6/01/2002

Tomorrow's News, Today

Whatever its faults, the New York Times does have at least one redeeming feature (besides the Sunday Crossword Puzzle, of course). They publish on-line the op-ed pages for the next day the night before.

So right now, you can read Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman's columns right now.

Both I and the Wall Street Journal agree with the inimitable (that's not a compliment, just so we're clear) Ms. Dowd regarding our shared desire for Robert Mueller's head on a plate.

Of course Dowd goes on to turn it into a male vs. female thing; if only whistleblower Coleen Rowley were male, she'd be a hero. Sure. That's the only reason she's going to have a hard time of it at the FBI from here on; I bet that male whistleblowers are loved and welcomed by all.

Meanwhile, Friedman passes on to us fan mail he's receiving from Saudi Arabia; sometimes he seems to think that he's a rock star rather than a columnist. As with the Dowd column, I agree with him, more or less, today, but he's so obnoxious that it's impossible to feel good about agreeing with him.
Hear Me Now, Believe Me Later!

So President Musharraf of Pakistan says that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is "unthinkable".

"I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn't even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war, whatever the pressures,"

Well, first of all, it's obivously not unthinkable, since by definition the very act of discussing it (even to deny that it's a possibility) imples that you've thought about it, and hence it isn't unthinkable.

Pedantry aside, if President Musharraf thinks that "any sane individual cannot even think" of using nuclear weapons, why exactly does he think his nation has spent billions of dollars to develop them and to build an arsenal of 25-50 of them (according to U.S. intelligence estimates)? And why doesn't he simply dismantle them, or turn them over to the U.N., or what have you?

Because their use is very thinkable, obviously. But thanks for playing, Mr. Musharraf; we have some lovely parting gifts for you, and you may want to stop by the drug store for some SPF factor 1,000,000 sunblock on your way home.
Give That Man a Banana!

President Monkey Boy coitinues not to impress. Here, thanks to a post on NRO's very own Blog, The Corner, are his words from a speech in Germany the other say:

" When Europe grows in unity, Europe and America grow in security. When you integrate your markets and share a currency in the European Union, you are creating the conditions for security and common purpose. In all these steps, Americans do not see the rise of a rival, we see the end of old hostilities. We see the success of our allies, and we applaud your progress"

Ack. We should see the rise of a rival, because that's precisely what the EU is, and what it sees itself as.

As the author puts it:

Could someone please tell George W. Bush that this is something that the US should not welcome? Judging by a recent speech, he doesn't have a clue.

Exactly. There's a reason that here in the Empire, we call him Monkey Boy.
Same Story, Different Day

Following on Krugman's column yesterday, the Times OpEd page today carries something similar from Bill Keller.

Nothing new here: greed is bad, big buisness is bad, farm subsidies are bad, it's our obligation to help the less fortunate.

Maybe.

But the first obligation of our government is (and this is in the Constitution, which some of the columnists might want to actually read sometime) the security and general welfare of the American people. Nothing in there about moral or post-colonialist obligations to African nations; or about ensuring easy access to our markets for their goods.

There certainly isn't anything in there about the reckless and irresoponsible sort of "free trade" that Keller seems to champion here.

And of course Keller, like Krugman - like many on the left - is always ready to spend someone else's money.

He does at least agree that foreign aid should be reserved for countries that will spend it wisely and not "steal" it (his words). It should go to countries that are "democratic" and "live by the law".

Well, that lets out just about every place in Africa, and every Arab state, doesn't it? And those are the poorest nations, so if we ax them from the foreign aid lists, who's left?

5/31/2002

It Would Be Nice If This Came as a Surprise, But...

This item comes from the Chicago Sun Times via Jeff Durkin's site.

The article talks about a new ordinance which requires companies that contract with the city of Chicago to disclose any insurance policies sold on slaves, when slavery was legal (back in the mid 19th century, you'll recall). This is obviously another step down the road to reparations. As Mayor Daley says in the article:

"That's all part of this reparations . . . issue. All of those companies that had something to do with it will have to pay," the mayor said.

At least he's up front about it.

Jeff says on his site in response to this:

Next step, lawsuits. My question, how can you be sued for something that was legal at the time? I realize that lawyers need to eat and city and state governments like to sue companies, but have these people no decency at all?

I think he answered his own question.
Tony Kornheiser is an Idiot

I probably should have posted this earlier today, but I didn't get around to it until just now. His column today is possibly (although I hesitate to say this, given how dumb Kornheiser is capable of being) his stupidest ever.

He begins with an unfunny parody of the recent "relevation" that lots of major league baseball players are using illegal anabolic steroids to enhance their athletic performance.

He then goes on to compare the use of steroids by world-class athletes in order to push their already elite performance that extra notch higher, with the use of new "miracle" allergy medications by regular people so they can "play in grassy fields with their kids".

Of course, there's an exact parallel here, right? Using a substance with potentially devastating long-term (and short term) health risks in order to be able to hit a few more home runs a year is equivalent to using a harmless substance in order to be able to function normally, and not to have to struggle to breathe, or to want to claw one's eyes out from the incessant itching, or the other effects of serious allergies, is insulting, and moronic.

He claims that both are examples of using drugs to "realize the full potential of the body", and both are examples of our desire for "easy, immediate self-improvement."

No, one is such an example (steroids), while the other is an attempt to bring the body from a deficient state to a normal level of functioning. It's no different than having laser surgery; a quick and (usually) easy and painless way to bring vision closer to the human norm.

But Kornheiser wants to be a smart-ass, and he wants to be a contrarian, and he wants to try and make a larger social point, and he fails miserably.
For Your Viewing Pleasure

While doing the work-from-home thing, I've had my TV tuned to the Farscape marathon, as noted earlier today.

I think it's worth taking a few moments to really sign the praises of one of the best (and arguably, we can drop the "one of" in this sentence) shows currently on television.

There's so much that's right about the show: the acting, the writing, the effects work, pretty much everything.

Perhaps the best thing about Farscape is that the producers are willing to take risks, and big risks at that.

Take the recently completed third season. It began by wrapping up a cliffhanger that had our hero, John Crichton, laying on an alien operating table with his brains literally leaking out. That story left him in one piece; but it also left him with a "neural clone" - a fully interactive alternate personality - of his archenemy, which has remained with him, and which he's been sparring with, ever since.

That was followed up by a two parter which advanced this season's major story arc (the quest by both Crichton and the above mentioned nemesis, Scorpius, to unlock the technology to create wormholes), and killed off one of the main cast in the bargain.

Soon after, the producers took a huge risk; they did an episode in which Crichton's character was "twinned" - split into two, completely identical versions of himself. They then separated the two Crichtons, sending half the cast off with each one on separate ships for separate adventures.

During that story-arc, they did two of the funniest - and strangest - episodes imaginable. The first was a bizarre outing called "Scratch 'n' Sniff", the tale of an outing by Crichton and friends to a "pleasure planet" which proved to be nothing of the kind. The entire episode was told in flashcack, with some of the trippiest editing you'll ever see.

They followed that up a few weeks later with an homage to Warner Brothers animaton, as the Scorpius-clone in Crichton's brain took him through a Bugs Bunny-esque animated adventure in Crichton's mind.

Finally, they closed the season with a truly spectacular two parter, wrapping up the wormhole story in an apocalyptic ending; and then a dreamlike, completely off-kilter finale in which it was difficult to tell what was real and what was merely in Crichton's thorougly disturbed mind.

The producers have taken good actors, amazing prostethics and make up, and muppets to bring to life an entire galaxy full of varied alien races. They've written epic love stories, surreal comedy, slam-bang action, and sometimes all three together in a single hour of television.

If you haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The entire first season is currently available on DVD and VHS, and the second season will be released starting on June 25th with the four episodes. And the fourth season will begin airing on the SciFi channel, Fridays at 10 PM, beginning next Friday, June 7th.
Go Jonah Go!

Great article by Jonah Goldberg on NRO this afternoon.

Nothing that hasn't been said before, but rarely as cleverly as here.
One Step Ahead of the Wall Street Journal!

You read it first here yesterday, and now the Wall Street Journal, on their opinion page, has called for FBI Director Robert Mueller to resign.

They begin:

In the wake of September 11, the public can be forgiven for thinking that America's intelligence agencies are more Maxwell Smart than James Bond. The issue now is whether, and how, the CIA and FBI can regain public confidence and deter future attacks.

The remainder of the article is here. You'll have to register (it's free) to read it.
This is Just Cool

There's really nothing for me to add here. Just go and check out The Official Christopher Lee Web Page.
Shoot the Messenger!

Interesting story in today's New York Post regarding the Vatican's reaciton to U.S. media coverage of the whole sordid priest sex-abuse scandal.

This follows another interesting article, from today's Sacramento Bee, reporting that the Los Angeles diocese (which has more than 30 current or former priests under investigation for sexual abuse of children) has hired a PR firm to help the diocese manage its image during this time of scandal.

I don't know, but perhaps if (1) there hadn't been hundreds, maybe thousands of instances of sexual abuse by priests, and (2) the Catholic Church hadn't spent the last 50+ years covering them up rather than facing up to the problem, then there wouldn't be lurid stories in the U.S. media, and the L.A. diocese wouldn't have to hire a PR firm. Just a thought.
You Learn Something New Every Day

I never really thought of them this way, but in a concert review on NRO, Deroy Murdock refers to the Dave Matthews Band as one of several "Baby Dead" bands (including also Blues Traveller and Phish) that have "adopted" the Greatful Dead's audience since the mid-90's.

Perpahs it was an obvious point that I just missed; it wouldn't be the first time that happened.

And on other news, since I'm working from home today, I can enjoy the Farscape Marathon running on the SciFi Channel.

Most cool.
A View From the Left

Never let it be said that I don't at least present the views of the other side; I may mock them, but at least you can read their words for yourself.

In that spirit, The Nation has a piece on Rudy Giuliani online (it will appear in their June 17th issue in print).

Surprisingly, it's not a total hatchet job; as the author notes:

Even his critics admit that in many ways New York City did become a better place to live during Giuliani's two terms. His administration cut crime longer and deeper than those of most other large cities. He encouraged new policing strategies of rapid redeployment of officers to hot spots, while holding precinct commanders accountable. Murders were reduced from 1,927 in 1993 to 643 in 2001. Buoyed by the 1990s economic upsurge, whole neighborhoods revived and tourism thrived under Giuliani. He restored the city's confidence in local government, and this put a strut in the city's step. He ended the feeling that the city was out of control, which many felt during the epidemic of crime and crack.

Of course, this being The Nation, their view of Rudy's negatives outweighs his accomplishments:

Rudy Giuliani was a mayor of missed opportunities, political opportunism and stunning harshness.

And it concludes with this:

In the end, to understand Giuliani, we need to look at the arc of his politics, from 1968 to 2002.

Look at the changes in his party registrations, which even his mother thought were careerist and job-centered.

Look at the timing of his altered views on welfare, vouchers, the homeless, food stamps, civil liberties, fiscal borrowing and political patronage.

Look at the way he treated Rudy Crew, Ramon Cortines and Patrick Dorismond.

A cunning opportunism and a personal brutality have been the signature of Rudy Giuliani's career.

They are the threads connecting the dots of his ambition, which still yearns for power on the national stage.


I'm not going to defend here everything Rudy's done, but the author is being disingenuous at best here: name a major politican who has not displayed "opportunism," "anbition" and "yearning for power on the national stage." Those things describe virtually every Governor, Representative, Senator, as well as everyone seeking those offices.

At least they didn't picture Giuliani with horns and cloven hooves; I guess that's progress of a sort.
God Himself Could Not Sink This Ship!

The CEO of American Airlines spoke out about the unlikelyhood of future terrorist attacks on/involving U.S. airliners. Says Donald Carly:

``With the amount of security that we have in the aviation system today, the likelihood of a terrorist choosing aviation as the venue for future attack is very low,'' Carty said. ``When you compare security across various potential venues, the airline industry is enormously well secured.''

Really, Mr. Carly?

I hope he's right, but we've seen an awful lot of reports saying precisely the opposite: that security at most U.S. airports, while more of a hassle for the "average passenger" isn't actually any better post 9/11.

Besides, just on principle, doesn't Mr. Carly know that saying "it can't happen again" is just about the surest guarantee that it will happen again, and far sooner than you think?
Reviewing the Reviewers

It's a busy morning here...just read a review of the new Tom Clancy film, "The Sum of All Fears" on salon.com. I'd think it would eventually get both tiring and depressing, having to view everything through an ideological filter, but apparently not for this reviewer. In two pages, he manages to trash the film, Hollywood in general, Tom Clancy, Arnold Schwarzenegger (who isn't even in the film, and of course the audience (the actual audience who saw it at the screening he was at, the potential audience who will go this weekend and see it, and Clancy's readership to boot).

Whatever.

But he ought to at least have done a smidge of homework; he criticizes the film for its Cold War-esque tensions between the U.S. and Russia, which is a major part of the film's plot. Well, duh! That's the entire plot of the book upon which the movie is based! If you take that out, you don't have a story! Clancy wrote the novel at the tail end of the Cold War; they've only now gotten around to filming it - fair enough that it seems dated, but the plot is not some invention of the screenwriters to ratched upi artifical tension, it's the original story.

Oh well, it's salon.com, I shouldn't expect anything better from them, I suppose.
Voices in the Wilderness

Some comments on todays' NY Times OpEd page...

We've got Paul Krugman, who never misses a chance to bash the Monken Boy Administration, and he can be reliably counted on to have harsh words every other column or so for Treasuary Secretary Paul O'Neill, as he does today. Krugman's also never seen a dollar of someone else's money that he doesn't want to spend; this isn't surprising, of course.

And we've got Nick Kristof going on about the balance between security and civil liberties. He's not wrong, but he is a bit whiny, and I have to take exception to his equating civil libertians with liberals. It isn't that simple; there are lots of folks (generally plain old libertarians) who one couldn't reasonably describe as liberal who share Kristof's views on civil liberties.

More Thoughts on the FBI

Peggy Noonan's written a very nice article about the questions rasied regarding the FBI's investigation of clues that could potentially tipped them off th the 9/11 attacks.

Read the article; it's very well done (as is to be expected with Noonan's work); I'll just quote one small paragraph here:

But it is also true--and here I display what is perhaps naivetè--that a lot of us think the FBI is supposed to be full of people with the sense and toughness to work around irresponsible demands and limitations, and not just fold in the face of potential heat. They're not supposed to be complete weenies in the FBI. They're supposed to have some guts and common sense.

Indeed.
Get Your Tinfoil Hats Here!

I make no guarantees as to the accuracy of this or the sanity of the author. I simply present it in the interest of airing another take on world events...

5/30/2002

The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat

Here's a small departure; let's talk about baseball for a change. There's a good article on espn.com about the financial state of the game.

Commissioner Bud Selig claimed earlier this year that:

"I would say six to eight [teams] can't exist another year, another year and a half. We're talking about the immediate future. There's a lot of clubs that simply can't survive the status quo."

The problem is, the actual numbers as evidenced on ESPN, show that Selig's simply lying. This probably should come as no surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub toghther; Bud's one of those people who, if they tell you that the sky is blue, it's a good idea to go outside and check for yourself.

Reading Comprehesion, ot the Lack Thereof

Regarding the NY Times article on expanded FBI surveillance noted earlier today, I guess I didn't read it closely enough; it took a visit to another Blog to notice this gem buried at the end of the article:

The new rules allow agents to conduct "general topical research" and "pure surfing" designed to find Web sites, chat rooms or Internet bulletin boards with information about terror, bomb-making instructions, child pornography or stolen credit cards.

I hadn't noticed the bit about child porn and stolen credit cards. I'm certainly no fan of either of those things, but I wasn't aware that either was really a matter of national security. I think the words we're looking for are "mission creep".

With Friends Like These...

Normally, if John Conyers believes something, I'm going to be opposed to it.

But in this case, at least, he's right. The Democrat from Michigan took the FBI and Attorney General John Ashcroft to task about the new FBI guidelines for surveillance issued today, and as much as it pains me to agree with him, I have to on this one.
Loyal Opposition

CNN's Inside Politics just did a brief story on local Kentucky elections, which, it turns out, are absurdly nasty.

They showed campaign ads for the office of Property Valuation Assessor (frightening that such a seemingly minor race has inspired TV ads), which were...well, there really aren't words.

One candidate's ad accused his opponent of having been arrested or charged with a crime 56 separate times, including twice threatening to kill someone (and as that accusation is read by the announcer, we see on the screen a "Three Stooges" clip, with one of the Stooges exclaiming "I'll kill you!").

The other candidate's response was a much simpler ad; with her sitting down and explaining that her opponent was "vile, depraved and evil" and that anyone who would stop to such horrendous tactics and attacks "must not be allowed to win."

All this for Property Valuation Assessor. I'm not sure who to believe; I'm just glad I don't live in Kentucky.
Just as Wrong as Wrong Can Be

Richard Cohen's at it again. Today he's whining about oppoents of cloning. Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online does a good job of explaining what's wrong with today's bleatings by Mr. Cohen.

Sad thing is, I'm all in favor of cloning; I'm on Cohen's side in this fight - and I still disagree with him; maybe it's his general smarminess, or his gratuitious cheap shots against opponents of abortion ("It is, at bottom, about sex -- how to control it, how to punish it" - nice assignment of strawman ideas and motives to your opponents there, Richard).

Mars, Again

I've mentioned Bob Zubrin twice in a couple of days already. So here is his vision, or at least one part of it.
Intellects Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic

More online comment about the recent announcment of data from the Mars Odyssey probe regarding the discovery of ice on Mars.

The Russians are very enthusiastic about the prospect, even if they're still using the now-obsolete $600 billion figure for the cost of a manned Mars expedition (again I say, read your Zubrin; it can be done for under $10 billion).

This British columnist seems to be less thrilled about the whole thing; he's just about sneering at the idea of life on Mars and the public's interest in it.

Obviously we need to go to Mars, with a long term program of colonization. Expanding our civilization out into the Solar System and beyond is the only way to ensure its survival. It's our destiny, and our duty to do it.

As for the possibility of life existng on Mars now, if there is any, it's probably just bacteria or something similar; certainly not anything more highly evolved than that.
Closing the Barn Door After the Horses are Out

Yes, it's time for more FBI bashing. It's almost too easy, really. They're rewriting the rules to allow more domestic surveillance, in an effort to try and stop terrorism before it strikes.

We can all, I think, agree on the goal. And to be fair, law enforcement is a difficult job under the best circumstances.

The thing is, more surveillance, which means more information gathered, is not going to do any good if there aren't more and better-trained folks to analyze the information and piece together the patterns that may be found. The FBI dismisses that concern; Headquarters will now have a greater ability to do that analysis. Unfortunately, it's Headquarters that's the problem.

The other area of concern is the overall reorganization of the FBI into primarily a counter-terrorist agency. It was never designed to be such an organization, and there are sure to be serious difficulties as the DoJ tries to mold the Bureau into this new role.

And while that's going on, I suppose the law enforcement mission will have to be pushed off onto other agencies: ATF, DEA, and the rest of the alphabet soup that makes up Federal law enforcement. Is this a good idea? Can those other agencies handle the increased workload? Should they?

What I really want to know is, has anyone at DoJ or in the Monkey Boy Administration even asked those questions?

I suspect I know the answer, and it does not fill me with confidence.
Thomas Friedman Saves the World!

In his own mind, anyway. In yesterday's column in the Times, he's going on again about "his" great idea: US/NATO troops enforcing a "transition structure" in the West Bank and Gaza, which would remain there and keep the peace while the settlements are "unbuilt" and a "responsible Palestinian Authority" is built.

If we don't do this, Friedman warns, we'll be setting the stage for the next Arab-Israeli war.

Friedman also throws in a plug for his other big idea: the Saudi peace plan, which Crown Prince Abdullah "just happened" to have in his desk when Friedman was chatting with him a few months ago. Full withdrawl in return for normalized relations.

Which would be worth discussing, except that it's not really a credible offer. Did any Arab state have normalized relations with Israel before 1967, which borders the plan calls for a return to? Did Israel have peace and security before 1967?

He does mention in passing the problem of failed Arab economies, and social unrest fanned by images of violence in the West Bank beamed into Arab homes by Al-Jazeera and other satellite networks. Of course, if the Arab governments actually made any effort at all to try and modernize their societies, to try and create a rule of law and promote the rights and dignity of their own citizens, maybe there wouldn't be so much unrest.

But I suspect we won't see that, because if that ever did happen, Crown Prince Abdullah and King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Bashar Assad, and the rest of their dictatorial pals might have to answer to their people and justify their rule, or even, someday, cede power to leaders chosen by the people of their nations.

And since the entire purpose of all these states appears ot be to serve as sandboxes and piggy banks for the rulers, their families, and the generals and secret police who keep them in power, what the people need or want isn't especially relevant.

Funny that Mr. Friedman doesn't delve too deeply into that subject.


5/29/2002

Honor and Responsibility

The Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller today:

suggested for the first time that investigators might have uncovered the plot if they had been more diligent about pursuing leads.

"The jury is still out on all of it," Mueller said, during a wide-ranging, two-hour interview at Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters. "Looking at it right now, I can't say for sure it would not have, that there wasn't a possibility that we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers."


(the full article is here)

Director Mueller, if he has the slightest sense of honor or decency, should resign immediately.

It's very simple. Anyone who seeks out power and responsibility over their fellow citizens, whether in politics or administrative agencies, or law enforcement, is, by definition, seeking to be held accountable for their performance.

These are all volunteers. No one is press-ganged into the FBI, or the CIA, or the Department of Justice. People work there because they want to. Because they want to serve the public, or because they feel they are the best people to hold the power of those offices, that they can best serve the citizenry.

Now, everyone at the FBI is only human; people make mistakes, miss clues, fail to see patterns. Even if every single thing had gone right, the 9/11 attacks might still not have been prevented.

But, that said, there has not to date been a full accounting of what was known, what clues were examined, what steps were taken, previous to 9/11. We've gone from "nobody could have known" to "we might have been able to stop it." Who knows what the real truth is?

And that is the problem. Instead of trying to figure out what can be done top prevent future attacks and protect the American people, the post-9/11 investigations have turned into the usual bueraucratic morass, with all the expected career maneuvering and CYA thinking.

That is unacceptable. It is far past time that we, as citizens, demand a higher standard from those who wish to be given power over us. It is far past time that we demand that failure on the part of those who serve us must carry consequences.

And that gets us back to Director Mueller. He has presided over an FBI that allows turf fights and bueraucratic tyrrany to overshadow the agency's stated mission. He did not create this atmosphere, but he has certainly done nothing to correct it, and for that, if nothing else, he is responsible. He has failed; he has failed miserably, and he should resign.

But we know that he won't. The next step, in a government that actually served its citizens, or at least thought of them as citizens, would be for President Monkey Boy to fire Director Mueller. But we know that won't happen either.

More's the pity.
Mutoids! Mutoids Everywhere!

Extremely cool news! One of the greatest science fiction series ever, "Blake's Seven" will soon be coming to DVD! And even better, it's going to be the entire series - all 52 episodes in one massive, ten-disc box set.

It will be glorious. To quote one of the heroes (perhaps not precisely the right word, but it'll do), Vila the cowardly thief:

"We'll recognize it when we see it, even if we don't recognize it when we see it, if it's the only thing that's there!"
This Will Come as No Surprise

The State Department issued its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report yesterday. Sadly, although unsurprisingly, the report downplayed Palestinian terroristm against Israel, even going so far as to note that the role that the Palestinian Authority has taken in stopping such terrorism:

Unlike the pre-intifadah era, when Israeli-PA security cooperation was generally effective, PA counterterrorism activities remained sporadic throughout the year. Israel’s destruction of the PA’s security infrastructure contributed to the ineffectiveness of the PA. Significantly reduced Israeli-PA security cooperation and a lax security environment allowed HAMAS and other groups to rebuild terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories.

PA security services did thwart some attacks aimed at Israelis. They also discovered and confiscated some caches of weapons and explosives.


What world are the authors of this report living in, exactly? A column in today's Jerusalem Post goes into more detail about what's wrong with the report; the author says it better than I can, so go there and read it.

Nice Work if You Can Get It

I promised that I'd do a review of the OpEd writers of the Post, and since there's no time like the present, here's a start on it.

Mary McGrory appears twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays. She's not one for subtlety, or for new ideas, and of late, she seems to be writing her column from some parallel universe, or possibly a time-warp that has her stuck in the first Nixon Administration. She comes across as a slightly less bitter - and less witty - Molly Ivins, with her constant drumbeat of "Democrats Good, Republicans Bad". She really isn't any more insightful than that - but then, neither is the Post's management generally, so she fits in very nicely.

Continuing on the left side of the aisle, Richard Cohen also appears twice a week on the inside back page of the A section (he used to write for the Sunday Magazine as well, until he got dropped in favor of alternating columns from the pointless Liza Mundy and the usually angry Kevin Meridia). He generally bleats about a few pet causes: Bill Clinton's tattered reputation and the evils of Ken Starr; the barbarity of the death penalty; and the needlessly provocative Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It's a broken record, and he doesn't generally argue with any logic, preferring instead to make shamelessly emotional appeals and vicious personal attacks against his perceived enemies.

E.J. Dionne rounds out the Post's lineup of regular voices from the left. He does make the occasional half-hearted attempt to appear even-handed, sometimes praising a particular Republican or criticizing a Democrat, but it doesn't happen often, and it's generally nothing more than an empty gesture. He's a big fan of the Clinton/Blair "third way" approach, which of course is mostly the same old liberal policies dressed up in new jargon. The thing about Dionne is that he isn't actually a very good writer; he talks down to his prospective audience, and he can't help showing off how smart he believes himself to be.

On the right, George Will also can't help showing off how smart he (thinks he) is. He also, more than anyone else on the OpEd page, occasionally writes columns which have no purpose other than to show how contrarian he can be. I'm not sure that's the best possible approach, but to each their own, I guess. I don't find him nearly as offensive as Dionne or Cohen or McGrory, but for someone who I'm far more ideologically in line with, I find that I don't like Will all that much either.

My favorite columnist is Michael Kelly, who appears once a week. And not just becuase I generally agree with him, either. He's got a breezy, sarcastic style that is very appealing. He can go too far, and he's been known to take things out of context, which does undermine his credibility a bit - but on the other hand, in my eyes many of the people who criticize him have zero credibility to begin with.

Besides those writers, several other folks appear on a less regular basis in the Post; I'll get to them another day.
Summer Reading

Just a quick recommendation - I'll post a more extensive reading list sometime in the future. But for now, I urge you to check out Jasper Fforde's "The Eyre Affair". You can actually buy it here.

It's a truly strange book, and coincidentally Fforde's first novel. It details the adventures of Special Operative Tuesday Next, as she gets involved with time travel, arms dealers, and Jane Eyre. The "Richard III" scene (a Rocky Horror-esque production of Shakespeare's work) alone is worth the price of the book.
They Thought of Everything, Didn't They?

As any student of history knows, the Romans were an immensely clever and inventive people. There's so much all around us that can be traced directly back to their influence.

But who knew that they even had crossdressers?

I'm not sure I like the bit about "probably castrated himself", but it just goes to show that the Romans never did anything halfway. There's probably a lesson in that for us, but damned if I can figure out what it is.

News about News

No doubt Howard Kurtz will have much to say about this tomorrow, but I'll give my thoughts about the reports dribbling out today concerning changes in the network news.

Tom Brokaw anounced his departure yesterday, effective November 2004. This gives NBC two and a half years to try and turn Tom's heir, Brian Williams, into something resembling a thoughful human being. This may be difficult, since Williams is as vacuous as they come; he comes across like an overeager spokesmodel or some sort of audio-animatroinc newsdroid gone horribly wrong.

Brokaw's departure means that the dinosaurs at the other two networks (once upon a time, I might have been able to picture Dan Rather as some sort of raptor; today he's, at best, a stegosaurus; while Peter Jennings is a brontosaurus if ever I saw one) should probably start thinking about their future (or lack of one) as well. Yes, Peter Jennings is apparently working on a contract extension even as I write this. But his days are numbered, as are Rather's. The asteroid has hit, and the dying has begun.

Speaking of which, ABC is also planning to formally anoint George Stephanopoulos as the host of This Week. Replacing David Brinkley with Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts was not an improvment. Rpelacing them with ex-Clinton spokesweasel Stephanopoulos is just another nail in the coffin. Tim Russert's got to be enjoying this; once Brokaw leaves, he'll be the only one left at NBC news with any credibility or gravitas. And with This Week's decline and fall, he'll have the only network Sunday morning show worth watching (does anyone watch "Face the Nation" anymore? Anybody? Thought so).

Elsewhere in the world, Salon published an interesting article the other day, written by a woman who lives in one of the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Today, the Salon readership has responded with almost universal contempt for the author. I suppose this isn't surprising, but one comment in particular was fairly galling. He wrote, in part:

You want to know what I thought when I found out who was behind the Sept. 11 attacks? I thought, "Israel better be really grateful for our support today. We just paid for their land with more lives today than they've lost in the past 10 years." I'm sure I would have been even more disturbed at that moment to hear of your "vindication."

In part, the Sept. 11 attacks were because of you. Because you and your relatives (and the rest of Israel) are determined to stay where you are, inflaming Palestinian rage. Because the U.S. supports you in that, thousands of us died.


No, actually, September 11th had nothing to do with Palestinian rage. It had everything to do with Osama bin Laden and his motives, which, by his own admission, concerned the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia. That presence, in turn, has nothing to do with Israel, and a great deal to do with oil, Saudi politics, Iraq, and other U.S. strategic interests.

But for those people who want to blame the U.S. government and/or Israel for everything that happens in the world, facts only get in the way, I suppose. Again, this is not surprising, but it is disheartening.
All the News That Can Be Made to Fit...

A few comments on the OpEd page of today's Washington Post (yes, I know, it's not technically news, but just go with it, OK?). Today's menu:

Appetizer: David Broder, with rant #1,000,085 about Campaign Finance Reform (CFR). Today's whine du jour concerns comments by Republican members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about the McCain-Feingold CFR bill that was recently passed and signed by President Monkey Boy. The Republicans are concrned that the bill is too complex, too vague and frankly too unenforceable. They might have added that it's also almost certainly unconstitutional (that pesky First Amendment thing, you know). Broder takes them to task, and then champions the idea of a much tougher FEC, funded by a "tax" on monies raised by the national political parties. Letme get this straight: first Broder wants to restrict the ability of citizens to support candidates and ideas they believe in. Now he wants to steal a portion of the now-restricted support those citizens are allowed to provide to help the FEC further restrict political speech. That's just spectacular, but not surprising from Broder, who apparently only believes in free speech for people who work for the Washington Post (or for the MSN/Newsweek conglomerate that it's now a part of).

Main Course: a diatribe from two senior fellows of the Brookings Institution (which organization also employs E.J. dionne, a regular Post OpEd columnist, just by way of full disclosure). This piece talks about "Euro-trashing", and how unfair it is for Americans to be criticizing our trans-Atlantic friends. Granted, there's been plenty of rhetoric on both sides of the pond, but the authors go to far when they say:

There is a price to pay when you reject agreements on global warming,
Kyoto, again. What they don't mention is that no European nation (save Albania) has ratified the treaty either. They also don't mention that some of the European diplomats who helped craft the treaty saw it specifically as a means of hobbling the U.S. economy and not an environmental issue at all.

un-sign treaties on international war crimes,
The Rome Treaty covers more than just war crimes; the open-ended scope of the ICC's jurisdiction is one of the reasons the U.S. opposed it. At any rate, even when then-President Clinton, he (a man who never met a treaty he didn't like) said it was flawed, and never submitted it to the Senate for ratification (knowing it would not be). This is neither news, nor a new issue.

impose protectionist tariffs on steel, subsidize farm goods,
Yes, the steel tariff was a bad idea. No, the U.S. is not the only nation to engage in protectionism. The frenzy against genetically modified foods in Europe is at least pastly fanned by protectionist motives. And as for subsidizing farm goods, the French (among others)certainly do this as well. And as long as we're talking about subsidized industries, does the name Airbus ring a bell?

ignore offers of military assistance,
Offers that come with strings attached. The authors clearly forgot to mention that.

and disparage your oldest and most trustworthy allies.
There's been a hell of a lot more disparagement coming FROM Europre than towards it. Both EU and national government officials have been bashing the U.S. for years; it is nothing new.

Nonsense through and through.

And on to dessert: Michael Kelly's column. Today he discusses the old-guard Leftist fringe; folks like Chomsky and Said and Sontag. Folks who've been saying the same things since at least the early 70's. They were neither credible nor relevant then, and they are neither credible nore relevant now, and Kelly makes an excellent case for simply ignoring them. Let them rant all they like; the First Amendment guarantees them that right. But we don't have to pay any attention to them.

He also hits Dick Gephardt, for dredging up the old Watergate question, "What did he know and when did he know it?" Certainly there are questions that need to be asked of President Monkey Boy and his administration. But there is a right way to do that, and a wrong way. Gephardt, unsurprisingly, chose the wrong way. He does smack Trent Lott and Dick Armey as well, if only in passing, which is always a good thing.

At some point, I'll do a more detailed review of the Post's usual lineup of columnists (maybe the Times - NY, not Washington - as well).

In other news, it's a typical DC day outside - humid and sticky; weather that really isn't suitable for human habitation. Which I suppose isn't a problem for the denizens of Capitol Hill, but isn't so good for the rest of us.

5/28/2002

All Chandra, All the Time

Fox News is, unsurprisingly, leading every one of their shows with the sad tale of Chandra, just as CNN, and I assume MSNBC (I can't watch it; between FNC and CNN, my brain cells are already crying out for me to end their misery, I don't dare add to it with a third cable news channel).

So one more Chandra comment, and that will be it. I promise. Hannity and Colmes are interviewing Anne Marie Smith (one of the women with whom the Honorable Representative from Modesto, California was carrying on an affair with). Ms. Smith reported that she had gone to the memorial service held for Chanrda today; I have to admit that I'm not completely up to date on my modern ettiquette, but I'm not sure why she'd have been invited to that event. I didn't realize that the fact that both Ms. Smith and Chandra were sleeping with the same Honorable Representative created any kind of bond between them. Guess I'm just old fashioned.

But enough of that. It's time to turn off the news and put in a DVD - maybe "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone". I have to comment about the title of this movie, and this is not a new comment, but it bears repeating. As many people know, the first book in the Harry Potter series was titled "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" - but when it was published in America, it was changed to "Sorceror's Stone" because the publishers (and the filmmakers) assumed that Americans wouldn't know what the Philosopher's Stone was.

I knew what it was. I'll bet that any of the lost souls who read this will know what it was. And if they'd kept the damned title, all the presumably unknowing American kids would have known what it was, because it was explained in the book! It begs the question: at what point does "dumbing down" become a self-fulfilling prophecy? If the literati decide that all us ignorant lumpenproles out here need to have everything spoon-fed to us in small, easily digestible chunks without any difficult bits to choke on, how long will it take before that very diet turns us into the precisely kind of people who really need to be spoon-fed in easily digestible chunks without difficult bits to choke on? I think we know the answer, but I want to end this note on a positive note (I suspect this will be a fairly rare thing for me, so I need to seize every chance I get!).

So, changed title aside, good movie, fun series of books. Much entertainment all around.
Box Turtles and James Carville - What's the Connection?

Well, I've finally taken the plunge and turned on CNN's "new and improved" Crossfire. The opening segment, going on even as I write this, is of course about the whole Chandra thing. One of the higher-ups in the DC Police Department is being interviewed, and he's making an ass of himself. Someone should have told him that flat-out lying probably isn't the best approach: when asked if "every murder in the last four years has received the same attention as the Levy case", he said, unequivocally, "yes."

We also heard Police Chief Charles Ramsey say that DC has "the best police force in the world". I suppose that could be true, if you use a sufficiently limited definition of "the world".

Regarding the new format of the show, I think the live audience probably is a bad idea. And James Carville, with his oddly reptillian head, and wearing sunglasses indooors, looks like some kind of second-rate henchman for a James Bond villain. Which probably isn't a bad description for him anyway.

His counterpart on the right side of the spectrum, Tucker Carlson, is wearing a riduculous bow tie, making him look something like an organ-grinder monkey. Also not a bad description of him, probably.

As for the box turtles, the guy who found Chandra's remains, that's apprarently what he was looking for when he found Chanrda instead. I wonder whether he thinks the remains were a better find than the turtles?
From the Department of the Blindingly Obvious

So it's official: Chandra Levy was murdered, according to the DC Medical Examiner (the story can be found here as well as, I'm sure, a million other places by now.

Of course, they don't know HOW she was killed - maybe they can call in Quincy (Jack Klugman's still alive, more or less, isn't he?), or some of the folks from "CSI" to help out in the investigation. Wonder when they'll call the last person known to have seen her alive - conveniently enough, also a person with a motive to do the poor girl harm, not to mention the same moral sense as a ground weasel? Raise your hand if you think the ever-vigilant DC police will actually "interview" the Honorable Representative from Modesto, California anytime soon. Anybody? Thought so.

In even more disheartening news, it looks as though we may see a nuclear war in the very near future. The reports coming out of India and Pakistan are very, very ungood. My friend Jeff Durkin has a very nice summary of the situation as well as his views (with which I mostly agree) about what the U.S. can and should do about it on his personal site.

On the other hand, there has been some good news - the Mars Odyssey probe has discovered evidence of giants oceans of ice just below the surface of the Red Planet. This will obviously make things that much easier when we get off our collective asses and send humans to Mars, ideally as part of a long term program of colonization. Read Bob Zubrin ("The Case for Mars", "Entering Space" - both available on Amazon and at other fine booksellers everywhere), and take his words to heart. His vision is a blueprint to the sort of future we can build for ourselves, if we can only summon up the will to actually go and DO IT already. There will be more on this subject in this space; you can count on that.
Greetings and felicitations

This being my first attempt at a blog, we'll see how well it works. For anyone who doesn't already know me and happens on this site, here's a little about me: politically, I'm conservative leaning towards libertarian, and any news or opinions that appear here will likely relate to that. Interest-wise, I'm something of a scifi geek, and other items that show up here may well have something to do with that - or possibly my favorite teams: the New York Yankees, Giants, Knicks and Islanders, the Washington Capitals, and for college sports, the teams of St. John's (NY), Syracuse and Penn State - sadly, my alma mater is a Division III school with an undistinguished sports history.

Just so there's some actual content here, I'll note that Jay Nordlinger has his usual excellent column on National Review Online. Well worth reading.

More to come later. I promise.