January 15, 2002

Via Boing Boing, a link to "The Internet's Only Fan-Site Dedicated to the Best Saturday Morning Cartoon Show That Ever Wasn't": The Adventures of L'il Bill and Hil and Friends. Remarkable.
Lauren Weedman is my favorite performer, a wonderful and hilarious talent who I was fortunate enough to see several times during my years in Seattle. She moved to New York a little before I moved back east, and is now gaining national attention for her work on The Daily Show. She'll be performing Homecoming, her show about her search for her biological mother, in New York through March 17, and it is highly recommended by The Donk.
Via Andrew Hofer's More Than Zero, a link to the site of Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, where he offers detailed responses to his numerous establishment critics. As Andrew says, it's a good read.
Odd but perhaps telling interlude about a country's nostalgia for happier days, in Nancy Dewolf Smith's Afghan Dispatch, in yesterday's Opinion Journal:

A country where the fruit hung so heavy on the trees, an old man once told me, that when it fell to the ground nobody bothered to pick it up, but people simply walked through carpets of mulberry slush, like the rest of us wade through mud or snow at certain times of year. A country where there was crime, to be sure, but where a kind-hearted king pardoned every convicted murderer except one, a case where the family of the victim refused to grant permission for a death sentence to be lifted.
These memories, gilded with nostalgia, sustained Afghans for so long.


Not to deny a troubled people their dreams, but it seems a golden age that included blanket pardons of convicted murderers, as well as the wasting of natural resources (not to mention the accompanying mess and odor) might not be the best foundation to build a future on.
This might just be some spin, but if the below is even slightly accurate it could have a bigger effect on candidate donations than any dozen campaign finance laws.

Bush team may have feared Enron aid.

by Marcy Gordon, Jan. 14, 2002 | WASHINGTON (AP)

The meltdown of Enron Corp. threatened broader financial problems, but administration officials chose to do nothing -- even after being reminded by Enron that the government intervened in 1998 to prevent the collapse of a big fund for wealthy investors.

Fears of a conflict of interest involving a big Bush donor may have led to the inaction, analysts suggest.

Because of Enron's heavy donations to President Bush's campaigns, administration officials "were tied at the hip to Enron," said Bill Allison, an official of the private Center for Public Integrity. That made it hard to help. "The appearance would have looked terrible," Allison said. "They felt that they couldn't act on behalf of Enron because of the political fallout."

January 14, 2002

Steven Den Beste has a good post about the Enron situation, moving past the non-developing political angles (the summary seems to be that Enron gave dozens of candidates donations, but when the time came for hoped-for payback in the form of a federal bailout or influence none was forthcoming) to focus on the real issue: the relationship between auditors and the corporations they work for:

But the biggest story is Arthur Andersen, the auditor in this case. How did such a long-standing pattern of "accounting irregularities" get past one of the so-called Big-5 accounting firms for so long? As a company, Andersen is history. It doesn't really matter whether they get sued out of existence because their reputation is irretrievably shattered. Any company which has Andersen as its official auditor will be changing to someone else as soon as possible. Without business, the company is finished.
The great character actor and comedian Larry Miller, who automatically makes any scene he’s in funnier, has a new regular column debuting today on The Weekly Standard site. He’s pretty late to the party so this one covers some fairly well-trod ground, but dammit, it’s Larry Miller!

January 12, 2002

Life after the boom, part 372. Poor Internet Advisory Corporation. One day you're riding high, livening up a dull company name by going public with the ticker symbol "PUNK," announcing high-falutin things like "We have entered into a new frontier with voice activated web sites." and "We will offer Web hosting solutions utilizing Cobalt Networks Linux-based server appliances." Less than three years later you're enacting a 1:50 reverse stock split, getting completely out of the tech field and trying to rebuild the company by acquiring a strip club.

Scores has established a reputation for providing a quality-assured environment that we feel will expand well into the markets we have targeted," said Internet Advisory Corp.'s chairman and chief executive, Richard Goldring in a release Thursday.

Somehow, though, I can't see strip clubs taking down their flashing "Topless!" neon signs and replacing them with "Quality-Assured Environment!" ones.
Housing Update. Barring any horrible developments, I will be moving to Jersey City on February 1, just in time for the city's only remaining daily newspaper to either go out of business or keep publishing as a shadow of its former self.

There is even less joy in the newsroom, where more than half the paper's reporters, photographers and editors will soon be updating their résumés. "It's like there's a big, fat dead elephant in the middle of the newsroom," said Sally Deering, 49, a scrappy, raspy-voiced columnist who writes in the same unvarnished way she speaks. "It feels like death warmed over."

I've never even read Deering and already I miss her. Well, at least I should have plenty of local material to write about. How could you not look forward to living in a city where a former mayor is described in an aside by the Times as "one of the few Jersey City mayors left untouched by scandal."
Haven't posted in days, but brain hurts....out late last night and very very tired....must stay awake to posssssszzzzzzz.......

January 10, 2002

Eliminate the Middleman. While Natalie Solent and Joanne Jacobs hash out a workable system of micropayments in order to compensate bloggers, Jeff Jarvis floats the idea of paying $100 for a premium Blogger service. My suggestion: Jeff should send Natalie and Joan $25 each and $50 to Blogger, saving somebody the trouble of developing that pesky micropayment program.

Hmm...I definitely seem to be posting more blog-related items lately. I know most readers have come to The Donk from different blogs and are familiar with many of them (and my friends are used to be being confused by me, anyway), but I think I need to make an effort to move away from this a bit.

To start.....MONKEYS!
Moving Update. Just back from from looking at a place in Jersey City, and if all goes well The Donk should have a new base of operations very soon. A big building of condos with an indoor pool and jacuzzi, an exercise room, and much, much more! I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
The Snarkiness Continues. Fresh off of vanquishing a score of targets, most recently those dastardly anti-circus activists, the current pattern of relentless Blogger A-List snottiness continues with Tim Blair’s Thursday post about an Australian Broadcasting Corporation current events roundtable. I was drawn to the post by Glenn Reynolds’ link stating that "Tim Blair outdoes himself with this one," and I can certainly concur.

The discussion is certainly worth either ripping apart or ignoring completely, filled with the standard assortment of above-it-all self-satisfied ruminations, with a few Australian references mixed in for good measure (the panel, as well as Blair, are all Australian, of course). Rather than pick apart a few choice bits of nonsense, Blair instead includes the entire, lengthy transcript, and then proceeds to insert heckling comebacks into the text, the columnists’ equivalent of drawing mustaches on campaign posters. And while there are one or two decent and relevant lines, for the most part Blair is content to offer up a personal insult or interject some nonsense:

MAXINE McKEW: Well, I was just going to say, aren't you putting a lot on one man? I mean, why do we only look for leadership from the political class?

LINDA JAIVIN: I think, you know, Australians never look to cultural figures for leadership. You know, we look to sports figures for leadership.

TIM BLAIR: Linda, given the quality of cultural figures around this table, it'd be more sensible if we looked to sports equipment for leadership.

MARION HALLIGAN: We don't look to articulate people for leadership but I suppose we are thinking of this because we've just had an election where I think there was no vision, there was no imagination and I felt it was a very low point, that there was no sense of any ideas, let alone ideals.

TIM BLAIR: (whispering) Marion, take your hand off my knee!


And so on. Here’s another example, with my addition.

MARION HALLIGAN: In a way, we are them, aren't we? I mean, my grandfather was a boat person. My great-great-grandfather was a boat person of a kind.

LINDA JAIVIN: I'm a migrant.

TIM BLAIR: I'm a moon alien.

KEN GOLDSTEIN: Hey Tim, you’re ugly and your feet stink! And yer mudder wears combat boots! Nyah!


I mean, sure this is fun to do, but it’s certainly not fair or insightful and barely even counts as commentary.

If I’ve been writing more blog-related items lately, it’s because I’m becoming disappointed by attitude shifts I’ve seen the last few weeks in some of my favorites. I’ve recommended several of the big sites lately to friends, and the response I’ve been getting is that while the form is promising and some of the information is valuable, much of it is wrapped in a self-congratulatory tone that leaves a bad taste in their mouths. In any case, the reaction is certainly a lot different than when I was reading and forwarding these same sites a month or two ago.

Of course, the attitude is a big part of what makes the form so valuable and readable, but lately I've read too much writing from people utterly convinced of their rightness, flush with the knowledge that their readers would readily agree and applaud. It's attitudes like that which turned me off to most other forms of news and commentary. Though my comments only refer to a small percentage of what I'm reading, that small percentage goes a long way.

January 09, 2002

Is it too early for Internet nostalgia? The dancing baby! I Kiss You! Treeloot! And, of course, The Hampsterdance. I remember the fateful day when I first heard the Hampsterdance song. My friend Mike at work had discovered it, and for months hardly an hour went by when somebody didn't cue up that fine site to the delight of all. Dan at Happy Fun Pundit also remembers. Would that there were more like him.
The Wilson Quarterly is a great little history journal filled with a ton of interesting articles and essays. I've listed a few below, but I've only begun to work my way through the extensive online archives.

"The Lost Promise of the American Railroad" The potential and ultimate abandonment of the streamline train in the United States.

"The Selling of the KGB" A deeper look at the wave of Soviet espionage literature arising from the KGB archives.

"The Dust Bowl Myth" The reality and myths of the Depression.

"The Forgotten Forerunner" An overdue study of William Jennings Bryan, a political pioneer.
The cover-up continues.
Apparently, when Bush said "reduction" he meant "take from left pocket and put in right." This is a disappointing development, especially for those of us who used the nuclear reduction agreement as argument fodder during the ABM treaty debate. Boy, that new era of strong relations with Russia sure lasted a long time, didn't it?

Some weapons would be stored, not destroyed.

By Walter Pincus, THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 — The Bush administration told Congress yesterday that many of the warheads, bombs and intercontinental missiles involved in the president’s promised two-thirds reduction of deployed strategic nuclear forces over the next 10 years would be kept in reserve under its new strategic policy, according to congressional sources.

January 08, 2002

Blog Watch III: Your Guide to What I'm Saying, Here. Not satisfied by Blog Watch I or Blog Watch II? Introducing Blog Watch III, exclusively devoted to recapping what's happening here at The Illuminated Donkey!

The Illuminated Donkey: Pieces about sports and Star Wars geeks, as well as the rash of "Pundit" blogs. There's a big honking piece about the whole circus thread, and now I want to go to sleep.
FOUND Magazine, the repository for life's missing pieces. This site reminds me of the great batch of 1950's love letters I found out by the curb in NYC a few years back. The letters were filled with period details like her disappointment at Eisenhower's victory and her raves for great new things like Pogo and Scrabble. I need to transcribe these some day.
Ozzie Smith was the only player elected by the BBWAA this year to the Hall Of Fame, with Gary Carter missing by 11 votes (one for each of his All-Star Game appearances). Ozzie Smith is definitely a deserving choice, of course for his defense, and also for his better-than-you-remember hitting (at least from 1985 onward). The Hall of Fame elections are kind of a big deal around the Goldstein house, as my dad and I collect autographs (with an emphasis of HOFers), and I plan to make it up to Cooperstown again this year for Induction Weekend (it's huge amount of fun). The Carter miss was especially disappointing to me, as I've always liked him and was sure he'd have gotten in by now. With a B-List group of first-timers coming up next year (Eddie Murray, Ryne Sandberg, and Lee Smith are the best bets), it's looking good for Carter in 2003, though that year-long wait must be a killer.

Some notes on the balloting (besides the fact that I'm now officially old, since there are now HOFers whose entire careers I witnessed):

Steve Garvey and Dale Murphy, both considered by many to be sure HOFers during their playing days, are earning little respect, with 28% and 15% respectively (75% needed for election).

Speaking of Murphy, is the consensus really that Jim Rice was that much better a player? Rice received over 55% and will probably get in within a couple of years. Though I always thought the two had an equally decent chance at election, I guess Murphy's almost instantaneous collapse at the end of his career has stuck in voters' minds, as opposed to the two MVP's.

One player who should be getting more support is Bert Blyleven (third all-time in K's, 287 wins, 3.31 career ERA), a damn good pitcher for some bad teams.

Very disappointing to see Lenny Dykstra only get one vote (hell, Mike Greenwell got two!). I know he isn't anywhere near the HOF, but he was one of my favorite players back in his Phillies days, and was hoping he'd at least stay on the ballot for a year or two.

Here's Rob Neyer's take on the voting, as well as the very unofficial Baseball Prospectus voting.
Has this ever happened to you? You're hanging out with a new group of people, maybe you met one or two of them through work or school, and you've been invited to hang out with the whole crowd. So you're at their house, drinking a beer or two, shooting the breeze, having a fine old time, when all of a sudden somebody stands up and says, "Okay, who wanted heroin and who wanted meth?" or "Ken, I understand you haven't yet been introduced to your personal savior," or "Good, I see everybody's brought somebody new to hear about the wonders of Amway."

So anyway, that's how I've felt the last day reading the latest target of blogger whack-a-mole: animal rights activists, an instigated by Collin Levey's Opinion Journal piece, "Anticircus Freaks."  Fresh off the latest attacks of Cornell West and Stephanie Salter, the blog-mob saw fresh blood, so to speak, in PETA and other assorted groups, and moved in for the kill.  While I have no love for the animal-rights movement, the gloating, yay-meat attitude and vindictive response elicited by the slanted article has left me a little cold.

Levey's article portrays Ringling Brothers as the poor, besieged little group bravely going about their job of entertaining America despite unwarranted harassment from vicious and vengeful animal-rights groups.  Until now, that is, since they can't stand no more, and they've begun taking on the groups with a series of full-page newspaper ads.   In truth, Ringling Brothers' behavior has been far from stoic, with tactics that have gone far beyond simple PR campaigns.  The Salon story "The Greatest Vendetta on Earth" details the company's owner's obsession with surveillance and revenge, and the eight-year campaign to ruin an author who had reported critically about the organization and its owners.  (Thanks to Justin Slotman for reminding me about this article

The company didn't only spy on nosy journalists, however.  Keep in mind, Levey has earlier said that "Ringling Brothers is not easily provoked" and that the company saw dealing with animal-rights groups and the "subsequent
public-relations skirmishes as just another cost of doing business in the modern world."

"The fun doesn't stop there. […] In another amusing twist, PETA filed a lawsuit this summer accusing Ringling Bros. of espionage, after the company hired the CIA's Reagan-era special-ops director to infiltrate PETA with moles to find out about future activities."

Imagine those "screeching," "snarling" activists, being so ridiculous to accuse Ringling Brothers of espionage when all the company did was sic A FREAKING FORMER SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR OF THE CI-FREAKING-A on them!  What a silly little prank!

As for the abuse charges, while there's no point in me trying to summarize reams of data and arguments in this forum, I'll just say that what I've seen makes me unable to dismiss the complaints out of hand, as opposed to Mr. Levey, whose article reads like it came straight from the Ringling Brothers PR department.  Unfortunately, little of what I read has bothered to make any sort of argument or address any issues, but has simply been used as an opportunity to pile on the lefties. I had hoped for a bit more from the crowd besides the assorted knee-jerk victory dances from the past few days.

January 07, 2002

Direct from my old stomping grounds, it's the Seattle Star Wars Society, the homepage of two men who have lined up over four months in advance for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Now, you're probably thinking: two geeks with nothing better to do than sit outside a movie theater for 136 days waiting for the sequel to a movie that practically nobody liked. But wait, it's actually an art project about two geeks with nothing better to do than sit outside a movie theater for 136 days waiting for the sequel to a movie that practically nobody liked:

"Waiting for Star Wars is an art project designed to capture the evolution and journey of one person's wait for a single event. [...] This project also explores the issue of the pursuit of happiness. It asks how much will a person sacrifice for a temporary acquisition, and questions whether a person can be happy with just food and shelter in pursuit of that acquisition. [...] Finally, as we move into the next millennium, I wonder if our fast-paced society has become unwilling to slow down and wait for the things that bring us the greatest joy. This wait will test my mettle as I attempt to do just that."

The most boring video footage in history will be available at www.waitingforstarwars.com.

As a side note, my favorite line in the ABC News article I linked to is, "They were unavailable for comment." Two guys are sitting outside a movie theater for four months and they're unavailable for comment?

How does IlluminatedDonkeyPundit sound? Traversing the blogging world lately has reminded me a lot of Battle Creek, Michigan at the turn of the 20th Century, dramatized recently in the book and movie The Road to Wellville. Dozens of cereal manufacturers found their way to Battle Creek trying to find their fortune in corn flakes, including brothers and bitter rivals John Harvey Kellogg and William Keith Kellogg.

What does this have to do with blogging, you may ask. Well, during the course of my reading today I scanned InstaPundit, QuasiPundit, Muslimpundit, SmarterPundit, HappyFunPundit, and starting today, DailyPundit (formerly The Blogical Suspects).

The Blogical Suspects, an Illuminated Donkey Best Bet, officially changed its name today (though the link won't change until next week), due to a general regret at picking "a pun of painful dimensions" for a name, and just in case The Wall Street Journal should happen to call. Hey, William, I received a semi-respectable media mention that mentioned my silly blog name, so it's an obstacle that can be overcome (though this site does abbreviate to ID as opposed to BS).
Um, that's why they play the games, Lee. Just got to a oddly unsporting sports column posted on The Weekly Standard site last Thursday, going over the college football BCS vs. playoff system controversy. Lee Bockhorn makes the usual anti-BCS arguments before discussing the obstacles to a playoff system. Again, some familiar points, before this strange paragraph:

"And for all their virtues, playoffs aren't perfect either. Many people argue that playoffs reward teams "that are playing the best right now," as Colorado was before Tuesday night. But rewarding teams who luck into getting hot at season's end (instead of excelling consistently over the whole season) can also lead to ridiculous outcomes. Recall the 2000 NCAA basketball tournament, when a moderately good Wisconsin squad got on a hot streak...and made it all the way to the Final Four. Was Wisconsin really one of the top 4 teams in college basketball that year--or even one of the top 8 or 16? No way."

Apart from the fact I've never heard anybody talk about teams getting hot at playoff time (or "lucking into getting hot") as an argument against the playoffs themselves, I guess Bockhorn's point is that playoffs would be a perfect system if only those darn underdogs wouldn't keep mucking things up by winning when they weren't supposed to.
It's snowing in Central Jersey, really hard now. Those readers from, say, Buffalo or Atlanta will have to excuse me my excitement, but it's the first real snow of the season here. Whooo!!!

January 06, 2002

A New Jersey Commuter's Choice. Hmm...should I drive to work and use an E-ZPass automatic toll system that may accrue a deficit as high as $300 million by 2008, or take NJ Transit buses and trains, which just raised fares by an average of 10% and attempted to eliminate off-peak discounts to nearly double some fares. I think I'll go with the one with the better stereo system.
We have a winner! Almost three months ago, back in the days before I had readers I didn't know personally, I ran a dumb contest that was essentially a desperate cry for mail, essentially saying that the first person to write to me would get a random prize. Well, while I have received some e-mails over the past few weeks, I finally received a letter from some brave soul who had journeyed through the dark lands of archives and found that long-ago post. So congratulations to a certain Mr. Blodgett, and keep checking your mailbox for your fabulous prize!
Just watched Michael Strahan break Mark Gastineau's sack record, on a play where Brett Favre basically wandered around for a few seconds and fell down so Strahan could get the "sack." It brought to mind nothing more than the King of the Hill episode "Bills Are Made to be Broken," where Arlen's cross-town football rival allows the injured Ricky Suggs to limp into the end zone untouched to break the hapless Bill's school touchdown record, as Bill stood by in shock. I know Strahan's well-liked and all, as opposed to the strike-breaking, repeat offender Gastineau, but frankly, this sort of thing annoys me and cheapens the record, though nobody on the field seemed to care.
The Law of Unexpected Consequences in action, as a partial explanation for shifts in my political views of late.  The first in a series.

  • Countries which make it more difficult to fire workers tend to have higher unemployment rates, since companies are far more hesitant to hire workers they know they will not be able to let go.  Here and here.

  • Attempts to make AIDS treatments more readily available in poorer countries by weakening patent protection have resulted in the lowest level of anti-retroviral development research in ten years, ending years of increasing research and success, without any notable improvements in helping people.  Here, from Tech Central Station.

  • Strict rent control laws may have the ultimate effect of reducing available affordable housing.  Here and here.

  • Speaking of Jersey Pride, I'm currently looking for a new apartment in the NY Metro area, maybe in Jersey City. Perhaps with a roommate, perhaps on my own. Any situations are welcome to contact me at kengoldstein@hotmail.com.

    January 05, 2002

    Jersey Pride. 225 years ago this weekend George Washington began his winter encampment in Morristown, New Jersey, following the "Ten Crucial Days" that were the turning point of the American Revolution. Beginning with the Christmas Day Delaware River crossing and continuing through the victories at Trenton and Princeton, a retreating Continental Army on the verge of defeat, demoralization, and desertion was newly invigorated and on a course towards independence.
    Everything changed forever, and then changed right back.

    In case you're wondering when exactly everything will once again be like it was, the FBI has named March 11 as the official date:

    U.S. to remain on high alert till March 11
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has called on law enforcement personnel across the nation to remain vigilant against domestic terrorism until March 11, extending a standing alert through the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

    So apparently as of March 12, law enforcement officials will no longer have to be vigilant against terrorist acts. Whew! That's a relief!

    Other signs of the complete reversion (Project 9/10): Zacarias Moussaoui wants trial shown on TV and brittle Secret Service agents claiming discrimination, making life even more difficult for the Job-like American Airlines.

    Great show of support by Bush there, by the way. Three freaking days earlier Richard Reid tries to blow up an American Airlines flight, and Bush basically hangs AA out to dry for the horrible crime of making a suspicious passenger take a later flight, saying he stands by his agent and would be "madder than heck" if it turns out the agent's ethnicity played any part in the incident. Nothing like adding the fear of frivolous anti-discrimination lawsuits to the mix to really improve airline security. The fact that a man who is supposed to put the protection of the President above even his own life is doing this is an absolute disgrace.
    Great moments in ad placement. Driving home from work today, listening to Opie and Anthony (NY-based syndicated shock-jocks), when a commercial comes on, spoken over lilting piano music by a very sensitive-sounding man:

    "In 776 B.C., the Greek states of Elis and Pisa were at war. This was not unusual by any means. What was unusual was this: In honour of the forthcoming Olympic games, both sides agreed to lay down their arms and allow participants to pass through enemy territory unharmed. This became a tradition, and in over 1,000 years of ancient Olympic competition, this sacred truce, known as the ekcheiria, was never violated. We invite the countries of the world to embrace this ancient tradition once more by suspending all hostilities during the Olympic games. If we can stop fighting for 16 days, maybe we can do it forever. The Olympics."

    The reasons this type of plea is misguided were covered fairly well back during the pre-Ramadan period. The war against terrorism isn't some random whim of ours, but and attempt to find and stop people who are trying to kill us. Besides, this is the Winter Olympics we're talking about here; I kind of doubt that Al Qaeda, not to mention India, Pakistan, Israel, and the Palestinians, are going to stop whatever they're doing in order to watch some Swedish guy can go sledding down a hill.

    But anyway, back to the terrible ad placement: to give you a little background, in between making fun of the stupid and putting naked teens on the air, Opie and Anthony have been loudly and consistently in support of the military action since the beginning, as have most of their guests and on-air callers. So when this Olympic ad was played it was greeted with complete dismissal and derision, and the next half-hour was spent bashing it from every angle. Rather heartening, really.
    Why am I up so late? A rather sustained blast of excellence on cable: Trainspotting followed by Body Heat. Everything's starting to collapse on William Hurt now, and the first few drops of that realization are seeping through his thick skull.

    January 03, 2002

    Good column by Jonah Goldberg at NRO, asking if mutual understanding is the key to peace, then why have many of history's most brutal conflicts been between groups with comparatively slight cultural differences (just recently: Serbs and Croats, Pakistan and India, Iran and Iraq, Hutus and Tutsis, Irish and British, etc.).
    Regarding the threatening but harmless letter received by Daschle's office, I wish I had the transcript from this afternoon's press conference outside the Capitol building. The television in the pizza place where my department ate lunch was turned to CNN, and for about a half-hour I got to hear some FBI official repeatedly explain that the letter tested negative for any poisonous substance, while an increasingly desperate press corps kept trying to get him to say that it was possible that at one point the letter may have possibly contined....something. Basically it was 50 versions of the same question followed by 50 versions of the same answer, the cable news version of variations on a theme.
    3:30 to go in the first half, Miami is up 34-0 Boy, there's something just so completely....pure about an utter demolition like the one I'm half-watching right now (I'm flipping back-and-forth between the game and Office Space on Comedy Central). The game resembles nothing so much as one of those first-week-of-the-season games where Nebraska schedules some patsy like the Southwest Kansas Teaching College for the Blind and Clumsy to get the season off to a roaring 73-0 start. The Nebraska players barely look like they've ever seen a football before, and they definitely don't look like they belong on the same field as Miami.

    Of course, that's what pretty much everybody was saying before the game even started, since Nebraska finished fourth in both the writers' and coaches' polls, but finished second in the BCS standings, the only poll that counts. No matter what happened tonight it wouldn't have stopped the grumbling about the BCS, but a dull disaster like tonight might be the impetus for some sort of brief playoff system. Hell, when the network announcers start questioning the system at halftime, you know something ain't right.

    January 02, 2002

    I am French, no? Courtesy of Protein Wisdom, a link to the Washington Times article "Euro Gets Lukewarm Welcome," filled with snotty French people! My favorite part: A waiter threw up his hands when a reporter asked for his check, listed in francs, to be converted to euros. "Ooh la la," he said. "You actually want to pay in euros. I am sad. I'll have to work it out." The waiter did not return. Okay, do you think the waiter actually said "Ooh la la" or was reporter Paul Martin perhaps just exacting a little revenge?
    To follow up on my earlier story "No Hunger-Related Deaths," Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Programme, has announced, "There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter. There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition this summer before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale." Check out this Washington Post article for more information regarding relief efforts.
    Blogging about bloggers blogging about bloggers. In what Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit calls "the beginning of an infinite regress," Joshua Bittker's SmarterPundit began publication today with a fury of posts (Dude, pace yourself, trust me). The site's motto is "analyzing the analysts," an absolutely brilliant idea which ensures that dozens of bloggers just like me will be checking the site thrice daily looking for links and mentions. Damn, I should have thought of that.

    Now, that being said, I need to take issue with the point he makes in his first post, giving the reason behind his starting SmarterPundit. Bittker takes issue with the widely discussed idea that blogging has changed the composition of the media, giving the "outsiders" a voice. Bittker's argument is that since most, if not all of the "major" bloggers (a narrowly defined group of about eight or so blogs) are also published regularly in more widely seen publications, then these outsiders are really insiders, leaving the true voice of blogging to outsiders such as himself. From this point he deduces that "the reason the above are all well read is because of their other writings," while at the same time (in the same sentence, even) stating that he came across the big blogs through Slate's Mezine Central roundup.

    Now, it's true that many bloggers also have regular paid writing gigs, but even if you focus on only the most-read ones it's highly unlikely that they obtained most of their readers from these other writings. Certainly Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan would probably fall into this category, but I hadn't heard of Glenn Reynolds, Josh Marshall, or Virginia Postrel -- at least not more than a passing reference or an article -- before I came across their sites through links on Slate or other sites. It's the same kind of reasoning found in indie rock (I'm waiting to hear the first cry of "sellout" thrown at a blogger), that once more than a handful of people start reading a site it can no longer be considered "outsider," and falls into the same category as The New York Times and the network news reports A definite change has taken place in the media world over the past few months, and if some sites become popular and influential this seems like proof of the change, rather than proof that nothing has changed.

    I keep referring to Bittker's focus on the major bloggers, which brings up the other thing I find a little odd about the site. For somebody who's starting a blog about blogs, he doesn't seem to have much curiosity about them outside of the A-list. InstaPundit, for example yet again, has links to about two-dozen sites, including great ones such as U.S.S. Clueless and Matt Welch's Warblog, yet he had never gotten around to checking out, say, the excellent and fairly well-known (at least around these parts) QuasiPundit until they mentioned him. It's sort of self-fulfilling that blogs will seem to be a new form of insider media if you only read the most popular ones.

    Ah well, more power to him. Bastard's probably already gotten more hits and mail than me...
    And we're back! It's been a long time between posts here at the Donk, but I hope to be back at full posting strength within a few minutes. New Year's Eve was spent in historic Philadelphia with Rachel and my friend Keith at the home of friends of Geoff and Shannon Dimasi (whose wedding was a highlight of 2001), followed by some much-needed crashing at the home of my sister's boyfriend Pat. Shannon's spanakopitas were delicious, the beer was cold and tasty, and, most importantly, Rachel looked absolutely stunning in a backless number. I'm a lucky guy.

    Now, the more observant and Northeastern among you will have already said, "Wait a minute! New Year's Day?! Philadelphia?! Drunken 50-year-old Irish guys wearing harlequin costumes with feather-covered angel wings?! That can only mean one thing: MUMMERS!" Yes, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, a New Year's tradition for over 100 breathtakingly strange years. The Mummers Parade, an event that's huge inside Philadelphia and almost virtually unknown outside, lasts over 12 hours and involves groups competing in a dizzyingly complex variety of categories, pretty much all of which seem to involve the aforementioned drunk 50-year-old Irish guys wearing feathers. We didn't actually see any of the parade proper (at least not live, though we did catch some of the wall-to-wall local coverage), but we ate at a diner near the parade route end, so we were able to see some of the aftermath. Ah, nothing gets me ready for eggs benedict like a smashed, overall made-up fat guy doing the two step down the middle of a busy street.

    As an amusing side note, the worst beating I ever saw a guy get was at the other New Year's Day I spent in Philly, back in 1996. The Eagles had just destroyed the Lions in the Wild Card and were getting ready for a big game against the Cowboys (which they would lose 30-11). Geoff, Shannon, and I were watching the parade when I noticed the extremely bizarre sight of some guy wearing a Cowboys jersey in Philadelphia. I turned to notify Geoff, so that he may have a story to tell his grandkids, but by the time we turned back the man was invisible beneath a sea of fists and boots, all wielded by men wearing Eagles green. There's a lesson there, folks.

    December 30, 2001

    Happy New Year!

    This will be my last IllDonk posting of 2001, so I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank the many great writers I've been introduced to this year, the readers who have stopped by to see what I had to say, and the folks who dropped me a line to compliment or complain.  I'm looking forward to a lot more of this next year, hopefully during a 2002 that's better for everybody.  A lot has gone right for me in 2001.  I'm still with Rachel, with hopes for a bright future.  My mother is doing as well as we could hope for at this point.  I've celebrated friends' and family's births, marriages, and engagements.  I'm healthy, happy, and employed.  Life could be a lot worse.

    I'd like to close out the year with a moment that's been much on my mind these past few days, as I've thought about what I'll bring with me from 2001.  On September 11, at around 12:40 in the afternoon, I received a phone call from one of my favorite people in the world, my old Seattle roommate.  We had spent the last few hours desperately trying to track down one of our closest friends, who worked on the 90th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers.  We were calling everybody we knew who might know anything, running through every possibility for her safety.  Nobody who lived through those hours will ever forget the incredibly nightmarish confusion, fear, chaos, and uncertainty.  Finally, at 12:40, my old roommate got a phone call from her, and he called me soon after.  She was safe, and back home in Brooklyn.  It might be the most wonderful call I've ever received. 

    Tonight, I plan to remember that moment, and say a prayer for the people who never got that call.  In 2002 and beyond, let's continue to do everything we can to make sure that we never again have another day like that. 

    December 29, 2001

    There is a growing consensus among bloggers that Rand Simberg’s scathing and hilarious takedown, "Media Casualties Mount As War Success Continues," is the “Best Blog Post of 2001,” or at least a final nominee. It's definitely great (go read it now if somehow you've missed it), but what's really amazing is that it's just one of probably hundreds of intelligent, insightful, brilliant, hilarious, and/or downright stunning articles I've read over the past few months, all courtesy of the rapidly rising number of bloggers out there. Well, that's not really accurate, since many of the writers who I now read every day have been writing great stuff for years, but the difference is that it's now been made known and readily available to me and tens of thousands like me.

    Last night I had a conversation where it occurred to me just how completely and permanently my news-gathering habits have changed over the past few months. I find it difficult to watch network news or read the big newspapers, and certainly don't expect too much more from them besides surface information or straight video. Obviously the events since September 11 have been the catalysts for growth, but the effects and benefits of the revolution will be felt for many years. Where can I learn more about Second Amendment issues, for example: by listening to another ten-minute facile Sunday morning roundtable discussion or by reading the detailed back-and-forth between the team at Libertarian Samizdata and Brian Linse? Hell, I subscribe to about a dozen magazines, and most of them don't produce as much interesting content in a whole year as Steven Den Beste does every single day (The Economist excluded, of course). I can go on for hours like this, but I'd rather just get back to reading some more, and working on my own little addition to the world of content.

    Anyway, since this might be my last big posting of 2001, I thought I'd take a few moments to expand on Glenn's throwaway line about "The Best Blog Post of 2001" and add a few more nominees for this prestigious and just-invented honor (though my list will probably be more accurately categorized as The Best Blog Posts of the Last Few Months of 2001, since that's when I've been reading them regularly). Here are a few to get started; I'll add more as they're suggested. And remember, there are no losers here; everybody's a winner just for posting.

    To get us started, Two Ships Passing in the Media Night, featuring Matt Welch’s much-more-insightful-than-mine comments on the public’s views on media and academia since September 11, with help from Glenn Reynolds’ Fox News article, The Academy Encounters the Real World.. As a representative slice of the devastating Straw Man parsing that he does so well, I present this destruction of Barbara Kingsolver, though there are about a dozen other worthy destructions I could have linked to.

    James Lileks has written a number of terrific pieces over the past few months, but I especially admired his Friday Bleats/Rants on November 9 and November 16, from before he got sick.

    Steven Den Beste writes at least two or three great pieces every day it seems, but I'll just link to two: Endgame: Why was the US experience in Afghanistan so much different than that the USSR? and Cultural relativism is chauvinistic.

    Ken Layne wrote a piece I liked a great deal about...well, pretty much everything, it seems.

    Will WIlkinson's Fly Bottle had some interesting pieces regarding the cloning debate.

    A succinct Fevered Rant from Alex del Castillo about Know Noth-- I mean Buy Nothing Day.

    There's a number of Moira Breen posts from her Inappropriate Response blog that I could link to, but the barely restrained fury of her Qala-I Janghi, Again post has stuck with me.

    I'll try and work on this a bit more before the end of the year, but I need to get up early tomorrow to head down to the Princeton area for the day's Revolutionary War Reenactment. It seems like a good way to finish out this year.
    Fine, I'm a nitpicky pain in the ass, but I couldn't help but think that the idea at the heart of the current blogger war -- namely, that passengers be forced to fly naked for increased airline security -- sounded a little familiar. Who originated the idea? Was it the excellent Jeff Jarvis, as he so increasingly desperately insists? Was it the also-excellent Ken Layne, as credited by Natalie Solent and Mark Steyn? It sure as hell wasn't Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, that thieving bastard. Who could it be?

    I could swear that I first heard the "Fly Naked" idea presented by the um...excellent Stephen Colbert of the Daily Show way back in early November. The only hard evidence I've been able to find so far is this message board posting:

    Posted: 2001-11-08 14:43
    "Passengers are allowed to carry their ID, cash, and credit cards in their pockets. No wallets, purses, or carryons aside from a paperback."
    This is like the idea of Stephen Colbert of The Daily Show:
    No luggage, no carry-ons, no CLOTHES!
    HA-Try to sneak a box cutter on board now!!


    I can't be the only one out there to remember this, can I?

    I did find some harder evidence: a link to this cartoon, which was presented on the Comedy Central message board as having ripped off Colbert's idea. I'm certainly not accusing anybody of anything -- just suggesting that this idea goes back a bit beyond the Shoe Bomber.

    December 28, 2001

    Won’t somebody please think of the parents! It’s good to know that no matter what you do in this world, there will always be at least one person who will stick up for you. I’ve compiled a holiday sampler of parental comments and denials from the past few months:

    "I believe the evidence against him is not solid. I don't believe that he did the terrible deeds they say he did." Alia Ghanem, Osama bin Laden's mother.

    "He would never accept to kill innocent people. He has nothing to do with flying — he's an architect who was studying town planning." Mohammed Atta’s father.

    "I'm proud of John. He's a really good boy. A really sweet boy." Frank Lindh, Johnny Walker’s father.

    "I don't know what's in the file or in this case. My son tells me he is not guilty. He has told me he has proof that he did nothing and that at the appropriate time he will show that proof." Aicha el-Wafi, the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first man indicted in the September terrorist attacks.

    "My son is a determined boy and I can imagine him being determined enough to blow himself to bits. But I just can’t believe that he would want to hurt anyone else in doing it unless, that is, he has been brainwashed.” Robin Colvin Reid, Richard Reid’s father.

    December 26, 2001

    Star Scam. Wired.com is running a story about one of my favorite semi-scams: The International Star Registry. As you may know, the ISR sells “naming rights” to stars for a sizable fee, for which buyers receive a parchment certificate (custom framing available) and a booklet with a map of the stars, with the newly personalized star circled in red. Of course, the big selling point is (as I’ve heard on the radio countless times this holiday season) is that this personalized star will be published in a book, and that book will be registered with the United States Government in the Library of Congress! Of course, the list never gets near the International Astronomical Union, the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies (the FAQ I link to is definitely worth a look), meaning that the ISR basically has the power to write names in a book. (The Straight Dope did their usual effective takedown on the ISR a few years ago.)

    Now, you would think that with this dubious pedigree an organization supposedly devoted to “quality programs and education services” would have nothing to do with it. However, I’m sorry to say that not only has PBS apparently accepted over $100,000 in donations from ISR (a fact trumpeted on the ISR site), but PBS returns the favor and gives ISR legitimacy by placing several links to ISR on the pbs.org site, as a featured merchant. I know that a non-profit takes its money where it can find it, but to accept it from an organization that essentially does nothing more than take advantage of people's interest in and ignorance of science and astronomy seems pretty low.

    My Embarrassing State, Part 143. Due to a strange and ridiculous quirk in the state laws, New Jersey is going to have two interim Governors between the outgoing Donald T. DiFrancesco and the incoming Jim McGreevey, meaning that during a nine-day period next month there will be four different Governors. The truly embarrassing thing is that Senate Republican leader John Bennett and Democratic leader Richard Codey both seem to be taking their appointments seriously, with each planning swearing-in ceremonies and State of the State speeches.
    As I come up on ten years since I graduated from college, there are still a few classes and professors that have stayed with me, having taught me at least one valuable lesson about writing, literature, or life in general. Alan Michael Parker taught me a few things about dramatic structure and cliché avoidance in his Creative Writing class, but more importantly he taught me a lesson about audience.

    It was a small class, about 15 students, and when the time came to discuss and critique your story you were not allowed to say a single word or utter one sound. It could be torture, sitting there in silence while the class went on, theorizing about your beliefs and intentions, knowing that you could set the matter straight with just a few words. I distinctly remember seeing one classmate, who could only sit there helplessly, practically cry out in pain as we dissected (incorrectly, in his eyes) his work. The lesson was that when we write we have exactly one chance to tell our story. Whatever message the reader receives is the result of the words we put down on the page, and only that.

    Anyway, I keep forcing myself to remember this as I read through the Metafilter comments about my AWCA story below. Torture, I tells ya.

    We are live again, thank ye gods!

    December 25, 2001

    Merry Chri---I mean Happy Holidays, Mr. Goldstein! It's a cold, sunny Christmas day here in New Jersey, and when I finish this I'll be heading up north to take Rachel out for some Chinese food and a movie. Just to cover the traditional American Jewish bases, my parents are down in Atlantic City right now playing the nickel slots and 2-4 Hold `Em, earning some comped buffet coupons. I love how these little traditions have been carved out in the shadows of the dominant Christmas traditions, finding the few open public spaces and claiming them as our own. Though I personally love the Christmas season (all of the festivities with none of the family get-togethers!), I also love this chance to create a separate cultural identity, especially one that involves sesame chicken.

    Interestingly enough, I'm currently working at a company owned and run by observant Jews (not only was the office closed on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, it was also closed for four days for Sukkot). It might have been the least attention I've seen paid to Chanukah in an office I've worked in, even in offices where I was the only Jewish employee. This is probably the difference between a company that understands the relative importance of Chanukah and one that sees it as kind of a Jewish Christmas.

    Well, I can go on like this for a while, but others have done so already, and I don't want to keep Rachel waiting. Merry Christmas, everybody!!!

    December 24, 2001

    Copywriting: A 24-Hour Job. Went to see Ocean's 11 Saturday night with Rachel. I enjoyed the first 75% of the movie as it was what I hoped it would be: a breezy caper flick with plenty of Clooney. Unfortunately, at around the aforementioned 3/4 mark, the film (twice) has two near-full-screen shots of a pine air freshener, or "AIR FRESHNER," as the little pine tree read, in giant letters. I immediately felt my stomach drop, as that week at work I had finished a project involving air fresheners (as I spelled it), which encompassed packaging, catalogs, trade show booths, and spec sheets. For the rest of the movie I sat there in fear that I had approved several instances of a blatantly obvious typo, one that was in the process of being printed thousands of times on expensive paper. It was all I could do to keep from running to my car and driving to either work or the local Barnes and Noble to check the dictionary.

    Fortunately, all was well and spelled correctly, and I can enjoy my time off from work in peace. Best wishes to all.

    (As an added piece of editing trivia, my favorite typo ever is Ms. magazine spelling the word "Feminism" wrong on their cover back in 1996.)
    No Hunger-Related Deaths? I’ve noticed a number of blogs linking to a United Nations / World Food Program report stating that there is expected to be no hunger-related deaths in Central Afghanistan this year. This seemed remarkably optimistic, especially for a group actively seeking financial donations, so I decided to track down the report mentioned in the article. Rather than linking to the UN report or to a World Food Program page, the link instead goes to an extremely brief Afgha.com article:

    Kabul, Dec 23, (IRNA) According to the report released by Afghanistan's World Food Program (WFP) here Sunday, no one is expected to die of hunger in central Afghanistan this year.

    The report added that the United Nations and its affiliated agencies have launched an extensive attempt to supply food and clothing to the residents of central Afghanistan, including Bamian.

    Last year over 1,000 people, mostly cildren, women and old men, lost their lives in the central provinces of Afghanistan solely due to hunger.


    Afgha.com describes itself as being "originally entirely dedicated to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Commander and founder of the United and Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, more widely known by the Pakistani and Taliban appellation as the Northern Alliance." A different Afgha article from the previous day, Afghan Winter Threatens Children, references a Save the Children announcement that “up to 100,000 Afghan children could die this winter unless enough aid reaches the country,” leaving open a pretty wide range of possibilities.

    The Afgha article seems to have been taken entirely (down to the "cildren" typo) from IRNA, which is The Islamic Republic News Agency, the first Iranian news agency, whose guidelines "are based on and aimed at securing the Islamic Republic of Iran's national interests." There are many others who understand the region and its politics far better than me, but a glance through some of the other articles and reports on IRNA would seem to indicate that the "no hunger-related deaths" article would fit Iran's interests in a "Thanks, Westerners, everything's okay and perfect, you can leave now and let us handle it....oh, and please don't start looking over here" sort of way. See here, here, and here.

    I was unable to track the “World Food Program report” story online any further back than the IRNA piece. United Nations News links (or linked; the search feature doesn’t currently show the article) to the same IRNA story. (United Nations News does not appear to be related to the UN itself.) The WFP site has no information about such a report, and my Google searches also turned up nothing. The WFP does issue subscriber-only reports, but it seems unlikely that IRNA was the only organization to receive and/or announce the results of such an amazing report; I am still waiting to hear back from the WFP, however.

    The closest I can find to the “no hunger related deaths” is this, from December 20: “In another development, WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini told reporters in New York that the agency had broken its monthly record for food distribution inside Afghanistan by delivering 55,000 tonnes of wheat so far in December, against a goal of 52,000. "We believe so far we're reaching 5 million of the 6 million people that we have determined to be desperately in need of food throughout Afghanistan." Obviously, great progress is being made, but certainly not the total victory currently spreading throughout the web.

    December 23, 2001

    For those visiting from The Weekly Standard, the Harper's piece is down the page a bit, on Thursday. Of course, feel free to meander a bit on your way down there. There were some other links to the AWCA quiz, which was posted on Saturday. (I'm still getting used to this whole having-people-link-to-me thing; I'll get over it soon, hopefully, and not feel obligated to post directions at the top of every page).

    On Saturday I received one of the nicest surprises I've had in a long time, as I discovered that some generous soul actually paid the Blogger ad-removal fee for my site. Whoever did this, please let me know, as I'm darn curious, if not a little guilty for never actually doing it myself. (or if somebody could tell me how I could find this out for myself, that would also be helpful).

    And in response to Natalie Solent's question, I am not related to Emmanuel Goldstein, Natalie's favorite anti-war blogger, nor am I related to Jeff Goldstein of the Protein Wisdom blog. Perhaps the three of us could meet on Tuesday at some Chinese-restaurant-themed blog. (Okay, I know Emmanuel is not a real Goldstein.)


    I haven't been on an airplane since June (an absolutely hideous Air France flight) due to my work schedule and lack of vacation time, as opposed to any 9/11-related fears or worries. I don't have any qualms about getting on a plane, and don't think the events of the past few months would really affect any travel plans I might make.

    However.

    I would sooner walk to Las Vegas or spend New Year's Eve in a tiny room filled with drunken Shriners rather than travel on an American Airlines flight.
    I know that it's an important and encouraging step in the creation of a better Afghanistan, and what we know of Hamid Karzai makes it appear possible that he might be able to handle the unbelievably diffcult job of leading the country, but doesn't it seem just a little...I don't know...semantic-y to call this "Afghanistan's first peaceful transfer of power in decades"?

    December 22, 2001

    I just can't deal with Harper's Magazine anymore. It used to be a magazine I looked forward to getting every month, filled with long, interesting articles (the David Foster Wallace travelogues come to mind, as well as a great article about the World Series of Poker) about a huge range of subjects. However, for the past year, and especially the past few months, it's just become this tiresome, poorly written, doctrinaire newsletter, with recycled and discredited anti-war and anti-Israel rants. Lewis Lapham, who might be the dullest, most impenetrable writer I've ever come across, has been writing even more lately. Here's the first paragraph from his editor's note in the December issue.

    American Jihad: by Lewis Lapham
    Three months ago I'd thought we'd been given a chance for a conversation about the future of the American political idea, the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center providing an impressive occasion for timely remarks on the topics of our foreign and domestic policy as well as an opportunity to ask what we mean by the phrases "public service,' "common good," "civic interest."


    I mean....who could think, forget write a lead like that? Is there a single actual human who could refer to September 11 as "an impressive occasion for timely remarks" without a trace of irony?

    But that's just a small irritant compared to what I discovered as I was writing this piece. When I read the the lead "Reading" in the magazine I figured that the "Stumbling into Battle" speech by Sir Michael Howard was just another piece from some professor exasperated at just how stupid we Americans have been since September 11. The speech is largely about the "terrible and irrevocable error" that was committed when we "declared war" or terrorism. The following paragraph .

    "Could it have been avoided? Certainly, rather than what President Bush so unfortunately termed 'a crusade against evil', that is, a military campaign conducted by an alliance dominated by the United States, many people would have preferred a police operation conducted under the auspices of the United Nations on behalf of the international community as a whole, against an criminal conspiracy; whose members should be hunted down and brought before an international court, where they would receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, awarded an appropriate sentence. In an ideal world that is no doubt what would have happened."

    I’m guessing that the “many people” referenced above would include Al-Qaeda. Now, of course, Howard never mentions how exactly this “police operation” would have been conducted, and why the Taliban would have allowed it to take place in Afghanistan. Not to mention what the appropriate sentence would be, and how this would stop future attacks from taking place. Anyway, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before, and I just marked it down to my continuing dislike of the magazine.

    However, when I went to find an online version of the speech to avoid retyping the whole thing, I noticed something disturbing. In its complete online transcript form, the paragraph from above is followed by this:

    "But we do not live in an ideal world. The destruction of the twin towers and the massacre of several thousand innocent New York office-workers was not seen in the United States as a crime against 'the international community' to be appropriately dealt with by the United Nations; a body for which Americans have little respect when they have heard of it at all. For them it was an outrage against the people of America, one far surpassing in infamy even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Such an insult to their honor was not to be dealt with by a long and meticulous police investigation conducted by international authorities, culminating in an even longer court case in some foreign capital, with sentences that would then no doubt be suspended to allow for further appeals. It cried for immediate and spectacular vengeance to be inflicted by their own armed forces.

    "And who can blame them? In their position we would have felt exactly the same. The courage and wisdom of President Bush in resisting the call for a strategy of vendetta has been admirable, but the pressure is still there, both within and beyond the Administration. It is a demand that can be satisfied only by military action -- if possible rapid and decisive military action. There must be catharsis: the blood of five thousand innocent civilians demands it.

    "Again, President Bush deserves enormous credit for his attempt to implement the alternative paradigm. He has abjured unilateral action. He has sought, and received, a United Nations mandate. He has built up an amazingly wide-ranging coalition that truly does embody 'the international community' so far as such an entity exists.

    "Within a matter of days, almost, the United States has turned its back on the unilateralism and isolationism towards which it seemed to be steering, and resumed its former position as leader of a world community far more extensive than the so-called 'free world' of the old Cold War. Almost equally important, the President and his colleagues have done their best to explain to the American people that this will be a war unlike any other, and they must adjust their expectations accordingly. But it is still a war. The 'w' word has been used, and now cannot be withdrawn; and its use has brought inevitable and irresistible pressure to use military force as soon, and as decisively as possible."


    I still disagree with the overall message of the piece but it seemed a bit more balanced than it did when I first read it. When I returned to the magazine, I saw why my perception had changed; in the magazine, the above section appears like this:

    Could it have been avoided? Certainly, rather than what President Bush so unfortunately termed 'a crusade against evil', that is, a military campaign conducted by an alliance dominated by the United States, many people would have preferred a police operation conducted under the auspices of the United Nations on behalf of the international community as a whole, against an criminal conspiracy; whose members should be hunted down and brought before an international court, where they would receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, awarded an appropriate sentence. In an ideal world that is no doubt what would have happened.

    "But we do not live in an ideal world. The 'w' word has been used, and now cannot be withdrawn; and its use has brought inevitable and irresistible pressure to use military force as soon, and as decisively as possible.


    Without any indication that this wasn't his true speech (no brackets or ellipses or spaces), Professor Howard’s comments regarding “[t]he courage and wisdom of President Bush,” who “deserves enormous credit,” have disappeared, not to mention the references to the United States as the “leader of a world community far more extensive than the so-called 'free world' of the old Cold War.” Any mitigating comments or circumstances that paint the U.S. as anything other than bloodthirsty idiots hellbent on revenge and destruction are excised. Of course, one can only wonder what else Lapham and his editors have decided I didn’t need to know. I'll be canceling my subscription, of course.

    (Update to the above: Rather than canceling my subscription, I will instead be trading magazine subscriptions with my friend Mike: his Atlantic for my Harper's.)

    What is AWCA, The Warbloggers Disease?

    It’s an illness that can strike at any time, that can affect even the most sensible and rational blogger.

    It strikes slowly at first — a glance at The Nation or Village Voice, a quick peek at what the Berkeley City Council is up to this week — but can develop into a full-bore obsession. Minutes trolling on Indymedia turn into hours, ridiculed websites make their way to the Windows Favorites list, until finally one cannot bear to turn off the computer before seeing the words quagmire, proportionality, Arab street, root causes, and “terrorists” (in quotation marks only).

    The illness is Anti-War Crank Addiction, and you might be suffering from it.

    Below is a brief quiz to help determine if you may suffer from AWCA. If you answer Yes to six or more of these questions, you might need help.

    1. Are you familiar with Noam Chomsky’s upcoming schedule of speaking engagements?
    2. Do you find yourself repeatedly hitting the Refresh button at villagevoice.com so that you can be the first one to parse Ted Rall’s latest?
    3. Besides the main Indymedia site, do you have at least three other Indymedia city sites that you check on a regular basis?
    4. Can you name at least three San Francisco Chronicle columnists?
    5. Do you read at least half of the essays posted on commondreams.org?
    6. Can you describe the injuries suffered by Robert Fisk during his beati— I mean, during his time as a symbol of the hatred and the fury of this filthy war?
    7. Do you check the Guardian and Independent websites before The New York Times or Washington Post?
    Can you complete the following sentences?
    8. "There will be no emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until _______________." --Sunera Thobani
    9. “The Bay Area is also a place that encourages ____________ about the U. S. role in the world. That may have played a part in [Walker’s] vulnerability to the Taliban's extreme propaganda. --Louis Freedberg
    10. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who __________________! --Michael Moore

    Unfortunately, just as there is currently no known cure or effective treatment for the Anti-War Cranks themselves, there is no medicine or treatment available for victims of AWCA. If you are a victim yourself, just try and remember that there will always be cranks in the world, and there is nothing you can do to make them think logically. Try to ignore ridiculous and idiotic columns, rather than mercilessly tearing them apart sentence by silly sentence. If you find yourself spending more time reading columnists and websites you hate rather than those you truly enjoy, turn off the computer for a few minutes and go outside for a walk, read some fiction, or watch a delightful network situation comedy. While there is no cure, there can be hope.

    December 20, 2001

    I just can't deal with Harper's Magazine anymore. It used to be a magazine I looked forward to getting every month, filled with long, interesting articles (the David Foster Wallace travelogues come to mind, as well as a great article about the World Series of Poker) about a huge range of subjects. However, for the past year, and especially the past few months, it's just become this tiresome, poorly written, doctrinaire newsletter, with recycled and discredited anti-war and anti-Israel rants. Lewis Lapham, who might be the dullest, most impenetrable writer I've ever come across, has been writing even more lately. Here's the first paragraph from his editor's note in the December issue.

    American Jihad: by Lewis Lapham
    Three months ago I'd thought we'd been given a chance for a conversation about the future of the American political idea, the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center providing an impressive occasion for timely remarks on the topics of our foreign and domestic policy as well as an opportunity to ask what we mean by the phrases "public service,' "common good," "civic interest."


    I mean....who could think, forget write a lead like that? Is there a single actual human who could refer to September 11 as "an impressive occasion for timely remarks" without a trace of irony?

    But that's just a small irritant compared to what I discovered as I was writing this piece. When I read the the lead "Reading" in the magazine I figured that the "Stumbling into Battle" speech by Sir Michael Howard was just another piece from some professor exasperated at just how stupid we Americans have been since September 11. The speech is largely about the "terrible and irrevocable error" that was committed when we "declared war" or terrorism. The following paragraph .

    "Could it have been avoided? Certainly, rather than what President Bush so unfortunately termed 'a crusade against evil', that is, a military campaign conducted by an alliance dominated by the United States, many people would have preferred a police operation conducted under the auspices of the United Nations on behalf of the international community as a whole, against an criminal conspiracy; whose members should be hunted down and brought before an international court, where they would receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, awarded an appropriate sentence. In an ideal world that is no doubt what would have happened."

    I’m guessing that the “many people” referenced above would include Al-Qaeda. Now, of course, Howard never mentions how exactly this “police operation” would have been conducted, and why the Taliban would have allowed it to take place in Afghanistan. Not to mention what the appropriate sentence would be, and how this would stop future attacks from taking place. Anyway, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before, and I just marked it down to my continuing dislike of the magazine.

    However, when I went to find an online version of the speech to avoid retyping the whole thing, I noticed something disturbing. In its complete online transcript form, the paragraph from above is followed by this:

    "But we do not live in an ideal world. The destruction of the twin towers and the massacre of several thousand innocent New York office-workers was not seen in the United States as a crime against 'the international community' to be appropriately dealt with by the United Nations; a body for which Americans have little respect when they have heard of it at all. For them it was an outrage against the people of America, one far surpassing in infamy even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Such an insult to their honor was not to be dealt with by a long and meticulous police investigation conducted by international authorities, culminating in an even longer court case in some foreign capital, with sentences that would then no doubt be suspended to allow for further appeals. It cried for immediate and spectacular vengeance to be inflicted by their own armed forces.

    "And who can blame them? In their position we would have felt exactly the same. The courage and wisdom of President Bush in resisting the call for a strategy of vendetta has been admirable, but the pressure is still there, both within and beyond the Administration. It is a demand that can be satisfied only by military action -- if possible rapid and decisive military action. There must be catharsis: the blood of five thousand innocent civilians demands it.

    "Again, President Bush deserves enormous credit for his attempt to implement the alternative paradigm. He has abjured unilateral action. He has sought, and received, a United Nations mandate. He has built up an amazingly wide-ranging coalition that truly does embody 'the international community' so far as such an entity exists.

    "Within a matter of days, almost, the United States has turned its back on the unilateralism and isolationism towards which it seemed to be steering, and resumed its former position as leader of a world community far more extensive than the so-called 'free world' of the old Cold War. Almost equally important, the President and his colleagues have done their best to explain to the American people that this will be a war unlike any other, and they must adjust their expectations accordingly. But it is still a war. The 'w' word has been used, and now cannot be withdrawn; and its use has brought inevitable and irresistible pressure to use military force as soon, and as decisively as possible."


    I still disagree with the overall message of the piece but it seemed a bit more balanced than it did when I first read it. When I returned to the magazine, I saw why my perception had changed; in the magazine, the above section appears like this:

    Could it have been avoided? Certainly, rather than what President Bush so unfortunately termed 'a crusade against evil', that is, a military campaign conducted by an alliance dominated by the United States, many people would have preferred a police operation conducted under the auspices of the United Nations on behalf of the international community as a whole, against an criminal conspiracy; whose members should be hunted down and brought before an international court, where they would receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, awarded an appropriate sentence. In an ideal world that is no doubt what would have happened.

    "But we do not live in an ideal world. The 'w' word has been used, and now cannot be withdrawn; and its use has brought inevitable and irresistible pressure to use military force as soon, and as decisively as possible.


    Without any indication that this wasn't his true speech (no brackets or ellipses or spaces), Professor Howard’s comments regarding “[t]he courage and wisdom of President Bush,” who “deserves enormous credit,” have disappeared, not to mention the references to the United States as the “leader of a world community far more extensive than the so-called 'free world' of the old Cold War.” Any mitigating comments or circumstances that paint the U.S. as anything other than bloodthirsty idiots hellbent on revenge and destruction are excised. Of course, one can only wonder what else Lapham and his editors have decided I didn’t need to know. I'll be canceling my subscription, of course.

    (Update to the above: Rather than canceling my subscription, I will instead be trading magazine subscriptions with my friend Mike: his Atlantic for my Harper's.)

    Visited the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair last weekend, which I had been meaning to do for some time. The Museum is on the campus of Montclair State University here in New Jersey, and can best be described as a mini-Baseball Hall of Fame, devoted entirely to the career of the great Yankees catcher. The museum has an extremely impressive collection of memoribilia (Berra was closely involved with the museum's orgabization)), including all of World Series and championship rings (more than any other player), the glove he used (since bronzed) to catch Larsen's perfect game, and the Mantle and DiMaggio plaques from Yankee Stadium.

    It's a nice little place, but the visit caused me to think about an ongoing conversation I've been having with Rachel about changing perceptions and their relation to true talent. The original conversation had to do with Elton John and Dolly Parton, two extremely talented musicians who essentially traded critical acclaim and respected public perception for more easily understood, flamboyant and popular images.

    Anyway, in a strange sort of way, Yogi fits into that category. The man was an amazing ballplayer who won three MVP awards and finished in the top five for an incredible seven straight years, including four straight seasons as either #1 or #2. He played on 14 pennant winners and managed both the Yankees and the Mets to the World Series. But for reasons perhaps beyond his control at first, though certainly embraced later on, he became known as a funny little guy who used to play baseball and said a lot of dumb things. He almost never gets thought of in the same category as Mantle or DiMaggio, or with Musial, WIlliams, Duke Snider, Mays, etc., even though he was certainly on that level. Hopefully the Museum will help restore the idea of Yogi as a ballplayer a little.

    Hmm...it just occurred to me that the name of this blog might lead a newcomer to think that it was some sort of "New Democrat" or neolib political page. I'm not quite sure what to do about that; most likely nothing, I guess.

    December 19, 2001

    One of my favorite sites is Arts & Letters Daily, which features links to dozens of fascinating stories, everything from literature to education to history to economics to....um....snot. New articles are added every day, and I've been introduced me to a number of interesting sites that I probably would have never come across.

    They've recently added a little section called "Classics" with some of the best pieces they've featured, including:

    The Fable of the Keys, with the search for the truth about the legendary Dvorak keyboard and economic standards.
    The Snuff Film: The Making of an Urban Legend, from Skeptical Inquirer Magazine.
    A Newsweek article from 1975 about the threat of global...cooling.
    A look at The Empire that was Russia, with amazing photographs from 1910.
    Julian Simon, The Doomslayer, about the lifelong fighter against wrongheaded environmental conventional wisdom.

    I can go on and on posting links, but that should be a good start.

    December 18, 2001

    ACTUARIAL NOTE Number 139 SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
    by Michael W. Shackleford, A.S.A Office of the Chief Actuary

    Name Distributions in the Social Security Area
    .

    Wow! Name Distributions!

    Actually, it's pretty fascinating, with detailed rankings of the most popular US first names over the past century, broken down by year, decade, state, and more. Sure, you'll want to check your own name first (Kenneth was a robust #31 during the 70's), but there's plenty of interesting tidbits. Here's a few:

    1. Turns out it wasn't a coincidence, that I really did meet far more Jennifers in high school and college than any other name. There were more Jennifers named during the 70's than the next two names (Amy and Melissa) combined.

    2. Looks like by the time I'm ready for the home there's gonna be a lot of Dylans and Madisons out there as doctors, lawyers, and bankers, which will take some getting used to. Dylan has skyrocketed over the past few decades, from being unranked in the 60's (which seems surprising), to #392 in the 70's, #193 in the 80's, and now up to #37 in the 90's.

    As for Madison, it wasn't even in the top 500 during the 80's, but (like Dylan) was the 37th most popular name for in the 90's, and was a shocking #3 in the year 2000. Rachel has been trying to figure out Why Madison? The Bridges of Madison County fans having kids? Splash fans coming of age?

    3. The first year this century that John wasn't one of the top-three names for boys in the US: 1953.
    The first year this century that Mary wasn't one of the top-three names for girls in the US: 1965.


    Hmmm....seems I haven't posted since about Thanksgiving. There's no real good reason for that, other than I've been in a pretty lousy mood for most of that time, and once I stopped posting for a few days it fell out of my routine.

    The most exciting news over the past few weeks is that my old Seattle roommates, Murph and Juli, are engaged! I'm very much looking forward to the wedding, which is tentatively scheduled for a New Jersey beach sometime next year. Murph was my roommate for my entire four-year stay in Seattle, all at the fabulous Golden Inca Apartments. Juli slowly moved her way in about halfway through, and was also a fine roommate. My best to the both of them.

    Let's see what else happened....I went down to DC for a day, visiting Air & Space, American History, and the Jefferson and FDR Memorials. The FDR Memorial is pretty new, and I had the following to say about it in an e-mail I wrote to my friend Mike shortly after the visit:

    "I did have the chance to see the FDR Memorial, and actually I was pretty unimpressed with it, and even somewhat bothered by it. It failed to reach me on any sort of emotional level. Some parts of it were interesting, but on the whole it struck me as more of a busy museum exhibition than a monument -- I could practically hear the committee members saying "Wait a minute: we forgot about the fireside chats! And what about the Tennessee Valley Authority?!" The theory I came up with on the ride home is that since the Vietnam Memorial at least, America has lost the power of metaphor or understatement, the idea that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and the recent major memorials (Vietnam, FDR, Oklahoma City, almost certianly the WTC) have been this kind of all-inclusive literal descriptiveness. The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima was such a powerful image since those who looked at it instinctively understood that the picture/statue was much more than the men raising the flag, the men who took the island, or even the armed forces, but rather, all of America. That wouldn't have the same effect today, I think, and certainly wouldn't be so iconic.

    Anyway, after the FDR I visited the Jefferson, and that, as always, reached me. Largely because Jefferson is a more important figure to me than FDR, but also because they didn't imagine the Jefferson Memorial should be a summary of his life, but rather a testament to the ideals he stood for. I can imagine an FDR-style version of the Jefferson Memorial, and I'm just glad it didn't come to that."

    Mike responded with the following interesting piece of history:

    LOL - if you read the lit at the memorial, it's pretty clear that the J was in fact a kind of memorial to FDR built by FDR. WPA, baby! Seems that many of the great monuments we think of when we think of DC - Lincoln, the Mall, the expanded museum system, the J - were a kind of pet project of the man in the chair. Interestingly, this also changes the meaning of the seated figure of Lincoln.

    There was some controversy about it at the time, but one of the ingenious aspects of the two big projects is that both Lincoln and Jefferson are regarded as forefathers of traditional Republican values - Lincoln, of course, being a Republican, and Jefferson
    apparently although a federalist highly resistant to strong centralization of governmental authority. So if the Republicans
    attacked the budgeting for the construction of the memorials, they could be painted as not adhering to core Republican values - very Clintonesque, I thought. A clever man, that FDR."


    As an interesting note to the whole visit, Washingtonians can choose to have license plates that read "Taxation Without Representation," protesting their lack of a voting representative in Congress. I'm pretty sure this is the only negative (or at least not positive or tourism-based) license plate slogan currently available.

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