Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, October 31, 2005

NASA announces plans to deflect klller asteroid

By Aussiegirl

Rest easy, folks -- if you've been spending sleepless nights worrying over bird flu, nuke terror attacks, global warming, or killer asteroids you can strike one worry off your list. NASA has just announced plans to deflect an asteroid which is on a possible collision course with earth in the 2036.

NASA sets schedule for handling asteroid threat - Space News - MSNBC.com

NASA has outlined what it could do, and in what time frame, in case a quarter-mile-wide asteroid named Apophis is on a course to slam into Earth in the year 2036. The timetable was released by the B612 Foundation, a group that is pressing NASA and other government agencies to do more to head off threats from near-Earth objects.

The plan runs like this: Eight years from now, if there's still a chance of a collision in 2036, NASA would start drawing up plans to put a probe on the space rock or in orbit around it in 2019. Measurements sent back from the probe would characterize Apophis' course to an accuracy of mere yards (meters) by the year 2020.

If those readings still could not rule out a strike in 2036, NASA would try to deflect the asteroid into a non-threatening course in the 2024-2028 time frame by firing an impactor at it — using this year's Deep Impact comet-blasting probe as a model. Experts would start planning for the "Son of Deep Impact" mission even before they knew whether or not it was needed.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Plamegate -- where is the crime?

By Aussiegirl

Just where is the crime here?  After spending millions of dollars and two years investigating the supposed outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, the special prosecutor manages to come up with the judicial equivalent of lying to the teacher about who tattled on whom and when.

Even though in his bravura press conference a righteous and indignant Patrick Fitzgerald rattled off a fiery speech about the importance of national security, the protection of the identities of covert agents, and the seriousness of such crimes, he utterly failed to make any connection between those statements and the charges he had brought against Mr. Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff.  Mr. Libby appears to have been charged with lying about something that Fitzgerald was unable to prove was even a crime in the first place.

Perhaps the real crime here is something which is not even being discussed, something which the special prosecutor is not even concerning himself with, but which in the long run may turn out to be something far more serious that does pose a danger and a threat to our democracy -- a crime that may involve an out of control CIA, or at least elements within the CIA, working actively to undermine and oppose the policies of a president during wartime.

Before we even begin it is important to point out that in the end we may find that it was the Bush administration itself that was at fault for not bringing in its own trusted director to bring the CIA under its control.  In failing to do so, the president allowed holdovers from previous administrations, whose loyalties were suspect at best, to control the flow of intelligence and even at times to skew intelligence and act in other ways that undermined his authority and his policies.  This failure may have led to the long chain of tangled and confusing events resulting in the indictment we saw on Friday.  With what appears to be a dogged prosecutor intent on finding that pony in there somewhere dragging out the case by extending the grand jury for yet another term, there seems to be no end in sight to the continued political fallout that is hampering and dogging President Bush’s second term.

How did this come about?  Indeed, what is this confusing business all about?  To discover that we need to go back and quickly review the events which led to Friday's indictment.  

Let’s take a look at where it all began.  According to Bob Novak, whose column on this subject set off this whole brouhaha, the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and the Vice-President’s office, pursuant to conflicting reports of attempted Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger, asked the CIA to look into the matter.

Here’s where the whole story begins to go screwy.  Without CIA Director Tenet’s knowledge, someone in the CIA then dispatched former ambassador Joe Wilson to investigate and make a report.  After spending 8 days in the capitol talking to Niger officials, Wilson returned and made an oral report to the CIA saying essentially that he doubted the story.  The CIA didn’t seem to lend much credence to his report, and in any case it was never forwarded up to Tenet nor was it sent on to the White House or the VP’s office.

So, who sent him?  And why did Tenet know nothing about it?  And why was the administration never given a formal report on the findings of the trip?  And how can Wilson claim that the administration ignored the findings of his trip when they were never even told about it?

This, I think, is the root of the entire problem.  How is it that in a crucial time of war, the President was ill served by his own intelligence service?  Indeed, not only was he ill served, he may have even been deliberately undermined and misled by elements within the CIA who disagreed with his policies and set out to discredit him, or at the very least, treated requests for intelligence in a cavalier manner.

On a topic such as this you can’t find anyone who knows more about intelligence matters than Herb Meyer, who served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council.  Herb agrees that none of this makes any sense. According to him, normally a request such as this coming from the Vice-President or the White House would be treated with the utmost care.

Here is how Herb put it to me:

“NONE of this would be happening if the President had gotten control of the CIA.  No director working for the President would ever have allowed a clown like Wilson to take on this mission.  Moreover, no director working for the President would have treated an inquiry from the VP so casually.  When we had inquiries from the VP -- and we were pleased to have them, delighted in fact -- we organized the task of responding, got that response, and packaged it up so that Bill Casey could deliver the response himself.  That is how it should be done.”

Further, Herb stated that the request for the investigation by the Justice Department had to come from Tenet himself:

“If  the CIA itself hadn't ASKED the Justice Department to investigate the ‘outing’ of Valerie Plame, there wouldn't have been a special counsel in the first place.  If George Tenet approved that request to Justice, he's directly responsible for launching the whole investigation.  If the request went to Justice from CIA without Tenet's approval -- then who in hell was running the

Well he might ask.  And well the administration might ask.  Just who was the CIA working for?  And who was in charge?  Nothing seems to make sense.

Then we have the fallout.  Wilson wrote an article in the New York Times in which he contradicted what he himself had reported to the CIA.  

Again, according to Herb:

“My guess is that the White House went ballistic when Wilson published his now-famous NY Times piece.  It was full of lies -- the VP didn't send him to Africa, and what he actually reported to the CIA when he returned turns out to be the opposite of what Wilson says he reported.  (All in the SSCI report, signed by both parties.)  I suspect the White House was simply trying to set the record straight by telling reporters that Cheney didn't send Wilson, the CIA did and his wife made it happen.  They didn't disclose Plame's name for revenge, but rather to explain.

“Bottom Line:  The Administration never understood how it was being undermined by the CIA.  And when they tried to set the record straight about the Wilson trip to Africa, they did it very ineptly – and, according to the special prosecutor – illegally  to boot.” 

What Herb says here seems to be borne out when you read Judy Miller’s account of her conversations with Mr. Libby.  It is apparent from her meetings with Libby that he was extremely upset over inaccurate reports and leaks emanating from the CIA that served to discredit the president or which suggested that he went to war on faulty or false information. He went to great pains to deny that Cheney had anything to do with Wilson’s trip as had been suggested in a column by Nicholas Kristof.  Libby and the White House were angry that the truth of the story was not getting out and were trying to set the record straight.  Indeed, according to her notes, the White House felt that the CIA was trying to hedge its bets and have it both ways – assure the administration on the one hand that there were WMD’s, but have a cover story handy in case it turned out not to be true.  Here are some relevant passages from her October 16th article in the New York Times:

“I recalled Mr. Libby's frustration and anger about what he called ‘selective leaking’ by the C.I.A. and other agencies to distance themselves from what he recalled as their unequivocal prewar intelligence assessments. The selective leaks trying to shift blame to the White House, he told me, were part of a ‘perverted war’ over the war in Iraq”.

“What was evident …  was Mr. Libby's anger that Mr. Bush might have made inaccurate statements because the C.I.A. failed to share doubts about the Iraq intelligence.”

"No briefer came in and said, 'You got it wrong, Mr. President,’”
“Mr. Libby also told me that […] his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A. He asserted that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, had never even heard of Mr. Wilson.”

It is clear from these passages that the administration realized belatedly that it had lost control of the situation and was being undermined by its own CIA.  They had made the mistake of relying on intelligence from an agency that appeared to have its own agenda and which was actively working at cross-purposes with the administration’s policies.  Indeed it appeared to be an agency that was not even under the control of CIA Director Tenet himself.

What should the administration have done and how could they have prevented this?

According to Herb, this is how the Reagan Administration would have handled it:
“For the life of me I cannot understand why, before the President cited Iraq's WMDs as a reason for launching the war, no one tied George Tenet to a chair, pointed a gun at his head, and said: ‘George, do we or do we not know at least one specific location in Iraq at which WMDs are stored -- the intersection of Uday Boulevard and Qusay Drive, for instance -- where we can go with CNN, the BBC and the New York Times, kick down the door, and find a bunch of WMDs.  Tell us, George, do we have at least one location or not, and if we do show me on a map.’  There
are a half dozen officials who should have done this, of which the
first is Condoleeza Rice in her then-NSC capacity”.

There are many other mysteries and things that don’t make sense about all of this.  Why did Judy Miller not reveal Plame’s name, once she was told about her by Libby?  Any cub reporter would have rushed to print such a scoop.  She claims she had made a recommendation that the New York Times pursue such a story, but the decision evidently did not come down.  In addition, Libby had given Miller permission to reveal his identity months earlier, yet she still insisted on going to jail to protect him.

When it comes to Mr. Libby, why would he lie about things that were contained in his own notes, notes that he freely turned over to the prosecutor.

Indeed, Mr. Libby perhaps is guilty only of being too trusting of the process.  According to reports he did not hire a top gun defense attorney familiar with grand juries and criminal investigations, but instead stuck with his family lawyer because he told friends he had nothing to worry about.  That may have been a crucial error.  If it’s true that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict even a ham sandwich – then presumably that’s true because a ham sandwich doesn’t usually have a top-flight criminal defense attorney handling its case.  In any event, these do not appear to be the actions of a guilty man.

And perhaps the Bush administration was guilty of something similar – trusting holdovers and appointees from the previous administration and not heeding earlier signs that something was seriously amiss in the CIA.

In sum, the Bush administration may be faulted for failing to bring the CIA under its control, and for using clumsy efforts in an attempt to correct a false story once it was put forward by Wilson. It does seem clear, however, that elements within the CIA acted without authority and in inexplicable ways that ended up undermining the president in a critical time of war.

Perhaps the real crime was the equivalent of an attempted coup against a sitting president launched from within his own intelligence service.  In fact, if there is any crime worth investigating, the political use of the CIA by rogue elements to undermine and even unseat a president is a far more important issue to consider than whether or not Mr. Libby has a photographic memory of who told him what, when, and where about Valerie Plame.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Miers murdered by murder boards

By Aussiegirl

In the end Miers was murdered by the murder boards and by her own failure to impress senators. The more she met with them, the worse their impression of her was. In addition, once Republicans joined the document request for White House papers it became clear that the situation was at an impasse. The president would not release those papers, and senators were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the complete lack of information about her. She simply could not stand up to the questioning in the murder boards and the administration feared she would not survive the hearings. Frist also delivered the news that he doubted that she could get a majority vote. In addition, the fellow she fired from the lottery board was released from his confidentiality agreement and was set to testify, which would have opened up the entire Ben Barnes/Nat'l Guard service can of worms at the hearings (one reason the democrats were so downcast yesterday - they lost their opportunity to grandstand over presidential papers and the "scandals" in Texas).

Even if the conservative voices in the media had kept quiet about Miers, her nomination would have sunk of its own weight. In the end, it became clear from her own writings and her own performance in the murder boards that she was simply not up to the task. It got so bad that they refused to call in outside lawyers to do some of the test questioning as is usually the case. The more she met with senators the worse impression she made. Even Republican senators predisposed to liking her found her to be not up to speed on the simplest constitutional issues. Frist had to go to the White House and deliver the news that increasingly it looked unlikely that she would even win a majority vote. Eventually even the person chosen to shepherd her through the process withdrew his support. Even Dobson at the end was saying he doubted his initial endorsement. Her nomination simply fell apart.

And the world will not end because of this. The president will nominate a new candidate, hopefully one who has been thoroughly vetted and who has solid credentials.

The final kicker seemed to be her 1993 speech in which she supported judicial activism when legislatures fail to act and also claimed that there were (in paraphrase) "two justice systems -- one for whites and another for minorities" -- making her sound more like John Edwards than Antonin Scalia. In the speech she criticized the fact that minority defendants faced majority white juries, a position which would seem to indicate that she felt that race should be taken into account in the seating of juries, and perhaps a quota system put in place which takes into account the race of the defendant and the race of the jurors. This is completely outside any remotely mainstream and logical reasoning, and instead betrays a fuzzy-headed emotional outlook on outcomes rather than legal process and precedent. In addition, the simple language and syntax of the speech betrayed a mind which is not grappling with complex or even simple legal principles or ideas in any kind of coherent or intelligent way.

In sum, if Miers nomination had proceeded to the hearing stage it would have been a disaster. She would either have been reluctantly voted down in a humiliating defeat for a president with a majority in the senate, or she would have been approved with a slim majority out of embarrassment and deference to the president. In either case the outcome would have been far more damaging than the face-saving withdrawal based on the irreconcilable problem of release of presidential papers.

Miers nomination plagued by missteps - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com

For Harriet Miers, the "murder boards" were aptly named. Day after day in a room in the Justice Department, colleagues from the Bush administration grilled her on constitutional law, her legal background and her past speeches in practice sessions meant to mimic Senate hearings.

Her uncertain, underwhelming responses left her confirmation managers so disturbed they decided not to open up the sessions to the friendly outside lawyers they usually invite to participate in prepping key nominees.

It was clear that Miers was going to need to "hit a grand slam homer" before the Senate Judiciary Committee to win confirmation to the Supreme Court, as one adviser to the White House put it. "Her performance at the murder boards meant that people weren't confident she'd get the grand slam."

For Harriet Miers, the "murder boards" were aptly named. Day after day in a room in the Justice Department, colleagues from the Bush administration grilled her on constitutional law, her legal background and her past speeches in practice sessions meant to mimic Senate hearings.

Her uncertain, underwhelming responses left her confirmation managers so disturbed they decided not to open up the sessions to the friendly outside lawyers they usually invite to participate in prepping key nominees

It was clear that Miers was going to need to "hit a grand slam homer" before the Senate Judiciary Committee to win confirmation to the Supreme Court, as one adviser to the White House put it. "Her performance at the murder boards meant that people weren't confident she'd get the grand slam."

By nearly all accounts, the 24 days of the Miers nomination was hobbled by a succession of miscalculations. President Bush bypassed his own selection process to pick Miers, his onetime personal lawyer and White House counsel since February. His aides ignored warnings by some of the administration's closest conservative allies that she would prove difficult to confirm, and took for granted that its base would ultimately stick with the president.

And in perhaps the biggest misjudgment, Bush assumed that Miers would somehow shine in a Washington klieg light she had never before faced.

It did not take a call from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to convince the White House that Miers's nomination was in trouble. By the time Miers withdrew her name from consideration yesterday morning, her own colleagues had all but despaired of rescuing her nomination. With top Bush aides facing possible indictment as early as today, the White House concluded that it was time to move on and brace for the more threatening crisis.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More thoughts on Miers and other topics later today

By Aussiegirl

Circumstances have prevented me from blogging as much as I'd like the
past few days, but check back later today as I will be posting some
thoughts on the Miers withdrawal and other topics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Outrage builds over Yahoo's actions in China

By Aussiegirl

Outrage is building over Yahoo's actions in China, which involved revealing the identity of one of its customers who subsequently was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Chinese government. Anger ranges from a home-grown boycott of Yahoo's services to calls for new legislation to deal with such situations that will only arise with greater frequency as internet giants deal with repressive regimes like China.

Yahoo in China: Rising tide of anger - International Herald Tribune

Yahoo in China: Rising tide of anger - Print Version - International Herald TribuneYahoo has suffered a good deal of opprobrium since it was revealed last month that, when government officials came calling, the company's Hong Kong division simply surrendered information on a Chinese citizen who had presumably sought refuge, anonymity and a bit of freedom in the bosom of a Yahoo e-mail address: huoyan1989@yahoo.com.cn.

Shi Tao, the journalist using that address, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sharing with foreigners a message that his newspaper had received from Chinese authorities, warning it not to overplay the 15th anniversary in June of the killing of pro-democracy demonstrators near Tiananmen Square.

Yahoo, meanwhile, gets to keep its piece of the gigantic China pie, insisting like most Western companies doing business there that it must abide by the laws of countries in which it operates.

"What if local law required Yahoo to cooperate in strictly separating the races?" asked Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a widely circulated essay for The Los Angeles Times. "Or the rounding up and extermination of a certain race? Or the stoning of homosexuals?"

Jim Etchison, an information technology management consultant from Pomona, California, created BooYahoo, at booyahoo.blogspot.com, a site dedicated to urging "freedom-loving citizens of the Internet" to stop using Yahoo services "as a result of their oppressive policies."

"I was a happy Yahoo user for about nine years and was so offended by the Shi Tao business that I boycotted them," Etchison said in an e-mail message. "What begins in China will end where I live."

But the most damning missive came just over a week ago, in the form of an open letter to Yahoo's founder, Jerry Yang, from Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident in Beijing who is no stranger to censorship, prison and other indignities associated with the government's efforts to stifle speech and dissent.

"I must tell you that my indignation at and contempt for you and your company are not a bit less than my indignation at and contempt for the Communist regime," Liu wrote, according to a translated version of the letter appearing on the Web site of the China Information Center, at cicus.org, a news and research clearinghouse based in Fairfax, Virginia.

The site was created by the activist Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps before coming to the United States.

"Profit makes you dull in morality," Liu's lengthy and scathing message continued. "Did it ever occur to you that it is a shame for you to be considered a traitor to your customer Shi Tao?"

Monday, October 24, 2005

Noted economist Bruce Bartlett fired from the National Center for Policy Analysis for criticizing Bush policies

By Aussiegirl

It's not nice to cross the Bush administration. Ask Saddam Hussein. Or you could ask Bruce Bartlett, who just got fired for the unpardonable sin of having disagreed with the president's economic policy in his forthcoming book. I thought these think tanks were independent. I guess not. Can airbrushing official photographs be far behind in these wholesale party purges? This is absolutely despicable. If only the president would go after his political enemies with the same venom and spite that he uses against fellow Republicans.

It is obvious that only toadies and sycophants need apply -- as evidenced by the nomination of the non-entity, Harriet Miers. Evidently, Bruce Bartlett didn't gaze adoringly at Bush and declare him "the most brilliant man I have ever met".

Bartlett may have the last laugh, however, as his book is going to be published in February rather than April, and the production has been increased by 40%. I heartily suggest if you disapprove of such disgraceful actions that you run to Amazon and pre-order your own copy of the book. I have already done so and can't wait to do a review on UT. Hat tip to Tim Birdnow over at Birdblog who picked this up from The Federalist. Click here to buy the book

Birdblog: "Bruce Bartlett, a noted economist, Treasury Department official under Bush(41) and senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, was fired from the think tank this week after the Bush administration got an advance copy of his forthcoming book, "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy". It seems the muting of political speech under so-called 'campaign finance reform' was not an anomaly. Consequently, Bartlett's publisher has increased first-run production by 40 percent and moved up the book's release date to February. If this is how the administration plans to temper criticism of its spending problems, Karl Rove isn't the genius we've always taken him to be."

Clinton-care destroys vaccine production

By Aussiegirl

For the third year in a row some parts of the country are facing shortfalls of the current flu vaccine despite reassurances that more than enough doses are available. On Saturday I had to spend 2 1/2 hours waiting in a line at a supermarket in order to get shot number 41 of only 52 available at that site. For the third year in a row my doctor does not know if he will even be able to secure any vaccine, and tells me to check back in a few weeks or, to be safe, stand in line at the supermarket.

Supplies appear to be spotty, with some areas experiencing no problems and others experiencing shortfalls. Doctors are complaining that they are unable to get vaccine and that all available supplies seem to have been bought up by supermarkets, which offer mass clinic innoculations at their stores. In my local area, Safeway is one of at least 2 chains offering the shots. However this year, despite scheduling a regular number of clinics throughout October and November, they suddenly announced that they were suspending all further clinics. On Saturday I got one of the last shots they were offering. Others have found that depending on where and when they happened to go to a supermarket they were able to obtain one easily without a wait. But at others the waits are long and uncomfortable. The spectacle every year of elderly people, most with canes, walkers, oxygen tanks and other aids standing in long lines for hours is simply inexcusable. In addition, although supposedly plenty of vaccine is available, most supermarkets are giving shots only to high risk patients, those over 65 and others with chronic or respiratory illnesses.

And this is just a normal year for flu. This is not a pandemic of the avian flu that some scientists fear may become a reality -- if not this year then in the next 5 - 8 years. As this editorial points out, so far governmental and regulatory efforts have only led to more shortfalls and fewer companies willing to produce not only vaccines, but antiviral medicines.

Instead of threatening to use the military in order to enforce quarantines in case of an outbreak human-to-human transmissible avian flu (something which has not happened yet), the administration should instead turn its attention to the catastrophic state of vaccine R & D in this country, a scenario created by the Clinton policies of the 90's and current misguided attempts to regulate and control the vaccine industry. If I'm not mistaken, the Clintons are no longer in power, so why has the administration not addressed these concerns and rescinded those ill-conceived policies?

The surest way to face the problem of a pandemic of something like the avian flu is to quickly develop the ability to rapidly manufacture the requisite vaccine in large quantities. The current method, which is antiquated, involves the incubation of the isolated strain in chicken eggs, a process which takes 6 - 9 months and is technically difficult and cumbersome. It's also too slow to be of any help in the event of a sudden outbreak of avian flu. There are gene-splicing techniques that can quickly manufacture large quantities of vaccine, but these are currently expensive and companies are being hampered by governmental regulation and fears of frivolous litigation.

This editorial in the Washington Times points out all the problems we currently face in addressing this potential pandemic, or indeed any potential threat of viral outbreaks, including those caused by bio-terrorism.

One additional note, on a medical expert on pandemics who has seen computer runs of the potential for containing an outbreak of avian flu using the only currently available methods, i.e. isolation, quarantine and Tamiflu, did show that if all steps are followed an outbreak of the virus can be contained relatively quickly and confined to a relatively small area. One of the benefits offered by Tamiflu is that it prevents the infected person from passing on the virus to anyone else.

Destroying vaccine development

President Bush is urging vaccine companies — those that are left — to find ways to jump-start production of vaccines to shield the world from the avian flu. However, there is little the president can do to quickly reverse a decade of policies and litigation that has killed the vaccine industry just as surely as the avian flu will kill millions of people, particularly children, worldwide. Price controls on pediatric vaccines, increased regulation of vaccine development and Vioxx-like litigation have caused continuing shortages of vaccines for influenza and childhood diseases. They have also have scared away the investment needed to produce huge quantities of shots to contain the avian flu and other outbreaks in a timely fashion.
[...]A vaccine against avian flu is under development. However, we lack the capacity to produce and distribute it to the millions most in need. The virus — H5N1 — is mutating into a form that could spread quickly from human to human. Therefore, the vaccine currently being developed might be useless. The expertise exists to reconfigure vaccines to thwart new strains quickly, but that requires production capacity we do not have.

Over the last decade, instead of promoting vaccine development, we virtually destroyed it. First, the Vaccines for Children program — Sen. Hillary Clinton's dry run for national health care — froze prices on childhood shots — and demanded bulk purchases. That one policy has contributed to the shuttering of state-of-the-art vaccine facilities and the exodus of several large drug companies from the business.

Then in the wake of the anthrax scare, politicians, including Sen. Charles Schumer and so-called consumer advocates, called for the government to seize the patents of drug companies and give them to generic firms who in turn would produce antibiotics like Cipro . Since then, companies have largely shied away from doing any business with the government out of concern that their products would be next. So, now Mr. Schumer wants the United States and other nations seize the patents of companies that make anti-flu medicines such as Tamiflu and Relenza. Not only will such measures dry up investment in flu-fighting medicines, but generic firms are unlikely to have the know-how to safely reproduce such complex products or have the margins to take on the legal liability of producing a medicine that if not properly formulated could be either ineffective or deadly.

Next, safety fears — ginned up by trial attorneys and demagogues like Sen. Charles Grassley — have led the FDA to demand longer and bigger clinical trials and tougher manufacturing standards.

Despite such delays and the threat of a pandemic that will kill millions, the staunch allies of the trial bar are still blocking any effort to limit liability for problems associated with an avian flu vaccine. They want to "protect" consumers, at least those that are still alive after a virus sweeps across the world without a vaccine to stop it.

As a result, many small biotech companies with excellent technologies that could be applied in creating vaccines tailored to different versions of the avian flu and other pathogens are simply limping along. They are mostly losing money in pursuit of better science thanks to threat of class-action lawsuits similar to those being brought against Merck, which also happens to be one of the few large vaccine makers left in the world. They are stalled at the FDA. And the threats of price controls and patent seizures are greater then ever. We have no vaccines to fight off bioterrorism more than four years after September 11 and we are ill-prepared to fight the avian flu .

It is said that by failing to learn from history we are condemned to relive it. By persisting in policies and lawsuits that punish the vaccine industry we are condemning millions to death. At a time when medical progress is entering a golden age, we are virtually defenseless against the dark clouds of disease that, once again, threaten to encircle the globe.

Robert Goldberg is the director of Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress and the chairman of the institute's 21st Century FDA Task Force.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

China is a slave state

By Aussiegirl

Those who believe that we can democratize China by increasing investment are sadly mistaken. China is using the investment to develop a powerful military with hegemonic aims for the future, and it is utilizing repression at home and virtual slave labor in its factories to attract all that investment. Meanwhile we keep quiet because the products we get from there are so cheap. But they come at a price -- the price of human freedom. Are we willing to pay it?

The Australian: China slammed as 'slave state' [October 22, 2005]

FORMER Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui has accused China of running a "slave" state and said the free world was appeasing China because of its newfound economic power.

Mr Lee made the comments in Los Angeles on the last leg of a 13-day US tour that has infuriated Beijing.

"The West has a double standard for the Soviet Union and China. People in the West believed that Soviet human rights violations and threats to neighbouring countries should be stopped.

"But they believed that China's violations of human rights and threats to neighbouring countries are 'special Chinese characteristics' that can be tolerated," Mr Lee said at a luncheon organised by Taiwan's Formosa Foundation, a lobby group.

He said China was attracting investment "that appeared lucrative because they have used enslavement, under conditions that are tantamount to enslavement by the state," with cheap and "obedient" labour and state-owned land and facilities.

Mr Lee said China and neighbouring North Korea were "slave states" that were holding back the advance of democracy.

Hints that Miers may be pulled

By Aussiegirl

Looks like the first cracks are starting to appear in the nomination of Miers to the Supreme Court.

Insiders see hint of Miers pullout�-�Nation/Politics�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday.

"White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, 'We're not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?' " a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times yesterday.

The White House denied making such calls.

[...]A second Republican, who is the leader of a conservative interest group and has ties to the White House, confirmed that the White House is making calls to a select group of conservative activists who are not employed by the government.

"The political people in the White House are very worried about how she will do in the hearings," the second conservative leader said. "I think they have finally awakened."

Friday, October 21, 2005

A doctor responds to the epidemic of fear surrounding bird flu

By Aussiegirl

Don't take my word for it. Doctors are downplaying the hysteria over bird flu. Here is an excerpt from an article by an internist which appeared in the LA times.

RedNova News - Health - An Epidemic of Fear

Why the overreaction? For one thing, direct comparisons to the Spanish flu of 1918, a scourge that killed more than 50 million people worldwide, has alarmed the public unnecessarily. In fact, there are many scenarios in which the current bird flu won't mutate into a form as deadly as the 1918 virus.

And even if we accept the Spanish flu scenario, health conditions in 1918 were far worse in most of the world than they are now. Many people lived in squalor; 17 million influenza deaths occurred in India, versus about half a million deaths in the United States. There were no flu vaccinations, no antiviral drugs, and containment by isolating infected individuals wasn't effective, largely because of poor information and poor compliance.

Today's media reach could be a useful tool to aid compliance. Of course, the concern that air travel can spread viral infections faster may be valid, but infected migratory birds were sufficient in 1918.

Unfortunately, public health alarms are sounded too often and too soon. SARS was broadcast as a new global killer to which we had zero immunity, and yet it petered out long before it killed a single person in the United States. SARS was something to be taken seriously, but the real lessons of SARS, smallpox, West Nile virus, anthrax and mad cow disease weren't learned by our leaders - that potential health threats are more effectively examined in the laboratory than at a news conference.

Unmasking Mao by Ronald Radosh

By Aussiegirl

Ronald Radosh delivers an in-depth review of the forthcoming monumental biography of Mao written by Jung Chang and her husband, Russian historian Jon Halliday. Unmasking the beaming, pudgy figure in the Mao suit, the smiling gnome of Little Red Book fame, they reveal a portrait of an evil despot who murdered and tortured millions for his own sadistic pleasure and at his own malign whim. In the process they shatter all the previously held myths promulgated by the left's romantic idolization of him as the benign agrarian reformer, and also shatter those comfortable theories promoted by "old China hands" who counseled many presidents. China has been and still is a mystery to the west, even more than Russia. This biography should go a long way towards opening the doors and shedding some much-needed light on that mysterious Middle Kingdom.

Along with this book, I strongly recommend the highly readable and fascinating book written by Jung Chung entitled "Wild Swans". Chang was born in China in 1952 and emigrated to England as a college student. She relates the wrenching history of China in the 20th Century through the personal stories of three generations of women in her family -- her grandmother, her mother and herself. Her grandmother was sold as a concubine into the household of a warlord and endured the barbaric ancient Chinese practice of footbinding, which left her hobbled for life. Her mother was a prominent and active communist leader and idealistic follower of Mao who eventually fell victim to his insane purges. And Jung Chang herself was forced to work as a barefoot doctor and participated in the Cultural Revolution as a reluctant Red Guard. For those who don't think they could wade through the Mao biography, Chang's "Wild Swans" is a mesmerizing and eye-opening window on the real China as viewed from the inside.

Jon Halliday is a former editor of New Left Review and a one-time ardent supporter of the communist regime in Albania. It is clear from this review that he has had a change of view and heart. There's nothing like being married to a victim of communist purges and horrors to open your eyes to reality and lift the clouds of intellectual romanticism and conceit.

Not surprisingly, neither "Wild Swans" nor "The Unmasking of Mao" is permitted to be sold in China which still actively promotes the Mao mythology.

FrontPage magazine.com :: Unmasking Mao by Ronald Radosh

Stalin is supposed to have said, “one death is a tragedy; thousands are but a statistic.” Let us, for a moment then, ponder this statistic, from the very opening sentence of Jung Chang’s and Jon Halliday’s majestic new biography of Chairman Mao: “Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives on one-quarter of the world’s population, was responsible for over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader.”

Think about that for a moment. The staggering figure exceeds that of the deaths caused by Stalin and Hitler combined. But while one can find almost no one in today’s world who extols the once current benign image of Stalin and Hitler- indeed, few would even admit to holding favorable views of these two tyrants- Mao’s reputation has remained relatively unscathed. The current government of The People’s Republic of China proudly hails Mao as its founder. His life size photo hangs over the balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square, where Mao once addressed the throngs of adoring “Red Guards,” and from which in 1949, he proclaimed the very birth of the new revolutionary regime. That regime’s very legitimacy stems from the creation of Communist China after Mao’s victorious Red Army successfully seized power, forcing the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek to flee to the island of Taiwan.

[...]It is the importance and power of the new biography by Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday that the world’s understanding of Mao is about to undergo a cataclysmic change. The authors are well equipped to undertake such a monumental task. Jung Chang, born in China in 1952, suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, where she was assigned to be a “barefoot doctor” who treated peasants without any medical training, as real doctors were arrested or killed. Her international best selling memoir of three generations of her family, Wild Swans, captured the ways in which giant cultural change impacted on her own family’s life. Halliday, a Russian historian at King’s College in Britain, was a former editor of New Left Review, and during one period in the 1960’s, a supporter of the Communist regime in Albania. Halliday obviously had serious second thoughts, and in this book, any romance with Communism and illusions about its role in the world have thoroughly disappeared.

[...]Then, of course, one cannot discount the impact of the 1960’s Left, much of whom glorified the Chairman as the world’s only remaining pure and selfless revolutionary. The support to the “Cultural Revolution” by many of that era’s New Left (a group of which co-author Halliday was once a part) was symbolized to me by the words of a well known Marxist-feminist, who upon returning from China, proclaimed that the Cultural Revolution “was about the freeing of women.” And the mythology extended to the Marxist intellectuals of the influential journal Monthly Review, whose editor Paul M. Sweezy pronounced that Mao was the world’s greatest Marxist, who had seen the need to break bureaucracy and keep the flame of Marxist revolution alive.

The brutal truth, to put it as starkly as possible, is that Mao Tse-tung was the last century’s most violent and vicious ruler – a power mad figure who dreamt of extending his rule to the entire world, a goal he pursued while engaging in murder, torture, rape and forced starvation, while demanding complete obedience to his every whim, all the while attended by personal servants who offered him every luxury he desired.

[...]What Mao was an expert in and took great delight was in the torture, repression and savage treatment of the peasants, for whom he had no concern at all. Rather than seek to build a peasant based socialism, Mao saw the peasantry as expendable; as a source of brute labor, who could always be forced to do without any basic means of simply having sufficient food necessary to live. Moreover, Mao was so unpopular with the people, that when the Red Army marched in to “liberate” cities in the last days of the civil war, in some areas not one person appeared to cheer them, since their population had experienced the wrath and reality of Mao’s terror in earlier days of temporary Red rule in the 1920’s.

[...]Mao’s base was not a supportive peasantry, but a population cowed into total obedience through the use of complete terror- a device perfected by Mao between 1941 and 1945. Areas controlled by the Reds witnessed interrogation after interrogation, and mass rallies, in which many were forced to confess to being spies and to name others in front of the large crowds that had gathered. All social life was banished – there was no singing and dancing allowed, and the only peace came from “thought examinations” in which people had to write at length about their own anti-Party thoughts. If one resisted, that was taken as proof that the individual was a spy; the purpose was to destroy all trust between people. Chang and Halliday argue that as a result, most of the people suffered what they call “brain death;” the inability to think or act on their own.

[...]Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have clearly written what will be regarded as the book of the year: the book that finally will have told all the bitter truth about Mao, and thus which will have completely destroyed any remaining reputation he may have had as an individual who helped free China from submission and imperial control. Under Mao, China slipped back from a move towards the modern world into pure barbarism, and the hell Mao created far exceeded any of the difficulties confronting the Chinese people during the short reign of Chiang’s nationalists.

It is hardly a surprise to learn that the current government in China – a regime that has moved China economically into the modern world by taking what Mao had condemned as the “capitalist road” – has moved to suppress the book and prevent its appearance and publication in the mainland. Politically the regime still calls itself Communist. It operates a one-party state, controls all sources of information , suppresses dissidents, imprisons them in the Chinese gulag, and engages in mass suppression of the peasants and factory workers, who are forbidden to organize and try to rectify the horrific conditions in which they live.

The ability to try to push this book past the walls of the Chinese government censors, and to make its findings known in the internet and then through China, is itself part of the struggle that will have to be made to improve the chances for a democratic development in China’s future. It is a difficult, but not impossible task. The Chinese people will someday thank and honor Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.

Ronald Radosh has served as a Senior Research Associate, the Center for Communitarian Studies at George Washington University; as Professor of History in The Graduate Faculty, City University of New York; Research Director for the United States Information Agency, and as Associate Director of the Office of the President, the American Federation of Teachers. He is the author, co-author, or editor of fourteen different books, including his most recent, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left.

Hyping Mao in modern China

By Aussiegirl

And ironically, at the same time that Jung's groundbreaking biography is being published the Chinese government is engaged in a heavy promotion of Mao nostalgia and hype. Mao's huge portrait still beams down benevolently over Tienanmen Square, and tourist visits to his childhood home are being heavily advertised. Imagine a similar tour of Hitler's childhood abode or Stalin's, and you have the picture of how far China has to go in joining the family of free nations.

Independent Online Edition

Since China's State Council designated this year as the year of Red Tourism, an initiative designed to re-kindle faith in the present-day Communist Party (CCP), a booming Shaoshan has become an unlikely must-see on the tourist trail.

Legions of holiday-makers are flocking to the town, eager to learn more about the roots of the man who in his homeland is still regarded as having done more than any other to unify and form contemporary China.

[...]Such is Mao's status in China that no one dares challenge the myths surrounding the man who may have united the country but also initiated such disastrous events as the Great Leap Forward, in which 30 million people died of famine, and the Cultural Revolution, which saw millions more Chinese denounced by their friends and neighbours and sent to labour camps or worse.

"In the eyes of Chinese historians, Mao is a controversial figure," says Yang Kui Song, a history professor at Peking University. "Some historians are very positive about him, but many criticise Mao in private. They'd never express their opinion openly. They'd get into trouble."

Mao's reputation has taken a battering in the West this year, following the publication of Jung Chang's long-awaited biography, Mao: The Unknown Story.

But Jung's book is banned in mainland China and her portrait of a master manipulator who regarded ordinary people as expendable and was interested only in maintaining his iron grip on power, would be greeted with shock and disbelief by most Chinese.

[...]People seem puzzled when I ask if they like Mao. "Of course we do," says one woman. "All Chinese people like Mao Tse-Tung. He is the Chairman and the new China was built by him."

Jung Chang would be quick to point out that Westerners should not be so quick to credit these rosy reports from Chinese citizens regarding their views of Mao or communism. Dissent is still heavily punished in China, and speaking out of turn can land you in prison for many years.

Steyn performs an autopsy on a nearly moribund Russian bear, but beware the death-throes of a dangerous beast

By Aussiegirl

Mark Steyn paints a devastating portrait of of a dying mother Russia, complete with AIDS, a plummeting birth rate, falling life-expectancies, draining wealth and internal Muslim revolt of its outlying regions. Coupled with Russia's penchant for allying itself with America's enemies, this spells big trouble for the U.S. Time to peer into that soul again and see what's really there. One of Steyn's finest efforts. A must read.

The Spectator.co.uk

So the world’s largest country is dying and the only question is how violent its death throes are. Yesterday’s Russia was characterised by Churchill as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Today’s has come unwrapped: it’s a crisis in a disaster inside a catastrophe. Most of the big international problems operate within certain geographic constraints: Africa has Aids, the Middle East has Islamists, North Korea has nukes. But Russia’s got the lot: an African-level Aids crisis and an Islamist separatist movement sitting on top of the biggest pile of nukes on the planet. Of course, the nuclear materials are all in ‘secure’ facilities — more secure, one hopes, than the secure public buildings in Nalchik that the Islamists took over with such ease last week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Congressman wants new Able Danger probe

By Aussiegirl

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Penn. delivered a stinging speech from the well of the House on the 19th of October, in which he demanded a probe into the campaign which is being waged to discredit Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer. In addition to the information already disclosed that Able Danger had identified Mohammed Atta more than a year prior to 9/11, Rep. Weldon revealed that Able Danger had also warned the Navy not to send the U.S.S. Cole to Yemen because of information it had uncovered. The Cole was sent, and many men lost their lives in the attack on the ship.

It appears that in addition to stripping the career officer of his security clearance, the Defense Department seems to be attempting to sever his pension, thereby removing his children from any medical plan. In addition, classified materials were sent to Col. Shaffer in a move that certainly appeared to involve the attempt to frame him for unauthorized possession of classified documents. One of the reasons ostensibly given for possible termination of Col. Shaffer is that he once stole pencils - government property, even though Col. Shaffer was at the time a 15-year-old and admitted to his prospective employer on his application questionnaire that he had taken the pens from his father's office when his father was stationed at a foreign embassy. He had taken them in order to distribute them as souvenirs to his friends.

If the government is sinking to such ludicrous and outrageous depths in order to silence this man (and incidentally many others who will corroborate his story) then there is obviously something serious here that both the Bush and Clinton administrations are eager to suppress. There may be more to this strange love of the Bushes for the Clintons than meets the eye. It may be that both administrations dropped the intelligence ball when it came to preventing 9/11. There is evidence that the Bush administration was briefed on Able Danger and the link to Atta and his cell, which could well explain the eagerness by both sides to supress this information. The American people deserve better.

United Press International - Congressman wants new Able Danger probe

A vocal House Republican is calling for a new probe into what he says is a "witch-hunt" by defense officials against a Sept. 11 intelligence whistleblower.

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Penn., told United Press International that officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, had "conducted a deliberate campaign of character assassination" against the whistleblower, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer.

Shaffer has said that a highly classified Pentagon data-mining project he worked on, codenamed Able Danger, identified the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 terror attacks as linked to al-Qaida more than a year before they hijacked four planes and crashed them, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Weldon told UPI he had written to the Department of Defense inspector general to ask for "an immediate formal inquiry, with people testifying under oath," into what he called "a clear witch-hunt" against Shaffer, who has been on administrative leave while minor allegations about some expenses are investigated.

Weldon's move comes after Shaffer said that boxes of his personal effects, returned to him by the DIA earlier this month, contained both government property and classified documents.

"Sending classified material through the mail is a felony, and much more serious than any of these minor, trumped up charges against (Shaffer)," he said, adding that "I want the appropriate persons held accountable."

Weldon said that the DIA had now taken steps to fire Shaffer. "It's outrageous and scandalous," he said.

A DIA spokesman had no immediate comment.

The first shot across the Miers bow

By Aussiegirl

One can only assume that Bush nominated Harriet Miers as a sort of super-stealth nominee, stealthier even than the brighter-than-a-legal-button Roberts, who wowed the committee with his artful dodging of substantive views on his outlook on matters Constitutional. By doing so the president assumed that things would go pretty much the same way. His base would go along with whatever nominee he chose, and the democrats, after fuming and fussing and digging around in the record, would come up empty and have to at least let the nomination go to a full up or down vote. Furthermore, Miers had been personally suggested to the White House by none other than soft-spoken funeral director Harry Reid, who, in a voice more in sorrow than in anger, reportedly whispered in the president's ear that here was a nominee who was least objectionable to the democrats. Home run, bases loaded, do not pass go, collect your $200 and proceed directly home, game, set, match.

But somewhere along the line the game plan went awry. Conservatives yelled foul, democrats were struck dumb (temporarily), and the president ended up in a nasty squabble with his own conservative and previously very supportive base. Rather than seek clarification or accomodation, the president chose to dig in his heels and to attack Miers' critics as elitists and out of touch snobs and sexists who didn't understand the little people. Harriet Miers, counsel to the president, had somehow miraculously morphed into "Everywoman" -- and not just "Everywoman" -- but a pioneer -- breaking through the glass ceiling with her Meals on Wheels Wagon, knocking down the barriers of maledom like so many tenpins sent tumbling with her impressive bowling technique, and a sure hand with everything from the Double RR Bar Association to the deft handling of the Texas State Lottery Commission. Why, to even question her was tantamount to being un-American! (And she was an Evangelical Christian -- although whether or not that was a qualifier for the high court varied from day to day.)

The problem is -- what happens now? The White House appears entrenched and ready to withstand the siege of conservative opposition and outrage. Conservatives are not giving in and the insurrection continues unabated. Democrats so far have remained content to remain on the sidelines, watching with amusement as Republicans go after each other.

But perhaps no more. The sleeping Democrats seem to have awakened. They are starting to ask questions. And they have discovered that in their midst was not the Harriet Miers they had been reassured about. The Harriet Miers who was probably the best they could hope for, a moderate, possibly even swing vote in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor, was suddenly the same Harriet Miers who had supported a Constitutional Amendment banning all abortions except those to save the life of the mother -- a position even most conservatives would find extreme in the extreme. I had never even heard of such an amendment ever being suggested. Conservatives' objections to Roe v. Wade have always been procedural and Constitutional, and not primarily with the subject of the ruling. It is safe to say that conservatives have always believed that the right to abortion is not a matter that should be decided by fiat from the Supreme Court, but is a matter that rightly belongs to the State Legislatures to resolve, according to the wishes of the electorate.

Suddenly Democrats realized they have a fight on their hands and they are going to have to work hard to defeat this candidate on that issue alone, since they have made it the sine qua non of their requirement for the high bench.

I have thought all along that the Democrats' tactics regarding this nomination might proceed as follows. They would initially hold their fire, allowing the conservatives to wage the first battles. They would hold off until the hearings and here they would spring their trap. As the president's counsel, and as his personal lawyer of many years, Harriet Miers has been involved in every issue concerning the president that Democrats are salivating to know more about. For instance, and to name just two -- Miers is intimately involved with President Bush's controversial National Guard Service. In her role as the head of the Lottery Commission there are a number of questionable dealings involving Ben Barnes, who was given a lucrative lobbying contract with GTech, the company which was handed the no-bid Lottery contract. Is it wise for the White House to nominate someone who would give the media and Democrats a blank check to dig back into that whole mess again? In addition, as White House Counsel, Miers has been associated with many decisions having to do with the war on terror. Note that Lindsay Graham is quoted in this article as demanding to know more about the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo. Note also that senators are demanding to know exactly which questions Miers might have to recuse herself on if she were to reach the high bench. Why the White House thought it would be a good idea to nominate a woman who has intimate knowledge of all his controversial personal and policy decisions over the years and hand the opposition the ammunition with which to demand further information regarding issues that the president would be wise to avoid, is beyond imagining. Unless someone didn't think this through. These hearings have the potential to hand the Democrats a platform from which they can launch a thousand investigations of the president, demanding briefing papers, confidential documents and opening up more cans of worm than a cat-lady opens tuna cans. And failing to get the answers they will demand, they may very well stage a filibuster, the very scenario the White House was hoping to avoid by nominating Miers in the first place.

And that's just the Democrats. Republican senators have been less than impressed with Miers in their meetings with her. Specter has been her biggest supporter up till now, defending her and characterizing the opposition to her nomination as a "lynching". But that appears to be changing following Miers' recent meeting with Specter, in which, according to Specter, she expressed agreement with Griswold and another case pivotal to the decision of Roe v. Wade. After Specter emerged and stated what Miers had told him, she hastened to correct his impression, stating that she had not said what he heard her to say. While initially doing the gentlemanly thing and issuing a statement which basically declined to contradict Miers' new position, Specter now appears to be insisting that he has never had trouble understanding what people told him on previous occasions. Furthermore, according to this article, although Miers had been touted as an experienced corporate lawyer who handled many high-profile cases, Specter is demanding to have access to more than the "skimpy" few cases that were forthcoming with the questionaire submitted by Miers.

All in all, it looks like alarm bells are clanging all over Capitol Hill, and from all sides of the aisle. Hang on to your court benches and fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be a very bumpy ride.

Will it happen this way? We can only watch and wait and see.

Bloomberg.com: Top Worldwide

The Senate Judiciary Committee asked U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to give more substantive and complete answers in writing to questions about her professional background and service as White House counsel.

The panel's chairman, Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, voiced dismay that Miers submitted ``insufficient'' responses to the panel's questionnaire, which was made public yesterday. Specter and the panel's top Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, sent Miers a three-page letter with detailed instructions for answering nine questions by Oct. 26. The committee's confirmation hearings will begin Nov. 7.

``The comments I have heard range from incomplete to insulting,'' Leahy told reporters. ``Certainly it was inadequate, and it did not give us enough to prepare for a hearing. We will have to have more.''

The haunting of the White House -- roses and presidents and queens -- oh, my

By Aussiegirl

Are you all Miersed out? Is the daily grind of depressing news just becoming a bit much? Well, hurry on over to BonnieBlueFlag and get ready for Halloween. Our good friend Bonnie has just posted three new and exciting ghost stories, all to do with the White House. And you know when you read anything over there that she has researched this down to its tippy-toes -- these are not just unfounded rumors but documented hauntings.

BonnieBlueFlag: "Queen Wilhelmina

It was 1945 and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was in Washington, D.C. on an official state visit. She was happy to be with friends, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the President and First Lady of the U.S. The war had brought about quick and lasting friendships for many of the heads of state, because, they had been through so much together, in their joint effort to stop the spread of the Nazis throughout Europe."

We need some "no" men in the White House

By Aussiegirl

Linda Chavez makes some excellent points in this column. President Bush is too isolated and seems to be out of touch with his base of support. Instead of reaching out to find out why conservatives so vehemently oppose his nomination of Harriet Miers, he sends his minions out to attack the very people who have supported him through thick and thin. Has the White House ever engaged the democrats with such venom and vigor as it has engaged its own base? Has the White House called democrats the equivalent of "elitists" or "sexists"? We hear that the White House has sent out word to any Republicans with presidential hopes for the nomination in 2008 that they are finished if they oppose the Miers nomination. That sounds more like the Sopranos to me than a White House we can all be proud of. It is not for George Bush to annoint his successor. It is hubris and arrogance in the extreme to suggest such a thing. If that is true, then we live in what amounts to a benign oligarchy -- with what amounts to a royal dynasty passing power from hand to hand without recourse to elections or the will of the people.

Townhall.com :: Columns :: Too many yes-men by Linda Chavez

Instead of listening to what conservatives are actually saying about the Miers nomination, the White House strategy is to attack the critics. We are suddenly the enemy: elitists, sexists, disloyal, and don't really represent anyone anyway. There is no one in the White House who has the nerve to tell the president that he should be worried when Democratic Sen. Harry Reid is more enthusiastic about his nominee than the editors of National Review.

And it's not just the Miers mishap. This White House seems more isolated from the larger world than most. The president brags he doesn't read newspapers. The initial response to Hurricane Katrina suggests he rarely watches television news either. When the president ventures out of the White House bubble, it's usually to return to Crawford or to address a safe, administration-friendly audience. With Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, the president doesn't even have to meet regularly with members of the opposition party. President Reagan, for example, forged a friendly relationship with one of his chief adversaries, House Speaker Tip O'Neill, but you get no hint that President Bush has done the same. Admittedly, the political atmosphere in Washington has grown more toxic in the last 20 years -- and Democrats are, I believe, largely to blame. President Bush came to office promising to change the climate, but quickly gave up, simply insulating himself from having to deal with it.

It is one thing to cut yourself off from people who don't share your values and aspirations, and quite another to push aside your most faithful allies because you don't like what they have to say on an important issue. The president has surrounded himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear. It's a dangerous practice. As the Fool reminds King Lear in Shakespeare's play:

"That sir which serves and seeks for gain,

And follows but for form,

Will pack when it begins to rain,

And leave thee in the storm."

The president faces rough seas in the days ahead. He'd be wise to heed the Fool's warning.

Russia, Iran and North Korea -- the new Axis of Evil

By Aussiegirl

Ben Shapiro warns once again about the growing problem of Russia aligning itself with our enemies. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has no recognizaable policy when it comes to dealing with Iran. Having failed to support pro-democracy forces to promote a peaceful revolution from within, ala the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, we now find ourselves in the untenable position of having to resort to diplomatic pressure from the toothless, corrupt and useless UN. And with the war in Iraq feeding media and liberal cries of quagmire, and the military being heavily tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have no credible military option available. It is folly to have imagined that ex-KGB man Putin could ever have possessed a soul worth peering into.

Townhall.com :: Columns :: The renewed axis of evil by Ben Shapiro

Three years ago in this space, I warned that "the biggest development of the last decade is being overlooked: Russia is renewing her relations with America's enemies." In specific, I cited the fact that "the Russians are binding themselves tightly to Iran and North Korea … "

In three years, the situation has grown no less frightening. In fact, the Russian government has expanded its ties with the still-existent members of President Bush's "Axis of Evil." This week, the UK Telegraph reported, "Former members of the Russian military have been secretly helping Iran to acquire technology needed to produce missiles capable of striking European capitals. The Russians are acting as go-betweens with North Korea as part of a multi-million pound deal they negotiated between Tehran and Pyongyang in 2003. It has enabled Tehran to receive regular clandestine shipments of top secret missile technology, believed to be channeled through Russia." A senior American official explained to the Telegraph, "I think Putin knows what the Iranians are doing."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Let's talk turkey about this bird flu hype

By Aussiegirl

I have no idea what is behind the recent scare-mongering that is going on world-wide about the bird flu, but some caution is in order. The bird flu that is currently spreading is only dangerous to birds or people who are in confined areas with infected birds for prolonged periods, such as poultry workers. While there is always the potential for animal viruses to mutate into forms that readily infect and spread from human to human, there is no indication that this flu is even close to doing so. It would still have to undergo five separate and random genetic mutations in order to become infections in the same way that the ordinary flu is. In addition, as it mutates it also tends to change, usually becoming less virulent with each change.

Let's get a few facts straight. This flu has killed exactly 60 people worldwide. You are far more likely to die from contracting salmonella from undercooked poultry than you are from some theoretical threat from this flu, which doesn't even exist yet, and may never exist. Panic is completely unwarranted.

You cannot contract it from eating poultry, even infected poultry, as long as you cook it thoroughly.

The people who have been infected with the flu so far were in prolonged and close contact with infected birds. Unless you work in a poultry production facility you are not at risk.

The flu is being spread by migratory birds, which is why we are hearing reports of it spreading from Asia into Russia and Europe and now Greece. It is still only birds which are affected. Heavy culls of domestic fowl have managed these sorts of outbreaks before. In other countries farmers are being urged to keep their poultry indoors where they will not be exposed to wild birds.

Relax. It is extremely unlikely that this flu is ever going to mutate into the form which is predicted for many reasons. As to why all the chicken-littles are screaming their heads off about this and deliberately panicking the world population is anybody's guess. But it has little to do with scientific reality.

Is Thanksgiving still on? Many worry about bird flu - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

Is Thanksgiving still on? Many worry about bird flu - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

Americans fearful of bird flu are peppering health officials with all sorts of questions: Is it safe to have a bird feeder in my yard? If I see a dead bird, should I report it? Is it still okay to have turkey at Thanksgiving?

The answers are yes, no, and yes.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Musings on "My Fair Lady" on a Saturday afternoon

By Aussiegirl

In reading today’s news I came across the tidbit that Harriet Miers’ favorite movie is “Sound of Music”.  This led me to musing on the genesis and creation of the musical “My Fair Lady”.

As I thought about the “Sound of Music”, I realized how fortunate the movie-going world is that Julie Andrews was not selected to play the role of Eliza in the movie version, even though she had premiered it to great success on Broadway.  

I’m sure there are those who will disagree, and by all accounts, Miss Andrews did a cracker-jack job on the stage.  But a movie is not the stage where a performer needs to project to the back row – movies are really up-close-and-personal, where the viewer can literally see up a person’s nostrils.  It’s important not to overact and over-project, and Miss Andrews’ saccharine screen presence that is so prominent in the “Sound of Music” would have forever marred the eventual brilliant screen adaptation, which starred the incandescent and spirited Audrey Hepburn.  

The only thing that would have made the screen version of “My Fair Lady” even better, in my opinion, would have been to allow Audrey Hepburn to sing her own music.  As it is, the ubiquitous and talented Marni Nixon, who dubbed the singing for Deborah Kerr in “The King and I” and numerous other Hollywood musicals, was tapped to dub the songs for Miss Hepburn.  This was a great loss to the movie-going public and to history.

There is a wonderful documentary on the making of “My Fair Lady” which includes a rare out-take from the movie that features Miss Hepburn singing the song “Show Me” in her own voice.  The difference between this robust, spunky, natural and emotionally delivered number is miles away from the warbling, sweet generic soprano sounds produced by Miss Nixon, or indeed from the same kind of saccharine soprano which is Miss Andrews’ trademark.

It is at this point in the musical where Eliza truly comes into her own as a person.  She has absorbed everything that she has been taught by Professor Higgins, she has brilliantly passed the test of the Royal ball, and has realized that she has been nothing more than a plaything to Higgins.  She confronts him, packs a bag and heads out the door.  And along comes Freddy, crooning and mooning and spooning, singing his sweet little words of love, when an exasperated Eliza interrupts his song with vehemence --  “Don’t talk of stars burning above, if you’re in love, show me!”  

This song, like all of Higgins “singspiel” monologues, needs to be delivered with less emphasis on the beauty of the musical notes and with more emphasis on the dramatic delivery.  Here we see Eliza fully integrated as a person.  She is the person she has always fundamentally been – a headstrong personality, ambitious, smart, iconoclastic and honest – only now she has the polish of accent and manner that she was previously lacking.  Casting aside her former incarnation in song, she moves beyond the schoolgirl crush that she displayed in “I Could Have Danced All Night” and shows herself in full maturity as an independent character who is through being manipulated, and now demands to be accepted on her own terms, in her own right.

If you look at the character of Eliza through the prism of the song lyrics alone, it is fascinating to behold her evolution into the strong and independent character she becomes in the end, when Higgins finally realizes that he has fallen in love – not with his own creation, but with a fully formed and integrated person.

As the musical opens a young Eliza sings of “Wanting a Room Somewhere” -- her ambitions are modest, but already it is clear she is a girl who has dreams of making her life better, and she shows creativity and imagination by taking the step of wanting to take instructions from Professor Higgins.  

Her next song, “Just You Wait, Henry Higgins”, is really a cockney version of the later “Show me”.  Here Eliza shows her spunk.  She shows us that she holds herself in high esteem and does not intend to be trampled even by the likes of Henry Higgins.  She imagines her triumph with Higgins lying helpless at her feet as she gives the order to “Take off his head!”   In the lyrics Lerner has done a brilliant job of describing the arc of Eliza’s growth as a person, so that the songs carry along the development of the play just as surely as Shaw’s words do.

There is a marvelous piece by Mark Steyn that describes how only the team of Lerner and Loewe could have possibly brought Shaw’s brilliant stage play to the musical theater.  To have the temerity to add words and lyrics to the immortal Shaw takes great courage, and the love story of Eliza and Higgins is not your usual young love, moon, June and spoon love story.

In a television interview Lerner’s wife told a fascinating story of the creation of the lyrics to Higgins’ final number, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”.

Lerner had been desperately searching for the lyrics he needed for a love song for Henry Higgins.  He was completely stymied.  Higgins could not be reduced to the schoolboy trillings of a Freddie, he would not be a man given to rhyming and poetic turns of phrase.  How to give the crusty professor words to describe the fact that he had fallen in love?  At one point, his wife described bringing her husband a plate of sandwiches and some coffee after he had been up very late one night struggling with his dilemma.  As she descended the stairs with the tray in her hand her husband said, “You know, you are really beautiful.” -- and she replied, “How nice of you to notice.”  He replied that he had simply grown used to her face and had suddenly realized anew how beautiful she really was.  At that point he knew he had it – the key.  “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” was born, and the perfect words were found to demonstrate Higgins’ growing realization of his love for Eliza without resorting to typical love lyrics, which would have been out of character.

Well, I could go on all night about this, about the brilliance of the monologues such as “Why Can’t The English Teach Their Children How to Speak”, but that would be getting off the topic.

The musical version of “My Fair Lady” is a brilliant adaptation of Shaw’s play and a depiction of the evolution of Eliza’s character through song, and the only thing that would have immeasurably improved the movie version and made it perfect is if Audrey Hepburn had been allowed to sing her own music.  They should have let Eliza be Eliza – instead they chose the equivalent of a British high-born lady to sing the part of a Cockney flower girl.  

Click here to read Mark Steyn's piece on the creation of "My Fair Lady".

Click here to read the lyrics to all the songs in "My Fair Lady".

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bush tax proposals smell like middle-class taxhikes

By Aussiegirl

Well, at least he never said "Read my lips", but the one solidly conservative thing that Bush has done is to reduce taxes, which has paid huge dividends in a revived economy and a steady growth rate. Now in the guise of a tax overhaul, a bi-partisan (groan) commission comes up with some lame tinkering which will essentially recoup the revenues lost from eliminating the minimal alternative tax with reduced deductibiity of home mortgages (what a bright idea), and reduced deductions for health care. Another idea was to reduce the deductibility of state and local taxes, another dumb idea which will hit middle-income taxpayers.

Conservatives pan ideas of Bush tax-reform -- The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Major tax-reform advocacy groups, from the National Taxpayers Union to the Free Enterprise Fund, and some lawmakers urged Mr. Bush to scrap the panel's plan and offer a comprehensive overhaul of his own to replace the tax code with a simpler flat-tax system that would encourage savings and investment.

The panel, whose final suggestions will be made Nov. 1, revealed this week that it might recommend cutting back on popular tax deductions for home mortgage interest and tax-free employer-provided health insurance.

"Regardless of the details, the approach the panel is taking requires finding $1.2 trillion in tax hikes, which will hit the middle class and the economy hard," he said.

John Berthoud, president of the National Taxpayers Union, praised the commission's proposed repeal of the minimum tax, but said it dodged its central mission by failing to come up with a simpler system that would replace the current code with either a national retail sales tax or a flat-rate income tax.

"How will raising taxes on home mortgages and health care grow the economy?" asked Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican. "If the president's panel gets its way, a majority of homeowners in Colorado would see their taxes go up. This tax increase would be aimed straight at the middle class."

It's not how she'll vote -- but WHY she'll vote

By Aussiegirl

Gerard Baker essentially restates the case against Harriet Miers' nomination, but raises a crucial point. By emphasizing Ms. Miers' religion, Mr. Bush has trivialized and distorted, perhaps forever in the public mind, the conservative outlook on Constitutional matters and Supreme Court rulings. One wonders if he even understands it.

The Trouble with Harriet

The answer is not just her proximity to Bush for all these years, but her religion. In an attempt to put out the fire on the right lit by the
nomination, White House officials have been reassuring supporters that Miers is fine because she is an evangelical Christian, who can be relied upon to vote accordingly.

This is about as troubling as it gets. It's not that there's anything wrong with evangelical Christianity. It is just that it should not, cannot, be the principal credential for appointment to the highest ranks of the American judiciary. It not only represents a breathtaking disregard for the principle that there should be no religious test--established in the Constitution--for public officials. It represents a profound lack of seriousness about conservative philosophy. The problem with Roe v. Wade, for example, is not that it is unchristian, but that it is a constitutional monstrosity. In appointing Miers, Bush is actually undermining conservative values by equating them with religious precepts. Whatever judgments she reaches on any issues, from abortion to the death penalty to the separation of Church and State, can be dismissed as simply a religious view, detached from jurisprudential thinking.

Media double standard when it comes to Nazi vs. Communist crimes

By Aussiegirl

No memorials are raised to the millions of nameless victims of communism, no museums commemorate their fate. Not one of the perpetrators of the Stalinist mass murders has stood trial for their manifest crimes against humanity. They are conveniently forgotten, but we do so at our peril, because whereas Nazism is dead, Marxist-Leninism is alive and well and working actively with radical Islamofascism to bring down the West.

Media Monitor - Nazis and Reds: The Media Double Standard - October 14, 2005

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post is one of many journalists who have written about Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter who died recently. Wiesenthal was determined to find the Nazis who had survived the Nazi regime and had fled to escape justice. His commitment and dedication deserve our praise. Tragically, Fisher's paper shows no similar determination to identify and uncover the adherents of communist totalitarianism, a system that according to The Black Book of Communism has killed as many as 100 million people in the 20th century. What does this tell us about the double-standards, bias and dishonesty of our press?

On the occasion of the September 24 "anti-war" march in Washington, D.C., some of the communists were visible but others were not. Those who tried to maintain some degree of anonymity operated under the cover of front organizations such as International ANSWER. But basic research could have determined, for example, that the national coordinator of ANSWER, Brian Becker, was a Workers World Party operative. Those out in the open included other members of the Workers World Party, who maintained a literature table near the rally site where they sold copies of the works of V.I. Lenin.

This may show that our media consider communism somehow fundamentally different than Nazism. Reporters may consider Nazism reactionary and communism revolutionary. This attitude reminds me of the comment made by Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post decades ago when the communists were trying to take over Central America. The guerrilla groups were regarded by the press as the "good guys," she said.

For many in the press, Nazis were bad but communists somehow were good. It's true that these two ideologies fought during World War II. But they came to blows, as history shows, not because they were different but because they were essentially the same. Investor's Business Daily noted, "…all the century's great mass murders—Mao Zedong (65 million), Stalin (25 million), Hitler (21 million), Pol Pot (2 million)—were communists or socialists." Both Nazism and communism were also designed to bring the whole world under their dominance. The U.S. quickly understood that fact after the end of World War II, after the U.S. had entered into a temporary alliance with Soviet Communism against Hitler and the Nazis. The Cold War ensued, as the Soviet Union expanded into Eastern Europe. The communists took China, and South Korea-and later South Vietnam-came under attack. In the 1980s, the communists made their move for control of Central America.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Did Brit Hume spread White House smear on Judge Alice Batcheldor

By Aussiegirl

I saw this exchange on FNC and Brit Hume was uncharacteristically nasty and insinuating in his tone. It was most unseemly. If the White House has to stoop to smearing other potential nominees in order to make their case for Harriet Miers, it shows the complete bankruptcy of their position. Who is in charge of this White House spin machine? The tactics smack of rank amateurism and ham-handedness -- either that -- or overweaning arrogance. This is no way to win friends and influence people to view this nomination in a favorable light.

Bench Memos on National Review Online: "Did the White House Smear Batchelder?
[Jonathan Adler 10/13 03:20 PM]

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alice Batchelder was reportedly on the Administration's short list for a Supreme Court vacancy at some point. According to FNC's Brit Hume, she was struck from the list because of a record of "judicial activism." In response to Bill Kristol's suggestion that Batchelder would have been a better nominee on Fox News Sunday, Hume said:

"I can tell you this about Alice Batchelder. She was very, very closely vetted. And you know what they found? They found all kinds of evidence of activism in her record. And they were quite surprised and not pleased to find that."

Those familiar with Batchelder's record were surprised at the charge. Over at No Left Turns, Robert Alt wonders where Hume got the idea that Batchelder is an "activist."

When Kristol questioned this new smear tactic, Brit incredulously suggested that this is something he found on his own. But, as Brit's first statement makes clear, the only way he could have gotten this information about White House opinion is by hearing it from the White House (unless of course he is simply reporting second hand reports -- which would mean that he was engaging in rather loose reporting practices).

If the White House was the source of this charge (and other unflattering and even more spurious notions floated about Batchelder in recent weeks), it is very troubling. As Alt observes, smearing qualified candidates for the Court is no way for this administration to win back the trust and loyalty of the conservative base."

Those dang Viking SUV's caused global warming 1000 years ago

By Aussiegirl

A costly solution to a non-problem, that's what the Kyoto Treaty is. Global warming is a myth -- the world has been much warmer in its past. Learn the facts.

The Calgary Sun - Better to consult Vikings on Kyoto

Way back in the years 1000 to 1200 AD, Vikings farmed on the now frozen islands of Greenland and Iceland.

That's right, 800 to 1,000 years ago, when the Earth was sparsely populated and the internal combustion engine wasn't anywhere close to becoming even a spark of an idea, the Earth was warmer than it is today.

How can that be when we keep hearing that the earth is getting catastrophically too warm?

That's the kind of question Dr. Douglas Leahey, President of the Calgary-based group Friends of Science, is hoping more and more Canadians ask themselves -- and soon.

Yesterday, Friends of Science launched an ad campaign in vote-rich and Liberal-ruled central Ontario to bust a few global warming myths. And there are many.

The 30-second radio spots asks listeners to engage in a quick true-and-false quiz.

1) Global warming causes the violent weather worldwide.

2) The Earth is warmer today than it has been in 1,000 years.

3) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is dangerous pollution.

"If you said 'yes' to all three then you've been misled," states the radio ad, urging those listening to ask their MP why they want to spend $10 billion on unproven global-warming theories and inviting listeners to visit the group's website: www.friendsofscience.org

Log onto that site and it's positively chock-a-block with myth-busting facts, all backed up with scientific articles and studies.

In fact, Dr. Tim Patterson, a professor of Geology at Carleton University in Ottawa, is quoted on the site saying: "If back in the mid-nineties, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would not exist because we would have concluded it was not necessary."

Dr. Timothy Ball, Canada's first climatology Ph.D states it even more forcefully. "The Kyoto Protocol is a political solution to a non-existent problem without scientific justification."

Leahey said numerous other climate scientists along with himself have watched in alarm as much of the world and its media "buy in 100 percent to the notion that man's emissions of CO2 was causing rapid global warming."

"We saw billions, if not trillions of dollars being earmarked for the Kyoto protocol and we felt very concerned that science was being pushed aside by hysteria over global warming," he said at a news conference at Calgary's Chamber of Commerce.

Let them Bork Bork

By Aussiegirl

Ned Rice writes an absolutely delicious column in today's NRO and makes a modest proposal. Sounds like a winner to me, and in the process he makes a lot of sense about where we find ourselves today in relation to this increasingly disastrous nomination.

Ned Rice on Robert Bork on National Review Online

Let me just say at the outset that Harriet Miers seems to be a very nice lady. Moreover, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she’s a very good lawyer. In fact, I believe that there’s a place for Harriet Miers at the Supreme Court. But not on the bench. As I understand it, the main argument in favor of elevating Miers to our nation’s highest Court is that she might turn out to be a good associate justice. Which, surprisingly enough, is also the most persuasive argument in favor of elevating me to the Supreme Court — the statistically measurable chance, however slight, that I might not turn out to be a complete disaster. Just the same, one wonders if we might do better.

The growing sense that Miers will either be forced to withdraw or will fail to win Senate confirmation is generally seen as a looming disaster for a White House that, to be charitable, could use some good news right now. But the argument can be made (and, I hope, is about to be) that a Miers’s rebuff will prove not a setback, but a golden opportunity for the president to shore up his fortunes on several fronts. If he makes the right choice here, President Bush can win back the hearts and minds of his base (and then some), fortify his arsenal in the war on terror, lay the foundation for an outstanding judicial legacy, and put right an historic injustice of epic proportions, all in one fell swoop. Plus, there’s at least a 50-50 chance that Ted Kennedy’s head will, at long last, finally explode.

But in order to grasp this nettle of opportunity President Bush must be willing to cast aside the focus-grouped timidity that gave us Miers (and, let’s be honest, Roberts) in favor of the bold approach more suited to the lame duck president he happens to be. The George W. Bush we elected understands that the essence of statesmanship is doing the right thing knowing that you’ll be vilified for doing so. This historic juncture is no time for small-ball, sacrifice bunt, move-the-runner-over tactics, Mr. President. There is, in fact, virtually no tomorrow in terms of your remaining presidency, your legacy, and oh, yes…the future of the republic. This is no time to take a knee. Rather, it’s time for you to hobble up to the plate and crank one out of the park just like Kirk Gibson did in the 1988 Series. And with all due respect, Mr. President, here’s how you do it: Renominate the Honorable Robert H. Bork to be an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Lost Beethoven manuscript found in Pennsylvania seminary

By Aussiegirl

Now here's big news, music lovers -- a long-lost manuscript of one of Beethoven's final compositions, dating from the last few months of his life, has been found in the Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. by a librarian who was cleaning out a dusty closet.

It is a transcription for piano four-hands of his monumental "Grosse Fuge", which was originally intended as the final movement of one of his greatest musical statements, the late string quartets.

The Grosse Fuge has always been considered almost mystical in its dimensions and breathtaking scope, but was judged to be too complex and long to be the finale to a quartet. Beethoven was prevailed upon by critics and friends to publish it as a separate piece, and a shorter and lighter finale was composed for the finale of Quartet op. 130.

It is thrilling to see how the great titan himself wrestled with the composition, the emotion spilling over onto the page with numerous vigorous erasures, cross-outs -- some so deep the page is punctured. It shows a genius at work, grappling with the mighty forces of his own talents and his own magnificent conceptions of the heavens, the earth, God and all the majesty which this great genius was privileged and burdened with apprehending. To see him attempt to recreate on paper what was no doubt boiling in his soul is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

It is not for nothing that great geniuses are often felled by their own temperaments and emotions. It takes a character of great steel and determination to harness those titanic forces with which nature endows them. Some succumb, while others triumph as Beethoven did, overcoming superhuman odds -- his early deafness, his painful illnesses, his increasing isolation from the society of people he so dearly loved, his own volcanic emotions that often overwhelmed and hurled him into pits of despair, only to raise him again on wings of musical inspiration.

Ah -- Beethoven never fails to inspire me -- both his music and his genius and his personal story. Beethoven -- a man for all seasons.

New York Times

It was a working manuscript score for a piano version of Beethoven's "Grosse Fuge," a monument of classical music. And it was in the composer's own hand, according to Sotheby's auction house. The 80-page manuscript in mainly brown ink - a furious scattering of notes across the page, with many changes and cross-outs, some so deep that the paper is punctured - dates from the final months of Beethoven's life.

The score had effectively disappeared from view for 115 years, apparently never examined by scholars. It goes on display today, just for the afternoon, at the school, the Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

"It was just sitting on that shelf," Ms. Carbo said. "I was just in a state of shock."

Like Ms. Carbo, musicologists sounded stunned when read a description of the manuscript by Sotheby's, which will auction it on Dec. 1 in London. "Wow! Oh my God!" said Lewis Lockwood, a musicology professor at Harvard University and a Beethoven biographer. "This is big. This is very big."

Indeed it is.

Any manuscript showing a composer's self-editing gives invaluable insight into his working methods, and this is a particularly rich example. Such second thoughts are particularly revealing in the case of Beethoven, who, never satisfied, honed his ideas brutally - unlike, say, Mozart, who was typically able to spill out a large score in nearly finished form.

What's more, this manuscript is among Beethoven's last, from the period when he was stone deaf. It not only depicts his thought processes at their most introspective and his working methods at their most intense, but also gives a sense of his concern for his legacy. The "Grosse Fuge," originally part of a string quartet, had been badly treated by a baffled public, and he was evidently eager to see it live on in a form in which music lovers could play it on their pianos at home.

A look at the manuscript, made available by the auction house, shows a composer working with abandon and fixated on getting it exactly right. Groups of measures are vigorously canceled out with crosshatches. There are smudges where Beethoven appears to have wiped away ink while it was still wet. Sections have "aus," or "out," scribbled over them.

In some parts, Beethoven pays little heed to spacing out the notes in a measure, extending the five-line staves with wobbly lines in his own hand. High notes soar above the staff. The handwriting grows agitated to match the music. His clefs are ill formed. In one place, he pastes an entire half-page over a botched section with red sealing wax.

In another spot, Beethoven puts in numbers to signify the fingering. "It's so touching," said Stephen Roe, a musicologist who is head of Sotheby's manuscript department. "It means he played it."

The "Grosse Fuge" lies at the heart of an enduring Beethoven controversy.

It was composed, and published, as the finale of his Op. 130 String Quartet, a member of the colossal series of late quartets. But it was astonishingly complex. After the premiere on March 21, 1826, a reviewer called the music "incomprehensible, like Chinese" and suggested that Beethoven's deafness was at fault. Beethoven wrote another finale, lighter and more pastoral, and agreed to have the "Grosse Fuge" published separately.

Debate has raged over the Op. 130 quartet's proper finale. One camp says that since Beethoven himself made the decision, the substitute finale should be played. The other says that he was effectively pressured into the change by his friends and publisher, and that therefore the "Grosse Fuge" should remain.

Maynard Solomon, another Beethoven biographer, cautioned against overestimating the manuscript's value, pointing out that it is a piano transcription and thus a "secondary work." But, Mr. Solomon said, it fills a gap in the history of the "Grosse Fuge," which he called "one of the most important composition histories in Beethoven's life."

The publisher commissioned a four-hand piano version from another composer, but the job of teasing out the string lines and assigning them to the keyboard was so poorly done that Beethoven insisted on making his own version, which he delivered in August 1826. He was dead less than eight months later.

Describing the period of Beethoven's life, Mr. Lockwood, the Harvard musicologist, said: "He's sick. He is old in his way. He's tired. He's really near the end of his career. But he decides it's worth it to get this piece out in four hands in his own version. It's a labor of extreme love at the end of his life."

Beethoven could not comprehend why the work was not better received. When he was told the audience at the premiere called for encores of the middle movements, he was reported to have said: "And why didn't they encore the Fugue? That alone should have been repeated! Cattle! Asses!"