Saturday, May 24, 2003

Quote of the Day

"Many of you have in your veins Geman and Italian blood. But remember that these ancestors of yours so loved freedom that they gave up home and country to cross the ocean in search of liberty. The ancestors of the people we shall kill lacked the courage to make such a sacrifice and remained slaves." -- George S. Patton

(from a collection of Patton quotes up at RWN)
Now that they are free of the threat of being dropped into plastic shredders, doctors in Iraq are admitting that Saddam and not sanctions were the main cause of children's deaths in Iraq over the past 12 years.

Throughout the 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq that were ended yesterday, Iraqi doctors told the world that the sanctions were the sole cause for the rocketing mortality rate among Iraqi children.

"It is one of the results of the embargo," Dr. Ghassam Rashid Al-Baya told Newsday on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad's Ibn Al-Baladi hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table. "This is a crime on Iraq."

It was a scene repeated in hundreds of newspaper articles by reporters required to be escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information.

Now free to speak, the doctors at two Baghdad hospitals, including Ibn Al-Baladi, tell a very different story. Along with parents of dead children, they said in interviews this week that Hussein turned the children's deaths into propaganda, notably by forcing hospitals to save babies' corpses to have them publicly paraded.
Under the sanctions regime, "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed," said Ibn Al-Baladi's chief resident, Dr. Hussein Shihab. "Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. Yes, of course the sanctions hurt - but not too much, because we are a rich country and we have the ability to get everything we can by money. But instead, he spent it on his palaces."

The U.S. government and others long have blamed Hussein's spending habits for the poor health of Iraqis and their children. For years, the Iraqi government, some Western officials and a vocal anti-sanctions movement said UN restrictions on Iraqi imports and exports were at fault.

"Saddam Hussein, he's the murderer, not the UN," said Dr. Azhar Abdul Khadem, a resident at the Al-Alwiya maternity hospital in Baghdad.
(via Michele)

Friday, May 23, 2003

Christopher Flannery writes in the Claremont Review of Books about the Left's (unsuccessful) attempt to find a left-wing talk radio host to rival Rush Limbaugh.

What kept bobbing up was the observation that it is not much fun listening to liberals. Compared with the real El Rushbo—ever buoyant, larger than life, overflowing with conservative joie de vivre—the lefty pretenders appeared, to friend and foe alike, anemic, wan, somehow depressing. In a word, grim; even the professional comedians. The Left is not a barrel of laughs.

My own listening experience confirms this general truth and suggests a corollary: the lefter you go, the grimmer it gets. If my political ear has not deceived me, this is bad news for the Democrats, who have to tune to the far left of the FM dial and crank up the volume in order to reach their party's activist core.

In Los Angeles, this means turning to KPFK, 90.7 FM. KPFK is one of five stations owned by the left-wing Pacifica Foundation, which is still licking wounds suffered in an earlier, messy, attempt by the Democratic machine to execute a hostile takeover of a ready-made radio network. The other four Pacifica stations are WBAI in New York; WPFW in Washington, D.C.; KPFT in Houston; and the mother of all leftist stations, KPFA in Berkeley. Pacifica stations' programs present themselves as "progressive" alternatives, but they are a more or less reliable index of the thinking and the sensibilities of the Democratic, cultural, Hollywood, and academic Left.
Pacifica's most well-known program is "Democracy Now!", hosted by activist-journalist Amy Goodman in New York. The program could be more aptly called "Democracy Then!" To listen to it regularly is to return in strange ways to the '60s. One is astounded to learn that Daniel Ellsberg is still alive and protesting, joined by the Berrigan brothers and Dick Gregory. Especially poignant segments of war "reporting" are punctuated by rare recordings of (young) Bob Dylan or by the immortal refrain from (recently deceased) Edwin Starr's classic hit: "War—Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nuthin'—Say it again!"

Here on any given day millions of listeners can hear the world as it sounds through a megaphone of old-fashioned or new-fangled Marxist theory, race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, animal rights theory, hard-core environmentalism, and various brands of multiculturalism. The leitmotif: If you are a person of less than plutocratic means, a person of race, a person of gender, a person of unusual tastes or inclinations, a non-Western culture, an animal, a forest, an ocean, or an innocent stream—America is out to exploit or destroy you. In the world of "Democracy Now!", there is no greater danger, to anything and everything decent democratic people everywhere love and cherish, than the U.S. of A.

Since at the same time America shows disturbing signs of being the most broadly prosperous, free, tolerant, and democratic nation in history, a loyal Lefty would naturally begin to grow a little bitter, somewhat testy, even shrill on a bad day. And the more free, just, prosperous, tolerant, and democratic America proves itself to be, the worse the day and the more desperate must be one's message. Because either one's life and reputation have been staked on ideas that have departed from reality, or the only people who understand the world are you and…the "so-called" terrorists?
George Will has a good column on the overturning of the $145 billion class-action suit against tobacco companies by the Florida Court of Appeals.

But tobacco policy radiates contempt for law.

Cynical lawmaking produced the $246 billion settlement of an extortionate suit by 46 state governments against major tobacco companies, purportedly as recompense for smoking-related health-care costs. Never mind that governments probably profit from smoking, in two ways.

* Cigarettes are the most heavily taxed consumer product - but are usually not taxed so heavily that too many smokers give up the lucrative (for governments) habit.

* Governments reap savings in the form of reduced spending for Social Security, pensions and nursing home care for persons who die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses.

The $246 billion is to be paid out over 25 years. But some of the 46 state governments are hot to get their hands on the cash, even at the cost of discounting the value of their payout. They are selling all or portions of their future payments at a discount to investors in the form of tobacco bonds - state-issued debt backed by future payments from tobacco company profits.

I often wonder how many people, especially those who vilify the evil tobacco companies, realize that, depending on your state, government at various levels earn far more money from the sale of tobacco than cigarette companies do.
Friday Afternoon Humor

A collection of some of the worst metaphors collected from various High School papers. (I believe this list was originally compiled by Richard Lederer who has written several very funny books about the English language, which now float around the internet in small pieces).

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it. She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.

Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.

Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access\\aaakk/ch@ung but gets T:\\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall Man."

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.

They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.
Jonathan Rauch has an interesting piece in the National Journal on what he calls the 'neoleft'.

A new kind of leftist agenda has emerged from 9/11 and Iraq, one that both mirrors and inverts neoconservatism, and one whose implications seem just as profound.

To understand "neoleftism" (as I might as well call it), consider an ostensibly odd fact: Many neoleftists saw not failure for their side in the fight against the Iraq war, but success.

Success? Even though the Left's street demonstrations around the world failed to stop the war? Even though the quick victory and Iraqi celebrations seemed to vindicate neocons' predictions? Well, yes. Here is how The Nation, which is to the neoleftists something like what Commentary once was to the neocons, put it in an April 7 editorial:

"If we are present at the creation of a new American empire, we are also present at the creation of another superpower -- the largest, most broadly based peace and justice movement in history, a movement that has engaged millions of people here and around the globe."
Why is the Left suddenly unable to support or celebrate the downfall of a fascist tyrant? Because, just as neocons regard projecting American power as essential for making the world safer, neoleftists regard containing American power as essential for making the world safer. If containing America means tolerating or even supporting tyranny or terror in particular places -- well, that is a price that must sometimes be paid.

In this neoleftist view, containing American power is important partly because far-right-wingers such as John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, and Bush himself happen to be in charge. But containing America is also important for its own sake. As egalitarians, neoleftists are alarmed and angered by America's preponderance of power. America is a bully not just because Bush is a bully but because the United States is simply too big to play fair.
Now, anti-Americanism is nothing new for the Left, but neoleftism sports a distinctive variety. The Marxist and countercultural Left of the 1960s viewed "Amerika" as a fundamentally rotten place. Neoleftists, by comparison, are pretty happy with minivans and disposable diapers, and they like America's labor laws and litigation system enough to want to export them. Their beef is with American power, not American culture. Neoleftism thus exchanges the idealism of the 1960s for a kind of realpolitik. The second superpower may not be able to cure all the world's ills, as socialism once promised to do, but it can at least keep a rogue giant in check.

These are folks who think that global rule by the U.N. is the ultimate goal. Where Human Rights committees are chaired by Libya and every third-world dictator has an equal say. It's been said that one definition of insanity is making the same errors over and over again. It appears the 'neoleft' is well on it's way. Despite all the evidence of the horrors perpetrated by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and their related regimes these people still live in Chomsky-fantasyland where the great evil in the world is the U.S.
A Hamas spokesman said on BBC that they are willing to have a ceasefire but only a ceasefire and that their fight will go on until Israel is destroyed:

Q. Dr. Zahar, I asked you a very simple question: If Israel accepts your conditions - the elimination of the occupation - will you renounce violence, yes or no?
Z. We are going to ceasefire - only ceasefire... I'm telling you frankly, the attitude of Islam is not to accept a foreign state in this area.

So what is the point of any negotiations again? I may have missed it.
The Wall Street Journal is on a high horse today saying it was wrong for students to heckle Chris Hedges during a commencement speech at Rockford College:

Commencement is a time for students and parents to celebrate their achievement and sacrifice, and Mr. Hedges made not even a bow in their direction.

Instead, rather like some students in the 1960s, he rose to denounce war in Iraq and American "empire," not to mention the lack of health insurance. Mr. Hedges is not what one would call a rigorous thinker: His bill of indictment against his country included "the brutal and corrupt dictatorships we fund in the Middle East," even though many of those dictators opposed our toppling one of their own in Iraq.

But simply because a speaker is foolish doesn't mean he deserves to be silenced. Mr. Hedges was after all invited, and colleges have a special obligation to protect civil discourse. His opinions aren't much different from those that appear every day in the newspaper that employs him, and those views are shared by an influential minority of Americans. The patriots in that Rockford crowd may even be better off for discovering what the liberal elites represented by Mr. Hedges really think.

Personally I don't see how Chris Hedges speech has anything to do with civil discourse. It has been my impression that civil discourse requires dialogue between two or more people. Unfortunately in this case we are talking about a speaker ranting about his opinion to a large captive audience. What the Journal calls civil discourse here would entail the students having to sit down quietly and not make a peep (I wonder if he was invited by a liberal member of the school's administration who was upset with the student body's conservatism?). Isn't this a violation of their free speech? Or at least of their right not to hear speech that upsets them? When you are talking about saying something on the radio, in a paper, on TV or on the Internet, knock yourself out, say whatever you want, nobody should be allowed to physically stop you simply because they disagree with you. If someone doesn't agree with you they can simply change the channel or go to another site etc.. In the forum of a commencement address the students are effectively prisoners, and I think they should at least have a right to voice their opposition to what the speaker is saying.

And I just love the line "the patriots in that Rockford crowd may even be better off for discovering what the liberal elites represented by Mr. Hedges really think." Puleese. All they have to do is open a New York Times or watch ABCBSMSNBCNNBC to do that. He may have been invited but by the administration, not the students. They shouldn't have to pay for their administration's incompetence.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Proof offered that David Hasselhoff is the Anti-Christ. It convinced me, but I already sorta suspected.

He has even less musical talent than John Tesh... His television shows are unwatchable... and yet He's one of the world's most popular stars... how has He done it?

Some of the evidence:

Rev 20:11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them Rev 20:13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them... Doesn't this sound like an exact description of what the lifeguards on Baywatch do? They sit on their big white wooden throne, and watch out over the sea -- waiting for a dying person to get cast up.
Rev 9:6 And in those days shall men seek to find death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.One word: CPR

Follow the link for the rest of the evidence. (via Kate)
A Popperian Joke

An Oxford philosopher was giving a lecture on the philosophy of language at Columbia University, and came to a curious aspect of the English language. "You will note," said the stuffy Oxford scholar, "that in the English language, two negatives can mean a positive, but never is it the case that two positives can mean a negative." To which someone in the back responded, "yeah, yeah."
A group at MIT has designed a prototype of a new 'anti-assault' jacket for woman. (Although I don't see why it is not just as useful for men). It contains an inner layer of conductive fiber made by Dupont, called Aracon, and carries a low-amp charge that delivers a nasty but non-lethal shock to anyone who tries to grab the wearer. It's powered by an ordinary 9-volt battery and uses a series of step-up circuits to build up a high-voltage charge. Not only is it good for assault prevention but it stops those guys trying to sneak their arm around you in the movie theater on your first date.
Oh look the Security Council just lifted sanctions on Iraq and gave the US and UK authority over the country until an elected government is in place. I guess Germany and France felt they would look even more stupid than they already do if they tried to keep the sanctions alive in order to get greater influence over post-war Iraq.
John Derbyshire says that the Jayson Balir scandal hasn't shocked him in the least, rather, he wonders why anyone takes newspapers as seriously as they do. I agree and would add that TV attractive, cue-card readers, er, journalists and anchors should be taken even less seriously.

So, at any rate, I have always believed. The Jayson Blair flap at the New York Times therefore left me neither shaken nor stirred. What do you expect from newspaper hacks? What surprised me about the whole thing was not that a smooth-talking charlatan should have risen so high in the Times's reporting hierarchy, but that so many of my fellow citizens apparently take the Times as absurdly seriously as it takes itself.

The journalists-are-scum assumption has a long pedigree in the land of my birth. It is almost as if, since show business became respectable, British journalists have inherited the old prejudices about the acting profession — "vagabonds and strumpets." When the London satirical magazine Private Eye, back in the 1960s, wanted to invent an archetypal denizen of Fleet Street, they named him Lunchtime O'Booze. Forty years earlier Humbert Wolfe had written:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God! The British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
Un-bribed, there's no occasion to.

As the late, great Michael Kelly wrote back in August, the typical reporter has no background in history, science, statistics, economics, etc... Their main qualification is the ability to write a halfway decent sentence.
Rumsfeld has an op-ed in todays WaPo explaining the need to overhaul the structure of the Defense Dept at all levels.

The threats we face today are notably different from that era. We learned on Sept. 11, 2001, that our nation is vulnerable to enemies who hide in the caves and shadows and strike in unexpected ways. That is why we must transform our armed forces. Our forces need to be flexible, light and agile, so they can respond quickly and deal with surprise. The same is true of the men and women who support them in the Department of Defense. They also need flexibility, so that they can move money, shift people, design and deploy new weapons more rapidly and respond to the continuing changes in our security environment.

Today we do not have that kind of agility. In an age -- the information age -- when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department is still bogged down in the bureaucratic processes of the industrial age.

Consider: we have more than 300,000 uniformed personnel doing jobs that should be done by civilians. That means that nearly three times the number of troops that were on the ground in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom are doing nonmilitary jobs that should be done by civilian personnel.
Arafat is sabotaging Abbas again. He just issued a Presidential decree taking the regional governors away from the authority of the Interior Ministry and placing them under his. Most of the governors are Arafat loyalists who were worried Abbas would fire them. As the late King Hussein of Jordan once said, ""Arafat never came to a bridge he didn't double-cross."

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Oh here is a great story. Eminem used to be tormented by a bully in elementary school who would beat him viciously, once even banging his head on a urinal. Guess what the bully's job currently is? Sanitation worker. Talk about poetic justice.
Richard Poe sees the roots of the current push toward a European superstate in the writings of Italian Fascist, Baron Julius Evola.

Evola lamented the fact that the fortunes of war had reduced Europe "from its role as a great subject in world politics" to a mere "object conditioned by foreign interests and influences." (1)

"Today Europe has to live between two superpowers struggling for control of the world (USA and USSR)," wrote Evola – a condition he likened to "slavery." (2)

Evola looked back fondly on the days when Hitler's Third Reich united Europe in a common cause. "Before 1945," he wrote, "we could at least witness the wonderful sight of the principle of a supernational European Army, and the legionary spirit of volunteers from many nations who, having been organized in several divisions, fought on the Eastern front against the Soviets; at that time the foundation was the Third Reich." (3)

Only through unification could Europe recover its former glory, said Evola. He prescribed the following steps – many of which will look eerily familiar to those who have followed the march toward European unification.
(via Sasha & Andrew)
Rachel has posted this dissenting opinion of Judge Kozinski in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Silveira v. Lockyer.

The majority falls prey to the delusion—popular in some circles—that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth—born of experience—is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people. Our own sorry history bears this out: Disarmament was the tool of choice for subjugating both slaves and free blacks in the South. In Florida, patrols searched blacks’ homes for weapons, confiscated those found and punished their owners without judicial process. [See Robert J. Cottrol & Raymond T. Diamond, The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration, 80 Geo. L.J. 309, 338 (1991)]. In the North, by contrast, blacks exercised their right to bear arms to defend against racial mob violence. As Chief Justice Taney well appreciated, the institution of slavery required a class of people who lacked the means to resist. [See Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 417 (1857) (finding black citizenship unthinkable because it would give blacks the right to “keep and carry arms wherever they went”)]. A revolt by Nat Turner and a few dozen other armed blacks could be put down without much difficulty; one by four million armed blacks would have meant big trouble.

All too many of the other great tragedies of history—Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few—were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. [See Kleinfeld Dissent at 5997-99.] If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed—where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.
Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten. Despite the panel’s mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The sheer ponderousness of the panel’s opinion—the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text—refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel’s labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it—and is just as likely to succeed.
John O'Sullivan examines the inverse relationship between education spending and education results.

In this case the charticle consisted of two lines. One line, beginning at the lower left hand corner of the chart and rising diagonally to the upper right hand corner, represented national spending on education.

The other line, beginning at the upper left hand corner and descending diagonally to the lower right hand corner, described falling standards of educational performance as represented by SAT scores, etc.

Together the two lines, intersecting in the middle of the chart, formed an elegant bow tie pattern. But the inelegant truth they revealed was that America's educational standards had not risen in line with rising expenditure on education--but had actually fallen.

Now, that was what the sociologists call a "counterintuitive" finding. After all, politicians constantly demand more spending on education--more schools, higher salaries for teachers, more books, special education programs, etc.--precisely in order to lift educational standards. Here was statistical evidence that higher spending was linked to worse schools.
(via C&S)
John Cole has a short guide so you can recognize censorship when you see it.

This is censorship:

Dozens of people walked out on pioneer TV talk-show host Phil Donahue, as he delivered a commencement speech at N.C. State on Saturday.

This is acting on principle:

About one in every eight graduates walked out of Sunday’s commencement at Saint Joseph’s University before the keynote address by Sen. Rick Santorum.

Follow the link for more.
I saw a very interesting experimental film last night. It is called "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary" which is a new film that is silent, black and white (though vampire blood and money both have color) which was performed as a ballet. And the sountrack consists solely of elements of Mahler's first and second symphonies. Definitely worth it if you are one of those in the small subset of moviegoers who is not turned off by neither black and white nor silence nor ballet nor quick cut shots (I can't imagine pitching this puppy to a large hollywood studio).
Juan Gato explains the difference between nuanced and black-and-white interpretations of events.
Slavoj Zizek has a very interesting essay in the London Review of Books on the ethics of biogenetic engineering.

The main consequence of the current breakthroughs in biogenetics is that natural organisms have become objects open to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is 'desubstantialised', deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called 'earth'. If biogenetics is able to reduce the human psyche to an object of manipulation, it is evidence of what Heidegger perceived as the 'danger' inherent in modern technology. By reducing a human being to a natural object whose properties can be altered, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right in Our Posthuman Future: the notion of humanity relies on the belief that we possess an inherited 'human nature', that we are born with an unfathomable dimension of ourselves.*
The prospect of biogenetic intervention opened up by increasing access to the human genome effectively emancipates humankind from the constraints of a finite species, from enslavement to the 'selfish gene'. Emancipation comes at a price, however. In a talk he gave in Marburg in 2001, Habermas repeated his warning against biogenetic manipulation. There are, as he sees it, two main threats. First, that such interventions will blur the borderline between the made and the spontaneous and thus affect the way we understand ourselves. For an adolescent to learn that his 'spontaneous' (say, aggressive or peaceful) disposition is the result of a deliberate external intervention into his genetic code will undermine the heart of his identity, putting paid to the notion that we develop our moral being through Bildung, the painful struggle to educate our natural dispositions. Ultimately, biogenetic intervention could render the idea of education meaningless. Second, such interventions will give rise to asymmetrical relations between those who are 'spontaneously' human and those whose characters have been manipulated: some individuals will be the privileged 'creators' of others.

It's a moderately long piece, but well worth reading.
Jordan Ellenberg says that a mathematician is not necessarily washed up by age 30. Along the way he gives a short overview of the Poincare Conjecture which 40 year old mathematician Grigori Perelman, claims to have proved.
Check out this line from Dowd's piece:

With the terrorist level at orange, and Al Qaeda replicating faster than the villainous Agent Smith in "The Matrix Reloaded"...

I just love this piece of idiocy. We have a few terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia and suddenly Al Qaeda is "replicating." Uhhh, hello, it's not like the suddenly appeared. Saudia Arabia has always been a hotspot for these people, and the vast majority of the hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi. I think that if they feel the only place they can have a terrorist attack that has any oomph is their home country where it is easiest is a sign that they are dying. How come they can't do anything in the US or Europe? Panicking about a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia is pretty much equivalent to the panic eminating from the New York Times over the first casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are just data points, not part of the general trend.
Some more End-of-Buffy tributes: E-Online, The Buffy Episode Guide and The
This weeks Carnival of the Vanities is up at Susanna's place.
Musical Interlude

It's too bad there were no takers for the concert last night. The Faure and Poulenc are both great pieces. The performances were not exceptional, though. They were good workmanlike performances but not extraordinary in any way. I thought the Poulenc was the better performed of the two. Carnegie was only about 3/4 full, which doesn't bode well for the future of live performances. I constantly see stories about local orchestras being forced to close down. In many ways I am largely indifferent myself. While there is a certain spark about hearing a piece performed live, it doesn't balance the advantages of recordings. On a recording I can listen to a great, inspiring performance. I can even listen to multiple great performances and compare subtle differences in tempi, dynamics, etc. I can do this with very good sound on a high quality stereo (frequently better than concert halls, Carnegie has particularly nice acoustics, but I still don't care for Avery Fisher very much), in a comfortable chair in my own house so I don't have to deal with crowds or cramped, uncomfortable seats, with a glass of my favorite scotch or cognac in hand. That's why I have 15000 recordings and I go to fewer and fewer concerts each year. When I do go to the trouble of getting my ass to a concert hall I try to hear premieres so that at least it is something that I cannot (at least for a few months anyway) hear on a recording. That said, there is something about live performances. While last nights was not inspiring, on Saturday we went to hear a performance of works by John Adams, who is one of my favorite contemporary composers. Adams conducted the London Sinfonietta, which has a long history with his music. The performances of Gnarly Buttons and Grand Pianola Music (one of my favorite Adams compositions) were superb, truly thrilling. It is for performances like that that I still drag myself to a concert hall a few times a year.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

From Curmudgeonly & Skeptical:

Last week the North American clone of the filthy Jaques Chirac, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, was heard saying that "Canada is a better country than the United States because we've got gun control, abortion rights and no death penalty." Yesterday I was listening to the replay of Fox News Sunday, on C-Span radio, when Tony Snow responded to the effect that "Chretian thinks Canada is superior because their killers aren't executed but their children are, and their citizens can't defend themselves."

Maybe Chretien has mad cow disease.
Apparently Saddam stole billions from the UN Oil for Food Program. Well we have always said that the UN is run by dictators. But in this case it is obviously run for dictators as well. Of course we are talking about an organization that was headed by a former member of the SS. With that in mind, nothing should surprise us.
Free Concert Tickets

I never thought it would be this difficult to give away free tickets, but I have exhausted friends and workmates and everyone has other plans. So now I offer to you, my loyal blog readers who live in NYC, two tickets to hear the Faure Requiem and the Poulenc Gloria tonight at Carnegie Hall. You will also have the pleasure of meeting my wife and me who will be sitting next to you. The tickets will go to the first person who sends me an email before 5:00PM tonight. We can then set up some way to meet to give you the tickets.

Update: Too late, sorry.
Adam Sparks wonders if Democrats are out of touch or just out of their minds.

Here are the top 10 reasons why many Democratic leaders are simply out of touch with America and why the Democratic Party may not soon reclaim the White House or Congress. In order to be a real Democrat, you have to believe that:

1. The most preventable disease, the AIDS virus, is caused by a lack of federal funding.
2. Social promotion in schools is good, and tests are either discriminatory or don't measure anything.
3. Global temperature changes are due not to cyclical, documented changes in Earth's climate but to too many yuppies driving SUVs.
4. Capital punishment is wrong but abortion on demand is the cat's meow.
5. Businesses are mean spirited and create oppression, and big governments are honest and create prosperity.
6. Hunters and farmers don't care about nature, but designer-suited environmental lawyers do.
7. We should change all our foreign policy to appease the terrorists to protect ourselves from their bombings.
8. Our taxes are too low, but ATM fees are too high.
9. Standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas and set-asides aren't.
10. Millions of illegal aliens are good for our economy, but the businesses that hire them are bad.
I know this has already been in a lot of places in the blogosphere, but in case you missed it, CNN committed fraud in one of their stories last week.
What Is Your Animal Personality?

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A horse is a horse of course of course....
Mark Steyn muses on the differences between Anglo-Saxon and European democracy.

In Canada, Britain and America, we're the heirs to so many centuries of peaceful constitutional evolution we find it hard to comprehend the thin ice on which European democracy skates. When we look back on the Seventies, it's Pierre Trudeau, Harold Wilson and Jimmy Carter, all of whom I could have done without. But they look pretty good compared to a stroll down memory lane in Portugal, Spain and Greece, where Seventies nostalgia means Salazar, Franco and the Colonels. In most of Europe, there simply is no tradition of sustained peaceful democratic evolution. After 215 years, the U.S. Constitution is not only older than the French, German, Italian, Belgian, Spanish and Greek constitutions, it's older than all of them put together. Whether the forthcoming European constitution will be the one that sticks remains to be seen, but I wouldn't bet on it. It's more likely the latest doomed big idea: Communism, Fascism, European Union, each wacky notion a response to the last dud.
You'd think that, if Europe were really serious about avoiding the horrors of the last century, they might learn from the most successful and enduring forms of democracy in the world -- the Anglo-American systems. Instead, these are precisely the forms the EU is most determined to avoid. The EU sees itself as the answer to the problem of Le Pen, Haider, Fortuyn et al. Le Pen, Haider and Co. see themselves as the answer to the problem of the EU. The correct answer is probably "Neither of the above", but, as usual, there'll be a lot of blood on the floor before they figure that one out.
What Is Your Animal Personality?

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I am not overly-critical, there are just too many idiots around.
Bill Whittle's latest essay is up. The title is Magic.

There’s a strange cloud that’s settled over our modern society. It’s a pervasive sort of bland contempt for an ingenious collection of lenses and mirrors that can reveal a giant ball of hydrogen, helium, methane and ammonia, billions of miles away, surrounded by untold millions of ice fragments in delicate orbit, yet one which will ascribe to the most banal unknown a life-changing, quit-your-insurance-job-and-live-in-a-tree status.

For our entire history, right up until a hundred years ago, the idea of flying carpets and magic lanterns held people’s imaginations in thrall. Now that we have everyday miracles like jet aircraft and electric lights, all some people want is to return to a time when the belief in magic was common but the everyday blessings of magic – telephones, computers, antibiotics – didn’t exist. Back in the anti-nuclear 80’s lots of folks drove around with SPLIT WOOD NOT ATOMS bumper stickers, and I often asked myself, how much wood have these people actually split? I’ve done an hour in my 20’s and I thought I was going to die.

It’s sad, frankly – at least to people like me. I find it terribly, tragically sad that the more successful and comfortable we become, the more people pine for a time when none of these everyday miracles existed. Outdoor bathrooms on January nights and miserable coal stoves that need to be tended hourly just to heat a pathetic half-gallon of tepid water need to be experienced to be believed – and not just in a 24 hour adventure, but continuously. Death, hunger, cold, disease, infant mortality – we have fought them tooth and nail for millennia, for what? Apparently in order to so insulate people that they can long for “ancient wisdom”, return to the “holistic tribal remedies” of the past, and hold up the most primitive and achingly poor cultures on earth as being the sole repository of “authenticity” while scorning every advance that they take completely for granted.

Magical thinking is everywhere today, and it is growing. It threatens the foundations of reason, individualism, science and objectivity that have delivered this success so well and for so long. It is dangerous. If we are to continue to thrive and progress, then we need to sharpen some sticks and drive a stake through the heart of this monster, and right quick.

Go read it all.
Frank J. offers the address he would make if he were president.

I know they're are many people out there out there who do not think much of America, many who think we are in fact a terrible, evil nation. I just want to make one thing clear to those people: we don't give a rat's ass.

Why should we listen to you? Your countries are all small and pathetic, and that's not our fault, that's yours. It not like we set out to be so much more rich and powerful than other countries, it's just we actually went the freedom and the capitalism route, the one that just "too scary" for others to try. And now we're the big dog - partially because of our own success and partially because all other nations are a bunch of dorks.

And we never said, "Hey let's be a superpower!" It was never our decision that all other countries be whiny and pathetic, but that's the cards we were dealt. Just feel luckily we took the mantle, fighting back evil and trying our best to keep the world in some order. Think if we disappeared and everything was left up to Europe, for God's sake. It would just be a matter of months until the world was nothing but a bunch of smoldering craters.

Still, it's much easier for everyone to hate us rather than dwell on their own incompetence, but don't think we're going to go out of our way to be liked. We'll give foreign aid as always, because, well, we're just too nice of guys to just watch everyone starve. And you people can spout off all your hatred of America while you eat the food we donated to you, and we'll still be back to feed you again. There is just one thing you have to keep in mind, though: if you ever act on that hatred and try to harm us, your worst visions of hell will pale in comparison to vengeance we will wreak upon you.
The Albert Einstein archive is now available online.

For Buffy fans, there is an interview with Joss Whedon in todays NYT.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Fred is in particularly fine form this week as he weighs in on affrimative action.

Another result of racial government is that blacks become—are—the focus of a widespread, federally suppressed contempt of which they are quite aware. The inevitable observation is that affirmative action is for losers. If you are good enough, you don’t need it; if you need it, you aren’t good enough. It’s that simple.

Whites know about the large degree of racial privilege dispensed by the universities. Blacks know they know. While some blacks gain, others lose. A black doctor who has earned his degrees will find himself avoided by white patients, not because he is black but because he may be a Bakke case.

Racial preferences inescapably imply inferiority: All blacks with degrees will be presumed to have been given them because of pigmentation. It isn’t fair. It is, however, reasonable, given that there is no safe way to check credentials or, having checked them, to act on the results. Might it not be better to hold blacks to normal standards and thus hold them in normal respect?

And doesn’t racial preference set blacks up for failure? Consider. Suppose that I, a shiny white blue-eyed devil without too much hair, scored reasonably well on the SATs. I would be accepted only at schools with reasonably good SATs, not by Yale. If I were black, Yale would affirmative-action me. I would then find myself over my head, competing against far better students. The professors might pass me because of racial compassion, or I might hide in Black Studies, but the other students would know what was happening. So would I.

Is this what we want?
There is an article about personal blogs in Sundays NYT.
The SEC is expected to fine Worldcom, according to some sources, as much as $500 million. Would someone explain the sense of this to me? I can understand fining or jailing the executives responsible, but what will fining Worldcom do except take even more money from the cheated shareholders? Let's see the logic involved: through various accounting trickery Worldcom cheated investors by misrepresenting the financial state of the company, so to correct this error the SEC is going to take additional money from the shareholders. By this logic police should kick assault victims while taking their statements.

Update: According to this more detailed WSJ article the 'fine' is going into a fund which will be used to pay back cheated investors. As Emily Litella would've said...Never mind. Although it still seems strange to me to take money from current shareholders to pay back past shareholders.