Jan. 9th, 2003

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A not completely crazy case can be made that the most influential thinker in the foreign-policy apparatus of the Administration of George W. Bush during its first two years was not one of the familiar members of the gold-shielded Praetorian GuardÑnot Dick Cheney or Colin Powell, not Condi or Rummy, not Tenet or WolfowitzÑbut, rather, a forty-two-year-old Canadian named David Frum. During Year I of Bush II, Frum was a White House speechwriter. Although he left the job only ten months ago, his memoir of those distant days has already been written, edited, and printed, and, as of this week, is in the stores. (The revolving door used to turn with stately languor. Now it comes equipped with a tachometer.) In the book, he writes that when drafting duties for last year's State of the Union Message were being doled out, his assignment was "to provide a justification for a war," specifically a war with Iraq. After much cogitation, he hit upon the idea of likening what the United States has been up against since September 11, 2001, to the villains of the Second World War. The phrase he came up with was "axis of hatred." Higher-ups changed this to "axis of evil," to make it sound more "theological." Although Frum initially intended his "strong language" to apply only to Iraq, Iran was quickly added. (You can't have a single-pointed axis.)

North Korea was an afterthought. It got stuck in at the last minute, but Frum doesn't quite explain how or why. Perhaps it was meant to echo the global span of the original (Baghdad-Tehran-Pyongyang equals Berlin-Rome-Tokyo). Perhaps it was an application of the rhetorical Rule of Three (our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor; of the people, by the people, for the people; blood, sweat, and tears). Perhaps it was the product of intoxication brought on by an excess of moral clarity. Most likely, it was simply oratorical affirmative action, bused in to lend diversity to what would otherwise have been an all-Muslim list. One thing it was not was the product of careful policy deliberation. It had not been, as they say, staffed out. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, the State Department's East Asia hands learned about it only hours before the speech, and they were not happy. Secretary of State Powell, who almost certainly agreed with them but is ever the good soldier, told them to suck it up: "These are the President's views. It's his speech, so salute and follow."

As a rhetorical flourish, the axis of evil soared like an eagle. But in retrospect it more closely resembles a turkey, and the inclusion of North Korea, in particular, has begun to look uncannily like a chicken that in recent days has come home to roost. This is of a piece with the whole of the Bush Administration's Korea policy, which, from the beginning, has been a fairly comprehensive botch.
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The plan amounts to a potentially sizable cut in capital gains taxes. That is because, under the plan, a company that decides to retain profits instead of paying dividends would tell its shareholders how much of their earnings that could have been paid out in tax-free dividends was kept by the company. When an investor sells that stock, the amount held back could be added to the basis, what an investor paid for the stock, thus reducing any capital gain on which taxes are due.
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Hungary's first inauguration of Orthodox rabbi since the Holocaust

BUDAPEST - Reviving rich prewar Jewish traditions, Israel's chief rabbi yesterday helped inaugurate the first Orthodox rabbi in Hungary since the Holocaust. Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu and Russia's Chief Rabbi, Berel Lazar, helped Budapest Orthodox Rabbi Boruch Oberlander induct Shlomo Koves, 23, at the tiny Chabad synagogue in the capital's former ghetto area. "The Torah has returned from Israel with this young rabbi," Eliahu said in his speech of blessing. Born in Budapest, Koves graduated from high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before studying to be a rabbi in Paris, New York and Israel.

via Interesting Monstah


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