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Friday, January 31, 2003

The Evolution Of A Bad Idea

Prof. Volokh began the fun with this post, and has MANY follow-ups; scroll up. The subject is the principled stand taken by a professor in Texas:

If you set up an appointment to discuss the writing of a letter of recommendation, I will ask you: "How do you think the human species originated?" If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences.

Emphasis added - it is not clear exactly what this means, but it seems to go beyond "understand", and require full acceptance, or endorsement. And, because life is art, the profesor is named "Dini", pronounced, pehaps, "De-ny". Dr. Deny - how about that?

Well, is Dr. Dini prof acting as an individual, free to say (or not say) what he chooses in letters of recommendation? Is he an agent of the university, forbidden to engage in religious discrimination? Is this religious discrimination, anyway - is there formal doctrine on this point amongst the major religions? These puzzles and more are addressed by E. Volokh and others.

And what is the motivation? Someone checked the professor's website, and found this:

Why do I ask this question? Let’s consider the situation of one wishing to enter medical school. Whereas medicine is historically rooted first in the practice of magic and later in religion, modern medicine is an endeavor that springs from the sciences, biology first among these. The central, unifying principle of biology is the theory of evolution, which includes both micro- and macro-evolution, and which extends to ALL species. How can someone who does not accept the most important theory in biology expect to properly practice in a field that is so heavily based on biology? It is hard to imagine how this can be so, but it is easy to imagine how physicians who ignore or neglect the Darwinian aspects of medicine or the evolutionary origin of humans can make bad clinical decisions. The current crisis in antibiotic resistance is the result of such decisions. For others, please read the citations below.

Good medicine, like good biology, is based on the collection and evaluation of physical evidence. So much physical evidence supports the evolution of humans from non-human ancestors that one can validly refer to the "fact" of human evolution, even if all of the details are not yet known. One can deny this evidence only at the risk of calling into question one’s understanding of science and of the method of science. Such an individual has committed malpractice regarding the method of science, for good scientists would never throw out data that do not conform to their expectations or beliefs. This is the situation of those who deny the evolution of humans; such a one is throwing out information because it seems to contradict his/her cherished beliefs. Can a physician ignore data that s/he does not like and remain a physician for long? No. If modern medicine is based on the method of science, then how can someone who denies the theory of evolution -- the very pinnacle of modern biological science -- ask to be recommended into a scientific profession by a professional scientist?

Random emphasis added.

Prof. Volokh has many interesting thoughts. The "Go, Prof - keep those close minded Creationists at bay!" side seems to have been taken by the CalPundit, who I am sure is very sensitive to possible religious discrimination in other contexts. Jesse at Pandagon is no fan of creationists either, and is finding support in his comments section.

Mark Kleiman weighs in on the side of tolerance, sensibly distinguishes between UNDERSTANDING a theory and BELIEVING it, and takes all the best lines. However, I have some thoughts as well.

Now, I don't even find this to be a difficult question. If the good Dr. Dini announced that he would not recommend anyone who was a table-pounding advocate for creationism, well, he would have a defensible point. But he seems to be saying something different - that understanding evolution is not enough, that you must renounce all alternatives. Is this really the scientific method in action? If "all the details" of man's evolution have not been established, who is going to be available to actually do the work needed to establish it - true believers in evolution, open minded skeptics, committed creationists, who? If this professor had his way, only true believers would be allowed into the halls of science, which seems odd.

SO, my hypothetical questions: suppose a candidate answers "The best available evidence indicates the following..."; presents a compelling, nay, brilliant, description of the theory of evolution as it relates to micro-organisms and humans; and closes with a stirring statement that, as a scientist, she will be guided by the best available science and diligently apply the scientific method. However, when asked if she actually believes in evolution, she replies, "As a casual Catholic, I am not deeply familiar with Church doctrine on ths point - pass". If I am reading the website correctly, she does not get a letter of recommendation.

How about if she answers: "Like many scientists, I separate my religious beliefs from day to day science, so I consider the question personal and irrelevant. As a matter of information, no, I believe that man was created in God's image. However, that belief is not helpful in understanding diseases, so I am guided by the theory of evolution in that area." Is there still a problem?

Or again: "I believe that humanity is inarguably a Divine creation, and that man was created in God's image. I also think that "in God's image" refers to the human soul, and I see no evidence whatsoever that the soul is evolving. I also think that most of Newtonian physics is "wrong", in the sense that it was later superseded by quantum physics. However, for practical problems here on Earth under normal conditions, Newtonian physics works fine, and I think the theory of evolution works fine too for understanding disease. However, I am open to the possibility, as I hope any scientist would be, that new evidence may emerge." Does she get a letter?

I am sure I could belabor this point further. As I said, the professor may have a more specific target in mind. Given our nation's glorious history with the Scopes Trial, and current efforts to modify or restrict the teaching of evolution in some schools, perhaps his objective is defensible. However, his criteria, as posted, seem to be hopelessly overbroad.

Now, as a final goad to those who argue that this is just about the science - that someone who believes in creationism clearly lacks the understanding of biology necessary to advance in the field - I suggest a few supplemental questions that the professor might want to review.

Basic Chemistry: explain the mechanism by which Jesus turned water into wine, or demonstrate that this is impossible;

Basic Physics - Conservation of Mass: explain the mechanism by which Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or explain that this is impossible;

Advanced Biology: explain the mechanism by which Jesus was dead for three days, and then came back to life, or explain why this is impossible;

Very Advanced Biology: explain where it is in the human form that we can find the soul, and describe its mass, physical properties, and mechanism by which it defies entropy and remains immortal; or explain why this is impossible.

I think it is not just Mary Poppins who tries to believe three impossible things before breakfast.

UPDATE: As I said, it is NOT just Mary Poppins, and I am embarrassed to have disclosed my personal conversation with her without permission; I thought her view was common knowledge. However, Google has a lot of support for the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, with some support for the White Queen, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and Alice herself. I stand uncorrected, and look to a glorious future posting lots of thoughts in the format of "Here's something this person didn't say." Sort of an Anti-Bartlett's.

UPDATE 2: We argue more and more about less and less. In an update, the CalPundit seems to move closer to M. Kleiman. He makes a strong case against the ardent creationists, but thinks that the thoughtful religious types should get recommendations. Well, OK, so do I. The missing piece of the puzzle - just what is Dr. Dini doing? But it is worth noting that he is a biologist, not a lawyer - he may not be accustomed to writing the sort of prose that can withstand a full pecking over by a flock of bloggers. My guess is that what he actually does is not as troubling as what he seems to have said, but who knows?

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Andy Borowitz On CNN This Morning

Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker was on CNN this morning, and was quite the star. I am paraphrasing from memory here, but he said roughly the following:

On the desirability of Saddam going into exile:

Well, obviously a peaceful settlement would be a good thing. But we have to be clear that Saddam must go somewhere where he will be out of sight and cannot stir up trouble against us. I would suggest the Phil Donahue Show.

And, on Bush's State of the Union address:

I thought the most implausible statement was that the U.S. economy is improving. Perhaps, instead of showing us proof about Saddam, Bush could show us proof about that - maybe a satellite photo of someone being hired.

Thank you, Andy. And, while channel-flipping, I saw the tease for a CNBC Special Report, hyping an interview with the German Ambassador to the US, which I paraphrase thusly: Why does Germany stand against the European Union, and how can it end its growing isolation? OUCH.

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Thursday, January 30, 2003

This Really Shakes My Faith In Faithlessness

From the NY Times: "the experiments show that scientists can overcome a seemingly insurmountable conceptual barrier, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Oh, dear. In this uncertain world, we can not even be certain what it is we are uncertain about.

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Follow-Up On Now-Stormin' Norman

Tacitus is on this like sand on a beach, or in the desert, or something. He links to Cybercast News Service, describing the General's appearance on the Today Show. It seems to echo what I noticed when Schwarzkopf appeared on televison after Bush spoke Tuesday night. OK, enough self-referential links; I have to get over myself here.

UPDATE: Mickey updates, and draws fire from TNR.

UPDATE 2: And the InstaMan. From the timestamps (and West Coast Adjustment, please), I say, Advantage: Kaus!

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You Can't Make This Stuff Up

And if a UN-basher told you this, you wouldn't believe it. Sure, you knew that Libya now chairs the UN Commission on Human Rights. But did you know that Iraq and Iran will chair the U.N. disarmament conference later this spring?

I am reminded of the old Mae West line, when she was being rambunctious during some odd criminal trial. Something she said outraged the judge, who thundered "Young lady, are you trying to show contempt for this court?". To which she cooly replied, "No, your Honor, I'm trying to hide it."


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Oh, My God!

A prize to this charity for anyone who can answer my simple little quiz - who said it?

(a) ...whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

(b) Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

(c) Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

(d) Lately, Federal spending has taken a steadily increasing portion of what Americans produce. Our new budget reverses that trend, and later I hope to bring the Government's toll down even further. And with your help, we'll do that.

With Google, this will be E.Z.

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Estrada Thrown To The Floor

Having lost a straight party line vote in the Judiciary Committee, the Dems gear up to trash a Hispanic judicial candidate on the Senate floor. But it's OK!

Democrats... noted that Estrada was opposed by several Latino groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The Post has noted other Dem objections:

Democrats did not contest Estrada's legal credentials but accused both Estrada and the White House of trying to hide his views on sensitive legal issues in order to ease his way through the Senate. They complained that the administration would not turn over materials written by Estrada when he worked in the solicitor general's office and that Estrada declined to answer questions about his views during a hearing on his nomination last year.

Well, as to the materials written by Estrada while in the solicitor general's office, CNN points out that all seven living former Solicitors General opposed then-Chairman Leahy's request. The opinions of other former Solicitors General can be found here.

No doubt more objections will be forthcoming.

Here is a NY Times editorial, which drew comment from Matt Hoy and Paul Weyrich.
UPDATE: This is interesting, and, in a ghastly way, potentially revealing. Estrada was originally nominated back in May of 2001. Peter Beinart of TNR explains why the Dems need to oppose him, and it has nothing to do with any specific problem with Estrada. Beinart explains that the ongoing Republican tactic will be to appoint conservative women and ethnics (Clarence Thomas) and dare the Dems to reject them. "Stiffen up!", says Beinart.

Well, it is easy to get pretty cynical about this - first, decide to reject Estrada; then, find reasons. Whatever.

Here, an old WaPo editorial says "Let Miguel go!"

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Is Regime Change Imminent?

In a move that may signal the end of the "Reign of Raines", the NY Times seems to have quietly adopted the practice of re-printing White House press releases on their front page. Appearing below the fold on A-1, we find:

"Bush AIDS Plan Surprises Many, but Advisers Call It Long Planned

No byline for Karen Hughes, but let's press on.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — As one of the government's leading scientists, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci often visits the White House to talk about bioterrorism and vaccine research. But whenever he sees President Bush, Dr. Fauci said today, the president has the same question: "He says, `Tony, how's the AIDS program going?' "

That program, $15 billion over the next five years to fight global AIDS, caught many people by surprise when President Bush announced it Tuesday night. But while critics have long accused Mr. Bush of neglecting the epidemic, Dr. Fauci and other officials have been working on the initiative since June, they say, at Mr. Bush's explicit direction.

Mr. Bush's aides say the president has always been committed to the global AIDS cause, though not convinced that taxpayers' money could be well spent. But in recent months, a string of people from inside and outside the administration — including Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; and Bono, the Irish rock star — made a passionate case to persuade Mr. Bush that the time was right.

Among those most surprised by Mr. Bush's announcement were officials in 12 countries in Africa, which along with Haiti and Guyana will receive the money.

In the United States, the president's unexpected initiative has political ramifications, as well as humanitarian ones. With Republicans still smarting from racially charged remarks of Senator Trent Lott, the former Republican leader, Mr. Bush's initiative may help mend fences with African-American leaders in Congress.

Today, they held a news conference to express what Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, called "new hope" and "some skepticism."

OK, that is what appeared on the front page; the story is continued inside.

So far, from this story, the only "Democrat" who influenced the President, or the debate, is Bono, although the CBC is grateful. [Hey, I noted the "Trent Lott penance" on Tuesday! Cock-a-doodle-doo!]. Bush has been "committed", but wants the money spent wisely. The only thing missing is the word "bold". Let's press on.

And as Mr. Bush prepares for possible war with Iraq, his new commitment to global AIDS suggests an emerging geopolitical reality: if the United States is going to present itself as having a moral imperative to stop terrorism, it must also take up the cause of morality in a manner that that does not involve dropping bombs.

As one senior administration official, who was involved in the AIDS effort, said today, "The president often talks about not only winning the war, but winning the peace, and making the world a better place."

But some advocates say the program may not make the world all that much better. They complain that the money will not be parceled out quickly enough and that areas of the world where the epidemic is exploding, including China and India, are being ignored.

Others say that the program will give only $1 billion to a United Nations global fund to fight AIDS.

"The fund needs $6.3 billion over the next two years," said Anil Soni, a top fund official. "The president's announcement ensures that the administration is committed to $400 million."

Cheap shots from the UN. Does anyone expect a UN bureacrat to want less money? Abd still no Dem politicians heard from.

The seeds of Mr. Bush's initiative were planted as long as two years ago, at the start of his administration. Senator Bill Frist, the new Republican leader, who as a heart surgeon has volunteered on medical missions in Africa, said in an interview last year that he had been pressing Mr. Bush to do more to combat global AIDS since the first time the president invited him to ride on Air Force One.

"This president gets it," Dr. Frist said then.

But the president worried that the money would not be wisely spent, and did not want American tax dollars wasted. Jeffrey D. Sachs, an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University who has advocated strongly for more money for global AIDS, today recalled his early meetings with administration officials, including Secretary Powell.

"There was great skepticism," Mr. Sachs said.

But over time, that skepticism began to ease, for several reasons. The price of AIDS drug cocktails dropped, as low as $300 per year for generics. The cocktails became simpler to take, easing administration concerns that poor African nations would not be able to administer them. Also, administration officials, including Secretary Powell, Dr. Fauci and Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, traveled to Africa and were deeply moved by the sight of so many people dying for lack of drugs.

Ahh, Bill Frist was involved too! The gang's all here.

Dr. Fauci, a top official with the National Institutes of Health, recalled briefing President Bush about his trip. "I told him that it was a great catastrophe. Babies were getting infected. Dying mothers were infected."

By last spring, support was also building in Congress, even in conservative circles. A critical turning point, Bono said, came when Senator Jesse Helms, the retired North Carolina Republican who frequently denounced foreign aid as "a rathole," called for more AIDS money.

Emphasis added - the first hint that liberals may have been on this already.

Religious leaders also took up the cause. Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, said he met late last year with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to discuss the global AIDS pandemic. Bishop Griswold said he told Mr. Rumsfeld that AIDS was destroying and destabilizing armies across Africa and was leaving millions of orphans as a pool from which terrorist organizations could draw recruits.

"It is in our self-interest to address H.I.V./AIDS," Bishop Griswold said.

A central question, though, was how much money the administration should spend. Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, estimated that $10 billion a year was needed, and by last spring advocates for people with AIDS were demanding that the president pledge $2.5 billion a year. Dr. Frist, of Tennessee, along with Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced legislation that would have authorized roughly that amount. The bill passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House. Now, Dr. Frist is preparing to re-introduce it.

OK, I like the mention of religious leaders. Kerry is introduced as tagging along behind Frist; and we see that the bill cleared the Senate, but not the House. Even as an evil righty, it strikes me that the Times could go out on a limb and mention that the bill passed the Democratic controllled Senate, and stalled in the Republican controlled House. Tell me the truth, I can take it. Sometimes, anyway. Right, then, Onward, Christian Readers! KIDDING!

In the White House, Mr. Bush was not convinced by last spring that the United States should make such a large commitment. Last June, he announced a much smaller effort: $500 million a year for medicines that would prevent expectant mothers in Africa and the Caribbean from passing the AIDS virus on to their babies. Yet even as the president made the announcement, Dr. Fauci said, Mr. Bush made it clear to his top advisers that he wanted to do more.

"We all knew that it couldn't stop there," Dr. Fauci said. "The president had a vision and he wanted to do something that went well beyond mother-to-child transmission."

White House officials, Dr. Fauci said, asked him to devise a cost-effective plan and prove that it could work to treat the infected, and prevent new infections. He brought scientists from around the world, including Peter Mugyenyi, director of the Joint Clinical Research Center in Uganda, to the White House for a series of meetings. In Uganda, Dr. Mugyenyi is treating 5,000 people with AIDS medicines through a network of clinics that, while hardly sophisticated by American standards, is effective, Dr. Fauci said.

But Dr. Mugyenyi said today that he could treat many more people, if he had the money. "Our biggest problem is lack of funds, which has not allowed us to scale up," he said.

That argument struck a chord with the president, who cited it in his State of the Union address. While not mentioning Dr. Mugyenyi by name, Mr. Bush spoke of a doctor who told AIDS patients he could not help them. "In an age of miraculous medicines," Mr. Bush said, `no person should have to hear those words."

And a big finish with a compassionate George Bush.

Fine, Dr. Fauci is quoted all over this story. I have no doubt he is a great guy, but who is he?

And I need to check out the two reporters in the byline. The names don't ring a bell, but maybe I can ring theirs.

And anecdotal evidence proves not much, but let's add this story to the "Times bias" mix for Mickey and Andrew to ponder.

UPDATE: More on Dr. Fauci. If we believe this, he morphed from villian to hero. Well, we see that Fauci was a hero to Bush I in 1988. Here is an AIDS timeline I stumbled across. And a rival story from the WaPo.

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This Is Why He Is Considered An Original Thinker

The SOTU gave Mickey gas. No, scroll down - HYDROGEN gas! Mickey has an explosive argument against it.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Mousetrap Me Once, Shame on You; Mousetrap Me Twice...

A party in disarray, or a party of principle and conviction? Or both? The Brothers Judd and Patrick Ruffini (No Do-overs) mock the call by some Democrats to have a second vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. I noted this suggestion by Kennedy in the previous post, and welcomed it. But only because I have an evil heart.

Look, Republicans will be delighted with a chance to reaffirm their support for Bush. But what will the Dems who supported Bush on the force authorization resolution in October do now? And I am specifically thinking of Presidential candidates Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman, Graham, and Edwards, all of whom backed Bush. And Hillary, who needs to remember 2008.

Should they support Bush again, and further antagonzie their base? Or should they flip-flop, perhaps after pointing to Blix's report of Saddam's non-compliance, thereby prompting the rest of us to wonder about their constancy and judgement?

It seems as if the Dem leadership is planning to keep the lid on this experiment in self-destruction. Just as well - it is unlikely that "Hamlet 2004" is the winning ticket.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Free Floating Reactions To The State Of The Union Speech And Coverage

First, my prediction for soundbite of the night (all quotes from memory unless italicized, sorry): "Relying on the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

OK, let's just jump in:

Bush wants an energy plan to promote conservation, help the environment, and secure our energy independence. Now, as Chris Matthews noted later, the Republicans are the party of the hydrogen car. And what took so long? Clinton's flair for stealing the other party's message has become a "lesson learned". As to how seriously we take this...

$15 billion, including $10 billion of new money, to battle AIDS in Africa - more slick triangulation. Later, Kerry complained that this was a Dem issue from last fall. Great, now John and three other Democrats know. Meanwhile, Bush is a hero to millions, including me. The question no one was gauche enough to ask, so I will - Trent Lott penance at work?

Iraqi liberation as a war aim - "we will bring food, medicine, and freedom to the people of Iraq". I like it, my wife insists that she, and much of the world, hates it - American arrogance and over-reach. I say, the people in Eastern Europe loved "The Evil Empire", and the reformers in Iran loved this speech. Wilson. FDR. The Four Freedoms. Tension. Well, until she gets a blog I get the last word - I bet the Brothers Judd loved it.

The rest of the Iraqi war segment - impressive, but no blockbuster news item.

Now, post-speech reaction:

For the rebuttal speech, why did the Dems pick the Senior Class President of Washington High? Chris Matthews was laughing out loud after the Governor of Washington (Grove?) was finished, as was Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-PA). Some other Repub. commentator wondered why the Dems picked as their spokesmen a Governor with a 30% in-state approval rating.

My reaction: most of these rebuttals are weak, but this one set a new standard. For a party that wants to show its relevance, and answer concerns that its leadership is in disarray and lacks a message, this rebuttal was brutal. OK, the Dems lost seats in the House and Senate while picking up Governorships, so I suppose the Governors felt it was their turn. Whoa, guess again!

Chris Matthews: this is his Oscar night, and he has taken the crystal meth to prove it. Man, is he pumped up. But having fun!

Pat Caddell can not speak in sentences and should not be on these shows. But evidently, Mexicans are killing dolphins. I think. Maybe he was auditioning for one of those annoying "It's the static" ads.

Brian Williams asked a guest about whether there was a cloud over the economy due to the prospect of a war with Iran. We knew what he meant. But if Brian pounces on a "Bush mis-speaks!" story, well...

Ted Kennedy - suggested that, since circumstances have changed (he mentioned Korea), we should have another Senate resolution on Iraq - is he a glutton for punishment, or just a glutton? Look, Republicans will welcome a chance to re-affirm their support for the President. And Democrats who supported the first resolution will do what? Support the do-over, and re-annoy the base? Or switch sides, and appear comically irresolute? One imagines Teddy to be a master staregist, but is "Hamlet 2004" a winning ticket? [More in the UPDATE below]

That said, Teddy, chatting with Chris Matthews, gave a good impromptu rebuttal to the President, with comments about the economy, education, the tax cut, health care, and Iraq. He showed the charm and charisma we presume exists when he was saying good bye. Matthews said, "I want to get you on the Hardball College Tour", and Kennedy lit up! He looked twenty years younger, he was animated, he pointed at he camera and said, roughly, "You're on! We're going back to school, buddy!". I liked it.

Lindsay Graham , on C-Span: asked to single out something in the speech he did not like, Graham picked medical malpractice reform. Why? States rights! He "did not come to Congress to tell each state how to reform their tort system - let's give them a shot at this first" C'mon "state's rights"? I see through this racist code.

Dick Armey: Retired, and having fun. Mentioned the "Clinton-Gore axis", called Ted Kennedy the "bell-cow of the Democratic Party", and smiled the whole time.

John McCain - victory in Iraq in three or four weeks of fighting.

Norm Schwarzkopf - agreed that a war in Iraq would be quick. "I don't want to put a time frame on it, whether it would be one week, or two weeks, or three weeks...". The reservations he mentioned in the WaPo were not evident on national television.

Media Bias: OK, I watched the various Congressfolk stand and applaud, or sit and look perturbed. My questions: when Bush called for tax cuts, I saw one lonely Dem right near the aisle join the Republicans by standing and applauding. Who was it?

Secondly, and here is the "bias" bit - could we please have a little consistency in the reaction shots? One of Bush's applause lines was a clear slap at the UN and the multilateralists - something like "we will not put our the national security of the American people in the hands of the Axis of Weasels". For that reaction, unlike most of the others, we got a shot of a part of the Republican side, which of course was standing. But the Dems? We will never know.

Big Finish: A strong speech, which craftily stole a lot of Dem ideas. Bush will not be faulted for lacking a domestic agenda. By contrast, following Desert Storm, Bush I used his State of the Union and huge approval rating to issue a clarion call for...Banking Reform! The beginning of the end for him.

Also, Bush seems much more confident than a mere three years ago. When does the pressure of the job begin the accelerated aging? Dems will reply, it's only pressure if you are aware of what is happening... is it true there is a macro generating all this repartee? When does the Matrix Reload?

UPDATE: Transcript of speech.

On Ted Kennedy - he mentioned the Korean situation last night. He also mentioned concerns about Korea in the debate on the Iraqi resolution last fall. Furthermore, some critics (myself included) wondered how it happened that the Bush Administration released the news of North Korean violations after the vote on the force resolution. So, perhaps Ted is simply being principled and consistent, rather than crafty. But evidently, he means it.

An Alert Reader tells me that, according to The Corner, the lone tax cutting Dem was Red-Stater Max Baucus.

Tips for the Dems from Miss Manners. Hey, don't think of it as a speech - think of it as aerobic listening.

And for the quote board, if Blogger ever settles down: "Whatever the duration of this struggle and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men; free people will set the course of history."

Now the quiz: Was the speaker (a) Aragorn; (b) Elrond; (c) Samwise Gamgee; (d) George Bush?

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This Can't Be Right!

The InstaMan links to a suggestion that France is spying for Iraq? Ce ne'st pas possible!

Well, OK, there was this, but that was a long, long time ago, in a war that was far, far away.

UPDATE: It's his blogosphere; we're just posting in it. From USA Today, the day following Glenn's post:

U.S.: Iraqis know inspection sites
By John Diamond, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence suspects that Iraq is finding out in advance which sites United Nations weapons inspectors plan to visit, enabling Iraqis to clean up the areas, U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officials said Tuesday.

The three officials, speaking in separate interviews on condition of anonymity, said the United States doesn't know exactly how the information is being obtained. One official said Iraq might have bugged the inspectors or found members of the inspection team willing to pass on information....

NO MENTION of the French. Still, something seems to be happening.

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From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

I am absolutely unable to believe that Josh Marshall reads his own blog. Let me present consecutive posts.

First, a very sensible appraisal of the situation in Iraq, including a link to his compelling Washington Monthly article. This is the Sublime bit, for those of you unnerved by my cryptic presentation style, and it makes clear that Mr. Marshall is well capable of organizing his thoughts around a complicated subject.

Second, in the adjacent post, we have this:

In the January 25th issue of The Economist, in article on Republican 'outreach' to minorities, the author notes that "the Democrats will fight like hell to hold on to minority voters, who are the only people saving the party from oblivion."

One hears this line a lot, phrased in a variety of ways. And it is unquestionably true, so far as it goes. But what precisely does this mean? I'd figure that taking away 20% or 30% of a party's voters would pretty much always knock it on its heels. What's the subtext of this remark?

I don't think that I've ever heard anyone say that white men from the South and Mountain states are the only thing keeping the GOP from slipping to third party status. Have you heard that? I doubt it.

Even if it's not meant this way, I think the obvious subtext is that the Democratic party can't come close to winning elections in the white electorate and has to make up the margin with minority votes. I don't want to press the point too far. But I can't help feeling like the idea here is that minority votes are in some sense, well, how else to put it?, second-class votes. It's as though a party's political viability and health are best judged by how it fares in the white electorate.

OK, emphasis added. Now let's check this, also from Marshall's site, this time on January 20. Which author we can not say:

Now that's a catch!

From the presidency of Woodrow Wilson -- who, despite being admirable in other capacities, was an ardent segregationist -- until 1990, US presidents sent a wreath to the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor Jefferson Davis. The first President Bush stopped the practice in 1990. But, according to Time.com, this President Bush restarted that tradition when he became president in 2001...

OK, it is the now discredited TIME story. But what else did Marshall say?

More to the point, Hines is a leading neo-Confederate and the former Managing Editor of the Southern Partisan, the crypto-racist magazine which is the venue of choice for Republican politicians looking to cater to the neo-confederate yahoo vote.

...Now at this point I was going to continue on with the post and explain how this is the White House -- probably Karl Rove, actually -- talking out of both sides of its mouth. First they denounce Trent Lott for his nostalgia for the segregationist past. Here they're pandering to these neo-Confederate yahoos. But you know how that post would unfold, right? So let's just pretend I wrapped the post up like that and get on to the fun stuff. Deal? Great. Here goes ...

And here we stop. Marshall has played this "Republicans cater to racists" tape so often, he takes for granted that we know all the words. Yet a mere six days later (OK, it is timestamped 2:36 AM, maybe he was sleep-typing), he informs us that he has never heard anyone suggest that the Republican Party relies on "white men from the South and Mountain states".

Maybe he's kidding? I honestly can not even attempt an explanation.

Now, as to his question, why do the Economist, and others, focus on minority voter - don't they count too?

Again, we must presume he is kidding. If a party is reliant on a particular voting bloc, that may predict some of its positions and priorities. And, as a minor example, this reliance on ethnic votes may explain the desperate race-baiting of the Democrats.

Or, as another example, we often see the politics of the Religious Right dissected with curiousity. Perhaps the Christian Right are viewed as second class citizens not really to be trusted with the responsibility of voting, since they are guided by... Fundamentalism!

Or perhaps this is absurd. Well, Marshall is, for reasons that elude me, good on Iraq. His peculiar brand of partisanship makes him somehat less helpful on other issues.

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OK, This Is Pretty Funny

They're a funny blog - that's why I'm going to kill them last.

An excerpt from the Sully-Watchers, on vicious partisan rhetoric:

But as for us and the incredible claim of Sullivan that liberals are consciously doing this as payback for the way conservatives demonized Clinton for eight years (which, he should remember, conservatives justified on the grounds that liberals had done the same to Ronald Reagan before the four happy years when conservatives and liberals joined forces to beat up on Bush Sr.) we will say ... well, duh!

Yes, those were four glorious years of national unity. Read my lips. But don't forget Carter, and Nixon, and Johnson - pretty fair bashing went on then, as well.

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The Cold War is Over

Other battles continue. Lacking this chap's character, I will fight with my checkbook.

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OK, Ce N'est Pas Vrai - But There Was A Moment When You Believed It

From Uncommon Sense, via Jonah and the Corner of Evil

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LOVED George C. Scott In This

He's back?

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The Police Report on The Central Park Jogger

Times story here, and Jim Dwyer's evaluation. Mr. Dywer has been immersed in the details of this case for months, and seems to have been fair.

Both stories point out what looks like an unshakeable fact - we just aren't going to know what happened that night. However, the DA's report did not focus on police misconduct, and this report does not find any.

Avenue of inquiry - they say this about one of the attorneys who prepared the police report:

Mr. Armstrong, a former Queens district attorney and federal prosecutor who was chief counsel to the Knapp Commission, which investigated police corruption in the 1970's...

Well, he has been involved in investigating the police before, in some capacity. The report was [c]ompiled by two prominent New York lawyers, Michael F. Armstrong and Jules A. Martin, and by Stephen L. Hammerman, deputy police commissioner for legal affairs.. .

Anyway, a bio check might add a bit of luster to this report. Or not - I suspect most people already know what they think.

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A Secret Signal From Colin Powell?

From a Brit at Davos:

...the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, rose to ask the secretary, who was raised as an Anglican, why the United States seemed determined to exercise the "hard power" of military force rather than the "soft power" of economic and humanitarian aid.

"I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of, or apologize for..., Mr. Powell replied bluntly. "There comes a time when soft power... will not work — where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works."

And, at the UN, reponding to German concerns:

Mr. Fischer's statement prompted Mr. Powell to depart testily from his prepared remarks and tell the Council, "We cannot be shocked into impotence because we're afraid..."

Is somebody having trouble standing tall? No satisfaction at the UN? Bob Dole, former politician, and other things, knows a lot of these Europeans and may be able to help.

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Boy, I Wish I Were In The Land Of Cotton

And this whole story would be forgotten. The TIME - Jefferson Davis wreath story. If you don't know, don't ask.

Ricky West is not quite happy with the Daily Kos, and the feeling is mutual. I find the Daily Kos to be a valuable guide to conventional left-wing thought; Mr. West looks like my kind of guy, but only time will tell.

Looks like I have to put them both on Noah's Ark.

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Listen Up To Stormin' Norman

Careful, folks - first Colin Powell was the voice of reason and moderation. Now he has flipped, so Schwarzkopf is the annointed one. But he may become convinced that war is necessary, too. He certainly seems open to the possibility:

"The thought of Saddam Hussein with a sophisticated nuclear capability is a frightening thought, okay?" he says. "Now, having said that, I don't know what intelligence the U.S. government has. And before I can just stand up and say, 'Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we need to invade Iraq,' I guess I would like to have better information."

He hasn't seen that yet, and so -- in sharp contrast to the Bush administration -- he supports letting the U.N. weapons inspectors drive the timetable: "I think it is very important for us to wait and see what the inspectors come up with, and hopefully they come up with something conclusive."

Would Schwarzkopf be uncomfortable rallying behind Bush? Hardly:

...he is closely allied with the Bush family. He hunts with the first President Bush. He campaigned for the second, speaking on military issues at the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia and later stumping in Florida with Cheney, who was secretary of defense during the 1991 war.

OK, if he remains unconvinced, that is, at a minimum, a PR puzzle the Administration needs to solve. More reasonably, if they cannot convince Schwarzkopf, how do they convince Joe Six-pack? Well, time will tell.

Or perhaps Bob Woodward at the WaPo will tell. Iraq, cheating on the WMD inspections? But the story does not mention nukes, which seemed to be Norman's hot button.

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The Times Demands More Time

Those looking for an anti-war tilt at the NY Times may be disappointed today. Here is their top of the page headline, and intro:

U.N. Inspector Says Iraq Falls Short on Cooperation

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 — Hans Blix, one of the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, gave a broadly negative report today on Iraq's cooperation with two months of inspections, providing support to the Bush administration's campaign to disarm Iraq by force if necessary.

"Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance — not even today — of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and live in peace," Mr. Blix said, summing up a grim 15-page catalog of Iraq's chemical and biological arms programs that provided an exhaustive account of ways in which Saddam Hussein has failed to prove that he has eliminated illegal weapons.

After Mr. Blix spoke, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Washington: "Time is running out. We've made it very clear from the very beginning that we would not allow the process of inspections to string out forever."...

And over at the Editorial page, I detect subtle signs of a drift towards a "Give War a Chance" policy:

The Iraq Report

he mixed report on Iraqi weapons compliance presented yesterday by the United Nations' two chief weapons inspectors begins an intense week of diplomacy and decision-making on the next steps in the international campaign to disarm Saddam Hussein. Their findings argue strongly for giving the inspectors more time to pursue their efforts and satisfy international opinion that every reasonable step has been taken to solve this problem peacefully. As President Bush has repeatedly said, war, if it comes to that, must be a last resort.

...More time is needed for further searches, for analysis of recent findings and for pursuing the intelligence leads now being provided by Washington and other governments.

As expected, Hans Blix, chief inspector for biological and chemical weapons, told the Security Council that he had not yet uncovered hard evidence that conclusively proved that Iraq is developing prohibited weapons. But as he rightly recognized, that fact does nothing to sustain Baghdad's unsupported assertions of innocence. Mr. Blix distinguished between the superficial cooperation Iraq has provided and its lack of cooperation on the core matter of what it has done with its weapons programs since the last round of inspections ended in 1998. Iraq has forfeited numerous opportunities to remedy the omissions and discrepancies in the badly flawed weapons declaration it submitted last December. It has provided no satisfactory accounting for alarming quantities of nerve gas and anthrax it is known to have possessed.

Mr. Blix properly stressed the need for far more active Iraqi cooperation, including help in setting up private interviews with Iraqi scientists....

Without Baghdad's full cooperation, inspectors cannot disarm Iraq. They can, however, keep enough pressure on Baghdad to contain its unconventional weapons development and perhaps produce evidence that would mobilize an international consensus for additional steps.

Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Baghdad yesterday that not much time remains to begin disarming, but he said a peaceful solution was still possible if Iraq changed course. The White House should not be impatient to invade Iraq. War there could be a messy, bloody business. The world must be reassured that every possibility of a peaceful solution has been fully explored. To that end, the inspectors should be granted additional time.

Well, it is clear to me that the international consensus the Times hopes for will never materialize. However, how much time are we talking about? The Germans have a proposal which shocked me as being nothing more than a diplomatic fig leaf, and not a serious attempt to derail the US-led disarmament effort. From the original Times story:

Britain, the United States' closest ally, expressed support for a German proposal that the inspectors report back to the Council again on Feb. 14. Such a date for a further interim report would allow the United States and Britain to continue preparations for a war in late February or March while demonstrating to skeptical allies, including France, that they are not rushing to judgment.

Most Security Council nations supported the German proposal today. The United States accepted it, but said no significance should be attached to the date.

Happy Valentine's Day? Three more weeks is nothing, especially since, for logistical reasons, the US may not be ready to attack until the middle or end of February anyway. Is there an election in Germany on February 13? Is Schroeder angling to get back in Bush's good graces? Does someone seriously believe that, come Feb 14, the inspectors will pronounce themselves satisfied?

These Germans confuse me.

UPDATE: Putin edging towards Bush?

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Monday, January 27, 2003

I Am Going Straight To Hell

There's a silver lining - it should mean a break from the cold weather.

Let me get started. Last Sunday the minister at our church devoted the sermon to war and peace. Now, on the one hand, this takes a bit of courage, since we are an Episcopal congregation in the heart of "Country Club Republican" Connecticut. On the other hand, the crowd does not generally jump ugly: last year we had an Anglican Bishop visit us just a few months after 9/11, and a few weeks after we had completed the last of the memorial services at this church for the local dead. The Bishop's message, which provoked a bit of rustling in the congregation, was that 9/11 might reasonably be interpreted as a warning from a God angered by our indifference to third world poverty. I kid you not. And although a number of people (yes, I among them) took a few moments after the service to tell the Bishop what we really thought, there was no tarring and feathering, and few raised voices.

So, I know where the bar is set for this sort of sermon. But I sat through it, and the minister was kind enough to e-mail me a copy of it, which I post below. With just a little bit of commentary. But "Fisking" a sermon? I'll be damned.

Invocation: I speak to you in the name of the Living God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

WAR looms on the horizon these days. And like an ominous dark cloud on a stormy day, it is seems to be moving closer. Like most of you, I have some strong feelings about the plans our government is making to go to war with Iraq. There are lots of gray areas. Saddam Hussein has an abysmal record in the area of human rights. He keeps company with terrorists, and may have weapons of mass destruction at his command. Should our military forces remove him from power – for the sake of his countrymen;

Hey, so far, so great. Maybe the hawks need better labels: instead of anti-war versus pro-war, let's bill this as "anti-war" versus "pro-liberation"!

...for the sake of our oil interests; for the sake of the hope of increased safety from terrorist attacks?

Chief among our feelings about the possibility of war with Iraq is the feeling of fear.

Personally, I am afraid that for the first time in my generation, we will find ourselves embroiled in war that begins in Iraq, but quickly spreads beyond the Middle East through terrorist attacks and bio-warfare in Europe and on our very shores.

I am afraid that for the second time in my generation, our country will instigate a military action, as we did in Operation Desert Storm, where our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and cousins fight and die in a foreign land – along with men, women, and children who are innocent bystanders, victims of a struggle of international powers.

Hmm, Charles Rangel is afraid of somewhat the opposite - how many folks in this building right now have a relative in the military? OK, my brother-in-law, but the rest of you?

But more than any of that, I am afraid that in the midst of preparations for war, we as Christians will not HEAR and DO the will of God. As Christians, we are not, first and foremost, citizens of the United States of America. We are citizens of the world our God created; we are brothers and sisters of God’s children throughout this world. While we, as Americans, owe our allegiance to the leaders of this land, we, as Christians, owe our ultimate allegiance to GOD, our Creator and Redeemer. As Christians, we must set patriotic rhetoric aside, and ask, what is God’s call to us in this time? What is God’s will?

In Old Testament times, when God wanted to instruct his people to do something, he sent a prophet, someone to speak the will of God directly to the people. Who is the prophet of God in our time? Who is carrying the banner of Christ in these debates about whether, and how, and when to make war?

This week, I found myself praying – God, send your people a prophet, someone who will tell us your will. And God answered –

As Christians, we cannot look to experts to be our prophets. Military experts can predict collateral damage in terms of life and property, and they can estimate the financial cost of the war. But they are not prophets. Pacifists, experts in avoiding war at all costs, can stress to us the value of verbal negotiations and can argue articulately against military intervention. But they are not prophets.

A prophet is someone who looks at this situation from God’s perspective, a perspective unclouded by human self-interest or nationalistic motive. God’s perspective takes into account not only the value of each and every human life, but also the way of thoroughgoing justice that leads to lasting peace. We won’t find God’s perspective in briefs from Capitol Hill or in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. God’s perspective can only be known by hearing the voice of God himself – through prayer and holy conversation, through Scripture and Sacrament.

As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, each one of us is called to live and act prophetically. If we as a community, as the Body of Christ, seek to know and do the will of God, God’s will will be manifest in the world through us.

In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus says to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” For all the jokes there are about how patient one has to be to be a fisherman, fishing for creatures with fins is infinitely easier than fishing for people, creatures with strong relational ties, mixed motives, and deep histories of brokenness and injustice. Yet the call of Jesus on our lives is to fish for people, to draw all people together in the net of God’s will, so that God’s vision for creation may be realized – on earth, as it is in heaven.

In Psalm 34, the Psalmist explains what it means to live in right relationship with God and our world. The Psalmist says –

“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”


Seeking peace is a prophetic act. As each one of us seeks peace moment by moment, in our daily interactions, we infuse a pattern of peacemaking into our culture that influences the course of our international relationships.

Seeking peace means striving to live into God’s vision for the world, a vision of wholeness and healing, a vision of justice and reconciliation, a vision of truth and beauty.

To seek peace is to restore wholeness in relationships – God’s relationship with his world, and our relationships with each other. Restoring wholeness involves rebuilding broken relationships, negotiating and seeing things from someone else’s perspective, and sometimes turning the other cheek. Restoring wholeness in relationships means cultivating an awareness of our connectedness with every other human being, valuing them as brothers and sisters, and seeking their good as we seek our own.

To seek peace is to be humble. This is especially important for us as people who have the power and resources to get what we want. Humility means being honest with ourselves about our own failings, motives and selfish desires. Humility involves being willing to wait for things to come together, for relationships to shift, for change to happen, rather than forcing our agenda because we have the power to do so. Exercising humility means using strength to build up rather than to tear down, to buy time for discernment and agreement instead of making unilateral decisions.

To seek peace is to allow ourselves to hope, to explore the unique possibilities of this age. We will not have the freedom to explore unique possibilities without learning to trust in God more than we trust in ourselves. Though we are citizens of a superpower nation, we must acknowledge that God is better at holding the world together than we are.

Boy, it seems rude to ask for evidence of that point, and I'm sure it's your area.... Perhaps we will come back to this.

Though the cost of waging war is high – in terms of money spent and lives lost – we find the cost of peace harder to bear. The cost of peace is setting aside our own agenda and timetable, trusting in God for justice, depending on other people to come together, and putting the good of all people ahead of what is good for us alone. The biggest cost of peace is surrendering the need to see what we think is right happen in OUR way, in OUR time.

Seeking peace may sound utopian, but it is the only hope we have. Making war, imposing any agenda by force, only perpetuates the cycle of violence and hatred. War is always, ALWAYS an admission of failure – the breakdown of negotiations, the demise of hope, the collapse of mutual trust, the inability to root out evil any other way.

Please tell me that you have heard of Hitler, and World War Two. Please.

There are times, as was the case in World War II, when war becomes the only way to stop aggressive evil.

Hey, prayers answered on the spot! This church ought to advertise. And is it fair to ask which part of "aggressive evil" does not apply to Saddam?

But we must never resort to war in haste. The price is too high.

OK, eleven years of broken UN resolutions. Hasty?

For the destruction of war is not limited to the number of lives lost or the number of homes destroyed. The true cost of participating in the destruction of others is marked by the stains on our souls. We are made in the image of God. Our hearts are broken by the things that break the heart of God. Though we may try to convince ourselves of the necessity or justice of war, the damage we inflict in war leaves us emotionally and spiritually crippled. The stains on our souls leave our souls weakened and ever more vulnerable to believing the unholy lie of fear and hopelessness – that our God is not big enough and his way is not powerful enough to protect us against the evils of this world.

Heavy theological going here. Could our choices reflect His way? Should we only pray for the people of Iraq, or fight to save them from Saddam? What did abolitionists advocate before and during the Civil War? What do fireman do when they see people trapped in a burning building? I'm sure they pray too, but what I see on the news are the firefighters and the hoses and the ladders.

On Tuesday night this week, President George W. Bush will give the State of the Union address. It will contain the rhetoric of war, explaining – likely even in religious language – why our nation should move quickly and forcibly to take military action in Iraq. As you listen, hear President Bush’s words against the backdrop of these words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”

OK, I may be shaky on my theology, but I know this about politics - if Bush gets on national television and glories in his knowledge of the Lord, there will be the devil to pay.

Act prophetically: seek peace – that God’s will may be done on earth, now and forever.


Amen. Peace is good. Absent any context, I hope and expect that roughly 99% of the world agrees that peace is good. But with Saddam, the choices are a bit less simple, and they are all terrible. Regrettably "peace" may not be the best path out of this mess.

UPDATE: So, do I face eternal fire? Or, more optimistically, am I on the path to Hot, or Not? Susanna says, Not. Well, if she's wrong I'll enjoy her company. And here is a NY Times guest who offers me hope.

UPDATE 2: This guy is going down, big time. Hot. What is it with these righties?

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Hmm. Maybe we should just "seize sections"?

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Thank You And Good Luck

A new research effort from Bill and Melinda Gates:

Saying that medical science has solved the "easy" problems of the rich world, Microsoft founder Bill Gates (news - web sites) on Sunday announced a $200 million fund aimed at luring researchers into finding original cures for the poor world's ailments.

The $200 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be used to set up the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which will dole out money in grants of up to $20 million each to scientists around the world.

"By accelerating research to overcome scientific obstacles in AIDS (news - web sites), malaria, and other diseases, millions of lives could be saved," Gates told reporters in a telephone interview.

"Of the, say, 1,500 new medicines that have been approved in the last 25 years, only 20 of those have related to the diseases of the developing countries," added Gates, who was to announce the new fund at a meeting of the World Economic Forum (news - web sites) in Davos, Switzerland.

"Rich world diseases we've gotten. All the easy ones have been done...If you look at the focus of the research activity, it's either focused specifically on rich world diseases or it's at a basic level that doesn't directly apply to those problems."

According to the Global Forum on Health Research, only 10% of medical research centers on the diseases that cause 90% of the health burden in the world.

The program will be administered by the US National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) (NIH) Foundation and the new fund is heavy on big names in US science. It will be headed by Dr. Harold Varmus, a former NIH director who is now president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York....

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My Kind Of Dinner Party

The Wall Street Journal (registration req'd?) takes us to Davos, site of the World Economic Forum. The mood "was "ugly." A chorus of international complaints about the U.S. march toward war with Iraq was reaching a crescendo at this gathering of some 2,000 corporate executives, politicians and academics."

How ugly? Here is a bit from one dinner party:

On formal panels, in corridors and at normally genteel dinners, tempers flared. At one dinner of poached salmon, Patrick Cox, the president of the European Union parliament, blasted the U.S. for its go-it-alone approach. "The real Europe has real values," he said. "Our imperial days are over, and thank God for that."

Ron Silver, the U.S. actor and political activist, jumped up from a table across the room to retort that if it weren't for the U.S., hundreds of thousands more civilians would have died in the Balkans, while Europe sat idly by. The U.S. had no other interest in that region than humanitarian, he said. "We are not an imperial government, Mr. Cox," he said. "You know that, and everyone here knows that."

Flushed and glaring at Mr. Silver, Mr. Cox -- who is Irish -- said: "Just don't go down that road, my friend. That is a burden that you and your children don't need."

And evidently Joe Biden stood tall, even though he stood alone:

Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, found himself surrounded in one corridor by European and Asian reporters, pummeling him with questions about the U.S. policy toward Iraq. Mr. Biden acknowledged his own misgivings about the Bush approach, but then fired back: "No one in Europe is saying [Mr. Hussein] is a good guy, or that he's keeping the agreement," but "you all went 'bla-bla-bla' " and did "nothing."

I will cautiously characterize both Silver and Biden as "on the Left", but even with those two, European credibility does not seem to be at a high water mark.

UPDATE: And comments from Colin Powell during a Q&A at Davos:

Still, at a meeting marked by relentless antagonism toward Washington, Mr. Powell offered a muscular, unapologetic and at times emotional defense of the nation's exercise of power.

"I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of, or apologize for, with respect to what America has done for the world," he said in response to a question asking why the United States always falls back on the use of "hard power" instead of the "soft power" of diplomacy.

Mr. Powell noted that the United States had sent its soldiers into foreign wars over the last century, most recently in Afghanistan, without having imperial designs on the territories it secured.

"We've put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives," he said, his voice growing hoarse. "We've asked for nothing but enough land to bury them in."

What he did not go on to say:

"Soft" European diplomacy allowed Milosevic to ravage the Balkans for years. After repeated pleas from the European Community, the US used its "hard" power, without any UN resolutions, and ended the disaster in Kosovo. Three hundred miles from where we are gathered in peace and luxury right now, "soft" European diplomacy was useless, and the "hard" power" of Europe was demonstrated to be non-existent.

So, to my many European friends here, I say: Do you want the truth? You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

Oh, how great would that have been? A bit awkward diplomatically....

Post Script: I am sure Powell would have his facts right. However, here is the WaPo on Bosnia, with related links; and here is a piece torn from today's NRO. Yes, the authors include Kopel, yes, he seems to be TAPPED out, but it has lots of casualty reports, so there.

MORE: Go, Big Joe Biden! From the Brit "Globe and Mail":

The Bush administration was also charged repeatedly with fomenting racism by singling out people from Middle Eastern countries or with dark complexions for extra screening at airports and border points as part of its campaign against terrorism.

These kinds of criticisms were too much for Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat who is frequently critical of U.S. President George W. Bush but clearly resented repeated criticism of the United States, especially from Europeans.

"I understand why the resentment exists," he told a forum session on U.S. foreign policy.

But he added: "We are not as bad as you make us out to be and in comparison with your own country we're pretty damn good."

Although he said his own views on civil liberties were diametrically opposed to those of the Bush administration, he lashed out at the French and Germans for thinking they were a model of how Americans should behave.

"Tell me about the acceptance of your French Arab brothers in France," he said sarcastically.

Mr. Biden also said that if the United States had not decided to intervene in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the Europeans would never have stepped in to stop the genocide.

"All I'm asking for is balance," the senator said. "I'm sick and tired of the lectures."

Mr. Biden agreed that the United States had to work on its image abroad and its policies. "But I don't think that anybody likes the big guy on the block, ever."

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Interesting Theory On Media Bias

Drudge links to Kurtz, who chats with Janeane Garofalo, who "says she knows why Fox, CNN, MSNBC and "Good Morning America" have booked her to argue against war with Iraq.

"They have actors on so they can marginalize the movement," the stand-up comic says. "It's much easier to toss it off as some bizarre, unintelligent special-interest group. If you're an actor who is pro-war, you're a hero. If you're an actor who's against the war, you're suspect. You must have a weird angle or you just hate George Bush."

OK, that shoots down this theory, which was that at least some top Democrats lack guts and conviction.

Back up link: scroll to I'm for it, with reservations" Or is it, "I'm against it, for now?" Whatever. ". The timestamp above is Friday, January 24, 2003, 6:26 PM.

Oh, my, Kurtz also notes the wreath story.

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Saturday, January 25, 2003

A Six-Pack, Never Heard

The Insta-Man reports on the non-coverage of a story out in California. I will now race his vast readership - I have found this many stories, so far:

NBC4, evidently serving LA;
KTVU, from the beautiful Bay Area;
The must-read Times-Press-Recorder, with photo;
MSNBC on a local station subheader;
some Florida paper clipping the AP wire; and
The annoying LA Times has a couple of sentences for which you must register.

The NYTimes query function is down right now. Some of these stories say they are from the AP, so presumably it is in that database as well.

And this story seems like classic fodder for Rush and the other talk show hosts. How does one check them?

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If It's Gone, It's Gone

But otherwise, check this Bold Blogging Experiment:

Patriotic Democrats who fear President Bush will too-readily attack Iraq would be well-advised to make encouraging noises about the President's proposals to reform Medicare. Why

--even if don't like them

--beat him later. mwanwhile, no war

--meat grinder

Bonus Frum-skipper

which are expecteve doubts about whether President Bush will wisely weigh the risks and rewards of attacking Iraq would be well advised

Clear? Inspired by Adaptation, which, BTW, I enjoyed last night? Stray text, wandering into the night? Beats me.

UPDATE: Cool - it was a window into "Genius at Work", and has now become "The blazing arrow connecting Iraq and prescription drugs". Hey, Bush is back in the blazing saddle again, and riding tall!

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When You Cast The Beam Out Of Your Own Eye...

We have noted the TIME magazine embarrassment over their "now we print it, now we don't" story alleging that Bush had revived the practice of honoring Jefferson Davis.

Andrew Sullivan was one of the first to blog about this, saying the following on Monday, Jan 20: "AFTER THE LOTT DEBACLE: Why on earth is the Bush administration doing this?

Now, following the "announce bad news on Friday" rule, Andrew provides this to ponder:

TIME'S RETRACTION: I noted it in my weekly dish for the New York Sun and Washington Times today but it behooves me to note it here as well. I linked recently to a Time piece claiming that president Bush reinstituted a practice of laying a wreath at the Confederate Monument in Alrlington. I asked why the administration would do such a thing. Well, they didn't. Sorry to link to something that wasn't true. Now let's all wait to see if Maureen Dowd will retract a more serious error - actually claiming it was true. Or are we supposed to treat Modo's pieces as fiction anyway?

Well, as an aside, how about a few links? Sully's pieces in the Sun and the Washington Times, MoDo's column - how about it?

OK, in the Wash Times, Sully says, in part, "I was dumb to link to the Time piece. Now when will Maureen Dowd correct her error?

Bother. A bit of thunder is gone from my post, since this is a lot more sensible. But I will regroup. Many of us encounterd the story at Sullivan's blog, for which other folks are paying good money, so the "I was dumb" belongs at the blog as well. Sully did not just link to the TIME article - he quite clearly endorsed it. Glenn Reynolds demonstrates the difference about ten times a day.

And MoDo? Roll the tape, please, as Andrew does for the Wash Times:

...as Time notes this week, he quietly reinstituted the practice — which lapsed under his father in 1990 — of sending a floral wreath on Memorial Day from the White House to the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, where those nostalgic for the Old South celebrate Jefferson Davis. Why on earth would the president of the U.S. in the year 2003 take the trouble to do that?

First, with a keen journalist's nose for trouble, MoDo unravels the TIME mess a bit, separating (unlike TIME or Sullivan) the Memorial Day wreath and the Jefferson Davis tribute. She clearly attributes the story to TIME. And she asks virtually the same question as Andrew - why would Bush do that? OK, maybe Irish minds think alike [KIDDING! - I am one, for gosh sakes]. Or perhaps MoDo reads Andrew's blog. But the notion that she is more culpable than he does not fly.

So, in the (unlinked) Washington Times piece, Andrew presents himself as "dumb", and simply notes that MoDo has the same cloud hanging over her column. Fair enough. But here at his blog, he pretends that he merely linked to TIME (oops), but MoDo made "a more serious error" by "claiming it was true", and was writing fiction. The two faces of Andrew?

At his blog, Sullivan is playing the same lame "blame someone else" game that we expect from Marshall. Now, for an example of a stand-up acknowledgement of error, check this:

* Update:
Time has printed a retraction of a story that I picked up from Josh Marshall, who has also now acknowledged that the Time report was errant. I subsequently used the information that the Bush administration had renewed an outdated policy in order to illustrate that they were pandering to Neo-Confederates. The Time piece was factually incorrect; I reckon the reporter's career is probably on pretty thin ice, as a result. Long story short, I made an unfair allegation based on flawed information and I have a duty to retract it, in light of new information.

OK, I am not finding a lot of common ground with the author of this blog on other issues, but we seem to agree on one point - a bit of crow in the diet builds character.

UPDATE: Hmm. Atrios and Marshall, linked above, have widely differing views on the TIME reporter Weiskopf. Sort it out, gents - I get upset when lefties argue in front of the kids. And this is a pretty cryptic post, since no links are working. If someone posts a blog in the cyberforest but no one see it...

REAL UPDATE: MoDo trashes the French and the Germans (but is she serious?), promotes the "Axis of Weasel", and suggests a little nursery rhyme, which would be:

"Chirac and Schroeder backed an Iraqi
And now even Powell has turned a little hawk-y"

But no, she didn't actually say that.

However, what she did say, and the reason we are here, is:

In my last column, I cited a Time article reporting that the president had "quietly reinstated" a custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial. Time has since corrected the story, saying he didn't revive the custom, but simply continued it.

I would still ask: Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan?

OK, nice rhetorical question. Quick, annoying answer in two parts:

(a) Honor the soldiers, hate the war - sort of like the attitude of many folks towards our Viet Nam vets, and dead.

(b) Uhh, timing, please - Bush was supposed to stop this practice two years ago because he might later oppose Affirmative Action, Michigan-style?

(c) Concede nothing! Mightn't a Ward Conerly argue that the "faux-help" of quotas and preferences is no help at all?

OK, I want to say more, and I want to get some kids ready for Church. This update doesn't have a prayer.

UPDATE WITHIN UPDATE: Based on the timestamps, the Man never sleeps. But he sure does unleash the terrible swift sword on MoDo.


OK, it's an Irish thing - Yeats, Dowd, whoever.

Chirac and Saddam sitting in a tree
First came Bush
Them came Powell
When will Saddam throw in the towel?

MORE FROM ANDREW: Who is implacable. [And the link fails!]

Here he is:

[START DOWD] In my last column, I cited a Time article reporting that the president had "quietly reinstated" a custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial. Time has since corrected the story, saying he didn't revive the custom, but simply continued it. I would still ask: Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan? [END DOWD]
Did I miss the simple retraction? And what on earth does the Michigan case have to do with anything?

Hmmph, no poetry. Can I rhyme "Sulllivan" with "Muddled again"?

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Were The Confederate Soldiers Traitors, Guilty Of Treason?

Here is a Yes. Here is a No.

And here is a GD blogger archive problem.

OK, Yes: Scroll to "Friday, January 24, 2003, 9:13 AM", with more at Wednesday, January 22, 2003, 8:27 PM"

No: Friday, January 24, 2003 Posted 3:32 PM

Yes and No. Clever yet transparent ploy, BTW - use a raver to present, and discredit, the opposing argument. Par for that blog, however.

And wasn't the war about more than slavery? The industrial North, the agricultural South, high tariffs - the Nullification Act passed by South Carolina in 1832 was inspired by a dispute about tariffs. Although, with slavery out of the mix, I doubt we have a war.

I have just been watching "Gettysburg". At one point, Longstreet, a Southern General, says (roughly) "We should have freed the slaves ourselves before we fired the first shot at Fort Sumter".

I presume (perhaps inappropriately, but the book won a Pulitzer Prize) that there is a historical basis for this quote. Was this sentiment at all common in the South, or was Longstreet an outlier?

UPDATE: I am in virtually complete agreement with this e-mail from a Lefty Correspondent, leaving me to wonder - where is the mainstream on this?

Hmm. I seem to be to the right of OxBlog on this--I don't think it's inappropriate to have a Confederate Memorial. I abhor the Confederacy, but I think the rank-and-file Confederate soldiers shouldn't be lumped in with the leaders. Once your home secedes, what are you going to do? It would've taken quite a bit of courage to become a partisan. And don't the war dead deserve commemmoration, even if they were on the wrong side?

I don't think it's inappropriate for the Germans to memorialize their non-SS dead from WW2, either.

General rule of thumb: Robert E. Lee OK, Jefferson Davis bad. Of course, the origins of the Confederate memorial stink--it was dedicated on Davis's birthday, and seems to have been part of Wilson's effort to rehabilitate the Confederacy, which I think is about as bad as Holocaust denial.

The distinction between the leadership which brought about the secession, and the common folk who served in the military, is also drawn by the Man Sans Q.

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Friday, January 24, 2003

Score One For The Brothers Judd

Scott Ritter, blackmailed? They speculate, Wolfowitz speaks. Still speculative, of course. Full speech here.

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George Bush - NOT A Regular Guy

C'mon, don't leave him hanging.

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Krauthammer - We March To War

But on the front page, Bush considers giving more time for inspections amid pressure from Russia, European allies, source says.

Head fake. I'm stuck on the "Even Powell is PO'ed" meme. When the last moderate gets fed up, sorry, ' "incandescent" with rage at the French and German envoys', what happens? Well, you go home.

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Darn, Another Tax Scheme Shattered

Waay back beyond links, like last week, I had speculated that, with some dividends exempt from taxes, an appealing scheme would be to borrow money (interest expense deductible) to buy high yield stocks. For example, maybe Wall Street would pitch money market preferred stock to John Q. Public.

Floyd Norris says no. More rules, with interesting implications for prospective short-sellers.

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Who's The Man?

Or, how does he do that? He warned us about "linkrot". However, the resourceful Brad DeLong not only excerpted just about the whole TIME - Bush - Jefferson Davis story, he set up a link that did not die. Very helpful for a trip down the memory hole. Let's round out the record with the TIME retraction, and the Washington Times story.

And from an earlier post of mine, the Prof and his readers debunk Larry Summers. Fine, just as long as they don't knock Al McGuire.

UPDATE: So often I find myself asking ... "Is this true? ... Or did I just read it in TIME?"

The Man Sans Q lets loose. Variable Blogger link in effect - you may have to scroll down to Friday, Jan 24 until the archive is clicking.

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Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Korean Challenge

The WSJ Editorial page annoys me with this entry on North and South Korea:

South Korea's Refugee Betrayal

The newly elected president of South Korea is a noted human-rights lawyer. The departing president is even more celebrated, a winner of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for "his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and East Asia."

So why aren't Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae Jung doing more to address the humanitarian crisis on the northern side of the DMZ? Some 23 million Koreans are condemned there to lives of starvation and virtual slavery in a totalitarian state for which weapons of mass destruction remain a higher priority than the welfare of its own people.

The answer, we hate to have to say, may be money. Seoul looks at the bill that West Germany footed for reunification with the East and shudders. Han Duk Soo, then an economic adviser to President Kim, was candid about this cynicism last spring: "The main objective for us is to make sure North Korea does not collapse," he was quoted as saying. "If they collapse, we know it will mean a huge cost to South Korea." This is the ugly little secret of President Kim's "sunshine policy," which is billed as bringing more openness to the North....

The official line in Seoul and Beijing is that an outpouring of refugees from the North would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe. "If we gave them refugee status, millions would pour over our doorstep," a Chinese scholar, who advises the Chinese and South Korean governments, was quoted as saying in yesterday's Washington Post. "That would cause a humanitarian crisis here and a collapse of the North. We can't afford either....

If South Korea is serious about helping those it calls its "brothers and sisters in the North" it would declare that it is ready to accept every North Korean who escapes -- even if that means tens of thousands of refugees. This is not as large a challenge as it sounds. The office of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees -- so far barred by Beijing from access to Koreans in China -- wants to help. Several third countries are willing to be transit points for refugees en route to the South. International aid organizations and religious groups in Seoul and the U.S. are prepared to provide for large numbers of refugees who reach South Korea.

The historical model here is East Germany in 1989. Hungary permitted tens of thousands of East German refugees to pass through its borders en route to the West, contributing to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. China understands this history, which is one reason it's so afraid of the North Korean refugees.

South Korea knows this history too -- which is why it ought to be encouraging the refugees who, under South Korea's constitution, have a right to go to the South. The constitution also says that it is the "duty of the State to confirm and guarantee the fundamental and inviolable human rights of individuals." Currently the South is betraying that promise."

Well, oil is an important part of the Iraqi equation, but when Bush critics say that it is all about oil, the WSJ bristles. I have no doubt that money is an important consideration in the North Korean reunification question, but I am sufficiently optimistic or naive to believe that it is not the driving force.

So, that said, let me present to the WSJ the "North Korean Challenge": maybe China and South Korea can not afford to take in a vast number of North Korean refugees, but I bet the US can. As longtime proponents of open borders, (if that link works, I'll be stunned) perhaps the WSJ would like to call for, say, one million green cards for North Koreans to come to the US. Many folks will flee, pressure on the regime will be intense, perhaps it collapses. Excellent!

OK, I can hear the first question - how much might that cost, and how do we afford it? I will take inspiration from the Michael Douglas character in "Falling Down", and respond thusly: Do you have any idea how much we spend right now in defending Korea? Well, neither do I, but I am sure it is a lot.

One million immigrants at $10,000 each is $10 Billion per year. But taking them in may crumble what may be the worst regime on Earth. Go for it.

The second problem is trickier - we may bring down the house, but South Korea and China will have to deal with the aftermath. They may staunchly oppose this US initiative. Embarass our ally, and China? Oh, live it up.

Now, could this be a serious US policy initiative? I don't know. But it could certainly be a serious WSJ editorial. They ought to step up, or shut up.

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