Thursday, January 30, 2003

Ground Zero and the Defeat of Multiculturalism

Herbert Muschamp, the international authority on Herbert Muschamp, returns from his visionary walkabout and reveals in today’s New York Times which of the seven designs for the site of the late World Trade Center is the right one.

The winner is ridiculous skeletal “World Cultural Center” from the computer aided design and performance art group, THINK. This plan is notable for its not having any commercial space at all. It is guaranteed to be a financial sinkhole and has no realistic chance of ever being built.

But that’s OK for Herbert the Magnificent. The design will “help New York out of the provincialism that has afflicted its cultural life in recent decades.” Presumably this means Fun City’s post-1970s prosperity.

Want conclusive proof that THINK’s design is superior? Herb lays it straight . . . “the project has been the overwhelming preference of foreign newspapers and magazines. Perhaps they are trying to tell us something.”

Yes, well most recently they’ve been trying to tell us how much they hate us.

In Muschamp’s world the ultimate arbiters of taste and urbanity are all auslanders. Sure there are a few Americans who matter but they matter only because they have shed their provincial, blinkered, narrow-minded American cultural goggles. A serious person can only respond to “America” with a weary smile, a chuckle, and a dismissive roll of eyes. To these global fat brains Disney World is as remote, significant and perplexing as an Easter Island moai – something to be studied in splendid detachment and “understood” for vaguely academic purposes. The people who actually enjoy Disney World are like moai worshipers – poor ignorant bastards.

Anyway, the importance here is that Muschamp is revealing a nasty little truth about the baffling new architecture that so enchants him. The reason a Frank Gehry building is more significant than a crumbled sheet of tin foil and a Peter Eisenman “house” is more than a jagged multilevel prison cell is that they are culturally neutral. They are purged of any and all cultural DNA that might tie them to one tradition rather than another. The beauty of these design is that they are cannot be understood by anyone.

This is important if you believe in a non-judgment ideal of multiculturalism. All cultures are valid so we mustn’t impose our provincial beliefs on others. The irony of this ideal is that it is quintessentially Western. Only a person informed by the traditions of Judeo-Christian liberalism could believe such a radical idea.

Indeed, September 11th illustrated that rather dramatically. The architects of Ground Zero were not multiculturalists . . . they were monoculturalists. They believed their culture was so superior to ours that they were doing us a favor by killing us in the name of Allah.

Our response is therefore vitally important. Do we as a society born of Western liberalism tolerate such intolerance? Can we confidently make our claim to cultural superiority without excluding those of other cultures?

The Muschamp Seven – with the notable exception of the Peterson Littenberg team – is of the radically pluralist school of architecture. To them everything but the past, especially the Western past, is valid. They believe in the Hetropolis, a vast interconnected multicultural urban landscape were the oppressive strictures of gender, morality, capitalism, culture and language melt away to reveal people in their common essence.

Muschamp is disappointed that New York has taken so long to accept its role as the global Hetropolis. Instead, it has shortsightedly looked to its own vernacular tradition for cues about what to build next. Never mind that that vernacular includes some of the most beautiful buildings in the world – the Empire State, the Chrysler, Rockefeller Center – these are buildings that could only be in New York. Notice how Muschamp’s favorites would look more at home in Singapore or Shanghai.

Here’s the money quote from Muschamp:

Like Wall Street, or the Pentagon, ground zero is a metonym. Initially its meanings were almost strictly emotional: shock, anger, fear and pain. Soon the connotations began to expand. The term now signifies a complex pattern of actions undertaken by individuals and groups around the world who seek to comprehend the deeper historical meanings of 9/11. This pattern has become a phenomenon in itself. It recalls an idea that in the 20th century was called the open university or the museum without walls: a network of learning, a free-floating space open 24/7 and accessible to all. The price of admission is curiosity, periodically boosted by the desire to survive.

The topic is "Globalization and Its Discontents," to borrow the title of a book last year by the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz. It is as complex and diffuse as the communication that sustains it. Educating ourselves about globalization is a poetic undertaking. We are seeking to make coherent pictures from pieces of history, science, economics, art and politics circulating through the atmosphere since the end of the cold war.

So Ground Zero is supposed to be an open university reminding Americans of the sinister role they in the global spread of corporate greed and a platform for every backward medievalist who would rather beat his disobedient wife without interference from the Great Satan? (Not exactly Muschamp’s words).

Yes, the building that is eventually erected on the site of the late great Twin Towers should help explain the deeper historical meanings of 9/11 but only a fool would think that that means the barbaric attacks were some sort of retribution for our unfair accomplishments and our justifiable confidence.

Instead, the new structure should reiterate in the clearest terms that the attackers were wrong, that their beliefs were immoral and that the dishonest values that motivated them should be combated by free people every time they surface.

What sort of structure would say that? A classically New York building. A soaring tower, yes. But built of stone and masonry not something transitory like plate glass. It should express the confidence, even the arrogance, of a grand skyscraper of 1920s vintage. It should be unabashedly commercial. And it should have representational statues that celebrate human forms, human aspirations, and human judgments.

Yes, New York is the crossroads of global culture but it gives the right of way to its own tradition – capitalism and competition, tolerant but never a sucker, courageous and opinionated, gracious or pugnacious depending on the situation. Sophisticated, worldly, clever, witty but never intellectual.

Unfortunately for Muschamp, these are the characteristics that will eventually find their expression in Lower Manhattan perhaps long after all the Libeskinds, Fosters, and Meiers drift away into well-earned obscurity.

Multiculturalism hit a brick wall on 9/11. The new World Trade Center is destined to be its self-assured and relentlessly optimistic tombstone

Friday, January 24, 2003

So Much For Debate

Jeez, those defenders of free speech over at Democratic Underground sure have thin skins. They blocked me from their forums for violating their rules on ideological conformity. All I said was:

Why Defend Saddam?

You guys are so blinded by your hatred of Bush that you are now defending one of the worst human rights abusers in the world.

Just because Bush wants to give Saddam and his thug cronies the justice they so sorely deserve and in the meantime liberate an entire nation that has had to endure decades torture, state sponsored murder, professional rapists, wars for conquest, grinding poverty, etc., why can't you admit that this would be a good thing?

Instead you allow yourself to be proven hypocrites who won't lift a finger when it comes to actually doing something about peace and justice.

Just keep talking among yourselves while the real progressives go out and change the world.

Yikes! You’d think I was slandering them or something. Look at the comments! This must be some sort of raw nerve. After about an hour they deployed their best debating point . . . they shut down debate.

Truth hurts I guess.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A Human Shield Speaks Out

As you know, very little foolishness escapes my attention. Case in point, an interview on tiny Block Island with a middle-aged peace activist who just returned from human shield duty in Hebron.

In The Block Island Times Barbara MacDougall says she and her colleagues conducted “non-violent interventions” between Palestinians and Israelis. “It’s about a neutral third party moving into a volatile situation and diffusing the anger a bit,” she says.

The rest of her tale quickly refutes any claim to neutrality. She talks about the dreary lives of the friendly Palestinians under Israeli occupation. She says that without inserting herself between her Palestinian friends and the Israeli soldiers, the Palestinians “would have been shot.”

She says that the Israeli army has posted 1,300 soldiers in Hebron to protect “450 Jewish settlers” who, by the way, have built their settlements “on top of Arab markets.”

It’s interesting that she mentions these troublesome “Jewish settlers.” Did they arrive last week? Maybe they’ve been here for a year or more? Actually, many of the “settlers” in Hebron arrived in 1661 which happens to be the same year settlers arrived on Block Island. Why, that would make Ms. MacDougall a “settlor.”

MacDougall means well. But she’s being used. It’s easy to say that both sides are equally to blame for the violence in Israel, but that’s just morally lazy.

Israel is a democracy based on western values of equality, freedom, and tolerance. Their aim is to peacefully coexist with their Arab neighbors.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, do not choose their leaders and the goal of the Palestine National Charter is the elimination of Israel through violence. Arab extremists do not recognize the equality of men and women, freedom of religious belief, or tolerance of non-believers. Indeed, Palestinian schoolchildren are indoctrinated to hate their Israeli neighbors and Jews generally.

This is not the path to peaceful coexistence.

As a liberal tolerant society we are challenged by Islamic fascism. Do we dismiss the hatred and violence that infects the Arab world as some quirk of multiculturalism? Or do we make a judgment and say that western values are more reasonable, more just, and qualitatively superior to the medieval values of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade?

Ms. MacDougall acted bravely by serving as a human shield against the Israeli Defense Forces. Yet even MacDougall understands that the IDF would hold their fire if an innocent person where in the way. Does anyone believe Hamas would be deterred from murdering Israelis by the presence of Ms. MacDougall? Of course not. Indeed, for Hamas, murdering innocent civilians is the whole point.

The Palestinian Arabs deserve better schools, better opportunities and better leadership. They also deserve our sympathy.

But make no mistake. Not until the Palestinians accept Israel’s right to exist and reject the use of murder for political means, will there be peace in Palestine.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Does Scott Ritter Have Something to Hide?

I think one of the most intriguing questions regarding Iraq is why has Scott Ritter changed his views on Saddam Hussein so suddenly and completely.

You may recall that Ritter resigned from the UN weapons inspection team in 1998 saying that the Iraqis were thwarting inspections, that they were months away from developing nuclear weapons and that the Clinton Administration must confront the regime with force in order to gain compliance. (See my earlier, highly perceptive post.)

Today, of course, he denies this. He says he was totally wrong and that the Bush Administration’s confrontation with Iraq is unjustified because the regime has no weapons.

What’s changed between then and now? Could it possibly be that the Iraqi regime has some clandestine influence over Ritter?

Today the New York Daily News reports that Ritter was secretly arrested and prosecuted in 2001 as part of an Internet sex sting operation.

Ritter’s case was been sealed . . . so sealed in fact that Albany District Attorney Paul Clyne fired the Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Preiser last week for failing to inform him of the case against Ritter.

What if the Iraqis knew of Ritter’s unusual sexual predisposition? Would they have maintained his confidence?

Perhaps . . . for a price.

More: Here is additional coverage and video from an NBC affiliate station in Albany, NY.

More, More: The Albany Times Union says this wasn't the first time Ritter was caught. Let's see how long it takes for this story to go national.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Imagine There's no Disobedience. It's "Not Hard" to Do

It’s so easy to make broad assumptions about cultures we know little about.

In my case, I know next to nothing about Islam other than what I read in the western media. I have never been to a Muslim country and have only observed their customs and traditions through the haze of distance.

If only I knew more about Islam, perhaps I could better understand the people and maybe even appreciate their unfamiliar beliefs.

What a relief it is then to discover this streaming video of the Arabic television program, Life Is Sweet, that explains Islam’s position on wife beating. I had no idea how sophisticated and nuanced Islam is when it comes to this delicate subject.

It seems that the Koran allows a man to beat his wife with a stick only if she is rebellious or disobedient and only after sharp words and sexual abstinence have failed to persuade her to change her behavior.

"And here," in the words of the Koranic expert guest on the program, “is revealed the wisdom of Islam.”

The stick beatings must be “not hard” and should avoid your wife’s face. The Koran is apparently emphatic on this subtle point . . . don’t break her face.

We join our program already in progress . . .

Guest: . . . with her refusal and rebellion here is revealed the wisdom of Islam: another means must be introduced. This is the means of the not-hard beatings, and the condition 'not hard' appears in the texts, it is not an interpretation. It is said in the Hadiths of the Prophet that we are talking of 'not-hard' beatings…

Host: What is the difference between 'hard' and 'not-hard'?

Guest: Hard beatings are those that leave marks on the body or on the face. Thus, beating on the face is prohibited, because the face is a combination of the features of beauty, as it is said. It is forbidden to beat the face, it is forbidden to administer blows that leave fractures or wounds this is what our sages have said in their books.

You see . . . rather than fall for that Zionist propaganda about Islam being a medieval religion that sanctions barbaric cruelty, you should seek out the truth yourself. I feel much more informed now.

Just think, once we all raise our consciousness and deepen our understanding of Islam we’ll all be able to live in peace.

Everyone except those damn disobedient whores . . . they’re cruisin’ for a (not hard) bruisin’.

Why We Fight

The key to truly persuasive communications is to strike the right balance between reason and emotion.

Too much emotion and you’re sliding into propaganda. Too much reason and you’re bordering on tedium.

This new short film produced by the Marine Corps is right on the mark. It combines words, images, and sounds to maximize an important message about the war on terror.

That message is quite simple: The US is defending itself against an unprovoked attack. The US is uniquely capable of projecting its military power to achieve its goals. And finally, its goals are to restore peace and stability to the world so that we and the rest of humanity can live in dignity and freedom.

Sub messages include: See how our warriors are calm, smart, and determined. They’re in this because they believe in the mission, not because having a weapon gives them power. These are not teenaged bullies or religious zealots, they are men and women who are giving their time to public service and will return to civilian life with a deep sense of pride and satisfaction.

And check out the weapons . . . they’re not filthy Toyota Land Cruisers with a rusty machine gun welded on the back . . . no sinister looking halftracks with provocative insignias painted on the side . . . no homemade bombs duct-taped to some vacant-eyed young martyr-to-be.

Nope, our weapons are new, precise, and designed to accomplish a specialized mission without a lot of collateral damage. They look a lot more like rescue equipment than menacing war machines. These are the tools of a civilized military not a rogue police state.

This spot is supposed to start running in movie theatres around the United States. My guess is that it will be followed first by hoots and hisses that are then drowned out by overwhelming applause.

E-mail me if I’m wrong.

I think the Defense Department should just buy time on al Jazeera and run these spots in prime time in between “What’s My Jihad?” and “Saudi Arabia’s Wildest Beheadings.”

The sight of women flying Harriers off the massive flight deck of the USS Nimitz should be enough by itself to provoke regime change.

And you know what's the best part of this film? The title. "Enduring Freedom: The Opening Chapter"

Friday, January 17, 2003

Keep On Moving On

Okay, now I’m convinced the whole “anti-war movement” is a sophisticated psy-ops operation designed to discredit and demoralize the appeasement wing of the public policy world.

Chaotic lunatic rally on Washington dominated by scruffy senior citizens? Astroturf dissent manufactured by the NSA.

Vicious anti-Semitism on IndyMedia? A disinformation campaign orchestrated at the highest levels.

The Sean Penn visit to Baghdad? Perhaps this closet patriot’s greatest role.

Now some shadowy group called has paid good money to produce and broadcast a remake the Lyndon Johnson’s notorious “Daisy” commercial . . . you know the one . . . it practically invented the political attack ad genre on TV.

MoveOn’s updated version poses questions about the risks of confronting Saddam Hussein’s brutal police state. “maybe the war will spread . . . maybe extremists will take over countries with nuclear weapons.” At the same time the screen flashes with scenes of Islamic fanatics tearing up American flags and smoky black skies over burning oil derricks and finally a dramatic mushroom cloud.

But wait, these are contemporary images. Anti-American sentiment is already at a fever pitch in parts of the Medieval East, extremists are already taking over countries and pursuing nukes, those battle scenes have already taken place.

You see the hidden message? All that was happening before September 11th. Now the Bush Administration is doing something about it.

After decades of crossing its fingers and looking the other way, the US is finally confronting extremist regimes that aspire to be nuclear powers.

It recognizes that anti-American demonstrations in that part of the world are for the most part staged propaganda events and irrelevant to any policy discussion.

Bush is also taking the responsible and possibly unpopular move of raising public awareness of the grave danger we face.

And guess what . . . Americans still overwhelming believe him and support his leadership.

Maybe we can avoid the risk of nuclear confrontation by acting now before Iraq gets The Bomb.

No doubt it’s cleverly deceptive mind control operations like that have created such a solid consensus on standing up to sadistic bullies like Saddam.

Let the inspectors work? Sure . . . but at the first sign of deception or concealment unleash overwhelming military force against this fascist. The world would be a healthier place for children and other living things.

Imagine there’s no Islamofascism . . . it’s easy if you try.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

The Truth about Taxes

Here's a reposting of the Kenneth Wangler e-mail that is making the rounds.

I share it here because, not only is it true, it's a great example of distilling complexity into an analogy that people can understand. Tax policy, by its very nature, seems to require a certain amount of obfuscation to succeed. This little story exposes some of the uncomfortable issues at stake.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner.
The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we
pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men-the poorest-would pay nothing;
The fifth would pay $1:
The sixth would pay $3;
The seventh $7;
The eighth $12;
The ninth $18.
The tenth man-the richest-would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant
every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement-until one day, the
owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce
the cost of your daily meal by $20."

So now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay
their bill the way we pay our taxes.

So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free.
But what about the other six-the paying customers?

How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his
"fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they
subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth
man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal.

So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each
man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the
amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh
paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with
bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59.

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued
to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare
their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man.

He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar,
too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man.

"Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get
anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and
ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered
something important. They were $52 short!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how
the tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax

Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not
showup at the table anymore.

Believe me, if this hasn't shown up in your e-mailbox yet it's only because your father-n-law has not yet figured out how to click SEND.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Should We Tolerate Intolerance?

For the sake of our allies and our more sensitive citizens the White House has chosen to describe the current geopolitical environment as a war on terror.

But it is not a war in a conventional sense. It is more of a test of our culture.

The liberal tradition of tolerance, equality and freedom has prospered and expanded around the world for hundreds of years. It has been challenged by fascism and socialism and has emerged as a near universal aspiration.

Today, that liberal tradition is again being tested by a repressive opposite political force. A radical movement within the Islamic world has hijacked a proud culture and distorted its legacy. Rather than a tradition of peace and tolerance, radical Islam is fomenting a new tradition of violence and intolerance.

What is a tolerant society’s response to extreme intolerance? What does the liberal tradition teach us about understanding reactionary traditions? In short, we’ve talked about tolerance and freedom, now events are forcing to act on our beliefs.

This is one of those situations in which inaction is itself an action. Either you believe in absolute tolerance and ignore the most heinous violations of human dignity on the planet, or you believe in judgmental liberalism which recognizes that tolerance, freedom and openness are superior organizing principles and that flourishing intolerance is a threat to those principles.

In the United States, we have enjoyed so much freedom, and so much peace that it is difficult to take responsibility for making the more critical judgment. I think Sheryl Crow said it best last night when she blurted out during a music awards ceremony on television:

"I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."

These are the words of a person who has never faced a fundamental challenge. I’m sure she struggled before getting her recording contract but has she ever experienced a life without the benefits of our liberal tradition?

I don’t think so. If she had she might express herself a bit more like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the daughter of a Somali dissident who sought refuge in The Netherlands on her way to her arranged marriage in Canada. Today she is a Liberal Party candidate for the Dutch Parliament and very likely to win a seat. She is also being kept under armed guard because Dutch Islamofascists have threatened her with assassination.

The radicals want her dead because she has embraced the liberal tradition that has given her life hope and meaning. She says she came to understand liberalism in a Dutch school:

"I learned that people in the West value the autonomous individual. They understand the importance of science, knowledge. They are capable of criticising themselves and there is an ability to record history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It is exactly the opposite in Somalia where all the institutions of record are missing, and my grandmother's memories of the clan wars will die with her."

Hirsi Ali is about ten years younger than Sheryl Crow yet she has the wisdom that comes from enduring life not just going along with it.

I doubt that Hirsi Ali would say something as meaningless as “war is not the answer.” Indeed, in some awful circumstances, war is the only answer. In many instances, there are no “karmic retributions” for victory only the opportunity to live your life in peace. In most cases, you do not get to choose your enemies and often the reason they will not accept you as a friend is because you are a woman, or a non-believer, or simply born in a different village.

Our liberal tradition is faced with extreme intolerance and our response will demonstrate what we have learned about the true meaning of liberalism.

Will we demonstrate the superficial understanding and withhold judgment . . . or will we recognize that all humans, not just white European ones, deserve hope, dignity and the freedom to fulfill their potential?

The difference is as stark as the choices voters face in the Dutch elections next month versus the ones decided by the American Music Awards last night.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Thanks For Your Corporation

What is it with Japanese English anyway? I mean how can you come up with a phrase like "We run our shop with this year without a holiday . . . but we have an extra holiday" if you don't have complete mastery of the language? This stuff makes me suspect that the Japanese are actually making fun of us, not the other way around.

If you or I were to come up with some faux Japanese phrase I can guarantee it wouldn't even resemble anything recognizable as Japanese. Yet Engrish is almost always slightly less than total gibberish. How can that be? Either you know the barbarian's mother tongue or you don't.

Do the Japanese do the same job on French and German? Now that would be odd.
Arch Enemies

Hats off to Walt Riker, the VP for Corporate Communications at McDonalds.

Riker responds today in the New York Times to an anti-McDonalds hit piece, "Tarnished Arches", that ran in the Times two weeks ago the gist of which was that more people around the world do and should hate McDonalds.

Riker writes cogently that McDonalds is no longer a symbol of American cultural imperialism but an expression of a universal desire for quality food at reasonable prices.

We are always evolving, with a Kiwi Burger in New Zealand, Chicken Maharaja Mac in India and a chicken flatbread sandwich in the United States. There are snowmobile drive-through lanes in Sweden and cashless technology programs in America.

The real headline is: we are under new management. James J. Cantalupo, our new chief executive, is bringing confidence and optimism to our global family.

Good. Riker rebutted the charges and managed to deliver his messages about the new CEO.

Of course, the Times dragged it’s feet about publishing the letter . . . far more important was the troubling itching cloud that is plaguing Nantucket.

Riker should have taken a tip from the blogosphere and Fisked the entire Times editorial on and gotten his unfiltered views into circulation immediately.

I’m just waiting for a confident corporation to push back at the media bullies with facts and sarcasm.

Still waiting.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Search Engine Insight

I can’t tell what’s more alarming – that someone found my site by searching MSN using the keywords “black women who find Mickey Rourke attractive” or that I was number 12 in the queue behind 11 “more relevant” sites.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

The Once Was an Anne from Nantucket

In today’s Letters section of The New York Times, a lady of means with far too much time on her hands writes breathlessly about to the deadly fallout from the 9/11 attacks that is silently stalking some of the tonier outer suburbs of New York City.

I was on Nantucket on 9/11. I returned to Connecticut in early October and was immediately tortured by my sinuses. At first I put it down to allergies, but when the congestion continued after two hard freezes, I began to think of ground zero.

Almost everyone I knew, even those who had never been plagued before, was suffering from the same symptoms. I also developed the "mystery itch," which disappeared the minute we got back to Nantucket in May. However, by September, the sinus condition had hit the island, along with widespread bronchitis and asthma. I was hospitalized with both. The itch is now on the Cape.

If you give some thought to the prevailing wind direction, and the length of time the fires burned, it makes sense that many surrounding states could well have been affected.
Ridgefield, Conn.

So let’s see. The smoke from the smoldering wreckage in lower Manhattan drifted over the Upper West Side, the Bronx, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Harrison, White Plains and about a dozen other communities with a total population of about 8 million people and tortured the sinuses of Ms. Blackwell in picturesque Ridgefield, Connecticut.

After that, the death cloud traveled further over Danbury, Bridgeport, New Haven, Providence, (among the foulest cities on the East Coast) to alight once again, this time on Nantucket, where it appears to have leveled the population there like an itching bronchial scythe.

Widespread bronchitis on Nantucket! The bastards! Mohammed Atta & Co were far more diabolical than we ever imagined.

The sight of so many nice people filling the emergency room at the Skakel Medical Center, all the Lilly Pulitzer sweater sets shredded from the persistent itching, the polite but relentless coughing in the overcrowded ward, the ghastly pile of Docksiders at the door to wine cellar/morgue where the overflowing cadavers are kept cool (but not icy) until the family attorney can claim them . . . see now what our misguided, arrogant, foreign policy has wrought!

And it gets worse . . . now the itch is on The Cape!!

Where is the outrage? Where is the coverage? Why is this scourge -- which disproportionately effects the richest 1% of Americans -- being ignored by our elected representatives?!

This reminds me of that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which some nut accuses a woman of being a witch by saying "she turned me into a newt!" When asked why he was no longer a newt he sheepishly says, "ummm . . . I got better."

We're all hoping you get better Ms. Blackwell.

Wake Up and Smell the Ricin

The deadly poison Ricin has made a return appearance in London. Understandably, the Brits are a bit more concerned than the American media which has largely ignored the story.

The New York Times reports today on page 10 that a “small quantity” of Ricin was found in Islington over the weekend.

What the Times fails to report, and the BBC does, is that the small quantity was found in a Ricin making factory which seems to indicate that a far larger quantity of the poison has not yet been found.

The Times also neglects to mention that a small quantity of Ricin is all you need to kill since it is about 6,000 times as deadly as cyanide.

Many Brits will recall that Ricin was the toxin used to murder Georgi Markov a BBC correspondent and outspoken Bulgarian anti-communist in 1978.

A tiny pellet filled with Ricin was somehow injected into Markov’s leg as he walked to work. To this day no one knows exactly how the Ricin was administered but some believe he was poked with an umbrella designed to deliver the pellet like a vaccine.

He died three days later and it was weeks before medical authorities figured it all out.

The details of the murder may never be known entirely because a key official of the Bulgarian secret police destroyed 10 volumes of files on Markov before conveniently destroying himself. Other people involved have racked up remarkably bad driving records and are for the most part dead.

I wonder how many more close calls we’ll need before the media recognizes that we are at war?

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Happy Birthday Uday

I know the Detroit Auto Show is supposed to showcase the most extreme new designs of the American in the automobile industry but THIS is absurd. The Dodge Tomahawk appears more intimidating than an actual Tomahawk thermonuclear device.

A 500 hp motorcycle!? Why not just insert yourself directly into the combustion chamber if you want to feel the thrill of horsepower.

This looks very dangerous . . . certainly "regular people" and innocent children will be its victims.
Voices in the Wilderness . . . Thankfully

The letters section of today’s New York Times is a fiesta of foolishness.
Regarding the Democrats’ frustration that The People are not paying attention to their dire message, Jacob Remes of Boston writes under the heading “Democrats, Organize!”

“Rather than working to create a slightly more liberal news (read propaganda) source, Democrats should work on grass-roots organizing. As the key organizational Democratic constituencies, unions and grass-roots community groups have learned, organizing will not only recruit more voters, but is also an inherently empowering experience.”

Ah yes, the romance of revolution.

“Organize” used in this context is a funny word. It means more than just getting out the vote. It’s more like “raising the consciousness of the masses.”

This assumes that the people Remes wants to organize are unable to raise their own consciousnesses. What they need is a vanguard of intellectuals with already elevated consciousnesses to lead the people toward their own self-interest.

Anyone who has ever lived in an unfashionable urban neighborhood knows all too well how tiresome these “grass-roots community” organizers can be. They dominate any political discussion and turn useful community forums into indoctrination sessions. No wonder people don’t bother to vote. You have to pass through a gauntlet of activists first.

Further up the page Mark Silverman of Brooklyn is infuriated that the United States would consider using force to thwart genocidal war criminals:

“If the United States supported the International Criminal Court, we might be able to remove megalomaniacal dictators without resorting to war. But the United States, jealous of its sovereignty, would apparently prefer to wage war rather than build civilized international law-giving institutions. This is a great shame for our country and a tragedy for the planet.

Yes, but what about the children?

How exactly would the ICC remove a megalomaniacal dictator after it issues its arrest warrant? Does Silverman expect Saddam to surrender voluntarily? Will attorneys for Kim Jung Il advise him to come along quietly?

Something about these guys tells me they are not leaving this earth without taking a lot of people with them.

And oh, that demonic United States, so jealous of its sovereignty. How dare the Americans hide behind the Constitution . . . a mere scrap of paper! What is this document when compared to the future of the planet!

Actually, I think it’s the rest of the world that is jealous of our sovereignty . . . they’d like a big piece of it. And it’s the responsibility of our elected officials to guard against that . . . jealously.

Of course, if you disagree, you can always vote for a candidate who would favor the ICC. Mark Silverman meet Ralph Nader. Ralph meet Mark.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Still Gaining Acceptance

A telling moment occurred during a Sunday morning interview with Democratic flavor of the month Sen. John Edwards.

Halfway through Edwards’ recitation of focus-grouped responses to predicable questions, ABC broadcast journalist George Stephanopoulos asked Edwards to name his favorite philosopher noting that candidate George Bush once said Jesus Christ was his favorite.

Edwards paused for a remarkably long time and you could virtually see the calculation taking place within his coiffed head:

“this was not on the Q&A . . . I’m being compared with W, must differentiate . . . what’s my answer . . . think, what’s my positioning . . . smart, but regular . . . intelligent but not intellectual . . . heavyweight but good ole boy . . . what philosopher reflects my positioning?!”

Georgie was just about to say, “ah, Senator Edwards . . . are you still with us?” when the political debutante offered up Terry Sanford as his most influential philosopher.

For those of you not familiar with the great wisdom-seekers of The South, Sanford is a former governor of the state of North Carolina.

Many might say that a professional politician from a second tier province in the Southern United States might not measure up to say Thomas Aquinas much less Jesus Christ, but I certainly wouldn’t be one of them.

My only problem is that I just can't think of anyone named Terry as having any potential at all for greatness.

Poor John Edwards. Oh, the lure of the White House. It makes reasonable men to foolish things.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Let Them Eat KimChi

So the North Koreans want to humiliate the United States to show how bold they are and the South Koreans want to humiliate the United States to show how naïve they are. Well I have the perfect solution. Give them what they want.

Specifically, President Bush should immediately withdraw the 57,000 US troops standing guard on the southern border of the 38th parallel.

Against a force of more than a million DPRK troops, the American soldiers’ only mission is to die in great numbers when the Korean War resumes. No point wasting manpower, especially if you intend to win the war once and for all.

A hasty withdrawal of these GIs would leave the South Koreans facing an armed horde of ravenous clones without their trusty Yankee barbarian friends to share the joy. This might reshape public opinion in a direction more appreciative of American military support.

For the North such a withdrawal would be even more ominous. Kim Jung-il would recognize that the price to the Americans of whacking his rouge nuclear reprocessing facilities would have been cut in half as if in a unilateral post-Christmas clearance sale. He would be advised to watch the next 50 showings of Ice Station Zebra in a hardened bunker.

The world could hardly complain . . . withdrawing tens of thousands of troops from a global hot spot is the opposite of sabre rattling, right? Heck, there might even be a Nobel Peace Prize in it.

And the cherry on top of all of this would be that Saddam would now have to worry that those 57,000 American soldiers are now free to catch some much needed R&R at one of the many luxury resorts in the Tikrit metropolitan area.

Ah, the world is an oyster and the Marines are a blunt, sturdy Sani-Safe knife

Thursday, January 02, 2003

New Year’s Gossip

I don’t usually stop to the level of celebrity rumor-mongering but that’s mostly because I don’t know any actual celebrities.

Now I’ve learned a juicy bit of Hollywood gossip that comes from a highly reliable source . . . a source, I might mention, I have never even met so don’t even try to sue me.

It seems this mysterious yet highly reliable Hollywood source was on her way to the ladies room in a swank LA hangout and found the door somewhat ajar. She opened it and came upon two people. Actually, they weren’t people . . . they were Ben Affleck and Britney Spears!

It’s unclear what activity they were sharing in the bathroom but I am told they were not playing a rousing game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

There. I did it. Now let me wash my hands while you feverishly embellish and spread the news.