Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Babies walking in the womb...

This is so cool.

A new type of ultrasound scan has produced vivid pictures of a 12 week-old foetus "walking" in the womb.
The new images also show foetuses apparently yawning and rubbing its eyes.

Lileks and my Dad... birds of a feather.

When I was younger, the doorbell once rang during dinner. My father opened the door to find a fresh faced young college student who was out shilling for Greenpeace. Now, my father obtained one of the first LLMs in environmental law in the country and actually knows what he's talking about, and unfortunately for the fresh faced young college student, was in the mood to chat.

He basically dismantled this poor kid, who I believe, shortly afterward, decided all of his premises were suspect and is now a hunter-trapper living in a small cabin in Washington State, driving an old pre-emissions law truck.

Anyway, apparently the next generation had the bad fortune to show up at Jim Lileks' door.

A minor political note, if you’re interested in such things. The other day a young girl came to the door to solicit my support for her presidential candidate. I asked her why I should vote for this man. She was very nice and earnest, but if you got her off the talking points she was utterly unprepared to argue anything, because she didn’t know what she was talking about. She had bullet points, and she believed that any reasonable person would see the importance of these issues and naturally fall in line. But she could not support any of her assertions. Her final selling point: Kerry would roll back the tax cuts.

Then came the Parable of the Stairs, of course. My tiresome, shopworn, oft-told tale, a piece of unsupportable meaningless anecdotal drivel about how I turned my tax cut into a nice staircase that replaced a crumbling eyesore, hired a few people and injected money far and wide - from the guys who demolished the old stairs, the guys who built the new one, the family firm that sold the stone, the other firm that rented the Bobcats, the entrepreneur who fabricated the railings in his garage, and the guy who did the landscaping. Also the company that sold him the plants. And the light fixtures. It’s called economic activity. What’s more, home improvements added to the value of this pile, which mean that my assessment would increase, bumping up my property taxes. To say nothing of the general beautification of the neighborhood. Next year, if my taxes didn’t shoot up, I had another project planned. Raise my taxes, and it won’t happen – I won’t hire anyone, and they won’t hire anyone, rent anything, buy anything. You see?

“Well, it’s a philosophical difference,” she sniffed. She had pegged me as a form of life last seen clilcking the leash off a dog at Abu Ghraib. “I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down.” Those last two words were said with an edge.

“But then I wouldn’t have hired them,” I said. “I wouldn’t have new steps. And they wouldn’t have done anything to get the money.”

“Well, what did you do?” she snapped.

“What do you mean?”

“Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?”

“They didn’t give it to me. They just took less of my money.”

That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out:

“Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Then she left.

And walked down the stairs. I let her go without charging a toll. It’s the philanthropist in me.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Even More of Moore

Perhaps a tired subject, but I thought you should all take a look at David Brook's column in the NYTimes from this Saturday (not surprisingly, this article appeared the day of the week with the lowest circulation; but maybe I'm just being paranoid). I know for health reasons, many of you no longer read the Times; I now generally limit myself to the Metro, Business and Sports sections ... and an occasional glance at the headlines just to see how mad I can get. But I do read John Burns (and honest jounalist) as well as Brooks. And this one is a DOOOOOOZY:

"Like Hemingway, Moore does his boldest thinking while abroad. For example, it was during an interview with the British paper The Mirror that Moore unfurled what is perhaps the central insight of his oeuvre, that Americans are kind of crappy.

"They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]," Moore intoned. "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

It transpires that Europeans are quite excited to hear this supple description of the American mind. And Moore has been kind enough to crisscross the continent, speaking to packed lecture halls, explicating the general vapidity and crassness of his countrymen. "That's why we're smiling all the time," he told a rapturous throng in Munich. "You can see us coming down the street. You know, `Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down."
Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." In Liverpool, he paused to contemplate the epicenters of evil in the modern world: "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton."

In the days after Sept. 11, while others were disoriented, Moore was able to see clearly: "We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants."


In an open letter to the German people in Die Zeit, Moore asked, "Should such an ignorant people lead the world?" Then he began to reflect on things economic. His central insight here is that the American economy, like its people, is pretty crappy, too: "Don't go the American way when it comes to economics, jobs and services for the poor and immigrants. It is the wrong way."

In an interview with a Japanese newspaper, Moore helped citizens of that country understand why the United States went to war in Iraq: "The motivation for war is simple. The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich."

What a guy, Moore is. This weekend on the CNN website, they had an audio of Moore saying what a great country this is. They also have an article calling a powerful movie. Shockingly, no mention of Moore's views when speaking abroad.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Dogs rule.

According to the Toronto Star, an encounter with a dog convinced a crazy guy not to kill people.

A man drove from the Maritimes with a carload of guns and ammunition, vowing to kill as many people in Toronto as he could — before a last-minute encounter with a wandering dog inspired a change of heart.

The New Brunswick man, in his 40s, surrendered to police yesterday afternoon in front of a supermarket at Leslie and Eastern Sts. He had a loaded gun in his pocket and a car crammed with more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

"At that time, he decided he was going to shoot people in the area," said Detective Nick Ashley of 55 Division. "He attended a local park nearby and was preparing the weapons to do that."

By chance, a dog approached the man and started playing with him in the Victoria Park Ave. and Queen St. E. park.

"He happens to be a pet lover and decided that if there was such a nice dog in the area the people were too nice and he wasn't going to carry out his plan," Ashley said.

The anti-Son of Sam, if you will.

Of course, if he had run into a cat, the cat would have convinced him to kill more people. Cats are like that.

[Listening to: Colorful (Rock Star Version) - The Verve Pipe - Rock Star (4:25)]


I heard on the radio this morning that the AFL/CIO had decided that they would not hold their convention in Detroit this year…
the labor costs in the convention center are too high!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

More on Moore

Cheers to David for posting Hitchens thrashing of Michael Moore. One particularly wonderful quote is from Orwell, who Hitchens has studied quite a bit. Moore, the idiot that he is, ends his movie quoting Orwell from 1984, in order to make the point "that there is no moral distinction between the United States, the Taliban, and the Baath Party and that the war against jihad is about nothing." But it shows the shallowness of Moore that he knows not who he is quoting and what Orwell was really talking about. Hitchens, the Orwellian scholar, delivers the following Orwell quote, which is so appropriate today, it is almost scary:
"The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …"

As Hitchens goes on to conclude in his own voice, "it's highly unwise to quote Orwell if you are already way out of your depth on the question of moral equivalence. It's also incautious to remind people of Orwell if you are engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history."

This battle against facism (or should I say, illiberalism) and its enablers has been going on a long time, and it has taken and is taking many shapes. I think it will go on for some time to come.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Hitchens on Moore

Christopher Hitchens skewers Michael Moore in an article at Slate.

Some choice excerpts (though please read the whole thing):

Here we glimpse a possible fusion between the turgid routines of MoveOn.org and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl.

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

. . . .

Moore has announced that he won't even appear on TV shows where he might face hostile questioning. I notice from the New York Times of June 20 that he has pompously established a rapid response team, and a fact-checking staff, and some tough lawyers, to bulwark himself against attack. He'll sue, Moore says, if anyone insults him or his pet. Some right-wing hack groups, I gather, are planning to bring pressure on their local movie theaters to drop the film. How dumb or thuggish do you have to be in order to counter one form of stupidity and cowardice with another? By all means go and see this terrible film, and take your friends, and if the fools in the audience strike up one cry, in favor of surrender or defeat, feel free to join in the conversation.

However, I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point. And as for the scary lawyers—get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of.

. . . .

If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed.

Really. Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Remembering What They Said

I have had some fun watching various pundits and newscasters speak of Reagan in such glowing terms this week. Fun, because I remember so clearly the viciousness with which they attacked him before. A dunce, a cowboy, a simpleton, a war-monger, a fascist, someone who will take our rights away, a religious nut, etc... Now, he is prescient, principled, smart ('we learned that he really did write all those speeches', 'he walloped Bobby Kennedy in a 1967 debate',etc...), a visionary. Yeah...thanks. A bunch of us knew that for the last 20 years. Perhaps even most of us. But I don't like seeing people bury their past positions so effortlessly. They learn nothing from it, and are doomed to repeating those errors. So as an antidote, Andrew Sullivan posts a glorious collection of past commentaries from some our most celebrated and nuanced minds. They are priceless and should be read by all. I enjoyed seeing that pompous idiot Arthur Schlesinger write
"A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today."

So, who exactly was hallucinating? Then there is the often insane and always maddening columnist for the NYTimes, Anthony Lewis:
"I wonder how many people, reading about the [Evil Empire'] speech or seeing bits on television, really noticed its outrageous character… Primitive: that is the only word for it. … What is the world to think when the greatest of powers is led by a man who applies to the most difficult human problem a simplistic theology – one in fact rejected by most theologians?... What must the leaders of Western Europe think of such a speech?"

Ah, Lewis, in the tradition followed by many today, looked to Europe to validate our foreign policy. And only such a nuanced and sophisticated mind could grasp the primitiveness of Reagan's position...in the indentical manner as those who attack Bush. Much better to see the Soviet Union and Islamofacism as a mixed bag. Hey, they can't be all bad. I mean, aren't we flawed too? Who are we to judge them as such? To cast them as evil would imply that we are better and may mean that we think we represent good, and that would truly be a fascist mentality. Only totalitarianism could come from such simplicity.

Do I simplify and paraphrase that viewpoint too much? Perhaps just better to let them choke on their on words verbatim. And important, I think.... because we see in the criticisms of 20 years ago the seeds of today's venom toward Bush and Iraq. It's nothing new...its the same, and its far more virulent and aggressive.

By the way, note this quote from 1986:
"Are we rushing headlong into the next step of those 40 years of progressions by which we do something then they do something, by which we pretend that we're going to build this and it will somehow strengthen our deterrent then they do it, and low and behold, the next thing we know is, the President of the United States is addressing the nation saying, ‘My fellow Americans, I hate to tell you this, but the Soviet Union is deploying more of these, and we have to respond, and I'm asking the Congress for more money in order to respond.’ Star Wars is guaranteed to do that, and it's guaranteed to threaten the heavens -- the one line we haven't yet crossed with weaponry: the heavens."

Yes....Senator John Kerry. On the policy that Gorbachev said made him come to the table. Just the man we need in office now.

Anyway, I am stealing Sullivan's thunder. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The top 25 weirdest items on Amazon.com

Ok, someone with way too much time on their hands has prepared a list of "The Top 25 Weirdest Items You Can Purchase Through Amazon!"

I especially liked the Gallon of Liquid Fish and Bird Poop and the Atkins-approved Sugar Free Milk Chocolate Dipped Pork Rinds.

[Listening to: New York Girls - Oysterband - Ride (3:01)]

Positive vs. Negative rights

There's a lot of confusion about positive vs. negative rights, and Reagan's death has caused several columnists to well, confuse them again. Stephen Bainbridge responds to William Saletan and notes some important differences between a negative concept of liberty and the positive rights doctrine.

"Jane Galt" also responds to Saletan and makes the salient point:

"But it is Saletan who appears confused, not Reagan. What he is describing is not liberty; it is security. Security is also valuable and good, but it is not the same thing as liberty."

My mother, of course, always understood the point. When I was a sophomore in college, het up on my brilliance and holding forth on freedom, I asked my indulgent audience of parents, "BUT WHAT IS FREEDOM?!" intending to continue on and explain that freedom means freedom from not freedom to.

But my mother responded to the rhetorical question, dryly noting that "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

[Via Instapundit.com]
[Listening to: Conjunction Junction - Better Than Ezra - School House Rock! Rocks (3:44)]

Monday, June 07, 2004

Sharansky on Reagan

Natan Sharansky writes in today's Jerusalem Post about Ronald Reagan:

In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

[Listening to: Birdhouse In Your Soul - They Might Be Giants - Flood (3:20)]

The left's gone insane.

This is really nuts. A theater review in The Village Voice has a lefty spewing forth:

Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don't give a hoot about human beings, either can't or won't. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.

As Instapundit notes: "Republicans -- not human, and in need of extermination? Sheesh. Hugh Hewitt is right: The Left has come unhinged."

[Via Instapundit.com]

[Listening to: Won't Get Fooled Again (Full Length Version) - The Who - My Generation - The Very Best of the Who (8:33)]

Heard that tune before

A wonderful quote from 1939 in the face of rampaging fascism in Europe from some leading American "intellectuals":
"[World War I] showed only too clearly that we can have no faith in imperialist crusades to bring freedom to any people. Our entry into the war, under the slogan "Stop Hitler!" would actually result in the immediate introduction of totalitarianism over here ... The American people can best help [the German people] by fighting at home to keep their own liberties." - John Dewey, William Carlos Williams, Meyer Schapiro, and other leading American intellectuals, in Partisan Review, Fall 1939.(Hat Tip to Mr. Sullivan via David Gelertner in the WSJ)

'Imperialist crusade', 'introduction of totalitarianism' at home if we fight, best help we can offer is to simply stay at home and be a beacon of freedom..... these themes from the opposition aren't just similar; they are identical. If it weren't such a dangerous time, I would find this fascinating. Instead, I find its reuse and widespread support both contemptible and threatening.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Playing the UN like a fiddle....

So says Canadian David Warren:
"The formal transfer of power from Paul Bremer's occupation authority to the new Iraqi government waits till the end of the month, but with the self-dissolution of the interim Iraqi Governing Council, we have witnessed an effective transfer. From now on, American advisers won't be running Iraqi ministries -- won't dare try -- and allied troops on the ground will be consulting Iraqis before launching new raids on assorted bad guys. Best of all, the region's governments, including nefarious Iran and Syria (up to their eyeballs fomenting trouble within Iraq), will know it's too late to sabotage the hand-off -- because it has already occurred, by surprise, ahead of deadline.

No one else will say this, so I will. The Bush administration has handled the transfer of power in Iraq more cleverly than anyone expected, including me. The summoning of the U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, looked like very bad news (a poisonous old Arab League chauvinist who brokered the sell-out of Lebanon to Syria in 1982). In grim moments, I believed the Bush people were cynically using him to wash their hands of Iraq, and as it were, dump the quagmire back in the swamp of the U.N. Instead, they froze the ground beneath Brahimi's feet, and skated rings around him, haggling behind his back with Iraq's new political heavyweights to leave him endorsing a fait accompli. If it were not vulgar, I would say the Bushies suckered the U.N. into signing on to the New Iraq through Brahimi. A sovereign, free Iraq which will, incidentally, have a few things to say about the U.N.'s $100-billion "oil-for-food" scam, in due course."

Interesting take, which of course fits nicely with my ever optimistic "glass-half-full" view of things. He too notes that it is too early to tell how it all works out. But so far, much better than could have reasonably been expected:
"That self-dissolved Governing Council seems to have served its purpose as a public incubator of a new Iraqi political class, wonderfully unlike those in adjoining countries. The Americans have moreover done a superb job of playing politics, intra-Iraqis: a job of horse-trading beyond anything achieved by British imperialists in the past. I didn't agree with all the dirty tricks (and especially not with the CIA's unconscionable settling of accounts with Ahmed Chalabi, getting the Iraqis to raid his headquarters to bring him down to size), but we have a presentably benign government at the end of the day."

An interesting article and well worth reading the whole thing. Hat tip to Glenn.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Site additions

I just added an RSS feed to the site (and Blogger's Atom, as well, but nobody uses Atom, so, whatever...).

I've also got this new program called w.bloggar which is supposed to make it easier to blog and will supposedly automatically add whatever I'm listening to on iTunes at the moment to the bottom of my posts so that you will know what sort of strange music is floating around my speakers...

[Listening to: I Wish - Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life (4:12)]

Kerry in Vietnam.

John Kerry's Vietnam legacy:
In the Vietnamese Communist War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the "War Crimes Museum") in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a photograph of John Kerry hangs in a room dedicated to the anti-war activists who helped the Vietnamese Communists win the Vietnam War.

[Via Right-Thinking from the Left Coast]

Quel surprise.

You mean the UN isn't a completely wonderful organization dedicated solely to the principles of peace and democracy everywhere?

I am shocked, I say, shocked to read Michelle Malkin's story about Palestinian gunmen fleeing an attack on Israeli soldiers employed a UN ambulance with its lights flashing as a getaway car.

Someone want to tell me why this footage, shot by Reuters (and accessible via the webpage to which I linked), hasn't been on any of the major news networks?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

And in other news, we're winning.

Andrew Sullivan posted a very good question today...and about time. I quote in its entirety:
"If someone had said in February 2003, that by June 2004, Saddam Hussein would have been removed from power and captured; that a diverse new government, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, would be installed; that elections would be scheduled for January 2005; and that the liberation of a devastated country of 25 million in which everyone owns an AK-47 had been accomplished with an army of around 140,000 with a total casualty rate (including accidents and friendly fire) of around 800; that no oil fields had been set aflame; no WMDs had been used; no mass refugee crises had emerged; and no civil war had broken out... well, I think you would come to the conclusion that the war had been an extraordinary success. And you'd be right. Yes, there are enormous challenges; and yes, so much more could have been achieved without incompetence, infighting and occasional inhumanity. But it's worth acknowledging that, with a little perspective, our current gloom is over-blown. Stocks in Iraq have been way over-sold. I even regret some minor sells myself. Now watch the media do all it can to accentuate the negative."

I particularly liked his own admission that he himself got squeamish... he did, a number of times, and it pissed me off. I like sober analysis, particularly critical ones; but when anyone starts proclaiming the war has been lost and all hope has failed, I just roll my eyes. And at times, Andrew did just that. Here however, as he more often does, Sullivan puts things in proper perspective and things look pretty good. Notice, however, that he still can't help but feel that "so much more could have been achieved without incompetence...". Sorry, but I just don't get that. Let's not equate mistakes, human imperfection and the unpredictability of war with incompetence. What has been done to date in Iraq is extraordinarily competent, in my opinion. That it is hard and messy is more a truism about such conflicts than an indictment on our abilities...though there are many who obviously like to make the latter point. Despite massive setbacks and casualties (on the order of 800 soldiers every two days), I don't think anyone would ever characterize what we accomplished in Europe or Asia in WWII 'okay' but how much more would have been accomplished but for our 'incompetence'. That people say such things today about Iraq results not only from our proximity to the conflict but also from the influence of those who want this administration to fail desparately.

It is too early to say what we have in Iraq is a clear victory. I think that, despite hardship, loss and harsh realities, things there are actually quite good and the possibilities for the future are encouraging. Yet we really won't know for sometime. It will take years before we will see the fruits of this remarkable labor. But the same holds true for those who so quickly would proclaim defeat. They have no idea what the future holds and what the ultimate outcome will be. None. And with every instance that they ignore important victories in favor of apparent setbacks (or mischaracterize the former as the latter), the efficacy of their opinions become ever more questionable.