Saturday, March 11, 2006

The NYT features "The Man!"

















Frankie Manning led his dance
team to victory in a 1935 contest
by flipping Frieda Washington
over his head.


Russell Williams and Connie Hill doing the Lindy Hop at the Savoy Ballroom about 1939.
Five decades after it closed in Harlem, the Savoy Ballroom is still revered.I am delighted to see Frankie Manniing featured. The reporter has no idea just how well known and revered he is.






The night Frankie Manning flipped Frieda Washington over his back in a heels-over-the-head maneuver on the dance floor of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, he was more than a little nervous.

The year was 1935, the song was "Down South Camp Meeting" and the occasion was a swing dance contest that featured six pelvis-shaking couples. Mr. Manning, then 21, and his partner, Ms. Washington, were the last to compete.

"I had to follow all them other teams that went out there and tore the floor," he said. "Shorty Snowden, who was the greatest dancer in the world as far as I was concerned, had just danced in front of me and I was saying, 'Man, I ain't going out there.' " But as Chick Webb and his band played, the couple locked arms, and Mr. Manning, his back to hers, bent over and catapulted Ms. Washington over him, a split-second feat they had rehearsed beforehand with his bedroom mattress close by, just in case.

That move — the first Lindy Hop air step, according to the International Encyclopedia of Dance — did more than earn his team a victory that night. It helped make him a dancing legend.

Over the years he would become a courtly ballroom ambassador, teaching the swing dance styles to eager couples from around the world.

But for Mr. Manning — now a 91-year-old grandfather, retired postal worker and recent inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. — it was just another night at the Savoy.

Dance halls come and go in New York City as quickly as fashion trends and pizza parlors. But nearly 50 years after its death, the Savoy has lived on, if only in revered memories.

On Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st Streets, the ballroom was a blocklong rhythm factory that set New York's jazz-fueled tempo in the 1930's and 1940's.

On any given night, thousands packed the hardwood dance floor as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald or Count Basie supplied the tunes, inspiring the kind of moves that prompted someone — former patrons like saying it was Lana Turner — to call the place "the home of happy feet."

This evening, the ballroom's birthday, Mr. Manning and more than 100 others who danced or played music at the Savoy are gathering to remember it, celebrate their youth and, naturally, dance.

The Savoy — it opened March 12, 1926, and closed July 10, 1958 — was torn down and a housing complex called the Delano Village took its place.

Some of the former musicians and dancers plan to meet at a plaque marking the spot at noon, attend panel discussions on the Savoy's influence on American dance history and then finish off the evening with a dinner and dance at the nearby Alhambra Ballroom.

The event was organized by three men who never saw the Savoy Ballroom for themselves: Elliott Donnelley, who runs a production company based in San Francisco that sponsors Lindy Hop events; Chad Fasca, who directs the swing program at the Sandra Cameron Dance Center in Manhattan; and Terry Monaghan, a dance historian from London who operates a Web site about the Savoy, www.savoyballroom.com.

During a revival of swing dancing to big-band music in the late 1980's and 90's, the Savoy's history enjoyed a resurgence of interest. A younger generation of dance enthusiasts looked upon it as a cultural phenomenon that inspired high-flying invention on the dance floor and brought blacks and whites together in a time of segregation.

"The Savoy opened the doors for all people being together," said Norma Miller, 86, who along with Mr. Manning was an original member of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, top Savoy dancers assembled by Herbert White, a former ballroom bouncer who was known as Whitey. "We were the first people in the world who were integrated. We didn't have segregation at the Savoy."

Mr. Manning said patrons were judged by their talent on the dance floor, not the color of their skin. Not even the celebrities received special treatment. One night, someone approached Mr. Manning and his friends. "Somebody came over and said, 'Hey man, Clark Gable just walked in the house.' Somebody else said, 'Oh, yeah, can he dance?' " Mr. Manning recalled. "All they wanted to know when you came into the Savoy was, do you dance?"

In the spring of 1944, the dance floor at the Savoy was where Martha Hickson first met the man she later married. Ms. Hickson is white; her husband, Foster Hickson, was black. They were married nearly 50 years, until her husband's death in 2000. "He had a particular way he would lift his feet," said Ms. Hickson, 80, who planned to attend the celebration today. "He called it the Apple Jack. I don't even have to close my eyes. I can see him doing that right this minute."

The Savoy's dance floor used to bounce with the force of all those happy feet, and few remember it better than Bill London. He was one of a group of neighborhood teenagers who helped clean the ballroom in the early morning hours, sweeping the dance floor and picking up trash.

When he was older, on leave from the Army, he returned to dance.

"I was going there to have fun and to get women," said Mr. London, 70. "I cannot lie. But you had to be able to dance."

"Status Reporter"

Joseph Rago of the WSJ does their weekend piece on Tom Wolfe.

"Mr. Wolfe offers a personal incident as evidence of "what a fashion liberalism is." A reporter for the New York Times called him up to ask why George W. Bush was apparently a great fan of the "Charlotte Simmons" book. "I just assumed it was the dazzling quality of the writing," he says. In the course of the reporting, however, it came out that Mr. Wolfe had voted for the Bush ticket. "The reaction among the people I move among was really interesting. It was as if I had raised my hand and said, 'Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you, I'm a child molester.'" For the sheer hilarity, he took to wearing an American flag pin, "and it was as if I was holding up a cross to werewolves."

George Bush's appeal, for Mr. Wolfe, was owing to his "great decisiveness and willingness to fight." But as to "this business of my having done the unthinkable and voted for George Bush, I would say, now look, I voted for George Bush but so did 62,040,609 other Americans. Now what does that make them? Of course, they want to say--'Fools like you!' . . . But then they catch themselves, 'Wait a minute, I can't go around saying that the majority of the American people are fools, idiots, bumblers, hicks.' So they just kind of dodge that question. And so many of them are so caught up in this kind of metropolitan intellectual atmosphere that they simply don't go across the Hudson River. They literally do not set foot in the United States. We live in New York in one of the two parenthesis states. They're usually called blue states--they're not blue states, the states on the coast. They're parenthesis states--the entire country lies in between."
Rest here

Globalization Offered Two Ways: à la Carte and Prix Fixe

Daniel Gross of the "Times" says that

"LIKE gravity, globalization has come to be seen in recent years as an unstoppable force of nature. If the world is flat, capital, goods and services can go wherever they want. But last week, the process of cross-border economic integration suffered the same fate as foolish mortals who would defy Newtonian physics: it crashed to earth."

Last summer, anguished protests stopped the Chinese oil company Cnooc from acquiring United States-based Unocal, even though Unocal slakes only a tiny fraction of America's oil thirst. Indeed, the Dubai controversy is merely the latest manifestation of a new condition afflicting politicians, policymakers and ordinary citizens all over the globe. Call it Selective Globalization Syndrome.

The main symptom: a desire to pick and choose the outcomes of globalization, as if from an à la carte menu. For instance, nobody squawked in 2004 when DP World, then British-owned, bought the port operation of Florida's CSX Corporation for $1.2 billion, or when a company based in Dubai bought the Essex House hotel in New York for $440 million last year.

Yet pro-globalization presidents and policymakers can be anti-globalists when convenient. President Bush, an ardent champion of free trade, has fervently argued for the ports transaction as a matter of principle. But he ordered protective steel tariffs early in his first term, and has shown little interest in exposing sugar growers in politically important states like Florida to the benefits of global competition.

Selective Globalization Syndrome drives politicians and government officials to even more seemingly contradictory stances. For instance, a Dubai-based company controlling East Coast ports is an unacceptable security risk, but Chinese companies controlling West Coast ports is fine.


Rest here

The Juggler


Robert Worth of the "Times" says our Iraqi Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, is a real "flack catcher."

EVER since Iraq's elections in December, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador here, has played the role of a Kissinger-style power broker, shuttling between the country's political factions and urging them to make concessions in the interest of forming a broad-based government.

In a country deeply divided along sectarian lines, that was never an easy task.

Now the violence that followed the bombing of a Shiite shrine on Feb. 22 — and that raised the prospect of open civil war — has made Mr. Khalilzad's task far more urgent, and left him a contentious figure whose credibility as an honest broker has come under attack.

His increasingly difficult position shows how far the ground has shifted in recent weeks.

Both Sunnis and Shiites now publicly accuse him of secretly siding with their opponents. With the possibility of civil war looming, they seem to have gone beyond worrying whose faction will get the next cabinet post; their deepest concern now is whom will the American forces help if unrestrained warfare breaks out.

The Shiite religious parties who dominate Iraq's government have now grown tired of hearing the ambassador tell them that they must share power with Sunni Arab leaders, whom they view as terrorists.

[-]

For their part, Iraqi leaders of all varieties acknowledge that Mr. Khalilzad remains essential to efforts to bring the factions together. On Friday, with talks on forming a new government deadlocked, he called for a meeting of the main blocs, to be held outside Iraq.

Most of the leaders also praise his skills as a negotiator. Tall and loose-limbed, he laughs easily, but in large gatherings tends to listen in silence, Iraqi leaders who have spent time with him say. Several have been impressed by his willingness to go to people's homes to talk, rather than sit in the safety of the heavily guarded Green Zone.

Mr. Khalilzad's native language is Dari, which is familiar to many Kurds and Shiites, and he uses it when he meets with them. The mere fact that he is a fellow Muslim opens doors. It is also well known here that he was part of the neoconservative group that pushed for toppling Saddam Hussein — a credential that deepens his credibility as an administration spokesman.

"He has charm, there is no doubt of that," said Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister who is a member of the secular alliance in Iraq's new Parliament. "He makes people feel that he cares."


Rest here

Supreme Court Smackdown!

Adam Liptak of the Times reviews the reasons the Law Profs were all wet on FAIR. Clip:

"Then there is the clueless law professor theory.
Peter H. Schuck, a Yale law professor who thought the law schools' legal position was misguided, said that many professors were so indignant about the military's treatment of gay men and women and so scornful of the military itself that their judgment became clouded.

"There is often a feeling that if something is morally wrong it must be legally wrong and that clever arguments can bring those two things into alignment," Professor Schuck said.

The elite law schools have for decades been overwhelmingly liberal, Professor Schuck said, and that may have blinded professors to problems with their arguments. Only one law school brief, organized by members of the faculty of George Mason University School of Law, supported the military.

"If you put together a Vietnam legacy, a gay rights ideology, the idea that courts can solve all problems and the legal academy's echo chamber, you get this result, " said Joseph Zengerle, an adjunct professor at George Mason who helped write the brief.

Mr. Rosencranz said his side had nothing to apologize for. "The lopsided vote does not detract from the wisdom or judgment of the legal academy in pressing the case," he said. "Nor does it change the ardent view that what the military is doing is wrong, even if the Supreme Court found it permissible."

But the second-guessing has started.

"Unfortunately," said Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, "a great many very smart people were so close to the issues that they failed listen to those of us who said this was a really difficult argument." Rest here

Even as U.S. Invaded, Hussein Saw Iraqi Unrest as Top Threat

The NYT has a major "weekender" on Saddam based on a DOD report they got hold of. The key point I see in every one of these "oppo" is the belief, that is justified, that the USA won't take casualties.
Excerpts
As American warplanes streaked overhead two weeks after the invasion began, Lt. Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani drove to Baghdad for a crucial meeting with Iraqi leaders. He pleaded for reinforcements to stiffen the capital's defenses and permission to blow up the Euphrates River bridge south of the city to block the American advance.

But Saddam Hussein and his small circle of aides had their own ideas of how to fight the war. Convinced that the main danger to his government came from within, Mr. Hussein had sought to keep Iraq's bridges intact so he could rush troops south if the Shiites got out of line.

Despite the lopsided defeat his forces suffered during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Mr. Hussein did not see the United States as his primary adversary. His greater fear was a Shiite uprising, like the one that shook his government after the 1991 war......

While conventional military planning languished, Mr. Hussein's focus on internal threats led to an important innovation: creation of the Fedayeen paramilitary forces. Equipped with AK-47's, rocket propelled grenades and small-caliber weapons, one of their primary roles was to protect Baath Party headquarters and keep the Shiites at bay in the event of a rebellion until more heavily equipped Iraqi troops could crush them......

Mr. Hussein's main concern about a possible American military strike was that it might prompt the Shiites to take up arms against the government. "Saddam was concerned about internal unrest amongst the tribes before, during or after an attack by the U.S. on Baghdad," Mr. Aziz told his interrogators. Other members of Mr. Hussein's inner circle thought that if the Americans attacked, they would do no more than conduct an intense bombing campaign and seize the southern oil fields......

In December 2002, he told his top commanders that Iraq did not possess unconventional arms, like nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force established by the C.I.A. to investigate what happened to Iraq's weapons programs. Mr. Hussein wanted his officers to know they could not rely on poison gas or germ weapons if war broke out. The disclosure that the cupboard was bare, Mr. Aziz said, sent morale plummeting........

Even as the Americans were rapidly moving north, Mr. Hussein did not appreciate the seriousness of the threat. While the Fedayeen had surprised the allied forces with their fierce resistance and sneak attacks, Iraqi conventional forces were overpowered........

"We didn't believe it would go all the way to Baghdad," a senior Republican Guard staff officer later told his interrogators. "We thought the coalition would go to Basra, maybe to Amara, and then the war would end."...... Read it all

Here's a pair to draw to.

Make no mistake about it, Kerry is running.
[hat tip, Decision 08]

The Boston Globe says,
"As Senator John F. Kerry prepared to make a return to presidential-style politics with a classic day of New Hampshire campaigning, he said that the 2004 run left him tougher and more eager to fight.

''When you get knocked on your ass and lose a race, you've got to stop and reflect on what you're doing, why you're doing it, what matters, and what's important. And I did," Kerry said in an interview in his Senate office on Thursday. ''There's a very different John Kerry now who is absolutely crystal clear about how I communicate what I need to communicate. . . . People are going to be looking for leadership."

Kerry's efforts to launch another presidential bid have prompted grumbling from some Democrats, who question whether a second Kerry candidacy would be good for the party -- or even realistic. Some party insiders expect that leading fund-raisers and strategists will push Kerry out before the race starts, in favor of a fresh face for a party desperate to retake power." Read it all

Whose on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows?

"Odd Statement from Katherine Harris"

Can *anyone* parse this? [hat tip REDSTATE]

"I want to thank the delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for their extraordinary support of my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
While there has been much speculation in recent days concerning my campaign, and our party faces challenges in this mid-term election, I am confident with your dedication and commitment, we shall be victorious in November.

Unfortunately, I am unable to join you this weekend, as I prayerfully prepare with my family, friends and advisors to finalize the strategy for a major announcement next week concerning my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

I will continue to look to our founding fathers, who pursued their vision with integrity and perseverance, to discern the best course of action for the state of Florida and our nation."

-Congresswoman Katherine Harris"

Security Techniques Used In Vegas Don't Stay In Vegas

Chris Anderson at "Wired" tells us that private enterprise beats out the gov, especially on finding terrorists. [hat tip, Ace of Spades]

"For the past seven years, the place to be in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve has been Jeff Jonas' mansion. This year's wild party was the biggest yet: 1,500 people and all-night entertainment ranging from go-go dancers to fire-­eaters. Jonas planted a huge stage in his poolside garden, added infernotastic choreography, and ended up with a cross between Burning Man and a Prodigy concert. And this year the bash had a new group of partygoers - senior government officials and IBM executives - checking out the spectacle along with the midget, the devil on stilts, and the tattooed Harley guys.

Here's one of the nation's top geeks, Linton Wells II, principal deputy to the chief information officer in the Department of Defense. And there's Mike Nelson, formerly Al Gore's technology adviser and now an IBM exec. And over there, a couple of government spooks who appear to be enjoying the belly dancers in the hookah lounge.

What brought these worlds together? September 11. Jonas is a leading surveillance expert, a database whiz who made his name catching casino cheats. His claim to fame is something called "nonobvious relationship awareness," which is a way of letting computers connect the dots between different data sets - like the big roulette winner who turns out to have the same home phone number as the croupier.

But once the Twin Towers fell, surveillance became a national priority. Homeland Security officials realized that Las Vegas was essentially a state-of-the-art test bed. And Jonas became the go-to guy for sorting through mountains of data, looking not for scam artists but terrorists. Last year IBM bought his company, SRD. Now he's one of about 300 "distinguished engineers" - even though he doesn't hold a college degree.

Jonas, 41, is a buzz machine of ego and energy, a taut triathlete with a string of ex-wives who has been described as "Bill Gates channeling Jim Carrey." In his day job he's working on ways to help the government find terrorists without infringing on privacy. His work on turning sensitive data sets, such as watch lists, into anonymized hash files is a core piece of IBM's growing "identity analytics" strategy.

But on this New Year's, Jonas is a Vegas show producer. A freak windstorm destroyed the huge tent that covered the main stage, so he's worrying about the laser show. He's got 150 employees here, including a security detail and a paramedic squad, but there's an awful lot of alcohol sloshing around, and the pool is on fire. No worries - the show will go on. Jonas is especially determined to have everything run smoothly because this blowout will be his last. "I just can't outdo myself anymore," he says. And then he dives back into the crowd of circus freaks and intelligence analysts, connecting the dots.


And they were worried about Plame?

The Chicago Tribune reports:

The Internet blows CIA cover - It's easy to track America's covert operatives. All you need to know is how to navigate the Internet."
Although the Tribune's initial search for "Central Intelligence Agency" employees turned up only work-related addresses and phone numbers, other Internet-based services provide, usually for a fee but sometimes for free, the home addresses and telephone numbers of U.S. residents, as well as satellite photographs of the locations where they live and work.

Asked how so many personal details of CIA employees had found their way into the public domain, the senior U.S. intelligence official replied that "I don't have a great explanation, quite frankly."

The official noted, however, that the CIA's credo has always been that "individuals are the first person responsible for their cover. If they can't keep their cover, then it's hard for anyone else to keep it. If someone filled out a credit report and put that down, that's just stupid."

One senior U.S. official used a barnyard epithet to describe the agency's traditional system of providing many of its foreign operatives with easily decipherable covers that include little more than a post office box for an address and a non-existent company as an employer."

"McCain At The SRLC"

Real Clear Politics says:

Last night at the SRLC, John McCain drew the unenviable task of speaking after former Congressman J.C. Watts. Depending upon how much a conspiracy theorist you are, this could have been either sheer coincidence or the devilish, micro-detailed machinations of pro-Frist forces seeking to give their man every possible advantage playing on his home field.

Nevertheless, McCain did his best, starting with a smart, if somewhat risqué joke that paid homage to Watts’s inimitable speaking style and also lowered the expectation bar back down to a more manageable level. “I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s fifth husband on his wedding night,” McCain deadpanned, “I know what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t know how to make it interesting.”

By the time McCain took the stage people had already been buzzing about his plan to tell delegates to write President Bush's name down on their straw poll ballots, saying "personal amibitions should be a distant second" to standing with President Bush in the war on terror. The implication, however, is that McCain wants to avoid an embarrassing showing in the straw poll so he chose to try and deligitimize it - which is pretty ironic since straw polls aren't all that legitimate to begin with. Anyway, Drudge is now touting this as a huge embarrassment for McCain, though my sense is that might be overstating things a bit.

One more note from McCain's speech last night. Among the "straight talk" he offered to the delegates was the view that killing the Dubai ports deal was a mistake. McCain talked about depth of our relationship with the UAE, especially with regard to how much logistical assistance our Navy receives from Dubai, and how it was harmful to America's effort to win the war for the hearts and minds of the Arab people around the world. He said he felt the decision to kill the deal was premature and not handled particuarly well by Congress: "The president deserved better," McCain said to a smattering of applause."

Don't know how I missed this, with all the MSM coverage it got

The "Jurist"says there is "No proof of CIA secret prisons: Europe report"

The Council of Europe [official website] said Wednesday that an investigation into allegations that the US Central Intelligence Agency operated secret prisons [JURIST report] in Europe revealed no "smoking gun" evidence that proved the existence of the prisons. COE Secretary General Terry Davis [official profile], presenting his findings on alleged illegal detentions and rendition flights on European territory based on official replies received from all 46 COE member states, also said that it was "virtually impossible" to determine whether the CIA used European airspace for extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text].

"The more we test, the better you learn"

Financial Times reports: Scientists discover how to pass exams
"Psychologists have made an intriguing discovery that could have profound implications for our understanding of human learning mechanisms - and immediate significance for students revising for examinations.

The scientists, from Washington University inSt Louis, found that students understood and retained information more readily when subjected to frequent tests and quizzes while studying than students who simply read material over and over again.

"Our study indicates that testing can be used as a powerful means for improving learning, not just assessing it," said Prof Henry Roediger of the university's psychology department.

The results are published in the current issue of Psychological Science. According to Prof Roediger, students who relied on repeated study alone frequently developed a false sense of confidence about their mastery of the materials even while their grasp of important detail was sliding away. By comparison, students who were either tested repeatedly or tested themselves while revising scored dramatically higher marks. A group of students who read a piece of text 14 times, for example, recalled less than a self-testing group who had read the piece only three or four times. The cause of the phenomenon remains uncovered: one theory is that we learn more efficiently in difficult situations."

This sure looks a lot more interesting than the Segway

Hot Wheel
Dan Lienert at Forbes says: We love reading about new products and designs from Bombardier, mostly because besides building things like airplanes and subway cars, the privately held, Quebec-based company also builds fun stuff like Rotax karts, Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Bombardier ATVs, Sea-Doo sport boats and Johnson and Evinrude outboard engines.

No wonder, then, that they have produced an exciting answer to the Segway Human Transporter. Like the Segway, Bombardier's Embrio concept--a prototype that may or may not make production--uses gyroscope technology to balance riders but adds a dash of flair absent in the Segway, which we as car nuts find slightly nerdy.

The Embrio concept also uses one less wheel than the Segway and will attract, Bombardier hopes, a younger demographic. The vehicle is designed as a guess at what transportation in the year 2025 might look like.

It is a fascinating idea because it combines the simplicity and alternative-fuel technology of forward-thinking commuting vehicles with the excitement of "recreational" products like ATVs. Indeed, the Embrio could attract people who drive a more fun sort of vehicle, what with its motorcycle-derived styling cues and, like an ATV, the fact that you have to lean in order to turn.

The Embrio is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, a technology that creates power by mixing hydrogen and oxygen, ideally resulting in water as the only exhaust. Carmakers are also developing this technology for automobiles, and General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) stands by its plan to sell hydrogen cars by 2010.

The Embrio also borrows several other advanced technologies from cars, like infrared night vision and an active suspension, which can vary its damping rates based on road conditions. Its riding position resembles that of a motorcycle, and it balances one or more passengers with a network of sensors and gyroscopes. To move the Embrio, you use an accelerator trigger on the left handlebar and a brake trigger on the right.

The vehicle is made of lightweight materials, like aluminum, magnesium and nylon. It weighs only 360 pounds.

SRLC Day One: Mitt Romney

Real Clear Politics says: The star attraction of the morning session yesterday was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The first thing that jumps out at you about Romney is his physical appearance: tall, svelt, classically handsome. He just looks presidential. Standing up on stage at the podium with the line of flags behind him, Romney cut a picture straight out of central casting from a Hollywood movie studio.

Romney started by offering the ostensible purpose of his visit: to address the delegates on behalf of the Republican Governor's Association. After a quick run through of the list of important gubernatorial contests in 2006, Romney launched into his '08 stump speech which consisted of the four challenges he says America must face. They are, in order: 1) the threat of Islamic jihadis, 2) runaway government spending, 3) the rise of Asia, and 4) "cultural challenges."

Romney finished with a stirring story about the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics when speed skater Derek Parra carried the tattered American flag taken from the World Trade Center into the stadium in Salt Lake City.

All in all Romney's speech was well received. He came across as very articulate and passionate, and hit all the right notes with the crowd, including the issue of gay marriage, which received big applause. The question mark for Romney, of course, is the issue of his religion. It seemed a bit of an elephant in a room full of hundreds of GOP delegates, a majority of whom are evangelical Christians.

Is China the Nemesis in a New Cold War?

Thomas Barnett commented on this piece by saying:

Although a bit harsh on the U.S. and ignoring the huge differences between the globalization model pushed by colonial England compared to US, as well as the different security "exports" offered by each, this is still an interesting analysis that gets closer to what needs to be said about the China "threat" than most of the bullshit from people like that Wash Times whack job. Worth reading and pondering.

Is China the Nemesis in a New Cold War?"
by Emanuel Pastreich

There was nothing surprising about Bill Gertz's inflammatory article in the Feb. 15 Washington Times speculating about "secret underground arms facilities" in China. The drive to paint China as a threat akin to the Soviet Union in the American mind serves those corporate interests that manufacture weapons systems while obscuring the true nature of the predicament in which United States finds itself.

The implied analogy between the Soviet Union of the 1960s and the People's Republic of China today found in such journalism may serve to prop up an obsolete Cold War security system that refuses to adjust to the true dangers of a globalized world, but it does so by diverting attention from the palpable challenge that China poses for the United States.

The relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China today bears a far greater similarity to the bitter rivalry between Great Britain and the United States that played out between 1910 and 1970. That contest, although obscured by contemporary ideology positing Great Britain as America's closest ally, was not a military conflict, but rather a global struggle over markets, finance, technology and cultural authority. Unfortunately, after winning that contest decisively in the last century, the United States is blithely walking down the same path that England did in the previous century, but at a faster pace.

Great Britain maintained undisputed dominion in the economic, diplomatic and military realms at the start of the twentieth century. Although England had its rivals, the British navy controlled the shipping lanes, the British Sterling served as the universal currency, English culture carried awesome authority, and the sun never set on the Empire.

As Britain's rival for global domination, the U.S. did not offer military confrontation with Britain, even as it increased the size of its military considerably. Rather, the U.S. calmly set to work in other areas, ultimately supplanting Great Britain as the dominant political, social, and economic world power.

Great Britain actually helped the U.S. in that process much as the U.S. aids China today. Britain's ensnarement in two debilitating world wars during the 20th century taxed its resources to the limit and encouraged reliance on the United States for both finance and manufacturing. For example, during the Second World War, it was not that the United States forcibly took control of shipping lanes from England, but rather the U.S. Navy stepped in to protect shipping lanes when the British Navy proved, due to overextension and other commitments, unequal to the task.

It requires no stretch of the imagination to envision a scenario in which the United States concedes its dominant status to China, not because of China's nuclear arsenal, but rather because the U.S. has unnecessarily mired itself in a global "War on Terror" that, because the term "terror" is so broad in meaning, recognizes no end and promises to harm America's prosperity, curtail its traditional freedoms, and leave a moral blot on its reputation among the community of nations. Read the rest here

Labor

Jason at Polipundit says; "Here's some info you won't see if you get your "news" from the media:"




February 1998

3.9 - Whites.
9.7 - Blacks.
6.8 - Latinos.

On the other hand:

February 2006

4.1 - Whites.
9.3 - Blacks.
5.5 - Latinos.

Those are unemployment rates.

"So, tell us, Ward Churchill, how do you feel about the comparatively-racist set of labor markets we had back in the 1990's?"
-- Jayson

"Francisco's Money Speech"

From "Atlas Shrugged." I hadn't read this in a while. If you have never read it, give yourself a treat. If you have, reread it to find out just how good it is. Excerpt:

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money--and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being--the self-made man--the American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality."

Read it all here

"Mars orbiter clears hurdle"

Craft circling planet after dangerous 'orbit insertion' maneuver

(CNN) -- The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, on a two-year mission to study the Martian atmosphere and surface, and search for water, pulled off a dangerous and tricky maneuver known as "orbit insertion" and began circling the red planet Friday."

"Ports Deal Shows Roadblocks for Globalization"

The WSJ has a major "Page One" article[pay site] today that says: Foreign Buyers, Not Trade, Spark a Political Backlash; Angst from Bolivia to France. Excerpts:

"Not so long ago, the globalization of business looked like an unstoppable steamroller. But the steamroller has run into some big roadblocks.....The new bidders are targeting sensitive industries such as port management, energy, banking and utilities -- businesses once owned, in some cases, by governments. The ensuing uproar reflects not just xenophobia stoked by fears of terrorism, but a broader anxiety among workers in developed countries: that their livelihoods are threatened by imports, immigrants and low-wage workers.

If this backlash doesn't fade, it could disrupt a world economy that has become increasingly interdependent. The risk to the U.S., in particular, is that it will discourage the flow of foreign money on which the U.S. economy depends, potentially raising interest rates and slowing the pace of economic growth.........Mainstream economists and senior government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere often welcome globalization. It can bring outside expertise and capital to domestic industries, lift living standards and create more efficient global supply chains. But the outrage over the ports deal shows that many voters think they aren't benefiting from globalization and, in fact, blame it for their economic insecurities.

Raghuram Rajan, chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, cites fear of terrorism, fear of unskilled labor taking away good jobs in rich countries and shock at the types of companies that are now up for grabs. As deals get bigger, he says, the target companies are "more central to a country and are raising fundamental questions."

It may be hard for the U.S. to turn its back on foreign investors, not just because it needs to finance its overseas borrowing, but because of evidence that such investment creates jobs.

Mr. Manzullo, the Republican opponent of the DP World deal, represents a heavily industrial corner of northwest Illinois centered around Rockford, which has been hit hard by the downturn in U.S. manufacturing. The region's saviors have been foreign investors fromChina, Israel, Italy and Germany who have swooped in to buy bankrupt companies.

Across the state, more than 250,000 people now work for foreign-owned companies. "People in my district are very aware that we live in an international economy," says Mr. Manzullo. But the ports deal, he said, "went right to the gut.""





Friday, March 10, 2006

Goood Morning to the Mainland!

The NYT Front Page uses three columns on the left side of the front page to publish this this picture. They just won't give up trying to smear Bush. Symbol of Abu Ghraib Seeks to Spare Others His Nightmare

The NYT leads the other two columns with Push to Tighten Lobbying Rules Loses Strength and follows with Gentrification Changing Face of New Atlanta. The WaPo and the wires lead with Virginian Taken Hostage In Iraq Is Found Dead.

Former Bush Aide Charged is getting front page with the WaPo and the Wires. This guy was a social conservative working on faith based programs, pretty small potatoes, but the MSM is desperate for a WH scandal.

The NYT gives Dr. Wafa Sultan a front page profile

Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims.

Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.

In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world, Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.

She said the world's Muslims, whom she compares unfavorably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence.

Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose.

In response, clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. But Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare to say even in private.......

............

An angry essay on that site by Dr. Sultan about the Muslim Brotherhood caught the attention of Al Jazeera, which invited her to debate an Algerian cleric on the air last July.

In the debate, she questioned the religious teachings that prompt young people to commit suicide in the name of God. "Why does a young Muslim man, in the prime of life, with a full life ahead, go and blow himself up?" she asked. "In our countries, religion is the sole source of education and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched."

Her remarks set off debates around the globe and her name began appearing in Arabic newspapers and Web sites. But her fame grew exponentially when she appeared on Al Jazeera again on Feb. 21, an appearance that was translated and widely distributed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, known as Memri.

Memri said the clip of her February appearance had been viewed more than a million times.

"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations," Dr. Sultan said. "It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality."

She said she no longer practiced Islam. "I am a secular human being," she said.

The other guest on the program, identified as an Egyptian professor of religious studies, Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli, asked, "Are you a heretic?" He then said there was no point in rebuking or debating her, because she had blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.

Dr. Sultan said she took those words as a formal fatwa, a religious condemnation. Since then, she said, she has received numerous death threats on her answering machine and by e-mail. Rest here.



Kaplan's "new normalcy" sounds a lot closer to SysAdmin

Thomas Barnett comments on Kaplan' s article in "The Atlantic."

"Kaplan comes to a conclusion I was reaching for in BFA: the ultimate exit strategy is jobs (can't remember if I got that exact line in the book, but it's one I use in the brief now). That's what signals serious connectivity because jobs sufficient enough to handle the region's youth bulge will require huge inflows of foreign direct investment--the one key ingredient missing in Iraq. Without the FDI, you leave the region in the queer combination of either Great Depression-like capital starvation or the pathetic buy-out of youthful ambition by the trust fund states like Saudi Arabia. Both ways suck: no one wants money just given to them (despite the myth) and nothing depresses like ambition that cannot find any useful expression (that's what really beat men down in the 1930s)."Read it all here

Did you know that there is an especially high demand to adopt children with Down syndrome?

Ann Althouse tells us there is:

There are long waiting lists to get such a child. When I first saw this surprising fact, I thought it was part of the pro-life movement, an expression of opposition to the practice of aborting fetuses found to have Down syndrome, but that's not it: Read it all

Bush-Bashing Teacher Reinstated.

I guess the threat of a lawsuit got to the school board. Sweetness and Light has the story. Quote:

"Also Friday, Moses said the district would help Sean Allen to reenter school whether he chooses to attend Overland or another school."

It sounds like the student whistleblower Sean Allen is the only one who will suffer from this.

Will Pulitzers Reward National Security Breaches?

That's what Stephen Spruiell at Media blog asks;

"It looks that way. Among this year's predicted finalists are James Risen for exposing the NSA al-Qaeda eavesdropping program and Dana Priest for telling the world about the existence of secret terrorist prisons in Europe.

I'm starting to feel like [Bush-bashing] is the theme of this year's journalism awards."

Big Love

Kathy Seipp says, "Don't worry about these polygamists."

"I don't think the show glamorizes or even sanitizes polygamy, except that of course actual polygamists never look as fit and attractive as the Big Love family. When you see the real-life versions on talk shows, they all seem dumpy, pasty-faced and on the dole"


Another Good Jobs Report, and What It Means

John Hinderaker at Powerline says;
The Labor Department announced today that employers added 243,000 payroll jobs in February. The market is up on the news, with the Dow over 11,000 once again. So the economy continues to hum along.

It occurs to me that the economy is a useful benchmark for interpreting public opinion polling. One of the things that have frustrated us in recent years is the fact that poll respondents consistently underrate the economy, describing it as mediocre or poor, when in fact it's been good or excellent. I don't know how to explain this other than by attributing poll respondents' opinions about the economy, at least in part, to misleading reporting. I think that's true, of course, across a broad range of issues. For example, selective reporting about Iraq has given most people an unduly negative view of our progress there.

What's different about the economy is that, unlike most issues, we have lots of objective data that have been maintained, on a reasonably consistent basis, for many years. So, when inflation is under 3%, unemployment is under 5%, millions of jobs are being created, GDP growth is strong and consistent and incomes are rising, we can say, objectively, that poll respondents who rate the economy mediocre to poor are wrong. That is strong evidence, I think, that incomplete and biased reporting is driving Americans' perceptions down on this issue. It is reasonable to believe that the same thing is happening on other issues where press coverage is relentlessly negative, as well.

Apple sets up tech support center in India

KevinRose says;
"And there she goes, one of the last computer companies that had all tech support centers in the USA. One of my biggest selling points to my customers has been that Apple cares about their customers and had all there support from someone that spoke proper English."

BEST OF THE WEB TODAY - WSJ

James Taranto today:

Hear No Evil
"The Sept. 11 hijackers made dozens of telephone calls to Saudi Arabia and Syria in the months before the attacks, according to a classified report from the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel," the Chicago Tribune reports:

According to the report, 206 international telephone calls were known to have been made by the leaders of the hijacking plot after they arrived in the United States--including 29 to Germany, 32 to Saudi Arabia and 66 to Syria.

These are calls between al Qaeda terrorists and their associates, in which one side of the call is in the U.S. and the other is in another country--that is, just the kind of call the National Security Agency listened to under the terrorist surveillance program. Had such a program existed in 2001, it might have prevented 9/11--but if some journalists and Democrats are scandalized now, imagine how they would have howled in outrage if 9/11 hadn't happened.

SAVED BY REVOLT

John Podhoretz says in his column today that:

"Surely, his enemies say, this is curtains for Bush. Republicans are fleeing from him, he can't keep his troops in line - and he can't work his will. He's become a lame duck, they say.

Wrong. Just as with his last serious political miscalculation, Bush has actually been saved by the very forces in his own governing coalition that are opposing him.

Republicans in Congress did Bush an even bigger favor. The president may have been right on the economic and foreign-policy merits of allowing the government-owned Dubai Ports World to manage stevedore operations inside the United States. But he was clearly wrong when it came not only to the politics of the deal, but also to its symbolic significance in the midst of the War on Terror.

The politics part is simple: No Republican running for re-election in 2006 was going to hand a challenger a stick the size of the Space Needle to bash him over the head with. And there could have been no easier or juicier Space Needle than "My esteemed opponent voted to give an Arab country that has supported terrorism control of our ports."

Now, Republicans on Capitol Hill owe Bush a lot. Without him, they would almost certainly not control the Senate and might not be the majority party in the House. But that doesn't mean the president had the right to demand they commit hara-kiri.

Not since the elder George Bush asked Republicans on the Hill to support his tax hike just before the 1990 midterm elections has such a fratricidal demand been made. The president was simply too high-handed, and he's gotten his hat handed to him.

But in handing the president his hat, his party did him a service. Republicans have made certain that a few months from now most Americans will barely remember the whole business, which really did threaten the continued viability of his presidency.

More important, the public reaction to the ports deal indicates that the American people are still very much committed to the War on Terror. They understand that Arab nations of the Persian Gulf cannot be and should not be deemed reliable colleagues in our struggle against militant, extremist Islam.

I have no doubt that Dubai has given us some assistance in pursuing al Qaeda. But it is still a cowardly emirate that will not do or say anything publicly to advance the fight against bin Ladenism, and while it may not be an enemy, it is neither a friend nor an ally.

It is wrong to ascribe popular feeling against the deal to isolationism. The American people can't make sense out of which side Dubai is on, and they don't think it should be that hard a call. They believe in the fight, and their continued support for it is the best news the embattled Bush presidency could have.

English to Arabic, Hands-Free


Defense Tech discusses the latest in English/Arabic translation machines, and the Video looks good.

"So Integrated Wave Technologies has come up with a translator that doesn't require any a hand to work. Talk English into a headset, and a ammo clip-sized speaker broadcasts out the Arabic equivalent. Check out this video for an example. You'll see, the translators aren't for carrying on conversation; they only interpret a few words at a time. But they seem to work well, when you're yelling at someone to get on the ground while your gun is pointed at his head. About 600 of the things are now in theater, according to the company."

The Chamberlainized State Department

American Thinker says, "An article in today's New York Times highlights the success the Bush administration has had in pressuring (by law enforceemnt measures) North Korea to agree to restrict its nuclear weapons programs. The article quotes a State Department official who bemoans these actions (isn't the Executive Branch responsible for enforcing the law?):

This policy is not uniformly popular in the State Department, where officials are managing the six-nations talks that include the United States, Russia, South Korea, China and Japan. One senior official complained that the policy would turn the talks into nothing more than "a surrender mechanism."


No… we wouldn't want to "win" would we?"

Death by Script

A WaPo article says that "Sopranos' Actors Find That Once the Boss Decides to Ice Their Characters, They're Toast"

Chase wanted Fiore's character to die of a heart attack on the toilet. On the toilet. No machine-gun ambush, like Sonny Corleone, murdered at a tollbooth in "The Godfather." No, for Gigi Cestone, it'd be a coronary on the throne. Does it get more humiliating?

"It was highly disagreeable to me," says Fiore, who sounds surprisingly bitter, five years after leaving the show. "But David said, 'No, this is memorable, this is different.' " So Fiore sucked it up, died on cue, and on his last day, the cast and crew handed him a signed toilet seat, which he didn't find very amusing. A year or so later, he ran into Chase, who asked if the "Sopranos" stint had helped his career.

"I said, actually, it didn't help me at all. And my kids have to listen to people in school say, 'Ha ha, your dad died on the toilet.' " Rest here


On the home front

Scott Johnson at Powerline says, "The single most important recent article on the war-related challenges confronting the United States at home is the spring Middle East Quarterly essay by Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha: "CAIR: Islamists fooling the establishment." In the detailed and heavily footnoted article, Pipes and Chadha show:

*Perhaps the most obvious problem with CAIR is the fact that at least five of its employees and board members have been arrested, convicted, deported, or otherwise linked to terrorism-related charges and activities. " Rest here
CHI-COMS BLAST VATICAN OVER CARDINAL APPOINTMENT [Jack Fowler - NRO]

Pope Benedict XVI named Hong Kong bishop Joseph Zen a cardinal last month, which PRC apparatchik Liu Bai Nian (a top official of the state-run "Patriotic Church") yesterday attacked as "an act of hostility to China" by the Vatican. A revered figure on Hong Kong, and increasingly around the world, except in Beijing, Cardinal Zen is well known for his outspoken defense of religious freedom and the democracy movement, hence his despisal by the PRC, which banned Zen from the mainland in 2000 when he defended Pope John Paul II for canonizing of Chinese martyrs. Nian's based his attack on Zen's appointment on the Bible: "China's socialist system comes from God. We should all protect it and obey it. This is what the Bible tells us to do."
[-]
Amazingly, or maybe not, an AP story on Nian's blast is headlined "Catholic Leader Objects to New Cardinal."

I never "bought" this hypothesis


JARED DIAMOND'S THEORY COLLAPSES [Iain Murray]

Environmentalists often advance Easter Island as an example of man's folly in destroying his environment. Jared Diamond made it the centerpiece of his best-seller Collapse, and people have begun using the term "ecocide" to refer to such short-sightedness. The history of Easter Island, they say, was one of man arriving, expanding beyond environmental sustainability and then suffering civilizational and demographic collapse before the arrival of the Europeans.

The trouble is that, as Easter Island researchers have thought for a while, this history is plain wrong. New research, summarized here,, suggests that the islanders arrived about 800 years later than that chronology requires and had a successful civilization until after the arrival of the Europeans, who destroyed the civilization by the usual methods of slavery, disease and rat infestation.

Civil War in Iraq?

Daniel Pipes says,Iraq's plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West.

When Washington and its allies toppled the hideous regime of Saddam Hussein, which endangered the outside world by beginning two wars of expansion, by building a WMD arsenal, and by aspiring to control the trade in oil and gas, they bestowed a historic benefit on Iraqis, a population that had been wantonly oppressed by the Stalinist dictator.

I cheer the goal of a "free and democratic Iraq," but the time has come to acknowledge that the coalition's achievement will be limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement. There is nothing ignoble about this limited achievement, which remains a landmark of international sanitation. It would be especially unfortunate if aiming too high spoils that attainment and thereby renders future interventions less likely. The benefits of eliminating Saddam's rule must not be forgotten in the distress of not creating a successful new Iraq. Rest here

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Will We Ever Learn?


To keep these radical Salafi Imams out of our penal system? This one is obviously a "Black Muslim." And the first one I have seen in a "Zoot Suit."

The NY Sun reports that extremist remarks made by the head imam of the city's jail system are generating alarm about whether inmates are being recruited as Islamic fundamentalists.

Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city has suspended Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil of the city's Department of Correction until officials can get more information about his remarks and determine whether he violated any regulations.

"We can't prejudge but we are going to look at it this afternoon," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters yesterday. "Having said that, this morning, so that he would not go back into the jails, we put him on paid administrative leave at least for the day."

The move by the city came after the New York Post reported that Mr. Abdul-Jalil declared in a speech that the White House is run by terrorists and that Muslims were tortured in Manhattan prisons after the World Trade Center attacks.

He also reportedly urged Muslims in America to stop letting "the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us." The Investigative Project on Terrorism obtained a recording of his speech, a senior researcher with the organization, Tamar Tesler, confirmed yesterday.

The imam, who has been with the department since 1993 and has been overseeing all clergy members at the agency since 2004, could not be reached yesterday. He did, however, publicly deny that he was promoting extremist views and said his comments were taken out of context.

The director of Simon Wiesenthal's New York Tolerance Center, Mark Weitzman, said, if true, the statements are cause for worry about possible recruitment of Islamic fundamentalists in city jails.

The "Tyranny of Distance" in Pacific Command Operations

Richard Halloran has a good rundown of Admiral Fallon's moves to give us more flexibility in staging our FECOM military.

The Kurd Card

Charles Krauthammer is optimistic about the new Iraqi Government. Some quotes:

Lost amid the news of all the bloodletting in Iraq is an important political development: The Kurds have switched sides. In the first parliament after the first set of elections, they allied themselves with the Shiite slate to produce the current Shiite-dominated government led by Ibrahim al-Jafari.

The Kurd-Sunni-secular bloc wants a new prime minister who will establish a national unity government. Because the United States wants precisely the same outcome, the Kurd defection is very good news in a landscape of almost unrelenting bad news. The other good news is a split in the Shiite bloc, with a near-majority that favors a more technocratic prime minister and is chafing at Sadr's influence. Additionally, the Sunni insurgency is in the midst of its own internecine strife between the local ex-Baathists, who are not particularly religious and want power, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's foreign jihadists, for whom killing Shiites combines sport and religion and who care not a whit for the future of the country. There are numerous reports of Sunni tribes declaring war on these foreign jihadists and of firefights between them.

The security situation is grim and the neighboring powers malign. The one hope for success in Iraq is political. The Kurdish defection has produced the current impasse. That impasse has contributed to the mood of despair here at home. But the defection holds open the best possibility for political success: an effective, broad-based national unity government that, during its mandatory four-year term, presides over an American withdrawal. Rest here

Big Love

The WSJ [pay site] also reviews this new HBO series. I have no doubt it will be the highest rated show ever in Mormon households. Quotes.

Immediately following "The Sopranos" comes the new HBO drama series "Big Love" (Sunday, 10-11 p.m), sure to draw a large part of the Sopranos' audience. Much of that audience is likely to stick around for all 12 parts of this thoroughly sharp, seriously compelling drama about a family of Salt Lake City Mormons living in a polygamous arrangement -- a three-wife household, that is -- under sharp scrutiny of suspicious neighbors. As HBO and the producers take care to point out, the Mormon Church banned the practice of polygamy in 1890. That note aside, Mormons aren't likely to have an easy job recognizing the practice of their faith in this portrayal.

The series' star, Bill Paxton, has the role of his career in an impossible part. He's Bill, a dutiful family man, shown racing from one wife's bed to another -- the women take turns according to a strict schedule -- popping Viagra along the way. A highly unlikely proposition for serious drama -- for anything but farce -- but Mr. Paxton carries the part off beautifully and emerges as a hero, rather than some mindless stud. One who manages -- thanks to his manly authority, boyish good looks, and various other attractions -- to make clear why all three wives in his domain should be bonkers for him.

It doesn't hurt, either, that his character is a four-square enterprising young businessman who tends to look at the bright side of life -- also a loving father and devoted, if much put-upon, son. His more-than-a-touch-unhinged parents live in a polygamous fundamentalist commune, along with his menacing father-in-law, Roman (Harry Dean Stanton), the sect's patriarch.

After the first hour's confusions, it becomes easier to figure out what's going on. As first wife Barb, the excellent Jeanne Tripplehorn radiates decency, along with contained dismay at the behavior of the two younger women whose lives and baby-tending duties -- there are lots of babies here -- she shares. Chloë Sevigny makes a convincingly dour wife No. 2 as the pathological spendthrift Nicky, who harbors a passion both for her husband and her father. Wife three, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), has troubles of her own to contribute to this household. Admirably written, entertaining, and generously stocked with vivid, if not quite graphic, mating scenes.

High Note

Dorothy Rabinowitz at the WSJ [pay site] says the new Soprano series is outstanding. A couple of quotes:

Considering everything to come, it seems a small thing that in the sixth season (Sunday, 9-10 p.m. EST, on HBO) the Soprano family's food tastes have undergone radical transformation. Still it's not nothing that episode one of "The Sopranos" finds Tony and Carmela together again, aglow over the taste of sushi, with which they stuff themselves, and about which they daydream, talk, and view as symbolic of their new sense of fulfillment. The more expensive those tiny slivers of fish, the more fulfilled Tony feels. It's been a good year, he informs Carmela as they gorge.......It was bound to end strangely, all that sushi business, and it does, though such a description hardly does justice to the momentous turn the episode takes. Still there are portents of things to come long before. Even in the first half hour studded with restaurant scenes, delicate turf conferences, the introduction of a spectacular new theme -- a mob soldier and his wife desperate to be allowed to take off for Florida to live a regular life -- it's already obvious that "The Sopranos" isn't intending to march through its final seasons to a reliably familiar tune. Episode one fairly oozes large creative ambitions. Long before the end of the next three hours, it's equally clear that those ambitions are on track to a brilliant success. This season's "Sopranos" is quite simply dazzling in its inventiveness, its reach, and one other aspect -- its capacity to pound audiences emotionally as the series has never before done..........It was bound to end strangely, all that sushi business, and it does, though such a description hardly does justice to the momentous turn the episode takes. Still there are portents of things to come long before. Even in the first half hour studded with restaurant scenes, delicate turf conferences, the introduction of a spectacular new theme -- a mob soldier and his wife desperate to be allowed to take off for Florida to live a regular life -- it's already obvious that "The Sopranos" isn't intending to march through its final seasons to a reliably familiar tune. Episode one fairly oozes large creative ambitions. Long before the end of the next three hours, it's equally clear that those ambitions are on track to a brilliant success. This season's "Sopranos" is quite simply dazzling in its inventiveness, its reach, and one other aspect -- its capacity to pound audiences emotionally as the series has never before done.



Hang in there! The weekend is coming.



More on Samuel Armas here



Hat tip - Red State







This photo by freelance photographer Michael Clancy,
circulated worldwide, shows the tiny hand of Samuel Armas
holding on to a surgeon's finger during surgery
for spina bifida in 1999 while he was in the womb.

This happened to me. Netflix cancelled, they thought I was keeping them.


A Stranger in Your Queue
If your Netflix movies take too long to arrive, you may be sharing your subscription with your mail carrier.

JIan Zhong Li loved Netflix. After a long night sorting mail at a Queens processing center, he could settle in at his Brooklyn home with all sorts of movies he'd never seen in the theater. Li especially loved Netflix because the DVDs come in well-labeled red envelopes that make them easy to identify amid the bulk junk. It also makes them so much easier to steal. When postal inspectors followed Li to his car, they found 83 stolen discs.

And he’s not the only one: There appears to be a trend of similarly tempted postal workers. Bronx mail carrier Luis Ayala tried to cover his indiscretions with personal notes. In September, he tore open a Postal Inspectors Service test envelope, decided he didn’t want that one, and delivered it to his customer with the message RECEIVED IN BAD COND.—LA. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor and awaits sentencing. In June, after two months of customer complaints, inspectors arrested Daniella Garofalo, a Midwood, Brooklyn, mail carrier, for stealing DVDs from Netflix envelopes on her route. The inspector addressed an envelope to a fictitious address and equipped it with an electronic tracking device. An alarm sounded when Garofalo opened the envelope. Inspectors have rounded up thieves in Detroit, San Diego, and Lyons, Colorado—where a carrier stole 503 discs before capture. Because civil-service rules make it nearly impossible to fire corrupt mail carriers, U.S. attorneys often agree to dismiss charges in exchange for their quitting. This happened to both Garofalo and Li. But then again, Li usually sent the discs along after he was done watching.
Cox & Forkum, has the cartoon of the week. [hat tip, Malkin]

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