Friday, June 29, 2007


Another day, another incisive commentary by Michael Gerson about religion in the political sphere. Unlike most articles by Republicans telling Democrats what they need to do to win, Gerson actually comes across as sincere. Like most moderate evangelicals, he does not display an animus towards the left. Rather, he highlights areas where liberal and evangelical agendas coincide (human rights, AIDS) and where liberals have to compromise (abortion).

He has a clarity of vision on religious issues that all politicians would do well to study:
The whole enterprise -- there are examples on the right and left -- of asking "What Would Jesus Do?" on the earned-income tax credit or missile defense is presumptuous. Jesus, were he around again in the flesh, would probably be doing sensible things such as healing the sick, embracing outcasts and preaching sacrificial love. After all, he showed little interest in issuing a "Contract With the Roman Empire."
In addition, he offers the apotheosis of a politician with principled priorities:
When British author Hilaire Belloc ran for Parliament in 1906, his speech on religion and politics, given to a packed public meeting, went as follows: "Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that he has spared me the indignity of being your representative."
It strikes me that not a trifling number of American representatives would do well to yield up their seats and recover their dignity.

Too Close

This just in: British security people are good. There have been a few public and probably dozens of unknown terror plots that James Bond's less-fictional colleagues have broken up. This time, they almost weren't good enough:
LONDON (AP) - Police thwarted an apparent terror attack early Friday after an ambulance crew reported seeing a smoking car parked near Piccadilly Circus that turned out to be packed with gasoline, nails, gas cylinders, and a detonator.

The explosives - safely defused by a bomb squad - were powerful enough to have caused "significant injury or loss of life" - possibly killing hundreds, British anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke said.
The moral of the story: if you see a smoking car, call the coppers; don't wait for somebody else (like an on-duty ambulance) to do it.

Hat tip to Drudge.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Confucius Say

A well-intentioned ballot translation effort in Boston gives us some insight into candidates' names.
Galvin says the federal Justice Department is pressuring Boston election officials to translate candidates' names into Chinese characters in precincts with prominent Chinese-speaking populations... translators have resorted to finding characters that most closely match the sound of each syllable in [each candidate's] name. The problem is that there are many different characters that could be used to match the sound of each syllable, and many different meanings for each character.
Some of the renderings:
Mitt Romney...Sticky Rice
Fred Thompson...Virtue Soup
Barack Obama...Oh Bus Horse
Thomas Menino...Barbarian No Mind of His Own

Wanted: someone who will set up a cool internet-feature that will let you plug in your (English) name and spit out its Chinese transliteration and meaning. This could be very revealing. I got a few more from a Chinese classmate:

[my name]...Sand and Forest
George Bush...What Cloth?
Rudy Giuliani...Ruling Land Pig Benefits Security Nun

Hat tip to James Taranto at BOTWT.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I Like My Friends For More Than Their Appliances

There's so much more to like about Cory than his refrigerator. For instance, he maintains an excellent and occasionally hilarious blog. So, too, does Casey. The two today chronicle the oddities of east-side-of-the-mountains Morocco and west-side-of-the-mountains New York.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

On A Clear Day

You can see Ontario. The wonderful ROCWiki website tells of the Great Mirage of 1874:
High atop Mt. Hope Cemetery once stood a towering structure known as The Fandango, rising above the treeline to offer visitors a breathtaking view of our city and the Genesee winding its way out to Lake Ontario. On a bright clear day, April 16th of 1871, early visitors to the tower marvelled at the unusual vision it afforded them: the landscape North of Main Street appeared as though it had radically changed overnight. As word spread throughout the day, it became clear to the thousands who gathered there to witness the spectacle that they were indeed not seeing Rochester at all, but instead found themselves able to make out the opposite shore of Lake Ontario in vivid detail. Lakes, forests, and Canadian landmarks were all somehow made easily identifiable to the naked eye despite their actual distance of over 50 miles away.
Cool, huh?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Rockin' World Goes 'Round

"We're fed up of fat women here," said 19-year-old shop owner Yusuf. "Always fat women! Now we want thin women."
This from a hilarious BBC exposé of fat-bottomed-girl culture in Mauritania.

Enjoy your weekend, and don't eat too much couscous.

Friday, June 22, 2007

more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules

Wonder when pirates entered the popular imagination? Earlier than you might think - and in much the same way as we view them now. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is not so far off, says piratologist Colin Woodward in the CS Monitor. Of course, his histories haven't turned up Davy Jones or the rest of the supernatural, but he presents the Golden Age of pirating, which really does sound golden:
Virtually all of our pirate imagery comes from a single circle of pirates who knew one another, shared a common base in the Bahamas, and operated for a very brief period: 1715 to 1725. This gang – including Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy of Whydah fame, the female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and the gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet – provided the inspiration for the great pirates of fiction, from Long John Silver and Captain Hook to Captain Blood and Jack Sparrow...

At their zenith, Blackbeard and his colleagues had not only disrupted the commerce of three empires, they'd graduated to terrorizing warships and the colonies themselves. Britain's Royal Navy went from not being able to catch the pirates (who initially favored swift, agile sloops) to being afraid to encounter them at all (after they captured large, heavily armed vessels capable of overpowering any frigate stationed in the Americas at the time). In May 1717, the captain of the 22-gun HMS Seaford reported having abandoned a patrol of the British Leeward Islands because he was "in danger of being overpowered by the pirates."...

They were motivated by more than simple banditry. Indeed, many were former sailors who saw themselves in a social revolt against shipowners and captains who'd made their lives miserable. Bellamy's crew referred to themselves as Robin Hood's men. "They vilify us, the scoundrels do, when there is only this difference: They plunder the poor under the cover of law ... and we plunder the rich under the cover of our own courage," Bellamy told a captive.

On seizing a vessel, they turned its government upside down. Instead of using whips and other violence to enforce a rigid, top-down hierarchy, the pirates elected and deposed their captains by popular vote. They shared their treasure almost equally, at a time when captains aboard privateers (private, legally sanctioned warships) typically got 14 times more than a crewman, according to surviving ship contracts. Many pirate crews didn't allow the captain his own cabin – he had to share it with the crew...

Most surprising: Popular opinion was on the pirates' side. Authorities regularly complained to their superiors in London that many of their subjects regarded the pirates as heroes. Virginia Gov. Alexander Spotswood fumed that his citizens had "an unaccountable inclination to favor pirates," while his counterpart in South Carolina weathered a pro-pirate riot in which Charleston narrowly avoided being burned to the ground.
Read the rest.

Rehabbing McCain

Michael Gerson pens a WaPo opinion article today giving the case for respecting (not necessarily supporting) John McCain. McCain has been right, again and again, says Gerson, and often takes a fall for it.

Gerson, as well, is someone to keep an eye on. As President Bush's young first-term speechwriter he helped to bring back the art of meaningful presidential speechmaking. Now with the Council on Foreign Relations, he is poised to become the leading voice of moderate evangelical conservatives for the next few decades.

CAFE Standards Rise

The U.S. Senate today reached a compromise on automobile fuel efficiency today. It's a good compromise, scrapping the idiotic (taxes on auto-manufacturers to pay for ethanol) and the rigid (a 4% annual increase in CAFE every year after 2020), but keeping the centerpiece of the legislation: an increase in fleet average miles-per-gallon from 25 to 35 by the year 2020. For every Explorer they sell, they'll also need to sell a Prius or Civic. That's good news.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gitmo Gonzo?

Hat tip to Drudge for this AP story: the Bush administration is poised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The enemy combatants and terror suspects detained there would be moved elsewhere; possibly Leavenworth.

This needed to be done, but like most of the conciliatory moves by the administration, file this under "too little, too late". The wonks in the Bush administration are good at public relations but fail to grasp the power of symbols in the world imagination. Guantanamo is strange and exotic, dangerous-sounding, and Cold War-era. It should feature in a James Bond movie. Instead, it has been a rallying cry for opponents of the War on Terror, as every alleged excess that occurs there is blown out of proportion, and every court decision pertaining to one suspect or another is interpreted as a scathing rebuke of the administration or proof of its overwhelming power.

The fact that Gitmo was a bad idea in the first place has more to do with public relations politics than it does with winning the war on terror or maintaining civil rights. Now that the administration has grasped this, it can disarm the Democrat primarians of a powerful stump keyword.

Summer Solstice

Today is the longest day of the year. In Rochester, that means there are 15 hours and 23 minutes of sunlight today. Enjoy every minute of it!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Home Economics

This helpful cheat sheet on international finance terminology is for all my classmates studying hard (or hardly studying) for qualifiers.
  • Money Supply. According to Furth's Theorem, this always converges to zero.
  • Extending Domestic Credit. This is when your wife lets you play poker with the bachelors on Thursday night.
  • Balance of Payments Crisis. Results from too many such poker nights.
  • Foreign Reserves. The qualms you feel about visiting Eastern Europe at this time of year.
  • A Single Riskless Bond. Your marriage at age 60.
  • Second Generation Currency Crisis. Your six children all ask for money at the same time.
  • Covered Interest Parity. You have crushes on two different girls, but neither one knows about the other.
  • Uncovered Interest Parity. They found out.
With apologies to Alan.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


The Globe has a feel-good piece about Mo Vaughn, who is spending his post-baseball years renovating affordable housing in New York. Good for him. In the accompanying slide show, the last picture shows the MVP visiting a high schools statistics class. On the board, the teacher has written some of the statistical categories that made Mo great: RBI, Home Runs, Singles and Tribles.

Come to think of it, Mo wasn't so great at 'tribles' either.

Divorced, or Just Separated?

The brief civil war in Palestine is reaching its happy conclusion today as Fatah forces consolidate power in the West Bank.
Hundreds of Fatah gunmen stormed Hamas-controlled institutions across the West Bank, seeking revenge for the Islamic group's takeover of the Gaza Strip...

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled West Bank have effectively become separate political entities, endangering the Palestinian dream of forming an independent state in the two territories.
A divided Palestine is not a viable option in the long run: too many Palestinians and Arabs have demanded a state for too long to now admit they can't even keep the thing in one piece. Thus, no peace proposal that addresses only the West Bank will be able to gain widespread support.

Nonetheless, there remains a simple way to move forward. Let Palestine become a confederation with a notional president (such as Abbas), but effectively local control. Thus, Israel and America can channel aid and tax revenues not to Palestine as such (which is politically thorny) but to the state (wilaya) of West Bank. This is not an unknown notion in the Arab world: the UAE is a very successful confederation, and a federal system may ultimately solve Iraq.

The conflict in Palestine has always been driven by 'facts on the ground' - not political statements. Even if a newly organized Confederation of Palestine is a fig leaf, that's all that is needed to start recreating some positive facts on the ground that may lead to a lasting peace for the next generation if not for this one.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bush League

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon should be above this sort of silliness. In an editorial today he blames the genocide in Sudan on global warming. This is irresponsible on two fronts. First, it absolves Sudanese of responsibility to respect their neighbors. Are Sudanese so uncivilized that they are excused from killing because of drought? Second, it is absurd to believe that human activity is responsible for the desertification of the Sahel, a process that has been going on for the last 5,000 years.

Who Is John Galt?

The presidential candidate who would undoubtedly be Ayn Rand's first choice (among the declared candidates) is generating a lot of buzz on the internet, reports WaPo. Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is a constitutionalist and libertarian. He is against the ban on gay marriage, against the IRS, against the war in Iraq, and just about every other overstep of the federal government. He has refused to accept pork for his home district during his 20 years in Congress. This excites conservatives, libertarians, and local-government-ists:
"For a poor college student, [a donation to Paul of $100 is] a lot," said Porter, a lifelong Republican. "But I'm not supporting him because I think he could get the nomination. I'm supporting him because I think he can influence the national conversation about what the role of government is, how much power should government have over our lives, how much liberty should we give up for security. These are important issues, and frankly, no one's thinking about them as seriously and sincerely as Ron Paul."
If he's going to be a serious candidate (maybe for Vice President?), he needs to also highlight positive positions. Will he work to make trade free? Will he protect consumers from monopolies and trade unions? Does he support school choice? There are lots of solidly conservative proposals out there that stand to benefit Americans. Having a president who focused on those things instead of on spending money would be huge boon.

On the Pro Side

To counterbalance all the negative echoes one hears constantly these days, read the positive spin on Iraq from increasingly Independent senator Joe Lieberman. He may not be right, but it's important to note that someone who has a lot to lose from supporting America's continued commitment to Iraq nonetheless stands by his convictions.

Friday, June 15, 2007

1012 Words

Recent developments in Gaza: this picture says it all. Stolen from Drudge.

Palestine Divided

The division of Palestine - hypothesized yesterday - is reality this morning. This is not entirely bad news: the West Bank has always been more peaceful than Gaza, and perhaps freed from the constraint of having to treat Gaza and the West Bank the same, Israel and the West can renew a peace process with a chastened and beholden Fatah. The NY Times suggests as much:
Israeli officials suggested that Israel would work with Abbas and a Fatah government in the West Bank, and could gradually hand over to it the remaining Palestinian tax revenues, about $562 million, withheld since Hamas took power a year ago in March. "To give the money to a Hamas government would be reckless," one senior Israeli official said. "To give it to a Fatah government is an opportunity."
The deep question, of course, is whether Fatah can maintain control in the West Bank. Hamas will undoubtedly try to expand its foothold there, using elections, intimidation, the media, and the mosque. Whether it succeeds may determine the future of the Palestinian state (or states?).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Free-for-All 2008: Dodd a Dud?

Senator Chris Dodd thinks he is running for president. After all, he knows how much more intelligent and senior he is than his fellow Democratic senators who seem to run for president in platoons.

Dodd is doing a bang-up job in the Chatter Rankings, but not so much in the polls, where he is at the bottom of the second tier. So do those 3,394 stories - more than anyone not in one party's top three - report? Well, one makes sense: Dodd places dead last among contenders. Dodd is going to debate Bill Richardson in Spanish. In Miami. In a bathing suit. While juggling. Knives. Blindfolded. He's also crying foul at the debate format for giving viewers too much Obama and Hillary and Blitzer and too little Dodd.

Can anyone think of a reason to pay any more attention to Dodd? And if not, why is the media paying so much attention to him?

The monthly prediction...
Jun '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
May '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
Apr '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Giuliani
Mar '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Feb '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Jan '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Dec '06: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Nov '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Oct '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Sep '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Aug '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Jul '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Jun '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
May '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Apr '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Mar '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice
Feb '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 4,8670
R.2 Rudy Giuliani 4,4550
R.3 Gov. Mitt Romney 4,2050
R.4 Fred Thompson 2,3880
R.5 Newt Gingrich 1,223+1
R.6 Gov. Mike Huckabee 1,119-1
R.7 Ron Paul 1,103+1
R.8 Sen. Sam Brownback 796-1
R.9 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 750+2
R.10 Rep. Tom Tancredo 676+2
R.11 Rep. Duncan Hunter 619-2
R.12 Jim Gilmore 422+1
R.13 Tommy Thompson 414-3
R.14 Sen. Chuck Hagel 1870
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 7,5260
D.2 Sen. Barack Obama 6,0220
D.3 Sen. John Edwards 4,6410
D.4 Sen. Christopher Dodd 3,3940
D.5 Sen. Joseph Biden 2,3520
D.6 Gov. Bill Richardson 2,2360
D.7 Al Gore 1,509+2
D.8 Sen. John Kerry 1,4860
D.9 Rep. Dennis Kucinich 1,450+2
D.10 Sen. Russ Feingold 1,226-3
D.11 Mike Gravel 826+1
D.12 Howard Dean 527-2
D.13 Gov. Mark Warner 3520
D.14 Wesley Clark 1550

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month tested but not qualifying is Al Sharpton (73) and Jeb Bush (99). Non-contenders are kept on the rolls as Vice-Presidential possibilities (e.g. Rice) and benchmarks (e.g. Dean).

See recent graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from May, April, March, February, January, December 2006, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, December 2005, August, July, June, and May.

Tangled Web

Faithful Global Review reader david w. asked for analysis of the multiplying crises in the Middle East. Where does one even begin?

In Israel, politics is quiet. This is not normal.

Shimon Peres just won a barely-contested parliamentary election as president. Peres was the Labor candidate for President in 2000, but a last-minute swing by the religious Shas pulled the rug from beneath him. This time, as candidate of the ruling center-right party, Kadima, he won going away.

Israel's politics remains in a state of centripetal flux. Whither the war- and peace-mongers of yesteryear? The loud goals of peaceniks and nationalists alike have been gathering dust lately; ten - even five - years ago they were flaunted constantly. Now Palestine has taken over. Paradoxically, its capacity for self-determination has come because Palestine has become utterly ungovernable.

The last strands of the strained relationship between Israel and Palestine have snapped in recent weeks as the Palestinian unity government descended into civil war. (Elected Hamas brought in loser Fatah to be the "good cop"; Israel didn't buy it.)

Hamas is winning the civil war. Gaza is almost completely under Hamas control, and Fatah fighters have been executed in the streets where captured. President Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) is still in Gaza, and his party is telling him to dissolve the government so that he can rule by decree. What authority he has left is an open question.

One possible military result is that Hamas could rule Gaza and Fatah the West Bank. Al-Jazeera reports that Hamas operatives are being held by Fatah men in several West Bank towns. Meanwhile, Egypt is trying to broker a peace to avert a refugee wave into Sinai.

On another front, Egypt is attempting to keep its southern neighbor, Sudan, stable. That means tacitly supporting the Khartoum government against the Darfur rebels and the international community. From Egypt's perspective, a genocide in Darfur is unpleasant but localized (and far away). The overthrow of unified Sudan (which has been a tenuous state since its inception) could send Egypt's southern border into chaos.

In Khartoum, as Global Review discussed Tuesday, the Islamist government is yielding to U.S. pressure on allowing a UN force to protect civilians in Darfur. The U.S. can only exert so much pressure though: too much will spark a commercial conflict with China and would break down the spy cooperation the U.S. receives from Sudan in Iraq. Apparently, the Sudanese Mukhabarat are lending officers to the CIA, since they can glide into Al-Qaeda circles as an American never could.

And we need those spies in Iraq. Not only are American agents handicapped, but the Iraqi intelligence services have broken into feuding factions, writes David Ignatius. The sectarian violence, which has spiked since yesterday's bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, pervades every aspect of the government. Ignatius' article notes that one of the spy services is U.S.-backed, the other Iranian backed and wholly Shiite. It is becoming harder and harder to imagine a scenario under which the Shia, Sunna, and Kurds agree to share power in a stable (let alone democratic) Iraq. Meanwhile, it becomes more apparent that - among others - the conflict between the U.S. and Iran is being played out on Iraqi streets.

Iran, of course, is moving forward with its plans for nuclearization and working overtime to insert a friendly government in Iraq. As U.S. political punch has waned in the region, Iran has become bold, supplying the Taliban with weapons. They have no bonds of love with the super-Sunni Taliban, so the move signals an increasing view of the U.S. as their primary enemy and little faith in the staying power of the central Afghan government.

Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to work with the U.S., but both seem deeply susceptible to fundamentalist Sunni revolutions. Combined with Saudi Arabia's push for nuclear energy, Iran has some hard decisions to make. Do they support the Sunni militants, on the same logic that the U.S. used in the 1980's? Or does the proliferation of Sunni revolutionary movements pose a greater threat in the long run?

One such movement is the Fatah al-Islam militia in Lebanon. In the byzantine politics of the Middle East's most diverse state, it's hard to know where Iran - through its proxy Hezbollah - stands on the three-week-old Cold River Refugee Camp battle (Cold River is English for Naher al-Bared). While no political faction is coming out in favor of the militia, Hezbollah may be looking to score points against Fouad Siniora's government on other fronts. Zvi Bar'el has deep analysis on the politics of Cold River in Ha'aretz:
As in every such camp, its quarters are split according to the groups that control them: one quarter for Hamas and one for Fatah, a street for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a neighborhood for left-wing organizations or radical Islamic groups. All of them are armed to the teeth...

The actions of these splinter groups are also not desirable from Hezbollah's perspective. That's because as soon as the Lebanese Army shows it is capable of attacking a small Palestinian organization it wants to disarm, there are some who call for the army to take the opportunity to disarm Hezbollah, too.
It cannot be lost on Lebanese that this is their national, non-sectarian army's first victory. Ever. For 15 years, popular wisdom is that Hezbollah had the strongest military in Lebanon, and Syria and Israel could annihilate anything they wanted. But Israel's failure to crush Hezbollah last summer and Syria's increasing isolation have called the balance of power into question.

With continued assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians - the latest was Sunni Walid Eido - Lebanon gets angrier and slumps closer to open conflict with Syria and Hezbollah. The UN is trying to exert pressure on Syria to investigate (and stop) the assassinations, but with Syria's keystone position separating the Iraq and Palestine civil wars the international community is unwilling to push hard.

Does anybody still believe the quick-fix prescriptions of the 20th century?

Memo to Red Sox Starters

Attn: Mssrs Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, and Tavarez,

Pitching for the Red Sox is privilege enough in and of itself. Retroactive to last week, Red Sox management no longer considers 'run support' a necessary part of your job. Please pitch 7 to 9 innings of shutout ball in every appearance. As the great sports adage goes, you should 'find a way to win'.

Mr. Schilling, for instance, gave up 6 runs yesterday. Considering the offense allocated 2 runs again, he should have been able to win. After all, he won last week with only 1 run, and the night before Mr. Wakefield won with just 2.

In short, we expect nothing less than perfection, so to speak.


In case you were curious the Red Sox have scored 0, 2, 1, 10, 4, 1, 2, and 2 runs in their last eight games. Thanks to the near-miraculous pitching, they're actually 4-4 over that stretch. Memo to the offense: WAKE UP!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reverse Bounce?

Will Fred Thompson get the opposite of the "announcement bounce" to his poll numbers? With months of steady leakage and frothy press coverage (the press has repeatedly said he appeals to conservatives in search of a candidate, which amounts to repeating the #1 Thompson talking point), he's already gotten most of the pluses he can expect. For now, the announced candidates are ignoring him. Once he steps in, however, he could unite them.

Hat tip to Drudge for linking to this Politico story on the arsenal that is being assembled ahead of Thompson's announcement. The bottom line of the barrage is: conservatives, keep looking.

Thompson voted for McCain-Feingold, but now has backed off. He voted for limits on abortion, but has said repeatedly that he is pro-choice, at least to the extent that he opposes criminalizing abortion.

Thompson's conservative credentials ride, I think, on his ability to convince primary voters that he is truly a federalist. As a senator, his reputation was to do very little. If that is because of his federalist beliefs, very well. This country could benefit from a less-activist presidency. But if it's because he was lazy and enjoying the good life of an appointed senator (he admits to chasing women during his service), then he's not exactly the man we want at the reins.

This Is Global Review Speaking, Who's This?

Over the last 24 hours, Global Review has received dozens of hits from Google searches for "Global Review" originating in New York state. Is this blog what you're all looking for? If so, welcome! If not, what?

The Democrat World Order

Democrats running for president have made much of how they will give America a better name in the world. I can drink to that. So when do they start?

WaPo's centrist editorial board rips Hillary for provincial politicking: she opposes a free-trade agreement with South Korea. It's cars, not politics, she wants to stop at the water's edge. John Edwards also opposes it; Barack Obama (who at least has lived overseas) is not sure yet.

South Korea is not the only key U.S. ally on the front lines being waylaid by the Democratic Senate. A free trade agreement with Colombia is in limbo as the Democrats debate it's ratification. Even the San Francisco Chronicle comes out in favor of free trade with Colombia!

Leave economics aside. Leave globalization arguments, pro and con, aside. The bottom line in these cases is that the U.S. Senate is threatening to pass a motion of "No Confidence" in our allies. The message is: 'You can't trust us. We're only in this for our own political gain. You are expendable.'

So to the Democrats who want to start giving America a better name in the world: any time now would be great!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sudan Backs Down

President Bush's aggressive stance toward Sudan is paying off. Two weeks ago, his administration imposed additional sanctions against the regime that is either perpetrating or enabling ethnic cleansing in Darfur. Khartoum indicated today that it would be willing to accept an international peacekeeping force more than double the size of the current African Union force of 7,000. More importantly, the new force will be run by the UN and have Scandinavian expertise; the current AU forces have been poorly funded and overstretched. Given those conditions, the world owes them a huge "thank you" for their efforts in stemming the violence in Darfur.

France continues to provide support in Darfur as a helpful size comparison, and maybe some material support as well. Other Arab countries continue to contribute by staunchly sticking to their policy of 'Khartoum Carte Blanche'.

And the U.S. media contributes with these stories about the new sanctions, which were imposed last month:
  • Save Darfur Coalition says Bush's Sudan sanctions may be too late - AP
  • Impact of Bush's Sudan sanctions doubted - Seattle Times
  • Sudan, Iran find a bypass to UN sanctions - USA Today
  • Sudan sanctions called inadequate - San Francisco Chronicle
  • Sudan Spying for CIA - Free Market News Network
This despite Nancy Pelosi and Tony Blair's unqualified support.

To recap: for months, the international community has been trying to get Sudan to accept UN involvement in the peacekeeping. Bush imposed sanctions on May 29. On June 11, Sudan agreed to accept UN forces.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Col. Kurtz, Gen. Pershing, and Adm. Perry, All Rolled Into One

Is it any wonder the character type canonized in Joseph Conrad's Colonel George-Antoine Kurtz keeps reappearing in Western literature - from Prester John to Pippi Longstocking to Lawrence of Arabia?

The BBC has two stories side-by-side on their main page: The Albanians are a lot more sophisticated than the Vanuatuan villagers who latched on to Price Phillip as their object of worship. But their reaction stands in sharp contrast to Mr. Bush's reception anywhere else in the world:
"This is great. We are proud that the 'President of the World' is visiting Albania," says 23-year-old student Ardita...

Konstandin, a 29-year-old waiter at one of the bars, agrees. "It puts Albania on the map. It shows how close we are to America. We support President Bush and America"...

A few hundred metres away, the old mausoleum of the former Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, is now draped in US flags and a huge portrait of Mr Bush hangs above the entrance.
This isn't new:
It is said here that in 2003, while there were protests in other European capitals against the war in Iraq, Tirana was the only capital where demonstrations were actually held in favour of the war.
Those who have been delivered of much love much.

Draw The Line

Kudos to Mike Musgrove for his WaPo column on the coolest political game to hit the internet: THE ReDISTRICTING GAME gives you the chance to draw new district lines in three fictional states under a few scenarios.

The redistricting debate is the most important reform issue in the United States right now.
Jonathan D. Aronson, a professor and political scientist at USC, is a little exasperated that Americans sometimes worry about the potential for voting-machine tampering when there may be a more fundamental -- though, perhaps, drier and harder-to-explain -- problem in how districts are drawn.

"My question was, why would you need to rig the voting machines if you'd already rigged the election by making seats safe?" he said.
The game is more fun than you might think: it's actually tricky to make the districts as partisan as your party bosses require. In case you don't think this is a problem, check out the two districts I live (alternately) in: New York's 28th and Massachusetts' 4th.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Bush Reinvention Stalls

Mayor Bloomberg of New York hits the nail on the head:
"If George Bush came out for motherhood and apple pie, people would be against it," Mr. Bloomberg replied.
In a year where the President is trying to become a centrist (pushing immigration reform, accepting the Iraq Study Group, etc.), Bloomberg's statement is a corollary to Global Review's diagnosis: too little, too late.

Immigration Reform Loses; Everybody Wins

Why did the comprehensive immigration reform bill fail in the Senate yesterday? Moderate Dan Balz in WaPo blames it on the extremes of the two parties. Like Balz, Global Review is moderate on the issue of immigration: sympathetic to those who want to work in America; and a firm proponent of the rule of law.

I have another theory as to why the bill failed. Far from being a Pareto improvement, it actually would have made (almost) everyone worse off than under the status quo.
  • Illegal immigrants would lose: either pay a fine or face increased risk of deportation.
  • Legal immigrants would lose: guest workers could undercut wages.
  • Businesses hiring illegals would lose: wages would be regulated, and the supply of labor would be responsive to the political climate, not market forces.
  • Low-wage American workers might earn higher wages - but might earn lower wages as input costs increase. They would also face higher prices.
  • High-wage and retired American workers would face higher prices and might see lower wages.
  • American taxpayers would fund all the new enforcement.
  • Hispanic Americans would be entrenched as an underclass for decades, like Turks and North Africans in Europe.
  • American terms of trade would erode as our labor costs rose.
Winners, by contrast, would be outsourcing concerns and competing importers in Mexico, China, Canada, and elsewhere.

Taken together, this reform was comprehensively bad. Instead of addressing the social problem (an emerging Hispanic underclass) and the economic problem (an over-regulated unskilled labor market) it exacerbated both. We may be in the frying pan still, but it sure beats the fire!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Still The Ace

Curt Schilling just completed a tantalizing one-hitter against the Oakland A's; Shannon Stewart singled with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning to break up the bid. That may be for the best: if Shannon had grounded out, Schilling would have been one error - by already slumping Julio Lugo - away from a perfect game. This way, Lugo's gaffe doesn't loom as large (though, of course, Stewart never would have received a fourth at-bat in a perfect game bid).

As he will no doubt repeat on 38 Pitches tomorrow, he shook off Jason Varitek's call on the fateful pitch and will spend the rest of his life second-guessing himself. Well, hopefully not the rest of his life: he could always pitch a no-hitter later this season and put it to rest!

A lot of commentators have called Josh Beckett the true Ace of this Red Sox club; Beckett is, after all, among the top AL pitchers in wins, ERA, and WHIP, and is younger and stronger. But Schilling has had four opportunities to stop a losing streak - and he has delivered every time. Beckett has not yet had to stop a streak, and he probably could, but so far, the weighty mantle of ace-hood rests firmly on Curt Schilling's schoulders. (I couldn't resist; sorry)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mitt Romney: Watch Your Language

Mitt Romney had the privilege of answering the first question in the GOP debate last night. In the first sentence of his answer he used the terms "Non sequitor" and "null set". Now this is a politician who speaks my language!

Global Review Explains the Mysteries of the Universe

...with the use of our favorite crystal ball: Wikipedia. Have you ever wondered what "extra virgin" means on olive oil? Or who invented paintball? Well, you could go look it up on the wiki, but Global Review beat you to it.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In countries belonging to the International Olive Oil Council, the following standards apply:
  • Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. There can be no refined oil in extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Virgin olive oil has an acidity less than 2%, and judged to have a good taste. There can be no refined oil in virgin olive oil.
  • Olive oil is a blend of virgin oil and refined virgin oil, containing at most 1% acidity. It commonly lacks a strong flavor.
  • Olive-pomace oil is a blend of refined pomace olive oil and possibly some virgin oil. It is fit for consumption, but it may not be called olive oil. Olive-pomace oil is rarely found in a grocery store; it is often used for certain kinds of cooking in restaurants.
  • Lampante oil is olive oil not used for consumption; lampante comes from olive oil's ancient use as fuel in oil-burning lamps. Lampante oil is mostly used in the industrial market.
Good to know.

Chemical Wedding. If you use the words "chemical wedding" in a sentence, you certainly sound sagacious and cultured, even mystical. But what do you mean? The phrase is derived from the Rosicrucian manifesto, Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz (the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz), which is an allegory for alchemy. As C.S. Lewis writes in The Abolition of Man, "The serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins: one was sickly and died, the other was strong and throve". Both owe their birth not to medieval superstition but to renaissance alchemy. So you can use the phrase "chemical wedding" to deride dogmatic empiricists and scientific utopians; e.g. "Cloning's children are born from the chemical wedding of hubristic scientists and complicit nationalists."

Aside: will your olive oil lose its extra virginity if it has a chemical wedding?

Paintball. Straight from the wiki:
The first paintballs were created by the Nelson Paint Company in the 1950s for forestry service use in marking trees from a distance, and were also used by cattlemen to mark cows.[2] Two decades later, paintballs were used in a survival game between two friends in the woods of Henniker, New Hampshire, and paintball as a sport was born. In 1976, Josef Venable, a stock trader, Bob Gurnsey, and his friend Charles Gaines, a writer, were walking home and chatting about Gaines' recent trip to Africa and his experiences hunting buffalo. Eager to recreate the adrenaline rush that came with the thrill of the hunt, and inspired by Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game, the two friends came up with the idea to create a game where they could stalk and hunt each other.[3]
Knowledge is a matter of comparison, not of value.

Feminist Economics. Hat tip to Harry on this one. A few economics departments proudly proclaim that they research "feminist economics". Is that the study of the production and distribution of scarce shoes? Surprisingly not. The wiki:
Feminist economics broadly refers to a developing branch of economics that applies feminist insights and critiques to economics. Research under this heading is often interdisciplinary, critical, or heterodox. It encompasses debates about the relationship between feminism and economics on many levels: from applying mainstream economic methods to under-researched "women's" areas, to questioning how mainstream economics values the reproductive sector, to deeply philosophical critiques of economic epistemology and methodology.
Deeply philosophical, eh? The article goes on to detail that feminist economics abandons the neutrality of modern economics, and takes a "specific moral position" on economic issues. That is to say, feminist economists complain that women are unappreciated.

The most useful contribution of feminist economists may be some work on measuring informal-sector GDP. Women working in the informal sector, it is true, create a great deal of unmeasured value. The same, I fear, cannot be said for these economists. More fairly: feminist economics is an approach to economic issues under the rubric of feminism, not an approach to women's issues under the rigor of economics.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Win the Battles, Lose the War

Democrats won the elections last fall going away. They could throw around the m-word (mandate) and nobody would blink. One of the key questions at the time was how long would they maintain the advantage; and could they parlay anger at Republicans in Congress into victories in 2008 and beyond.

The beginnings of the answer are emerging, in a new poll. Proponents of leaving Iraq have gone from being gung-ho about the Democratic congress to quite dissatisfied: they lead a 24-point drop in approval ratings over the past 6 weeks. Of course, that means many centrists are still alright with the Democrats.

Clearly, however, the Democratic leadership will have to show results in order to keep the trust of the American voter. Because now they 'own' the messes in Washington as much as the executive, and some of the messes overseas. It's a hard thing, leadership.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


A good friend recounted the following story recently; names are withheld to protect the innocent.

So my friend and her husband were working somewhere in Florida back in the early 1990's, scratching by with one job and a one-year-old baby. The spare room went to a spare fellow, a bachelor also in the baseball business; I'll call him "M". M was a generous housemate, but not exactly child-oriented. Thus my friend was surprised when M offered to take the baby - let's call him "DJ" - for a Sunday afternoon. Free babysitting, however, is always welcome, so my friend and her husband took the opportunity to go out on a rare date. They returned to find baby and housemate happy and healthy. So far so good; M offered to take DJ again the next Sunday, and the next. M, apparently, was enjoying his 'dates' with DJ; and the parents were presumably enjoying their dates as well.

On their way home one day, the parents stopped at a bar. The name of the bar escapes me, but my friend remembers vividly to this day. A big mirror shimmered behind the bar, a cloud of cigarette smoke floated under yellow lights, and the bartender moved amiably from customer to customer. Further down the bar, two ladies of the type who go to bars alone were leaning over a carseat on the bar. In front of the carseat sat M; in the carseat sat his wingman, DJ.