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Michael Ubaldi, November 9, 2007.

"I do not expect any operational impact whatsoever," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell assured on Japan's suspension of a six-year refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Whatever the accuracy of that, international consequences were so mild that one wouldn't have known without picking up a Japanese newspaper. But this is big, or at least bigger, in Japan.

October 31st was the last day of Tokyo's authorization of supply duties. There wasn't a renewal, so the tanker Tokiwa and destroyer escort Kirisame are now homebound for Nagasaki. Entreaty from the Liberal Democratic Party government, in the form of a bill, went out to the legislature in that last fortnight. Unfortunately, the Diet is split. The sponsorial LDP has the lower House of Representatives, and the critical Democratic Party of Japan snatched the upper House of Councillors in a July 30th shellacking. No mandate, no flotilla.

Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, the man and the politician, had to have militated for recent fortunes of the LDP more than any leadership or platform of the country's almost-uninterrupted majority party. Koizumi ended his term in near-weightlessness. He could count support of the people; promised reforms enacted; enlarged national profile; and momentum towards altering the pacifist constitution taken as part of Japan's 1945 surrender, public realization of dragging a ball and chain long after a sentence served. No amendments have been made since then. Only wordplay on the law's current language has allowed the LDP to claim basic military prerogatives, though under Koizumi, this worked.

In April, further preparations for a rewrite were made by the last prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who didn't last twelve months. Cabinet scandal begot suicide begot scandal; then the elections in July. Insisting that his polices were "not mistaken," Abe called the LDP's loss "no reason to flee." Six weeks later, Abe fled. Instructed by history, LDP prepotence isn't endangered by the DPJ, but the opposition party appears ready to strike out policies breaking Japan's geopolitical chastity, its first try recalling the Tokiwa and Kirisame.

A successor LDP government wants a compromise to get those ships heading back west, while it deals with the quibble of whether fuel went into ships defending civil liberty of Iraqis rather than that of Afghans. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Tokyo this week, and he wouldn't have solicited more involvement abroad if it weren't possible. Japan, to onlookers somnambulant, keeps putting one foot ahead of the other, somehow, staggering in the generally right direction.

Michael Ubaldi, November 7, 2007.

The following was disclosed in an agitated exchange between National Review contributors Mark Krikorian and John Podhoretz: Krikorian, opposed with vehemence to accommodating foreigners who come into the United States illegally, would also occlude all lawful means of entry. His own statement was that "immigration is incompatible with a modern society." Podhoretz was reproachful, as indeed the issue, rising in these last few years to the prominence held a decade and a half ago by crime and domestic negligence, has done so partly because its advocates are thought not to be the Know Nothing Party reincarnate. Well, the rejoinder was that there hadn't been any dissembling, and, too, those allies interested in preserving naturalization would be abandoned at convenience.

Were Mark Krikorian focused only on Mexican aliens, by their numbers the de facto "illegals," he couldn't design restrictionism by association. So his view that "America is a completely different place from a century ago" whereby "the high levels of immigration that we successfully accommodated in the past are deeply problematic today," involves the Indian national and Americans of Indian ancestry, and it runs into difficulty. An émigré from India while still a British colony was rare. A signally documented influx was between 1948 and 1965, amounting to several thousand. Less than one-third of the current population of 2.6 million arrived before 1990, with nearly a million coming since 2000.

Indians in the United States can be evaluated statistically and anecdotally. Only half are citizens and nearly a quarter "speak English less than 'very well.'" But rates and profiles of employment surpass those for the rest of the country, median household income $78,000 to the national average of $48,000. They predominate in the private sector and draw a tiny portion of federal entitlements. To the naked eye, to this pair, the southwest Asians in my apartment are a modest accompaniment to other classes here — mostly young professionals and the elderly. Couples and small families appear to outnumber singles. The women are seen wearing tilaka and sarees; they are reticent, which is respectable and keep their children close, which is admirable.

Do they conform? "Modern communications and transportation technology," Krikorian argues, "have made it so that immigrant ties with the old country are less likely to be severed." Possibly, as the canny foreigner may remain in America only as long as it takes to assemble wealth to carry back home. My own great-grandfather did this, emigrating in 1914, then selling his business to return to Italy in 1930 for comfortable retirement — no transoceanic wireless or shuttle necessary. And it was told to me that childhood friends, first-generation Indians, resisted here and there introductions and admonitions on heritage. Of Brahman name but American stock — they ate hamburgers with the rest of us. Never such conversation between us children, so implicit was our common nationality.

For support Krikorian turns to National Review fellow John Miller. "If the schools miss their chance [to inculcate American language and values]," is the warning, "un-Americanized children grow up to become un-Americanized adults — at which point their Americanization becomes much more difficult and unlikely." A demographic not in either man's mind but matching the description is the un-assimilated white, the foreign indigenous, plain to anyone under the age of forty: raised to mock civic obligation, shrug off national identity and wander the land as a tenant. Want to stride back towards homogeneity? Deport the suburban malcontent and have an Asian take his place. Constitutional amendment is in order, though no less radical than barricading the country.

Michael Ubaldi, November 2, 2007.

Margaret Thatcher, in her memoirs, gave fond remembrance to a debate from her early days in the House of Commons. The chamber fell into hilarity around the young MP when she flourished a vital sheet of statistics and declared, "Now I have the latest, red-hot figure." Without levity, Thatcher recalled the evaluation of her candidacy by Conservative selection committees, in those last years of distaff expectations. "Perhaps," she wrote, some of the men there believed a woman's place was away from Parliament, but "it was the women who came nearest to expressing it openly. Not for the first time the simplistic left-wing concept of 'sex discrimination' had got it all wrong."

If you have listened to the diagnoses of the several conditions said to animate former President Clinton, you may be familiar with the sentiment that Senator Hillary Clinton is afflicted with a form of virilism. There is nothing dainty or complaisant to her. She is witnessed as commanding and ambitious, whispered to be lordly and belittling.

If so, Mrs. Clinton disregards her doctors on this one. Seven years ago, campaigning for the seat of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, she was one of the most favorable implantations in the American political record. But competitor Rick Lazio executed a gambit, an affidavit to curtail unfashionable private contributions, with room for another signature, right there on the stage-left podium of his opponent. On tape, the first lady isn't startled by the salient but outraged, a mastermind waylaid by tactics. Clinton and her campaign protested Lazio's approach as the work of a heavy. Her massivity was still, after all, female.

Since the midweek chatter has been all about the last Democratic presidential debate. The New York senator was explaining herself on a matter — not quite defending a position as an outwork. Moderator Tim Russert, however, pushed her a little further back than anticipated, and Clinton improvised her way to a redoubt. The other candidates only partly acted on the trip-up, and, too, the question was somewhat off-topic. It may have vexed any of them. What Tuesday night conveyed was that Clinton is not invulnerable.

But, for the impeccable standard, just a scotch or two can vitiate. The Clinton campaign released a video montage titled "The Politics of Pile-On," a montage of opponents speaking Mrs. Clinton's name. Rallying at her alma mater, the senator said, "In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys' club of presidential politics." Parse that: comparable, but exceptional, but stronger, but delicate, deserving both equal and special consideration. A generation earlier, Margaret Thatcher already knew this opportunism from an adage, Britain's former prime minister embracing her countenance as both iron and a lady.

Michael Ubaldi, October 22, 2007.

Google has acceded to the despot state in provision of internet content to China, allowing the People's Republic to constrict information and limit knowledge. Enter the phrase "human rights" into the search field and, one supposes, Google returns an error page — Did you mean: hunan rice? But that is the great compromise of engagement, the United States encouraging trade and enterprise to induce liberalism. Many concessions are made from engineering to child recreation; Google transgresses the principle of an amendment in high fashion, so headlines come easy.

What Google does stateside, however, should be looked over for its scruples. And: the company might be acquiring bad posture of its associates.

Websites and file servers have become nodes in a data collective, the scientific, esoteric, eclectic and trivial made accessible, manageable, redundant and secure. For the archivist, this is fruition on the order of Gutenberg's. Google will do and has done the work to conserve libraries — New York Public, Harvard, Stanford. The cost for this is, not illogically, proprietary stewardship. Don't use Google to search? Then you can't browse the digital stacks.

Boston and the Smithsonian declined the offer loudly enough to be heard in the newsroom, and while Google's apologia is sound — nobody has a right to view commercial replicas — the inclusion of public information with corporate assets is near the point at which purists muse about a countryside patchwork of toll-obstructed, privately owned roads. As the Boston Public Library president, quoted in the New York Times said, "We understand the commercial value of what Google is doing, but we want to be able to distribute materials in a way where everyone benefits from it." Google is correct — but clumsy in its use of heft.

A week ago, the Examiner condemned Google for rejecting a quartet of advertisements parodying the left-wing mobilizer, MoveOn. An editorial accused Google of having "censored" the campaign of Senator Susan Collins. "On its face," wrote the newspaper, "a policy that allows censorship of political speech critical of the trademark holder is a violation of the First Amendment." Not at all — it is by that freedom which a company such as Google can choose who can use its services and what they can say. Google isn't a state; its policy can be applied any way it likes. But it is a business, and strictly personal favoritism is something consumers disesteem.

Correction? From the example of Boston and the Smithsonian, done in the marketplace.

Michael Ubaldi, October 19, 2007.

So closes Week Thirteen of the private inquiry about The New Republic's editorial defense for publishing a trio of falsehoods by an active-duty soldier. Questions of verity have been answered, the public case closed: all claims not true, authenticated in sworn testimony of the auteur himself and men in the Iraq-based company so disparaged. A reckoning was promised by the magazine's head, Franklin Foer — that was in August. Nothing has come. Rumors have indicated the forced vacancy of a few positions, though without corroboration from, as we might want, The New Republic.

A few victories: the series was ended, sensation was revealed to be defamation, an oppositionist here and there is maybe seized with conscience on how they will object in the future. But if there is a dilatory plan being executed, it is working, and all that rightists can do about it is fume, You can't do that!

One case for penalizing The New Republic is analogized in economic terms: "credibility is a publication's only real currency." Plausible, though not an axiom to which an opinion journal is immediately liable. The word "credibility" means "the quality or power of inspiring belief," operative word "belief," as opposed to "trustworthiness." Plenty of the magazine's audience still believe in the stories, period; or believe in them as allegories. There is a great need, particularly on the left, to see the Iraqi campaign as a bouillabaisse of wrongs — somewhere evil occurs, go these thoughts, so resemblance is enough if facts aren't supportive. If The New Republic supplies truth claims that its subscribers accept, it has value.

Another difficulty in censure will be the peerage that continues between periodicals. The weekly head-to-head, right versus left, between National Review's Jonah Goldberg and Peter Beinart — not only of The New Republic but the magazine's former editor — is still on, apparently judged too important to suspend. National Review has editorialized, reproaching The New Republic, but allows one of its staff to — even if by association — legitimize it. Surely Goldberg hasn't been interrogating Beinart or refusing to speak until Beinart extracts information from his colleagues? That has the effect of fixing the exchange rate of the currency.

There are duties to weight The New Republic with, but not towards sentence or resolution, the political press having always dealt in outrages.

Michael Ubaldi, October 17, 2007.

This November, half a month away, will be in an odd year. Some prefer not to see the hustings come to disuse. Radio personality Rush Limbaugh, telephoned by a declared Army serviceman, offered a two-word phrase for the caller's reference to "these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media," adverse to war efforts. Limbaugh was speaking of mountebanks, one in particular mentioned on his program a few days before — even so, to listen regularly to the broadcaster, one cannot find evidence of animus against military dissent.

Tinker to Evers to Chance, the left reacted. An interest group plucked, from the above exchange, a charge — contempt for the free-thinking soldier! — and flipped it over to newspapers and networks, which passed to Congress the political grounds for reprimanding Limbaugh. Henry Waxman, from the House overwatch, announced a probation of talk radio, while a Democratic plurality in the Senate published a castigation of Limbaugh. Exceptions were fixed in the right places: Waxman hasn't the jurisdiction, nor the Senate the influence. Rush Limbaugh, hale after twenty years and of the stock of a comic entertainer, is at last glance amused. And neither censure correctly cited the original transcript; though, of course, mass processing of red meat precludes refinement.

But the commotion made a lot of noise, and Republicans on a first-name basis with the press covering presidential campaigns were expected to opine. Wrote Fred Thompson: "Congressional Democrats are trying to divert attention from insulting our military leader in Iraq and pandering to the loony left by attacking Rush Limbaugh." Vis-a-vis Mitt Romney: "There may be disagreements with individual opinions, but no one would ever dispute the fact that those members of the military who disagree with the war have earned the right to express that opinion." Two operations, the first reliant on the base, unequivocal; the second independent of it, tentative and in error.

Thompson, already endearing, further endears himself rightward. The former governor of Massachusetts, however, often displays self-disclosure through contraposition, What is Romney for? One must assemble it from what Romney isn't. His position statements notably begin with "I'm not." That is, "I'm not trying to take us back to Reagan-Bush," "I'm not a big-game hunter," "I'm not running for pastor-in-chief," or "I'm not a carbon-copy of Bush." Mitt Romney's convictions occupy negative space, caution having led to indefinition, and the candidate took a wrong swing in what should be considered the hour of playtime in national politics

Michael Ubaldi, October 11, 2007.

Representing, on television and radio these last several days, the Family Research Council and an undisclosed few million voters, Tony Perkins has generally spoken two lines on a subject. Each is a little apart from the other in meaning, allowing for a space in between which observers can read. "The intent here is not to create a third party," he said on Hardball ten days ago, asked about Rudy Giuliani's favor among those who accept the label "social conservative" and thereby diverge from the former mayor on several political and philosophical counts. Nevertheless, "If the party leaves those issues" having attracted Perkins' adopted caucus, "it's unreasonable for them to demand that they stay in the party."

Yesterday, in a conference call attended by Jim Geraghty of National Review, Perkins maintained that he doesn't believe it "ever good to sit out the process." But — again — what about Giuliani? Another dichotomy from Perkins: "It was not a declaration of intent" that a rightist group would disavow the Republican Party, "it was a declaration of principle." Well, now, that is a luxury of consecution. If your principle is to let me break before sinking every ball left on the pool table, you can protest to not actively intend anything unless we set up the game. If and until Perkins and his representation deliberate on the nomination of Giuliani no demand has been made of the GOP — yet as soon as they do, their relevant principle should necessitate such an intent.

Material to this round of artful warnings is the reason for departure from the party over and above a disagreeable presidential nominee. The ends of Perkins et al. could be served in two hypothetical Washingtons. One, a President Giuliani appoints to occupy eventual Supreme Court vacancies; Roe v. Wade is overturned; while Giuliani supports abortion he does so in the mode of a legislator, and abets the fifty states' task in statutorily conforming to popular majorities. Two, a Republican Congress holds, against a Democratic president, whatever line it is Perkins' advocacy "won't cross."

How that which the Family Research Council claims to have striven towards, "a culture of life," would be strengthened in quiescence is an explicative assignment for Perkins. Propounded currently is the selection of a candidate who is, notwithstanding leadership, a pro-life immaculacy; and as recourse, extraction of the "social conservative" vote, entailing the political diminution of millions.

Michael Ubaldi, October 5, 2007.

The reason why the hot water faucet in the men's room of our office building groaned like a dying elephant, I decided, was that we rented a cheap square foot. "Guaranteed employment" is a form of economic pyrite, the inclusive making of wealth a favor and not an obligation. Hire — the return from another's risk is enough to afford services. Termination — the returns can no longer sustain, nor justify, payment for those services. Those who answer to another at the start of a business day, however covetous, aren't treated to sleepless nights of trying to meet a coming payroll.

Forecasts for the company I left yesterday — historically bright — had, earlier in the year, showed a brindle. It worried, months later worrying more, and then it propelled action: reduction in force, or more palpably, layoff. Speculation on the floor was conflagrated, of course. Concerns were known, but their reports did not meet in sequence the dispositive action. Could the alarm have been more graduated, the directors' response to shortfalls more visibly even? A warning to staff of necessary cuts following the last quarter, given this week, might have inspired the kind of miraculousness of self-preservation. And then, the incisions could have been partial and discrete, affecting pay and other remuneration. Lopping off entire positions with little said beforehand is serious, yes, though it is also unsettling in that it is perceived as total and arbitrary. Among the living it's whispered, Who's next?

But right there is the subjective dimension of leadership. If not omnificent, executives have a limited set of remedies. The president of the company, in his exposition of the grounds for my respectful separation, defended the severance benefits as "generous" — they were — yet fumbled in a search for words when, in painful sensibility, he contrasted them with the highest beneficence of continued employment. "It is what it is," I interjected, and he agreed, and the formalities were over.

In presidential debates, especially those of the party out of the White House, the laid off worker is an anticipated guest on the presumption that he will be a) resentful and b) eager for federal subsidies. Were I to end up behind a microphone, candidates leaning forward with condescension at the ready, I would say: "I recently lost my job. I was given funds, based on what I earned, to support me until I could be hired by another. 'Uncle Sam's cut,' as my former employer put it, was over one-third of the payment and will, in probability, be directed to entitlements, none of which I wish to receive. If elected president, what would you do to spare the vulnerable from dependence on Washington, caused by a bankrupting by Washington?"

Michael Ubaldi, October 1, 2007.

Driving on lunch hour a week back, I tuned the car radio to the metropolitan classical music station and heard a voice amplified through a hall. The City Club of Cleveland, for its penny, was given an hour or so of thoughts from Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum. A psychologist and seminarian, Tatum is author of social dialectics "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and Talking about Race, Learning about Racism. A meticulous scholar, she was heard on-air to pronounce the word "alumni" so it rhymed with "honeybee," as would have the Romans.

Spelman was founded in Atlanta, four years after the end of Reconstruction; a redoubt for lettered black women, built by two Northerners on an altruistic mission. The college is a cloister now, or at least sounds like it envisioned by Tatum, whose profession seems to be the creation of problems for the purpose of devising solutions. Several times in the twenty minutes I listened, Tatum described feelings of estrangement among Americans who are black (it is manifest) but understood it to be the incompletion — rather than the consequence — of an identity that is dermatological and cultural. In the language of academia, Tatum reasoned against the persistence of "racial and sexual" prejudices. And then — an anecdote, a robotics team from Spelman competing twice at Georgia Tech but more duly, as the only one "all-female and all-black." Opportunity despite exception or differentiation, could she tell the pair apart?

At present: probably not. Recently, students had held a vote for favorite movies. Members of a race-founded campus organization noticed no dark faces between the chosen stars, and protested. This was, for Tatum, a "learning experience." For one, she noted, "African or Bollywood movies" were overlooked. Bollywood? While it troubled to hear that foreign individuals are mentally, if not statutorily, relegated to a compensatory class — surely most Indians, immigrant or in the homeland, do not consider themselves needy — Tatum's closing on the matter was more urgent. Pressured, the polling students "didn't do the same thing the next year" which, for Tatum, worked out happily because "sometimes majority rule doesn't work." No, it doesn't work for one disputant every time, but for he or she concerned with the chromatic order of people there is a religio loci, hallowed ground, on which democracy offends.

Michael Ubaldi, September 24, 2007.

One desk at Reuters, from the news editor to the copy editor on down, was either trying too hard or not enough. Article dateline — Johannesburg, South Africa. Friday, September 21st. No news made there on that day by George Bush, who was not, as reported in the article's third paragraph, orating. Nor had the president committed "an embarrassing gaffe," as one might otherwise presume by Reuters' headline.

The body of the article made Bush's intended usage clear inasmuch as it directly quoted Bush. "Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule," the president explained, asked in a press conference about Baghdad's sluggish parliament. "I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas." Hee-haw! The Reuters copy deigned to interpret this as "allud[ing] to the former South African leader's death in an attempt to explain sectarian violence in Iraq," first draft perhaps naming all living members of the Nelson Mandela family, shortened for space.

Reuters, Reuters. How does one politely correct a practitioner's practice? President Bush was referring to the absence of prominent liberals living inside Iraq under Saddam Hussein, not the actual Mandela. One should hope that Reuters staff have some basic familiarity with classical rhetoric, and know the difference between a) literalism; and b) proper names assigned to demonstrative classes, or antonomasia. But that raises the possibility of a publisher, who markets news, choosing lampoons over verity — and then, inept ones. Exit Reuters, which either doesn't know any better or doesn't care.