6/08/2002

Sure Thing, Frank

I'll admit it up front. I thinnk Frank Rich is an arrogant, ignorant jerk who doesn't bother to let the fact get in the way of his opinions.

I only mention that by way of full disclosure.

Mr. Rich's column today in the Times smacks the Monkey Boy administration, and makes many of the same criticisms I've made.

Fair enough.

But he ends the column talking approvingly about an idea that he picked up from the disastrous late 70's CIA (and later NSA) head, Stansfield Turner: give all power over all our intelligence agencies to the Director of Central Intelligence, which of course was Turner's old title (as well as the job that Monkey Boy's daddy held for a while; also Bill Casey, and the immortal Richard Helms, and currently the horrible George Tenet).

I would bet cash money that if President Monkey Boy had actually done that, Rich would have, the next day, written a column demanding to know how anyone could even think about giving more power to the CIA, especially in light of some of the folks who have run it, and he'd be bashing turner and Casey and Helms and Monkey Boy's daddy, etc.

Grave Transit

A TV station in Philadelphia reported last night that they obtained a new terror alert issued to state and local law enforcement.

It seems that there's a threat that Al Qaeda will attempt a nerve gas attack on the subway systems in New York, Washington DC and "other major cities" on or before July 4th.

Now there've been a lot of threats, which either were false, or were (we can hope) prevented by law enforcement. It's difficult to know what to make of them nowadays; there are so many alerts.

And what to do about this one specifically? Should folks who live in big cities avoid the subways the whole week of July 4th? I wouldn't mind taking the week off myself, but I'm not sure that's the best solution to the situation.

Of course, since this warning wasn't actually issued to the public, there's definitely no guidance from the Feds on what we should to about it, either.
Ted Kennedy's Unhappy

And it has nothing to do with a scion of his family being headed to prison for a good long time.

No, he's displeased with the idea of the Immigration & Naturalization Service becoming part of the new Homeland Security department.

Says an aide to the Senator from Chapaquidick:

"When you put immigration in an agency whose mission is to fight terror, you're changing the whole focus of how we view immigration. We need to think seriously through these issues and make sure we don't take a step backwards."

Well, we agree. These things must be carefully considered; and certainly we don't want to criminalize or demonize or discourage all immigrants.

But we do have the right - and the obligation - to know who we let into our country, and to be as sure as we can be that they're not people who want to do us harm.

And while we're at it, we could certainly tighten the border with Mexico so that we don't have hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants pouring over every year.

We do have the right to decide how many people we want to let in; we are not obligated to take everyone, and we certainly are not obligated to take people who do not follow the rules we have established.
Uncharted Territories

Yet another entertainment item; a quick review of last night's season premiere of "Farscape".

In a word: fantastic.

The fourth season opener featured above all else the one thing that makes the show great: it took big risks. Followers of the show know that the last season ended on a cliffhanger, with Our Hero, astronaut John Crichton stranded alone and out of fuel in deep space, while his friends were swallowed up by a wormhole.

How did they resolve it? They didn't! They opened with titles informing us that it was now "Some Time Later" and we saw that Crichton alive and well and living a solitary life onboard a Leviathan starship (but not the one he'd been on for the past three years).

And from there, they introduce a completely new character, the brilliant, duplicitious and yet insanely naive Sizoku, and then they launch into a "Die Hard"-esque heroes vs. thieves story. Two more cast members show up halfway through, with no explanation of where they were, or how they found Crichton.

Now that kind of storytelling doesn't work for everyone, fair enough. But from here, I'd say they pulled it off beautifully.

6/07/2002

The Fear of All Sums

Saw the big Tom Clancy-nuke terrorist movie tonight. It was more or less OK.

Ben Affleck is way too much of a lightweight, but he wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared he'd be. Bridget Moynahan, as the future Mrs. Ryan, was pretty uninteresting. Morgan Freeman was Morgan Freeman, and it's always good to see old MacGyver veteran Bruce McGill getting work, this time as the National Security Adviser (!).

The plot was somewhat mangled from Clancy's novel, and the cold war-esque tensions were somewhat contrived. There were some pretty big nits, starting with the nonexistent "Baltimore Forum", extending to the fact that apparently *nobody* in the President's inner circle was talking at any time to the CIA or NSA, and that with all the folks at CIA working on Ryan's hunch, there was nobody with the clout to get a line into the President and talk some sense.

The whole change of the villains from Arabic terrorists in the novel to neo-Facists was kind of riduculous, too.

And then there was the Godfather-inspired Musical Murder Montage(TM) to end things. I'm sorry to have to this, but that particular concept should be retired, the same way sports teams retire the jerseys of great former players. Coppola did it first, and better than anybody else is ever going to, and nobody else should even bother to try it anymore.

All in all, it's probably worth seeing; it isn't a bad film, and there are some good moments in it. So it's lukewarmly recommended by the Empire.
Blue Skies on Mars

Jonah Goldberg jumps on the Mars colonization bandwagon in a (somewhat more than usually) rambling column on NRO. This complements another column he wrote yesterday in a similar vein.

Needless to say, we here in the Empire agree wholeheartedly. Humanity - ideally led by the United States - must go to Mars. And it must happen soon. As citizens, we should be demanding that our government either get its bloated and bueraucratic behind in gear and start such a program; or get the hell out of the way and let private groups get on with exploring space, building a profitable infrastructure of business in space, and colonizing space - the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

It's well past time that we got on with it; if we'd had the proper leadership in the late 60's and early 70's, we'd already have a human presence on Mars. But instead we got NASA gutted to pay for Lyndon Johnson's unwinnable Vietnam strategy and failed "Great Society" programs; and further gutted by Richard Nixon (by far his greatest crime - infinitely worse than the trivial Watergate affair or anything else he did in office).

We have those men, and their administrations to thank for setting our country - and humanity as a whole - back at least 30 years. Let's not waste any more time.
Justice Delayed

It's good to see that, at least sometimes, even Kennedys aren't above the law. Michael Skakel, a member of a fainly that's the closest thing the U.S. has to hereditary royalty, was convicted of murder today for the 1975 killing of Martha Moxley.

It took 27 years, but at least justice was finally done.

Why, Indeed?

Some good words from the Post's OpEd page today from Charles Krauthammer. Writing about the ongoing church pedophilia scandals, he asks the blindingly simple question: why didn't the bishops call the cops?

Sexual abuse of children is a crime, after all. Let's try a little experiment here. How about we substitute the words "armed robbery" or "heroin dealing" for pedophilia? How would that read...

"Cardinal Law testified that the diocese sent Father Paul Shanley to counseling after he admitted to robbing three liquor stores over the past six months..."

or...

"The Cardinal transferred Father Geoghan to a new parish, but failed to disclose to the new parish that Geoghan had a history of recruiting altar boys to serve as couriers in his herion-and-crack distribution rings..."

Would there be any question whatsoever that the church hierarchy had aided and abetted serious crimes, and that individuals in that hierarchy - like Cardinal Law - are criminals who deserve punishment every bit as much as the priests they sheltered and transferred and covered up for?

I didn't think so.

Of course, the sexual abuse of children is a crime, and one every bit as serious - or more so - as selling drugs or robbery.

Too bad the Church doesn't seem to agree.

Paradigm Shift

In the Post's Business section this morning, there's an article about the ongoing copyright fight between Hollywood and the makers of new digital recording devices (and, not incidentally, against consumers).

This particular fight concerns "digital video recorders" (devices like ReplayTv and TiVo) which record TV shows to a hard drive, allowing you to "pause" live TV and skip over commercials instantly. This is bad enough for Hollywood:

Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner recently created a stir when he told Cableworld magazine that Replay and TiVo owners who skip commercials are breaking an implicit contract between network broadcasters and viewers. As such, they're stealing programming by leaving networks no way to cover their costs.

Now Kellner's an idiot (a reputation he's earned many times over in his various jobs in the TV industry). By his logic, if you get up and go to the bathroom during the commercial breaks, you're a criminal.

This is the problem, of course - and we've seen the same thing with the music industry's war agaoinst Napster and its clones; and in Jack Valenti's recent Chicken Little-esque rantings - the entertainment industry clearly and unequivocally regards its customers as criminals. That can't possibly be a good basis for a profitable business in the long term.

Now there are serious issues here - besides skipping commericals, digital video allows users to make perfect copies and share them. And for all his whining, Valenti is right to worry about new movies being pirated and distributed freely on the Internet.

But the genie can't be stuffed back in the bottle. Security technologies will always be beaten. The solution - in the long run, the only solution - is for Hollywood to come up with a new business model.

We're seeing it with the music industry; there are some efforts to sell music online already.

If people skipping commercials will kill off the current network TV business model, well, there are other models. Pay-for-service is one; lots of people subscribe to HBO just for "Sex in the City" and "The Sopranos" or "Six Feet Under" and probably don't watch more than one movie a month.

That's one model. There's also product placement within the shows themselves. Or production direct to video/DVD.

There are lots of ways around the problem that don't involve blanket condemnation of your customers and futile efforts to beat back technologies that aren't going to go away.

I kind of doubt Mr. Kellner will be one to realize that, though.
How Quickly We Forget

Nick Kristof - yes, we're still on about the Times OpEds this morning - writes about the deep, dark threat of the U.S. militia movement.

He compares it in scope and threat to Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

He claims we ignore or downplay its threat.

Well, right at this moment, maybe. But he forgets the reaction once Tim McVeigh was revealed to be the Oklahoma City bomber. We had a big push against such groups. Forner Narcissist-in-Chief Clinton talked about how the evils of conservative talk radio stirred up such acts, and maybe ought to be clamped down upon. We got an extensive "terrorism bill" that was every bit as threatening to civil liberties as anything the Monkey Boy administration has enacted or even proposed (with far less bleating about it from most national commentators at the time).

Kristof also ignores the fact that while, yes, there is a threat from domestic terrorists, the big threat from Islamist groups is not merely their hatred of us, but the support they receive from governments like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and others.

I haven't heard anything about international support or harboring of potential U.S. militia terrorists. But again, facts only get in the way.
Well, at Least He's Consistent

Paul Krugman is whining again. This should come as no surprise. Everything is the fault of the Monkey Boy administration.

We here in the Empire have no special admiration for the administration right about now, but Krugman sees them as responsible for every evil in the world.

Too bad he can't get his facts straight. He talks about the report on global warming released this week. Yes, Monkey Boy looked like an idiot (when doesn't he?). But Krugman didn't read the report, apparently that isn't necessary to write about it. It presents possible scenarios and projections, not absolute predictions.

Besides, the only proposed "solution" we've heard is the Kyoto treaty, which (1) would do nothing to stop any warming that's already occuring, (2) wouldn't help that much anyway, because it specifically exempts the two most populous nations on Earth, India and China, just as they're really getting industralized, and (3) was expressly written to hurt the U.S. economy,

But fact don't get in the way for Krugman - he writes on the Times OpEd page, why should they?

Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (yeah, she'll be objective) opines similarly.

She claims that there is "growing support in this country to prevent global warming."

Well, sure; but I wonder how deep that support is when we get to specific actions and the effect they'll have on the economy. I suspect that support is more shallow than the author wants us to think.

But again - hey, it's the Times - it's not like wrecking the U.S. economy will hurt the folks who write for it, so why should they care?

6/06/2002

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Well, the initial word from the talking heads on TV sounds positive, but not everyone is so thirilled by Bush's speech, as per this article:

"I think they saw they were getting behind the wave," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he wasn't sure a reorganization was needed. "The question is whether shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is the way to go," he said.

White House officials privately acknowledged the proposal could be drastically watered down in turf wars as the affected agencies – and the 88 congressional committees and subcommittees that oversee them – fight to retain power.


No, the senior Senator from Chapaquidick is not one of the regular four readers of this site; I think it's fair to assume that he came up with the "Titanic" reference all on his own.

And as for Pharoah Byrd of West Virginia (think about it; he's just like the Pharoahs who had monuments to themselves erected all throughout the land - Byrd's done much the same in his home state throughout his career), he has no credibility whatsoever.

Still, despite their less-than-positive reputations, they're not wrong.

The comments about Congress getting hold of the proposal and watering it down (not to mention warping it beyond recognition) also sound accurate, and disturbing.

We'll see how it all plays out; we can only hope that our leaders at least make an attempt to put national security ahead of personal advancement and petty political vendettas.

What are the odds?
Steering the Ship, or Rearranging the Deck Chairs?

Apparently President Monkey Boy will announce tonight in a nationally televised speech (why not yesterday? The administration probably didn't think that NBC would pre-empt the first game of the NBA finals in favor of the simian's speech, and that viewers would probably choose basketball over Bush. They're probably right) that a new Cabinet-level department is being created to oversee Homeland Security.

Depending on how it's done, it may be a very good thing. Certainly giving some teeth (and a budget) to Tom Ridge (or whomever ends up running this new department) makes sense.

But like anything, the devil is in the details, which I doubt we'll hear many of tonight. Judgement is withheld on this until more facts are in.
A Voice in the Wilderness

Lou Dobbs, host of CNN's Moneyline (airs every weekday at 6 PM ET), yesterday made a bold - for CNN - statement:

We're not fighting terror... we're fighting a particular and specific breed of terrorist. We're fighting a war against extreme radical Muslims who would try to destroy us, our society, our economy our way of life. They're called Islamists, as we've reported for two days. Not Muslims or Islamics. Islamists. They are the enemy. They are the enemy in Afghanistan, in the Philippines, Indonesia, Kashmir, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and other countries all over the world. Islamists... a particular brand of terrorist. That may not be politically correct... but it's honest, and this is the time for honesty in all quarters of our national life. Business. Religion. Government. And Media.

Maybe especially the media.


He is 100% correct. No reasonable person can really argue the point.

Unsurprisingly, however, there was not universal support for this common sense wisdom.

All we can say here is: Go, Lou, Go!
Judgement, Or the Lack Thereof

Re: the Masai gift of cows - one of the reasons I missed it is that, apparently, so did the Washington Post.

While the story was reported by the Times (New York) on Monday, the Post never reported it at all.

They found room for the riduculous profile of animal rights activist/idiot Steven Wise, and for a fawning piece this morning on self-congratulary Hollywood twits, and for analysis of Yasser Arafat's latest lies, deceptions and calumnies.

But for a truly moving story that would lift the spirits of even the most hard-hearted, they could not spare a single column-inch.

The only word I can think of for it is:

Disgraceful.
The World is Full of Surprises

And sometimes they're good ones. I missed this story, and I'm sorry I did, because it speaks to the best parts of human nature.

I don't know what to say about the Masai tribesmen who have presented such a valuable and moving gift to us; "thank you" seems wholly inadequate.

I do know that the appropriate response was not this:

Our man in Nairobi, a Mr. William Brancick — deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy — drove out to the village to receive the gift. According to the Times report, Mr. Brancick received the cows, but explained to the tribesmen that transporting the cows would be difficult, so he would probably sell them, buy some local jewelry which he would send back to America.

That's really depressing. And stupid. And insulting. You've got to love the State Department, an organization with the amazing ability to give offense in every possible situation. As Tony Blankley writes in the Washington Times (yeah, they're Moonies, but this column is still 100% correct):

Mr. Brancick's act of ingratitude and insensitivity (on our behalf) must not be permitted to stand.

Exactly. As Blankley puts it:

If we can get 80,000 men and machines into Afghanistan, we can get 14 cows out of Kenya.

Blankley also quotes one of the tribesmen:

"That guy [bin Laden] — surely we would have to kill him. We as the Masai have ways to kill, just using a spear and bows and arrows. He is a strong man so we couldn't do it directly. We would surround him in the bush."

I have to quote more of this, because it just needs to be said:

Although in all our history we have never done anything for these Masai, in all the world they are the only people (to my knowledge) to offer a sacred gift of condolence to us after the September Terror. And, without any offers of foreign aid or trade credits, their first thought was to get the man who did this terrible thing to us. But our Mr. Brancick thinks it would be too much bother to accept the sacred gift: Why not just cash them out, buy some local trinkets and mail them to a government warehouse in West Virginia where every 30 years the Inspector General will see how many of them have been stolen?

One more quote, on what Blankley thinks we should do with the cows, once we get them here:

Why not let them graze for a few weeks in special facilities at ground zero in New York? Perhaps a few weeks on the South Lawn of the White House would give the Washington political class a chance to see, first-hand, what an act of selfless grace looks like.

I couldn't possibly agree more, but, sadly, I think that our political class wouldn't know an act of selfless grace if it jumped up and bit them. More's the pity.
I Wonder If He Watches "Sex in the City"?

Interesting article from the Daily Telegraph this afternoon.

The article describes research by Cornell University biologist Kevin McGraw, in which he compares the behavior of women in large, crowded cities, to that of birds in similar environments, and finds that they behave in much the same way.

I make no further comment on this, except to wonder if Dr. McGraw is married or otherwise romantically attached, and if so, what his significant other has to say about his research?
I Don't Even Know Where to Begin

There's a very apt quote from Patrick O'Brian's Napoleonic-era naval adventure novel "Master and Commander" (highly recommended, by the way). Shortly after newly promoted captain Jack Aubrey takes command of his ship, he runs a drill, and his new crew is sadly inept. O'Brian puts Aubrey's displeasure this way:

"There were no words in the vocabulay at his command to express his distressr..."

That's how I feel now, having read this article from Ain't it Cool News.

Yes, I know, there are far worse things going on in the world, but still...I'm not sure what makes me most upset about this:

1. The sheer stupidity and pointlessness of the idea, or

2. The onging cultural strip-mining of 60's/70's ideas that weren't very good to begin with, or

3. The fact that Warners is going to spend money on this debacle that could be spent on something good, or

4. The fact that someone's going to get paid a lot of money to write what's guaranteed to be one of the stupidest movies of all time, or

5. All of the above.

Ack. Really, there isn't anything else to say about it.
What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

The Monkey Boy administraiton still refuses to accept reality regarding Yasser Arafat. Exiling him "would not solve the problem", and I personally agree - because killing him is the only reasonable policy at this point.

Sadly, that's not what President Monkey Boy's spokesthing meant; the administration still intends to treat Arafat as a legitimate head of state and a man who can be negotiated with, when it's clear to anyone who's willing to be honest that neither of those is really true of Arafat anymore, if they ever were.

As for Arafat's view:

The Palestinian leader dismissed the possibility of exile Thursday. "Expel me?" he said. "I will die here."

Fine; I certainly agree with that, and the Israelis are definitely capable of making that happen in short order. Hopefully they will wise up themselves and do it, sooner rather than later.
Size Does Matter

In her own inimitable style, Ann Coulter makes the case for rebuilding the World Trade Center, and making it even taller and grander than it previously was.

She's obviously correct, for all the reasons she puts forth in her column. I'd add that, as unquestionably the greatest and most important city in the world - in the history of the world - New York obviously should and must build the world's tallest building. There's simply no way any reasonable person could possibly question or dispute the fact.

Besides the argument for rebuilding, Coulter makes an excellent point about the core differences between the U.S. (and more generally Western Civilization) and those (like Al Qaeda and the other factions pushing radical militant Islam as a philosophy):

Erecting enormous buildings to replace the Twin Towers limns the distinction between us and the barbarians. We can ride elevators a quarter-mile into the sky and have dinner. What can they do? Multimillionaire Osama bin Laden lived in a cave (and is dead, under a daisy-cutter). Here in America, ordinary Americans consider 70-story buildings "mediocre."

As Donald Rumsfeld said of al-Qaeda, their specialty is "destroying things they could never have built themselves using technologies they never could have developed themselves."


Truer words were never spoken.
Fair Harvard

On NRO this morning, Pat collins argues that Harvard really isn't that bad.

She takes up the issue of the contreversial commencement speech discussed on this site yesterday, among other topics, and points out that many of the seemingly radical, controversial or, arguably anti-American ideas and events that crop up at Harvard are the responsibility of a fairly small number of people, who may not be representative of the campus community as a whole.

For exapmle, the "American Jihad" speaker for commencement was selected by a comittee of five faculty and one administrator, with no student input (which input is a factor at many other universities). Further, the chair of the committee, Richard Thomas, supports divestment from Israel in response to its actions in the West Bank; and another committee member actively sought out the controversial speaker and encouraged him to write and submit a speech.

Sounds plausible; the radicals are running the show, and even if many in the Harvard community don't agree, they don't get much of a voice.

One wonders how true this is throughout academia in America today.
Stop Whining, Bob!

FBI Director Robert Mueller complains today that the FBI's resources are being taxed by their new duties of surveillance on suspected Al Qaeda supporters in the U.S.

Says Mueller:

"Our biggest problem is we have people we think are terrorists. They are supporters of al Qaeda. . . . They may have sworn jihad, they may be here in the United States legitimately and they have committed no crime," Mueller said in a 90-minute lunch with Washington Post reporters and editors. "And what do we do for the next five years? Do we surveil them? Some action has to be taken."

If they're non-citizens, how about throwing them out of the country? That seems like it would work. That seems like it would work really well, in fact.



Would You Like To Play a Game?

Today's Post OpEd page comes out and takes a strong and resolute stance against nuclear war. Their brave and resolute columists stand fearlessly in the face of prevailing opinion...wait, what's that? There isn't any prevailing opinion in favor of nuclear war?

Well, you could have fooled Mary McGrory.

She begins by whining:

You might think that fear of a nuclear war would eclipse other current worries. But people don't even want to think about the unthinkable. They can't concentrate on annihilation because they're engrossed in the "what might have been" on 9/11.

Funny that, because of McGrory's last eight columns in the Post, three dealt with "what might have been on 9/11", one dealt with John Ashcroft's position on gun control, one dealt with President Monkey Boy's recent European trip and the demonstrations against him there, one dealt with Cardinal Law of Boston, one dealt with ex-Peanut Farmer in Chief Carter's visit to Cuba, and one dealt with the mess concerning the Crusader artillery program.

Not a peep about nuclear war. If McGrory is going to throw stones at her colleagues in the press, the Monkey Boy administraiton, and the American public for not caring enough about the India-Pakistan situation, she ought to move out of her own glass house first.

Henry Kissinger also weighs in on the topic. Sadly, the online Post's editorial page hasn't been updated from yesterday, so we can't link directly to his article, but you can go here, and you'll find the article when it does show up online.

Kissinger goes on about the historical issues; useful to be sure. He ends, though, with a discussion of the dividing line separating conventional weapons from nuclear. Fair enough, but he fails to point out that there is no parallel to this situation since the development of nuclear weapons, and so the rules and behaviors that kept the U.S. and the Soviet Union from using nukes don't necessarily apply to India and Pakistan.

Finally, on a non-nuclear war related topic, Jim Hoagland writes a fanciful piece imagining what Colin Powell is really thinking about things. Hoagland's fantasy posits the (hopefully soon to be ex) Secretary of State as a Machiavellian figure with a grand master plan, manipulating Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and all the rest in service to his agenda.

I don't buy it, but it is interesting to think about.
She's Still Singing

Anita Hill has an OpEd in today's Times. The former accuser of Clarence Thomas writes this morning about a pair of whistleblowers - Coleen Rawley of the FBI and Sherron Watkins of Enron.

BOth women deserve praise for having the courage to speak out about what went wrong when so many others failed to do so; instead circling the wagons and trying to "ride out" their troubles.

But Ms. Hill ties them into a larger idea, speaking of "insider" and "outsider" values, and I think she's far overstating the case. She's trying to use them to make a point that isn't supported by the facts, in order to support her personal political agenda.

At least, that's how it reads from here.

I'd also note that, while, yes, what they did took a lot of guts and is very admirable, they didn't speak out publicly before the Enron collapse and 9/11 respectively. Yes, they tried to make changes from within, which is also praiseworthy; but Ms. Hill's point is that their "outsider values" as women made them more willing to go outside traditional channels, wven outside their organization, to force needed changes, and the fact is that they didn't do that until after things went bad.

It seems to me that Ms. Hill's piece is yet another example of how one can twist anything to fit it into one's pet theory, if only one pushes and pulls and mangles the facts enough.

6/05/2002

Those Who Fail to Learn From History Are Doomed to Repeat It

Weren't we just here a few weeks ago? The Israeli army has again surrounded Yasser Arafat's compound.

I have no objection to this, except that it's probably not going to work, because the Israelis (probably) aren't going to kill Arafat, or even exile him, and in the end they'll retreat and Arafat will look like the poor, noble victim.

I have no objection to them killing Arafat; he is an enemy of Israel, and an enemy of peace, and, honestly, an enemy to his own people, given how his Palestinian Authority has failed in its tasks of governing. Exile is more problematic, because it leaves him alive to act as a rabble-rouser.

Yes, if they kill him, he'll be a martyr, but so what? If he's dead, sooner or later the Palestinians will have to put forward someone to speak for them. It might end up that the more radical groups seize all power, but that's fine, because sooner or later they'll discover that as much as their people are angry and ready to blame Israel for all their problems, they still will want jobs, and housing, and working utilities and schools, etc., and they'll have to figure out some way to provide all those, and there's no way they can do that and also keep up the Intifadah against Israel.

Or there'll be a civil war among the Palestinians, and maybe that's necessary in order for them to decide that they'd actually like to try co-existing with Israel and support a leader willing to do what's necessary to accomplish that.

No matter how it plays out post-Arafar, though, he's more than earned an Israeli bullet in the head, and it's probably long overdue.
At Your Service

The new comment system has been implemented. Simply click on the link titled "Shout Out" at the end of any article you wish to comment on.

Please note that this comment system is hosted on another site, and we here at the Empire can make no guarantees about the ongoing reliability of the system.

That is all.
Senioritis

I graduated from high school in 1987, and I certainly had a fairly lame and uninteresting high school experience.

Still, it's hard to believe just how much things have changed, as evidenced by this.

What it is, is a scavenger hunt list from Newton South High School in Massachutses; it was an event for soon-to-be-graduating (and, if they actually did many of the things on the list, soon-to-be-hospitalized-or-in-jail-or-both) seniors.

Some of these things are pretty appalling, and I personally think that the fourth item down on the next to last page ought to have been worth more than 40 points, since (supposedly) only three men in a thousand can physically do it; and I have to believe that it's entirely physically impossible for women, or nearly so. At least for anyone not in a circus sideshow.
Many Voices

In response to a request from one of the four regular readers of this space, the management here at the Empire is investigating the implementation of a comments system, whereby you, the aforementioned four readers, can comment directly on this site in response to any articles that inspire such comments from you.

Since the management knows very little (nothing, actually) about web scripting and suchlike, and since that's apparently the only way to implement such a system on the blogger.com site, this may take a while.

But we will continue to investigate and we will report back upon achieving success (actually, you'll probably just see it if/when the comment system is properly implemented).

That is all.
Partner for Peace

More of the same from Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.

It's amazing; just when you think they can't possibly get any more duplicitious - or brazen n their defiance of all civilized norms of behavior - they come up with more horrendousness. As the article notes:

Israeli opponents of the deal (the April agreement regarding Palestinian militants) insisted at the time that Saadat and his fellow terrorists must serve their sentences in Israeli prisons, but U.S. officials assured Israel that justice would be served under the watchful eyes of American and British wardens. This week, head of Israel's secret service, Avi Dichter, told the government cabinet that the American and British wardens have been unable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

I asked this earlier today: when will the rest of the world wake up and treat Arafat and his cronies as the barbaric, lying murderers that they so clearly are? It would be nice of the State Department at least would - or, if they won't, it would be good if President Monkey Boy could start firing the friends-of-Arafat who infest Foggy Bottom. Getting rid of the obviously gutless Colin Power would be a wonderful start; we can only hope...
I Say Tomato, You Say Tom-ah-to

This little bit from Jonah Goldberg on NRO is pretty interesting.

The Times and the Post each wrote an article on the same census data that was recently resleased by the government.

The Post's headline: '90s Boom Had Broad Impact - 2000 Census Cites Income Growth Among Poor, Upper Middle Class. The opening paragraph reads:

The economic boom of the 1990s raised the incomes of the poorest Americans, held the size of the middle class steady and swelled the ranks of those with six-digit incomes, according to census data released yesterday.

The Times' headline: Gains of 90's Did Not Lift All, Census Shows. The first paragraph reads:

Despite the surging economy of the 1990's that brought affluence to many Americans, the poor remained entrenched, the Census Bureau reported today. The Bureau's statistics for the 50 stats and the District of Columbia show that 9.2 percent of families were deemed poor in 2000, a slight improvement from 10 percent in 1989.

Maybe the Times can change their motto to "All the news that fits our agenda"; at least that would be more honest.

Peace in Our Time?

Yet another bombing in Israel, 18 more Israeli civillians dead.

When will the world unequivocally, without reservaiton, without any attempt at explanation or understanding or justification, condemn these barbaric attacks?

Oh, right. Never. It's all about "Palestinian Rage", it's all about the occupation, it's all about Israeli oppresion. Oh, sure, the Palestinian Authority will "regret" this latest attack, but only in the mildest of terms. And the rest of the world press will likely ignore it, or wring its hands about the "cycle of violence" and the misery and horror that forces young Palestinians to go to such lengths.

And this latest atrocity may be just the first in a planned series of attacks. Apparently Hizbullah plans to up the ante, with the support and (presumably) approval of Syria and Iran.

But of course that is never condemned, certainly not among the elites of Europe or, for that matter, the U.S. State Department. Because it would upset our fragile "coalition", I assume.

Madness, all of it. We tolerate this barbarity from the Palestinians, we excuse it, we turn our heads and look away from the overt support given to the terrorists by Arab governments, both morally and materially.

As has been noted in this space before, pretty much every Arab state is a kleptocracy, run solely for the benefit of its despotic leaders; and whose policies both foreign and domestic are geared entirely towards the goal of keeping said despotic leaders in power, with no regard whatsoever to the good of their people, their neighbors, or regional stability. Pretty much every single Arab government ought to be removed, by force, and replaced by a military governor from the U.S. or other civilized Western nation, and thhose military governors should be tasked with the job of educating and civilizing the populations of those Arab states, and building proper institutions necessary for the running and proper functioning of a modern, prosperous, civilized, democratic nation. Such a solution would be better for the Arab people themselves, for the region as a whole, for world stability, and for the West; in short, it would be better for absolutely everyone except the actual despots themselves - and their well-being ought to be the last thing on anyone's mind.

If we do that, support for the Palestinian terrorists would be removed, and the Palestinian people would be forced to accept the fact that Israel isn't going away, and no one will reward them for murdering civillians, and, eventually, they would come back to the peace table ready to make real, lasting agreements that would serve both their interests and those if the Israeli people.

Simple, really.
Some Aminals Are More Equal Than Others

Some scary comments this morning in a Post article about animal rights. Specifically, the article is about attorney Steven Wise, who's an animal rights activist. The article opens with Wise's comment:

"I don't see a difference between a chimpanzee," he states unequivocally, "and my 4 1/2-year-old son."

I'm glad he's not my father.

Wise is following the tenets of radical animal rights activist (and anti-homo sapiens activist, I'd add) Peter Singer (the article mentions that Wise had his Road to Damascus moment while reading Singer's "Animal Liberation")

SInger is, at least as far as I'm concerned, psychotic. Here is an example of his views on economics. You can read more about him at this site.

I've gone a bit astray from the Post article, so back to it. Wise argues for legal rights for nine species of animal:

Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, African gray parrots, African elephants, dogs and honeybees.

Yes, honeybees.

The article goes on to note that Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe both support some form of legal rights for animals; if Tribe and Dershowitz are both for anything, that almost certainly marks it as a bad idea.

Now, I'm not in favor of cruelty to animals; I doubt many people are. It is wrong to go out of one's way to harm an animal; or, in the case of animal testing, to do more harm than is required to get the necessary data. But that isn't a legal issue, it's an issue of simple decency, which doesn't require legislation, and which I'd argue that the vast majority of people honor already.

We certainly don't need attorneys going into court filing briefs on behalf of the oppressed honeybee lobby.
The Right to Be Heard?

Does the First Amendment guarantee such a thing? this Harvard student, writing in the Times this morning, seems to think so.

He's referring to the outcry over a commencement speech by a fellow student entitled "My American Jihad."

As has been reported, the author did not use "Jihad" in the sense we've become familiar with; and it's true that the term does have a wider meaning in Arabic than many Americans might be aware of.

Still, it's the kind of thing that seems designed expressly to provoke a reaction; the student giving the speech had to know that it would upset people who are already unnerved by the current events of the world.

It seems to me that this is a pretty disingenuous thing: saying something that you believe will - and want to - upset people, and then acting all surprised and stunned when, wonder of wonders, people get upset at what you said.

And this issue speaks to a larger point: the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech (actually, it guarantees that the Congress may not make laws restricting one's speech, to be precise). It does not guarantee you a microphone, or a receptive audience, or any audience at all.

But then, this is Harvard, so maybe it shouldn't come as any surprise at all that that point is lost on both the speechwriter and his supporter in the Times.
Even a Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day

I've got to admit that it's a little bit disconcerting when I agree with Maureen Dowd.

Her column this morning hits the FBI and CIA for their internicene warfare as the information about intelligence failures involving 9/11 continue to trickle out. It's all about the bueraucrats protecting their turf and their careers and passing the buck rather than actually doing their jobs properly and serving the American people as they have sworn to do.

I imagine it was probably a bit disconcerting for Ms. Dowd, as she included an approving mention of former CIA director Richard Helms (who once famously said of his agency: "You've got to trust us. We are honorable men."). I'd guess that folks like Helms are not, generally, on Ms. Dowd's list of most admired people in the world.

But hey, it's progress. Maybe she's growing up?

No, couldn't be.
Render Unto Caeasr...Unless You Don't Feel Like It, Of Course

It seems that the American Catholic Church is lurching towards a new policy to deal with pedophile priests.

I thought that our society already had a pretty sensible policy towards pedophiles: if there's a credible accusation, we arrest them, try them, and if they're convicted, send them to prison for a long, long time, so that they can't prey on children anymore.

I think that policy would work really well for pedophile priests; certainly it's better than anything the Church has come up with to date.

Michael Kelly had a generally good column in the Post's OpEd today about this very topic; I agree that the bishops and others who covered up and abetted priestly abuses ought to be punished as well (more aboutt hat in a moment). But I have to take exception to this comment of Kelly's:

There are about 47,000 Catholic priests in America; the number accused of sexual abuse over the past four decades runs, by the most liberal estimates, only to a few thousand. The church's real problem is that its superior officers deliberately allowed these relatively few priests to remain...

"A few thousand", if accurate, represents 10-15 percent of the Catholic priests in the U.S., if Kelly's 47,000 total figure is correct.

That is not "relatively few." If 10-15 percent of Congressmen, or NFL playhers, or GM employees were credibly believed to be pedophiles, there would be hell to pay, and rightly so. The same ought to go for the Church.

Which leads nicely to another issue, which goes along with comments posted on this site about both the failures at the FBI, and about the media. It's all about claiming a higher responsibility and a moral high ground.

The Church claims to serve both God and the congregation of Catholic believers; just as the FBI claims to serve the American people, and the media claims to be the honest watchdog on behalf of the people.

If the Church wants to claim that authority, both as an institution, and in the name of the individuals who make up the Church hierarchy as priests and biships, then they should be held to account for it as well. And when bishops serve the interests of the church and their own careers by covering up for pedophile priests, transferring them from diocese to diocese, and refusing to cooperate with the authorities, they must be condemned for that, and they must be cast down into the pit (which, if their beliefs are correct, is exactly what's going to happen to them when they are judged by God).

They have certainly forfeited any respect or deference that might once have been due them. It would be wonderful to see a prosecutor with the nerve to actually go after a bishop or other Church officials for obstruction of justice, or even aiding and abetting the abuse of children. It would do all of us good to see men like Cardinal Law of Boston - and others - sent to prison for their acts.
From Russia With...

Have you ever wondered what lurks beneath the streets of Moscow? A group calling themselves the Diggers of the Underground Planet did, and they've acted on their curiousity, with interesting, if occasionally alarming results.

At one point, for example:

they came across an Academy of Oceanology warehouse. "Imagine walking along endless corridors," recalls Mikhailov, "something dripping from the ceiling, the uneven light of torches. And all of sudden you find yourself in a room full of tanks of formalin, containing various sea monsters."

How cool is that?

6/04/2002

Home Sweet Home

There's been quite a lot of Times-bashing in this space recently (it would have to be recently, I suppose, considering the site's less than a week old).

So in the interest of fair play, I feel I should point out one of the really good things about the paper: the Metropolitan Diary. It's a weekly column that features true, reader-submitted tales of life in New York City.

And as a New Yorker myself (once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, no matter where one's travels take them in life), it's a little taste of home. So check it out.
...It Smells Like VIctory

Worth checking out: an article about the potential consequences of an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war.

Not good.

And according to this article, the leaders of these two nations are not doing anything to ease away from the abyss.

Says President Musharraf:
"We cannot condone the rapacious policies of certain states that forcibly occupy territory and deny freedom to peoples for decades,"

Prime Minister Vajyapee replied that:
"We have seen that cross-border infiltration has increased, violence in Jammu and Kashmir has continued unabated and terrorist camps operate unhindered across our borders,"

It would be nice if U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld can talk some sense into both sides when he visits them this week; neither the Russians nor anyone else seem to have been able to so far.
Gray Lady Down

More chatter about the New York Times and its direction under new Executive Editor Howard Raines, this time from Andrew Sullivan's site. As Sullivan puts it:

one thing it isn't: the paper of record. It has excised almost all non-left commentary from its op-ed and editorial columns. It is skewing news coverage in ways that will please Nation-readers - like the hysterical Enron coverage, the bogus poll designed to argue that the public blamed Bush for Enron, or the burying of politically incorrect studies about the validity of racial profiling in speeding tickets. And it's increasingly happy assuming its readers agree with it. So it explains less and hectors and preens more. Again, this is fine. But let's acknowledge what it is. Raines is on a crusade for the populist left. And Raines is now the New York Times.

Full disclosure time: Sullivan's been banished from the Times Magazine, for which he used to write occasionally; and he can be a hypocritical twit when he wants to be. He's clearly got an agenda here - but just because he's got an axe to grind doesn't mean he's wrong about the Times, and I don't think he is wrong.

Which, as he says elsewhere in his piece, is fine; if the Times wants to be an expressly liberal paper, that's their right - but then it isn't the nation's "Newspaper of record" anymore. It might be The Nation's newspaper of record, but that's a very, very different thing.

Uh, What Was I Saying?

Readers of this site (all four of you!) will remember the comments mentioned here by President Musharraf of Pakistan over the weekend; that the use of nuclear weapons is "unthinkable."

Guess not; Musharraf apparently changed his mind.

As the article says:

Musharraf, asked at a news conference to state Pakistan's nuclear policy and explain why it will not join India in renouncing first use of nuclear weapons, said, "The possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances."

Oh, so I guess it isn't quite as unthinkable as it was a couple of days ago.

In the same article, our (hopefully soon to be ex) Secretary of State commented thusly:

"It would be absolutely horrible in the year 2002 for any nation to use nuclear weapons in a situation such as this."

But if they wait until 2003, it'll be OK? Or maybe the situation just needs to change. Or maybe Colin's just babbling...that sounds a lot more likely.
Why, God, Why?

The following appeared on Dark Horizons - a movie/TV/entertainment news site.

Clash of the Titans: You know, before now I saw a lot of films being remade which didn't need it and while I could understand that people got pissed off about it I never could fully sympathise as practically none of the films had any special meaning for me personally (eg. "Rollerball", "Sabrina", etc.). Today that all changed as rather scary news appeared in Variety that Warner Bros. has hired writers John Glenn and Travis Wright (the upcoming Bruckheimer flick "Red World") to pen of all things, a remake of this 1981 classic film version of the Greek tale of Perseus. Scarier still the great scenes on Mount Olympus where the gods (Laurence Olivier, Ursula Andress, Maggie Smith, etc.) manipulate chess figures representing people will not appear - instead it'll focus purely on Perseus as he takes on Medusa. Excuse me, I'm going to go cry in a corner ('Clash' meant more of a film to me as a young teen than any of the "Star Wars" films).

OK, I'm not quite as traumatized as the author, but still..."Clash of the Titans" is not a film crying out to be remade. At all. In any way whatsoever. Aren't there any original ideas in Hollywood anymore?

Never mind, I just answered my own question.
We Couldn't Make This Stuff Up If We Wanted To

Apparently, just because a report is put out by his Environmental Protection Agency - which of course is currently run by his personal selection, Christie Todd Whitman - it doesn't mean that it actually reflects the views of President Monkey Boy or his administration.

You can read all about it here. One of the better quotes:

"I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," Bush said dismissively Tuesday when asked about the EPA report...

It's his bueraucracy! They're his employees! If he doesn't like what they're doing, he can order his EPA Administrator to fire the offending bueraucrats, and if she won't do it, he can fire her, too!

Not to mention the utter petulance and ignorance contained in that one short quote. I wonder if President Monkey Boy has the slightest idea how stupid and ineffectual he sounds. Probably not, since none of his advisors is likely to tell him, and I can't imagine him actually reading a newspaper or watching the news to hear anyone else say it.
This is Your Brain on Drugs

Check out this column from Dave Kopel in the Rocky Mountain News.

Kopel talks about an anti-drug "infomercial" running on Colorado cable-TV systems. I'd love to get a look at this program; according to Kopel:

the program uses government money to terrify viewers about the alleged need for more government power. Even worse, the program frantically encourages neighbors to inform against their neighbors for engaging in innocent activities.

One segment features Cmdr. Lori Moriarty, North Metro Drug Task Force -- recently famous for attempting to search the customer records of the Tattered Cover Bookstore. After a set-up by Blunt, Moriarty lists some reasons for neighbors to call the police about potential meth labs: "They might see that their neighbor at 3 o'clock in the morning is out smoking on the back patio, because they don't want to smoke within the house because they might blow it up."

Meth lab operators might smoke outdoors late at night, but so do vast numbers of other people -- such as smokers whose spouses or children object to the lingering smell of indoor cigarette smoke.

Again and again and again during the program, Blunt urges viewers to turn in their neighbors for allegedly suspicious things such as having stains on the carpet (which actually is more likely a sign of children or of plumbing problems than of meth production).


Now I'm not really in favor of suburban meth labs (who is? - no, wait - don't answer that!), but this sounds hysterical even by the idiotic standards of the War on Drugs.

I wasn't aware that they had such a big drug problem in Colorado - I'm not sure there's a bad enough drug problem anywhere to justify ratting out neighbors to the police for the crime of carpet stains.
I Claim This Planet in the Name of...

Very educational article on NRO this morning.

It's all about the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and the problems with it.

Needless to say, I agree completely. What I found especially interesting was the little bit of history on the Teeaty itself, and the State Department's motives for pushing it. As the authors write:

...a letter from Assistant Secretary of State Henry Owen to National Security Advisor Walt Rostow. Owen's memo is on strategy for getting the United States to agree to Article II, and says:

(b) More importantly: It will save money [emphasis in original], which can go to (i) foreign aid, (2) domestic purposes — thus mitigating the political strain of the war in Vietnam.

In other words, the Outer Space Treaty was a budgetary raid first and foremost, and only secondarily a strategy of international relations. More evidence comes from the other document obtained by Wasser and reprinted by Zubrin, a State Department report to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, which set out the reasons for the Outer Space Treaty and noted:

we see no compelling reasons for early, major commitments to [space exploration]. . . Moreover, if we can de-emphasize or stretch out additional costly programs aimed at the moon and beyond, resources may to some extent be released for other objectives.


This is so appalling, I don't even know the words. Owen and Rostov and Rusk and anyone else who agreed with them - these blind, stupid, corrupt fools - they deliberately crippled our future for stupid, short sighted and wrong headed political motives. They betrayed their country, and worse, they betrayed humanity's future. They should be condemned by all right thinking people.


Shock the Monkey

Good article at Tech Central Station taking President Monkey Boy to task for his various vacillations and sell-outs in his year-and-a-half as President.

As the author points out, the most depressing thing is that he's compromising the things he and his party claim to believe in, making bad policy decisions to try and keep his poll numbers high, and he's not even going to get any political benefits out of it.

Ack.

6/03/2002

Why'd it Have to be Snakes?

So they're actually getting serious about making Indiana Jones IV.

Well, Frank Darabont is a good writer, but what story are they going to tell? There was a rumor a while back that Indy 4 was going to be about the Roswell crash. I really, really hope that story is gone. That would be, simply, dumb.

Myself, I'd love to see something like "Indiana Jones and the Quest for Atlantis". It could be set in the early-mid 50's. It could be a race across Europe to find the clues to the location ofthe lost city and whatever mystical treasures await there, maybe with Evil Godless Commies serving as the opposition in place of Nazis this time.

It's got mysticism, it's got evil faceless hordes that Indy can dispatch with no guilt, and there could be lots of cool action sequences.

What else are they going to do? THere isn't much left in Christian mysticism...the Spear of Destiny, or the True Cross, but after the Holy Grail, even those seem kind of lame.

Well, here's hoping they come up with something clever and interesting.
One and One Makes Two, Two and Two Makes Four...

Amusing little program at heritage.org - the U.S. Federal Budget Calculator.

The rest of their site may or may not be your cup of tea, but this tool is fairly neat, and it runs using real Congressional Budget Office numbers.

Definitely worth a look.
The Horror, The Horror

Once again, let it never be said that the Empire does not play fair. In that spirit, I took a look at some liberally-inclined sites, which are presented here for your examinaiton:

Eric Alterman's Blog. Alterman's a columnist for The Nation and also for MSNBC, and now has his own little corner of the Web all to himself. From here, he seems to be a smug, obnoxious, factually-challenged little brat, but then, we've all got our own opinions.

Equally whiny and obnoxious, at least in our opinion, is Tapper, the Blog of The American Prospect magazine.

And flat-out psychotic is really the only description of Media Whores Online. Their site includes a list of "non-whore" media figures, which includes:
Paul Begala
David Brock
James Carville
Joe Conason
E.J. Dionne
Molly Ivins
Paul Krugman
Joe Lockhart
Gene Lyons
Michangelo Signorile

Everyone's entitled to their own views, but let's be honest here. Lockhart was Bill Clinton's Press Secretary; Carville and Begala were consultants for him; Conason and Lyons wrote paens to him and vitriolic screeds against his enemies. They are not objective journalists. It's almost possible to make an argument for Conason and Lyons, but the others were literally on the payroll, so if they're not now media whores, I'm not sure who is.

Signorile was an AIDS activist, Brock is an admitted liar and opportunist, Dionne's a dishonest hack, Ivins is a populist shill, and Krugman's got a psychotic vendetta against the Monkey Boy administration and a blind spot for liberal/Democratic failings a mile wide.

But the links are there; you can look for yourself and see what you think.
Global Warming and the Mirror Universe

The government recently released the Climate Action Report, describing the possible causes and effects of global warming.

Needless to say, the report is already generating a lot of press. The Times talks about the report in apocalyptic terms, as noted on NRO.

Environmentalists, according to the Times, feel that neither the new report nor the policies of the Monkey Boy administration go far enough. And on the other side of the political spectrum, Rush Limbaugh feels they've already gome much too far.

Actually reading the report, there are a lot of qualifiers there; the words "may" and "possibility" and "it is likely" and so forth crop up a lot, which you wouldn't know from reading the Times' article.

With Friends Like These...

Good article on a site called Tech Central Station regarding the cloning debate.

The author, Nick Schultz, takes Post columnist Richard Cohen to task for his attack on anti-cloners last week. Schultz says much the same thing - although more eloquently - that I did on this site last week; that Cohen's column - which is, as Schultz puts it:

riddled with errors of logic -- and at the same time so pumped full of moral posturing and obnoxious ad hominem swipes

manages to offend even those who agree with his side of the argument (as I do).

As Schultz concludes:

Those who are optimistic about the prospects for a future shaped by biotechnology should cringe when hearing arguments like Cohen's. His arguments alienates potential allies; they are not at all helpful to the pro-cloning side.



Why We Bash

Regular readers of this site (all two of you), may wonder (or not) why there's so much snarky press-bashing in this space. You may wonder if it's simply curmudgeonly conservative anti-media bias (partly, probably, if we're being honest here).

There is another reason, though. The big media - the Post, the Times, the news departments of the Big Three networks, CNN, FNC - claim for themselves the self-appointed role of watchdog to the government. They set themselves up as the honest voice that keeps the public informed; and because of that, they claim special priviledge of access (as well as other priviledges, such as not revealing sources even in court cases). They also are the gatekeepers of privacy; deciding whose personal life is fair game, and whose isn't, and to what degree.

It is an important service; it is absolutely necessary in order to have a free society. And the right of freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution.

We agree with all that.

But - as with everything, there's a but - if the big media is going to appoint itself to the role of watchdog; if it's going to claim to be the impartial and objective voice that tells us what we need to know; and if it's going to claim special priviledges - then it needs to be held itself to a high standard.

And the gap between the standards the media claim to hold themselves to - and ought to be held to, and the standards they actually meet - that's where we in the Empire bash, and why we bash. Because just as the press is watchdog to the government, someone has to be watchdog to the press. And even if all this site is, is a bacetia living in a parasite living on a flea that lives on the real watchdogs that are out there, well, every voice matters. And we're damned proud to be a bacteria living on a parasite living on a flea.
Infinite Regression

Interesting story by Howie Kurtz in this morning's Post.

Howie's talking about an article by Ken Auletta in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker about new Times Executive Editor Howell Raines. It seems that all is not well at the Times; Raines' brief reign has been marked with arrogance and heavy-handedness, leading to some serious unpleasantness and several defections.

Now, to be fair, a major newspaper is a very high-stress environment, and big egos abound; I'm pretty sure that one doesn't get to be a bureau chief or section editor at the Times without a healthy ego. And change is rarely easy or smooth. Still, it looks as though Raines has pushed things too far, too fast.

The other interesting thing about this article is that, normally, Kurtz is doing journalism about journalism.

Today, he's doingf journalism about journalism about journalism. It's like that bit in "The Phantom Tollbooth" (one of the most surreal children's books ever) with the picture of the hand drawing a picture of a hand drawing, etc - and the trick is, if yhou look closely enough, eventually you find the last hand, which isn't drawing another hand...and although it's been so long since I read the book, I don't remember exactly what they found when they got to the last hand, but it was something really cool.

6/02/2002

Better Late Than Never

A few comments on some items in today's Washington Post.

First, since it actually came yesterday, the Sunday Magazine; today, a complete fluff issue (even by the low standards of the Post's magazine). The irritating thing about the Mag was the intro article (the remainder of the issue was all photographs), which posits the thought that Washington is unique in the U.S. (or even the world), in that it is viewed as an "idea" rather than an actual place. As they put it:

Washington, D.C., is, first and foremost, an idea. This makes it different from most cities, which are, above all, places -- places where lots of people happen to live.

If I were to type "St. Louis" just now, or "Phoenix" or "Charlotte," you would probably start conjuring up a red-brick dowager on the Mississippi, or an oasis of browns and blonds in the crumpled desert, or a shiny burg full of well-barbered bankers amid the Carolina pines.

But if I say "Washington," who knows where your mind might take you? Probably not to 38 degrees 54 minutes north latitude, 77 degrees and 2 minutes west longitude. Instead, you would start skimming through a mental file of potent, but abstract, concepts: "Washington bureaucrat," "Washington meddling," "Washington insider." "We're from Washington, and we're here to help."


Really? So, say, Los Angeles doesn't have a similar "problem"? Or New York? When one thinks of LA, the most likely thought might be "Hollywood" or "Unemployed actor" or "every waiter and valet is writing a screenplay". Or maybe "smog" or "waiting until it falls into the ocean post-Earthquake".

Just more self-important and at the same time self-pitying claptrap from the Post. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise.

In today's OpEd section, lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Whining about welfare reform, an editorial comment attacking casino developers looking at Maryland (interesting that the Post editorial board doesn't have a problem with the state run lotteries that give back only 10% or so of the money wagered and have been called "a tax on people who are bad at math", but oppose casinos, which are heavily and strictly regulated and pay back 80-90% of the money wagered), whining from Mary McGrory (no surprise at all).

And a truly stupid column from David Broder.

Broder went to see "Spiderman" the other day, apparently, and, in his own words:

I was appalled -- first, that such a film had been released eight months after suicidal hijackers had flown airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and, second, that so many of my neighbors -- people whose judgment and standards I would usually never question -- thought Columbia Pictures and Hollywood had served up great entertainment in this no-longer-comic comic-book tale.

Of course, the point he misses is that it is a comic book take; and no one with any sense takes it seriously.

He also says:

The heroine perches on a shattered balcony afraid to jump. When she finally lets go, in a moment painfully evocative of the World Trade Center jumpers, Spider-Man is there to grab her. Would that it were so.

At another point, Spider-Man rushes into a burning building, while police and firefighters, who have given up on rescuing the baby trapped inside, just marvel slack-jawed at his courage. That's some tribute to those whose courage was tested -- and not found wanting -- in the real world!


Does anyone - well, anyone sane, at any rate - really associate Mary Jane's near fall or Spiderman's foray into a burning building with the real-life events of 9/11?

Ack. I'd go on, but I'm not sure there's any point. If you've got an axe to grind, you can fit anything into your theory, however crackpot it is. Not much else to say except for ack.
And Here We Thought the Airports Were Safe Now

Well, Don Carly, the CEO of American Airlines couldn't be wrong, could he? As noted here in the Empire on Friday, Mr. Carly believes that the security problem at our nation's airports was solved, and everything is now fine.

It seems that the managers of the nation's largest airports don't agree.

Who should we believe here? I'm thinking the smart money isn't on Mr. Carly.
Well, This is Convenient

According to a Reuters story, Al Qaeda is preparing to attack the U.S. again.

Also in the news, President Monkey Boy said yesterday at his commencement address at West Point that the U.S. will strike preemptively at terrorists in order to prevent more attacks on America.

Well, if that's true, we can all do the math. Let's hope that our simian President actually means what he says this time.