Thursday, February 28, 2008

Amy Chua Talks about Empire at UC Berkeley

She's talking about her new book, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance--and Why They Fall.

John O'Sullivan on William F. Buckley

From NationalReviewOnline:
When news of Bill's death reached me, I was in Prague. It was suitable and perhaps comforting place to hear such sad news since Prague is one of the great European cities Bill helped to liberate from communism. Eighteen years ago he and I were here on a National Review Institute political tour of Eastern Europe. This was only a year after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the "velvet revolutions." Because of Bill's leadership in the anti-Communist and conservative movements, everyone wanted to meet him. New ministers, heads of new political parties, and editors of old national newspapers (with new editorial lines) told him of how they had read smuggled copies of NR during the years that the Communist regime condemned them to work as stokers and quarry-men.

He took it all very humbly and even a little quizzically. It was as if he didn't quite believe that he had blown a trumpet and, lo, the walls of Communism had tumbled down — "literally," to use a word whose misuse he occasionally denounced. He was a great man and a figure of great historical significance. He founded the American conservative movement that, among many other achievements, won the Cold War. But he wanted to slip quietly away to avoid the presidents and prime ministers rushing up to ask for his autograph.
Meanwhile, Ann Coulter says the young William F. Buckley was a lot like...Ann Coulter:
William F. Buckley was the original enfant terrible.

As with Ronald Reagan, everyone prefers to remember great men when they weren't being great, but later, when they were being admired. Having changed the world, there came a point when Buckley no longer needed to shock it.

But to call Buckley an "enfant terrible" and then to recall only his days as a grandee is like calling a liberal actress "courageous." Back in the day, Buckley truly was courageous. I prefer to remember the Buckley who scandalized to the bien-pensant.

Other tributes will contain the obvious quotes about demanding a recount if he won the New York mayoral election and trusting the first 2000 names in the Boston telephone book more than the Harvard faculty. I shall revel in the "terrible" aspects of the enfant terrible.

BTW, I published a chapter on the life and career of William F. Buckley in my book, PBS : Behind the Screen which you can buy from, here:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This Year's Oscars

Didn't see the show.

Didn't see the movies.

From the Nielsen ratings, it looks like I wasn't alone...

Dr. Robert Jarvik's Statement

So, it seems that under Congressional pressure Pfizer has pulled the Lipitor ads which made my surname a household word.... Here's what my cousin has to say on his website about the controversy:
For the past two years, I have been the national spokesman for Lipitor.

My work in the field of artificial hearts spans 36 years, including inventions contributing to the first permanent total artificial heart used in a patient (the Jarvik 7 heart), and the invention, development, and clinical application of a miniature, silent heart assist device (the Jarvik 2000 heart) that has sustained a patient in good health for 7-and-a-half years, much longer than any other artificial heart in the world.

I do not practice clinical medicine and hence do not treat individual patients. My career is in medical science. I have earned Bachelors, Masters, and MD degrees, and I have received honorary Doctor of Science, Doctor of Engineering, and Doctor of Medicine degrees. I am presently President and CEO of the company that manufactures the Jarvik 2000 heart. I have collaborated closely with many top surgeons and cardiologists from dozens of leading medical centers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. I have been named Inventor of the Year and have received a Lifetime Research Achievement Award among other honors. The Jarvik 7 and Jarvik 2000 hearts have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution as part of their exhibit called “Treasures of American History.”

I have the training, experience, and medical knowledge to understand the conclusions of the extensive clinical trials that have been conducted to study the safety and effectiveness of Lipitor. Also, Pfizer submits advertising concepts in advance to the FDA for review and comment. The statements included in the ads fairly represent the scientific truth about Lipitor, which the public has a right to know, and which Pfizer is entitled to teach.

I accepted the role of spokesman for Lipitor because I am dedicated to the battle against heart disease, which killed my father at age 62 and motivated me to become a medical doctor. I believe the process of educating the public is beneficial to many patients and I am pleased to be part of an effort to reach them.

I am not a celebrity. I am a medical scientist specializing in advanced technology to treat heart failure who understands that no one in his or her right mind would want an artificial heart if it could be avoided with preventive medicine.

Robert Jarvik, MD
Source: Jarvik Heart, Inc.
Date: 1/14/2008
We haven't spoken in years, but when I was younger Robbie once said he was a fan of Ayn Rand, so I assume he's preparing for any upcoming Congressional testimony with Howard Roark in mind. Maybe Pfizer will send Senator Bob Dole (Viagra) and Mandy Patinkin (Crestor) to sit next to him at the witness table, that might make for an interesting hearing on C-Span. In any case, I believe Robbie would not have been asked to do any drug ads in the first place if anyone at Pfizer though he were a practicing physician, since it's against AMA ethical guidelines to pitch drugs...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Audi Alteram Partem

A couple of weeks ago, someone I know and I went to a wedding ceremony held in the Illinois State Supreme Court, Chicago Chambers--the couple were married by Justice Anne M. Burke. It was a memorable ceremony--the bride and groom had been dating for some two decades. After the vows had been taken, Justice Burke pointed to the words "Audi Alteram Partem" on the back wall of the courtroom, shining in metal letters at least one-foot high. 

She turned to the newlywed groom and said: "That means, listen to your wife."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is PBS Still Necessary?

Yesterday, a friend of mine asked what I thought of Charles McGrath's NY Times Arts and Leisure article, with that headline. I told him, honestly, that I had never heard of it. We don't get the Sunday New York Times. So I looked it up and found what he had to say--with the exception of an unfair low-blow age-ist slam about Jim Lehrer's age (that his editor should have deleted) --seemed common-sensical, such as this observation:
In a needy bid for viewers, public television imitates just as much as it’s imitated, putting on pop knockoffs like “America’s Ballroom Challenge.” Even though a number of surveys suggest that a large segment of the viewing population still wants the best of what public television has to offer, there isn’t as much of that as there used to be, and when it is on, it often gets lost amid all the dreck.
If Charles McGrath, or this blog's readers, want to know more about the topic, there's background material in my book PBS: BEHIND THE SCREEN, available from Tim Graham doesn't like PBS's new Pete Seeger documentary airing on American Masters.

Friday, February 22, 2008

John Cerone: Kosovo a "Complex Case"

JURIST Guest Columnist John Cerone, Associate Professor of Law & Director of the Center for International Law & Policy at the New England School of Law, formerly a Human Rights Legal Advisor with the UN Mission in Kosovo, writes:
Even less clear is the question of whether Kosovo’s independence is justified. Those claiming that it is justified typically ground their position in a black-and-white view of the Kosovo conflict that tends to obscure a much more complex reality.

I have to admit that, upon my arrival in Kosovo in the summer of 1999, I had very much shared this simplistic view of the situation. Indeed, my work there on war crimes documentation was largely driven by a desire to secure accountability for the seemingly steady stream of international crimes being broadcast by the international media.

I was initially stationed in western Kosovo, where I, along with throngs of other international aid workers, was welcomed as a benefactor and friend of the Albanians; that is, until I questioned the acceptability of blowing up the town’s Serbian Orthodox Church. Any suggestion that Kosovo Serbs should benefit from the protection of human rights law was met with open hostility.

I later moved north to Mitrovica, the ethnically divided city bisected by the River Ibar, with Kosovo Serbs living to the north and Kosovo Albanians living to the south. Working regularly with individuals from all ethnic groups, I was one of very few people who crossed the Ibar on a daily basis. The few Kosovo Albanians who remained in the north lived in a state of continuous insecurity. Kosovo Serbs fared less well in the south. Shortly before I arrived in Mitrovica, a Kosovo Serb was discovered south of the Ibar, and was consequently beaten to death by an angry mob.

The work of documenting past abuses was quickly supplemented by the need to respond to the spike in crimes against ethnic minorities, including Kosovo Serbs. Over the course of the following 18 months, the killing and displacement of Kosovo Serbs, and other ethnic minorities, continued unabated, notwithstanding the presence of tens of thousands of NATO soldiers.

Further reflection was prompted once the percentage of the Kosovo Serb population that had been murdered or displaced surpassed the percentage of the Kosovo Albanian population that had been killed or displaced in the years leading up to the NATO intervention. While only a tiny percentage of Kosovo Albanians were directly responsible for the killings, the perpetrators were protected by the majority of the population who saw these crimes as unfortunate, but understandable. Even when these perpetrators killed an elderly Serb woman in Pristina – a woman who could have played no role in the conflict, and who had never left her apartment for fear of attack -- her murder was portrayed as forgivable in light of what ‘her people’ had done.

To the extent that prior abuses could serve as a “justification” for Kosovo to secede from Serbia, it could equally serve as a justification for the northern part of Kosovo, populated mainly by Kosovo Serbs, to secede from the rest of Kosovo.

Of greater concern, however, is that the portrayal of Kosovo’s secession as justified typically rests on a conception of independence as a much deserved reward for the Albanians and fitting punishment for the Serbs. This view of the situation makes it far too easy to disregard the plight of minority groups in Kosovo and feeds into the destructive mentality of collective responsibility.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Britain Aided Torture Flights Says Foreign Secretary

Robert Fox, writing in the Guardian reports that the British government has admitted expediting "extraordinary rendition" flights, after previous denials:
Remember that both Tony Blair and Jack Straw, as foreign secretary, assured parliament that they could find no evidence that Britain had been involved in such a process. Now the present foreign secretary tells us that, on two separate occasions, an American plane carrying a detainee to be roughed up by foreign judicial musclemen stopped over on the British dependency of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Misha Glenny on Kosovo Independence on BBC Radio Scotland

Speculation about Berwick-upon-Tweed's secession aside, you can listen to Glenny's interview on BBC Radio Scotland's Sunday Live Programme of 17 February.

Amy Chua: World on Fire

News from Serbia, Pakistan, and Kenya made me think of Yale Law School professor Amy Chua's book, WORLD ON FIRE: HOW EXPORTING FREE MARKET DEMOCRACY BREEDS ETHNIC HATRED AND GLOBAL INSTABILITY. Wish a reporter would ask Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice what she thinks of it--or if she has read it...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dmitri Simes on Kosovo

From The National Interest:
The issue is that the Bush administration’s senior officials have ignored the objections of those worried about the unintended consequences of Kosovo independence in the same way they ignored words of caution before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I expect that the costs of Kosovo will not be so high as those of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, but I would not count on it, particularly if we continue to act as if the combination of our righteousness and our power always entitles us to have our way without a serious price to pay.
The National Interest Online has an interesting set of foreign policy links on its blog.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Charge Castro With Murder

From Reuters:
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-born south Florida Republican, said Castro should be charged with murder for the Cuban government's February 1996 shootdown of two planes belonging to the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue.

Three Cuban-Americans and a Cuban exile died when Cuban government MiGs shot down two of the Brothers' small planes over international waters.

"Now that Fidel has formally stepped down as head of state, it clears the path for immediate legal action to be taken by the U.S. government," the Cuban-born Ros-Lehtinen, an outspoken critic of Cuba's government, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This is but the first step in bringing Fidel and other Cuban war criminals to justice," said Ros-Lehtinen, who demanded Castro's indictment in an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey...

...Although no charges could be filed without the approval of the Bush administration, whose term ends in January 2009, experts said Castro had relinquished any potential legal immunity by retiring as head of state.

Some other Latin American leaders have been legally targeted outside their countries after leaving office.

A Spanish judge tried in the late 1990s to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from London on human rights charges. Spain's High Court has pursued a probe of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on genocide charges, although Guatemala refuses to extradite him.

Iain Macwhirter:Berwick-Upon-Tweed, The Next Kosovo?

Writing in The Guardian (UK), Ian Macwhirter says Scottish nationalists may be getting ideas from the continuing breakup of the former Yugoslavia:
Well, to Scottish nationalists this is sacred turf. Berwick is the site of the Scotland's greatest national humiliation and one of the worst atrocities of the wars of independence. It was here in 1296 that Edward I, after massacring 8,000 of Berwick's inhabitants, forced the Scottish nobles to swear allegiance to England - the infamous "Ragman's Roll". The Northumberland town changed hands again half a dozen times before being recaptured, for the 13th and last time, by the Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), in 1482.

Five hundred years is a long time for a grievance to fester, but it does. Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, says he has "no territorial ambitions for any part of England", but his MSPs do. One of them, Christine Grahame, has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for Berwick to "return to the fold".

The SNP MP, Pete Wishart, tabled a motion in Westminster calling for "negotiations to begin between the Scottish and English governments" to decide Berwick's fate.

Are they serious? Well, having spoken to nationalists about this, I am not entirely sure. Some of them regard it all as a bit of a joke - a silly season story. Perhaps a good way of getting publicity for the nationalist government, since the UK media generally shows more interest in quirky stories like Free Berwick than in serious stuff like the Scottish budget.

Others seem genuinely to believe that Berwick - whose football team plays in the Scottish league - should have the right to secede and become part of Scotland if its people wish it. The Liberal Democrat MP for the area, Alan Beith, says it is all about Berwick people wanting free elderly care and free tuition fees, and nothing to do with nationality. And he's probably right. But as we know from other parts of the world, extinct communal grievances have a nasty habit of becoming active again.

Take Kosovo, which declared independence this week. The Serbs regard Kosovo a little like some Scots nationalists regard Berwick - a place of semi-sacred historical significance. Slobodan Milosevic famously rallied a crowd of one million Serbs on the anniversary in 1989 of the battle of Kosovo when the Serbs were defeated by the Turks, and the Serbian nation faced extinction.

Moreover, there is no doubt that Serbia has a legal claim to Kosovo under UN Resolution 1244 passed in 1999. Those who have eagerly supported the rights of Kosovan Albanians to go their own way might not be so keen if Berwick went the same way. Just think how Westminster Tories would react if the EU sent a special envoy to assist Berwick's secession from England.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Saudi-British Corruption Case in UK Court

From The Guardian (UK):
Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.

He was accused in yesterday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.

The threats halted the fraud inquiry, but triggered an international outcry, with allegations that Britain had broken international anti-bribery treaties.

Lord Justice Moses, hearing the civil case with Mr Justice Sullivan, said the government appeared to have "rolled over" after the threats. He said one possible view was that it was "just as if a gun had been held to the head" of the government.

The SFO investigation began in 2004, when Robert Wardle, its director, studied evidence unearthed by the Guardian. This revealed that massive secret payments were going from BAE to Saudi Arabian princes, to promote arms deals.

Yesterday, anti-corruption campaigners began a legal action to overturn the decision to halt the case. They want the original investigation restarted, arguing the government had caved into blackmail.

The judge said he was surprised the government had not tried to persuade the Saudis to withdraw their threats. He said: "If that happened in our jurisdiction [the UK], they would have been guilty of a criminal offence". Counsel for the claimants said it would amount to perverting the course of justice.

"Power Sharing" v. Parliamentary Democracy

All the talk of "power sharing" in Kenya from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made me curious about where this somewhat un-American sounding theory came from. Apparently, Arend Lijphart, an emeritus Yale and UCSD professor of political science who served as president of the American Political Science Association developed the theories of "consensus democracy" and "consociational" systems (based on the Dutch model) in opposition to Seymour Martin Lipset's theory of modernization--one that that called for supporting authoritarian leaders who could control their societies while preparing them for Westminster-style parliaments. Lijphart set up an election archive at UCSD among other things. His major work, after comparing 27 democracies, argued that the Dutch model was superior to the British or American system of what he characterized as "majoritarian" democracy. He argued that consensus democracy was appropriate for any society. He also advocated compulsory voting, as opposed to voluntary voting. Strange, then, to look up Professor Lijphart on the Federal Elections Commission donor database only to discover that a public advocate of consensus actively participates in America's "majoritarian" system--and only gives to one side. Doesn't look very "consensual" to this reader--rather partisan, and thanks to Nancy Pelosi, "majoritarian" in fact:

09/23/2004 500.00 24991273637
10/14/2004 500.00 24981640952


10/12/2006 225.00 26950726282


08/01/2005 250.00 25971206645


02/18/2005 500.00 25990244213
02/09/2006 500.00 26920028073


01/30/2007 500.00 27950080272


01/18/2001 250.00 21990322094
04/12/2002 1000.00 22991352683
01/31/2003 1000.00 23990434129
12/24/2003 500.00 24990372533
03/01/2004 500.00 24991146805
Memo to Secretary Rice: Why not re-read some Seymour Martin Lipset? Since your are probably very busy, here's his bottom line, via Wikipedia:
Lipset was one of the first proponents of the "theory of modernization", which holds that democracy has a better chance of surviving in countries with a higher socio-economic development.

Der Spiegel Interview on Kosovo Independence

From Der Spiegel's interview with Dusan Reljic, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) on the meaning of Kosovo's declaration of independence:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Was this since Bush visited Albania and spoke in support of Kosovo independence?

Reljic: I don't think the Bush administration paid a lot of attention to Kosovo until the last 18 months. Basically Kosovo's separation from Serbia is not the result of an uprising by the Kosovo-Albanians, it's the result of the NATO intervention of 1999. Once the US started this intervention, although (former President Bill) Clinton said that the intention was not to create a new state, in the end it lead to the creation of a new entity because that was the inherent logic of intervention.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you think of the argument often made by the West that Kosovo could not go back under Serbian administration after the UN had taken over there?

Reljic: This argument is not valid. The UN has taken over in many areas of the world and not all of them have become secessionist countries. But the road to solving this problem in the UN has been closed now. Which means that we see another weakening of the global system. And this will encourage many to seek unilateral decisions and outcomes and they will use force to do so.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So it will encourage more separatist movements?

Reljic: It doesn't have to be separatists. It will encourage all forces that think that violence might be a means to fulfil their political aims.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The EU has offered the perspective of membership to both sides, Serbia and Kosovo. Can this make a difference?

Reljic: Although there is a nominal declaration by the EU that in future these countries might become part of the EU, I don't see any tangible way now, for both Serbia and Kosovo to become members. Kosovo is an EU protectorate now. So is the EU going to negotiate with itself about membership of the EU?


Reljic: Serbia will insist that Kosovo is part of its territory. It will become extremely difficult for the EU to negotiate anything with Serbia in the future.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Has this weakened Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic?

Reljic: Definitely. It has weakened all pro-European parties, pro-European powers in the region. The soft power of the EU relies on adherence to international law and peaceful outcomes and solutions. And none of this has happened in Kosovo. What we have seen is that violence pays. And this weakens all those people who think that the main value of the European Union is law and peace in international relations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How will this effect future cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague?

Reljic: The Hague court is part of UN law. So I think that future compliance with the demands from The Hague will be weakened as well.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because the UN's role has been undermined?

Reljic: Yes, its reputation and role and even the instruments it has on the ground.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will happen when the EU mission arrives?

Reljic: Like UNMIK (the UN mission in Kosovo) the new EU mission has huge executive powers, which really means that Kosovo is not independent. It's not sovereign, it's run by the EU. It's really a protectorate, a neo-colonial situation.
There's already an interesting reaction in Canada, according to Reuters:
Kosovo's declaration of independence is a headache for Canada, which needs to find a way of recognizing the new state without boosting the fortunes of separatists in its French-speaking province of Quebec.

While major allies such as the United States, Britain and France quickly recognized the ethnic Albanian state despite objections from Serbia, Ottawa barely reacted.

"We note that the Parliament of Kosovo has adopted a declaration of independence. We are assessing the situation," said a foreign ministry spokesman.

Polls indicate that around half of Quebecers support the idea of independence for the province of 7.5 million.

Quebec governments run by the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) held referendums on breaking away from Canada in 1980 and 1995 but both failed, the last one very narrowly.

The Parti Quebecois, now in opposition in the Quebec provincial legislature, said that if Canada recognizes a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo it would have to treat a similar move by Quebec the same way.

Monday, February 18, 2008

UN Corruption Reports Now Online

According to Collum Lynch's article in Sunday's Washington Post, the US representative to the UN has posted corruption investigations on the internet. Unfortunately, the Post did not provide a link. Luckily, Google did, and you can read them here:
Most of the names of those targeted in the reports have been redacted by the United Nations, but the identities are easily deciphered. The documents' disclosure has shed light on some major U.N. mysteries, including the abrupt retirement of Jacques Paul Klein, a former American diplomat who served as the U.N. special representative in Liberia until April 2005. A two-page document labeled "strictly confidential" accuses Klein of an improper relationship with a local woman suspected of passing on secrets to Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president now on trial for war crimes.

Klein was one of the most visible U.S. nationals at the United Nations, where he served as special representative in Eastern Slavonia in 1996, and later as the U.N.'s high representative in Bosnia. In 2003, Klein was chosen to lead the U.N. mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the organization's largest peacekeeping operation at the time, where he oversaw the transition from Charles Taylor's rule to the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former World Bank economist.

Klein developed a reputation for bullying Bosnian or Liberian power brokers into yielding to U.N. demands, and he presided over missions in Bosnia and Liberia that faced sexual misconduct scandals involving U.N. personnel.

Klein met Linda Fawaz, a 30-year-old Liberian American woman whose uncle headed a major timber company. According to the report, Fawaz (identified as "Local Woman") accompanied Klein (described as "Senior Official") to diplomatic functions and regularly traveled on U.N. aircraft in violation of organizational rules.

"Senior Official has invited Local Woman to functions both with UNMIL staff and persons outside the UN, some of which have been of an official nature," the report said. "A number of staff interviewed by [U.N. investigators] expressed concern that the Local Woman was passing information which she had gathered from Senior Official to Mr. Taylor" and others.

Efforts to reach Fawaz through a former employer were unsuccessful. Klein declined to discuss the investigation, saying, "I think I've put my family . . . through enough misery." But he defended his tenure in Liberia, saying that he had helped to bring a crippled nation "back to its feet" and paved the way for democratic elections. "I'm just trying to put all this behind me and get on with my life," Klein said.

Among the documents posted on the Web are 32 reports, completed in 2004 and 2005, by a U.N. investigative task force into misconduct at the internationally operated airport in Pristina, including bribery, bid rigging and sexual harassment. The reports document allegations that airport staff members received payment to forge documents from Kosovars seeking entry into European capitals, and demanded kickbacks from companies seeking contracts, and sex or payments from locals seeking jobs.
Memo to Ambassador Wallace: Transparency is spelled "T-r-a-n-s-p-a-r-e-n-c-y."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg: Bush "Giving a Drink to an Alcoholic"

New York's Millionaire Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who knows about Wall Street and business, doesn't like President Bush's cash rebate scheme, according to the NY Daily News:
In an unusually sharp attack on Washington Thursday, Bloomberg compared the federal government's plan to hand out $600 tax rebate checks to "giving a drink to an alcoholic."

"They want to send out a check to everybody to stimulate the economy," Bloomberg said. "I suppose it won't hurt the economy, but it's in many senses like giving a drink to an alcoholic.

"The government's been doing exactly that. It's been spending money it doesn't have."

Bloomberg has been critical of President Bush's two-year, $168 billion plan to pump money into the economy by sending rebate checks to Americans making less than $75,000 a year.

It's typical of the simplistic way politicians are addressing the country's economic woes, he said.

"This country has a balance sheet that's starting to look more and more like a Third World country," Bloomberg said.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chocolate Inspiration

Knowing how much I enjoyed eating these chocolates when we lived in Russia, someone I know sent me Maria Antonova 's article from The Moscow Times for Valentine's Day:
Vdokhnovenie chocolates come from an era when the greatness of the Soviet Union was defined by "rockets and ballet," as one well-known song goes. What looks like a regular chocolate bar on the outside actually consists of individually foil-wrapped chocolate sticks that resemble silver bullets. The extravagance of the packaging and the image of the Bolshoi illuminated against a dark blue background -- all made Vdokhnovenie seem like a special occasion.

The brand was created in the 1970s. Alexei Kosygin, the legendary premier of the Soviet Union, brought similarly wrapped chocolate from France. Kosygin is famous for the Soviet economic reforms of 1965 and the ensuing "golden five-year plan." He wanted to move the Soviet economy from heavy industry to the production of consumer goods. Excited about new chocolate opportunities, he wanted the Babayev factory in Moscow to start producing Vdokhnovenie, which was eventually hailed by Russians as the tastiest. Eventually, Leonid Brezhnev sidelined what Time magazine called Kosygin's "flirtation with profits," and focused on rockets again.

Like many other gourmet foods, Vdokhnovenie could be found in Moscow's theater buffets, along with Soviet champagne and canapes of caviar and white fish. Today Vdokhnovenie's package looks more or less the same, but the inside foil was recently replaced with thicker paper wrapping. In addition, there are other flavors besides the original dark chocolate with hazelnut bits: chocolates with hazelnut, cream or caramel filling. Kosygin would have been proud.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cong. Tom Lantos, 80

From today's San Francisco Chronicle obituary of the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee--whose life was saved by Raoul Wallenberg (Lantos worked for Wallenberg), whose mission in turn resulted from Peter Bergson's agitation for the establishment of the War Refugee Board in 1944:
Lantos lost nearly his whole family in the Holocaust. When he was named chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year, he told The Chronicle that "in a sense, my whole life has been a preparation for this job."

Lantos was born in Budapest in 1928 and was 16 when the Nazis took the city in March 1944. Most Jews outside the Hungarian capital were sent to Auschwitz, while young Jewish men from Budapest were taken to forced labor camps.
Lantos was taken to a camp at Szob, a village about 40 miles from the capital, from which he escaped twice. The second time he made it to a safe house in Budapest, where his aunt had also taken refuge.

The Red Army liberated Budapest in January 1945, and Lantos began to search for his family. Most had died, but he managed to contact Annette Tillemann, a childhood friend who had gone into hiding shortly after the German occupation and escaped to Switzerland with her mother. Like Lantos, most of her relatives perished in the death camps.

The two were reunited in Hungary later that winter and married in 1950.

Lantos began studying at the University of Budapest in 1946 and received a scholarship in 1947 to study in the United States. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from the University of Washington.

The Lantoses settled in San Mateo County in 1950, and Tom Lantos became an economics professor at San Francisco State. He made his first foray in to politics when he won a seat on the Millbrae school board, then in 1980 defeated GOP incumbent Rep. Bill Royer to win election to the House. Three years later he founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which his wife has directed since.

Among his accomplishments over nearly three decades in Washington were preserving open space in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and bringing millions of federal dollars to extend BART to San Francisco International Airport.

He was criticized in some quarters, however, for an unwavering support of Israel, and he wasn't afraid to be unpopular on a number of issues. As recently as October, he angered the Bush administration and some colleagues when he moved a bill through his committee that defined the killings of Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century as genocide.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Art of Carl Holzman

In Chicago for a wedding, stopped by to see the latest works by Carl Holzman--abstract oil paintings derived from Google Earth locations. I liked them very much. You can view an online portfolio at

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

France Readies Chad Troops

The AFP reports that President Sarkozy declared France will "do its duty" in the troubled Francophone African republic...
NDJAMENA (AFP) — Chad's government controlled the capital and its immediate surroundings, the French ambassador to Chad said Tuesday, as France said it was ready to intervene militarily if need be.

"Today, the city of Ndjamena is under (government) control, at least within a 10-kilometre (six-mile) radius," French ambassador Bruno Foucher told reporters in Ndjamena.

Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno had appeared "very confident" when they had last spoken Monday night, he added.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that France, with 1,450 troops and Mirage fighter jets stationed in Chad, was ready to "do its duty" and intervene if need be.

France has 1,450 troops based in Chad and Paris sent an extra 150 troops to help evacuate foreign nationals.

"Now there is a legal decision taken unanimously by the Security Council, and if Chad was the victim of an aggression, France could in theory have the means to oppose such action," he said in the French coastal town of Aytre.

"Everyone needs to think carefully about this."

Tony Blair's Official Portrait

Heard about this on my BBC Radio Four podcast this morning, so had to find it on the web. An article about artist John Yeo ran in the Daily Mail not too long ago.

Monday, February 04, 2008

CIA Chief Can Keep His Job

A friend--who played quarterback in High School--emailed me today:
By the way, you must have more faith in our CIA director now...He only missed the spread by one point. And he was right about the how close the game turned out to be. I was rooting for the Giants, too... His prediction was nearly spot on! Go Giants!
Final score was actually 17-14, not General Hayden's predicted 28-24, so I can't believe the Agency had it wired... It was an exciting down-to-the wire game, too.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

CIA Chief Predicts Giants Will Win Super Bowl

According to the Air Force Times, CIA head General Michael Hayden tipped the Giants to with the Super Bowl today.
CIA Director Gen. Mike Hayden picked the New York Giants to upset the New England Patriots, 28-24, in the Super Bowl as part of ESPN’s poll of celebrities on who is going to win the big game.
Meanwhile, legendary ace pilot Chuck Yeager picked the favored New England Patriots to win.

If Hayden is right, I'll feel better about the CIA. If he's not, he might want to think about looking for another job...for, if you can't handicap an NFL game correctly, how confident can Americans be that you are able to predict what the Iranians will do?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

If You Can't Trust the Food Section...

...what can you trust?

Someone I know sent me this recent post from

Every time I think I'm inured to the idiocies of the press, even what are allegedly its finest representatives, something comes along to get me frothing in rage again. The latest comes via Bill Poser at Language Log, who writes:

The New York times contains a brief article entitled One Pot describing the Spanish dish known variously as cocido or olla podrida literally "rotten pot" According to the dictionary of the Real Academia Española, podrida may have an admiring connotation, similar to the use of "filthy rich" in English. Curiously, instead of the correct olla podrida, the article gives the name of the dish as olla poderida, which it explains as a derivative of poder "strength", because it gives you strength.

Reader Jim Gordon wondered about this and emailed the author of the article. Her response: she and her consultants and editors were aware of the correct name and etymology but thought that some readers might be put off by the notion of rotten food, so they changed the name a little and made up a fake etymology. It seems clear that they were not trying to deceive anyone with evil intent, but I am still taken aback that a respectable newspaper would make up a fake name and etymology.

"Curiously"? "Taken aback"? I guess I admire Bill's sangfroid and charity, but I'm not going to mince words: I think this is a complete dereliction of the first duty of a newspaper, which is to tell the truth. What's next, not reporting on vote fraud or covering up a slaughter in the Congo because "some readers might be put off"? Furthermore, they're not just making it up themselves, they're putting their lie in someone else's mouth:

“Olla means pot, and the original name was olla poderida, which comes from poder, which means strength,” said Alexandra Raij, an owner of Tía Pol, the tiny Spanish restaurant on 10th Avenue in Chelsea.

I presume Ms. Raij (a Spanish equivalent of Reich, apparently) said no such thing; if I were her, I'd put the fear of a lawsuit into the paper for knowingly making her look like an ignoramus.

Eisenhower Endorses Obama

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the President, in today's Washington Post,. joined Senator Ted Kennedy in endorsing Barack Obama:
The last time the United States had an open election was 1952. My grandfather was pursued by both political parties and eventually became the Republican nominee. Despite being a charismatic war hero, he did not have an easy ride to the nomination. He went on to win the presidency -- with the indispensable help of a "Democrats for Eisenhower" movement. These crossover voters were attracted by his pledge to bring change to Washington and by the prospect that he would unify the nation.

It is in this great tradition of crossover voters that I support Barack Obama's candidacy for president. If the Democratic Party chooses Obama as its candidate, this lifelong Republican will work to get him elected and encourage him to seek strategic solutions to meet America's greatest challenges. To be successful, our president will need bipartisan help.

Given Obama's support among young people, I believe that he will be most invested in defending the interests of these rising generations and, therefore, the long-term interests of this nation as a whole. Without his leadership, our children and grandchildren are at risk of growing older in a marginalized country that is left to its anger and divisions. Such an outcome would be an unacceptable legacy for any great nation.