than a white man, from a political viewpoint he's free to define himself. The Left requires him to hold certain views in order to be "black enough." The electorate requires him to repudiate many (most? all?) of those views. In the campaign thus far, he seems plenty "white" enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


Approve trade deals around the Pacific (Seattle Times, 8/15/07)

Washington's delegation in Congress should support the trade agreements that have been signed with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. [...]

All four agreements bind each country to follow the International Labor Organization's ban on forced labor and the most serious child-labor abuses, to support the rights of employees toorganize and bargain collectively, and to be free from job discrimination.

Judging from the last candidates' debate, the Democratic candidates for president have not noticed these innovations. But they were worked out in May between the Bush administration and Democratic leaders in Congress, according to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who was in Seattle last week.

Most important to business and workers in Washington is the agreement with South Korea, a country directly across the Pacific from us with 49 million consumers and per-capita incomes of nearly $20,000 a year. The agreement significantly opens Korea to sales of U.S.-manufactured goods, farm products and business and consumer services.

The agreements with Panama, Colombia and Peru are less important to business here, but they make possible a contiguous free-trade zone from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan. That is worth supporting by the people of Washington, who rely on international trade more than people in any other state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM


Synchronized Chaos: Mechanisms For Major Climate Shifts (American Geophysical Union, 8/02/07)

In the mid-1970s, a climate shift cooled sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean and warmed the coast of western North America, bringing long-range changes to the northern hemisphere.

After this climate shift waned, an era of frequent El Ninos and rising global temperatures began.

Understanding the mechanisms driving such climate variability is difficult because unraveling causal connections that lead to chaotic climate behavior is complicated.

To simplify this, Tsonis et al. investigate the collective behavior of known climate cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Oscillation.

By studying the last 100 years of these cycles' patterns, they find that the systems synchronized several times.

Further, in cases where the synchronous state was followed by an increase in the coupling strength among the cycles, the synchronous state was destroyed. Then. a new climate state emerged, associated with global temperature changes and El Nino/Southern Oscillation variability.

The authors show that this mechanism explains all global temperature tendency changes and El Nino variability in the 20th century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


The Saga of Sacco and Vanzetti: a review of Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind by Bruce Watson (CHRISTOPHER WILLCOX, August 15, 2007, NY Sun)

[T]he jury of history is still out on whether Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty as charged. Defenders of Hiss and the Rosenbergs are getting scarce on the ground, and are limited for the most part to members of the Flat Earth Society, Marxist troglodytes, family, and close personal friends, now dying at a clip.

One thing is certain: Given the developments in criminal jurisprudence between the 1920s and now, it is highly likely that Sacco and Vanzetti would have gotten a second trial. Mr. Watson quotes none other than the late William O. Douglas, a justice of the Supreme Court, who, in 1969, cited the trial judge's various patriotic exhortations, the manner of jury selection, the identification of suspects without a police lineup, and "the saturation of the trial with the radicalism of the defendants." Things may have tightened up somewhat since Justice Douglas graced the high court, but not that much.

But history has a different burden of proof than "beyond all reasonable doubt," and it is clear that if Sacco and Vanzetti did not kill two payroll clerks in Braintree, Mass., they certainly were engaged in plotting to bring down the government of the United States and supported violence to that end. Indeed, their friends and associates were clearly implicated in the string of 1919 bombings that terrorized the nation and prompted President Wilson to launch his controversial raids that rounded up 4,000 aliens, holding many indefinitely without trial, and shipping others back to Europe, which was referred to at the time as a "Soviet Arc."

Back before George W. Bush turned us into a fascist state, we had sense enough to just execute such people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Beckham hype won't play here (Alex Beam, August 15, 2007, BOSTON GLOBE)

Just a few minutes before the end of Sunday night's soccer game, a shot of David Beckham sitting on the bench flashed onto the stadium screen. Thousands of fans, almost all of whom had been forced to buy a four-game ticket package to see Beckham play -- or, in this case, not play -- at Gillette Stadium, starting booing.

So this is the vaunted "ambassador" for the sport that wants to build an audience among skeptical American fans?

If there were a market for soccer in Boston they'd just bring back forced school-busing. All the excitement of the riots without the 90 minutes of soul-killin g tedium.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Obama's caution on drug sentencing (Derrick Z. Jackson, August 15, 2007, Boston Globe)

[T]he US Sentencing Commission, created by Congress in 1984, has long said the system is not working and reaffirmed in April that the 100-to-1 ratio "significantly undermines" sentencing reform.

Obama asked if he could make a "broader" point. "Even if we fix this, if it was a 1-to-1 ratio, it's still a problem that folks are selling crack. It's still a problem that our young men are in a situation where they believe the only recourse for them is the drug trade. So there is a balancing act that has to be done in terms of, do we want to spend all our political capital on a very difficult issue that doesn't get at some of the underlying issues; whether we want to spend more of that political capital getting early childhood education in place, getting after-school programs in place, getting summer school programs in place."

Obama claimed, "I'm not suggesting it's an either/or but I'm suggesting that an even higher priority for me is getting young men and increasingly young women to stop getting involved in the drug trade in the first place. And that's going to require pretty heavy lifting. That's going to require some billions of dollars of expenditure that aren't there right now."

By asking an open question about spending "all our political capital" on eliminating the 100-to-1 ratio, that raises the possibility he will spend little or none on it. By talking about a "broader" prescription of early childhood school programs -- which means nothing to a 17-year-old in jail-- Obama risks flashing a losing card of being nonconfrontational.

President Clinton tried that a decade ago and lost.

Funny, in the real world Bill Clinton is the only recent Democrat to win, precisely because he refused to Mau-Mau on issues like this and ran as a Law-and-Order candidate in the Nixon mold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Did Life Begin In Space? New Evidence From Comets (Science Daily, 8/14/07)

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and colleagues at the University's Centre for Astrobiology have long argued the case for panspermia - the theory that life began inside comets and then spread to habitable planets across the galaxy. A recent BBC Horizon documentary traced the development of the theory.

Now the team claims that findings from space probes sent to investigate passing comets reveal how the first organisms could have formed.

The 2005 Deep Impact mission to Comet Tempel 1 discovered a mixture of organic and clay particles inside the comet. One theory for the origins of life proposes that clay particles acted as a catalyst, converting simple organic molecules into more complex structures. The 2004 Stardust Mission to Comet Wild 2 found a range of complex hydrocarbon molecules - potential building blocks for life.

The Cardiff team suggests that radioactive elements can keep water in liquid form in comet interiors for millions of years, making them potentially ideal "incubators" for early life. They also point out that the billions of comets in our solar system and across the galaxy contain far more clay than the early Earth did. The researchers calculate the odds of life starting on Earth rather than inside a comet at one trillion trillion (10 to the power of 24) to one against.

The amusing thing for the true skeptic is that there's no scientific difference between the proposals that God intervened to create life on Earth; that some other intelligent agency did; or that a comet did. All we know for sure is that external intervention -- to plant pre-existing "seeds" -- is required. After that you pick your faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


bissextile (A Word a Day, 8/15/07)

bissextile (by-SEKS-til) adjective

Of or pertaining to the leap year or the extra day in the leap year.


Leap year.

[From Latin bisextilis annus (leap year), from Latin bissextus (February 29: leap day), from bi- (two) + sextus (sixth), from the fact that the sixth day before the Calends of March (February 24) appeared twice every leap year.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Top general may propose pullbacks: Petraeus is expected to tell Congress that Iraqis can assume duties in some areas, freeing U.S. troops for other uses. (Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel, August 15, 2007, LA Times)

[G]en. David H. Petraeus is expected to propose the partial pullback in his September status report to Congress, when both the war's critics and supporters plan to reassess its course. Administration officials who support the current troop levels hope Petraeus' recommendations will persuade Congress to reject pressure for a major U.S. withdrawal.

The expected recommendation would authorize U.S. commanders to withdraw troops from places that have become less violent and turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.

August 14, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Amid Today's Gloom, Don't Forget: We've Had 25 Years Of Prosperity (JACK KEMP, August 14, 2007, Investors' Business Daily)

As the widely respected New York Times financial journalist Floyd Norris wrote, (and blogged) recently, the Dow Jones industrial average hit bottom on Aug. 12, 1982, at 776.9, while interest rates were at 15%.

Since that date, the compounded rate of return from the last quarter of 1982 until this summer, circa 2007, has been 11.8%. Taking into account inflation, the rate of return has been 8.5%. Norris pointed out this quarter of a century is the best ever in U.S. history.

This remarkable achievement didn't just happen, it was the result of policy decisions in the 1980s, '90s and more recently — confirming the fact that lower tax rates on capital and labor, sound monetary policies, with open market initiatives and liberalized trade leads to stronger economic growth and rising values in equities.

We neglect these lessons at our peril.

As economist Art Laffer pointed out recently, "if these pro-growth policies that have led to our 25-year bull market are reversed, don't be surprised if our financial gains and competitive edge quickly disappear."

Make no mistake dear readers, listening and watching the presidential candidates in the Democratic Party debate over the economy, I believe they are all headed in the direction of higher tax rates and protectionist trade policies.

Have they all forgotten John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s and indeed Bill Clinton in the 1990s? Where, oh where is the pro-growth, pro-trade, pro-internationalist wing of the Democratic Party?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


Scientists Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients Without Embryonic Stem Cells (Steven Ertelt, August 14, 2007,

Scientists in England have developed a vaccine that, in early testing, appears to help patients with multiple sclerosis without relying on controversial embryonic stem cells. [...]

Wesley J. Smith, a noted author and attorney who is one of the leading bioethics watchdogs, said the slowing of the progress of the MS disease occurred without the use of embryonic stem cells.

"We've heard the mantra repeatedly: embryonic stem cells are the only hope (or the best hope) for curing this disease and that disease. But the evidence continues to grow that this just isn't true," he said in response to the study.

"Adult stem cells have stopped the progression of the disabling disease in Stage 2 human trials. Now, a different approach in early human trials is also showing promise," he added.

"There is so much going on in biotechnology that has nothing to do with cloning and ESCR," Smith concluded. "It's time to stop the hype and acknowledge that embryonic stem cell research is merely one of many potential biotechnological approaches for treating diseases--most of the others being utterly non morally contentious."

British Researchers See Normal Brain Activity in Another "PVS" Patient (Steven Ertelt, August 14, 2007,
British researchers say that scans of the brain activity of a disabled woman there show normal levels despite a diagnosis from doctors that she is supposedly in a persistent vegetative state. This is the second time the research have found normal brain activity in a PVS patient.

Adrian Owen and other scientists at Cambridge University reported on Monday about the findings of their new study, which shows that researchers may be able to predict which comatose patients can recover.

Owen and his team used functional magnetic resonance imaging to look at the activity in the patient's brain and asked the female patient to imagine she was walking through her home. After the request, her brain lit up with activity in the parts of the brain expected to function.

The Archives of Neurology journal article said the patient's brain showed about the same activity as healthy people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM


Bush's lethal legacy: more executions: The US already kills more of its prisoners than almost any other country. Now the White House plans to cut the right of appeal of death row inmates... (Andrew Gumbel, 15 August 2007, Independent)

The Bush administration is preparing to speed up the executions of criminals who are on death row across the United States, in effect, cutting out several layers of appeals in the federal courts so that prisoners can be "fast-tracked" to their deaths.

With less than 18 months to go to secure a presidential legacy, President Bush has turned to an issue he has specialised in since approving a record number of executions while Governor of Texas.

The US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales - Mr Bush's top legal adviser during the spree of executions in Texas in the 1990s - is putting finishing touches to regulations, inspired by recent anti-terrorism legislation, that would allow states to turn to the Justice Department, instead of the federal courts, as a key arbiter in deciding whether prisoners live or die.

The US is already among the top six countries worldwide in terms of the numbers of its own citizens that it puts to death.

It's always amusing when European elites get in high dudgeon over our rather minimal use of the death penalty when most of their own countrymen wish they still had it too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM

The Scooter heads for Home.


Prayer for the Captain

There's a little prayer I always say Whenever I think of my family or when I'm flying,

When I'm afraid, and I am afraid of flying. It's just a little one. You can say it no matter what, Whether you're Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or whatever.

And I've probably said it a thousand times

Since I heard the news on Thurman Munson.

It's not trying to be maudlin or anything.

His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, is going to come out

And say a little prayer for Thurman Munson. But this is just a little one I say time and time again, It's just: Angel of God, Thurman's guardian dear,

To whom his love commits him here there or everywhere, Ever this night and day be at his side,

To light and guard, to rule and guide.

For some reason it makes me feel like I'm talking to Thurman, Or whoever's name you put in there,

Whether it be my wife or any of my children, my parents or anything.

It's just something to keep you really from going bananas. Because if you let this, If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can't understand it, That's what really drives you to despair.

Faith. You gotta have faith. You know, they say time heals all wounds, And I don't quite agree with that a hundred percent.

It gets you to cope with wounds.

You carry them the rest of your life.

The Man in the Moon

The Yankees have had a traumatic four days.

Actually five days. That terrible crash with Thurman Munson. To go through all that agony, And then today,

You and I along with the rest of the team

Flew to Canton for the services, And the family....

Very upset.

You know, it might,

It might sound corny. But we have the most beautiful full moon tonight. And the crowd, Enjoying whatever is going on right now.

They say it might sound corny,

But to me it's some kind of a, Like an omen.

Both the moon and Thurman Munson, Both ascending up into heaven.

I just can't get it out of my mind.

I just saw that full moon, And it just reminded me of Thurman.

And that's it.

To Be Alone

Hey White You know where your loyalties are?

Right here.

The old pinstripes.


You never wore them

So you have a right to sing the blues.

These Heaters

They're no good. Because at my height It goes over my head And hits the guy in back of me.

I mean...

They were not built, These heaters were not built For normal human beings.

They were built for people like Seaver.

The Diamond Dude (Ogden Nash, September 5, 1955, Life)

In the life of this dandiest of shortstops
Fashion starts the moment sports stops.
Since he works for the Newark American Shop
Of which Mac Stresin is the Prop,
The wardrobe acquired by Phil Rizzuto
Is as tasty as melon and prosciutto.
Thirty-five suits and twenty-odd jackets
Proclaim he's a man in the upper brackets.
There are fifteen overcoats hung in line,
And twenty-five pairs of shoes to shine,
And as for shirts and ties and socks,
Philip has more than Maine has rocks.
The suits are neat and unostentatious,
But as for sports clothes, goodness gracious!
No similar sight is to be had
This side of Gary Crosby's dad.
Does this make Mrs. Rizzuto ecstatic?
No. She has to hang her clothes in the attic.

-AUDIO: Phil Rizzuto calls Roger Maris' 61st homerun (Minneapolis star Tribune, August 14, 2007)
-JOE DIMAGGIO: Baseball great Joe Dimaggio died at age 84 after complications of lung cancer surgery. Phil Ponce talks about his life with teammate Phil Rizzuto, New Yorker editor Roger Angell and essayist Roger Rosenblatt. (On-Line Newshour, March 8, 1999)
-New Pride of the Yankees (TIME, Nov. 06, 1950)
-OBIT: 'Scooter' Rizzuto dies at 89: Hall of Famer was Yankees All-Star shortstop, broadcaster (Jack O'Connell, 8/14/07,
-OBIT: Rizzuto, Yankee Hall of Famer, dies at age 89 ( news services, August 14, 2007)
-Yankees' Rizzuto dies at 89 (Ben Walker, 8/14/07, AP)
Phil Rizzuto, the Hall of Fame shortstop during the Yankees' dynasty years and beloved by a generation of fans who delighted in hearing him exclaim "Holy cow!" as a broadcaster, died Tuesday. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by the Yankees. Rizzuto had been in declining health for several years and was living at a nursing home in West Orange, N.J.

Rizzuto, known as "The Scooter," was the oldest living Hall of Famer. He played for the Yankees throughout the 1940s and '50s, won seven World Series titles, was an AL MVP and played in five All-Star games.

Rizzuto later announced Yankees games for four decades and his No. 10 was retired by baseball's most storied team.

"I guess heaven must have needed a shortstop," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "He epitomized the Yankee spirit -- gritty and hard charging -- and he wore the pinstripes proudly."

-OBIT: Phil Rizzuto, Yankees Shortstop, Dies at 89 (RICHARD SANDOMIR, 8/14/07, NY Times)
Phil Rizzuto, the sure-handed Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop nicknamed The Scooter, who punctuated his extended Yankee life as a broadcaster with birthday wishes to nuns and exclamations of “Holy cow!” died today. He was 89. His death was confirmed by the Yankees. Rizzuto played for the Yankees from 1941 to 1956. His departure was abrupt. No longer willing to carry an aging, seldom-used infielder, the team cut him on Old-Timers’ Day. Soon after, he began calling Yankee games for WPIX-TV/Channel 11 and did not leave that role until 1996.

Rizzuto played an integral role on the dynastic Yankees before and after World War II. He was a masterly bunter and defensive specialist for teams that steamrolled to 10 American League pennants and nine World Series championships. He was one of 12 Yankees on teams that swept to five consecutive World Series triumphs, from 1949 to 1953.

He was a 5-foot-6-inch, 150-pound sparkplug who did the little things right, from turning the pivot on a double play to laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt. He left the slugging to powerful teammates like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller and Yogi Berra.

“I hustled and got on base and made the double play,” he said of his role. “That’s all the Yankees needed in those days.”

-WIKIPEDIA: Phil Rizzuto
-STATS: Phil Rizzuto (Baseball Reference)
-REVIEW: The Great Phil Rizzuto Debate: a review of THE POLITICS OF GLORY How Baseball's Hall of Fame Really Works by Bill James (MURRAY CHASS, NY Times)
-REVIEW: Poet in Pinstripes: a review of O HOLY COW! The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto. Edited by Tom Peyer and Hart Seely. Introduction by Roy Blount Jr. (ROBERT PINSKY, NY Times Book Review)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


If It's Bad for America, It's Good for Democrats (Dennis Prager, 8/14/07, Real Clear Politics)

If African Americans come to believe that America is a land of opportunity in which racism has been largely conquered, it would be catastrophic for the Democrats. The day that most black Americans see America in positive terms will be the day Democrats lose any hope of winning a national election. [...]

If women marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party. Single women are an essential component of any Democratic victory. Unmarried women voted for Kerry by a 25-point margin (62 percent to 37 percent), while married women voted for President Bush by an 11-point margin (55 percent to 44 percent). According to a pro-Democrat website, The Emerging Democratic Majority, "the 25-point margin Kerry posted among unmarried women represented one of the high water marks for the Senator among all demographic groups." [...]

If immigrants assimilate, it is not good for Democrats. The Democratic Party has invested in Latino separatism. The more that Hispanic immigrants come to feel fully American, the less likely they are to vote Democrat. [...]

Concerning the economy, the same rule applies. The better Americans feel they are doing, the worse it is for Democrats. By almost every economic measure (the current housing crisis excepted), Americans are doing well. The unemployment rate has been at historically low levels and inflation has been held in check, something that rarely accompanies low unemployment rates. Nevertheless, Democrats regularly appeal to class resentment, knowing that sowing seeds of economic resentment increases their chances of being elected.

The most obvious area in which this rule currently applies is the war in Iraq. The Democrats have put themselves in the position of needing failure in Iraq in order to win the next election. And again, perceptions matter more than reality. Even if America is doing better in the war, what matters most for the Democrats are Americans' perceptions of the war. The worse the stories from Iraq, the better for Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Ahmadinejad's first Afghan visit ruffles US feathers (Robert Tait, August 14, 2007, Guardian Unlimited)

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, audaciously signalled his determination to counter US global power today by meeting his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, in open defiance of Washington's wishes. [...]

Describing Iran and Afghanistan as "two brother nations with common interests, cultures and histories", he told reporters: "The present condition of the region demands more exchange and negotiations between Tehran and Kabul. In this trip economic cooperation, especially over Iran's participation in Afghan development plans, will be discussed."

The trip is intended to put the seal on a range of Iranian-led reconstruction projects as well as consolidate areas of cooperation such as combating drug traffickers.

Iranian aid - worth a total of £125m - has been provided for three projects, a water research centre, a dental college and equipment for Kabul's medical university.

Illustrative of the trip's importance from Iran's perspective was the presence of several senior government figures in the president's party, including Ali Larijani, secretary of the supreme national security council, Manouchehr Mottaki, the foreign minister, and the economy minister, Davoud Danesh-Jafari.

Iran gave Washington informal help in overthrowing the Taliban government following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Months later, Mr Bush killed any prospect of a thaw in relations between Washington and Tehran by labelling Iran as a member of the "axis of evil", along with Iraq and South Korea.

Despite US suspicions, Iran - which has one of the world's highest drug addiction rates - argues that it has legitimate interests in combating the influx of heroin and opiates from the poppy fields of Afghanistan. More than 3,000 Iranian police and security personnel have been killed in clashes with drug smugglers along the Afghan border since 1979.

There are also at least 2 million Afghan refugees in Iran. The issue has caused tensions recently after Tehran forcibly sent around 100,000 refugees back to Afghanistan, arguing that they were illegal migrants and a drain on the Iranian economy.

The Eagle can withstand some rufflage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Loud, proud and unbowed: Mets' Milledge says he can't help but be impetuous, spirited self (JEREMY COTHRAN, 8/14/07, Newark Star-Ledger)

The 6-0, 205-pound Milledge is a five-tool super-talent who has had scouts, managers and baseball executives salivating over him since he was a high school star in Florida -- hence the attitude that oozes cockiness. That carries over to the playing field, the place Milledge views as his personal stage for providing jaw-dropping entertainment.

"Even though it's a job, you've got to have fun," said Milledge, who is batting .309 and has made several highlight-worthy catches as the Mets' fourth outfielder. "It's a long, long season."

Meanwhile, the locker catty-corner from Milledge's belongs to another player who also struts through the clubhouse -- gleaming with five-figures' worth of diamonds, designer T-shirts with "Urban Prince" stenciled on the chest and personalized, detailed greetings as if he were the president of the Dominican Republic.

"Dime loco! Que lo que?" Jose Reyes often shouts in Dominican slang to his Spanish-speaking teammates. (Translation: Tell me something, crazy dude. What's going on?)

Any comparisons between Reyes and Milledge are purely superficial. Both are hip and gregarious, quick to flash megawatt smiles. Both have a love for urban culture and have an affinity for rap music. Milledge, who is black, produces hip-hop on his own label; Reyes has collaborated with several reggaeton artists. They often walk toward the batter's box to the sound of bounce-worthy songs they have helped create.

But unlike Reyes, Milledge can't catch a break. His style of play has made him a target for opposing pitchers, who get their message across with 90-plus fastballs aimed at various body parts, and for some members of his own clubhouse, who stick to pointed comments or sharply written notes.

Billy Wagner exacerbated that point recently when he declared that "he would have drilled" Milledge for his on-field antics against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 24, when Milledge comically waved John Maine home after the pitcher hit his first career home run.

"There's a time and place for excitement: a game-winning home run, a big hit," Wagner said. "I don't know. I come from the age where you're supposed to act like you've been there before. You put that bull's-eye on yourself when you jump around and celebrate."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Revealed: Salmond's strategy for a war of independence (HAMISH MACDONNELL, 8/14/07, The Scotsman)

JUST before midday today, Alex Salmond will publish the first official government document to advocate Scottish independence and the break-up of the UK.

For Nationalists, who have shouted from the sidelines of British politics for so long, it will be a symbolic moment.

The First Minister knows his chances of success in trying to secure a referendum on independence are remote, but that is only part of the reason for today's publication.

Mr Salmond wants to put independence at the forefront of the political debate, and keep it there for the next four years. Today's white paper is the final part of that strategy.

Forget Iraq, how did Tony Blair and Gordon Brown get bogged down civil war and quagmire on their own island?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


LIBERALS ON THE WARPATH: The Democrats Get Hawkish: The American people may want to get rid of Bush, but they in no way want to risk losing the war on terror. The consequences: America's Democrats are seeking to position themselves as being more hawkish than the Republicans and Congress has just approved the biggest military budget ever. (Gabor Steingart, 8/14/07, der Spiegel)
Newt Gingrich was more than satisfied. The archbishop of America's conservatives was purring like a cat when he appeared at a luncheon with foreign journalists. Better yet, a cat that had just devoured a couple of mice.

Gingrich's mice are Democrats who have recently begun challenging wartime President George W. Bush by trying to beat him at his own game. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama had just raised the issue of terrorist cells in Pakistan and suggested the idea of a US military attack on the nuclear state. "If Musharraf won't act, we will," he told an audience at Washington's Wilson Center. With that kind of rhetoric, the Democrats' new shining hope might as well be called Barack Bush-Obama.

A man like Gingrich, who has conveniently replaced the now-defunct image of the Soviet communists as his public enemy No. 1 with that of the Islamic fanatic, should feel vindicated. In fact, he even praised -- patronizingly, of course -- the young senator, saying that what Obama had to say about Pakistan was spot on. Gingrich is pleased to see a political adversary calling for a new military campaign when everyone else these days is talking about withdrawal. Pakistan, said Gingrich, "is enormously dangerous ... we need to have a strategy for Pakistan." Of course, when someone like Gingrich talks strategy he really means the use of missiles, mortars and flamethrowers.

The wind has shifted in Washington. America, not just its president, is at war. The Democrats are still critical of the failed Iraq campaign, but they are no longer opposed to the "War on Terror" in general. It has been accepted, and not just as a metaphor.
It's been pretty funny to read in the post-mortems for Karl Rove that he "failed in his ambition to move the country permanently to the Right." The democratic nominee will be more conservative, at least rhetorically, than any of Reagan's primary opponents were in 1980.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Gone 500 miles and 23 years (Seattle Times, 8/14/07)

Clay Eals wanted to write a biography of star-crossed folk singer Steve Goodman that people wouldn't be able to put down.

Instead, he produced a book that, at 778 pages, is so huge that it's hard to pick up.

"I think Goodman would have liked that," Eals says, laughing at a comment one early reader of the book made to him. After all, he points out, the subject of "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music" barely stood 5 feet tall and might have struggled to juggle a telephone book.

"Facing the Music" holds a lot of words for a guy who lived only 36 years and had but one hit song, albeit a modern American classic, "City of New Orleans."

But then the diminutive Goodman, who captivated audiences by doing everything from slapping out the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" on his face in uncanny detail to donning a cowboy hat nearly as big as he was to sing the ultimate country-music parody, "You Never Even Call Me by My Name," packed a lot of living into those years.

"Many people say he lived more life in his 36 years than most of us will in twice that if we get there," says Eals, a Seattle-based writer who interviewed 1,050 people for the book.

Like many a songwriter he toiled in relative obscurity, except to his devoted fans, and may have died better known as a Cubs fanatic than anything else. When Jimmy Buffet dedicated the National Anthem to him before the first home game of the '84 playoffs it was the first time I'd heard his name mentioned outside David Allan Coe's superior cover of "Never Even Call Me By My Name" (see below--cheesy video, great tune).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Agent Green: Activists opposed to herbicide use are fighting for a dangerous weed—and increasing forest fire risks. (Stephen Albert and James Dellinger, August 14, 2007, American)

BLM’s job is to manage public lands, protecting them for a variety of uses, including recreation, livestock grazing, and the preservation of wildlife habitat. Invasive vegetation is a major threat to public lands, and the worst weed in the field is cheatgrass. Originally from Mediterranean Europe, it grows up to two feet high in dense patches and quickly develops a root system that chokes out native grasses. Fast-growing cheatgrass also dries out four to six weeks before native plants, becoming incredibly hazardous and providing overwhelming amounts of fuel for rampant wildfires. Moreover, when wildfires ravage forests and prairies in the western states in the summer and fall, cheatgrass is one of the first plants to reappear the following spring.

But when the BLM tries to fight this particularly ruthless weed, it has found opposition from a second foe: the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an environmental activist group. The Center’s advice: let the cheatgrass grow. Do nothing—even if that leads to more forest fires. The BLM frequently uses controlled fires to manage its lands, but it has found that fire actually increases cheatgrass growth. That’s why it’s resorting to herbicides. On June 29, the agency proposed to triple the number of herbicide-treated acres to 900,000 in 17 western states. It says this will reduce the spread of invasive vegetation while cutting the risk of fires.

Nothing doing, says the Tucson, Arizona-based CBD. The Center promotes an extremist ideology that would sacrifice human needs to the needs of other species, plant as well as animal. The founders of CBD are obsessed with returning Western lands to the wild. Center co-founder Robin Silver has warned urbanites, “We will have to inflict severe economic pain.” Center conservation director Peter Galvin told a reporter, “We’d like to see belly-high grass over millions of acres.”

The pain is their point--it's just self-loathing gussied up as philosophy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


When the Dust Settles (SEBASTIAN MALLABY, August 14, 2007, The Washington Post)

The meltdown in financial markets may seem scary or mysterious, but it's part of a time-honored story.

In Chapter One, a new financial instrument makes capital available to a new class of borrower, and the result is profits for the innovator along with gains for consumers.

In Chapter Two, a group of not-sosmart investors misunderstands the novel instrument and bids its price up too enthusiastically; when the inevitable bust follows, the innovation is denounced as inherently dangerous.

Then, in Chapter Three, the complaints blow over. The not-so-smart investors learn their lesson and the new instrument stabilizes. Financial innovation turns out to be beneficial without being scary, but by that time another newfangled instrument has emerged to frighten people, and finance is hauled before the court of public opinion — again.

This is likely to be the story with the current subprime mortgage meltdown, just as it was with subprime's close cousin, the junk bond.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Consumer Satisfaction With Cars High (DEE-ANN DURBIN, 8/14/07, AP)

U.S. car buyers appear to be more satisfied with their purchases than ever, despite some quality stumbles by Asian brands, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The consumer satisfaction rate for vehicles rose 1 point this year to a score of 82 out of 100, a record in the 12-year history of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index.

...but that it is vastly superior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Voices of American Presidents (Open Culture, 8/13/07)

Here’s another example of podcasts that bring the past back to life. Thanks to Michigan State University, you can listen to audio recordings of twenty modern American presidents, starting with Grover Cleveland (1892) and ending with GWB.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


India's Gandhi backs nuclear deal, left to revisit (Y.P. Rajesh, 8/14/07, Reuters)

The powerful head of India's ruling Congress party stood firm behind a controversial nuclear deal with the United States on Tuesday as fresh efforts were launched to convince communist allies who have rejected it.

Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born chief of the party, called opposition to the deal "sloganeering", a day after some allies and opposition parties shouted down the prime minister's statement defending it in parliament. [...]

Analysts said opponents of the deal were letting their political ideologies overtake national interest.

"If Marxists are not to lose any more ground in a country that's turning increasingly assertive and confident, they need to invent a politics that goes beyond old-fashioned whingeing," the Times of India said in an editorial on Tuesday.

Once you subtract the whingeing what's left of Marxism?

August 13, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Fee content vs. free content: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times may drop pay-to-read content. But online ad revenue alone won't cut it. (Dante Chinni, 8/14/07, CS Monitor)

For the Journal, the speculation has come with the purchase of the paper by Rupert Murdoch. Some believe that Mr. Murdoch's goal is to make the Journal much more than a required read by the nation's MBA class. Many analysts believe he wants to make the paper a national, politically conservative alternative to the Times.

That goal, plus the desire to increase online audience and ad revenue reportedly has Murdoch thinking about removing the Journal's pay-to-read firewall – or at least parts of it. There are roughly 1 million online Journal subscribers each paying $79 a year. It has been a remarkably successful exception to the mostly free-content world.

the Journal could only get it away with it because guys could treat it as a business expense, which, on the other hand, meant that no one else read it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM


Hamas optimism vs. Fatah despair: In Hamas-controlled Gaza, Palestinian militants express a new enthusiasm for the coastal strip, while their Fatah counterparts face growing disillusionment. (Dan Murphy, 8/14/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

Even in the face of possible economic collapse, Hamas leaders want to figure out a better way to collect garbage in Gaza. The Islamist movement, which now controls the coastal strip, is working out ways to create new jobs and reduce petty crime.

A new enthusiasm has swept through this territory in the aftermath of the violent split in June between the two Palestinian factions. Among many young Gazans there is excitement for a Palestinian enclave that fully embraces the principles of their Islamic Resistance Movement without the interference of Fatah rivals.

Fatah is the one Marxist group that the Right likes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM


Hebrew Charter School Draws Critics (MATT SEDENSKY, 8/12/07, AP)

A school opening this month is named for a Jewish high priest, is directed by a rabbi, will have kosher food and will teach Hebrew. It's also a public school, funded by public tax dollars and following state curriculum guidelines.

Ben Gamla Charter School, billed as the nation's first publicly funded Hebrew-English school, has prompted fears of religion creeping into public schools and has even drawn criticism from groups that defend Jewish causes.

Even? Who's like it to hate it more?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


Hitting a Nerve with 'Evolutionists' (David Warren, 8/13/07, Real Clear Politics)

[T]he edifice of official atheist materialism continues to crumble, under the pressure of actual scientific inquiry. Mr Behe's recent book, The Edge of Darwinism: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, does a fairly good job of testing the three iron struts from which Darwinism was welded: random mutation, natural selection, and common descent. He is able to leave only this last standing.

This last week we learned of the collapse of one of the latest props of "deep evolutionism," which was also one of the earliest (the ancient Greeks first thought of it): the very popular "panspermian" hypothesis that life was first seeded on the earth by materials arriving in comets. It has been kicked away by Paul Falkowski, and other biologists and oceanographers from Rutgers and Boston universities, studying DNA samples frozen in the Antarctic ice. (See, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.) They showed that nothing of any earthly genetic use could have survived the journey.

Like every other modern essay in "evolutionism" (i.e. evolution as a religious cosmology), the idea behind panspermianism is to transfer the problem of life's origin on earth, out of the finite space and time of the earth's own geological history, and into some abstract place where the laws of chance have an infinite amount of time to do whatever is necessary.

But new problems keep arising in this quest, for even if you could prove the trigger for biological life was pulled elsewhere, long before the earth was formed, where does that get you? We can now roughly date the origin of our universe, and 15 billion years more-or-less is proving much too short a time for random processes to produce a non-random result. Verily, 15 billion times 15 billion years is still not nearly enough time.

Saw a bumper sticker tonight that said something like this:

Militant Atheist
I don't know anything and you don't either

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


Bush Takes Right Stance on Pakistan: For Democracy (Mort Kondracke, 8/13/07, Real Clear Politics)

President Bush seems to have decided -- and rightly so -- that truly "free and fair elections" are the best way to maintain crisis-plagued Pakistan as a stable ally in the war on terrorism.

That's what Bush said last week in a press conference, and the administration backed it up with a phone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf warning him off a plan to stay in power by declaring a state of emergency.

The administration apparently is encouraging a deal between Musharraf and Harvard- educated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that would allow Musharraf, America's problematical ally in the war on terror, to remain president if he allows free elections, which polls indicate Bhutto would win.

One of those delightful counterintuitives comes into play here: democrats wage war more fiercely than generals do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Placebo effect seen in kids during allergy testing (Reuters Health, Aug 13, 2007)

A "placebo effect" can cause a diverse array of symptoms in children when undergoing food allergy testing, according to the results of a study published in the current issue of Allergy. One of these effects is that some patients believe they have had an allergic reaction when they have actually received with the placebo.

This reaction is sometimes referred to as a "nocebo" effect.

Every parent has taken their kid to some school, camp, or event where peanut butter sandwiches have been banished because of imaginary allergies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


A Scott Beauchamp Update (The Editors, 8/10/07, TNR Online)

For several weeks now, questions have been raised about Scott Beauchamp's Baghdad Diarist "Shock Troops." While many of these questions have been formulated by people with ideological agendas, we recognize that there are legitimate concerns about journalistic accuracy. We at The New Republic take these concerns extremely seriously. This is why we have sought to re-report the story, in the process speaking with five soldiers in Beauchamp's company who substantiate the events described in Beauchamp's essay.

Indeed, we continue to investigate the anecdotes recounted in the Baghdad Diarist. Unfortunately, our efforts have been severely hampered by the U.S. Army. Although the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation. What's more, the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants "to protect his privacy."

The guy, who's married to one of their staffers, won't even talk to them but they're still standing by the story and calling those who exposed it ideologues? Way to take responsibility...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM

EASY WAY TO GET SIX RINGS (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Yogi's backup caught flak, but very few games: Charlie Silvera seldom played as a Yankees reserve catcher in the 1940s and '50s. Opponents needled him mercilessly, but he got the last laugh as a member of six World Series champions. (Jerry Crowe, 8/12/07, Los Angeles Times)

Maybe Charlie Silvera would have been an everyday catcher for the St. Louis Browns or the Washington Senators, or any of the other lower-division teams dwarfed by the dynastic New York Yankees of the late 1940s and early '50s.

Or, at the very least, maybe he would have been part of a platoon.

But Charlie Silvera didn't play for a lowly, wannabe contender.

Silvera played for the mighty Yankees, which meant that he was a backup to Yogi Berra. Which meant, of course, that he rarely played at all.

"Yogi caught every . . . damn game," Silvera, 82, says from his home in Millbrae, not far from the San Francisco airport. "You know, we had doubleheaders in those days, but he was a horse. He played every damn game."

And Silvera, all but tethered to the bench, mostly sat and watched as the workaholic Berra forged a career that landed him in the Hall of Fame.

Silvera, over 10 major league seasons, appeared in only 227 games. He racked up a paltry 482 at-bats, less than a typical season's worth for Berra. In 1950, he didn't bat until June 17, two months into the season. And though his lifetime batting average was .282, the San Francisco native hit only one home run.

"July 4, 1951," Silvera says. "I still have the ball."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Behind the Miracle: India's Mighty Movers: This elite group of business, political, and cultural leaders is helping transform India into a 21st century economic power in Asia and beyond (Nandini Lakshman, 8/13/07, Business Week)

By 2025, India is expected to emerge as the world's fifth-biggest consumer market as incomes and living standards improve, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute. Nearly 300 million Indians are expected to escape poverty, and the middle class will leapfrog by a factor of 10—from 50 million today to roughly 583 million 18 years from now.

Often less noticed are the individual figures—the politicians, business leaders, and cultural pathfinders—instrumental in India's remarkable rise on the world stage. Without the initiative, enlightened leadership, business smarts, and style of scores of notable Indian leaders, there would be no economic miracle.

So who are the movers and shakers refashioning contemporary India? That's what a team of BusinessWeek editors sought to discover by compiling a list of the country's 50 most powerful leading lights in politics, the economy, and society. To take a look at the names we came up with in this by-no-means exhaustive list, check out the slide show we have assembled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Detecting Dark Matter: The Race Is On (Alica Chang, 8/13/07, Associated Press)

In deep underground laboratories around the globe, a high-tech race is on to spot dark matter, the invisible cosmic glue that's believed to keep galaxies from spinning apart.

Whoever discovers the nature of dark matter would solve one of modern science's greatest mysteries and be a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize. Yet it's more than just a brainy exercise. Deciphering dark matter — along with a better understanding of another mysterious force called dark energy — could help reveal the fate of the universe.

Previous hunts for the hypothetical matter have turned up nothing, but that has not deterred some two dozen research teams from plumbing the darkness of idled mines and tunnel shafts for a fleeting glimpse.

Note the haunting similarity to socialism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


US-backed nuke club 'appealing': A US-backed proposal to set up a nuclear energy club, potentially including Australia, holds "considerable appeal", a government advocate of nuclear power has said. (Siobhain Ryan | August 14, 2007, The Australian)

Ziggy Switkowski, chairman of the Australian National Science and Technology Organisation, said the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership was a "conceptually appealing" framework for safely expanding the industry internationally.

The plan, supported by the US for economic and security reasons, is expected to encourage a select number of friendly nations supplying nuclear fuel to reactors overseas to take back and store the waste generated by their customers.

It is likely to be discussed at an annual nuclear energy forum next month, where Australia will be an observer. "As more countries go nuclear ... they will find it very appealing to be able to source enriched uranium and fuel rods from a supplier which will also be responsible for the management and storage of spent fuel," Dr Switkowski said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


Sparring Partners (Hendrik Hertzberg, August 20, 2007, The New Yorker)

The political arena is ideally a marketplace of ideas, but in our country, more often than not, it’s all marketplace and no ideas. Caveat emptor, Democrats. The market pressures in this particular souk almost all push in one direction: making political mountains out of policy molehills.

It can't really be news to anybody that the wages of democracy is conformity. One of the reasons we have so little political violence in this country, after all, is precisely because the major political parties are forced towards rather similar platforms, such that our Left isn't particularly socialist nor our Right very nationalist and nearly no one both.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


Deathly Numbers (Roger Angell, August 20, 2007, The New Yorker)

Bonds’s record dinger, in the fifth inning of a night game against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park, in San Francisco, came in his third at-bat of the evening, succeeding a loud double and a single. One vacationing Maine-coast cottager with a dinky summertime TV set—this cottager—had recently fallen into the habit of going upstairs to brush his teeth and put on his pajamas after watching Bonds’s first at-bat, returning before the second one, and tottering back up to bed when it was over, never mind the rest of the game. This time, the vision of Barry’s locked-in, more characteristic swings kept him awake, and brought him back down again minutes before midnight: just in time for the blessed three-and-two solo blast, four hundred and thirty-five feet to right center field, and the clenched fists to heaven; the slow but not too slow base-circling; the extended-family hugs (including one with Willie Mays, who is Bonds’s godfather); a careful but placating prerecorded concession by the saintly and now deposed Hank Aaron, delivered on the JumboTron (“I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement”); and locally—on the stairs once again, with the set turned off at last—a “Yesss!” in the dark.

The rejoicing here is not just over an expected natural decline in the booings and editorializings about Bonds’s inferred but unproved use of steroids during the 2000 to 2003 seasons, late in his career (he is forty-three), when his customary thirty-seven or thirty-eight homers per season jumped into the upper forties and, in 2001, produced the all-time single-season record of seventy-three. Another hope is for less piety, a shift in the altogether mystifying popular notion that the lifetime home-run mark is somehow sacrosanct—“baseball’s most hallowed record,” as the news reports called it the other day. Hallowed but hollow, perhaps, since home-run totals are determined not just by the batters but by different pitchers, in very different eras, and, most of all, by the outer dimensions of the major-league parks, which have always varied widely and have been deliberately reconfigured in the sixteen ballparks built since 1992, thus satisfying the owners’ financial interest in more and still more home runs. Bonds has been called a cheater, but the word should hardly come up in a sport whose proprietors, if they were in charge of the classic Olympic hundred-metre dash, would stage it variously at a hundred and six metres, ninety-four, a hundred and three, and so forth, and engrave the resulting times on a tablet.

Didn't we strip Ben Johnson of his medal? Mr. Angell seems an especially unlikely person to argue that baseball should be even dirtier than track and field, which steroids killed off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


At 86, Brubeck keeps the Newport jazz festival jumping with surprises (Steve Greenlee, August 13, 2007, Boston Globe)

NEWPORT, R.I. -- News bulletin: Major theft this weekend at Fort Adams State Park during the JVC Jazz Festival. Description of subject: Elderly gentleman, white hair, thick glasses, walks and speaks slowly, but plays piano like a madman. Date of birth: 12-6-20. Item stolen: the show.

Yep, it happened again. Dave Brubeck, 86, plays the Newport jazz festival virtually every year, and every year he defies age and expectations, showing up nearly everyone around him. This is not intentional -- you couldn't ask for a nicer guy. It is merely the result of persistence of quality, the product of Brubeck's classy style, unchanged by time, unaffected by trends.

Had there been a roof at the festival, Brubeck would have torn it off. And the explosion came via an unexpected choice: "Unsquare Dance," a song from his 1961 album "Time Further Out." Brubeck's quartet -- which included saxophonist-flutist Bobby Militello, bassist Michael Moore, and drummer Dan Brubeck, his son, who sat in for Randy Jones, who is recuperating from stent surgery -- beefed up the odd-metered cool-bop tune and gave it a rough edge, thanks to the driving, rock-infused work of the substitute drummer. The mood-varying set included classical touches, the blues, ballads, and bop, and concluded with a version of "Take Five" (of course) that was almost entirely a drum solo.

Well, he ought to be good at it by now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Edwards daughter received Murdoch money (Ben Smith, Aug 12, 2007, Politico)

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards recently defended taking a lucrative book contract from a publisher controlled by Rupert Murdoch -- whose News Corp. empire Edwards has sharply criticized -- by insisting that “every dime” of his $500,000 advance went to charity.

Left unmentioned by Edwards, however, was that Murdoch’s HarperCollins paid portions of a $300,000 expense budget for the book to Edwards’s daughter and to a senior political aide, Jonathan Prince.

Charity does begin at home, apparently.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Paedophile campaigner jailed over child images (Guardian Unlimited, August 13, 2007)

A paedophile who campaigned for the age of consent to be lowered was today jailed after a collection of hardcore child pornography was found at his home.

David Arthur Joy, 66, was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), an international organisation which believed that children were sexual beings in their own right.

The former teacher had pleaded guilty at Leicester crown court to 11 counts of making or possessing indecent images of children in April this year.

Today he was handed an indeterminate prison sentence and told he must serve a minimum of 18 months before he can be considered for parole.

But the judge, Michael Pert QC, said that given Joy's beliefs, that day "may never come".

He added: "It's clear that you hold firmly to a set of beliefs involving sexual activity with adults and children.

"Those beliefs are wholly in variance to the views held by most members of society, views that most of society would find abhorrent."

For now...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Karl Rove, top Bush aide, to step down (Jim Rutenberg, August 13, 2007, NY Times)

Karl Rove, the political adviser who masterminded George W. Bush's two winning presidential campaigns and secured his own place in history as a political strategist with extraordinary influence, is resigning, the White House said Monday.

In an interview published in The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news Monday, Rove said, "I just think it's time," adding, "There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family."

Rove said he had first considered leaving a year ago but stayed after his party lost the crucial midterm elections last fall, which put Congress in Democratic hands, and as Bush's problems mounted in Iraq and in his pursuit of a new immigration policy.

He said his hand was forced now when the White House chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, recently told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day he would expect them to stay through the rest of Bush's term.

'The Mark of Rove' (PAUL A. GIGOT, August 13, 2007, Wall Street Journal)
Sitting in the book-lined living room of his townhome on Saturday afternoon, a relaxed, cheerful and typically rambunctious Mr. Rove hands over two sheets of paper on which he has tapped out a pair of outlines. One says "Up to Now," and summarizes what he thinks are the achievements to date of the Bush presidency. The second, "Months Ahead," lays out an agenda for the next year and a half.

"He will move back up in the polls," says Mr. Rove, who interrupts my reference to Mr. Bush's 30% approval rating by saying it's heading close to "40%," and "higher than Congress."

Looking ahead, he adds, "Iraq will be in a better place" as the surge continues. Come the autumn, too, "we'll see in the battle over FISA" -- the wiretapping of foreign terrorists -- "a fissure in the Democratic Party." Also in the fall, "the budget fight will have been fought to our advantage," helping the GOP restore, through a series of presidential vetoes, its brand name on spending restraint and taxes.

As for the Democrats, "They are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate" by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding the White House for a third term is always difficult given the pent-up desire for change, he says, but "I think we've got a very good chance to do so."

If that quinella pays off, however, Mr. Rove will have to savor it from somewhere other than his West Wing office.

Can't run the McCain/Bush campaign from the Oval and a big hunk of his historical legacy is tied up in holding the White House in '08.

On Karl Rove (Peter Wehner, 8/13/07, Real Clear Politics)

Before taking my job as director of the Office of the Office of Strategic Initiatives - I had until then been deputy director for Presidential speechwriting -- I asked others who knew Karl Rove about him; after all, I didn't know Karl all that well and I was about to work directly for him. And so I spoke to Josh Bolten, then deputy chief of staff, who had recommended me for the OSI job. And Josh had a very short summary of Karl: "He's brilliant, he's a genius, and he's a deeply wonderful human being."

I suspected the first two things said about Karl were true - but having not worked with him, I could not possibly have known about the third. Now I do.

Karl is sui generis; no other White House aide in modern times has played the indispensable role he has.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Driving Them Leftward (MICHAEL BARONE, 8/13/07, Creators Syndicate, Inc.)

One issue that's going to come up this fall that you haven't heard much about is trade. Or at least I hope it's going to come up. The Bush administration has submitted four free-trade agreements for approval by Congress — with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

At the moment, their chances don't look very good. Democrats have taken to opposing FTAs almost unanimously. In July 2006, the House voted by only a 217-215 margin for the CAFTA, the FTA with four Central American countries, and the Dominican Republic. House Democrats voted 188-15 against, House Republicans 202-27 for. In the Senate the vote was 54-45, with Democrats voting 33-10 against and Republicans 43-12 for. Those numbers suggest that the four pending FTAs are in severe trouble unless some votes are switched. [...]

You can sum up the reason why most congressional Democrats are voting against FTAs in six letters: AFL-CIO.

...Bill Clinton to be his trade rep?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


An Inconvenient Truth (MARK STEYN, August 13, 2007, NY Sun)

Something rather odd happened the other day. If you go to NASA's web site and look at the "US surface air temperature" rankings for the lower 48, you might notice something has changed.

Then again, you might not. They're not issuing any press releases about it. But they have quietly revised their All-Time Hit Parade for US temperatures. The "hottest year on record" is no longer 1998, but 1934. Another alleged swelterer, the year 2001, has now dropped out of the Top Ten altogether, and most of the rest of the 21st century — 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 — plummeted even lower down the Hot One Hundred. In fact, every supposedly hot year from the Nineties and Oughts has had its temperature rating reduced. Four of America's Top Ten hottest years turn out to be from the 1930s, that notorious decade when we all drove around in huge SUVs with the air-conditioning on full-blast. If climate change is, as Al Gore says, the most important issue anyone's ever faced in the history of anything ever, then Franklin Roosevelt didn't have a word to say about it.

And yet we survived.

So why is 1998 no longer America's record-breaker? Because a very diligent fellow called Steve McIntyre of labored long and hard to prove there was a bug in NASA's handling of the raw data. He then notified the scientists responsible, and received an acknowledgment that the mistake was an "oversight" that would be corrected in the next "data refresh." The reply was almost as cool as the revised chart listings.

Who is this man who understands American climate data so much better than NASA? Well, he's not even American: He's Canadian. Just another immigrant doing the jobs Americans won't do, even when they're federal public servants with unlimited budgets? No. Mr. McIntyre lives in Toronto. But the data smelled wrong to him, he found the error, and NASA has now corrected its findings — albeit without the fanfare that accompanied the hottest-year-on-record hysteria of almost a decade ago. Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but, when it comes to global warming, the experts prefer to stick the thermometer where the sun don't shine.

Speaking of invaluable Canadians, we've been watching Due South, which is out on DVD, and features Paul Gross as the dreamy Mountie Benton Fraser.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


...this is a great name for a band.

Harsh Words at a Musical Marriage's End (Cynthia Joyce, August 13, 2007, NPR)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Redwood: The intellectual maverick who kept Thatcherism alive (Nigel Morris, 13 August 2007, Independent)

No one has been more active than John Redwood in keeping the Thatcherite flame burning within Tory ranks. Successive leaders of the opposition have been unsure how best to use his intellectual rigour.

David Cameron's solution was to tell him to think radically as co-chairman of a policy review group on economic competitiveness.

The differences in outlook between the men came to the fore at last year's party conference when Mr Redwood was among critics calling for tax cuts, forcing Mr Cameron to insist he would not be "pushed around".

Since then a mutual respect appears to have grown between them - and the Conservative leader has warmly welcomed Mr Redwood's proposals. It remains to be seen whether he would relish the clashes with the unions, the EU and the BBC that could flow from them.

An Anglospheric leader who isn't running against taxes, unions, transnationalists and the bureaucracy isn't trying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


A pope who refuses to compromise (Peter Popham, 13 August 2007, Independent)

The Church may change its mind about some things, but abortion is not one of them. The latest development on the subject, under Pope Benedict XVI, is nothing to do with the basic policy but rather with its ramifications for politicians and organisations such as Amnesty International.

The row with Amnesty marks a hardening of the Catholic Church's resolve to take on liberal figures and organisations which have formerly been seen as the church's natural allies; a greater readiness to insist that its convictions on subjects such as abortion, where the Church has no intention of compromising, are more important than alliances with people and groups whose roots and values are secular - values from which the church establishment feels estranged.

The essence of the Church's teaching on abortion is that a human being possesses a soul from the moment of conception. "Surely I was sinful at the time of my birth, sinful from the moment my mother conceived me," declares David in Psalm 51. Since sinfulness belongs to the spirit not to the body, the growing foetus must be in possession of a soul quite as much as the growing child.

The church's teaching on abortion, said Pope John Paul II in 1995, "is unchanged and unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God."

Given that "compromise" requires acceptance of the idea that some people are unequal to others, how could a pope change his mind and remain Christian?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Free Songs: Dappled Cities (Sean Moeller, 8/13/07, Daytrotter)

I’d listened to the Dappled Cities album enough to know that it would be terrific to have them by, but I knew nothing else about them. I was aware that they were accented and just assumed those were English accents so I told Pat that they were blokes from the old country, when he sought some preliminary info on them. When they arrived, naturally, he greeted them with a quip like, “So you guys are from England, right?” and they replied, bewildered, “Is that a joke?” Priceless. The band stopped in while they were out on the road with our old friends Tokyo Police Club – a tour that we’re sorry we missed seeing – and they were immaculate. It was one of the rare sessions that hit us 10 times harder than we thought it would. They made jaws crack against the floor and still have us reeling nearly a month later. It’s a great feeling. The feeling was mutual because we received reports, days afterwards from various members of their camp that they were sporting our tee-shirts for television appearances and meet-and-greets in the Filter magazine offices. If we had one of their shirts, we’d be doing likewise.

August 12, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


Greenhouse Simplicities (Robert J. Samuelson, 8/20/07, Newsweek)

The global-warming debate's great un-mentionable is this: we lack the technology to get from here to there. Just because Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 doesn't mean it can happen. At best, we might curb emissions growth.

Consider a 2006 study from the International Energy Agency. With present policies, it projected that carbon-dioxide emissions (a main greenhouse gas) would more than double by 2050; developing countries would account for almost 70 percent of the increase. The IEA then simulated an aggressive, global program to cut emissions based on the best available technologies: more solar, wind and biomass; more-efficient cars, appliances and buildings; more nuclear. Under this admitted fantasy, global emissions in 2050 would still slightly exceed 2003 levels.

Even the fantasy would be a stretch. In the United States, it would take massive regulations, higher energy taxes or both. Democracies don't easily adopt painful measures in the present to avert possible future problems. Examples abound. Since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, we've been on notice to limit dependence on insecure foreign oil. We've done little. In 1973, imports were 35 percent of U.S. oil use; in 2006, they were 60 percent. For decades we've known of the huge retirement costs of baby boomers. Little has been done.

One way or another, our assaults against global warming are likely to be symbolic, ineffective or both. But if we succeed in cutting emissions substantially, savings would probably be offset by gains in China and elsewhere. The McKinsey Global Institute projects that from 2003 to 2020, the number of China's vehicles will rise from 26 million to 120 million, average residential floor space will increase 50 percent and energy demand will grow 4.4 percent annually. Even with "best practices" energy efficiency, demand would still grow 2.8 percent a year, McKinsey estimates.

Against these real-world pressures, NEWSWEEK's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. NEWSWEEK implied, for example, that ExxonMobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability. (The company says it knew nothing of the global-warming grant, which involved issues of climate modeling. And its 2006 contribution to the think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, was small: $240,000 out of a $28 million budget.)

The alleged cabal's influence does not seem impressive. The mainstream media have generally been unsympathetic; they've treated global warming ominously. The first NEWSWEEK cover story in 1988 warned THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT. DANGER: MORE HOT SUMMERS AHEAD. A Time cover in 2006 was more alarmist: BE WORRIED, BE VERY WORRIED. Nor does public opinion seem much swayed. Although polls can be found to illustrate almost anything, the longest-running survey questions show a remarkable consistency. In 1989, Gallup found 63 percent of Americans worried "a great deal" or a "fair amount" about global warming; in 2007, 65 percent did.

The danger of hiring a member of the Decent Left, he won't mouth your platitudes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:10 PM


A bit of socialism okay for Cuba (Neil Clark, August 13, 2007, The Australian)

For the Right, Cuba is an example of where socialism inevitably leads to: repression, poverty and enslavement. For many on the Left, including filmmaker Michael Moore, Cuba is a beacon, a socialist paradise in a hostile sea of capitalism, a progressive model whose policies on education and health care ought to be copied throughout the world.

Yet both the Right and the Left hold a picture of Cuba which is far removed from the truth. Cuba is a repressive, poverty-stricken country, yet it cannot accurately be described as socialist, if by socialism we mean a society which is based on egalitarian principles.

The problem with Cuba is not that it's too socialist, but that it's nowhere near socialist enough. But don't expect either its right-wing detractors or its left-wing supporters to admit it.

Hard to believe that 80 years later there's anyone left with this big a disconnect between the theory and practice of Socialism. The Right is happy to acknowledge that Cuba hasn't realized the ideals of Socialism...which just happen to be unrealizable under Socialism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


Select Hospitals Reap a Windfall Under Child Bill (ROBERT PEAR, 8/12/07, NY Times)

Despite promises by Congress to end the secrecy of earmarks and other pet projects, the House of Representatives has quietly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to specific hospitals and health care providers under a bill passed this month to help low-income children.

Instead of naming the hospitals, the bill describes them in cryptic terms, so that identifying a beneficiary is like solving a riddle. Most of the provisions were added to the bill at the request of Democratic lawmakers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


Beautiful people earn more than their ugly workmates, says study (BETH HALE, 12th August 2007, Daily Mail)

It is a blow for Ugly Bettys everywhere.

Beautiful people have a distinct edge over their less attractive counterparts in the workplace. They are better paid, more successful and easier to get on with in a group.

A 'beauty premium' means the office looker may be getting paid 15 per cent more than her less attractive counterpart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


I'm sending this to friends and family with news that can help families deal positively with the often complicated issues of drugs and alcohol.

My colleagues and I here at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America have introduced a new program called Time To Talk. It's built on this key fact: kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those who don't.

So we want more parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and others) to start and keep the conversations going with their kids. You can make this happen by checking out our website When there, please register and download the Time To Talk tips and tools. Then please forward this e-mail to friends, family, loved ones and co-workers who have kids and teenagers, and ask them to sign-up, too.

Our goal in the next five months is to reach 500,000 parents and other adults. With your help, we can get there and make a big impact.

Thanks a lot for helping to spread the word about


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


The underworked American: Stop your whining: leisure time is on the rise (Christopher Shea, August 12, 2007, Boston Globe)

Working beneath the radar, however, some sociologists and economists have been gathering provocative data that suggest that Americans are not nearly as workaholic as we think we are. True, we don't evacuate our cities in August, like the French. But today, these scholars say, we spend far less time on work than Americans did four decades ago. From 1965 to 2003, according to one study published this month, the average American gained the equivalent of seven weeks of vacation -- in the form of extra leisure time spread throughout the year.

Much of the time-savings comes from a source few people think about when they whine (or brag) about their workweeks: cleaning and cooking. We do much less of it than we used to, thanks to vacuum cleaners, takeout food, and other innovations. And the time-savings there more than offsets the extra time women now spend in offices, according to the study, which appears in the latest issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

"The amount of stuff that my wife and I do around the house, compared to what my mom and father did around the house, is lower by an order of magnitude of 30 or 40 percent than what they did," says Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago who coauthored the study. His parents didn't have a dishwasher. "We have takeout food twice a week from a variety of healthy opportunities; they didn't."

The new study is part of a quiet revolution offering an arguably more accurate, and certainly surprising, portrait of how we spend our time. Hurst, along with coauthor Mark Aguiar, a University of Rochester economist, is among a growing number of scholars who champion the use of so-called time-diary surveys, which ask people to recount in detail how they spent a specific recent day. The technique has been used for decades but is gaining in popularity as economists realize the importance of pinning down the time spent on small, forgettable tasks (like mopping a floor). And it discourages exaggeration, its advocates say, because the time estimates for a given day can't add up to more than 24 hours.

The big difference is that we have so much more time to bitch and moan about how little time we have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Tough talk drives Clinton effort: National security stance seen adding to image of strength (Marcella Bombardieri, August 12, 2007, Boston Globe)

Facing liberal bloggers last weekend, Hillary Clinton reminded the crowd that she experienced firsthand the sickening smell and taste in the air at the World Trade Center site after Sept. 11, 2001. At Tuesday night's debate in Chicago, she insisted the United States needs to keep Al Qaeda "on the run" in Iraq. The next day, she stopped off for a private tour of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard before a stump speech in New Hampshire.

Clinton has taken extraordinary pains, not only on the campaign trail but in her years in the US Senate, to position herself as the candidate who would be the strongest commander in chief, even as she has infuriated some Democrats who believe her desire to appear tough made her slow to criticize the Iraq war.

Because she is a Democrat and the first serious female contender for the presidency in a time of war, convincing voters that she can be trusted with the nation's security is one of her biggest hurdles.

The New York senator seems to have won this trust, helping her jump to the front of the Democratic pack.

In several national polls and in Iowa, the first caucus state, she is the Democrat who most likely primary voters say is the "strongest leader," a term generally seen as encompassing defense know-how. And a New York Times/CBS News poll of Republicans as well as Democrats last month found that 58 percent of respondents thought it was somewhat or very likely that she would be an effective commander in chief.

It is precisely because of her personal insecurities and political need to prove herself that Ms Clinton is the candidate most likely to take us to war with Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


How the Fight for Vast New Spying Powers Was Won (Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, 8/12/07, Washington Post)

For three days, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, had haggled with congressional leaders over amendments to a federal surveillance law, but now he was putting his foot down. "This is the issue," said the plain-spoken retired vice admiral and Vietnam veteran, "that makes my blood pressure rise."

McConnell viscerally objected to a Democratic proposal to limit warrantless surveillance of foreigners' communications with Americans to instances in which one party was a terrorism suspect. McConnell wanted no such limits. "All foreign intelligence" targets in touch with Americans on any topic of interest should be fair game for U.S. spying, he said, according to two participants in the Aug. 2 conversation.

McConnell won the fight, extracting a key concession despite the misgivings of Democratic negotiators. Shortly after that exchange, the Bush administration leveraged Democratic acquiescence into a broader victory: congressional approval of a Republican bill that would expand surveillance powers far beyond what Democratic leaders had initially been willing to accept. [...]

Until September -- and possibly for much longer -- the new law will enable the high-tech collection of foreign communications without judicial scrutiny on a vastly larger scale than previously possible, allowing billions of phone calls and e-mails inside as well as outside the United States to be routinely screened for possible links to terrorism and other security threats. [...]

What McConnell wanted most from Congress was to be able to intercept, without a warrant, purely foreign-to-foreign communications that pass through fiber-optic cables and switching stations on U.S. soil. That provision was meant to restore a U.S. capability that existed three decades ago, when a 1978 law allowed warrantless surveillance of foreign calls that were overwhelmingly relayed wirelessly.

Since then, advances in technology have caused 90 percent of global communications to pass through wires -- mostly optic fibers capable of carrying 6,000 calls in a strand. That development has been a boon to the National Security Agency, which has worked hard to monitor the traffic with U.S.-based taps and concluded it was doing so legally.

But in a secret ruling in March, a judge on a special court empowered to review the government's electronic snooping challenged for the first time the government's ability to collect data from such wires even when they came from foreign terrorist targets. In May, a judge on the same court went further, telling the administration flatly that the law's wording required the government to get a warrant whenever a fixed wire is involved.

"All of a sudden, the world flipped upside down," said a senior administration official familiar with the rulings. The official declined to be identified by name, citing the confidentiality of court decisions involving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The decisions had the immediate practical effect of forcing the NSA to laboriously ask judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court each time it wanted to capture such foreign communications from a wire or fiber on U.S. soil, a task so time-consuming that a backlog developed. "We shoved a lot of warrants at the court" but still could not keep up, the official said. "We needed thousands of warrants, but the most we could do was hundreds." The official depicted it as an especially "big problem" by the end of May, in which the NSA was "losing capability."

McConnell even appealed directly to the FISA court, meeting with judges to describe the impact the decisions were having. The judges were sympathetic but said they believed that the law was clear. "They said, 'We don't make legislation -- we interpret the law,' " the senior administration official said.

The rulings -- which were not disclosed publicly until the congressional debate this month -- represented an unusual rift between the court and the U.S. intelligence community. They led top intelligence officials to conclude, a senior official said, that "you can't tell what this court is going to do" and helped provoke the White House to insist that Congress essentially strip the court of any jurisdiction over U.S. surveillance of communications between foreigners.

If it's true that the Administration stopped collecting such data from foreign sources because of a mere court ruling that is a legitimate basis for impeachment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Power to the people: ‘Heroes’ star Masi Oka, creator Tim Kring vow to keep surprises coming (Tenley Woodman, 8/12/07, Boston Herald)

Masi Oka is a natural born Hiro.

The Japan-born, California-raised actor nabbed an Emmy nomination for his role as Hiro Nakamura, a computer programmer turned time-traveling protagonist on the NBC hit drama “Heroes.”

The series, which begins its second season Sept. 24, also earned an Emmy nod in the best show category.

“Personally, it is definitely an honor,” Oka said of his nomination. “To be part of this ensemble is just a gift. To have an Emmy nom is a cherry on top. We’re all proud of it.”

“Heroes,” the standout hit of last season, also stars Ali Larter (“Final Destination”), Milo Ventimiglia (“Gilmore Girls”) and Hayden Panettiere (“Ice Princess”) as everyday people with superhuman abilities. But the show’s moral compass, Hiro, almost wasn’t part of the show, creator Tim Kring said during a recent conference call with reporters.

“When I read the first draft of the script, the character (Hiro) didn’t actually exist. There were a preponderance of characters that felt these powers were an affliction. The character was created to lighten up the initial script,” said Kring, whose writing credits also include “Crossing Jordan” and “Providence.”

The show seems not unlikely to stink as they try to extend it out for numerous seasons, but the initial run was entertaining and Hiro is great. Having Mr. Sulu play his father was just one of the nice touches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Why I support liberal eugenics: This has nothing to do with the evils of Nazi eugenics. It is entered into by parents and it is motivated by love (Johann Hari, 06 July 2006, Independent)

The criticisms that I have even less time for come, predictably, from the Vatican and other centres of organised superstition. Interestingly, Jews, Muslims and followers of Eastern religions are much less hostile to human biotechnology - the problem here is primarily with the Christians. They argue that at the moment of conception, an invisible supernatural agent ('God') implants an invisible substance ('a soul') into a cluster of cells smaller than a speck of dust, and from that moment on the cells are a person with inalienable rights. To perform tests on them is morally equivalent to performing tests on an adult human. Stem-cell research is Mengelian. Discarded embryos have been murdered.

To a materialist who rejects supernatural explanations for the world, this of course seems absurd. We believe humans develop slowly and in stages, and that they have far greater rights once they become self-aware and capable of feeling pain - at around twelve weeks after conception - than when they are insentient blobs. The brilliant science writer Ronald Bailey has picked numerous holes in the Vatican position. Using their logic, if there was a fire in an embryo lab and you had a choice between saving a petri dish of ten near-invisible embryos or Steven Hawking, you would snatch the petri dish and run. And there's a bigger hole. Eight in every ten embryos are flushed out in women's menstrual flows, so why aren't the Catholics trying to prevent this global holocaust of human beings? Why aren't they trying to collect and implant them? The answer is obvious - even they cannot take the Pope's position seriously. If we followed his dictates and refused to develop cures that can treat millions because of these supernatural beliefs, we would actually create the "culture of death" that the Pope crows about.

The criticism that deserves more careful consideration comes from disability rights activists like Adrienne Asch. They argue that this attempt to eradicate disability is an assault on disabled people. By trying to eradicate disabilities, we are saying disabled people are worth less - " errors in the gene pool" - and clearing the way for them to be treated even more badly.

But is this true? By making sure that no more mothers take thalidomide during pregnancy, are we implicitly saying that thalidomide people have worthless lives and should be killed? Of course not. We are simply saying that a person is more likely to be able to live the kind of life they want to with fully formed arms and legs. By ensuring that the number of able-bodied babies are maximised, we are simply acknowledging that - however harsh it might seem to say it - lacking an ability to hear or see or walk is not simply a difference. It is a disability nobody would voluntarily choose, and that you are better off without. Nor does the evidence suggest greater screening and treatment will lead to the remaining disabled people being treated worse. Since amniocentesis was introduced, people with Down syndrome are, if anything, treated better.

The only criticism that really lingers in the mind comes from egalitarian critics. They warn that human biotechnology may create a world divided between the rich, with their "Genetically Modified Babies", and the poor, who are lumbered with the random flaws of nature. The idea of human equality will, they say, melt in the biotech labs. But there are already inequalities thrown up by nature. The idea of human equality will, they say, melt in the biotech labs. But there are two answers to this. The first is that there are already inequalities thrown up by nature.

I am nowhere near as clever as Amartya Sen, nor as good-looking as, say, the average tub of lard. Does that mean human equality is a nonsense? No - my belief in it is strong enough to cope with smarter, fitter people. The solution to unequal access to biotech cannot be the Stalin-style levelling down proposed by the biotech-banners. We did not react to the invention of medicine - which similarly benefited only the rich at first - by banning it. We reacted by creating the NHS so everyone could access it.

These worries do not outweigh the obvious, incalculable benefits of biotechnology. And we should be honest enough to call this attempt to improve the genetic lot of humanity by its name - liberal eugenics. It has nothing to do with the evil of Nazi eugenics, which was imposed by the state and concerned not with producing healthier babies but with deranged race-theories.

To the extent that folks this monstrous can be amusing, what makes them so is something like Mr. Hari's conceit that once a society starts engineering its citizens the fat bespectacled gays won't be among the disabled done away with. Of course, his insistence that his favored brand of eugenics also be subsumed into a socialized medical system makes a hash of his attempt to differentiate the liberal version from the Nazi. Basically, the only difference is that he wants to pick who gets Holocausted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Harry Potter pudding is magically delicious (Kerry J. Byrne, August 10, 2007, Boston Herald)


1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. milk
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 t. molasses
1 t. vinegar
12 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 t. salt
1 T. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In one pot, scald 1 c. of cream. In a second pot, scald milk, sugar and remainingc. of cream. In a third, caramelize brown sugar with molasses and vinegar over low heat, to just boiling. Place egg yolks and eggs in a large bowl. Slowly pour about one-quarter of the milk-sugar-cream mixture from the second pot in a thin stream into the bowl of eggs, while whisking together, to slowly warm the eggs. Once warm, pour egg mixture into second pot.

Pour caramel mixture into the scalded cream. Mix together filling from both pots in a bowl. Chill bowl in an ice bath. Once cool, stir in vanilla and salt. Set six ramekins in a deep pan. Fill ramekins with pudding mixture and lightly caramelize the top with small kitchen blowtorch (optional). Fill pan with warm water to halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake for 1 to 1 hours. Serves 6.

UpStairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge; 617-864-1933.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


The world's greatest traveler : a review of TRAVELS WITH HERODOTUS.
By Ryszard Kapuciski (STEVEN E. ALFORD, Houston Chronicle)

Linking his own movements with that of the world's greatest traveler seems only natural. Herodotus, born in 485 B.C.E. in Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum) in Asia Minor, lived for a while in Athens and ultimately settled permanently in southern Italy, in the Greek colony of Thurii, dying around age 60. His true home, however, was the road, and his record of both his travels and the origins, actions and consequences of the Greek-Persian wars formed a book that can be read and reread forever. [...]

The Histories served a dual purpose for Kapuciski. On the one hand, Herodotus "strove to find out, learn and portray how history comes into being every day, how people create it, why its course often runs contrary to their efforts and expectations," lessons invaluable to any journalist.

At the same time, the book, like history itself, became his "accustomed refuge, a retreat from the tensions of the world and the nervous pursuit of novelty into a peaceful realm of sunshine and quiet that emanates from events that have already occurred, people now gone and sometimes who were never there, having been only contrivances of the imagination, fictions, shadows."

Kapuciski notes that Herodotus' greatest discovery was that there is no such thing as unmediated, "objective" history, that history always has its origin in the account of some specific individual. His continual references to his sources, reminders that "someone told me that," are not confessions there is no true story of our past but recognition that our past is the sedimented result of a mass of individual stories.

-Father of Journalism: a review of Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Wilson Quarterly)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Are Midnight's Children heading for partition again?: At 60, India prospers while Pakistan bleeds, and the Taliban is rubbing salt into the wounds (Dilip Hiro, 12 August 2007, Independent)

Despite floods in some areas of their county, the mood of Indians, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of India's independence from Britain on 15 August, remains bullish. The economy is robust, and the secular democratic system, tempered by 14 orderly parliamentary elections, vibrant, with civilian control over the military remaining inviolate.

By contrast, in Pakistan the celebration of the diamond jubilee of independence a day earlier will be muted as its military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, ponders his next move. Caught between the challenge of radical Islamists on one side and secular, democratic opposition on the other, he finds his area of manoeuvre diminishing, with his political base, the Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid-e-azam (PML-Q), disintegrating fast.

Musharraf has decided, for now, not to declare a state of emergency. That option remains very much on the table, although it would at best buy him time, not popularity. The basic problem for the region and the world at large is that his policies have brought Pakistan to the point where the Talibanisation of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan has advanced so far that even a popularly elected civilian government, if and when it materialises, will find it hard to reverse the process. [...]

The danger is that the simmering Pashtun irredentism in these countries will gather momentum and strive to establish an Islamist Pashtunistan of 40 million people, resulting in the break-up of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

August 11, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM


Remembering Partition: The parallels between India '47 and Iraq '07. (Fred Kaplan, Aug. 9, 2007, Slate)

Anyone who believes that U.S. troops can simply and suddenly leave Iraq without risk of unleashing great horror—or who regards religious or ethnic partition as a solution instead of a desperate ploy—should look back at the summer of 1947, when the British Empire packed up and India fulfilled its "tryst with destiny" (as Jawaharlal Nehru described its awakening to independence), only to plunge into a monstrous spree of ethnic cleansing (12 million people uprooted, as many as 1 million murdered) that continues to take its toll today.

As India's independence and Britain's withdrawal seemed inevitable in the wake of World War II, the country's long-suppressed internal fissures began to rumble like a reawakened volcano. Gandhi's followers in the Congress Party campaigned as a secular movement. But Muslims saw it as a cover for Hindu domination, and Gandhi's rival, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, though a secular Muslim, played the religion card to the hilt to attract fundamentalists' favor.

The Muslims demanded an independent state. In their haste to get out, the British complied. They negotiated the establishment of Pakistan, drew the boundaries in a careless manner, and unavoidably created more problems than they solved.

On Aug. 15, when the British pulled out, millions of Hindus on Muslim land and Muslims on Hindu land—and lots of Sikhs on either—were brutalized, raped, or killed. Many packed their belongings and moved, but, unprotected, they were slaughtered along the way. The Indian Army, which had been created by Britain, also divided along religious lines, and, as the New Yorker review notes, "many of the communalized soldiers would join their coreligionists in killing sprees, giving the violence of partition its genocidal cast."

Before long, India and Pakistan went to war over the contested territory of Kashmir. Two more wars followed in as many decades. Another war nearly broke out a mere five years ago. many Pakistanis ands Indians would reverse the partition? Or, for that matter, how many Brits and Americans would reverse our bloody own?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


The Boy Who Lived a review of Harry potters and the Deathly Hallows (CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, NY Times Book Review)

For Orwell, the English school story from Tom Brown to Kipling’s Stalky and Co. was intimately bound up with dreams of wealth and class and snobbery, yet Rowling has succeeded in unmooring it from these considerations and giving us a world of youthful democracy and diversity, in which the humble leading figure has a name that — though it was given to a Shakespearean martial hero and king — could as well belong to an English labor union official. Perhaps Anglophilia continues to play its part, but if I were one of the few surviving teachers of Anglo-Saxon I would rejoice at the way in which such terms as muggle and Wizengamot, and such names as Godric, Wulfric and Dumbledore, had become common currency. At this rate, the teaching of “Beowulf” could be revived. The many Latin incantations and imprecations could also help rekindle interest in the study of a “dead” language.

Kind of odd to claim that a wizard world that practices virtual apartheid from that of mere Muggles, nevermind holding elves in thrall, isn't elitist and exclusionary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


Internet Hunting Has Got to Stop --If It Ever Starts: Even the NRA Agrees This Is One Humane Issue Everyone Can Get Behind (ZACHARY M. SEWARD, August 10, 2007, Wall Street Journal)

The Humane Society of the United States last year mailed more than 50,000 people an urgent message, underlined and in bold type: "Such horrific cruelty must stop and stop now!"

The cruelty in question was Internet hunting, which the animal-rights group described as the "sick and depraved" sport of shooting live game with a gun controlled remotely over the Web. Responding to the Humane Society's call, 33 states have outlawed Internet hunting since 2005, and a bill to ban it nationally has been introduced in Congress.
Read the Humane Society's letter, plus see the society's Internet hunting page on its Web site.

But nobody actually hunts animals over the Internet. Although the concept -- first broached publicly by a Texas entrepreneur in 2004 -- is technically feasible, it hasn't caught on. How so many states have nonetheless come to ban the practice is a testament to public alarm over Internet threats and the gilded life of legislation that nobody opposes.

With no Internet hunters to defend the sport, the Humane Society's lobbying campaign has been hugely successful -- a welcome change for an organization that has struggled to curtail actual boots-on-the-ground hunting. Michael Markarian, who has led the group's effort, calls it "one of the fastest paces of reform for any animal issue that we can remember seeing."

The environmentalists' new specialty: lobbying on imaginary issues....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


The Afghan Grassroots: All politics is local, even in Nangarhar Province. (Ann Marlowe, 08/20/2007, Weekly Standard)

"This is an Afghan process," Lt. Col. Gordon Phil lips began, "and I am here to make sure it goes smoothly. But the decisions are not mine. They are yours." A dozen members of this province's Provincial Council or Shura listened carefully as the interpreter translated into their native Pashto.

Phillips, the commander of the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team, or PRT, continued: "Don't think about money. Think about what you will need five years from now, about your children, and your grandchildren. I have other money, emergency money, which I can and will use if appropriate. Think about what Nangarhar needs."

For the first time in Afghan history, Afghans are about to set spending priorities for their localities, rather than accepting the crumbs that a king, warlord, or Kabul-appointed governor condescends to allow them. This process of writing Provincial Development Plans, which Lt. Col. Phillips described to the council members, has been going on throughout Afghanistan this July and August, and it promises to correct some of the more egregious failures of American aid here. At the least, it will put to rest the frequent charges--some warranted, some not--that we are giving the Afghans what we think they need rather than what they think they need, and listening to bureaucrats in Kabul rather than the people who will actually use the roads, bridges, dams, and irrigation channels being built.

"Shifting the emphasis to the provinces would help to redress the heavily skewed development expenditure that favors the urban areas and their vocal elite," says NATO ambassador to Afghanistan Daan Everts, who helped Kosovo get back on its feet.

Understanding the nitty-gritty of Afghan government is important to correct the cartoonish panorama of warlords, Taliban, and virtuous president that underlies the average American's picture of Afghanistan--a picture that is seriously misleading.

Her own memoir offers an affecting portrait of Afghanistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Record revenues drive down federal budget deficit (JEANNINE AVERSA, August 11, 2007, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The federal deficit this budget year is running sharply lower, driven by record revenues pouring into government coffers.

The Treasury Department reported yesterday that the government produced a deficit of $157.3 billion for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

It's remarkable enough to be running a balanced budget in the abstract, but staggering in the context of the deficits that London ran to defeat Napoleon and Washington ran to beat Nazism and Communism. Beating Islamicism is dirt cheap.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


The Fed's Dr No refuses to come to Wall Street's rescue: Inflation is the key for Bernanke, however loud traders squeal. (Peter Coy, 12 August 2007, Independent)

Cool, calm and collected, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, is driving Wall Street batty. When traders scream about a recessionary "credit crunch", the former professor acknowledges their concerns but predicts continued economic growth. When they plead for easier money, Bernanke and fellow rate-setters firmly hold the line.

"Scandalous," sputtered one North Carolina market strategist. Jim Cramer, the TV stockpicker, nearly melted in a pool of his own sweat on a recent programme, saying Bernanke had to flood the system with money to stop financial Armageddon. Shouted Cramer: "He has no idea how bad it is out there!"

The Street may be dismayed by Bernanke's sangfroid, but it shouldn't be surprised. This is exactly the kind of policy he has spent his entire career arguing for. At Princeton University, where he taught from 1985 to 2002, he said central bankers should avoid getting caught up in the gyrations of the financial markets and focus instead on measures of the real economy, such as growth and inflation.

The Fed should set a target rate for inflation and then steer monetary policy to hit that target – an approach that would change central bankers from financial demigods into something more like engineers. Casey Jones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


India's PM dares left to withdraw support over US nuclear deal (AFP, Aug 11, 2007)

India's prime minister has dared communist allies to withdraw their support for the ruling Congress-led coalition if they are unhappy with a landmark Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insisted in an interview with the Calcutta-based Telegraph newspaper published on Saturday that the technology pact, seen as a centrepiece of new, warmer US ties, would not be renegotiated.

"... it is not possible to renegotiate the deal. It is an honourable deal, the cabinet has approved it, we cannot go back on it," he was quoted as saying.

"I (have) told them to do whatever they want to do, if they want to withdraw support (for the Congress coalition government), so be it," Singh said.

They want a pact with the USSR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


How do we tackle the rise in the number of children on anti-depressants?: The tragic side effects include suicide, addiction and self-harm (Independent, 12 August 2007)

[L]ibrium, Valium and other member of the benzodiazepine family, are now not routinely prescribed to children. But that doesn't mean we have stopped medicating our children – far from it. New figures released last month show that in the past decade the number of prescriptions for mind-altering drugs, including anti-depressants such as Prozac, given to children under the age of 16 has more than quadrupled. Last year, there were more than 631,000 cases of drugs such as these given for mental health problems. In the mid 1990s, this figure was 146,000.

This increase is in spite of guidelines from Nice(the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) that GPs should offer three months of " talking therapy" before reaching for the prescription pad.

The issue was highlighted by the case of Mollie Murphy, who last year was prescribed a course of anti-depressants at the age of four after she became distraught at being separated from her friends when she failed to get a place at her local school. "We are in danger of not having learnt from the benzodiazepine story," says child psychiatrist Dr Mike Shooter, chairman of the children's mental health charity Young Minds. "People saying we're going through the same cycle with anti-depressants. The prescription rate is rising fast, and it worries me."

According to Dr Shooter, the reasons for the dramatic increase in prescriptions are complex. "One factor is the pharmaceutical companies marketing these drugs as happiness in the form of a pill," he says. " In the process they have concealed the fact that they don't actually bring happiness. There is also controversy at the moment about drug companies concealing lack of effectiveness." Dr Shooter believes that young people are increasingly turning to doctors with problems of life rather than actual depression. "The demand for a diagnosis is great," he says. "The greater the pressure the GP is under, the greater the temptation to reach for the prescription pad."

It's an easy way for adults to control children, having abandoned the hard ways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


Bush, Sarkozy promote ties (Tabassum Zakaria, 8/11/07, Reuters)

President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday stressed friendship over disagreement at a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs at the Bush family estate aimed at improving relations strained by the Iraq war.

Bush called Sarkozy "a friend" while waiting with his wife, Laura, and parents to greet the French leader on the driveway of the family's compound in this Maine resort town.

Nope, unilateralism will never work....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Immigration rules may hurt economy: Crackdown on employers could cause havoc in agriculture, healthcare and other industries, Chertoff acknowledges. (Nicole Gaouette, August 11, 2007, LA Times)

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff predicted painful economic fallout from the array of immigration enforcement measures the administration unveiled Friday in an attempt to choke off the jobs "magnet" that draws illegal immigrants.

The changes, which would stiffen work-site enforcement, add border agents and increase penalties for rogue employers, could cause havoc in immigrant-dependent industries like agriculture, hospitality and healthcare, Chertoff acknowledged. "There will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this," he said in an interview with The Times.

It's no coincidence that the Great Depression was preceded by immigration restrictions and protectionist legislation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


How would you fare in the bid to be British? (ALASTAIR JAMIESON, 8/11/07, The Scotsman)

a) How many people live in the countries of the UK?
b) What is the census and how is census data collected and used?
c) How many people in the UK belong to an ethnic minority and which are the country's largest minority groups?

a) Where are Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?
b) What languages other than English are spoken in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

a) How many people say they have a religion?
b) What are the largest religious groups?
c) What is the Church of England and who is its head? What is the main Christian group in Scotland?

a) Which sports and sporting events are popular in the UK?
b) Do people tend to live in towns and cities or in the country?
c) What and when are the patron saints' days of the four countries of the UK?
d) What are the main Christian festivals?

a) What type of constitution does the UK have?
b) What is the Queen's official role and what ceremonial duties does she have?
c) What is the House of Lords and who are its members?
d) What are MPs? How often are elections held and who forms the government?
e) How do elections for the House of Commons work? What do the party Whips do?
f) What is the role of the Prime Minister?
g) Which areas of policy remain under the control of the UK government?

a) What is proportional representation and where is it used?
b) What services are provided by local authorities?
c) What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?
d) Who has the right to vote and at what age? How and when do you register to vote?
e) What rights do citizens of the European Union states have to travel and work?
f) What is the Commonwealth?

a) Do women have equal rights in voting, education and work, and has this always been the case?

a) How many people in the UK own their own home? What is a mortgage?
b) How is the process of buying a house different in Scotland?
c) Which organisations can people rent houses from? How do people apply for council accommodation?
d) Which organisations offer help to homeless people?

a) What does the amount of council tax charged by local government depend on? b) Which groups of people can receive a reduction in the council tax they pay or benefits?

a) What are the values of the UK banknotes? b) Where can people get or change foreign currency?
c) What is social security and who receives it?

a) What is the NHS? b) What is the role of a general practitioner (GP)?
c) Which groups of people receive free prescriptions?

a)What are the ages of compulsory education? How does this differ in Northern Ireland? Who is responsible for ensuring a child attends school?
b) At what age do children go to secondary school? How does this differ in Scotland?
c) What are faith schools?
d) What is the role of a school governing body (or a school board in Scotland)?

a) What is the film classification system? What are the classifications?
b) What is the National Trust? c) How old must people be before they can buy alcohol? d) How old must people be to go into betting shops?

a) How long can overseas driving licences be used for in the UK?
b) Where can people purchase a road tax disc?
c) What are the speed limits for cars and motorcycles?

a) Who can be a referee?

a) What is the purpose of a pay slip?
b) What is National Insurance? How is it paid? How can people obtain a National Insurance number?
c) What is the State Pension age for men and for women?

And then they wonder why they can't assimilate people?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM


How the Democrats Blew It in Only Eight Months (Alexander Cockburn, 8/11/07, The Nation)

Led by Democrats since the start of this year, Congress now has a "confidence" rating of 14 percent, the lowest since Gallup started asking the question in 1973 and five points lower than Republicans scored last year.

The voters put the Democrats in to end the war, and it's escalating. The Democrats voted the money for the surge and the money for the next $459.6 billion military budget. Their latest achievement was to provide enough votes in support of Bush to legalize warrantless wiretapping for "foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States." Enough Democrats joined Republicans to make this a 227-183 victory for Bush. The Democrats control the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have stopped the bill in its tracks if she'd wanted to. But she didn't. The Democrats' game is to go along with the White House agenda while stirring up dust storms to blind the base to their failure to bring the troops home or restore constitutional government.

The row over the US Attorneys and the conduct of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has always been something of a typhoon in a teaspoon.

...only the deeply delusional--which sadly includes their party activists and the media--ever thought the election mattered a whit, particularly as regards W's conduct of the war.

August 10, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 PM


Saudi police beat us up, say British Shia pilgrims (Kim Sengupta, 11 August 2007, Independent)

A group of British and American Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca say they were illegally detained and brutally beaten by Saudi religious police.

The men, who suffered physical mistreatment as well as verbal abuse during their incarceration, claim they were arrested because they are Shia and Westerners. The Foreign Office is expected to raise the matter with the Saudi government although the authorities in the country say they have already started an investigation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


Japan, Indonesia to sign FTA, remove tariffs on 92% of trade (Kyodo News, 8/11/07)

Japan and Indonesia will sign a bilateral free-trade agreement on Aug. 20 during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the country, the government said Friday.

Cabinet ministers endorsed the signing of the FTA by Abe and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when the two hold their summit in Jakarta.

The Axis of Good just keeps getting tighter knit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


Clinton emulates Bush campaign tactics (Elizabeth Wilner, Aug 10, 2007, Politico)

Barack Obama obviously meant it as an insult when he accused New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of sounding a lot like the president during their recent dust-up over foreign policy.

The clash with the Illinois senator did indeed reveal some striking similarities between Clinton and George W. Bush. But that is arguably a compliment -- at least for many Democrats who loathe Bush but envy his success in winning the presidency and wielding power.

Clinton advisers privately acknowledge the Clinton-Bush comparisons and don’t particularly mind them. The similarities are a growing list of specific tactics and, more broadly, a zeal for political combat that has marked the presidential campaigns of both politicians.

W's campaign in '00 was unusual in that he ran the whole time as if he were going to be president and that how he ran mattered. This was most conspicuous in his choice of Dick Cheney as VP, a guy ready to be president in his stead who brought nothing to the ticket politically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


Why the Democrats Caved (E. J. Dionne Jr., August 10, 2007, Washington Post)

Shortly before noon last Saturday, about 20 House Democrats huddled in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office to decide what to do about a surveillance bill that had been dumped on them by the Senate before it left town.

Many of the Democrats were furious. They believed they had negotiated in good faith with Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence. They sought to give the Bush administration the authority it needed to intercept communications involving foreign nationals in terrorism investigations while preserving some oversight.

But the administration held out for granting McConnell and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales more power while seriously circumscribing the role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Senate's Democratic leadership, lacking the votes to pass a measure more to the House's liking, gave the administration what it wanted.

At one point, according to participants in the Pelosi meeting, the passionate discussion veered toward the idea of standing up to the administration -- even at the risk of handing President Bush a chance to bash Democrats on "national security," as is his wont.

Several members from swing districts -- including Reps. Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Patrick J. Murphy of Pennsylvania -- expressed openness to having Congress stay in town to fight if important constitutional issues were at stake.

But the moment passed.

"The pleasure is momentary, the position rediculous, and the expense damnable."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Book Reveals Details of Iran’s Diplomatic Outreach to Israel (Marc Perelman, Aug 08, 2007, The Forward)

A soon to be released book details previously unknown backroom contacts between Iran and Israel in 2003, when Tehran was pushing the Bush administration into entering comprehensive diplomatic negotiations.

In “Treacherous Alliance,” Trita Parsi, an adjunct professor at John Hopkins University and president of the National Iranian American Council, contends that shortly after Iran proposed a “grand bargain” to the United States four years ago, Tehran made a similar offer to Israel during an academic meeting in Athens.

The terms of Iran’s offer to the United States — which included stabilizing Iraq, curbing support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and addressing concerns over its nuclear program, in exchange for an end to sanctions against Iran and the disbanding of an anti-Iranian militant group — have been known for some time. But as Washington and Tehran now hold official talks for the first time in more than a quarter-century, the book’s revelation of alleged Iranian outreach to Israel opens a revealing window on the last serious attempt at diplomatic reconciliation with the Islamic Republic.

This is one of several areas where the Administration deserves to be criticized for its conduct of the WoT, nearly all of which stem from a failure to comprehend the sides in the fight. The others include the subsequent decision to urge reformers to boycott the Iranian elections; attempt to avoid casualties in the combat phase of the Iraq War--when the goal should have been to kill as many of the troops fighting to preserve Sunni domination as possible; the failure to immediately establish a sovereign Iraqi government (approved by Ali Sistani) and announce a withdrawal in Summer 2003; the failure to effect regime change in Syria; and the refusal to recognize and work with Hamas after its victory in Palestinian elections as well as with Hezbollah--both of which would have been easier with Iranian assistance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

ABNER LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW...:, iTunes deliver season's best (Mark Newman, 8/10/07,

Major League Baseball reaches the three-quarter pole of its regular season next week, and one can just imagine the drama to follow as most clubs are involved in a chase involving all six divisional races and the usual Wild Card madness.

This is an opportune time, then, to head right over to the Games of the Year on iTunes and download full broadcasts of the games that already have captured our interest over the first 75 percent of the 2007 schedule. Each download is $1.99, or the Season Pass is $19.99 and includes every listing.

The first year of this capability for baseball fans has coincided with a year of magical milestones unlike any year in the Majors dating back to the 1800s. There has just been nothing like 2007, and nothing quite like this technology delivery method for fans.

For residents of the tri-state area, the first day of Spring was always Jonathan Schwartz's Superbowl Sunday Tribute to Baseball, during which he'd play historic stuff, like Vin Scully's incomparable cal of the 9th inning of Koufax's perfect game* and great baseball songs, but would also just play a portion of a random meaningless game. The beauty of baseball -- on the radio in particular -- being that the rhythms and sounds make most every game listenable.

I've looked all over the web to try and find archives of old games, but about the only site I've found that has any is the invaluable Internet Archives. So this service from MLB is indeed welcome. The off-season just got a whole lot shorter.

* It turns out there's also tape of his call of Koufax's first no-hitter in 1962.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Pitcher turned slugger homers in return to majors (AP, 8/10/07)

In spring training 2005, Rick Ankiel launched his new career as a 26-year-old minor league outfielder. In his first game back in the major leagues, he launched one out of the ballpark. [...]

Ankiel, who led the Pacific Coast League with 32 homers for Triple-A Memphis, launched a 2-1 curveball from Doug Brocail over the right-field wall in the seventh with an effortless swing that put the Cardinals ahead 5-0.

"I pitched the report," Brocail said. "I have no idea how he hit that ball. It's good to see the kid back, though.

"You know, he wasn't too bad of a pitcher."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM


Ortiz is powerless in clutch (Gordon Edes, August 10, 2007, Boston Globe)

[Brady] Anderson became a solid player for the Orioles, averaging just over 15 home runs a season, until 1996, when he hit 50, two fewer than Mark McGwire and one more than Ken Griffey Jr. It was a shocking explosion, made even more shocking (and in many circles, suspicious) when, after his 50-homer season, Anderson hit just 18 in each of the next two years and never again hit more than 24.

Until this season, there have been only two other times in which a player who hit 50 home runs hit fewer than 30 the next. One was Hack Wilson, the hard-living Cubs outfielder who hit 56 in 1930, the same season he drove in 191 runs, a major league record. The 5-foot-6-inch Wilson fought with manager Rogers Hornsby the next season -- his heavy drinking was a prime source of friction -- and he finished the 1931 season with just 13 home runs.

In 2001, Luis Gonzalez, the slender-as-a-blade-of-grass outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit 57 home runs in the greatest season of his life, climaxed by a broken-bat single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to win Game 7 of the World Series. The next season, Gonzalez dropped to 28, and now, at the tail end of his career with the Dodgers, he has been in the teens the last two seasons.

Of the 39 times there have been 50 home runs in a season, one slugger hit 70 the next year (McGwire in 1998). Three times a player hit at least 60 (Sammy Sosa twice and McGwire). Six hit at least 50, 15 at least 40, and nine at least 30.

But this season, there may be a fourth 50-homer hitter who fails to crack 30 the following season, and he plays for the Red Sox: David Ortiz.

Alan Tieuli, a senior administrator of communications for J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series and the man who did the 50-homer research using Sean Forman's website, said that at his current pace, Ortiz projects to hit 28 home runs. Ortiz, who did not play Wednesday and is iffy here for tonight's opener against the Orioles because of recurring inflammation in his left shoulder, has 19 home runs, tied with Manny Ramírez for the club lead.

The most physically similar guys on his Most Comparable Players list--guys like Boog Powell & Mo Vaughn--didn't exactly age well...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Immigration debate: Firms warn of lack of workers: Federal crackdown could force firings across the state. (Susan Ferriss, 8/09/07, Sacramento Bee)

California businesses, which employ the majority of illegal immigrants throughout the country, are reeling after federal officials announced a new workplace crackdown.

People in industries as diverse as California's hotels and massive farms, its restaurants and convalescent homes,said Wednesday they are confused and fear they could be forced into mass firings.

Those at risk are employers who've received letters from the Social Security Administration saying their workers' numbers don't match names in federal databases.

As early as this month, the Department of Homeland Security plans to require all employers who have received those letters to fire the workers if the discrepancy cannot be resolved relatively quickly.

The department is planning to use the letters to track down employers and conduct raids if necessary, leading to fines or prosecution of businesses that don't fire the workers in question.

Homeland Security has been considering using Social Security information as a tool to enforce immigration laws for some time, but officials were waiting to see if Congress would approve changes to put some illegal immigrants on a path to legal residency.

Central Valley farmers -- and other agricultural interests who provide a huge percentage of the nation's food -- are warning Americans that they believe small businesses could go under and that prices could soar or products could become scarce.

All those nativists who want to keep the Mexicans out could best serve their cause by taking these crappy jobs.

August 9, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Forgotten Music Star Makes Comeback (JOHN GEROME, 8/09/07, Associated Press)

Porter Wagoner looks right at home in the marble lobby of Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel. He wears a dark Western suit and tie and holds a shiny black cane. The glare from the crystal chandelier reflects off his eyeglasses as he tilts his head back, trying to remember the last time he played Madison Square Garden.

Sometime in the '70s ... one of those package tours ... Little Jimmie Dickens and Faron Young were there ... some others he can't recall ...

Back then, "The Thin Man from West Plains" was still the grand showman of country music with his rhinestone suits and pompadour hair. He had a TV show and dozens of hits on his own and with a pretty young blonde named Dolly Parton.

All that faded with time, and so did Wagoner. He checked into a psychiatric hospital for exhaustion, his show went off the air, he was dropped from his record label and dismissed as a relic. Last summer he nearly died.

Except for his standing gig on the Grand Ole Opry, he was mostly forgotten.


"I was thinking while on stage last night, 'This is the biggest, most well-known arena in the country, and here I am performing at it,'" he says the morning after a show with the White Stripes.

..."there are no second acts in American lives."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 PM


U.S. support hurt candidate in Lebanon (Hassan M. Fattah, August 9, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

There has been talk of the Christian vote and the Armenian vote, of history and betrayal. One explanation, however, that all agree on proved crucial in this race: Gemayel's support by the Bush administration, and the implied agendas behind such support, seem to have helped doom him. [...]

But more important, U.S. support is often applied to one faction instead of institutions, causing further division rather than bringing about stability.

Arab liberals who have embraced America continue to see their influence fade in the region as more conservative and Islamist forces continue to rise, Rasheed said. Voters invariably frown on strength coming from abroad, he said; the only legitimate sources of strength any Arab politician can turn to are either tribal-based or religious-based.

"Last Sunday we saw that even if you are a former president running for a seat in Parliament, in a small area where everybody knows you, you can't make it with American support," Rasheed said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM


Researchers in Kenya Discover New Weapon Against Malaria (Caroline Sawyer, 09 August 2007, VOA News)

Researchers in Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, were studying insects and the environment when they discovered that by introducing a fish called the Nile Tilapia into ponds, mosquito numbers fell by more than 94 percent in less than a year.

These results are potentially life saving for local residents because malaria, which is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes, kills more people here than any other disease.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM

DO AS I SAY...DO AS I SAY...DO AS I SAY...: (via The Wife)

Making a Mark with Rockets and Roadsters (David Kestenbaum, August 9, 2007, Morning Edition)

Internet tycoon Elon Musk is now building racecars and rockets.

And not just to make money.

Back when he was in college, Musk laid out what he deemed were two important problems worthy of study. First, the world needed an environmentally clean method of transportation. And, he thought, it would be good if humans could colonize another planet. Not an unusual late-night conversation for a science major. [...]

I meet Musk by arrangement in the lobby of a San Diego hotel. The first things out of his mouth are "Hi" and "Have you seen the car yet?"

Waiting does not seem to come naturally to him, and I have to catch up outside where Musk is standing by a red sports car with a small metallic "T" on the front of the hood. He goes over the car in technical detail in a way that is reminiscent of those scenes in James Bond movies where "Q" explains the latest gadget. Finally we get in and he turns the key. There is no sound, but the car moves.

The Tesla Roadster has no tailpipe and no gas tank. It is powered by 7,000 lipstick-size lithium ion batteries, the sort that powers some laptops.

The cost in electricity to drive a mile? One or two cents, Musk says.

Musk pulls the car onto a straight section of road and presses the pedal that has nothing to do with gas. The acceleration throws my head back. I'm startled and Musk is pleased.

In tests, the Roadster has gone from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds. Musk slows when we get to 100 mph.

"I probably shouldn't go any faster than that," he says. This car is a prototype, and makes some odd sounds. Production versions are due out later this summer.

A Vision of the Future

Musk is charming and funny, but also relentlessly logical. He has a way of talking that makes his vision of the future seem inevitable.

Take electric cars. Some car companies are studying the idea of vehicles that run on hydrogen — Musk thinks that's stupid.

He points out that there is currently no capacity for making huge amounts of hydrogen, no infrastructure for shipping it and no easy way to store it densely enough to drive great distances.

But electricity? We make it, we distribute it and you can charge a Roadster in a few hours from the outlet that powers your washing machine. Tesla says a full charge can carry you more than 200 miles. The catch is that then, your car will need some alone time with a power cord again.

When the folks behind Tesla Motors approached him, Musk quickly invested $37 million, enough to get the company off the ground. He intends to make the money back, and then some.

"I am not Mother Theresa," he has said.

The Tesla business plan is to start at the high-end, establish electric cars as more than golf-carts, then move down market. At about $100,000 the Roadster is beyond the economic means of even most car enthusiasts, though an impressive list of people have pre-paid for the first round.

It's not an impressively long list — just impressive. Musk ticks off names that include George Clooney, the founders of Google and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

On the way to the airport Musk speaks on his cell phone with Jay Leno, which puts Musk — a multimillionaire — in the odd spot of being a car salesman. Musk tells Leno that ideally, Tesla will be a great American car company, like Ford or GM, though his voice gets quiet when he says this.

The Wife heard this one on the way to work, with the supposedly environment-minded Mr. Musk hopping in his Gulfstream for a flight within California...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


Ankiel back with Cardinals as outfielder (Jim Salter, 8/09/07, Associated Press)

Rick Ankiel returned to the major leagues Thursday -- as an outfielder. After flopping in his attempt to rejoin the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher, Ankiel rejoined the team before Thursday night's game against San Diego.

Ankiel, who turns 28 on Aug. 23, was hitting .267 with 32 homers and 89 runs batted in 102 games at Triple-A Memphis. He also struck out 90 times and had a .314 on-base percentage.

He won 11 games and struck out 194 batters in 175 innings as a 20-year-old rookie in 2000 and was a surprise pick to start the Cardinals' 2000 postseason opener against Atlanta. But he became the first major league pitcher to throw five wild pitches in one inning since Sept. 15, 1890, when Bert Cunningham did it for Buffalo of the Players League.

He threw nine wild pitches in four innings during the 2000 playoffs and never really was the same after that.

You have to root for the guy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


Bush Calls on Iranians to Reject Government (William Branigin, 8/09/07, Washington Post)

Americans "ought to be very concerned about Iran," Bush said. "They're a destabilizing influence. They are a government that has -- its declared policy is very troubling, obviously, when they announce -- when Ahmadinejad has announced that the destruction of Israel is part of his foreign policy. That's something, obviously, we cannot live with. They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program."

Bush added, "My message to the Iranian people is, 'You can do better than this current government. You don't have to be isolated. You don't have to be in a position where you can't realize your full economic potential.' And the United States of America will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Security Council and elsewhere to put you in a position to deny you your rightful place in the world -- not because of our intention; because of your government's intention."

They wouldn't have that government if he'd cut the post-911 deal the reformers offered and hadn't urged Iranians to boycott the last election. This, though, is a message he should travel to Tehran to deliver.

How to get real regime change in Iran (Stephen Zunes, 8/10/07, Asia Times)

Despite claims by the Bush administration that the US has always supported "liberty" and "democracy" in Iran, the history of US-Iranian relations during both Republican and Democratic administrations has demonstrated very little support for a democratic Iran. In the early 1950s, the last time Iran had a democratic constitutional government, the US joined Britain and other countries in imposing economic sanctions against Iran in response to the nationalization of the country's oil resources, which until then had been under foreign control. Taking advantage of the economic collapse and political turmoil that followed, the US Central Intelligence Agency helped engineer a coup against prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from exile to rule with an iron fist.

Over the next 25 years, the US armed and trained the shah's dreaded SAVAK (Organization for National Security and Intelligence) secret police, which emerged as one of the most repressive internal-security organizations of the era. Despite claims to the contrary by right-wing critics of the Jimmy Carter administration, the US strongly supported the shah until his final days in power, providing valuable assistance to the regime even as it was massacring protesters in the streets. It comes as no surprise, in light of this, that the revolution that finally ousted the monarchy in February 1979 was stridently anti-American.

Furthermore, since the shah's repressive apparatus had largely succeeded in wiping out the democratic and secular opposition to the regime, it was religious opponents - who survived as a result of the greater cohesion made possible through the mosques - who spearheaded the revolutionary movement. Thus the radical Islamic orientation of the revolution was greatly influenced by the shah's US-backed efforts to maintain control through repression. [...]

Despite the increased repression of recent years, Iran has witnessed a growing civil-society movement and increasing calls for greater freedom. Indeed, those in the Iranian regime correctly recognize that the biggest threat to their grip on power comes not from the US but from their own people. Civilian-based insurrections have played a critical role over the past century in challenging Iranian rulers, such as during the Constitutional Revolution of 1907 and the overthrow of the shah in 1979. Iran's clerical leaders, faced with growing dissent - particularly among youth, the middle class, and urban dwellers - realize that they may be next. [...]

The US government has historically promoted regime change through military invasions, coups d'etat and other kinds of violent seizures of power by an undemocratic minority. Non-violent "people power" movements, by contrast, promote regime change through empowering pro-democratic majorities. Unlike fomenting a military coup or supporting a military occupation, which are based on control over the population and repression of potential political opponents, non-violent civil insurrections - as a result of being based on a broad coalition of popular movements - are impossible for an outside power to control.

As a result, the best hope for Iran comes from Iranian civil society, which, despite the repression from its government and the negative consequences of sanctions and threats against its country from Washington, is quite capable of eventually bringing down the regime and establishing a more just and democratic society. Freedom will some day come to Iran. When it does, however, it will be in spite of - rather than because of - the policies of the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Bush Against Raising Gas Tax (JENNIFER LOVEN, 8/09/07, AP)

A week after a deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis, President Bush dismissed Thursday raising the federal gasoline tax to repair the nation's bridges at least until Congress changes the way it spends highway money.

"The way it seems to have worked is that each member on that (Transportation) committee gets to set his or her own priorities first," Bush said. "That's not the right way to prioritize the people's money. Before we raise taxes, which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities." [...]

The Democratic chairman of the House Transportation Committee proposed a 5-cent increase in the 18.3 cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax to establish a new trust fund for repairing or replacing structurally deficient highway bridges.

More than 70,000 of the nation's bridges are rated structurally deficient, including the bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi River last Wednesday. The American Society of Civil Engineers says repairing them all would require spending at least $9.4 billion a year for 20 years. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., says his tax-increase proposal would raise about $25 billion over three years.

Dedicating the funds certainly makes sense, as does raising the money faster rather than slower, in order to drive gas prices up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


D-Backs coming through (Nick Piecoro, 8/06/07, The Arizona Republic)

t's understandable why some throughout baseball are wondering how, exactly, the Diamondbacks, at 63-50, own the second-best record in the league entering the final eight weeks of the regular season.

On the surface, it would appear things don't add up.

In fact, based solely on run differential, they are among the biggest overachievers in baseball history.

Legendary statistician Bill James developed a "Pythagorean Theorem" that, by plugging a team's runs scored and runs allowed into a formula, showed a striking correlation between the differential and a team's record.

The Diamondbacks have scored 467 runs and allowed 496. Using James' formula, they would be expected to have a .470 winning percentage.

In actuality, they have a .558 winning percentage, a .088 point gap that would be the second-largest discrepancy between actual record and expected record in baseball history.

According to David W. Smith of Retrosheet .org, only the 1905 Detroit Tigers, who outplayed their expected record by .091 percentage points, had a bigger discrepancy.

So how are the Diamondbacks doing it? General Manager Josh Byrnes has some ideas, and they start with his team's ability to win one-run games.

Except that, as Bill James has also shown, your record in one-run games isn't a reflection ability but of more random factors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


The American path to jihad (Chris Heffelfinger, 8/10/07, Asia Times)

These cases all suggest that ideology, above anything else, is the common identity among group members. Their belief and commitment to the Salafi movement and its aims to purify Islam, which is the foundation on which bin Laden and other jihadist leaders have built their platforms, was the common factor that bound together these diverse individuals with various ethnic, national and linguistic backgrounds.

Even a cursory look at the Brent case reveals ties to members of Ali al-Timimi's northern Virginia jihadist group and, through them, a much larger world of official Saudi funding and militant Salafi influence. For nearly all the terrorism cases involving radical Islam, the subjects began their journey with the Salafi Islam offered by the Saudi establishment, its leading scholars, and its prestigious institutions in Mecca and Medina.

Although they are clearly responsible for a portion of the radicalized Muslims now on a course for militancy, whether headed for a jihadist front in Iraq, Somalia or Lebanon or in the United States or the United Kingdom, those same individuals who have committed themselves to the cause cannot be effective without adequate training. Such individuals are encouraged - by Ali al-Timimi and Abu Musab al-Suri alike - to seek training in a place such as Pakistan as an essential stage in their path to truly serving the jihad.

Yet we arm the Saudis and antagonize the Shi'a.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


GOP Hopes to Make Inroads With Hispanics (MICHAEL R. BLOOD, 8/09/07, Associated Press)

Democrats hold an edge with Hispanics in national elections, but Latinos' growing tendency to register as independents and split their vote between parties is buoying Republican prospects for 2008.

Younger and college-educated Hispanics in particular offer fertile ground for the GOP, new data show. And while no one suggests Republicans have become the party of choice for the nation's fastest- growing minority, Democrats have been gradually losing ground.

"The Democrats began in the 1980s to slowly lose Latino registration," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a San Antonio-based research group that studies Hispanic issues. "It's drip, drip, drip." [...]

Pineda said Hispanic immigrants who become citizens and register to vote become Democrats in nearly 70 percent of the cases, with Republican registration at 18 percent. In the next generation, Democratic registration drops to 56 percent and GOP registration increases to 25 percent. By the third U.S.-born generation, Democratic and Republican registration among Hispanics is nearly equal.

While newer arrivals to the United States feel more strongly about immigration issues, subsequent generations share the concerns of Main Street America—the war, taxes, education, crime, he said.

And a pro-immigration GOP would win among the first generation.

Whites Now Minority in 1 in 10 Counties (STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, 8/09/07, Associated Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Polls show shift in attitudes on Iraq following military inroads (TOM RAUM, 8/09/07, Associated Press)

[T]here have been signs of changes in attitudes, some on the ground in Iraq, some in the United States:

— Two critics of Bush's recent handling of Iraq, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institution, penned an op-ed opinion piece in The New York Times suggesting after a visit that "we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms." They recommended Congress sustain the current troop buildup "at least into 2008."

— Leading anti-war Democrat Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania predicted that U.S. commanders will begin drawing down troop levels early next year and that Congress can be more flexible in setting a fixed deadline for ending the U.S. occupation.

— Polls suggest that Bush has had some degree of success in linking Islamic militants in Iraq with the al-Qaida terrorist movement.

"The administration is aggressively engaged in shifting (public) attitudes. And our side has been less aggressive than it needs to be," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "The administration has been making inroads on their Iraqi argument, particularly linking it to terrorism."

Some of us are old enough to remember when the Democrats were on our side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Immigrants have taken four in ten homes since 1997 (JAMES SLACK, 8th August 2007, Daily Mail)

Four in ten homes built over the past ten years have been needed because of immigration, figures have revealed.

Nearly 600,000 properties have had to be constructed because of the new arrivals since Labour came to power in 1997, said researchers at the House of Commons Library.

That's certainly one of the big ways in which our generation of immigrants is superior to your grandparents--they buy property much quicker and become genuine stakeholders in society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


The Earth fights back: Never mind higher temperatures, climate change has a few nastier surprises in store. Bill McGuire says we can also expect more earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and tsunamis (Bill McGuire, Tuesday August 7 2007, Guardian)

Unlike most apparently intractable problems, which have a tendency to go away when examined closely and analytically, the climate change predicament just seems to get bigger and scarier the more we learn about it.

Now we discover that not only are the oceans and the atmosphere conspiring against us, bringing baking temperatures, more powerful storms, floods and ever-climbing sea levels, but the crust beneath our feet seems likely to join in too.

Looking back to other periods in our planet's history when the climate was swinging about wildly, most notably during the last ice age, it appears that far more than the weather was affected. The solid earth also became restless, with an increase in volcanic activity, earthquakes, giant submarine landslides and tsunamis. At the rate climate change is accelerating, there is every prospect that we will see a similar response from the planet, heralding not just a warmer future but also a fiery one.

That's one scrappy little Gaia he worships there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Car rental outfits head in a green direction: Demand grows for fuel efficiency (John Donnelly and Matthew Spolar, August 9, 2007, Boston Globe)

Faced with sluggish rentals of sport utility vehicles and eco-conscious consumers demanding cars with higher gas mileage, auto rental companies have scrambled in recent months to stock their fleets with more fuel-efficient vehicles -- including cutting-edge hybrid vehicles and flex-fuel cars that run mainly on ethanol.

Analysts of the rental car industry say that the number of "green" vehicles still represents a small fraction of the overall fleet, but is on a rapid upswing, growing from a few hundred vehicles last year to more than 6,000 today.

"SUV sales in general are on a significant decline. Some rental companies are practically giving SUVs away just to get people to drive them," said Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group, which follows the auto rental industry. "Because of the price of fuel, leisure travelers are leaning more toward smaller cars with higher fuel mileage. It's become a hot subject -- each of the companies are touting their sensitivity to the subject."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Understanding evolution is crucial to debate (Sally Lehrman, August 9, 2007, Boston Globe)

Darwin's brilliant theory, a powerful and central concept in biology, offers a path toward understanding everything else: the history of our universe, the world we inhabit, and ourselves. The theory turns on the idea of random variation -- mutations in our genome -- that can enable a population to adjust collectively to the environment in which it finds itself. The best-suited creatures for that situation breed successfully and so pass on these useful characteristics to offspring. [...]

Data pouring out of genetic research has challenged some of scientists' assumptions about the multibranched tree of life and offered new insight on the basic tools for living that all species share. While geneticists until recently thought that random mutations in the genes drove adaptation, they are now cracking windows onto processes outside of the DNA that can change gene function for generations. A grandmother's diet, even a parent's nurturing, may influence evolution's course.

Thankfully, she's not a teacher, given that the second paragraph repudiates the first.

August 8, 2007

Posted by Matt Murphy at 9:31 PM


Matt Murphy Tied to Barry Bonds’ Historic Blast after Snagging Home Run Ball (TransWorldNews, 8/8/07)

Matt Murphy will likely accomplish a lot of things in life. He may lead a company to financial success, get married and have children; perhaps Murphy will even run for Congress but whatever he does he’ll never escape being the guy that got his hands on Barry Bonds’ historic 756th home run. [...]

Murphy, a New York native could receive nearly half a million dollars for his efforts. Not bad for a guy who was just enjoying his last night in the states before departing for Australia.

The 22-year-old Murphy was in left-centerfield by chance, having walked up to the ticket counter with a friend they purchased the $13 tickets without much thought of actually becoming part of history.

When Bonds hit Mike Bacsik’s 3-2 delivery over the wall Murphy was still a distance away but a few fortunate bounces and a determination to survive the ensuing scrum resulted in several members of the San Francisco Police Department escorting Murphy out of the chaos and into history.

Looking on the bright side, at least my name isn't Steve Bartman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


Gay support could cost candidates (Peter A. Brown, August 8, 2007, Politico)

As the Democratic presidential hopefuls gather in Los Angeles for a precedent-setting gay-sponsored and -themed debate, new data show that in the key Electoral College states the endorsement of gay rights groups hurts a candidate much more than it helps.

Quinnipiac University polls of voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- the big three Electoral College swing states -- found voters by large margins more likely to see the endorsement of a gay rights group as a reason to vote against, rather than for, a candidate.

That is especially the case among independent voters -- often the key to winning these critical states -- and much more so among men than women and Republicans than Democrats. [...]

The survey found that the endorsement of abortion rights groups was a net negative, although not as much among independents as the support of gay rights.

The backing of conservative Christian groups, a whipping boy for some Democrats, is a mixed blessing. In the three states, being endorsed by Christian conservative groups gets a candidate roughly the same number of backers as it turns off, according to the data.

Which suggests that FOX ought to trumpet being the un-gay network.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


DDT spray scares mosquitoes away, study finds (Reuters, 8/08/07)

Mosquitoes that carry malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever avoid homes that have been sprayed with DDT, researchers reported on Wednesday.

The chemical not only repels the disease-carrying insects physically, but its irritant and toxic properties helps keep them away, the researchers reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

They estimate that DDT spray reduced the risk of disease transmission by nearly three-quarters.

How are the Gaia worshippers supposed to get world population down if poor folks know how to defend themselves?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Naked Aggression (New York Sun Staff Editorial, August 8, 2007)

It seems the Parisian elite, for whom cynicism is a second nature, mistook their man: they assumed that, like the rest of their politicians, Mr. Sarkozy did not mean a word he said. His admiration for "les Anglo-Saxons" was naiveté. They ignored the fact that he held an election rally in London, aimed at the hundreds of thousands of ambitious French voters who have emigrated there to escape the dead hand of the French state.

The irony is not lost on Mr. Sarkozy that his Hungarian father once fled to France to escape socialism. The elites put his refusal to adopt the explicitly anti-Israel (and implicitly anti-Semitic) rhetoric of French politics down to the fact that his maternal grandfather was born Jewish. And they waited for their eccentric president to drop his "American" habit of jogging daily and for France to go back to self-satisfied normality.

Well, zut alors. It seems that Mr. Sarkozy hasn't stopped jogging, and it is dawning on the French political class that things are never going to be quite the same again. Mr. Sarkozy hates the hypocrisy that requires public denunciations of America by people who privately enjoy many things about it. "There are 900,000 French who come to America every year," he said this week. "And I am just one of them."

Mr. Sarkozy is not just here for pleasure, though. Later this week he will visit President Bush at Kennebunkport, where no doubt they will tuck into the finest seafood this side of the Taillevent. The French president's attempt to reconnect with a leader whose recent demonization in France recalls that of FDR by the Vichy regime will enrage the bien pensants in Paris even more than the Elvis Presley songs on the presidential iPod.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


Breast implants linked with suicide in study (Maggie Fox, 8/08/07, Reuters)

Women who get cosmetic breast implants are nearly three times as likely to commit suicide as other women, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

Gee, they seem so well adjusted....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


Odds in democracy's favor (GWYNNE DYER, 8/09/07, Japan Times)

Pakistan is certainly becoming unstable. The government has effectively lost control in the tribal belt along the frontier with Afghanistan, which is increasingly dominated by pro-Taliban militants. The weeklong siege of radical Islamists holed up in the Red Mosque in Islamabad, the capital, in mid-July culminated in the deaths of over a hundred militants and soldiers.

The military dictator who has ruled Pakistan since 1999, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is a living incarnation of the phrase "one-bullet regime": He has already survived four assassination attempts. More than 200 Pakistani soldiers and civilians have died in terrorist attacks since the Red Mosque incident, and the alarmists are predicting civil war and an Islamist takeover.

On the other hand, there is a thriving free press in Pakistan, including independent television stations that actually report the news. The economy has been growing fast in recent years, and at least a bit of the new prosperity is trickling down to the impoverished majority.

Musharraf is the fourth general to seize power in Pakistan's 60-year history, but the country always returns to civilian rule in the end. [...]

There is a good chance that this crisis could end in a restoration of civilian democracy in Pakistan: That is how all three previous bouts of military rule ended. The fanatics and the extremists dominate the sparsely populated areas along the Afghan frontier because the population there is identical to the Pashtun across the border who are the main base of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and they have been radicalized by 28 years of foreign occupation and civil war in that country. But the vast majority of Pakistanis live down in the flat, fertile lands along the rivers, and what they want is not martyrdom but peace, justice and prosperity.

They stand a better chance of getting those things if democracy returns, even if previous intervals of democracy in Pakistan have usually ended in massive corruption and paralysis as the political class fought over the spoils.

Combine democracy with cutting the tribal areas loose -- so that they can be treated as an external enemy, rather than an internal problem -- and you have the recipe for the sort of application of force that's required.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A MILL? (via Ali Choudhury):

In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich (GARY RIVLIN, 8/08/07, NY Times)

By almost any definition — except his own and perhaps those of his neighbors here in Silicon Valley — Hal Steger has made it.

Mr. Steger, 51, a self-described geek, has banked more than $2 million. The $1.3 million house he and his wife own on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean is paid off. The couple’s net worth of roughly $3.5 million places them in the top 2 percent of families in the United States.

Yet each day Mr. Steger continues to toil in what a colleague calls “the Silicon Valley salt mines,” working as a marketing executive for a technology start-up company, still striving for his big strike. Most mornings, he can be found at his desk by 7. He typically works 12 hours a day and logs an extra 10 hours over the weekend.

“I know people looking in from the outside will ask why someone like me keeps working so hard,” Mr. Steger says. “But a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe in the ’70s, a few million bucks meant ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ or Richie Rich living in a big house with a butler. But not anymore.”

Silicon Valley is thick with those who might be called working-class millionaires — nose-to-the-grindstone people like Mr. Steger who, much to their surprise, are still working as hard as ever even as they find themselves among the fortunate few. Their lives are rich with opportunity; they generally enjoy their jobs. They are amply cushioned against the anxieties and jolts that worry most people living paycheck to paycheck.

But many such accomplished and ambitious members of the digital elite still do not think of themselves as particularly fortunate, in part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth — often a lot more.

Such is the Hooverville that George W. Bush has made of America....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM


Roadside Concoction: An Expert Forages for Weeds, Fruit, Fungi, and Other Wild Edibles (Huan Hsu, 8/08/07, Seattle weekly)

Seattleites are particularly blessed when it comes to fresh foods. Beyond the bounty offered at the markets, you can chase salmon or shad roe sets, dig or dive for all manner of shellfish, and pick your own fruits and veggies at more than a dozen farms in King County alone. But you don't have to drop a bunch of dough on gear or leave a big carbon imprint driving long distances for good eats. There are plenty of edibles available in or near urban areas, if you know where to forage.

On Mercer Island, Linda Urbaniak and her husband, Roger, hunt, fish, and gather a third of the food they eat, and most of it comes from local sources. Both hold down day jobs, but Linda also teaches classes on edible plants while Roger operates a salmon incubator in Bellevue. Linda likes to joke that they're two of the last true hunter-gatherers. "This is an unbelievably bountiful land," she says. "The reason the art and culture [of indigenous people] developed so highly was because they didn't have to spend all their time looking for food."

Indeed, most Seattleites only have to open their front doors to find something to eat: dandelion greens.

His Grape-Nuts ads made him something of a joke to our generation, but you can often find Euell Gibbons's wild food guides at used book sales and he's a wonderful, lively writer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


What’s in a Name? Parsing the ‘God Particle,’ the Ultimate Metaphor (DENNIS OVERBYE, 8/08/07, NY Times)

Recently in this newspaper, I reported on the attempts by various small armies of physicists to discover an elementary particle central to the modern conception of nature. Technically it’s called the Higgs boson, after Peter Higgs, an English physicist who conceived of it in 1964. It is said to be responsible for endowing the other elementary particles in the universe with mass.

In a stroke of either public relations genius or disaster, Leon M. Lederman, the former director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, referred to the Higgs as “the God particle” in the book of the same name he published with the science writer Dick Teresi in 1993. To Dr. Lederman, it made metaphorical sense, he explained in the book, because the Higgs mechanism made it possible to simplify the universe, resolving many different seeming forces into one, like tearing down the Tower of Babel. Besides, his publisher complained, nobody had ever heard of the Higgs particle.

In some superficial ways, the Higgs has lived up to its name. Several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work on the so-called Standard Model, of which the Higgs is the central cog. Billions of dollars are being spent on particle accelerators and experiments to find it, inspect it and figure out how it really works.

But physicists groan when they hear it referred to as the “God particle” in newspapers and elsewhere (and the temptation to repeat it, given science reporters’ desperate need for colorful phrases in an abstract and daunting field, is irresistible). Even when these physicists approve of what you have written about their craft, they grumble that the media are engaging in sensationalism, or worse. [...]

As it happened, Dr. Lederman’s book came out about the time that creationism was on the rise in this country...

The social paradigm creates the scientific theory, not vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM


Catalonia's wise men set off a literary brawl (The Associated Press, August 8, 2007)

When the Frankfurt Book Fair took the rare step of inviting the Spanish region of Catalonia to showcase its literary talent, it did not expect an uproar.

But Catalonia picked writers who publish only in Catalan, the language of this proud patch of northeast Spain, which considers itself a nation within a nation.

Spain's literary world cried foul. Catalonia then backtracked, inviting top-flight Spanish-language writers as well to Frankfurt in October.

But many are refusing to go, calling the gesture an insulting afterthought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM

OH, WHAT A TANGLED TREE THEY WEAVE (via mc and kbrouwer)

African fossils paint messy picture of human evolution: Who was our ancestor's ancestor?
(Associated Press, August 8, 2007)

Surprising fossils dug up in Africa are creating messy kinks in the iconic straight line of human evolution with its knuckle-dragging ape and briefcase-carrying man.

The new research by famed paleontologist Meave Leakey in Kenya shows our family tree is more like a wayward bush with stubby branches, calling into question the evolution of our ancestors.

The old theory was that the first and oldest species in our family tree, Homo habilis, evolved into Homo erectus, which then became us, Homo sapiens. But those two earlier species lived side-by-side about 1.5 million years ago in parts of Kenya for at least half a million years, Leakey and colleagues report in a paper published in Thursday's journal Nature.

In 2000 Leakey found an old H. erectus complete skull within walking distance of an upper jaw of the H. habilis, and both dated from the same general time period. That makes it unlikely that H. erectus evolved from H. habilis, researchers said. [...]

Overall what it paints for human evolution is a "chaotic kind of looking evolutionary tree rather than this heroic march that you see with the cartoons of an early ancestor evolving into some intermediate and eventually unto us," Spoor said in a phone interview from a field office of the Koobi Fora Research Project in northern Kenya.

That old evolutionary cartoon, while popular with the general public, keeps getting proven wrong and too simple, said Bill Kimbel, who praised the latest findings. He is science director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University and wasn't involved in the research team.

"The more we know, the more complex the story gets," he said. Scientists used to think H. sapiens evolved from Neanderthals, he said, but now know that both species lived during the same time period and that we did not come from Neanderthals.

Now a similar discovery applies further back in time.

They, of course, know nothing of the kind. Indeed, the ability to interbreed points up the inanity of referring to Neanderthal as a separate species, just as the distinction between homo erectus and homo habilis looks more and more imaginary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM



THE Yankees are going to have rules for how to use Joba Chamberlain, and let’s all just pause a second to catch our breath after laughing.

Joe Torre has the same chances of following restrictive rules on relievers, especially in a tight pennant race, as Bill Clinton has of keeping his head down at a wet T-shirt contest.

Torre browbeat a reporter who dared ask a follow-up question in spring training after the Yankee manager vowed Mariano Rivera would be limited to ninth-inning saves. Yet, it took Torre all the way to April 20 - the first edgy game at Fenway Park - to revoke that edict and summon Rivera in the eighth inning. Now only David Weathers and J.J. Putz have more saves of four outs or more than Rivera’s seven.

Which is why Chamberlain was summoned, because Torre is spending another season searching futilely for heirs to Jeff Nelson, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton. The problem is when Torre likes someone even a little he tends to use that reliever as often as TNT reruns Law & Order.

From 2004-2006, a righty reliever worked 80 or more games 17 times. The only person to manage three was Torre. Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon and Scott Proctor were never the same afterward.

It's too bad that young arms are likely to pay the price of the Yankees desperation this year. Philip Hughes, who they hope can be their Clay Buchholz, has already been injured in a start where Torre left him in too long and the Hutt, their Manny Delcarmen, isn't exactly noted for his physical conditioning. But given how bleak the future looks, it may be worth burning out these assets now if you can win the wild card.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Morocco and capitalism: A beautiful friendship (A. Craig Copetas, August 8, 2007, Bloomberg News)

With a market capitalization of $47.2 billion representing 69 companies, the 77-year-old bourse is hardly visible when compared with the $13.4 trillion market value of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. Still, the exchange in Casablanca and the one in Kuwait are the best-performing of the 10 in the Arab world.

"It's a burgeoning market with a great deal of potential," says Henry Azzam, 56, Deutsche Bank's chief executive officer for the Middle East and North Africa. "Casablanca is the business center of the Maghreb." [...]

Badr Alioua, fixed-income and equity manager at the local Attijariwafa Bank, says King Mohammed VI, 43, has made the city the hottest place for business in the Arab world. Morocco's gross domestic product grew 8.1 percent in 2006, up from 1.7 percent in 2005. Moody's Investors Service rates the country as "stable," with credit strengths that include a young population, as well as structural and democratic progress.

Alioua says the king's embrace of capitalism and free speech, as well as a tolerant interpretation of the Koran, ensures that educated young Moroccans will not flee the country.

"The youth factor of this market is critically important to our continued success," said Alioua, 27. "Casablanca is like the movie: a place where young people are willing to take risk. 'Casablanca' is the main reason why Americans know about us, and we must take advantage of that."

Happy the country where the king leads the Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Jakarta holds first direct election for governor (The Associated Press, August 8, 2007)

Millions of people in the Indonesian capital voted for their governor for the first time Wednesday, the latest in a wave of direct local elections hailed as key to strengthening democracy in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Indonesia emerged from 32 years of dictatorship in 1998 with the downfall of President Suharto, leading to reforms that liberalized the media, struck down repressive laws and saw citizens vote directly for president in 2005.

Attracting less attention, but equally as important in a country spanning three time zones and about 18,000 islands, has been a democratic revolution at the local level, where more than 300 regions have chosen mayors, governors and district chiefs.

Previously, local lawmakers elected the officials behind closed doors, often after receiving money from candidates.

Always amusing to hear Islamophobes rant about Islam being incompatible with democracy, even though most Muslims live in democratic societies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Giant Lego man found in Dutch sea (Reuters, 8/08/07)

A giant, smiling Lego man was fished out of the sea in the Dutch resort of Zandvoort on Tuesday.

Workers at a drinks stall rescued the 2.5-meter (8-foot) tall model with a yellow head and blue torso.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 AM


Gravedigger dies after falling in grave (The Local, 8th August 2007)

A gravedigger died in southern Sweden on Wednesday after becoming trapped in a grave he was digging.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Swedish grandmother hospitalised after beaver attack (The Local, Aug 8, 2007)

A grandmother taking a leisurely swim in a Swedish river ended up in the hospital after a beaver attacked her with its tail, regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda reported Wednesday.

Police sources said it was the second time a beaver had attacked humans at the beach on the banks of the Bottenaa River, around 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of Stockholm, the newspaper reported.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Harry Potter 7 lu par J.K. Rowling (en anglais)
Uploaded by gazettedusorcier

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Pirates 8, Diamondbacks 3 (AP, 8/08/07)

Justin Upton was terrific. His Arizona Diamondbacks were terrible.

The 19-year-old sensation fell a single shy of the cycle in his home debut but it was nowhere near enough to beat Tom Gorzelanny and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night. [...]

Upton tripled in the second, homered in the fourth and doubled in the seventh. He grounded out to second to end the game.

"I'll tell you right now,'' Arizona's Orlando Hudson said. "You might want to start rewriting the records and putting his name right below A-Rod and Griffey when they were 19.''

His brother has been no slouch for the Devil Rays this year either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM

HE'D HAVE BEEN 100 TODAY (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


When basil overflows -- pound it into pesto (MARIE SIMMONS, 8/08/07, Contra Costa Times)

One look at my basil plant spilling out of its giant pot and I knew it was time for pesto.

Traditionally made in a mortar, the word "pesto" is from the Italian "pestare," which means to pound. The most popular of this family of uncooked, pounded sauces is made from basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese. Pesto hails from the region of Liguria, where brilliant green pesto is tossed with trenette -- a flat narrow pasta that is a little wider than linguine and a little narrower than fettuccine -- green beans and potatoes. It is a festive, hearty, bright-tasting dish.

I considered making the pesto the "old way" in my big heavy mortar and pestle, but feeling a bit inpatient, I used the blender. My harvest had yielded 3 packed cups of basil leaves, so I knew I'd have plenty to sauce pasta for at least two meals. Since I planned to freeze the leftovers, I didn't add the cheese. Marcella Hazan, my original mentor in classic Italian cooking, taught me fresh pesto without the cheese. Instead, she instructs in her recipe to thaw the frozen pesto in the refrigerator overnight and to add the cheese just before tossing the pesto with the hot cooked pasta. She insists that it gives the pesto a much fresher flavor, and I believe her. Although, she does add butter to her pesto, which I never do.

My Favorite Pesto (Contra Costa Times, 08/08/2007)
1/2 cup pignoli, plus more to keep on hand, if desired

3 cups lightly packed basil leaves

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pignoli on a rimmed sheet pan and place in the hot oven. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Stir the pignoli. Close the oven door and bake for 5 to 6 minutes more, or until toasted a nice dark brown. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

2. Place the basil, salt, ground pepper and half of the olive oil in the blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup of the cooled pignoli and pulse to blend. Slowly adding the remaining olive oil, pulse until the basil is finely chopped, but not pureed, stopping the machine to scrape down the inside of the blender jar or the food processor once
or twice, as needed. There should be some tiny flecks of the basil throughout the sauce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

Pecan Triangles (Contra Costa Times, 8/09/07)


2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Nonstick cooking spray


2 cups pecans

11/2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. To make the crust: Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a sifter.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugar for 4 minutes. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat well. Sift the flour over the creamed mixture and beat for a minute, or just until combined.

3. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line it with foil, allowing the foil to hang over each end of the pan, and spray the foil with cooking spray.

4. Press the dough evenly into the pan and refrigerate the pan for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the crust for about 25 minutes or until golden, rotating the pan once halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven but leave the oven on.

5. To make the topping: Place the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven alongside the crust for 5-8 minutes, until golden. When cool, chop in a food processor or by hand.

6. Measure the sugar into a heavy 3-quart saucepan and turn the heat to medium. When it starts to melt and turn golden, stir it occasionally. Continue to cook, stirring, and the sugar will completely melt and turn light brown. Carefully add the cream and don't worry when the mixture steams up! Stir well and cook for 30 seconds or until the mixture is smooth and liquid.

7. Cut the butter into little pieces. Add it to the caramel mixture along with the vanilla and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pour the mixture over the partially cooled crust. Bake 20 minutes. When it is bubbly but still jiggly, remove from the oven and cool in pan on wire rack for 2 hours. Flip the entire pan over onto a large cutting board to remove the cookies from the pan. Peel off the foil and turn right side up. Using a sharp knife, cut into 24 bars. Cut each bar in half on the diagonal. Store in an airtight container at room temperature between layers of waxed paper for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


The Fact Of Jewish Particularity (HILLEL HALKIN, August 8, 2007, NY Sun)

"You have to read it," a friend in New York informed me by e-mail. "The whole Jewish world here is talking about it. It's a shande far di goyim."

A shande far di goyim, literally, a "scandal in front of the goyim," refers to dirty Jewish laundry washed or exposed in public, and the scandal my friend was referring to was an article by Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman in the Sunday, July 22 edition of the New York Times Magazine. [...]

His sin, in the eyes of Orthodox Judaism, was not that he married a non-Jew. It was that he did not care enough about his own and his children's Jewishness to bring her into the Jewish fold.

And yet as far as Orthodox Jews are concerned, just crying shande isn't an adequate response. For all his petulancy, Noah Feldman is quite right: Judaism is a religion with a universalist and a particularist side that do not harmonize easily with one another, and it is alone among the world's great monotheistic religions in having such a conflict. Neither in Christianity nor in Islam does one encounter the belief that God is more interested in one small family of the human race than in all the others combined and that his laws are not meant equally for all.

This belief, called by Norman Podhoretz in a recent article in Commentary "The Scandal of Jewish Particularity," is indeed, intellectually, a shande far di goyim, and while a photograph in an alumni newsletter may not be the best context to discuss it in, there is no point in pretending it doesn't exist.

No serious defense of Judaism can ignore it or sidestep it, and every such defense that has ever been written, from Yehuda Halevi's 12th-century "The Book of the Kuzari" to Franz Rosenzweig's 20th-century "Star of Redemption," in which one finds not easily digestible sentences such as, "Only a community based on common blood feels the warrant of eternity warm in its veins," has had to tackle it head on. You can't blame Noah Feldman for that.

If you don't believe that the creator of the universe would choose to base his entire game plan for humanity on one little branch of it, you are wasting your time by being an Orthodox Jew. And if you do believe it, your time would be better spent in working out and cogently articulating your basis for such a belief than in complaining about Mr. Feldman's silliness. His article will be forgotten in a month. The fact of Jewish particularity will remain and will need to be addressed anew in every generation by Orthodox Jewish thinkers.

Because a discussion of the racial element in Judaism implicates matters from Christology to the Inquisition to pogroms to Applied Darwinism to UN Resolution 3379 to the right of return to the future of Israeli Arabs and so on it can not be discussed honestly in public.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Propaganda Redux: Take it from this old KGB hand: The left is abetting America's enemies with its intemperate attacks on President Bush (ION MIHAI PACEPA, August 7, 2007, Opinion Journal)

Sowing the seeds of anti-Americanism by discrediting the American president was one of the main tasks of the Soviet-bloc intelligence community during the years I worked at its top levels. This same strategy is at work today, but it is regarded as bad manners to point out the Soviet parallels. For communists, only the leader counted, no matter the country, friend or foe. At home, they deified their own ruler--as to a certain extent still holds true in Russia. Abroad, they asserted that a fish starts smelling from the head, and they did everything in their power to make the head of the Free World stink.

The communist effort to generate hatred for the American president began soon after President Truman set up NATO and propelled the three Western occupation forces to unite their zones to form a new West German nation. We were tasked to take advantage of the reawakened patriotic feelings stirring in the European countries that had been subjugated by the Nazis, in order to shift their hatred for Hitler over into hatred for Truman--the leader of the new "occupation power." Western Europe was still grateful to the U.S. for having restored its freedom, but it had strong leftist movements that we secretly financed. They were like putty in our hands.

The European leftists, like any totalitarians, needed a tangible enemy, and we gave them one. In no time they began beating their drums decrying President Truman as the "butcher of Hiroshima." We went on to spend many years and many billions of dollars disparaging subsequent presidents: Eisenhower as a war-mongering "shark" run by the military-industrial complex, Johnson as a mafia boss who had bumped off his predecessor, Nixon as a petty tyrant, Ford as a dimwitted football player and Jimmy Carter as a bumbling peanut farmer. In 1978, when I left Romania for good, the bloc intelligence community had already collected 700 million signatures on a "Yankees-Go-Home" petition, at the same time launching the slogan "Europe for the Europeans."

During the Vietnam War we spread vitriolic stories around the world, pretending that America's presidents sent Genghis Khan-style barbarian soldiers to Vietnam who raped at random, taped electrical wires to human genitals, cut off limbs, blew up bodies and razed entire villages. Those weren't facts. They were our tales, but some seven million Americans ended up being convinced their own president, not communism, was the enemy. As Yuri Andropov, who conceived this dezinformatsiya war against the U.S., used to tell me, people are more willing to believe smut than holiness.

The final goal of our anti-American offensive was to discourage the U.S. from protecting the world against communist terrorism and expansion. Sadly, we succeeded. After U.S. forces precipitously pulled out of Vietnam, the victorious communists massacred some two million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Another million tried to escape, but many died in the attempt. This tragedy also created a credibility gap between America and the rest of the world, damaged the cohesion of American foreign policy, and poisoned domestic debate in the U.S.

Unfortunately, partisans today have taken a page from the old Soviet playbook. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, for example, Bush critics continued our mud-slinging at America's commander in chief. One speaker, Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland, had earlier in the summer stated he was more worried about the actions of the Bush administration than about al Qaeda. On another occasion, retired four-star general Wesley Clark gave Michael Moore a platform to denounce the American commander in chief as a "deserter." And visitors to the national chairman of the Democratic Party had to step across a doormat depicting the American president surrounded by the words, "Give Bush the Boot."

Competition is indeed the engine that has driven the American dream forward, but unity in time of war has made America the leader of the world. During World War II, 405,399 Americans died to defeat Nazism, but their country of immigrants remained sturdily united. The U.S. held national elections during the war, but those running for office entertained no thought of damaging America's international prestige in their quest for personal victory. Republican challenger Thomas Dewey declined to criticize President Roosevelt's war policy. At the end of that war, a united America rebuilt its vanquished enemies. It took seven years to turn Nazi Germany and imperial Japan into democracies, but that effort generated an unprecedented technological explosion and 50 years of unmatched prosperity for us all.

Except that FDR and the New Dealers ran one of the uglier campaigns in American history in 1942, essentially accusing the GOP of being pro-Nazi. They'd rather seriously misunderstood how hostile the American people were to another European war and ended up losing effective control of Congress to conservatives, many of whom happened to be Southern Democrats at that point. But the Republic withstood the disunity and ugliness rather well.

August 7, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM


Prime-time TV not gay enough: study (Steve Gorman, 8/07/07, Reuters)

Are U.S. television networks gay enough? Not yet, but ABC is getting close, according to a gay-rights group.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has given the Walt Disney Co.-owned network the highest marks of any of the five major broadcast networks in the group's first-ever report rating depictions of gay, lesbian and transgender characters and issues on prime-time TV. [...]

CBS, the nation's most watched network overall, and NBC also received grades of "fair," with 9 percent and 7 percent of their programming deemed gay-inclusive, respectively.

The study faulted CBS for casting gay and lesbian characters mostly as victims and villains in its procedural police dramas without including gays on any of the crime-solving teams.

"Since 'Will & Grace' left the air in May 2006, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) impressions on NBC have been few and far between," the report said.

News Corp.-owned Fox, the most watched network among young adult viewers most prized by advertisers, received GLAAD's lowest score, "failing," for including gay and lesbian impressions in just 6 percent of its programming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM


R D Wingfield (Daily Telegraph, 08/08/2007)

R D Wingfield, the crime writer who has died aged 79, created Inspector Jack Frost, the ramshackle detective played by David Jason in the ITV series A Touch Of Frost; before finding success on television, Wingfield had been a stalwart of BBC radio drama, his hallmark being scripts with clever twists and unexpected plot developments.

Although he admired Jason's portrayal of his fictional hero, Wingfield was lukewarm about the television adaptations of his Frost novels and said he never watched them. "I have nothing against David Jason as Frost at all," he explained. "He just isn't my Frost". [...]

There were inevitable comparisons between Frost and the other titan of television detectives, Inspector Morse, with whom Wingfield's sleuth shared an insubordinate disrespect for superiors, a cavalier disregard for sidekicks and a series of minor vices - in Frost's case, crudeness, rudeness, serial unpunctuality and a chain-smoking habit.

In his novels Wingfield drew Frost as a wheezing, slovenly slouch in a grubby raincoat whose scruffiness, The Sunday Telegraph noted in 1992, "makes Lieutenant Columbo look like a snappy dresser".

Unlike Morse, Wingfield's Frost relied on hunch more than on logic and was too preoccupied with his chaotic caseload to drill down on the minutiae of a single problem. Yet for all his failings, Frost had been awarded the George Cross for bravery, having been shot during a drunken encounter with an armed criminal.

While the tv series is carried by Jason's personal interpretation of Frost, the books are deliciously un-PC.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Release of inmates from Guantanamo leaves Britain facing a security headache: Intelligence service draws up surveillance plans after ministers request US to release ‘enemy combatants’ with British residency undefined (Sean O’Neill, Michael Evans and Tim Reid, 8/08/07, Times of London)

MI5 is to draw up detailed contingency plans for the return of five Guantanamo Bay inmates to Britain, including one accused of having trained at al-Qaeda camps to carry out terrorist attacks in the West.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced a policy U-turn yesterday by formally asking the US for the release of the five from Camp Delta. The men will be placed under surveillance and could have terrorist control orders imposed on them if they are thought to be a threat to national security.

A United States military indictment alleges that Binyam Mohammed received firearms and explosives training alongside the shoebomber Richard Reid, was lectured by Osama bin Laden and was given a terrorist mission by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 atrocities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Ireland an economic role model (Andres Oppenheimer, Hacer)

A news item buried in The Miami Herald's business pages earlier this week saying that the Irish have become Europe's wealthiest people should become a mandatory history lesson in all Latin American schools and be posted on the walls of government offices throughout the region.

What does that news story have to do with Latin America, you may ask yourself. Well, a lot. Tiny Ireland could be a phenomenal role model -- and morale booster -- for most countries in the region.

Like most Latin American countries, Ireland was until very recently a poverty-ridden, agricultural, soccer-loving, Roman Catholic country best known for having a sizable part of its population living abroad and an economy that was heavily dependent on family remittances from its migrants in the United States.

By some standards, Ireland was even poorer than most Latin American countries. The Great Irish Famine of 1846 left about one million dead. Until as recently as the early 1990s, Ireland was still one of Europe's poorest countries, and the Irish were often stereotyped as the British people's poor cousins. Like in many parts of Latin America, the most common joke in Ireland was, ``Would the last person to leave the country please turn off the lights?''

Ireland was also largely known abroad for producing great writers, performers and sports stars, but very few successes in the business, science or technology worlds. This should sound familiar to many Latin Americans.

Yet in less than 15 years, which amounts to virtually nothing in a country's history, Ireland has become the richest country in the 27-nation European Union in terms of average wealth.

According to the report released Monday by the Bank of Ireland, the average individual net wealth of Ireland's 4.2 million population rose by 19 percent to $268,000 last year. Income from Ireland's technology export boom was further boosted by a huge rise in property prices and high savings rates, the bank said.

...the Irish were one of the prior groups the nativists claimed could never learn the Anglo-American ropes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE: Germany Left Out of Global Policy Loop: Weapons for the Middle East, nuclear power for Gadhafi, nominees to head important international institutions -- and nobody even bothers to call Angela Merkel. The government in Berlin is learning a painful lesson this summer: It stands alone in its multilateralist policies and few seem to care what the Germans think. (Markus Feldenkirchen, Dirk Kurbjuweit and Alexander Szandar, 8/07/07, Der Spiegel)

The news was none too encouraging. The French plan to supply the Libyans with a nuclear power plant and weapons, while the Americans will be selling billions in weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia. Erler read that a Frenchman will become the new chairman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and former British Prime Mininster Tony Blair, as the West's new Middle East envoy, will soon be negotiating on Europe's behalf.

The worst part of this news was that Gernot Erler and the German government had to read the newspaper to learn about it. No one had asked them for their opinion or advice. In fact, no one even felt it was necessary to notify Germany.

Erler is now sitting at the conference table in his office, facing another vase of fresh flowers. He takes pains to remain diplomatic as he discusses French President Nicolas Sarkozy and United States President George W. Bush. He cannot state his true feelings -- at least not publicly -- about the fact that Germany's friends and partners have taken to going it alone, without consulting Germany. His speech is peppered with expressions like "somewhat misfortunate" or "would certainly have been desirable." But Erler's body language speaks volumes. His arms, locked across his chest in a defensive posture, say all that needs to be said.

The limits of German influence have been highlighted all too clearly in recent weeks. This has come as a shock to Berlin, especially after going through the first six months of the year basking in the warm glow of German-led multilateralism. Under German leadership, a European climate protection program and structural reforms for the European Union were developed and, at the G8 summit in the Baltic seaside resort of Heiligendamm, a climate compromise with the stubborn US on board. [...]

Minor concessions on climate issues are one thing, but accepting advice on matters of security policy is a different story altogether. Once again, Germany finds itself among the powerless who are kept out of the loop, even while its own security interests are at issue.

Nations are only ever multilateralist to exactly the degree that it serves self-interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


More than 20 Taliban killed (Press Association, Aug 7, 2007)

A group of 75 Taliban militants tried to overrun a US-led coalition base in southern Afghanistan, a rare frontal attack that left more than 20 militants dead, the coalition said in a statement.

A joint Afghan-US force used mortars and machine guns to repel the attack on Camp Anaconda in Uruzgan province, the statement said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Why Al-Qaeda Wants the Head of the Grand Ayatollah Sistani: Because he is the key man for a free and peaceful Iraq. But that's not all. The future of Islam is also linked to the victory or defeat of his vision. The portrait of a great Muslim leader who after Regensburg expressed esteem and friendship for the pope (Sandro Magister, August 7, 2007, Chiesa)

The “fault” of the grand ayatollah Sistani – in the eyes of his enemies – is that of being the most authoritative and consistent supporter of a vision of Islamic “quietism,” according to which the master teaches theology, law, and morality, and asks that the principles of Islam be respected in public life, but does not demand political power for himself, nor presumes to exercise coercive control over it.

This current of thought has always been the prevalent one in Najaf. The Iranian ayatollah Khomeini, who lived in this city from 1965 to 1978 and maintained the opposite view, was completely isolated.

Khomeini’s thesis, to which he gave form in 1979 with his theocratic revolution in Iran, was that “only a good society can create good believers.” And he conferred upon the experts of Qur’anic law the political power necessary to engineer the perfect society.

Sistani, on the contrary, maintains that “only good citizens can create a good society.” And he rejects any idea of theocracy.

In keeping with this vision, after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime the grand ayatollah Sistani ruled: “There will be no turbans in the government in Iraq.” He imposed as a religious obligation that all Iraqi citizens go to vote, including the women. He approved the new constitution, the most liberal in the entire Muslim world. He urged the Shiites not to react with violence to the attacks that were massacring the defenseless population. He condemned the fatwas of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Sunni sheikh who, before the Al Jazeera television audience, exalted homicidal martyrdom.

Amir Taheri, an Iranian intellectual exiled in the West, says: “For Sistani, power belongs to the twelfth imam. But since he is gone, it passes to the people. The final decision is to be made by the individual on the basis of reason, the greatest gift from God. Sistani’s vision is Aristotelian, a society of pious citizens.”

The grand ayatollah Sistani, 78, issues only rare and brief rulings. He lives in seclusion, intentionally far from the public eye. And this, too, is a traditional way of exercising authority in Islam. His guidelines are not listened to and applied by everyone, but they succeed in creating a norm for conduct, including in relation to Christianity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Orwell's Bad Republicans: a review of The Last Crusade: Spain 1936
By Warren Carroll (Hal G.P. Colebatch, 8/7/2007, American Spectator)

WHEN THE HEROICS of the Spanish Civil War come up -- Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, Hemingway's fictions or the effusions of various poets -- there is a very large and usually unremarked elephant in the room: Orwell, who actually fought, and Hemingway who wrote about fighting, were on the wrong side.

The strategic point is simple: had the Stalinists won war, then during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact from 1939 to mid-1941, they would have allowed Hitler to cross Spain and seize Gibraltar. Had this happened, the British forces in the Mediterranean, including the British Empire's last remaining field army in action, would have been cut off. The British army and fleet could probably have been supplied through the Suez Canal, at least for a while, but their positions would have been immeasurably weakened, and the enemy's position immeasurably strengthened.

There would have been no Force H to sally forth from Gibraltar to stop the Bismarck massacring the Atlantic convoys, eventually the Middle-East oilfields and the Suez Canal would quite likely have fallen into Nazi hands, as would the Jewish population of what would become Israel. Fascism and Nazism would have ruled the Mediterranean and there would have been little to stop them reaching the shores of the Indian Ocean, and perhaps eventually joining up in India with the Japanese. The chances would have greatly increased that Hitler would have won the war, and even if America had come in before that, eventual victory for the allies would have been much more costly. As it was, Franco refused to allow Hitler to attack Gibraltar through Spain, though Hitler met him and harangued him for hours. Franco also later gave the Allies at least passive help in the "Torch" landings on North Africa. Some Franco diplomats were active (unlike the Vichy French) is saving Jews from the Holocaust by issuing them false passports.

It is an interesting exercise to put oneself in Franco's place -- leader of a desperately weak, divided and exhausted country - and wonder if one would have done so well against Hitler -- who was not only, by all accounts, spell-bindingly persuasive, but also master of the mightiest Army the world had ever seen, who had smashed France flat in a month and whose flag flew from North Cape in the Arctic to Africa.

SO MUCH HAS LONG BEEN known by any person reasonably historically literate. However, until I read Professor Carroll's The Last Crusade: Spain 1936, I did not realize the full moral dimension of how wrong Orwell, Hemingway and the rest were.

Our friend, Burt Boyar (along with his late wife, Jane), does an excellent job of imagining what it must have been like in his fine novel, Hitler Stopped by Franco. Rather than a last crusade, the Civil War is best thought of as the first battle of the Cold War, with the Western Left, not atypically, on the wrong side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Lebanon divided: Syrian influence across Lebanon's porous borders is intensifying the country's security and political crisis (Robert G Rabil, 7/08/2007, Open Democracy)

Lebanon's politics remain highly charged as the anniversary of the end of the war of July-August 2006 approaches and the campaign for the presidential election on 25 September 2007 gets underway. The conduct and outcome of the by-elections which took place on 5 August - one of which, in the majority-Christian Metn region, saw the narrow victory of the pro-Syrian Camille Khoury (an ally of opposition leader and presidential candidate Michel Aoun) over the anti-Damascus former president Amin Gemayel - is an example of the way that widespread tensions over the country's political direction and even its identity are dominating Lebanon's body-politic.

In this environment, there are fears that the presidential election could result in a constitutional crisis where the country could descend into civil strife or face two governments each claiming legitimacy. The realisation of either scenario would mean that Lebanon would effectively forfeit its status as a unitary state.

That status is, of course, a fiction based on repression of the majority and serves no good interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Brazil lawmakers angry that Cuban boxers were deported (AFP, 8/06/07)

Brazilian opposition lawmakers were outraged Monday by the government's decision to deport two Cuban boxers who failed to show up at the Pan American Games last month and may have been seeking asylum.

"Brazil broke its best democratic tradition with that summary deportation," said Brazilian Social Democracy leader Arthur Virgilio, who called on the foreign and defense ministers to explain themselves to Congress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Best-seller to be reeled (Press Association, 8/07/07)

Best-seller The Dangerous Book For Boys is to be turned into a film.

Disney has snapped up the rights after a fierce bidding war for the book, which is not an obvious choice for a big screen adaptation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Tibetan independence activists stage protest at Great Wall of China (AP, 8/07/07)

A Tibetan independence group says six of its activists were arrested Tuesday after staging a protest at the Great Wall of China.

A spokesman for the Free Tibet campaign said two members abseiled down the side of the Great Wall on Tuesday morning and unfurled a large banner based on the Beijing Olympic slogan, saying "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008."

The pair stayed on the section of the wall at Mutianyu to the north of Beijing for about two hours before climbing down. They and four other members of the group, some of whom were photographing and videoing the protest, were then arrested.

One beed merely note that Tibet is outside the Wall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Pakistan Forces Destroy Militant Hideout (BASHIRULLAH KHAN, 8/07/07, AP)

Helicopter gunships and artillery on Tuesday bombarded two militant hideouts that had been used to launch attacks on security forces in a troubled tribal region near the Afghan border, the Pakistani army said.

Spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said forces targeted a pair of compounds in Daygan, a village about 10 miles west of North Waziristan's main town of Miran Shah after receiving "credible intelligence that militants were present there."

It appeared to be the army's toughest military action in the lawless border region after a month of escalating violence, and came a day after foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said al-Qaida and the Taliban had no safe havens in the tribal zone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Fun for less: Xbox price falls (Benjamin J. Romano, 8/07/07, Seattle Times)

This won't surprise many close watchers of the video-game business. Microsoft is lowering the price of the Xbox 360, effective Wednesday, to lure more buyers to its console as the next edition of one of the most popular video games of the last decade — "Madden NFL" — goes on sale next week. [...]

The hardware changes and engineering improvements the company made to reduce an "unacceptable" console failure rate did not affect the timing of the price cut, Greenberg said. In July, Microsoft extended the warranty covering general hardware failures that had plagued the Xbox 360 and set aside $1 billion to deal with the problem.

The pricing strategy further separates the Xbox 360 from the Sony PlayStation 3, which saw a price reduction of its own and a new model introduced last month.

August 6, 2007

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


John Paul Jones: The Scot who saw off the Sassenachs: John Paul Jones has a unique place in history. Born in Scotland, he fled to America and, in 1779, commanded a vessel which won an unlikely victory over a British frigate. The US ship was itself sunk in the battle. Now the race is on to find it. (Ian Herbert, 07 August 2007, Independent)

The prospect of watching the British Navy handing out a drubbing to the Americans was too good to miss for the Yorkshire gentry on the night of 23 September, 1779. The great and the good processed in their carriages under a harvest moon to Flamborough Head where, for a time, they were not disappointed by the spectacle of a 50-gun British frigate, Serapis, inflicting terrible damage on Bonhomme Richard, a rebel US vessel intent on distracting Britain from the War of Independence.

But no one had reckoned on the commodore at the helm of the US vessel that night; nor on his rallying cry, which is inscribed indelibly in US naval history and remembered to this day in schoolrooms across America.

John Paul Jones, a Scottish-born gardener's son who had fled to America to escape British justice, was down to his last reserves of ammunition when, with his vessel ablaze and beginning to sink, the British inquired if he was ready to surrender to them. "I have not yet begun to fight," he retorted, before proceeding to trounce Serapis and record one of the US Navy's most improbable victories.

Jones took care to board the Serapis and make prisoners of her crew before watching the Richard - irreparably damaged with "a hole the size of a coach and six" punched through her side by cannon fire, according to one contemporary report - sink to the bottom of the North Sea.

Though he made off in the moonlight and into legend as the man considered, to this day, to be the Father of the American Navy, Jones' trusty 42-gun craft has been marooned at the bottom of the North Sea ever since her hour of glory and her elusiveness has turned the search into the Holy Grail of American marine historians.

The search may soon be over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


The sumo champion, the sickie and the story that shook Japan: Mongolian-born Asashoryu has always cut a controversial figure in his adopted country. So the sight of him playing football when he was on sick leave, and rumours that he wants to retire, have caused uproar (David McNeill, 07 August 2007, Independent)

They thought he was indestructible. But now Japanese sumo fans are not so sure after it emerged that the national champion is seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with the worst crisis of his career. Asashoryu, the Mongolian-born firebrand, is reportedly in such a fragile mental state that he wants to quit Japan and go home. Many fear he will not return, abruptly ending the controversial reign of sumo's greatest modern champion and throwing the sport he dominates into a tailspin.

Just one month ago, it all looked very different. Asashoryu swatted aside the sport's 14 best wrestlers to take his 21st title, putting him firmly in the pantheon of sumo greats. And he did it in style, battling through media accusations of match-fixing and a catalogue of painful battle scars that included a fractured lower back and nerve damage. "I was tired mentally and physically, so I'm happy to win the yokozuna (grand champion) told his fans before handing sumo's ruling body a medical certificate claiming that his injuries would force him to sit out the autumn tournament.

A few days later, goggle-eyed Japanese viewers watched as TV pictures showed the invalided star in a Wayne Rooney T-shirt hurtling around a football field in his native Mongolia. Mugging happily for the cameras that would eventually betray him, the 26-year-old looked as fit as any 150kg, top-knotted yokozuna as he executed a lethal-looking series of dives and tackles. The pictures of the charity match were relayed home and all hell broke loose. By the time a glum-faced Asashoryu was ordered back in Japan last week, his already scandal-tainted career was about to take a turn for the worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 PM


Land of success and 100-hour weeks (Peter Foster, 07/08/2007, Daily Telegraph)

"I'd say I live a life very similar to the average young guy in Britain or the US."

The difference, perhaps, is in the ambition and work ethic of young Indians such as Aditya and Nishant who work at least 100 hours a week trying to develop their business.

Talk of Europe's 35-hour week leaves them shaking their heads.

Both could have opted to remain in their safe, salaried positions at Kurt Salmon, but despite the deep misgivings of their parents, decided instead to bet their futures on the Indian economy which is expanding at a rate of more than eight per cent a year.

Their optimism for the future of India and their business is palpable.

They have clients in Britain, Australia and Canada and already several American businesses are asking if they can take a financial stake in Transwebtutors.

"India has so much potential," says Aditya. "You can see it everywhere.

By 2025 we'll be one of the youngest countries on Earth and with GDP growth continuing at eight to 10 per cent the possibilities for development of all kinds are massive.

"We both had an instinct that we needed to do something that created value both for ourselves and this country and that wasn't going to be achieved by being a salaried employee.

"After all, we are the cream and if we can't create value, then who will?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 PM

BECAUSE THEY AREN'T JUST GREAT TREES...:>Chestnut tree poised for comeback: A hybrid, 25 years in the making, is designed to resist a devastating blight. (Mark Clayton, 8/07/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

Hidden on a country road that winds through rural Meadowview, Va., is a 93-acre plot of ground that holds the future of the American chestnut: about 120 hybrid saplings. The trees – going on two years old and four feet tall – are considered "fully blight resistant" and are thriving.

At this rate, by 2010 there should be enough "holy grail" nuts to begin planting in selected test sites in national forests. By 2015, production from such plots is expected to grow exponentially – yielding enough nuts to allow for full-blown replanting – if everything goes well.

...but sources of one of the exquisite playthings of childhood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


Beauchamp Recants (Michael Goldfarb, August 6, 2007, Worlwide Standard)

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp--author of the much-disputed "Shock Troops" article in the New Republic's July 23 issue as well as two previous "Baghdad Diarist" columns--signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only "a smidgen of truth," in the words of our source.

While TNR getting hoaxed again is amusing, the nature of the fake stories they were so eager to print seems revealing. Just because you have second thoughts about whether Saddam Hussein rule of terror was objectionable or not doesn't make American soldiers war criminals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 PM


Bush's popularity rises -- in India (Beverly Kirk, August 6, 2007, Politico)

...A 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Survey found 56 percent of Indians have a favorable view of the U.S., with the same percentage saying they have confidence in Bush's leadership. In the United States, meanwhile, the president's approval ratings hover around 30 percent or lower in the most general polling.

Why is Bush viewed so positively in India, the polyglot democracy half a world away? The answer, like the country, is complex and depends on who's responding to the question.

During my visit to New Delhi in June, I met with some of India's leading English-language journalists for an assessment of the president's popularity on the subcontinent. Nidhi Razdan, senior special correspondent for NDTV, noted that U.S.-Indian relations had long been strained over a perceived tilt toward archrival Pakistan, among other concerns. But several Bush administration policies have improved relations, Razdan said, including a bilateral pact in 2006 between the United States and India under which the U.S. will provide access to civilian nuclear technology and access to nuclear fuel, in exchange for international safeguards on civilian Indian reactors.

"It's historic, and it's Bush who's giving that to us," she said. "No other president was willing to do it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


'It is not a disease, it is a way of life': Today, an event run by and for autistic people kicks off in Somerset, the latest act of a burgeoning autism rights movement. Emine Saner reports on the campaign to celebrate difference, rather than cure it (Emine Saner, August 7, 2007, Guardian)

While I wait for Gareth Nelson to arrive, I worry that he will not like it here. I am in a cafe in a town in north Wales. He suggested it, because he lives nearby, but it is very noisy - babies are screaming and chairs scrape across the floor - and the artificial lighting is quite bright. Nelson has Asperger's syndrome (AS), a disorder (though he would not like me calling it that) on the autism spectrum, and I fear he might get sensory overload in a place like this.

"I don't mind it too much," he says, when he arrives. Sudden movements, apparently, affect him more. I knew it was him. He is dressed all in black and looks young (he is 19) and nervy. When I smile at him, he does not smile back although he seems slightly more friendly when we sit down. His lack of social skills is one negative trait of his AS, which was diagnosed when he was 14, he says, but it does not bother him greatly (like a lot of Aspies, the term many with AS give themselves, he prefers to socialise online). The only other negative characteristic he can think of is his bad organisational skills. "I've never considered the other traits, like being introverted, as a negative," he says.

Nelson, with his wife Amy, who also has AS, is leading the UK's autism rights movement. They run their group, Aspies for Freedom (AFF), from their home; it started as a website three years ago and now has 20,000 members, most of them autistic. AFF came about partly to campaign against the search for a cure. It holds protests - its members turning up with banners - at fundraising events for autism charities.

"I don't think you should cure something that isn't purely negative," says Nelson. "It's the same as black people, who seem to be more at risk of sickle cell disease than white people but you're not going to attempt to cure 'blackness' to cure sickle cell."

That is, of course, just an idiotic comparison. The notion that you shouldn't try and cure sickle cell because it afflicts blacks would sound better coming from David Duke.

But the truth is that autism/Aspergers is so overdiagnosed nowadays that it does include people who have a choice whether to remain antisocial. The tragedy would be if we stop trying to find a cure for the people who are truly diseased and stop helping the ones who aren't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


Not just both 300 game winners but excellent fielders and hitters. The best duo since Seaver/Koosman.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


The Next Intervention (Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan, August 6, 2007, Washington Post)

To sustain broad, bipartisan support for interventions requires that we rebuild a domestic consensus on a fundamental but elusive issue: the question of legitimacy. [...]

As the war in Kosovo showed, democracies can agree and act effectively even when major non-democracies, such as Russia and China, do not. Because they share a common view of what constitutes a just order within states, they tend to agree on when the international community has an obligation to intervene. Shared principles provide the foundation for legitimacy.

A policy of seeking consensus among the world's great democratic nations can form the basis for a new domestic consensus on the use of force. It would not exclude efforts to win Security Council authorization. Nor would it preclude using force even when some of our democratic friends disagree. But the United States will be on stronger ground to launch and sustain interventions when it makes every effort to seek and win the approval of the democratic world.

Eventually, perhaps, these matters could be addressed and decided in a more formal arrangement, a Concert of Democracies, where the world's democracies could meet and cooperate in dealing with the many global challenges they confront. Until such a formal mechanism has been created, however, future presidents need to recognize that legitimacy matters, and that the most meaningful and potent form of legitimacy for a democracy such as the United States is the kind bestowed by fellow democrats around the world.

They've chosen the right concept but emphasized the wrong aspect. Where Americans consider a regime to be illegitimate--because undemocratic, despotic, etc.--they will support the use of force to change that regime and our leaders will effect it. The blessings of fellow democracies may be preferable, but will never be permitted to be a precondition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Explosive day for the Dow: Blue-chip barometer rebounds nearly 300 points recovering from last Friday's selloff, posting biggest point gain so far this year (David Ellis, 8/06/07, CNNMoney)

Speculation that the Federal Reserve will offer some consolation to investors at its policy meeting Tuesday in light of the recent woes in the subprime, credit and housing markets, also helped prop up stock prices, said John Wilson, chief technical strategist at Morgan Keegan.

"I think with everything we've seen recently and the shifting momentum to the downside, there's hope out there that we will hear something soothing from the Fed," said Wilson.

The central bank is widely expected to leave the Fed funds rate untouched at 5.25 percent, where it has remained since August 2006.

But Wall Street will be paying particularly close attention to the accompanying statement for any clues about the central bank's outlook on interest rates and its stance on the recent woes in the credit markets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:05 PM


US Role in the World: Altruism, the Global Interest, and the National Interest (World Public Opinion, 8/06/07)

A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests. Americans also feel that US foreign policy should be oriented to the global interest not just the national interest and are highly responsive to arguments that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest. Americans show substantial concern for global conditions in a wide range of areas.


It is often assumed that most Americans feel US foreign policy should be tied closely to the national interest, narrowly defined, and are opposed to the idea of making sacrifices based on altruistic purposes. Polling data reveal quite a different picture. In numerous cases Americans show support for altruism in US foreign policy independent of any impact it might have on US interests.

In January 2000 Beldon and Russonello asked respondents to rate a list of reasons "for the US to be active in world affairs" on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning "it is not at all an important reason" and 10 meaning "it is an extremely important reason to you personally." Altruistic reasons scored quite well.

Generosity is part of Americans' national self-image. Asked in a September 2006 Public Agenda poll whether "people in other countries see the United States as generous towards other countries," two-thirds (66%) said they do, while just 29% said they do not.

Giving Aid: Numerous poll results show that large majorities find convincing the argument that the US has a moral responsibility to provide aid to the needy. For example, in December 2001 Greenberg et al. presented a number of arguments in support of foreign aid. Seventy percent found convincing the argument, "The United States is the only remaining superpower and the world's wealthiest nation. We have a moral responsibility to help those who need it the most. America has always stood for justice, freedom, and opportunity for all people--a responsibility that has only grown since September 11th." Other examples abound.

A September 2006 Public Agenda poll asked "How important to our foreign policy should each of the following be?" and then gave a list of foreign policy activities. Altruistic functions received some of the highest ratings including "helping other countries when they are struck by natural disasters like the tsunami in Indonesia" (97% saying that it is important), "assisting countries with developing clean water supplies" (95%), and "helping people in poor countries to get an education" (89%).

Americans have roundly rejected the argument, made by some legislators, that the US should only give aid when it also serves the US national interest. Asked to choose between two statements in a November 2000 PIPA poll, just 34% chose the statement "We should only send aid to parts of the world where the US has security interests," while 63% chose the statement "When hunger is a major problem in some part of the world, we should send aid whether or not the US has a security interest in that region." When PIPA, in 1995, posed the argument in favor of the principle of limiting aid to security-related countries by itself, the percentage rejecting it was even higher-77%.

Although Africa is a region that Americans tend to see as relatively less significant to US national interests, support for giving aid to Africa is markedly higher than it is for any other region.

Altruistic concern also prompts Americans to give poor countries preferential trade treatment. Americans have shown concern that poor countries do not get a net benefit from international trade.

Military Intervention: A majority of Americans also show a readiness to intervene militarily abroad for altruistic purposes, even if it is not directly tied to the national interest.

For example, in September 1999 Mark Penn asked:

Which is closer to your view of the proper role of the US in the world?...The US sometimes needs to get involved in regional conflicts that do not directly threaten US interests, because we are often the only country able to maintain world peace and prevent humanitarian disasters such as Kosovo and East Timor, OR The US should only act to protect our own national interests because it is not our responsibility to keep peace around the world. 40%.

Fifty-six percent chose the humanitarian response and 40% chose the counterargument.

Numerous polls show a majority feels that the US has a moral obligation to intervene in the event of genocide. Most recently, a July 2005 Pew poll found that 69% agreed that "the US and other Western powers have a moral obligation to use military force if necessary, to prevent one group of people from committing genocide against another," nearly the same level found when the question was asked in March 2001.

In PIPA's April 1995 poll, 66% agreed that "When innocent civilians are suffering or being killed, and a UN peace operation is organized to try to address the problem, in most cases the US should be willing to contribute some troops, whether or not it serves the national interest."

Pew in 1999, with three different samples, posed a question about the moral obligation to use military force to stop genocide in different regions. Majorities said that the US does have such an obligation to intervene in Europe (60%), Asia (58%), and Africa (58%). It is interesting that number affirming the responsibility to intervene in Europe (arguably more tied to US national interests), was not significantly higher than it was for Asia or Africa.

Numerous polls have found majority support for the idea that the US had a moral obligation to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo.[11] Even a strongly stated argument rejecting intervention in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo on the basis of its marginal relevance to US national interests and playing on the concern for fatalities did not garner majority agreement. In an April 1998 PIPA poll only 35% agreed with the argument: "Bosnia is far from the US, and we have no real interests there. Therefore, it would be wrong to risk the lives of American troops in a NATO peacekeeping operation in Bosnia" (62% disagreed). This was virtually unchanged since 1994 when 37% agreed and 61% disagreed in a question using a UN peacekeeping operation. In a July 1994 PIPA poll that applied this argument against sending troops to Rwanda, the same low number, 37%, found this argument convincing, while 62% found it unconvincing.

When a December 1995 CBS/New York Times poll presented four different reasons to send US troops to Bosnia, the one found to be a good reason by the largest number (64%) was based on "stopping more people from being killed in this war." Various PIPA polls on sending US troops to Bosnia also found strong support for moral arguments.

Interestingly, support for using military force for such altruistic purposes can be as high or even higher than for purposes more directly related to traditional national interest concerns. In the Chicago Council July 2006 and June 2004 polls, respondents were given a list of possible purposes for using military of force. Altruistic reasons, such as "to deal with humanitarian crises" were endorsed by 66% in 2006 (72% in 2004). This was higher than some more self-interested purposes, such as "to ensure the oil supply," which was favored by 45% in 2006 (in 2004: 54%). Americans responded similarly in the Chicago Council's 2002 study.

Serving Global Interests

Americans believe that US foreign policymakers should not only think about what is best for the US national interest but should think in terms of what is best for the global interest.

Respondents in the October 2006 WPO/KN poll were asked to choose between two principles for how the US should use its power. Only 16% endorsed the view that "the United States should use its power to make the world be the way that best serves US interests and values." Seventy-nine percent opted for the view that "the US should coordinate its power together with other countries according to shared ideas of what is best for the world as a whole." PIPA found similar responses in 2004.

In the same October 2006 poll, 75% said that "sometimes the US should be willing to make some sacrifices if this will help the world as a whole," while only 22 percent say the United States should not make such sacrifices. In July 1994 84% favored making such sacrifices.

Even just shortly after September 11, when Americans might have been particularly prone to think in terms of America's own interests, a majority showed a continued readiness to think in more collective terms. Asked "How should the US determine its policy with regard to the war on terrorism?" just 30% said it should "be based mostly on the national interests of the US," while 59% said it should "strongly take into account the interests of its allies" (Pew, October 2001).

The Global Interest and the National Interest

Americans are very quick to move out of a dialectical concept of the relation between the national interest and the global interest. Very large majorities of Americans readily endorse arguments that make a bridge between the national and the global interest by saying that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest.

In a November 2006 WPO/KN poll a large majority agreed with the statement (71%) "The United States should look beyond its own self-interest and do what's best for the world as a whole, because in the long run this will probably help make the kind of world that is best for the US," while just one in four (25%) disagreed.

In the October 2006 WPO/KN poll only 16% said the United States "should not worry about what others think, but just think in terms of what is best for the U.S., because the world is a rough place." Rather 79% said "the United States should think in terms of being a good neighbor with other countries, because cooperative relationships are ultimately in the best interests of the United States."

Underlying the support for a US foreign policy that does not adhere to a narrow definition of US national interests is a widespread perception that the world has become highly interdependent. This perception leads Americans to be quite responsive to arguments that make a bridge between national values and global values, especially in a long-term framework.

The isolationists of Left and Right make the mistake of thinking that God's answer to Cain was: "No."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


All American: Newark's mayor says school choice is one key to solving the city's woes (CHRISTIAN SAHNER, August 4, 2007, Opinion Journal)

When compared to some other poor cities in the U.S., Newark has distinct advantages. Sitting 12 miles from midtown Manhattan, it boasts extensive rail and highway connections, a booming international airport and one of the busiest seaports in the country--all the infrastructure needed to jumpstart a moribund economy. And thanks to agreements with Continental Airlines, city unions, and new funds to give local entrepreneurs a boost, "We're creating jobs and trying to build sustainability at the same time," Mr. Booker enthuses. But as City Hall knows all too well, blue-chip employers like Prudential and Verizon need skilled labor, and in a city in which only 13% of residents have college degrees, Newark's high-skill workforce will continue to commute from the suburbs for the foreseeable future.

Part of Mr. Booker's solution to this dilemma is education reform centered on school choice. "It's the last frontier we have to cross in order to become the most thriving city in America," he states confidently. "Parents in Newark are more demanding than ever, and they deserve a plethora of options of excellence to choose from that meet the needs of their kids." Mr. Booker is a longtime advocate of school choice: In 1999 he helped found E3, a prominent education-reform group in New Jersey that pushes for charter schools and vouchers for inner-city communities.

Newark's public schools enroll around 42,000 students. With frequent instances of in-school violence, decrepit facilities and low morale, the system is in need of serious overhaul. Just 37% of the city's high-school seniors passed the state proficiency exam in 2005, a statistic that is even more embarrassing considering that city schools spend around $20,000 per pupil--far above the $13,000 state average (itself the second-highest in the country).

Before Mr. Booker can pursue any sweeping reforms, though, he must wrest control of the district from the state, which took over in 1995. "My goal is to turn the clock back to the '70s and vest control in the mayor to appoint school board members that can drive an agenda for reform," Mr. Booker says with hope. "Elected school boards often hit the lowest common denominator. . . . They are not the way to get courageous, driven change."

Mr. Booker emphasizes that until local control returns--which, thanks to recent moves by the state, could be within "16 to 18 months"--his powers are limited. But that hasn't stopped him from cultivating donors to start thinking about charter schools for the future. Last month, he flew to Seattle to meet with representatives of the Gates Foundation. "We had very strong conversations," he reports. "I told them, 'If we can grow KIPP schools and overachieving charter schools [in Newark], it will be much easier to show that [school choice] can work, because you'll see results a lot quicker than in a place like New York, which has around a million school-aged children.'"

Many charter-school donors won't touch Newark until Mr. Booker gains control. Without a powerful leader to ensure accountability, they fear, the city is simply a black hole for outside funding. "The Broad Foundation and others don't want to invest in cities that don't have mayoral control," Mr. Booker says. "So mayoral control has to be one part of the strategy to bring resources into Newark [schools]."

Mr. Booker realizes that educational turnaround will take a lot more than charter schools. Across the country "you're seeing teachers unions allowing merit pay, or unions allowing more leeway in the hiring of good teachers and the firing of bad teachers." In Newark, he predicts, multi-pronged reforms could quickly create "an abundance of excellent schools that can empower our kids to create a 21st century knowledge-based economy, plus keep a lot of residents here."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Analysis: Military Shows Gains in Iraq (ROBERT BURNS, 8/06/07, AP)

AP Video The new U.S. military strategy in Iraq, unveiled six months ago to little acclaim, is working.

In two weeks of observing the U.S. military on the ground and interviewing commanders, strategists and intelligence officers, it's apparent that the war has entered a new phase in its fifth year. [...]

Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up—with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists—rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.

Commanders are encouraged by signs that more Iraqis are growing fed up with violence. They are also counting on improvements in the Iraqi army and police, which are burdened by religious rivalries and are not ready to take over national defense duties from U.S. troops this year.

U.S. military leaders want Congress and President Bush to give them more time to keep trying—to reach a point, perhaps in 2009, when the Iraqis will be closer to reconciliation and ready to provide much of their own security.

The idea, after all, is not to kill or capture every terrorist and insurgent. That can't be done. The idea is to create a security environment more favorable to political action by the government, to provide breathing space for leaders of rival factions to work out a peaceful way to share power.

The U.S. military, partnering in many instances with Iraqi forces, is now creating that security cushion—not everywhere, but in much of the north, the west and most importantly in key areas of Baghdad.

Look for the next surge to be unveiled in Washington to be one designed to rescue the Democrats from their defeatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Bush and Karzai differ over Iran (International Herald Tribune, August 6, 2007)
President George W. Bush and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan found much to agree on during their two-day summit meeting here, with one major exception: the role of Iran in Afghanistan.

Karzai characterized Iran as "a helper and a solution" in a CNN television interview broadcast Sunday. But when the two men greeted reporters here on Monday, Bush pointedly disagreed with Karzai's assessment, saying, "I would be very cautious about whether the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force." [...]

Karzai acknowledged a resurgent Taliban but said it was not a threat to his government. Karzai is Afghanistan's first democratically elected president.

"We have a long journey ahead of us but what we have traveled so far has given us greater hope for a better future, for a better life," Karzai said at a joint news conference with Bush.
Iran was anti-Taliban before it was cool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM


George Bush, Hegelian: The president's quest for a sense of "history." (David Greenberg, Aug. 6, 2007, Slate)

Weighing in recently on Bush's historical turn of mind, David Brooks (subscription required) of the New York Times recalled the old (and now rather tired) debate about whether "great men" (according to Thomas Carlyle) or "great forces" (according to Tolstoy) shape history. Bush, Brooks wrote, sees history as "the club of those in power" who, by their actions, "have the power to transform people." The contrary view holds, in Brooks' summary, that "the everyday experiences of millions of people … organically and chaotically shape the destiny of nations—from the bottom up." Without taking sides, Brooks extrapolates, "If Bush's theory of history is correct, the right security plan can lead to safety, the right political compromises to stability. But if Tolstoy is right, then the future of Iraq is beyond the reach of global summits, political benchmarks and the understanding of any chief executive."

But Brooks' gloss on Bush's theory of history is too simple. For although the president considers individual leaders the key to diplomacy, his thoughts about history—especially when he shifts into his philosophical mode—actually suggest he believes in a kind of determinism, in the inevitability of deeper currents. The twist is that Bush's deep forces aren't the organic social impulses that Tolstoy wrote about. Rather, they're the expressions of a spirit—a divine will.

"Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy," Brooks wrote, "or as he said … , 'I believe a gift of [the] Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me doesn't exist.' " Much more than the probing queries of a wide-eyed undergraduate, this defiant assertion of conviction sounds like the Bush we know. It's in keeping with countless other remarks Bush has made insisting that defeating terrorism is the "purpose" of his presidency. And it bespeaks a view of history that, while out of fashion for many decades, once enjoyed near-universal appeal.

Before the Enlightenment and the recourse to science and reason in historical explanation, most societies believed that the unfolding of events followed divine guidance. Even into the 19th century, chroniclers of the American story sprinkled their narratives with references to the hand of Providence. They interpreted the conquest of the West, the flowering of democracy, and the rise of the United States to greatness as the result of a supernal blessing. "A superintending Providence, that overrules the designs, and defeats the projects of men, remarkably upheld the spirit of the Americans," reads but one such passage, from Mercy Otis Warren's classic History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805), "and caused events that had for a time a very unfavorable aspect, to operate in favor of independence and peace."

This faith-based theory of history resembles Bush's. In his Vanity Fair article, Halberstam interpreted Bush's recent talk of history as a puzzling departure from his previous inclination to cite "instinct and religious faith" as the underpinnings of his decision-making. If Bush sees history as a divine plan, the contradiction disappears.

But perhaps there's a more charitable way to think of Bush's understanding of history: as a Hegelian. (Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Ed, for one, has offered an intriguing Hegelian reading of Bush.) Like Carlyle, who was influenced by his work, Hegel venerated heroes who steer the course of events. After seeing Napoleon ride into battle to defeat the armies of Prussian monarchy at Jena in 1806, Hegel famously described the emperor as "the World Spirit riding on a horse"—a great individual shaping history. But Hegel also believed the battle at Jena to represent, as Francis Fukuyama stressed in his influential 1989 essay, the "end of history." History, Hegel argued, had an inner logic, a teleology, with the unfolding of liberty as the ultimate plan. For Hegel, Great Men like Napoleon don't just happen to find themselves as emperor of Europe; they're driven by an inner spirit that serves the aims of historical destiny.

It sometimes seems fair to wonder whether one of the chief differences between the Right and the Left is that the former has considered and responded to the ideas of the latter -- often in dispositive fashion -- while the latter, perhaps from simple hubris, remains unfamiliar with even the most basic ideas of the former. While one result is the sorry state of liberal analysis of conservatism, another, given the conservative bent of the country, is the Left's estrangement from America (as reflected in books like What's the Matter with Kansas?).

In particular, because they are so unversed in Judeo-Christianity, the Left frequently misses altogether the religious elements in conservative thought. Most of Mr. Greenberg's confusion here would be cleared up if only he understood something about the Providence of which he speaks and its centrality to US history, nevermind to History. Here's just one essay--from a rightwing rag, of course--that explicates matters rather better than the essay above, Providence and the President: George W. Bush's theory of history (James W. Ceaser, 03/10/2003, Weekly Standard)

WHAT DO CONSERVATIVES think today about History? As President Bush readies the nation for war, an abstract question like this one seems out of place. And yet, having raised this theme himself in recent speeches, President Bush has been faced both at home and abroad with widespread criticism for his use and abuse of History. Echoing others' arguments, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has accused the president of claiming to speak for "destiny and providence." European critics charge the president and his conservative supporters with a dangerous triumphalism born of a conviction that huge metaphysical forces are aligned on America's side. America, Bush is said to believe, represents God, History, and God in History.

It has, of course, come to be accepted in modern times that presidents will speak of History, provided only that they mean nothing by it. Whenever presidents wish to elevate the tone of an address, they invoke History. History becomes the omniscient observer, watching over the president's and the nation's shoulder. History--we all know the phrases--is "judging" or "testing" us, it will "record what we do," or, in its sterner moments, "will not forgive us." Used in this way, History has become no more than a figure of speech, the great empty suit of modern rhetoric.

The problem with Presi